Spirecrest is one of three expansions for Everdell that adds new content and even an extra board into the mix. Designed by James A. Wilson, the expansion doesn’t change the 1 – 4 player count, though does slightly extend the playtime of the game by around 10 – 15 minutes. From weather conditions that players must work around to large critter meeples, the impacts of the changes are far reaching in the Everdell forest. However, are the Spirecrest additions what gamers truly want? Let’s find out!
The setup from the base game is followed by a few new steps. The mountain board slots into the gap at the bottom of the main board, like a large puzzle piece. Splitting out the weather cards for each season the piles are individually shuffled with one placed facedown for each season. Discovery cards are also split into season piles, being shuffled and added onto the mountain board. Players claim an Everdell map tile, with map tiles for exploring added along the trails on the mountain board – with the amount per season based on the player count. Finally, players add a rabbit traveller meeple of their colour to the start of the mountain trail.
The majority of the Everdell Spirecrest content triggers when the prepare for season action is taken by players, though there are ongoing effects throughout. At the start of the game the weather effect for winter is revealed, along with the map tiles on the winter section of the mountain trail. Across the seasons different weather effects will come into play. As with the base game players can be in different seasons. Importantly, only the weather of the season a player is in impacts them. This can be seen as leaving the lasting effects of winter behind you as you enter spring. Each weather card will impact a different area of play, adding to costs, lessening gains or blocking action spaces. For example, in Winter the freezing rain will stop players using the forest spaces, while in Summer a heat wave will see critters cost an additional berry to play.
When a player decides to take the prepare for season action three new steps must be performed. The player must claim one of the map tiles on the season’s trail and add it to their Everdell map tile – forming an expedition trail for the end of the game. Next, the player reveals the top three cards from the season’s discovery deck. These are placed into the three slots at the bottom of the mountain board, denoting which is free and which has a cost. Choosing one, and paying the cost, the player claims the card, discarding the rest. Note that these do not count towards the tableau limit. These are the opposite to the weather cards, giving benefits, providing new action spaces, new ways to score points and even big critters. Effects range from being able to drawing cards directly from the meadow to the Honeypaw big critter that allows the player to gain berries when sending it to non-berry resource gaining action spaces.
The final stage is for the player’s Rabbit Traveller meeple to be moved to the next season section of the trail. This reveals the new season’s weather card, the effect that players in that season have to deal with, and the map tiles on that trail section. Aside from this the game plays as normal until the end of the game, where your Rabbit Traveller will set out on the expedition you have made from map tiles. Each of these map tiles has a points value and a cost. Moving along the expedition as far as they can, the player will pay for a section and score the points, adding them to their grand total.
It’s not always advantageous to be first to prepare for the next season in Everdell. On top of freeing up worker placement spots, players will now be revealing the upcoming weather, allowing the rest to better prepare. To counter this, the first player does have a greater choice of map tiles for their expedition. It may not seem like weather is a huge addition. As well as hampering players, by slowing any engine down and making resources scareser, it is also another thing to remember. As players can be in different seasons they can be experiencing completely different weather conditions – so for the first playthrough players really need to pay attention to which weather is affecting them.
Things balance out by the end of the game, with the benefits gained from discovery cards. Nevertheless by slowing the first season down the game feels more like an uphill battle. Even something simple like getting a card out before the first prepare action becomes unlikely, depending on the weather in play. This punishes players when giving them a boost instead of an additional hurdle would allow for a greater feeling of progression.
For the first few times playing with Everdell Spirecrest included, there is certainly a draw to picking up a large critter – due to their awesomeness and cuteness. This is if they become available with only 5 included in the 33 discovery card deck. While it costs a normal worker meeple, plonking one down on an action spot feels good – on top of the ability they offer. Other cards in the discovery decks carry the same level of potential though – be it from the points they’ll earn to the ongoing ability they provide. A few are angled towards playing with more than just two players. An example of this is the Cartographer’s Caravan. It has 3 action spaces but each player can only have one worker there. Having the choice of three cards each time discoveries come into play does help avoid some of this, even if it might make the free card less attractive.
Slotting in like a puzzle piece the mountain board looks almost like it belongs as part of the original board, with the high production quality being matched. The cards are all clear, though the weather cards could have been a little larger in size. The new orange fox player pieces are a nice addition, offering a visual choice rather than game impacting content. It is however great to see that Spirecrest includes an orange frog ambassador used in the Pearlbrook expansion. In a similar vein, the rabbit travellers coming in all of the colours of the extra player pieces from the other expansions, so this doesn’t stop any from being used. The stand out pieces are of course the big critters though, which are awesome large animal meeples, with distinctive silhouettes. Saddles are even included so players can attach a meeple instead of simply discarding one! These saddles are extremely tight, but with a bit of wiggling you’ll soon have squirrels, foxes and more riding a reindeer!
Everdell Spirecrest is a bit of a mixed bag. Starting with the negative that has been universally disliked (or stronger) the weather cards make a fun game an effort to play. There are the boosts from discoveries which balance things back out, but this is only after the first season has already been impacted – in some ways too little too late. The lack of resources is compounded by the need to hold onto them for the expeditions. Though these offer an interesting choice, whether to commit to them for the point values or not. Remove the weather and the expansion adds variety, albeit a bit randomly from the discovery decks. Overall, the variety is a welcome addition, as are a number of elements of Spirecrest, just avoid the weather and more fun will be had.
(Editor’s Note: Everdell Spirecrest was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The expansion is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)