In these trying times, game are a special refuge that revitalizes me. I think I’m not alone in that and while I currently have a tense City of Mist campaign going on and just wrapped an unnerving Invisible Sun season, sometimes it’s nice to have something cozy and pleasant to wrap up in like a warm blanket.
Wanderhome and Good Society are my go-tos for pleasant RPGs with Cuticorium a recent addition, but for board games nothing out-cozies Everdell. This worker-placement and city-building game is full of cozy creatures and whimsical locations that are purchased with an economy of pebbles, twigs, berries, and pine resin. With squirrel woodcarvers, schoolhouses perched in tree branches, and the spreading limbs of the Evertree there’s a lot to recommend this game’s aesthetic. Expansions have added an underwater area (Pearlbrook), long journeys on huge animals (Spirecrest), a bright festival (Bellfaire), and (in upcoming expansions) a train line (Newleaf) and spidery villain (Mistwood).
I asked the systems roundtable group to look over the best RPG options for playing in the setting of Everdell and they didn’t disappoint. Honorable mentions go to Mouse Guard RPG, Return of the Woodland Warriors, Microscope, Ryuutama, and even Genlab: Alpha but in the end these were the top three contenders for how to bring Everdell into the roleplaying arena.
Kylie the Tout
Kylie is all about acting and improvising with her friends in the gaming group. If she can embody the characters in the story and revel in the plot, Kylie is thrilled.
There’s no question for me what game works best for Everdell and it’s my favorite game in the whole world right now: Wanderhome. The calm and cozy woodland dynamic of Everdell is Wanderhome‘s bread and butter and very little needs to be done to evoke the same sense of delight that you get from playing Everdell. My friends and I continually coo with amusement and appreciation from both the artwork of the board game and the language of the RPG, a definitive barometer if ever there was one. While magical locations and small and forgotten gods from Wanderhome might be outside the world depicted in Everdell, they certainly aren’t outside the spirit of the setting. If you don’t want your Everdell to include magical elements then avoid the ones tagged as such in the Wanderhome book and replace playbooks like the Caretaker with the many fan playbooks found on itch.io.
The only real divergence between Wanderhome and Everdell is travel. The game of Everdell is about building a small community that’s your own while Wanderhome is about traveling from community to community and always being a visitor. Again, you can try to match them up by focusing on certain elements and not bothering with the rest. Your characters could easily eschew the journey mechanics and stay in one place through all the seasons, using Wanderhome‘s five seasons or readjusting them to our traditional four as seen in Everdell. The Natures of Wanderhome can easily become parts of your community that you fill with the constructions seen in Everdell, or nearby villages just across the Meadow that you can make a daytrip to.
If I were running this, however, I would embrace the many expansions of Everdell and keep the journeying aspect of Wanderhome to visit an aquatic village in the Pearlbrook, then a small glade in the woods near the Evertree, then help the sprawling gardens of Bellfaire fend off depravations of Rugwort, before ending up in the distant Spirecrest mountains. It’s all there on the board so you can take on a different part of the Everdell world by journeying around and even pull in NPCs from the board game to fill out your narrative.
Marion usually focuses on the community in games and around the table and loves more interaction between players. She often asks “why should I care” in a game where the setting hasn’t been well-established.
This might be unfair, but I’m going to recommend a game that isn’t technically out yet. Root: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game has a lot to recommend it as a stand-in for Everdell most notably that it is already based on a board game. So far, Leder Games has only published a quickstart but here is the pitch: In Root: The TTRPG, you all play vagabonds, denizens of the Woodland who have been cast out of “civilized” society, [who] venture throughout the Woodland fulfilling jobs and tipping the scales in the conflict between the factions.
The game of Everdell works as worker placement so your little critters are running hither and yon to take care of errands and make sure your community prospers. For a board game you don’t need more context than that but in a story we want some motivation and bringing elements from Root provide that. The base game has a rat-tyrant named Rugwort who threatens to conquer Everdell, the watery denizens of Pearlbrook certainly have their own wants and needs, and in the upcoming Mistwood expansion the spider queen Nightweave provides another force. It might be stretching the “cozy” feel that Mephit mentioned but the pressure of external players and vying for space is certainly in keeping with the board game’s mechanics and play.
Then there’s the look of things and again we turn to the Quickstart pitch: The Woodland is defined by the dense forests from which it takes its name. They obstruct travel and construction, and even after years of habitation, the Woodland denizens are largely confined to “clearings”, small largely-treeless areas within a sea of timber. Just looking at the Everdell board you can see some of those similarities and if you were to insert an Evertree into the middle of the Root: The TTRPG map it would resemble the Everdell map in a number of ways. Even if you don’t want to have all out war then the war mechanics of Root can easily be adapted to resource availability. If a particular clearing has a Pearlbook-aligned clearing to the west and a Rugwort-occupied clearing to the east then you might find that resources are Scarce, Seized, or Fortified by one or more factions and life might be a little leaner than expected. Just like with worker placement the player characters can tip the scales one way or another by taking action against factions and curtailing their building efforts in favor of more agreeable neighbors.
Deimos is a serious player who wants to see dramatic storytelling that features robust mechanics in support. Combat should be tactical and stories should be rich according to the philosophy of this enthusiastic player.
I’m going to make a prediction that my pitch will seem like the most incongruous match for Everdell, but I’m going to stand by it. The One Roll Engine (ORE) has been the powerhouse behind a lot of fantastic games but one of the absolute best versions is Reign and it recently got a second edition fundraised. In this high fantasy game with a setting that’s easy to adjust and create factions vie against each other for the upper hand. The ORE system features pools of d10s where you match up results for bigger sets, either more of the same number or a few of a high number, and both factions and player characters use these rules. Other games like Blades in the Dark (another favorite system) use faction rules but it’s even harder to disassociate that gritty setting for the Everdell aesthetic. Reign is wide open.
So how would I implement this system for this setting? Well, a lot of the character creation can be streamlined or repurposed but accepting that player characters are just one part of a larger whole makes that easier. You don’t need martial arts to score results, maybe you sink points instead into woodcarving or cooking and score successes against a major project. The integration of the player character mechanics with the faction mechanics mean that individual characters can function independently or as part of the community/faction, which is how critters and constructions work in Everdell as well. You can also have different scales of factions so your community might start off small and grow bigger or might be a region of several villages surrounding a meadow and competing with other communities in the general vicinity of the Evertree. If you have access to the older Progenitor game you can see a system for events and as Everdell has a whole deck of Events you can simply match them into categories matched with dice rolls. After every break in the story (or as background at the beginning of a session) the GM makes an Events roll and sees that the post office has executed A Brilliant Marketing Plan or the bat historian has announced Ancient Secrets Discovered. These could be background elements, the subject of a faction roll, or even the framework for a new adventure by the player characters.
See? Not such a crazy idea after all…