Why The Everrain is Our Most Anticipated Board Game of 2020

I’m a big fan of cooperative games and semi-cooperative games. My group and I have sunk more hours into Gloomhaven, Kingdom Death: Monster, and Nemesis than we care to admit. But both the cooperative and semi-cooperative create potential player dynamic challenges that can be difficult to overcome. When players are all working together to achieve the same goal, it can often be the case that a more experienced player will fall into the role of the “alpha player” or “quarterback” where they will dictate what other players do on their turn, eliminating player choice. Semi-cooperative games may often be formatted in a way where a single player can undermine the group’s success in favor of their own personal victory which can take away from other players’ enjoyment. The Everrain from Grimlord Games introduces a unique combination of game mechanics that just might find a way around some of these gameplay pitfalls.

Designed by Adam Smith, the mind behind Village Attacks and Endure the Stars, The Everrain is a cooperative game for up to four players that layers worker placement within a nautical exploration game. Each player will be in command of their own ship and crew ensuring that they will have complete say over what they’d like to do on their turn.

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Players will all have their own player board representing their own ship and crew where they will order the crew around. Each player will have a group of deck hands that can be placed on the various spots on your ship to grant access to certain actions such as sailing to explore the ocean of firing canons upon enemy ships. However, each deck hand will have randomly drawn positive and negative traits that will impact how each crew member can be effectively used. In some cases, a deck hand may be an alcoholic and create problems for you in port, but that very same deck hand may be an expert swordsman. As the game progresses, players will have a larger and more dynamic crew that offers as many bonuses as challenges that they will have to manage well in order to proceed.

Players will have sole responsibility over their own crew and will need to optimize how they use their crew. Players will also be able to purchase upgrades to their ship in port and will be grow intimately familiar with their vessel. But each player’s responsibility for maintaining their own ship, crew, and resources will help to subvert some of the quarterbacking that can occur in cooperative games.

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Together, player ships will form a small fleet that work together to explore the world map to thwart a rising evil. By exploring the map in a coordinated effort, the fleet will be able to quickly identify ports, shipwrights, and hidden resources caches that will ships to be upgraded to move faster and hit harder.

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The theme intrigues me just as much as core mechanics. In The Everrain players explore the vast seas together as they uncover the mysteries of a rising Lovecraftian threat from the depths below. At this point, it’s easy to roll our collective eyes at another H.P Lovecraft game. Between the ever growing Arkham Horror series of games from Fantasy Flight Games like Mansions of Madness, Arkham Horror The Card Game, CMON’s most recent Cthulhu Death May Die, and one of my personal favorites, Machina ArcanaWith no shortage of big squid-faced horror games, it really takes something special to make it exciting again.

Where other Lovecraftian games focus on 1920s-1940s noir investigations, they often miss the heart of the Lovecraft’s work where slumbering terrors lie ever present beneath the waves while unsuspecting sailors toil away.  Individually, both Lovecraftian horror and nautical exploration have managed to remain fairly popular among tabletop gamers but have yet to meet despite how well they fit together.

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The combination of the two has opened the door for some more creative monster designs that remind me of the sea-life human hybrids from Davy Jones’ crew in Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Considering existing Lovecraft themed games all take place in old Massachusetts or New Orleans, monster types have been pulled (for the most part) straight from H.P’s works where as The Everrain is only taking inspiration from source material and otherwise creating their own eldritch beasts. Stepping away from the familiar stories that we all know gives Grimlord Games much more range to create content that will be new to Lovecraft fans.

Lastly, the components that Grimlord Games is including are fantastic. Typically crowdfunded games will offer a series of add-on options to upgrade components for an additional cost. Neoprene mat versions of game board and player mats are time-tested crowd favorites for being more durable than their cardboard counterparts. In most cases, they cost anywhere from an extra $25 to $40. However, Grimlord Games is including neoprene versions of the game board and all player boards as unlocked stretch goals. That’s not a very cost effective choice, but it’s an incredible win for the consumer.

Overall, The Everrain doesn’t seem to utilize any gameplay mechanics that are particularly unique, but they are being merged together in some clever ways that I’m excited to see. At the time of writing this The Everrain is still available to late pledge on Gamefound. Grimlord Games’ most recent update still has fulfillment slated for later this year despite the many challenges posed by COVID-19 so it’s unlikely that the pledge manager will be open for much longer.