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SPIEL ’22 Previews: Evergreen and Viking See-Saw

by W. Eric Martin

Starting in the mid-2010s, Gen Con came to be a SPIEL launching pad for European publishers, with them demoing a game — or even releasing it in small quantities — ahead of the game’s “official” debut at SPIEL.

At Gen Con 2022, Italian publisher Horrible Guild did this for Hjalmar Hach‘s Evergreen, bringing a few hundred copies to sell to early adopters and give away to media people like yours truly in the hope that they will cover the game ahead of SPIEL, and by George, I fell for their trap!

In Evergreen, each player builds a forest on their own world game board, drafting a card from a shared pool each round that gives them a bonus action as well as a main action in a particular biome on their world, either placing sprouts in empty locations or growing what’s been planted previously. Whatever card isn’t drafted in the round is set aside and affects endgame scoring.

At the end of each of the four rounds, you score for (1) how much sunlight is absorbed by your trees (which encourages disconnected growth since trees cast shadow on adjacent trees) and (2) the size of your largest forest (which encourages you to cluster your growth). At the end of the game, large trees in each biome score based on the cards set aside. Those three tensions — growing wide, together, and up — drive all of your choices in the game.

In this video, based on four plays on a review copy, I detail how to play the game and how the different player counts subtly affect your drafting choices without once mentioning Hach’s 2017 game Photosynthesis, which has a similar “sunlight is good” element, but otherwise plays completely differently.

One thing I didn’t realize until writing this overview is how much better Evergreen hits me compared to the somewhat similar Cascadia, another game in which you draft from a shared pool and each build your own world. Cascadia had a processional feel with each action slowly adding points to your score, whereas Evergreen allows for more dynamic growth, with points sprouting mid-round from a connected forest and with all players having a collective say in the endgame bonus (More on Cascadia here.)

Youtube Video

In the days just ahead of SPIEL, I normally create a “SPIEL of Regrets” video that highlights all of the games that can be found at the show that I’ve played once or twice — or not at all — but this year I thought I would instead create a few “first impressions” videos to briefly cover some of these titles.

The first such video features Reiner Knizia‘s Viking See-Saw from Japanese publisher itten, which I’ve played twice on a review copy.

In the game each player has an assortment of cargo in different weights and shapes, and on a turn you choose something and load it on the deck of the raised portion of the ship. If the ship doesn’t tilt, great; if it does, remove one of the wooden crates in a cabin and add it to your cargo. If you knock stuff off, put that stuff with your cargo. You dropped it, so you’re responsible for it!

If someone places all of their cargo, they win; if all of the crates have been claimed, whoever has the least amount of cargo wins.

The game is straightforward and silly, perfect for playing with, well, just about anyone probably, but unfortunately itten has so far released the game only in Japan. At SPIEL ’22, the publisher plans to demo this title and four others from its “Funbrick Series”, then run a Kickstarter campaign after the show to make them more widely.

Honestly, this title should be in Target and other mainstream outlets because the only thing limiting its success is lack of awareness on the larger market.

Youtube Video


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