Title: Stardew Valley: The Board Game
Designer: ConcernedApe and Cole Medeiros
Release Date: February 23, 2021
How we got the game: We bought it through the Stardew Valley website.
With how popular and phenomenal Stardew Valley is, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that a board game version of it was in the making. What wasn’t a surprise was how quickly the board game sold out on the Stardew Store. ConcernedApe announced on Twitter the board game was launched on February 23rd, and a day later mentioned that the first printing was sold out.
Fortunately, we have a great friend who saw the tweet and virtually poked us so we could snag the board game before it was sold out (hi Jett!). The game arrived fairly quickly and packaged nicely, and we finally got the chance to open it up and give it a try.
I was shocked when the board game was announced. Stardew Valley, the video game, has been doing so well since it was released five years. Between being on various platforms, including major consoles like the Nintendo Switch, and constantly being monitored and updated, I did wonder where ConcernedApe would go next with it. After all, how many updates can you make to a single game to improve it?
I was expecting another game, but not a board game. It makes sense to recreate this awesome title in a different format though. When I found out, I was excited even though (at the time) I hadn’t even tried the video game. The game arrived and it was a whopping six pounds. We couldn’t wait to open it up.
The Stardew Valley board game is for 1 to 4 players. Like the video game, the characters inherit their grandfather’s old farm and part of the objective is to complete four of Grandpa’s goals. These are randomly picked from cards and can include making a certain number of friends, having so many farm animals, or restoring parts of the museum, to name just a few.
Aside from Grandpa’s goals, there are also the Community Center bundles. These too are randomized from cards, with the six rooms each having certain donation goals depending on the room it is for. The Community Center bundles need certain resources that you farm or forage like in the video game.
Completing these goals depends on how many players you have as well. For example, one of Grandpa’s goals might be to make three friends. You have to times that number by the number of players to complete the goal. Because two of us were playing, we needed to befriend six villagers rather than the three.
There are Joja titles that may get in the way as well. You need to complete these goals so Joja Corporation doesn’t take over the entire board, thus claiming Stardew Valley. You can fight back against Joja, of course, as the biggest enemy in this game is time. There are season cards that go through spring, summer, fall, and winter. Once the year ends, it’s game over. If you’ve completed all the goals by then, then you win. If not, then you lose.
The Stardew Valley board game is quite a time commitment when you decide to play it. The game itself has about 500 pieces to it, including the various cards, tiles, dice, and pawns, and a couple of pages in the rulebook dedicated just to set up the board game itself. The first time we played the game, it took us a bit over an hour to gather and organize all the moving pieces to make sure we could actually just sit down and play the game.
Granted, the rulebook was wonderfully written and simple enough to navigate when setting up the board and figuring out what pieces did what. There is just a lot of information to go through in order to start and play the game. Stardew Valley itself has a simple premise — restore the farmland while making friends — that the board game shares, but both the video game and the board game have so many details and mechanics.
The rulebook was a booklet… it looks intimidating, which is why Kris read the instructions while I sipped on my coffee. I do better learning as I play the game. With the number of moving parts, I knew I wouldn’t remember all the rules anyway.
Being a cooperative game, you’re working together on the same farm with the same goals, but you each have your own pawn to control. Turns are split into a couple of parts if you will. First, you flip over the season card and do what the card says such as rain, a crow eats a crop, a Joja title gets placed on the board and more. These are like freebie actions. For example, if the season card doesn’t say it’s raining, one of you needs to move to the “water crops” spot on the board.
Once the season action is done, then you take your turn. You can move on the board to different spots such as water crops, go to the mines, go fishing at the lake, river, or ocean, make a friend, and more. You can forage along the way, as well. Discuss with the other players who will do what to make the most of the “day,” or turn. I usually fished while Kris went to the mines.
Working together was key while playing the game. As we were figuring out the game and playing through the first couple of turns, we ended up getting into a rhythm and each of us having preferred activities for our pawns to do on the board.
Each player can choose one of four professions — fisherman, farmer, forager, or miner — that gives them a little boost when it comes to certain tasks. These professions give you a starting tool that can be upgraded throughout the game. For example, with Rachel being a fisherman, she was able to roll the Stardew dice to try to catch certain fish that were available to us at the time. Each fish needed a combination of the pictures on the three dice in order to be “caught,” and Rachel’s upgrade allowed her to reroll a die or two after the first season. I chose to be the farmer and was able to upgrade my watering can which allow the crops to grow faster.
Since Rachel usually went fishing, she was also in a prime spot to forage and gather other resources to help buildings on her way to the bodies of water on the board. I stuck to farming to grow crops and went to the mines for other resources to make money. We worked pretty well together, all things considering!
We did work well together. Once you get the hang of it, you start to feel like a well-oiled machine. Of course, it’s not just about fishing, mining, and watering crops. You also need to collect enough resources to build a coop or barn and then you need to buy animals. Befriending villagers is simple enough (although we misunderstood the rules during our first playthrough, so we should have been friends with more people than we actually were). In order to become friends, you need to give them a gift. Any gift will do as long as it’s not listed under their “hate” category. If you have something they love, you gain two hearts. If you give them a neutral gift, you gain one heart. Otherwise, you discard the villager.
Since I was mostly fishing and Kris was back and forth between the mines and watering the crops, it was difficult to manage our time to get animals and donate to the museum (which was one of Grandpa’s goals). I felt as though we didn’t have enough time to get everything complete, but it makes for a good challenge. It’s all about time and money management.
With that said, we did just do the standard gameplay. Since the game passes by in seasons, there was the option to use only four “standard” cards per season. We most likely would have had plenty of time to complete all of Grandpa’s Goals and the Community Center bundles if we added more of the season cards to the decks.
Yet, if we paused to talk more about how we wanted to reach the goals before we took our turns, we probably could have completed everything in the standard game time. As such, I did feel like we spent quite a lot of time trying to fish and needing to go along the correct paths to forage for supplies. Making friends with the villagers was a bit of an afterthought, I feel. You have to make sure you manage your time as best as you can. Of course, with this learning experience, our next time playing the game will be better!
Live and learn, pretty much. This game requires a ton of time and money management, in-game, and also communication with your friends in real life. This is a solid cooperative game that needs everyone to pull their own weight. I’m looking forward to playing the game again to see what other goals we need to accomplish and approach the game in a different way.
The video game is rightly praised for its charming graphics, and the board game is no exception. The board game itself is beautiful, with amazing art on the cards, the board itself, and all the little resource tiles that the players will use. Even the box art up close is wonderful!
The slight criticism I have with the board game’s design is all the moving pieces that are needed. Every piece has a purpose and they work well, but a majority of the cards and tiles are merely placed to the side of the board during gameplay. There were times when we’d take a few seconds to identify which card and tile we needed — it’ll take us a few playthroughs to organize everything for simpler access during the gameplay.
A large space or table is needed for this board game and pieces, as well as something to distract your cat so he doesn’t jump up onto the table to try to join in on the action…
The attention to detail for this board game is stunning. As Kris said, the cover art, the board itself, and all the pieces have beautiful artwork. It’s high-quality too. The cards don’t feel flimsy or anything. It’s a sturdy game.
With that said, I do agree that I wish we had places to put the extra cards and titles. Fish and minerals get put into their own velvet drawstring bag to be drawn randomly and crops are in their own organized container. Everything else needs to be placed in their own piles to the side of the board. We took up our entire dining room table. Some tiles get placed on the board such as fish and crops but also foraging for the current season. Once the season is over, those forages get discarded and new ones for the new season go on. So, you’re not setting up the board and playing. Things are constantly changing with the seasons of the game and it was hard to keep track of all the moving pieces.
This board game is a delight! The time commitment for a playthrough may be daunting to some people, but there are plenty of randomized elements to keep each playthrough fresh. It’s also versatile in that players can determine their own goals and estimated length of time for a playthrough. There are tons of different ways for players to work together to beat the Joja Corporation back from the valley, and no playthrough will be the same.
Fans of the video game will love this new version, giving them another way to immerse themselves in the world of Stardew Valley.
I agree, with the randomized elements and the various people you can play with (you can even play solo if you want), the possibilities of this game are endless. Despite the daunting setup, it’s a quick way to get your foot into the Stardew Valley world if you need to take a break from the screens and feel like playing a relaxing board game.
This game is definitely a must-get for all Stardew Valley fans.