A to Z Gaming: Stardew Valley: The Board Game

We engaged in friendship and farming in Stardew Valley: The Board Game the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Stardew Valley: The Board Game
Players: 1-4
Time: 45-200 Minutes
Designers: Eric Barone, Cole Medeiros
Artists: Alex Van Der Aa, Luke Aiello, Gustavo “Goose” Gutierrez, Rachel Lapidow, Christine MacTernan, Ed Puella, Gina Salvador, Justin Williams
Publisher: ConcernedApe

In Stardew Valley: The Board Game, players inherit a farm from their grandfather in a small town and must try to fulfill Grandpa’s goals while rebuild the town’s community center. If they can complete all of that by the end of the game, they’ll win.

Game play

Stardew Valley: The Board Game is set up by placing the game board at the center of the table. The tray of resources is placed nearby along with a supply of coins and hearts. The spring forage tokens are placed out randomly on the board and the fish row is filled with tiles drawn from the fish bag.

The season deck is set up with four cards for each season places on top of the “last day of…” season card for that season. The deck is assembled with winter on the bottom and spring on top.

Then players choose four of Grandpa’s goals at random and place them face up at the top of the board. And without peaking, they choose one bundle for each room of the community center and place those face-down on the corresponding places on the board. The mine is set up with the level cards in order from 1 to 12, and the map cards shuffled. The animals are placed out, with their respective buildings on top, and two additional buildings are chosen at random to be available for the game. Then the various decks of cards are shuffled and placed nearby.

Each player takes a player board, which defines their profession, and the matching pawn and places it on the home space of the board. Each player then chooses a starting tool and takes all the cards associated with that tool, placing the lowest level on on their board. The players collectively start with three coins, choose the start player who gets the cat/dog token, and play is ready to begin.

The game is played in rounds, and each round has three phases: Season Phase, Planning Phase and Action Phase. During the Season Phase, players reveal the top card of the season deck which usually shows a column of symbols that they will resolve in order. The symbols include things like an triggering an event, changing the start player, watering the crops, loosing a crop to a crow, activating a Joja tile (which is bad), and selling items. In the advanced game, there might be special events in the deck which take the place of the regular season card.

If the card is one of the “last day of…” season cards, that card will be activated and then the next season card resolved. During the last day of the season, players will have the chance to get profession upgrade cards, which will give them a special ability to use.

During the Planning Phase, players talk through the actions they might want to do on their turn, and then move their pawn to any location in town.

Finally, in player order, players take actions. Each player takes two actions — it could be two actions at their current location or they can take one action, move to an adjacent location and take another action.

There are loads of possible locations and actions on the board — players can buy buildings and animals, explore the mine, water their crops, collect products from their animals, fish, open geodes, donate minerals and artifacts to the museum, buy crops, and make friends.

At the end of their turn, the player returns their pawn to home and has the option of taking a turn-end action like unlocking another level of the mine, removing a Joja tile, or petting their animals. Then it’s the next person’s turn.

A complicating factor can be the Joja titles, which either block certain actions or make them more expensive to use.

The particular goals change from game to game, so the actions players take will also change. Grandpa’s goals include having a number of buildings per player, catching legendary fish, exploring the mine, and making friends. The four revealed at the beginning of the game must be completed by the end of the game.

In addition to Grandpa’s goals, players must reveal and donate materials to the community center’s rooms. They’ll need hearts to reveal the bundles, and then each room needs different types of materials, like animal products, foraged materials, specific fish, money, and items from the mine.

The game continues until the last day of winter is revealed. If players have completed all of Grandpa’s goals and donated the correct materials to all of the bundles, they’ll win.

My Thoughts

We first tried Stardew Valley: The Board Game at the Dice Tower Retreat a couple of years ago. I was charmed by the game, but we were both a little frustrated that our game seemed impossible to win because we had gotten a particularly hard “grandpa goal.”

However, the charm won me over and I decided to pick it up. So far I’ve mostly played this solo because my spouse is still soured by the first game. And, to be fair, it can be very hard to win. There is luck in a lot of the aspects of the game — the fish that come out of the bag, the maps that show up for the mine, the dice rolls for fishing and collecting from your animals.

But, I still really like it. One thing I like is that it feels different from other co-op games where you are inundated every turn with more bad things happening to you. Here you’re just trying to farm and fish and make friends. If I’m stuck playing it solo, so be it, but maybe I’ll find a friend who likes it.

Three Quick Questions

How is it as a 2-player game? Stardew Valley: The Board Game works well for 2 players. I’ve only played solo and at 2, so I’m not sure how it is at higher player counts. The goals scale based on the player count, so it won’t get any easier, but perhaps with more specialties at the table it might feel like the burden is spread more across players?

How about the art and component quality? The art is very charming. I know it’s derived from the video game, but I love that they changed it from 8-bit to very cute art. The components are good, and I really like the organizer trays that come with the game.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes, this is a keeper for now. I’ll keep playing solo until I find someone who is charmed by it as much as I am.

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