Earlier this year we included Meadow in our list of Three for… the Outdoors. Now we think it’s time to dive into a full review of the game. We know it’s been a few weeks since our last post. We’ve been busy with the recent sale and frankly life’s demands. We’re now back and ready to review this great game!
In Meadow, the players are tasked with picking up cards from the display and grouping them into sets that then score points. This relaxing game does have some strategy needed. The order in which you play down your cards makes all the difference. If you are a fan of games such as Wingspan or Mariposas you’ll love the nature aspect of this game. Meadow is for 1-4 players ages 10 and up and can take from 60 -90 minutes to play. Let’s get into the fascinating game.
Game Overview – Meadow
Rebel Studios’s Meadow is an interesting – relaxing yet competitive game. Play occurs over rounds and each round the players have five actions to take. They either take a card from the main board and play a card into their meadow or they take a special action.
Playing cards into their meadow is how a player scores points and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Meadow has a fair number of tokens and cards that are used to play the game. The two boards are interesting and unique. We think the artwork is amazing on this game. Everything is incredibly detailed. We particularly like the card holders. They look like they have been stitched together. There are four of them. One each for North, South, East and West.
The game is interesting as you use two different boards. The main board is where the cards are laid out and its designed in a grid with a really cool map of your walk on the base. The second board is a campfire board. The box comes with two double sided versions of this board, one for 1/2 players and one for 3/4 players. The main difference is the number of spaces around the campfire on each board side and the number of rounds marked by boulders. It makes it easy to keep track ow how many rounds there are. This is especially useful as halfway through the game, the players swap out the S or South cards for the N or North cards as though you’ve turned around on your walk. In reality the N cards have more complex requirements.
The game also comes with a hiker meeple round marker. It looks really good especially with the white outline on the wood. The cards are really where the game shines regarding components. The cards are all highly illustrated to show the players what they see on their hike. The icons are also very clear so it makes it easy to recognize what requirements a card has.
At the beginning of each game the players take 5 cards. To do this, players don’t deal the cards out, instead they first place the W, S, E decks into their corresponding holder on the side of the main board and deal out 4 cards face up into the W column, 8 cards face up into S columns and another 4 cards face up into the E column. Then the player to the right of the starting player selects one entire column to take and takes one additional card from the N deck. These cards get refilled and the next player repeats this process.
Each player then takes the two-sided starting ground tile and chooses a side and places the tile infront of them in their meadow. They take a road tile and flip it so the road symbol is showing. This denotes that it hasn’t been used yet. Finally, they take the five path tokens and three goal tokens and places them off to the side. Now the players are ready to play.
Now we’ll get into a more detailed look at how this game is played. It is a bit complicated until you get the hang of it. We’ll do our best to break this down into it’s sections.
Meadow takes place on two separate boards that players lay out next to one another. The main board is the meadow board and this is where twelve cards are placed face down from three different decks. The cards are labeled with the cardinal directions S (south), E (east), and W (west) as mentioned before. Halfway through the game, the S deck is replaced with the N (north) deck to represent your trek home. This board also has notches in the side of the board along three sides. The second board is the campfire board. This is where you track the current round and also spend actions to gain special goals throughout the game. This board has notches as well around the campfire. At first we didn’t know what to make of the board’s notches but we discovered that these are important to the game and not just a design ascetic. We’ll explain these in a minute
The goal of the game is for players to gain victory points by collecting cards from the meadow board and then laying cards from their hand down in front of them in collections. Each round the players have five path tiles shaped like arrows each with two possible actions on them. These represent the five actions you can take in a round.
Players take turns choosing a path tile from their supply and place it either in an un used notch on the meadow board or the campfire board. The notches in the meadow only fit the pointed end of the path tile and therefore players do the top action. Similarly the campfire notches only fit the bottom of the path tile and the players do that action instead.
Main Board Actions
The top actions always contain a number from 1 – 4. This number represents which card in a row or column where the player put the path tile, they must select. For example, say the top action has a 2 and the player puts it in the first row in the left notch. They then select the 2nd card from the left in that row. Similarly, if they had a top action with a 3 and placed it in the 2nd column on the board, they would take the 3rd card from the bottom in that column. Once a notch is filled during a round none of your opponents can use it.
We found out also that this is a great way to block your opponents from picking up cards during a round. So you can use actions to actively block your opponent’s future moves. All part of this game’s strategy.
Next, players who played a tile to the main board can then play a card into their meadow.
Cards are broken up into four types. Ground, Observation, Landscape and Discovery.
Ground and Observation cards are oriented vertically and get played into the players meadow. Landscape and Discovery cards are oriented horizontally and are played into the surrounding area.
Ground Cards have a ground type symbol (litterfall or leaves, grass, sands, rocks, wetlands) and a “card symbol”) Ground cards are the first to be laid down and a player can have at most 10 ground cards laid down in front of them. To lay an observation card on top a ground card, the player must match the requirement symbols of the card already in the meadow to a card they have in hand. Some observation cards allow a choice on which requirement the player uses. This is represented by a ‘/’ and other cards show ‘<‘ and ‘>’ and this represents that the adjacent meadow columns must have this requirement. Basically to place a card down, the requirement symbols must be visible within your meadow. When you place a card down, you place it on-top of and covering the required symbol.
Since only visible icons are current valid icons there is quite a bit of strategy involved on how and in what order a player lays cards down in their meadow. (An aside: It also doesn’t help when no “sands” ground type comes out for the first half of the game when all the observation cards seem to require that… ahem… shaking our heads…)
Landscape cards work a bit differently. They are also picked up from the main board and are well, in landscape format. These cards are played into the surrounding area. An area separate from your meadow. All landscape cards require a road tile to be spent to be played. Players start the game with one and to get more must use one of their campfire actions to gain additional road tiles.
Discovery cards work the same way as Landscape cards and they are marked with a suitcase icon. These usually have requirements. Some just require other landscape cards to have already been played, while others have additional visible requirements that need to be addressed before they are played.
Key element of gameplay
In fact, all cards can have additional requirements. To play them, the additional symbols must be visible on cards in the meadow or surrounding area. This “visible” requirement means “at the top of” the various meadow decks. It isn’t enough to have played that symbol at some point and then subsequently covered it up. This requirement is what makes this game so strategic. There were many times where one of us had to pass on laying a card down because we “just knew” we had a berry symbol visible but only to realize that we had just covered it up.
Now if a player decides to use their Path token on the campfire board, they can do a “special action”. The special actions are:
- select a card from the main board and replace it with another from the corresponding N,S,E,W
- Take two road tokens and place them in the surrounding area
- draw the top three cards from the N,S,E,W decks that are in play, keep one card and place the other two at the bottom of the deck
- Finally play two cards from their hand into the meadow or surrounding area
Only the last special action allows the player to play cards this turn, all others do not allow a card to be played. I missed this rule a few times and the other players called me out on it.
In addition to taking an action on the campfire board. A player may gain a “goal” in the center of the campfire. At the beginning of the game, the players shuffle the goal tiles face down and place one on each space around the campfire and turn them face up. During the game, if any two adjoining symbols also appear visible in the player’s meadow, that player may claim the tree stump space between the symbols with a goal tile. This can only be done when that player is currently doing a campfire action. The first time a player claims a goal, they get 2 points, the second time they get 3 and the third they get 4 points.
Once all players have used their path tokens, the round ends. They collect all their path tokens, rotate the first player token clockwise and move the round marker one stone space on the campfire board. Once the players reach the halfway point in terms of round number, they will pass the hourglass on the campfire board. This represents swapping the S deck with the N deck as the players start to head for home. They clear the main board completely of cards and refill the board from the decks. The N deck is a more difficult deck of cards – but players can score higher amounts of victory points.
At the end of the last round, players add up the victory points of all cards in their meadow and surroundings and add up any points gained from the goal tokens. The player with the most victory points wins.
Ok – I know we went into great depth about this game. We really did enjoy this game. The challenge is to figure out which card to pick up from the main board. Then when the player places a card into their meadow they need to make sure they cover up strategically the best card so as to not screw up their future moves.
The instructions have a nice grid on the back that show how many of each symbol appear in each cardinal direction deck, just in case you want to count cards.
One of the downsides of this type of game is having to wait for a card with the right symbol to be played and ultimately having to hedge your bets and just go with your gut when you want to get a card into play.
The graphic design is phenomenal we really think this game went above and beyond with this. We love that everything is so highly designed. It really is a gorgeous game.
Now would it come back to our table? Yes – when were looking for a fairly light, yet competitive game it will make it back for sure!
If you like this game and want to pick up a copy of it for yourself. We have it in our store!