Game at a Glance
- Rebel Studio
- Players: 1-4
- Time: 60-90 min
- Ages: 10+
- Availability: Retail
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In Meadow you are a wanderer, traveling through nature on foot in search of inspiration and stories hidden along your path. In this nature-themed game, players will take turns drafting watercolor-illustrated cards into their hands and playing them into their personal tableau – or meadow.
Players will build a foundation of ground cards with a variety of terrain. From there, additional observation cards can be placed directly on top, building quite literally from the ground up. In addition to constructing a meadow, players will highlight the landscapes and treasures found on the roads and share tales of their adventures around a campfire.
Gradually, each player will have built a unique collection of memories. At the end of a specific number of rounds, the game ends, and the player who has gathered the most points wins.
Each player will start with several double-ended, arrow-shaped action tokens. These tokens are used to select actions by slotting them into either the main board (the pointed end) or the campfire board (the blunt end). The campfire actions can be used to gain road tokens, extra card plays, etc., and allow the player to tell a story at the campfire (if they have met the requirements to do so). The campfire actions are useful, but players will most often be using the pointed end of their token to draft and play cards from the main board.
Everybody’s meadow starts with a single starter ground card, representing an ecosystem. This and other ground cards are the baselines for future plays. Observation cards are drafted from the main board and can be played to your meadow if their symbol requirements are met, and often must be placed directly on top of a card displaying at least one of their required symbols. By playing cards in the meadow, symbols are covered and are no longer active, so players must manage their card plays very carefully.
In addition to building up your meadow, you will have the chance to collect road tokens and play landscape cards and discovery cards, which represent the views and mementos the player gathered on their journey. Finally, there is a bit of a race to the campfire to tell stories of your observations. A player can sit at the campfire, in between two symbols visible in their meadow, and collect the points.
Playing cards to your meadow add new symbols to work with, but at the expense of covering one or more existing symbols. This creates an interesting push-and-pull that requires careful hand management. Meadow is a tactical game and planning ahead doesn’t always pan out – it all depends on what cards become available in the drafting zone. Players will have some information in their hands that can help them to plan ahead a bit, but not enough to create an overarching strategy.
The game feels incredibly balanced. In our experience, the final scores tend to be very close – perhaps a bit too close. After a few plays it seems most players will pick up on the primary strategies to collect points and there are not a lot of surprises or excitement surrounding the outcome.
Meadow is a medium-light strategy game and would work well for a wide range of players. The rulebook is clear and makes learning the game a cinch, and teaching the game is easy. The actions are directly in front of the players in the form of action tokens – simply choose which action to take, either card draft and play, or a campfire action, and perform it. The rules for card placement are pretty intuitive with the theme and are easy to grasp, and the symbology is clear.
Two main variables change game-to-game: the symbols that appear at the campfire, and the card draws. These will facilitate minute changes to strategies for each play, but it is not enough to make each game feel entirely unique. After a few plays of Meadow, I felt like I had a grasp on the strategy. There are not many pathways to get points – I would venture that many players will pick up on them quickly and be left with little strategic discovery in future plays.
That is not to say that I don’t find replay value in the game. I rather enjoy getting Meadow to the table. This is a game with a familiar and predictable arc that feels comfortable and relaxing. The replay value on this one will be highly personal, but it is there for me.
Theme / Aesthetics
Meadow is gorgeous, and this is a huge selling point for the game. There are over 200 unique cards, beautifully illustrated with watercolor paintings by Karolina Kijak. Her artwork captures the intricacy of every subject no matter how small, giving each a sense of warmth and importance. Because the game art was handled by a single illustrator, the game’s visuals are cohesive. In addition to lovely illustrations, the game’s graphic design is done well. The symbology is intuitive and allows for a language-independent gaming experience and no ambiguity.
This card tableau-building system allows for a vibrant thematic experience. The card play requirements make sense – certain rodents and birds will require berries, butterflies and bees need flowers, some flowers prefer to grow near cottages, birds often need trees, etc. As a card is laid on top of another it uses those symbols, or resources, making them scarce for others. This simple design allows for a complex ecosystem to grow before players’ eyes. By the end of the game, each player will have built a large, complex card environment that is visually pleasing and makes logical sense.
Interaction / Fun
There is a race to spots at the campfire bench, and there is open drafting with a spatial element that causes players to block each other out from the cards they want – usually unintentionally. Despite this, Meadow is not a highly interactive game. Although there is a slight potential for hate-drafting and purposefully blocking card draws late-game, I feel the action space is so tight that players are more likely to use their actions towards benefitting themselves before actively tanking their opponents.
Turns tend to move quickly, but for players who can’t stand waiting, there is a card index full of information on the flora and fauna in the game that I enjoy referencing even when there isn’t downtime. I think it’s fun to learn about the creatures and plants I’m adding to my meadow. The game also includes five mini-expansions tucked away in envelopes with special instructions on when to open them. All of this enriches the experience and makes Meadow feel special.
The theme and mechanics come together beautifully in this game. Just like the beginning of a real nature walk, I start each Meadow adventure unsure of what I will encounter. This game emulates this exploration as you add terrain and organisms to your tableau. Each card’s requirements are simple but faithful to the creature or item’s needs. Every small addition to the landscape consumes a resource and adds fresh ones to the ecosystem, which breathes a sense of life into the game. I love it when games leave me with something I have built – it feels satisfying. This game does that with such charm and richness it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
Meadow offers a quiet, contemplative experience. This game practically begs me to play snuggled in a warm blanket with my coziest sweatpants and a cup of tea. It does not offer a wealth of strategic depth, but it makes up for that with a comfortable, relaxing puzzle experience that is a nice break from heavier, tense strategy games. This is a game that I would recommend to players of most skill levels with a passion for nature and who can appreciate a more tranquil gaming experience.