“True Chanterelle – Cantharellus cibarius – Because they are extremely resistant to insect attack, true chanterelles are naturally kosher mushrooms (and thus may be used in traditional Jewish cooking).” Source: Meadow Index of Cards
Oh well, damn tasty are freshly collected chanterelles too. – Jan, passionate chanterelle hunter
It was only a matter of time before more and more board games with a nature theme appeared on the scene. This theme became popular with Wingspan, but a nature theme does not necessarily make a good game. Now the Polish publisher rebel.Studio, which belongs to the Asmodee Group, is trying its hand at this theme with Meadow. At first glance, it seems as if the Polish designers have done their homework, because already the illustration catches you and the scent of the forest seems to get into your nose immediately. But can Meadow also convince playfully besides pretty illustrations?
Have fun reading!
A walk in the forest with Meadow
The first thing that catches the eye in Meadow are the illustrations. Beautifully drawn animals, plants and landscapes are depicted on the numerous different cards. And these are many plants and animals that I have also been able to observe on the one or other forest walk. The perfect board game for me, because I like nature and enjoy roaming through the forest and just enjoy nature.
But beautiful drawing does not make a good board game. But Meadow is simply a beautiful board game. A nice feel-good board game. Sure, the mechanics are quite simple. I can choose a card from the open card display and then play a card. Of course, I can’t just play any card, because the card may have special conditions that I have to meet. And the more cards I play, the more points I can earn in the end.
However, Meadow takes this light gameplay and adds one or two small elements. So I can decide in each round whether I really want to put a card in my hand or whether I want to do one of the four other special actions instead. I can use these to get more cards in my hand or to play more cards. However – and this is very positive – this doesn’t trigger any gigantic chain reactions. Even the special actions feel light and fluffy and don’t slow down the flow of the game in any way.
But mechanics or not, the real big plus about Meadow is its theme. Because the mentioned cards with their prerequisites build on each other very nicely. A small example: Before I can play a wolf in my forest, I first need enough food sources for the wolf. And a wolf doesn’t live in the swamp or on the open meadows, he wants big forests. You guessed it, that’s exactly what I need to have. If I then finally play my wolf, it occupies its ecological niche and perhaps blocks the space for other animals or cards that I still want to play.
You see, owning a wolf takes quite a bit of effort. Of course, such a map can only be found at Meadow later in the game. Until then, I have enough time to first create a healthy forest with enough habitat. And that’s what I like very much.
In Meadow, cards are not played simply to be played. Rather, they fit into the thematic setting and round out the board game beautifully. Bird eats caterpillars and caterpillars need mushrooms or plants to thrive. So Meadow shows us in a playful way how nature works on our doorstep. I notice the theme and the feel of the game, with how much attention to detail, the board game was created.
Once again back to the mechanics
Before I go any further into gushing, I want to briefly say a few words about the pure dry mechanics. There is the selection of cards. I have 4 actions available per round. Each action has a certain value. Now comes the trick: Since the card display is a 4 by 4 square, I have to think carefully about which card I want and which action chip I choose to go with it.
So if I want the first card of a row, I have to choose the action chip with the one. For the fourth card, I need the action chip with the four. What sounds relatively unspectacular now turns into a real dilemma in the course of a game. All of a sudden, the card I really need comes up, and I can only get it if I use my three chip. Stupidly, this chip has already been used in an earlier action. And since my fellow players at the table have also used their chips, they block exactly the places that would have been suitable for my remaining chips.
Thus, Meadow does deliver a complexity that it was able to disguise quite well at the beginning through its illustrations.
Meadow and the Randomness
However, the cards are both Meadow’s great strength and its greatest weakness. In some matches, I simply don’t have the right cards. I have a hand full of cards that I would love to play, but I don’t have the right cards in my forest. Sometimes it’s the beetle that’s missing, or instead of just one tree, I need another tree in my forest. Or when I think back to that desperate game where I waited for a mushroom. Then the play desire can quickly turn into play frustration and then I felt already played by the game.
But I have also experienced plays where I had no problems and was able to play one card after the other. On the other hand, my teammates did have problems and waited eagerly for the right card. And of course, mean as I am, I snatched the card they needed right from under their noses.
And just by this coincidence, it also happens that the big tasks can be completed faster. The big tasks are random sets that you can collect. At the beginning, symbol tiles are randomly placed next to each other. If you now have exactly such a pair of symbols in your forest, you can grab the target or the task. This will give you additional points at the end of the game. But as mentioned before, randomness is still the king here, so I can have cards in my hand that don’t match at all.
My opponent may be able to complete such a task quite quickly because he or she already had the right cards in hand from the start. And that’s frustrating, of course. Or I slowly build up the appropriate sets and just before I can do it, it gets snatched away from under my nose.
The joyful Meadow walk
One or the other may have noticed it already: I simply like Meadow. The rather simple mechanism paired with the illustrations nevertheless has enough depth. In addition, the thematic integration makes Meadow an all-around successful board game for me. Sure, it has a few edges, of course. But these edges are justifiable in my eyes, and even a Wingspan had its problems with the randomness and was still awarded.
For me, Meadow is also more accessible than the board game with the birds, and the construction of the food chain is more thematic than other representatives of nature board games. In addition, there are the small envelopes that are in the package. You are not allowed to open these envelopes until you have completed the tasks in real life. For example, you can only open envelope W when you see a wild animal while you are walking.
Even if these covers don’t change the basic principle of Meadow, I find the idea simply beautiful. A board game that rewards us when we don’t play it, but do what the game wants us to do: go out and enjoy nature. In addition, there is a nature diary in which you can note down when you have seen an animal or a plant live and in color. So even a little legacy mechanism is in the board game.
And of course, it also educates and thus Meadow fulfills an educational mission, although that was probably not in the foreground when the board game was developed. But as I mentioned above, I simply notice that Meadow was developed with attention to detail.
Furthermore, I would like to explicitly mention the rule book. I have my problems with game manuals that come from Polish publishers. They always explain the game, but if you want to quickly look up something and clarify a rule, they often leave you out in the cold. Here, too, Meadow is a positive exception. The development of the rules and the structure of the rule book are simply well done.
I could say now, I hope that there will be an extension to this. But somehow the sun is coming through right now and actually I would rather go hiking through the Pfälzerwald now. And just between us, in the Pfälzerwald there is the Cantharellus cibarius and even so that you could pick it from the path.