Meadow was released last year, and quickly became a favorite. I was completely pulled in by the art of this game — every card is a beautiful illustration of nature. There’s even a supplemental reference telling you what each card is. In this game you are recording what you see along a walk in nature. I love the puzzle of chaining together the card placements so that you keep the right symbols visible for the other cards in your hand.
In the solo version, you are playing against Rover to get the most points. I’m not going to go through the details of how to play the base game, but there are a lot of reviews and play-throughs on YouTube you can check out if you need a primer!
For the solo game, you set up as you would a multi-player game, with the Meadow board at the center of the table, the decks of cards all shuffled, and the West, South, and East cards played out into the grid. You use the single-player side of the campfire board and use the green tokens to block two of the slots on the top of that board. Place out the round marker and give yourself three random goals on the correct spaces around the center of the campfire. You’ll take all of the player markers for one color, including the bonus and action tokens.
Then you’ll need to set up Rover. There’s a small board that shows a depiction of the main Meadow Board. You’ll need the three large circle tokens in the player colors that you aren’t using, and those are slotted in to the side of Rover’s board. Then you’ll shuffle all of the other player action tokens and place them facedown in a stack.
Rover is always the start player. You’ll draft a row of cards from the Meadow board, and take a card from the top of the North deck, and replenish the board as usual. Then Rover will take the row of cards just below the decks of cards, and one from the North deck, and this will be their starting victory deck.
The game play then proceeds as Rover and you take turns. On Rover’s turn, take the top action token from the stack next to Rover’s board. If the token shows a question mark, then place it in one of the available slots above the campfire board. Otherwise, find the matching color on Rover’s board — this will tell you which side and location on the Meadow board to place the token. Take the corresponding card, as you would for placing that token, and add it to Rover’s victory deck.
Then take your turn as normal, placing one of your available action tokens and taking the appropriate action. You can still claim goals as usual, when you place one of your action tokens on the campfire board. Rover does not claim goals, so they will always be available to you, as long as there are action slots available on the campfire board.
After the third round, you’ll wipe the Meadow board, swap out the South deck for the North, and put out new cards. Then you’ll finish the last three rounds of the game.
You’ll count up your points as usual, and count up all of the points in Rover’s victory deck. If you beat Rover’s score, you win. If you win, you can also check to see how well you did by checking your score against the table in the book.
How did it work?
The Rover mechanic works very smoothly here. It doesn’t require a lot of extra housekeeping — it’s just drawing and placing a token, and maybe drawing and replacing a card. Like the multiplayer game, you never know what action Rover is going to take, so you need to be sure to take the cards you want before they get at it.
Since Rover is getting points on most turns, I find myself looking to see if there are any high-point cards in the Meadow that I want to keep from Rover. But then, I only want to take it if I think I can build it. So there’s a nice push-pull between leaving those cards on the board for Rover to potentially score and getting them into your hand. I really like when a solo game gives you the ability to have some control over the score to beat, so Meadow ticks that box for me.
I also like that Rover doesn’t block the goals, which gives you a chance to get a few extra points. That has been key in my wins — my cards alone often aren’t enough to beat Rover, but those few extras from the goals will push me to a victory.