The PEGASUS SPIELE quality boardgame SPRING MEADOW is UWE ROSENBERG'S third offering in the seasonal game series.
It is for 1-4 Players Aged 10+ year olds and plays at a about 15 minutes per player (depending on the player's speed of decision)
It has a multitude of tiles, 172 including Meadows and Rock Formations, in 51 different shapes (made up of 5 different Rock tiles and 46 different Meadow tiles). The majority of the Meadow tiles have one (or more) holes in them whilst the Rock tiles are all complete and un-holey.
Each of the shapes also appear in the other two games in this trilogy series but are far more prominent numerically in SPRING MEADOW.
Naturally, virtually every person who sees the pieces/tiles for any of the trilogy immediately thinks of TETRIS, because the pieces are so very reminiscent of the famous 1984 puzzle game invented by computer programmer and whizkid Alexy Pajitnov, plus the idea of each of the three Uwe Rosenberg games is to fit them together en bloc as in the Russian puzzle game.
Each player has their own 'mountain' board with a 150 space grid set out in three sections of 50 squares. You can place your board in front of you either horizontally or vertically, but whichever is chosen all players must set their board in the same orientation. There are two crossed sticks in one corner that form an arrow to show which way is up; one edge is meadow green but this doesn't have to be positioned at the 'south' end of your board (taking it that the 'north' end is the furthest away from you) - just ensure the 'arrow' is pointing 'north'.
Each player's Mountain board is double-sided, able to be placed north-south or east-west, and with eleven illustrated burrows (holes) in predetermined positions, each board isn't printed the same but it has no bearing on the game per se which board you get as there isn't any possible way, strategy or tactic, to defeat the random delivery of the tiles.
There is a 5x5 grid central board on which the tiles are randomly placed, one per square. On one side of the main central board (marked with 4 hikers but actually for 2 or 4 players), around its edges are one, two, three, and four dots, which determine the player (in player order) who will select from that specific row. It is similar on the other side of the board but that is for 1 or 3 players and is marked with 3 hikers, so there are no 4 dot rows. Instead the four corners are indented to allow the player in 3rd place to select from diagonal rows. The signpost is moved from row to row after each player's turn, no spaces are omitted.
The players, in turn, select a tile from the row where the signpost stands (and where there are the number of dots equal to their turn order) and position this tile anywhere on their mountain board. Note: although you may place it anywhere it is best for scoring to position it as near to the starting edge (this is the green meadow edge) as possible as you score more and better for rows completely covered (holes in tiles do not count against the row being complete) than for only the next row along that has spaces - the board's edges are designed to make score counting easy - each row is of 10 points in value and the two central lines are marked 50, then 100. When there is only one tile in a row where the signpost is moved to then it is a scoring round, this doesn't occur unless there is only one tile in the row at the start of a player's turn - it isn't immediately triggered when the penultimate tile tile is removed from a row. As the tiles are removed from the central board it may be difficult to remember which space you took the tile from - you are allowed to try a tile on your player board before accepting it - so you mark the space with the compass tile.
Many of the tiles have small round holes in them which if positioned over the Marmot's Burrows will score additional points at the end of the game if they are still open. Tiles may be placed to cover the Burrows but for each one covered by a solid tile a Marmot tile has to be placed over a cleared burrow (one with an empty circle over it). You might say that the SPRING MEADOW game is Marmot (you either like it or you don't) - apologies I had to get that pun in.
The theme of the game is to restore meadowland to the wastes whilst taking nice country strolls using the hiking map (central board) as your guide. Of course that is only chrome and not really necessary as this is quite an abstract and random game, but it's fun to think of a beautiful warm day with blue skies and dicky-birds singing in the grasslands as you are building up your magnificently alluring meadowlands.
The Rock tiles are never placed on the central board. These are given to players who create a group of holes horizontally placed on their own board, the size of Rock tile bonus is determined by the size of the group made. Bonus Rock tiles are immediately positioned on the players own board and assists them in completing rows. Laying tiles isn't complicated but it does make you stop, take time, and think before placing them. There are no options about placing a tile only options as to where you place it - and whether you turn it over and the alignment, orientation of it - rules apply for laying tiles, such as no overlaying other tiles and no going beyond the borders of the grid. There are small Rock tiles that are just one square in size. These are needed to fill in the odd spaces created by larger tiles not completely interlocking together and you get them by placing two holes (or more than two holes) together (you can take a lower value Rock tile than you have paid for in holes on your board.
A +2 Picnic Tiles is given as recompense to the player whose turn is blocked by the round ending at the start of their turn. They add 2 points onto the score of their board for this round only. The player who has the most points then wins the round and is given the Picnic tile which they flip over to show it to be a Hiking Pin (like a small medal). The first player to win two Hiking Pins wins the game. This is usually after three scorings on average.
There is a variant whereby you fill up the main board randomly and then string 20 tiles out from it so that you can see what tiles are coming next. To make this work fairly you have to decide on an order of how to place new tiles and stick strictly to it otherwise it can be used as a means of deceit.
There are also solo rules but personally this isn't the type of game I like to play on my own. The trilogy are three games that each deserve to be played by at least 3 players; all three games play excellently with 3 and 4 players but are not so hot with just 2. COTTAGE GARDEN breaks the norm a little by being in a smaller, less deep, box, is for 8 years old and upwards and has a straight 60 minute game time.
Playing SPRING MEADOW or any of the trilogy is like playing a constantly changing Jigsaw Puzzle. No game is exactly the same as the previous or the next and each game is the cause of more fun than frustration, though the latter is never far away. Like its siblings it is easy to learn and easy to play and also thoughtful enough for you to want to make the correct move each turn. You can try out the pieces before accepting them but once you have placed a tile and accepted its position it remains there and may not be moved. There are no cards to play, no dice to roll and no true player interaction where you can disrupt another players turn or mess up their schemes - well perhaps there is a slight inkling of back-stabbing if you take a tile when it is in your row that fits your board but may not be the best option for you, but you take it because it next appears in an opponent's row and they desperately require it.
As a solo game it isn't likely to become a 'classic' but as a Trilogy or Quadrology the series could almost certainly belong on the long-life, regularly played, shelf.
SPRING MEADOW is a good addition as the final part of the trilogy. I like the introduction of the Marmots and the idea of the Picnic, but there seems not to be enough Meadow tiles with Spring Flowers on them which makes this an almost all green game (similar to something that 2F Games might have published perhaps!). It has enough differences to make it distinctively contrasting from COTTAGE GARDEN and INDIAN SUMMER. I have to say I am surprised that I have heard this to be just a trilogy because the theme holds itself strong for the fourth Season, Winter, to be included in the set - Snow, Icicles, Snowmen and maybe Eagles and Frozen lakes, all are possible parts for WINTER SOLSTICE (or whatever Uwe is likely to call it should a fourth game arise).
My personal preference, if I had to choose just one of the current three games, would be INDIAN SUMMER; this is no more than my opinion should only one of the three games be at choice. Playing the three games one after the other is great fun because it openly highlights all the similarities and the differences. One of my favourite game sessions, especially with friends who like boardgames but aren't considered to be core gamers is to bring out this trilogy and play the games in this order is the best way to enjoy the trilogy. SPRING MEADOW, followed by COTTAGE GARDEN and ending up with INDIAN SUMMER - it's a great way to spend three hours, or a little longer if you stop for coffee and cake between each game.
The online prices for these games differs quite a lot. Always check out your local game store first.
Indian Summer £28.00 - £57.00
Cottage Garden £23.00 - £31.00
Spring Meadow £29.00 - £45.00