I just finished another playthrough of Meadow and can easily say it's the most relaxing game I've ever played. For me, gaming and relaxation don't necessarily go together, rather the opposite: sessions are usually tense, or demand concentration and a lot of thinking. That's why I can't play when I come home after work; my brain is fried and I don't have the energy to go through the gaming motions.
2022 is finally coming to an end and, during these End Times, Athena and JW will share some thoughts on what they played this year.
Idyllic watercolour scenes obviously play a part in this, but the gameplay itself also has a nice pace. It's neither difficult nor childish. It's an easy game to learn, and choosing which cards to add to your tableau doesn't require much effort but it doesn't feel completely shallow either. The AI does an adequate job stealing cards and blocking spaces: it's not smart but it lets you focus on your own turn which is the most satisfying aspect of the game anyway.
I didn't rush to buy it when it first came out as I'm not a fan of BYOS, which is what this ultimately is, despite the presence of the AI. The AI is easy to beat because it blindly amasses points, and if it beats you, it's just because it happened to scoop up high value cards from the main board. Otherwise, you just compete with your previous selves.
Winning isn't a big deal in this game, though. It's the gameplay itself that draws you in, the ecosystem you build, the lovely animals, the rural houses, the life you seemingly live in the countryside, away from the hubbub of the city, away from your stupid job, away from annoying people, peaceful, blissful, just you and the birds and the mushrooms and the caterpillars.
So yeah, as you can tell, I like Meadow. I entertained the thought of purchasing the expansion but it's such a table hog that I hesitate to go for it. I do want more variety in the cards though, and I love the fact that they included little envelopes with extra cards that you open when you fulfill the requirement (e.g. you open one when Spring comes - but I don't know if I can wait).
If you're missing a relaxing game in your collection, if there's a hole in your soul, Meadow does a good job filling this vacuum.