WBG Score: 9
Published by: Rebel Studio
Designed by: Klemens Kalicki
This expansion has a cute otter on the box cover and an otter card. Nothing further, 10 out of ten, review done, have a great day everyone.
So I’ve been told that my previous sentence probably doesn’t constitute a helpful or informative review. I did make the argument that a regular review from me is probably not that either and can’t I just fill the review up with pictures of Otters…….. so here is my Otter light review of Meadow: Downstream. Also if you want to know how Meadow works and my thoughts on it then head over to my review on the site here.
Not a (L)Otter rules
Set up Meadow as you would normally for your player count. Then pick a side of the new river board, either the lazy river or the wild rapids and add that to the campfire board. Then set that up depending on what side of the river you chose. Add the river deck to the new board and fill in the spaces from the deck. Give each player a double sided river watery ground card in addition to the regular ground card and give everyone their river trail token. Now you’re all set!
The game plays out much the same as the base game. In terms of actions. Now though you have a river trail token that you can play. You can play this into a space on the river board and take any card from the row or column in which you placed it. If you’re playing with less than four and are using the wild path token then this can also be played on the river board.
River cards will be played into your meadow as usual but they won’t score you any points at the end of the game. Instead of points these cards have oar symbols on them and they’ll each have a number of arrows in them. When you play these cards into your meadow you’ll move your kayaker the number of spaces on the river boards as per the number of arrows on that card. A number of spaces along the river will have bonuses on them. These will be things like playing more cards, taking extra cards or more road tokens.
Each river has point values around it and at the end of the game you will score the highest one that your kayaker has passed.
On the lazy river side of the board you will have sunset cards that will be placed in point order on the board. The first player to reach those spaces will take the highest pointed card to potentially play into their meadow. There will also be a couple of new goals you can claim if you can fulfil them when you pass that space.
The wild rapids board plays out in a similar way but here you will have random tent and pier tokens that you’ll choose from when you get to those spots.
The last addition to the game is two waterfall tokens. These are placed in the spaces between the rocks just before and after the hourglass space on the campfire board. When the round marker passes one of these simply replace all the cards on the river board.
Wave to the Salmon on your way downstream.
Okay, so I’ve taken off the Otter tinted glasses and I’ve been able to get into Meadow Downstream and review it for what it is, a really fun expansion. It may look like a really fun jaunt down a river but it really throws some new interesting decisions your way. At first the idea of the new cards not having points on them may seem a bit counter productive and almost not even worth taking them. Turns out there’s some great reasons to take them, twenty of them at first glance. Being able to get your kayaker to the end of the board for twenty points may be worth the effort alone but which route you take and how quickly you get there is where most of your decisions will come from.
The bonuses are the other reason you’ll not want to ignore that board. I’d actually argue that these are the things that you really want to navigate it for. There were times in the base game that you’d take an action that felt almost unproductive. Maybe you’d take a road token bonus just for something to do or take a card that wasn’t helpful because other slots were taken. Now gaining say a road token or a card as a bonus actually feels really satisfying. They’re like the toys you used to get in with your cereal, they weren’t life changing but they were good enough that you just wanted to keep digging to get them. It now feels like you're getting more options on each round with downstream rather than just the base actions and I didn’t ever feel like a turn was wasted. You actually feel like you're getting turns back because there will be things that you’ll take that you otherwise would have had to use an action to get.
How to balance a kayak.
I love the balance of this expansion. Introducing an entirely new board could easily have gone one of two ways. Either taking the focus entirely from the main board and having people focus on the new shiny, or players would just ignore it because they wanted to focus on the main board because there’s too much going on on the new board. But this does a lovely job on making the new river boards just as important as the main board. First the new river tile means that you’ll need to take something from the river deck at least once per round anyway, so unless you're only going to use those cards for a two for one swap, you may as well put them to good use, after all, they’re bound to come in handy. But you’ll want to take the river cards because they’re going to help with contributing to your meadow. Apart from the fish symbol, all the symbols are the same as the base game so they're going to be useful in getting your base game cards played so they’re going to be equally worth your time getting them into your hand. Plus having six more cards to choose from is always a good thing to have.
As I said previously, those bonuses and the victory points are too good to ignore and I imagine that once one player starts moving down that track then others will want in on the action, especially once they see them getting extras and potentially getting some extra victory points. That’s not to say that you can’t win if someone races to the end, they still have to score well from their meadow as well. Even though it’s a separate board it feels integrated. It feels like something you want to use but it never takes focus from the main game
At the moment I think the wilds rapids side of the board is my favourite but it’s close. There is more of a race element to it to get to those first come, first served bonuses. Both boards though have those branching paths where you can decide to take the long way round and gather up the bonuses or take the shorter route and try and get those big points. The lazy river has its own little “who’ll get their first “ moment of tension but that certainty comes out more on the wild rapids board.
You Otter know.
With the addition to the new board and new cards and new token you will find that this does have an effect on the game length. How much this adds will depend on player count, player experiences and of course the dreaded AP. Being able to take from anywhere from a column or row on the river board speeds up that particular decision and if someone is taking a bonus then there may be a slightly longer turn for some people, but we’ve not found it to be an overwhelming amount but it’s something to keep in mind.
One thing I was going to add to my “niggles” section was that the new card holder doesn’t fit into the main box or the expansion box without breaking it down. However, I did see someone suggest that you place it upside down into one of the spaces in the main box and it fits! (thank you YouTube comments section) Now rather than a niggle this is a public service announcement to say that it all fits into the base game box and now I can hang the expansion box lid on my wall!
Meadow Downstream is one of those expansions that adds to the base game in such a way that I’ll always want to play with it if I can. It doesn’t complicate the rules and can be easily taught within a few minutes if you know the base game. I’d even go so far as to say that you could teach this to new players of meadow because, as I say, it's only a couple of extra rules. But I’d probably not just because the base game gives you enough to get your head round without introducing a second board into the mix. Perhaps after they’ve got a game of it under their belt then you can show them the wonders of the river.
If you love Meadow and want to up the game a notch without complicating things then I think this expansion is well worth kayaking down to your FLGS for. Unless of course your game store doesn’t have river access then by all means find an alternative mode of transport.