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Game Preview: Spring Meadow, or Playing Tetris on a Mountainside

W. Eric Martin
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Gen Con 2018 opens in just over three weeks — convention preview here! — so it's time to start rolling out previews for games that will debut or first be widely available at that show, starting with Uwe Rosenberg's Spring Meadow, the third title in the "puzzle trilogy" from German publisher Edition Spielwiese. Assuming that all the transportation links do what they're supposed to do, and that's never a sure thing for this show, U.S. publisher Stronghold Games will have the English version of this title for sale at Gen Con 2018.

As in the first two titles of this trilogy, Cottage Garden and Indian Summer, as well as the earlier two-player-only game Patchwork, in Spring Meadow players draft polyomino tiles from a shared space and puzzle them together on a personal game board. For some people, that description is enough for them to say, "Aren't those games all the same?", which is akin to suggesting that all trick-taking games are the same because they all involve each player laying a card in the center of the table, then seeing who wins the trick. No, they're not the same (unless you're going for the 30,000 foot view of the games, in which case you're just passing by anyway and not stopping to play).

All that said, the game that actually springs to mind first when I think of Spring Meadow, which I've played six times on a review copy from Edition Spielwiese, is Tetris. Each player has a snowy mountain board that has a line of grass along one edge. The one hundred meadow tiles in the game that players draft and place are covered with grass and flowers, representing the change of seasons. For the most part, you score points based upon how many lines of grass you "see" from the edge of your board. You can place the tiles almost anywhere you want on the board when you draft them, but you score only by grouping them together from the bottom up (or from the left to the right, depending on how you orient your board).

You have various complications in the marmot burrows that dot the board. Ideally you can place the holes in the tiles on top of the burrows because you score additional points for those, but you can build around them instead since they still count as being non-snowy for the purpose of completing rows. If you place multiple holes together, you score bonus rocks — perhaps you have holes because you extracted those rocks? — that you place on your board immediately, often filling in hard-to-fill spaces thanks to these rocks, especially since you might have left the perfect-sized space in your board to match up those holes to begin with!

A scoring round takes place based on the number of tiles left in the current row or column on the shared drafting space, and since everyone sees what everyone drafts, you all have some say in when scoring takes place. When that happens, whoever has the highest score gets a medal, then they cover cleared marmot burrows (which can hamper their future tile placement), then you refill the drafting board and continue. As soon as a player nabs their second hiking medal, they win and lie down in the field to make celebratory grass angels.

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