Wave retarders, including quarter- and half-wave plates, are used in many optical systems for polarization conversion. They are usually realized with anisotropic crystalline materials. However, much thinner and possibly also less expensive wave plates can be made of micro- and nanostructures. We present a new way to create thin-film optical retarders based on a highly birefringent metamaterial. The wave plate is capable of low-loss, broadband operation, which we verify both numerically and experimentally. Owing to the remarkable simplicity of our design, the wave plates operating on the proposed principle can meet the requirements of large-scale production and find widespread application in optics and photonics.