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Leaf Board Game Review

WBG Score: 8

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Canopy, Cascadia

Published by: Weird City Games

Designed by: Tim Eisner

This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.

Leaf successfully funded on Kickstarter, delivering its autumnal goodness to 3,464 backers. It is now available for all to marvel at its relaxed beauty. I love games with a strong theme, especially when that theme extends beyond the game itself and exists in the real world. By that, I mean this game feels like the perfect choice for a long autumn evening, with a blazing fire in the background, a warm drink in hand, and an evening of strategy and leaf placement ahead. But should this be on your consideration list? Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.

Leaf Board Game Review

How To Set Up Leaf

First, place the Tree board and the Leaf board at the top of your shared playing area. Next, put the Animal board next to the Leaf board. Ensure it's oriented correctly for the number of players, whether it's just two or a group of three to four. Everyone selects their Player Board and takes 15 Mushroom tokens and a Squirrel token in their chosen color. Shuffle the Leaf cards and then distribute two to each player, three to player three, and four to player four. Place the remaining cards face down to form a shared Leaf deck. Put the Acorn and Sun tokens into a pile in the center of the table. Shuffle the Animal cards and create a facedown deck on the Animal board. Reveal five cards and place them in the designated spots on the Animal board. Then, put the -3 Acorn tokens next to the Animal board.

Now let's set up the leaf piles. Include one Green "Sweetgum" and one Orange "Silver Maple," both marked with an "S" on the back. Position them in the center as the starting pile, ensuring their leaf tips touch. Organize the remaining leaves by their shapes, mix them up, and place them face up in the corresponding spots on the Leaf board. Be sure to locate the appropriate leaf for the top of each pile, as indicated by the starting symbol on the back. The player who last touched a tree becomes the first player. You are now ready to play.

Leaf Board Game Review

How To Play Leaf

During your turn, you'll choose a Leaf card from your hand and place it on the forest floor. This action triggers based on connected leaf tips (remember, stems count too). First, play a Leaf card from your hand, then take the top corresponding Leaf of the same shape from the pile. If you have a matching leaf to discard, allowing you to play two matching cards, you can place a baby mushroom on the leaf you're putting down. When you lack Leaf cards, you must take a -3 Acorn token, draw two Leaf cards, and proceed with your turn as usual. If a specific stack of Leaves has run out of cards, you can choose the top leaf from any other stack.

Arrange your chosen leaf so that it connects with others on the board, ensuring at least two tips touch. For each tip your leaf touches, you'll get actions based on that tip's color. The specific leaf you're placing isn't important; it's about the Leaves you're touching. These are the different actions:

Green: Draw a Leaf card, shuffle the deck if it's empty.

Yellow: Take a Sun token. If you have three Sun tokens, you can advance the Season token, which awards a lot of points.

Orange: Take an Animal card and add it to the top of your player mat.

Brown: Move your squirrel up one space on the Tree, claiming the rewards for your destination space.

Red: Grow an existing mushroom or place a new baby mushroom. If your leaf touches others, you gain a Sun token.

When someone else's mushroom is beside a recently placed leaf, they earn a Sun token. The largest Mushroom claims the token. If no large mushrooms are adjacent, Baby mushrooms each provide one Sun. One Sun per mushroom, but you can get multiple if you've touched multiple leaves. However, you won't receive Sun for touching your own leaves with mushrooms.

Leaf Board Game Review

Any animal cards that were taken that turn are replaced, and play moves to the next player. It is worth pausing at this point to admire the art on the animal cards. They are simply stunning.

This pattern of play continues until the Winter mark is reached on the seasonal tracker, or if three leaf stacks are emptied. If you're the one to take the last leaf from a stack, the Season token moves, but you won't receive a reward immediately. When three stacks are emptied, Winter begins. Crossing the Frost line with the Season token causes animals to hibernate. With three frost lines, only three sets of animals can move down this way. This means each player can move down one set of animals from the top of the mat to the bottom. Only animal cards moved down this way will score at the end of the game. Crossing the "Winter" line triggers the game's end. Players get a final turn, ensuring everyone has the same number of turns, and then final scoring begins.

Scoring is neatly displayed on the player mats, making it easy to run through. All animals in your Winter Den count for points, with each group scoring separately. More animals in each group mean more points. All Acorns are tallied, taking into account whether they gained or cost you points by using -3 tokens during the game. Players also score one point for every two remaining Sun tokens or Leaf cards. Points are awarded for the player who climbed the highest and second highest in the tree with their Squirrel.

The slightly tricky aspect of scoring involves mushrooms. Points are scored for groups that are adjacent to each other on the Leaf pile, but only for those that have matured to full growth. The player with the most points wins; ties are determined by unplayed Sun tokens and Leaf cards.

Leaf Board Game Review

Is It Fun? Leaf Board game Review

I enjoy games that offer multiple ways to play and score, especially when crafted as thoughtfully as Leaf. This game not only looks stunning but also plays exceptionally well. It's easy to explain, and I've had great experiences introducing it to newcomers in gaming, including my eight and ten-year-old children. Everyone quickly grasped the game's strategy, yet it still provides a satisfying experience for seasoned players.

When you place a Leaf, a multitude of considerations arise. While the placed Leaf doesn't provide actions itself, the ones it touches do. Moreover, it creates opportunities for subsequent players. Your choice of Leaf placement also affects how many other Leaves you can touch. With various shapes, you must strategize which shape allows you to touch the most Leaves. Consider the actions you want or need, and figure out which Leaf placement facilitates accessing those options while not making it too easy for the next players. There's a lot to ponder.

You can pursue diverse scoring paths, whether it's ascending the tree to the highest point or collecting animals early to build up sets. Advancing the season yields points and controls the game's pace. When will the three frosts occur, and when will the game conclude? To accomplish this, Sun tokens are crucial, requiring you to focus on building and cultivating Mushrooms for the best chance at success. Juggling multiple considerations keeps games intriguing for me, striking a balance that avoids overwhelming my mind, as in the style of Sagrada.

Leaf Board Game Review

The components are amazing as well. This is the standard version, not the deluxe. It comes with multiple boxes to organize everything neatly. Take a look at the individual boxes for each player's mushroom tokens and squirrel. It makes setup and teardown a breeze.

Everything has its designated place and looks wonderful. The Leaf tiles and tree components are thick and sturdy. I understand the deluxe version elevates these to an even higher standard, but the basic ones are already pretty good

Leaf Board Game Review

I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys games of low to medium weight that still offer a thoughtful and strategic experience. This game is perfect to play with family or a group of friends on a cosy autumn evening, watching the last rays of sun go down, while enjoying a mug of something warm and comforting. If that sounds good to you, this game could easily become one of your firm favourites. There are a few games that scream a seasonal theme. This game is the perfect Autumnal game. Not just in looks and theme, but the feel as you play too. The perfect wind down, relaxing, game experience that will make you feel good and warm inside.

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