Leaf is a one to four player game designed by Tim Eisner and published by Weird City Games. In Leaf you play as an embodiment of the wind guiding leaves across the forest floor.
In Leaf you play "as an embodiment of the wind guiding leaves across the forest floor."
Leaf is a hand management, set collection and tile laying game in which the tiles are various shaped and coloured leaves. Each leaf that you touch will provide you with various actions such as collecting animal cards, drawing more leaf cards, placing mushrooms and moving your squirrel up the tree.
On your turn, you must discard a leaf card to place the corresponding leaf tile into the communal forest. The tiles have various points on them and if they touch other leaf tiles already placed then you perform the corresponding action.
Leaf cards are needed to be able to place the leaf tiles. Sun tokens are used to advance the Season track which grants you points and also, at certain points, allow you to hibernate your animal cards. One type of animal can be hibernated during each Season change and you gain points based on the number of each set of animal you have collected at the end of the game. When you move the squirrel up the tree you gain various bonuses/actions/points depending on where you land. The mushrooms score points in a groups of large, fully grown mushrooms. They also gain you bonus sun tokens if another player places their leaf in such a way that it touches a leaf where you have the mushroom majority.
The game will end when the Winter Season is crossed and all players have an equal number of turns. Points are awarded for acorns (gained from various actions), sets of hibernated animals, groups of fully grown mushrooms and placement on the tree. The player with the most points is the winner.
The above is a brief rules explanation and hopefully gives you an overview of how the game play.
There is no denying that when Leaf is laid out on the table it looks the part. The interesting sprawling nature of the leaf tiles and their shapes makes for an impressive display. The publisher has also gone to great lengths to think about the environmental impact of the game as well, with limited shrink wrap and the use of paper bands for the cards. All highly appreciated and should be commended for their efforts. But how does the game play? Lets find out.
There are a few mechanisms going on within Leaf - set collection, hand management, tile laying - that come together to form something that is a joy to play. The tile laying aspect is particularly fun and creates a unique spatial puzzle as you try to place your leaf to maximise your possible actions. This does tie in with the hand management side of things as without leaf cards you can’t place a tile. There are also a limited number of leaf tiles for each type. I like the interaction between these two mechanisms very much.
There is also an area control vibe going on with the mushrooms. If you have a mushroom on a leaf tile that another player attaches to, then you get a nice bonus. If there are multiple mushroom tiles then it is the biggest mushroom (i.e. fully grown) that breaks the tie. This adds a little element of interaction without it feeling mean and confrontational and I think it works really well. Fully grown mushroom tokens also count as points at the end of the game based on the group size.
The hibernation/set collection aspect with the animal cards adds another nice mechanism into the game and one that can get you some decent points if your strategy is planned around this. You are at the whim of the card draw but there are five on display and I found that I could always pick up something that was valuable to me.
The ruleset is straightforward and easy enough to grasp. I find I can teach this to a wide range of people and it plays pretty quick as well. Combine this with the appealing visuals and Leaf is a hit for me. There is a decent solo mode that packs a bit of challenge that keeps me engaged and engrossed.
Overall, Leaf is a fun and pleasing game to play. There are plenty of choices to be made and optimising the amount of actions you have versus what actions you want to do is always a fun puzzle. I enjoy how all the mechanisms come together and play off each other.