Regular readers of my posts will know I'm very fond of replayability in games. I love a game that I can play over and over and find a new thrill each time. A new strategy, a new order of actions to take, or just a new layout of pieces. Games such as Steampunk Rally, Kingdom Builder, and Carcassonne. Recently I've discovered a new type of game that really scratches that itch. Roll and write games have been around for years. One has been about for decades and could be considered a household name. Have you guessed it? If so, then Yahtzee! (Yes, it's Yahtzee, the original of the genre.) The basic premise of roll and write is that each player has a scoresheet, and something happens. It can be a dice roll or a card draw or something else entirely. Each player can then decide how they use what has come up. Options become more limited as time progresses, so you have to choose wisely. A current favourite of mine is Cartographers, and the game I'm talking about today has a very similar feel. A slight heads-up. The version I played was in German.
Blätterrauschen ist… (ahem) Rustling Leaves is a new roll and write game with a push your luck twist. Set in a natural theme, your goal is to score as many points as possible by rolling your dice and using them to surround the various pictures. Ready to set off into the forest?
How To Play
Each player takes a map of a season. The dice are rolled. The numbers give you one of the lengths of a rectangle (field) you will draw on your map. For example, a green 2 and a yellow 3 gives you a 2x3 field. In the opening round, you place your field so that one of the squares contained within is one of the six starting boxes. From the second turn onwards, you must have at least one square connected with a previously drawn field.
Once you have placed your field, you will choose one of the pictures in it. Each of the four seasonal maps has different figures. These score points in different ways, based on the flora and fauna appropriate for that time of year. Once you've chosen your scoring picture, you cross off all which appear in your field and tally off the number you've crossed off below. If you find yourself unable to place a field, you have to mark off a missed die, scoring minus 3 points for each missed die.
Finally, you have one joker - which you can use at any point in the game - that changes one of the dice rolled. Keep going until you choose to stop or you get six missed die markers. When you're done, tally your scores and the highest score wins!
When I received the review copy of Rustling Leaves, I was excited to give it a play. Normally, I have to wait until I can play with my partner, but since Rustling Leaves has a solo mode, I had a quick playthrough on my own. The artwork is beautiful, and there's a lot of detail for relatively small pictures. It does rely on luck somewhat. If you end up getting the dreaded 4x4 square, it takes up a lot of your board very quickly. You do have the Joker die, which is a nice foil to a bad roll, but there's only one, so be sure to use it wisely.
Still, there's a ton of replayability in this game. With two hundred sheets to play with (50 of each season), you can step up to a new challenge each time you play. Technically you don't even have to play with the same season, so you could really mix things up. Paolo Mori and Kosmos have created a nice little roll and write which really sticks to the spirit of the genre, and is a good introductory game to let non-gamers get into the mechanic. With each player taking the same dice rolls, and only the joker as a variable, I've found that most games end simultaneously. I enjoyed my time playing it and I'm sure I will continue to play it, giving each season a try. So far, I've played a solo Spring and a duet for Autumn. Now summer is over, I guess that means… winter is coming.