Review – Leaf
Hallelujah, it's raining leaves!
|Weird City Games
|Leaf-Placement, Action Selection
The follow-up to 2021’s Canopy from Weird City Games allows players to place different types of leaves on the forest floor, race squirrels up the tree, and collect animals for winter dens. Should you pick this one up off the shelf, or should you leaf it alone?
In Leaf, players will compete for the most acorns. Acorns are gained through advancing the sunshine token, sending your squirrel up the tree, growing mushrooms, and collecting animals for the winter den. The game ends when someone triggers the final season, in which case players will finish the current round so that everyone gets the same number of turns.
To begin, each player will take their player components of mushrooms, squirrel, and player board. Two leaves will start on the forest floor (middle of the table). Each player will also receive some leaf cards. Each turn, you’ll play a leaf card, which allows you to take that type of leaf from the supply and place it on the forest floor. You’ll place the leaf so that at least 2 of its points touch leaves that are already on the forest floor. Then, you’ll take actions depending on the color of the leaves that your leaf touches.
The different colored leaves afford different actions: gaining sunshine tokens (used for advancing the season and gaining acorns), drawing animal cards (for end-game scoring), growing mushrooms (for end-game scoring), drawing leaf cards, and moving your squirrel up the tree (various rewards, depending on what spots you pass). This leaf-placement game mechanic works really well due to the well-designed geometry of the leaves, and it’s also fun to watch the forest floor expand and diversify.
Beyond maximizing your turns for gaining the most acorns, you can also place your mushrooms wisely. When someone else places a leaf next to a leaf that has your mushroom token on it, you’ll gain a sunshine token. You can turn in 3 sunshine tokens for acorns, which will also advance the season and determine when players can place animal cards in their winter dens and when the game ends. Well-placed mushrooms are an essential part of the strategy in Leaf. You can also place a mushroom on a leaf you just placed if you play 2 of the same leaf cards.
The components in Leaf are excellent. The artwork is great and everything fits into the box in environmentally-friendly packaging (no plastic bags!). Educational possibilities abound, as each of the 6 leaves have a name on all their leaf cards, and there are little blurbs in the back of the rulebook that tell curious readers about the animals and mushrooms. There’s also a dedicated solo mode with solo-specific cards and achievements in the rulebook that could provide some fun challenges for solo players.
Leaf is a step up for Tim Eissner as a board game designer. Weird City Games’ previous release, Canopy, was certainly fun (and educational), but it was not fun enough for me to prefer it over similar games (the cardplay borrowed from games like Race for the Galaxy, Everdell, and Terraforming Mars). Leaf introduces some unique ideas with the leaf-placement mechanic, and the fast-paced gameplay is just the right amount for how long these games typically take (20-45 minutes).
Weird City Games kindly provided a review copy.
The Bottom Line
The leaf-placement mechanic is fun and vibrant, and the playtime doesn't overstay its welcome.