Designed by Tim Eisner and published by Weird City Games, Leaf is a light puzzle optimisation tile laying game where players represent the 'spirit of the wind' as they guide autumn leaves to form a carpet on the forest floor. Thematically, it reminded us of Petrichor (APE Games/Mighty Boards) but gameplay is very different.
On your turn, you'll be playing a card to draft a leaf (one of six different shapes) and positioning it so that it touches other leaves in a growing shared forest floor tableau. It's not the shape of leaves that matter most tho', it's the colour: each colour signifies a different action. You don't, however, take the action for the leaf you are placing but instead you get to take the actions for every point that the leaf touches. So whatever colour leaf you place out, if its points touch, say, a green leaf and an orange leaf, you'll take a green and orange action. It's likely that your leaf placement will touch in four places (perhaps twice each with two adjacent leaves), in which case you'll be able to take four actions, which could well include multiples of the same action.
You need cards to be able to draft leaves, and if you run out you'll have to incur a three acorn (victory point) penalty to buy more, so the green leaf action is important because it lets you draw a card. The orange leaf lets you draft a woodland creature from the display (or take the top face-down creature card). Some cards come with an immediate free acorn victory point but you'll mostly be collecting creatures with the aim of building matching sets which can score for you. At various trigger points in the game, players will be able to select any one type of creature to 'hibernate'. At the game end, the hibernated animals will score - optimally for three of a kind.
The yellow leaf lets you take a sunshine token. Collect three of these and you can cash them in to advance the season track. This isn't merely a game timer, it's a way of scoring points (you'll initially score 6 acorns for moving the tracker) and it's what triggers each spell of hibernation. Red leaves let you place out a 'baby mushroom' on any leaf or grow a baby mushroom into an 'adult'. At end game, the 'adult' mushrooms score an increasing amount depending on adjacency (tho' again, three is the optimal number for scoring: you'll score 16 points for two distinct mycelium networks of three but only 11 for a single network of six). You can only place one mushroom on any one leaf but rival players can share leaves. Where a leaf is played to touch a leaf that has a mushroom on it, the owner of the largest mushroom on the leaf gains a sun token.
Finally, the brown leaves let you advance your squirrel meeple up a tree where it will earn bonuses wherever it lands.
Tho' it may seem initially unintuitive to be activating the leaves you touch rather than the leaf you draft, Leaf is easy to teach and learn. With its beautiful art from Angela Rizza, it has a great table presence that certainly adds to its appeal as a family game. There's a solo/solitaire option but, for competitive play, the game take 2-4 players. From our plays at Board's Eye View, we've especially enjoyed its pace as a two-player game. Tho' some hardened gamers might dismiss it as too light for their tastes, Leaf makes for a lively and entertaining head-to-head puzzle optimisation contest that you can play in around 30 minutes.