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Evoking the beauty of Autumn in Japan, with art by Apolline Etienne, Momiji is a set collection card game where 1-4 players are collecting and laying out colour-differentiated piles of leaf cards to collect bonuses and score points. It is published by Japanime and Deer Games.

At the start of the game, players draft landscape cards that can be activated to score bonuses. The iconography on these requires decoding, and deciphering icons isn't usually the best way of introducing a game to new players so designers Dario Massarenti and Francesco Testini have helpfully included starter allocations so players have the option of skipping this card drafting stage and instead each start with a pre-assigned trio of landscape cards.

It's the leaf cards tho' that are the main focus of Momiji. These are numbered 0-3 in up to six colours (you take a colour out of the mix when you play with three and remove two colours for the two-player game). Over the course of the game, you'll be building a tableau made up of stacks of each colour. On your turn you can take all the cards of any one colour from a market display and add them to your hand. Alternatively, you can place out from your hand up to two cards of the same colour but once you have a colour stack in your tableau, you can only play cards to it that are equal to or higher than the number of the top card. You also can't move a stack from its position in relation to those you've placed of other colours. This is important because you place out on your turn cards of two or more colours, which you are permitted to do, these will score a bonus acorn token for every two acorn symbols that are adjacent to each other. Acorns represent victory points but they are also the game's currency: they can be spent to take additional actions - including to activate one of the aforementioned Landscape cards and to activate one of the displayed objective tokens that can potentially earn you an end-game bonus of 10 points. Buying an objective token can be a gamble tho' - it costs you 3 acorns (victory points) and you'll only score the 10 point bonus if you meet the objective at the end of the game; if another player meets the objective, they'll get 3 points.

When a stack of leaves has a 3 on top, you can't play any more cards to it. Instead you top it off by placing a Torii token on it. Using all the tokens is one of the end game triggers; the other is exhausting the deck of leaf cards. When the game ends, you score for your acorns, for any bonuses you've earned and for the value of each of your leaf piles. The latter are scored by multiplying the number of cards in the stack by the value of the card on top. It's good then to have those 3 cards on top of your stacks but playing a 3 is also effectively taking that colour out of play for you for the rest of the game, so you won't want to play those 3s too early. You have an eight-card hand size limit so effective hand management is critical.

Momiji isn't an overly complex game but you need to assimilate a fair bit of fiddly detail and ultimately to decode some unintuitive iconography. Interaction is mainly through watching how well other players are doing and mainly jumping in ahead of them to deny them high points scoring opportunities. Unless the market display is completely empty, it costs an acorn to add four new cards to it. We found in our Board's Eye View plays that players could be hesitant about paying to replenish the display, reasoning that they'd likely be benefiting opponents as much as themselves. Of course, everyone needs to take turns that add to the cards in hand so spending acorns can turn into a sub-game of chicken :-)

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