Monday, August 21, 2023

Rustling Leaves is a Currier and Ives game

Rustling Leaves had been on my radar for a while, seeing as how it is a Roll and Write game available as an app.  So, when most of our stuff was in boxes, picking it up was a natural move.

Short version: it’s a good little game and a very nice addition to my gaming tool box. 

Still pretty short version: Rustling Leaves  consists of a grid of pastoral images. You roll two dice and use those numbers to draw boxes and check off one type of symbol per box. Lots of different scoring combinations. And a particularly clever touch: each player decides when they end their game. 

Okay, let’s get a little more detailed.

I have heard Rustling Leavea described as actually being four games since there are four different maps, one for each season. I think that’s a bit of a stretch since the core mechanics of rolling and drawing boxes remains the same. That being said, each one has its own scoring conditions and plays very distinctly.

More than that, for a game that is just drawing boxes, the theming is strong. Each season has symbols and themed scoring around those symbols that reflect the season. I particularly like how the river is treated differently in each season. You lose a point for a box crossing it in the spring. It is dried up and has no effect in the summer. It’s flooded and boxes can’t cross it in the fall. And it’s frozen and gets you a bonus point in the winter.

Most Roll and Writes with grids have you draw symbols or lines or Tetris-style shapes. I can’t remember playing one that had you enclose stuff in boxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have played one before but Rustling Leaves is clearly the only memorable one lol

It’s obvious that I like Rustling Leaves. Let’s talk about why.

Between multiple starting points, random die rolls and four different maps, the game has a lot of replay value. And since you have to choose one symbol per box, the game offers a lot of choices, particularly for the relatively small number of turns.

Being able to decide when you end the game creates a game of chicken for you, adds tension to the mix. You get six chances to not use a roll but that comes with penalty points. And some maps have negative symbols that you don’t want to box in. Choosing when to end your game is a big part of the game.

And I know I’ve already mentioned it but in a game that is so abstract, the theming is very strong. More than that, it is very soothing. I use games for decompression, particularly solitaire Roll and Writes. The woodland theming is perfect for that.

Rustling Leaves does have some issues. Larger rolls will eat up the map quickly, leading to shorter, more frustrating games. That isn’t a big deal with the app but playing with a physical copy, particularly if you don’t laminate the maps, would be aggravating. And if you don’t like multi-player solitaires, there’s nothing here for you.

Rustling Leaves has been a really nice addition to my digital library, particularly when I need to mentally get away to the woods.

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