Rustling Leaves Review
Just Keep Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’
Over the last five years ‘roll and writes’ have become incredibly popular. Since the explosion onto the scene of games like Railroad Ink in 2018 this new genre seems to have taken over the market. Even big board games have released roll and write versions with the heaviest of them all, Twilight Imperium bringing out its own this year. But what is a ‘roll and write’? In its purest form it is a puzzle to solve with the placement of numbers or symbols rolled on a dice. The aforementioned Railroad Ink sees you place railway lines or roads in order to connect the sides of a grid. Cartographers (although technically a flip and write) sees you draw different terrain types on a custom map in order to score points for different configurations. Or Rolling Realms, Stonemaier’s living roll and right which asks you to place numbers on a variety or cards inspired by other board games to get as many stars as possible. But one thing most of them have in common is they are pretty relaxing and meditative activities that have very little, if any, interaction.
In 2020’s Rustling Leaves, designer Paolo Mori (of Libertalia fame) takes you for a gentle walk through the woods. On your sheet, a grid of different, animal, flower and insect icons you will draw different sized boxes in order to score points for the configurations labeled below. For example, for every pair of birds you have in a box you will get five points. Or every bumblebee will score you differently depending on how many purple flowers you have. However, bears don’t want to be boxed in so only score those who still roam free by the end of the game. But how do you decide what boxes to draw? In the box you get two custom dice. When you roll the dice you will draw a grid using the two numbers shown. Roll a one and a three and draw a one by three box. The only condition is that each box must be connected to another. There are also sides of the dice with clouds on. When you roll those you mark off a cloud and the more you get the more they will pay off. When does it end? Whenever you want it to. As soon as you are happy you have scored all that you can then stop because if you roll and can’t place a box then you will lose points for each that you have to or choose to pass.
Winter, Spring, Summer Or Fall, All You Have To Do Is Roll…
When you first pick this box up, the surprise will be just how heavy it is. This is because it comes with a huge pad of sheets which come in four different flavours. You will get a grid for each season of the year and each one will have different icons and will score very differently. The game suggests you play through all four and then take the final score but I find this game shines the best when you just pull a random sheet and dive into a short, chilled out game. It’s a bit of a shame that the game didn’t think to offer laminated versions with white board pens. Considering this is a game about the beauty of the natural world, it feels very shortsighted to be wasting so much paper in their box. But that is a minor quibble. You could in fact laminate your own and buy a few small pens to make it a most sustainable game without worry of running out of sheets.
Rustling Leaves is a beautiful looking and completely chilled out game which will make you think enough to justify the activity without ever exhausting you. The scoring can get a little ‘mathy’ sometimes so those who run to the hills at the thought of mathematics may need to take a deep breath before attempting to score. That said, as the title suggests, this is the perfect chill out game to keep in your bag and pull out when out for a picnic or on holiday or even at the pub with a nice cool glass of wine. And any game that pairs well with a cold Sauvignon Blanc on a hot summer’s day is a thumbs up from me!
This blog was written by Dan Street Phillips