Leo muss zum Friseur (aka Leo Goes to the Barber)
- Designer: Leo Colovini
- Publisher: AbacusSpiele
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 6+
- Time: ~30 minutes
- Times played: 4, with review copy provided by AbacusSpiele
Leo is an interesting cooperative game that seems to be aimed at families, specifically those with younger children. The recommended age on the box goes as low as 6 years old, and after playing a few times, I think that I stand a higher chance of success if there is at least one youngster at the table!
The story here is that Leo the Lion really needs a haircut. He wakes up one morning (at 8am) and then tries to make it through the jungle to Bobo the Barber. Though he is King of the Jungle he doesn’t like walking alone at night, so he needs to make it to Bobo’s place by 8pm or else he just heads home to try again the next day. Your team’s job is to get Leo to the barbershop by the end of the fifth day.
In setup, the jungle path is created by shuffling the tiles face-down and making a path from Leo’s bed to Bobo’s barbershop. There are a total of 30 tiles in the past, five different animals, each in five different colors, and five signposts which are colorless. All of the tiles have a time value on them (animals are from one to five hours each while the signposts are worth zero hours).
There is a clock which is placed near Leo’s bed that starts at 8am each morning and you keep track of time on it. If the hour hand gets back to the 8 before you are at the barbershop, Leo has failed on that particular day and he must return home to try again tomorrow.
Each round, the deck of 20 cards is shuffled, and the cards are fully dealt out (which may mean that some players have more cards than others). The cards are numbered from 1 to 4 in each of the five colors in the game. On a player’s turn, he selects a card from his hand, plays it to the table and then moves Leo ahead the number of spaces printed on his selected card.
He then flips up the jungle tile where Leo stops moving. If the color of the flipped up tile matches the color of the card played, Leo doesn’t lose any time because he knows the way. If the color of the tile does NOT match the card played, then you lose the amount of time shown on the tile – somewhere between 1 and 5 hours. Move the hour hand forward that amount of time on the clock. Note that if you find one of the five signposts, you don’t lose any time either.
The next player then gets a chance to play – and follows the same pattern as above. This continues until the day ends (because the clock has gotten to 8:00 again). If so, the round ends. You add a jigsaw puzzle piece of hair to Leo’s ever growing mane. If you’re out of pieces to add, that means you’re at the end of the fifth day, and you have failed in your quest. Otherwise, you take a minute to look at the flipped over tiles in the path, and you collectively try to remember where the tiles are because when the next round starts, all the tiles will be flipped back over. The group will be able to use their memory of the tiles to help plan their trip through the jungle. All of the cards are shuffled and re-dealt at the start of each round. The starting player of the next round is simply whomever would have been next to play when the last day ended.
There are a few variants to make the game harder – one prohibits open table talking, and only allows it whenever a parrot tile is revealed. Another variant forces Leo to stop on the final jungle tile on the path and reveal it, taking any time penalty for that tile, before playing another card to make it to the barbershop.
My thoughts on the game
Leo is a cute game. I’m maybe not the target audience for the game as I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of cooperative games AND my kids are a bit older than the lower end of the age range on the box. That being said – I’ve enjoyed my plays of the game – most of which were only with adults.
The idea is quite simple, and this really is a game that rewards a good memory. In the base game, a single player with a photographic memory should be able to carry the entire team because knowing the colors of each tile is the key to the game (as well as remembering where the 0 and 1 hour tiles are). While you might not always have the right card/color combination in your hand, by the second or third round, you will likely have a number of decent options to make a play with only a small time penalty.
When we played with all adults, we actually had a bit of trouble remembering all the details. We usually knew that a blue tile was over there somewhere, but maybe we weren’t 100% sure. I’ve played it with the boys at home and some of their friends, and man, let me tell you – the young kids somehow have an eidetic memory for things like this. The game actually seemed to be a bit easier with the kids than without!
The artwork is playful and youthful – definitely geared to appeal to the younger gamers in the audience. The rules are simple enough to teach to gamers, and I suspect that anyone from kindergarten and up will be able to play. In fact, the biggest barrier I would see for the younger gamer is being able to hold the cards in their hand.
My own rating of this is Neutral right now, but if I had had this game 5 years ago, it would certainly be in the I love it range because I think it would be an excellent game to play with younger kids. It definitely feels like the sort of game that could be recommended for the Kinderspiel des Jahres. There has definitely been an upswing in cooperative games in the past few years, and though Geister Geister won only two years ago (and it is a cooperative game) – this one feels different enough to merit consideration as well.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mario: I’m the right target audience here. Our twins are 7 years old so I have the ideal game group to play ‘Leo’. Also I’m usually a fan of co-op games so even more thumbs up for ‘Leo’. People who are allergic to memory games should stay away though. All my plays so far (about 6) have been pretty successful – both in getting Leo to the barber in time and in entertaining the crowd. The difficulty is exactly how it should be. A challenge without being frustrating. The kids asked for an immediate re-play. I guess that’s a high compliment.
Dan Blum (1 play): Like Dale I don’t play a lot of co-ops and don’t have any young children around, so I’m not the right audience for this. That being said I thought it was perfectly fine.
Craig V: Leo is quick to teach and fun to play as well as cooperative. That combination of attributes results in a family-friendly game as well as a refreshing filler for hobby gamers. It’s a good game to lightly work the mind without being thinky. There is some randomness and and luck can be a factor, but these aren’t really issues since play time is short and the game is meant to be light-hearted. I enjoyed playing Leo and would definitely suggest playing it again in the future.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Mario
- I like it. Craig V
- Neutral. Dale Y, Dan Blum
- Not for me…