09 May 2022
Don't worry, be snappy
Loco Momo proceeds from the – obvious if you think about it – premise that the animals of an enchanted forest find an abandoned camera and stage a photography contest to see who gets to keep it. Players do this by drafting tiles representing different animals, and placing those animals in a frame, trying to compose the perfect shot. It’s a bit like being a wedding photographer for leopards.
Straight out the box, Loco Momo looks delightful. The animal art is adorable, but funny enough that it doesn’t feel nauseating. The soft palette of greens and browns gives off a relaxing vibe and the tiles and player boards are easy to read at a glance.
The game combines two simple versions of popular mechanics. First, you take tiles each turn, through a mancala-like system. You pick a tile, then it moves according to the special rules of the animal printed on it: rabbits, for example, move one area clockwise, leopards move anticlockwise, and eagles jump diagonally. Wherever it lands, you take it and all tiles of the same colour in the same area.
The second part involves arranging the animals you collect on your picture board. The board is arranged in a grid, with different scoring conditions for each row. For example, the bottom row gives you points for each different type of animal. The second row gives you points for groups of the same animal. You can also get bonus points for filling a column or row with tiles of the same colour. Your main restriction is that you can only fill up from the left, so you have to stack animals to get to the columns on the right.
This game is quite something. Despite being an easy teach with a quick play time (the box’s estimate of twenty minutes is, for once, bang on, at least at lower player counts) you’re presented with not one, but two neat puzzles and some interesting decisions. Often you’re presented with a choice between grabbing the most animals, and grabbing the ones you actually want. Filling as many rows and columns as you can with tiles of the same colour scores you big points, but you can score more with fewer tiles if you slot the right animals into the right gaps.
The box suggests Loco Momo is suitable for ages 8 and up, but to give you an idea of just how welcoming it is, I played it without issue with my 5-year-old. We both spontaneously came up with different strategies, I didn’t go easy on her, and in the end there were only three points in it. The fact that we could both try our hardest, and it felt interesting and fair, speaks volumes about the quality of the game design.
If, after a couple of plays, you want to mix things up, there are some little additional rules and components that add restrictions, forcing you to change up your strategy. The first picks a type of animal and tile colour and places them on the endangered list – now, whoever has the fewest tiles matching that animal and colour at the end of the game, gets bonus points. The second gives you a bonus if you manage to place the target animal in the upper-right square, rewarding players who fill out their grid.
These are minor, welcome variants on the base game that add diversity without changing anything fundamental. Which is good, because at its core this is a rewarding gateway game with a lot of appeal for mixed-age groups, or just cool grown-ups who like animals and fancy something relaxing. Like a paddle in a forest stream, it’s quick, easy and refreshing, without being boring.
PLAY IT? YES
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Azul
The whole ‘pick a group of tiles and fill your grid from the left’ vibe might appeal to fans of Azul, though this is slightly simpler. Similarly, if you’re looking for a game with a ‘My First Sagrada’ feel, this is it.
Designer: Lenny Liu & Leon Liu
Time: 20 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Double-sided forest board
- 4 Double-sided picture boards
- 105 Animal tokens
- Sun token
- 8 Hexagonal Tokens
- First players token
- 5 Flower-shaped animal tokens
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