Written by David Boyd
Blue Orange Games have an ever growing reputation of publishing fantastic, high quality games. Whether it’s their children’s games or the games aimed at families, chances are you’re onto a winner.
Photosynthesis aims to follow in their footsteps, players attempt to be the dominant foliage through growing their trees and tactical placement of them around the board. The target is to acquire light for your trees to ensure they reach their full life cycle which scores points dependent on their placement on the board.
The game has the interesting economy management of a Euro game, with the interesting, pure strategy of an abstract game.
Photosynthesis – Gameplay
Each player begins the game with 2 seeds, 4 small trees, and 1 medium tree. These are placed alongside each player board and are available to each player at the beginning of the game. In turn order, players place one of their small trees on an external edge of the board. They do this twice, and players are then able to collect light points in the first round.
Each round consists of two phases; The Photosynthesis Phase and The Life Cycle Phase. In the Photosynthesis Phase, players acquire light points (which is the currency in the game). The sun is moved clockwise around the board, any player’s trees that are in line with the sun and are not shadowed by other trees will receive light points. A small tree scoring 1 light point, medium scoring 2 light points and a large scoring 3 light points.
Following this, each player performs actions during The Life Cycle Phase. A player may perform as many actions as they like! Although, there are some limitations of course!
All major actions will cost light points. This includes; buying trees and seeds from their player board and moving them to their available area, planting a seed on the board, growing a tree, or collecting a scoring tile from the stack by ending a tree’s life-cycle. As well as this, there is a limit of one action per space on the board. If you plant a seed in one round, you can’t grow it until a future round.
The game continues until the sun marker has completed three rotations around the board (4 in the advanced variant). At that point, players total up any scoring tokens and remaining light points. Whoever has the most points is the winner!
Photosynthesis – Components
Photosynthesis is a very good looking game. It’s one which will demand the attention of passers by when it is set up on the table. The trees aren’t just a different color to differentiate between players, they have a unique artwork. This further emphasises the different species of trees you may represent.
The player boards are made from a decent card stock, which handles the ever moving economic engine very well. Other games have been guilty of lacking durability in production of player boards (Takenoko and Terraforming Mars) and it would’ve been easy for Photosynthesis to do the same. I’m very glad they did not.
The sun piece that moves around the board is a very nice mechanism to determine light and shadow. I have found this a little fiddly when playing on a smaller table. However, on a well sized table this proves no issue.
Photosynthesis – Final Thoughts
After my initial play, I was undecided on the game. I was unsure whether the economic engine behind the abstract strategy game was too much to be classed as a family game. However, the game certainly wasn’t too deep to keep track of and building a suitable engine was pretty simple.
I feel that Photosynthesis has the potential to be the bridge into the hobby for some new players, especially those fans of abstract strategy games. It is also a game that will sit well for people who are fans of games like Takenoko. It’s an easy-going, chilled out game that helps you relax!
Photosynthesis isn’t the lightest game on the shelf, but it’s by no means the most difficult. It’s pretty straightforward to pick up and learn. It’s a game that I’ll enjoy playing whenever it comes to the table. Blue Orange Games have another winner here as evident by the fact that it sold out at this year’s Essen Spiel!