Photosynthesis combines strategy with an Earth-friendly message where players grow a forest competing with other players for “light points” which are the key to winning the game. The game is for two to four players and will last anywhere from forty-five to sixty minutes. The initial setup took me about a half-hour. This consisted of punching out all the game pieces, which are all made from recycled cardboard, and putting the trees together for the first time. The trees consist of two slotted pieces that slide onto one another.
I appreciated the design of the trees because one side is slightly crooked so that the fit is tight, so the trees will not fall apart during the game. The game box is designed to have four compartments to keep the trees separate without having to take them apart, sparing them from wear and tear between games. The artwork of the board looks like a classic storybook or nature animation style that appeals to all ages. The trees all have their own distinct shape and color making them easy to identify on the gameboard. The entire game fits in the original box making storage and transport easy.
All players start with four seeds, four small trees, three medium trees and two large trees. The game begins with the youngest player taking the first turn in setting up a small tree on the board followed by the other players. The first portion of the round is the photosynthesis phase. Here players score light points for trees that are not shadowed by other trees to be used in the life cycle phase. The life cycle phase consists of spending light points on different actions a player can make to ensure the dominance of their trees.
Players may buy new trees, plant a seed from spawning from a tree on the board, grow an existing tree on the board or collect one of their large trees. Collecting large trees allows players to collect the points based on the fertility of the ground it was planted in. The round ends when the sun has made an entire revolution on the board. Strategy comes into play with placing trees to shade opponent trees, while ensuring your trees maximize sunlight. The game ends with the sun making three revolutions with the player that has the most points being the winner.
Photosynthesis from Blue Orange Games provides a lesson in ecology and renewable resources in a strategy game that has players thinking about the survival of their trees in a changing ecosystem. It is an easy to pick up, difficult to master type game. The game seemed easy at the start, but as the forest expanded it became necessary to think a few moves ahead when placing trees. Careful management of light resources and growing the trees gave the underlying message that one tree’s lifecycle provides for future generations.
Review Sample Provided by Blue Orange Games