If you have ever wanted to experience the life of a tree then boy do Blue Orange Games have a game for you! Technically, Photosynthesis is an abstract game, but it is one of a growing number of abstract games that look absolutely amazing!
In Photosynthesis you and 2-3 other players choose a colour of tree and set them up on your player board. Trees come in three levels; one, two, and four just kidding it’s three. You can’t just chuck a massive level three tree out on the board straight away though. No, you have to grow to that height from a seedling.
To help you out you start the game with two level one trees on the board so you can gather the currency in the game - light. Light is what you spend to take all the actions in the game so you’ll want to start gathering it as soon as possible. Which is the exact reason you will want the tallest trees possible, but of course to get them you will need to spend a lot of light…
Light comes, of course, from the sun. The sun rotates around the board in a clever fashion sending it’s light towards the trees, hopefully your trees, and hopefully you trees don’t have any bigger trees in front of them. You see any trees the sun hits cast shadows, level one trees cast a shadow one space, level two cast shadows two spaces long and so on. If your tree is in the shadow of a bigger tree you won’t earn any light points.
This makes the outer board spaces valuable for light gathering, but they also score less points if you manage to end the life cycle of a tree on them. Completing the life cycles of trees is the main way of scoring points and as the game is quite brisk you will want to do this sooner than later. However, as the only trees that can have their life cycles ended are level three trees this creates an interesting quandary - leave those trees out as long as possible to gather more light, or secure points quickly. Points for each space decrease as the game goes on so you need to be quick but not too quick.
To get to the high scoring middle spaces your trees can send seeds for new trees, which also block other spaces if you are feeling mean. Photosynthesis stands out on the board thanks to 3D trees and great looks. The game is as thematic as an abstract gets, without sacrificing depth. Photosynthesis requires some thought, and that’s why the visual nature of it’s presentation almost essential. An ideal purchase for anyone looking for an approachable game that doesn’t sacrifice depth and decisions.
Player count: 2-4
Time: 30-60 minutes
Age rating: 10+