Number of Players: 2 – 4
Length of Game: 60 – 90 Minutes
Mechanism(s): Abstract strategy, economic
(Alternate Mechanisms: Throwing shade, deforestation)
Photosynthesis: The process of plants farting oxygen as a result of swallowing sunlight. That is the scientific definition of Photosynthesis, and it’s what you’ll be doing for the entire game–up until you start cutting down your precious trees for victory points. The game looks simple and peaceful, but it’s not. Photosynthesis is as cut-throat as any other area control game.
Game overview Your personal board contains three sizes of trees, along with seeds you can purchase. On the main board (the grove, you might say), you plant, grow, and, ultimately, chop down your tree. You can only perform one of those actions per tree space, per movement of the sun. So if you plant, you can’t grow on the same turn; the sun must move before you do. Purchasing and planting are two separate moves, and both cost sunlight.
After all the players have passed, the sun rotates around the board shining its light down on certain areas. Taller trees block the sunlight from reaching other trees and keep them from producing light points. All the players tabulate the light points they will receive from their trees that are not shaded.
All these thematic elements are an economic engine of sorts, a way of gaining sunlight. But you must chop your trees down for victory points. Deforestation is the game.
Where is the game? Throwing shade is the game. It’s the careful mapping out of your planting and the conserving of light points that will make the deceptively simple game turn into a vicious area control game. In more than one game, we have seen players block precious light by growing a tree too tall and casting shade upon their own trees.
Do you plant your trees along the edge of the board for easy (but fewer) victory points? Or do you go for the big victory points in the center of the board? Photosynthesis is all about positioning yourself for the maximum benefit.
BGS Approved? Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed my play. The components and art are beautiful, and Photosynthesis forces you to think ahead. To be proficient, you must anticipate where the sun is going to shine over the next several turns, and plan accordingly.
We played Photosynthesis at BGG Con and immediately purchased it. Even after multiple plays, it is still an interesting game.
Who should not buy this game? It does take a bit for the game to really take off and it can feel a bit repetitive. If you don’t like slow-moving, abstract games with little player interaction (besides getting in each other’s way), then Photosynthesis is not the game for you.
Some players may be frustrated by having to plot moves so far in advance. Bubba (our BGS IT alumni) did not enjoy his play. He kept saying it was difficult for him to wrap his head around. Some people can’t see the forest for the trees.
The Love: The game is interesting and requires strategy and forethought. Absolutely gorgeous art and components.
The Hate: Abstract game, light theme, and required strategy may cause some to make like a tree and leave.
THE FINAL DECREE: Deceptively simple, Photosynthesis requires strategic planning and develops into a thoroughly enjoyable forestry experience.