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Subject: Sunshine and a beautiful game! rss

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Jesse Anderson
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Sunshine and a beautiful game!

Photosynthesis is a lovely abstract strategy game, it has beautiful art, thematic gameplay, a simple but deep strategy, and is overall a joy to play and place on the table. I found this game over a year ago at a gaming convention and from the very first was drawn in by the way it presented itself on the table. It is easily one of the most eye catching games in my collection - however it is also a family friendly strategic adventure that is easy and rewarding to bring to the table. I would highly recommend Photosynthesis to anyone in the board gaming community, I would easily recommend it as a stepping stone to those moving from other classic games like Azul, Catan, or even the dreaded monopoly.



Best at 3+ players
Age range 10+
Complexity 2.5 out of 5
Average playtime 45-60
Non-gamer friendly - Yes!



The Good
Components / art - From the images and videos attached to this post it is clear that Photosynthesis is one of the most beautiful games on the market currently. From an easily readable board and tiles to the obvious stand out, the trees, each unique and aesthetically thrilling as the forest begins to populate the board. This game is well made.
The gameplay - Photosynthesis is an abstract strategy / economic / action point board game. The gameplay and flow revolves around collecting sun and then spending the sun resource to spread and grow trees until they are harvested (chopped down or returned to the forest floor). The gameplay is rewarding, has a clear strategy, and has a complexity and depth to it that rewards future playthroughs and lots of thought.
Strategy - is clear and simple enough to begin playing quickly - while providing a depth that rewards thought and future games (or the advanced rules)
Story - the theme, art, and gameplay all feed into a rich storytelling experience. You watch the sun flow around the board, shadows cast on smaller trees, seedlings drop and spread, sun enriching and growing a colorful quilt of species. This game lends itself well to the imagination (if, like me, you want to see a story while you play)
Non-gamer friendly - this game is clear, well laid out, has one major resource system, 4 major action systems, and 2 environmental mechanics - it is easy to understand, quick to learn, and fun to jump into.



The Bad
Strategy - this game does have a depth of strategy to it so one well read and experienced gamer could ruin the fun by playing to win despite the group's experience or ability.
Resource management - this game is focused on collecting and spending a scarce resource (light) all of your actions and points collected will be based around this model of play. If you do not enjoy resource management heavy games this is not the game for you.
Play time - this game can run long, with new players or advanced rules it would be fair to expect this game to run 60+
I know the winner - because the game limits your actions to one per tile per round there comes a point in most games where you can do the math and see the winner down the road. You might try to make good moves and carry the game forward, but everyone can tell that uncle Joe has two trees left to harvest in the last round and ours will just be saplings. This results in the last for rounds of some games feeling very - anti-climatic.
Logging theme? One big problem with the game is that the theme goes off a clif when you harvest a tree for points - it feels like you are chopping down a tree you just nurtured and watched grow. I know the theme is more about the tree growing old and returning to nature - but someone will make a comment - and the logging feeling comes through loud and clear.
Two Player? This game is not as good with two players - 3-4 is where it shines.



The Game
You start as two small trees on the edge of the board with the ability to absorb sunlight, grow, spread seeds, and retire. The main gameplay of photosynthesis focuses on the collection and use of resources (sunlight) and is divided into two main phases.
Collect Phase - Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants syntheses foods from the environment around (carbon dioxide, water, sunlight) - this phase in the game acts in a simplified but similar way. The sun (a cardboard border on the game) rotates around the end of the playing field and provides sunlight to the growing trees. The players then gain resources for any trees that are not in the shadows of other trees.
Action Phase - During this growth phase the players use the sunlight resources they have gathered to take a variety of actions.
Buying - you can purchase trees and seeds from you resource pool to your storage making them usable items in the game.
Planting - You can plant a seed from your resource pool to the board spreading them based on the tree they are coming from (one space for a small tree, two for medium, three for large)
Growing - Grow a tree or a seed to the next level. If you have a larger tree in your resource pool you can grow a seed, small, or medium tree allowing it to collect more light and spread seeds further.
Collecting - Once a tree is large it’s life cycle ends and you gain points from returning to nature (removing it from the board) you then collect a scoring token from the space the tree was resting in.
Flow - Players can do as many actions as they would like (have the resources for) but they can only do one action per space (per tree or seed). The sun rotates around the board and once it has circled three times 18 movements the game is over.
Points - points are scored by retiring trees and then collecting sun that you have in storage at the end of the game (max 20)



Final Thoughts - 3.5-4 out of 5
Photosynthesis is a beautiful and rewarding game to bring to the table, it is visually captivating, easy to learn and play, accessible to new gamers and fairly quick. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes resource management games, enjoys the theme, and has a new or young gaming group. There are problems with the game however, at times the ending rounds can be predetermined and anticlimactic, the theme is not always enforced by the gameplay, and the game can become unbalanced if one member of the group has played or gamed the strategy. At the end of the pond however - Photosynthesis is a game worth picking up and if you have made it through this article you already know that!


Thank for reading ~ Give me a Helpful mark if you enjoyed it! If you did take the time to follow Quackalope on BGG, Youtube, FB, or Instagram to see more of what I am working on!
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Robert Sanders
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Really well covered review, covers everything I wanted to know.
Also, BIG kudos on the photography.
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Jesse Anderson
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robs42 wrote:
Really well covered review, covers everything I wanted to know.
Also, BIG kudos on the photography.


Thank you! It took a bit of time to dig into it but I really enjoyed doing so and plan to do more down the road.

The photography is for my Instagram - www.instagram.com/Quackalope - and I have nice video B-roll for a full video review coming out this week on my youtube page - Quackalope - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkWKBx-tu7D7JZIlQnlIrmQ
 
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