Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Hjalmar Hach

Blue Orange

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G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

A game about the growing process of a tree? Fighting for the best positions for trees to get sun's rays in a plain? Is this really a good theme for a game? Is this exciting enough to keep playing the game over and over again, finding new new strategies to win? Well, at least the theme is something we haven't seen many times in the last years. Moreover, the look of the game is nothing less than fantastic. ORANGE GAMES has spent the game high quality game components that made it easy for me to find other players to test the game with me.

Each player has his own player board on which he places his trees in three different seizes. Additionally he gets some new seeds to grow new trees and a light point tracker, the “currency” of the game. The seeds and trees are our supply for the game and must be purchased for activation. Depending on their position of the board, each tree has its own value (the bigger the tree the more expensive it is) and a player must subtract the indicated light points form the available using the light point tracker on his board. But what do we do with these activated elements? First of all they are moved next to the board, to the available area.

Of course, that is not the main goal of the game. The main board in the center of the table, consisting of 4 circular planting zones, is waiting for the trees to grow up a wood. The centre of this wood, the zone 4, is the most valuable place to plant a tree. It only consists of one single space, so it is quite important to be the first one who plants there a seed.

But right after setup this is still a long way, because at start each player is only allowed to place two of his smallest trees on a space of the external edge of the board, the zone 1. Like in real life a seed does not fall far away from its tree. As a result, it takes some time to get closer to the centre of the wood, as you might already assume.

A round of Photosynthesis begins with a so called photosynthesis phase. The idea is that each tree on the main board will bring the player a light point, but only if this tree is not in the shadow of another tree. Of course this shadow depends on the position of the sun, which moves around the board during the game. Basically a tree at the very back of another tree from the current position of the sun is in the shadow and does not get enough sun to take part in the photosynthesis process. Additionally the seize of the tree plays a role. A bigger tree behind a smaller one is never in the shadow of this tree and of course bigger trees cast longer shadows than smaller one. The biggest trees cast a shadow of three spaces and so it is no good advice to have trees behind such trees. So you should not only consider the next positions of the sun, but also where your opponents could plant their trees.

Planting trees is a good cue, because in the life cycle phase, which follows the photosynthesis, we do exactly this: planting new seeds and growing trees on the main board. Players can spend their light points on any number of actions, but never on the same space on the main board in the same round. Trees grow gradually, so you can grow a tree from a seed to a small tree (by exchanging the seed token for a small tree from the available area or a small tree for a medium tree or a medium one for a large tree).

Larger trees are not only good for collecting the sun's rays, they also have advantages while planting new seeds. The size of the tree determines at which distance from the tree the new seed can be planted. In the end all trees become high and old, and then they can be chopped down. And this is our main goal, because as anybody knows wood is still quite valuable. By ending the life-cycle of a large tree, players have the only possibility to collect scoring tokens. And the richness of the soil, the zone on which the tree has grown is important for the number of victory points. Perhaps you already guess it: the position in the centre is the most valuable one, but of course it is also the position in which your tree might easily end up in shadow. The game ends when the sun has completed the third circumnavigation of the board.

I found Photosynthesis to be a highly enjoyable family game. With the colourful and beautiful designed trees, the game is definitely an eye-catcher. The idea of taking the life-cycle of trees as theme for a board game is much to my liking. Yes, Photosynthesis is also a family game, but there is more to consider than it seems to be. It is not too easy to plant your trees, so that on the one hand they will earn a lot of light points, and on the other hand they are close enough to the centre to score as much victory points as possible when it comes down to sawing. And finally there are the advanced rules: In this variant, the game lasts one round longer and it is forbidden to plant a seed or grow a tree on a space that is shadowed by another tree. Although these are are only two minor changes, the game gets really tricky and slow players will take their times to calculate and decide what to do next. I personally also liked this much more strategic and complex variant, but most players will probably prefer the standard rules. All in all I think Photosynthesis is a great and charming game.

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Copyright © 2018 Ralf Togler & Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany