The abstract tree growing and harvesting game from Blue Orange is not something that I would have normally picked up. It’s a game about growning trees. Every once in a while I find a game that is outside my normal fare (pirates, Cthulhu, space conquest, fantasy combat) that I find fun and fresh. Photosythensis is in this club.
The game plays quite quickly and the player board has the costs of actions displayed for players, which helped us out on our first two games. There is a sun marker that takes up a lot of room that gives the players the position of the sun and lets you see when your trees will get light. Sunlight (light points) is the game currency and you use light points to ready seedlings and trees or take actions in the forest.
There are three sizes of tree (small, medium, and large) and seedlings. You have a ready area of items you can use and a player board full of items you can buy with light points. An interesting mechanic in this game is that when something comes out of the forest (taken off the main board) it goes back to your player board. If you have no room for that item it is removed from the game. Bad planning or a mistake in action order can have you losing a medium sized tree for the rest of the game.
The turns are broken into two phases. The photosynthesis phase where the sun moves clockwise around the board and then those trees that are not in shade give light points to their owner. Trees cast shade based on their size so you can shade out your opponents with a well placed medium tree. You do also shade out your own trees which ca be annoying.
After the light points are totalled it’s the action phase and you pay light points to ready trees and seedlings, plant seedlings, grow trees, or harvest the large trees. Harvesting trees allows you to take victory point tokens. The tokens have 1-4 leaves printed on them (each higher number is a spot that deeper in the forest) and are stacked in descending order, so harvesting first in a specific zone of the forest is a good thing to do.
The game lasts for as many turns as it takes for the sun to rotate around the table 3 times then victory points are counted and someone wins.
This is a very interesting area control and worker placement game that doesn’t feel like area control or worker placement. You put the trees in specific places that control a spot in the forest in order to score points, gain light points, or block the other trees. It is briliant and completely non-violent. You aren’t fighting anyone or buying people off; you’re just planting and growing trees.