What is it:
Photosynthesis is a unique and beautiful board game for between 1 and 4 players (yes, there is a solitaire rule variation) that puts players in the role of managing a forest with limited resources (sunlight and room to grow into).
Who is it for:
The game is a skill-based strategy game. There are no dice or other randomizing elements, so this game is for kids (or adults) who enjoy games with about as much abstract thinking as required by checkers. But the attractiveness of the game board and pieces will also appeal to those more aesthetically-minded.
The box says the game is for ages 8 and up, and that typical play lasts from 45 minutes to an hour. This matches our own experience playing the game.
What Kids Like:
Kids like the attractive board and pieces, as well as the novel gameplay.
What Parents Like:
The game is a simulation of a forest, but one with some self-awareness. Do you grow your trees taller, in order to get more sunlight, and block sunlight from landing on other species of tree. Or do you cast seeds as widely as possible in order to claim growing areas before others do?
This balancing of resources is stimulating for the brain, but more importantly, the simulation is really an educational tool. It doesn’t feel like learning, but by the end, players have a deeper understanding of the dynamics of this particular ecosystem.
What the Critics Think:
Because the gameplay is novel (at least, none of us had played a game like it before) it took a little time to familiarize ourselves with the rules. But really, the rules are actually pretty straightforward.
The movement of tokens (representing captured sunlight and available seeds and trees) got a little tedious, and a couple of times during the game I thought that it would actually be more fun as a video game than a board game.
Who Made it:
Photosynthesis was released in 2017. An expansion pack, “Photosynthesis: Under the Moonlight”, was released in 2020.
Where Can I Get it:
Sold online and at many game stores. The game was released in French as well as English, and I’ve seen the French version available more than the English one. So if you get it, make sure you have it in a language you can read.