By Ben Hain. Position: Sorcerer Supreme. Years working at Labyrinth: 1 year
I never really liked chess. It’s too old, and too dry, and too studied. I like trees though, and it turns out trees can make me like chess.
I’m talking about Photosynthesis, a brilliant, gorgeous new abstract strategy game from Blue Orange (the company behind the Spiel De Jahres-winning Kingdomino). Players compete to absorb the most sunlight, grow the biggest trees, and harvest them for the most points. Careful positioning is key, as a well-placed tree can block the sun from reaching your opponent’s saplings. But be careful, when the sun swings around to the other side of the board, your tree may be blocked in turn.
The game is deceptively complex. I was taken in by the beautiful aesthetics and simple layout, thinking I was in for something like a tree-based tic-tac-toe. What I got instead was a brain-crunching combination of spatial strategy and economic engine building. Trying to balance the development of my copse while obstructing my opponent was a study in compromises and half-measures. The game is impeccably balanced, with the most valuable growing plots the easiest to cast in shadow, and you are forced to make difficult decision after difficult decision. Do I plant in a good spot to shadow my opponent or go for the high-scoring space in the center of the board? Do I hold a chokepoint with my massive conifer, or harvest it to bank the points?
Photosynthesis is one of the year’s worst kept secrets. Supplies are limited, so pick up your copy today.