Green Nudge Reviews

Photosynthesis - A Board Game

Aug 26, 2020

By Li Seng


6 min


Note: This article contains affiliate links that allows us to earn fees that link to for any purchase you make. We are independently owned and the opinions that we provide in our reviews are purely our own.

With online games being the default game option for many people, offline games such as board games are starting to see a revival, with a variety of board games being introduced over the last few years. This particular game is one that we played and wanted to share with parents and young working adults and is both educational and fun.


Photosynthesis is in essence about growing trees. Players grow trees and score points by trying to catch the sunlight in order to grow and sow seeds. Tall trees cast shadows and block shorter trees when the sun moves across the sky.

First Impression – so chio!

All of the game pieces were made from cardboard and removing them to assemble piece by piece was not just an unboxing exercise by admiring the works of art. The colours of the tree cut out pieces were vivid and very intricate, making this a real beauty. The pieces don’t have to be taken apart when assembled and everything fits into the box after the game play, so it’s pretty functional.

This game allows up to four players, and a minimum of two to start. And that also means 4 different sets of tree cut-outs, including a range of seeds, small to large trees. The pieces also feel rather solid and sturdy making the “feel” of the game really quite a visual delight.

Game Play

The game is rather easy to start. Each player gets a player board that has all of the costs of actions on it (which are traded by “sun points”). Fill up all of the tree slots on the board with the corresponding size of trees (small, medium and large trees).

Players start with 4 seed tokens, 4 small trees, and 1 medium tree that are left over after one fills up the player board. These are the starting supply of trees which can be placed in the main player board.

Using the crescent-shaped sun piece, players place it on the edge of the board to depict the casting of shadow on the trees. Players score sun points depending on their tree placement and each tree will cast a “shadow” depending upon the position of the sun which is indicated by the arrows in the piece.

A small tree will cast a shadow 1 space away (i.e. any tree just beside the specific tree will be “blocked”); a medium tree casts a shadow 2 spaces away, and a large tree 3 spaces away. If a tree that is equal to or smaller than the tree casting the shadow, it will not gain any sun points as it is “overshadowed”. And If the tree is larger than the tree casting the shadow, it will still gain sun points, based on the remaining points. So a large tree behind a small tree will get (3-1) sun points compared to its original 3 points.

The game lasts for 3 rounds where each round is defined as a full rotation of the sun around the board. But if you are playing the advanced version, that’s going to be 4 rounds in all.

This makes a difference to the game because when playing with 4 players, it’s a lot more tactical and requires one to think ahead of your turn.

Sun Points

Sun points are used to grow and plant new trees. You can’t plant a tree directly from the player board. Rather, they will need to be purchased from the board first. Hence besides the starting trees and seeds, you will need to think carefully how you wish to earn and spend your sun points.


After a tree is fully grown (i.e. it reaches the largest size), players can choose to score it by removing it from the board. In turn, you gain points based on the tile on which it was planted, and that tile now becomes available to be planted once more.

The challenge of the game lies in the position of the trees as the centre of the board is much more difficult to get trees planted and grown into maturity because you start from the side. But it provides the most incentives because it has the most victory points.

You can only score when you have successfully removed the large trees from the board and not on the location of the trees on the board. Thus, it makes for a lot of brain juice when one needs to decide on the game play.

Our Thoughts

What we like

Photosynthesis is probably one of the prettiest and aesthetically pleasing board games around – we cannot comment how pretty it looks, especially when you have four different types of trees.

It is also quite easy to learn and is wide enough to engage both adults and kids. For the kids, this would be suitable to learn about how the sun moves and impacts the growth of trees.

What is also more impressive is how the game creator Blue Orange also makes it its mission to plant trees in China. For every tree used in one of their cardboard board games, they plant two in China. To date, they have planted over 125,000 trees! So purchasing their game means you learn while making it possible to give back to the environment.

What we don’t like

Well, there isn’t anything we don’t particularly like about the game. If we have to be strict, this is a game where you win when you are strategic but at the expense of other players because your positioning of trees to gain optimal sunlight and victory points comes at the expense of blocking other players and denying them sunlight. It’s a valuable teaching point for parents to highlight to children about opportunity cost, and perhaps even illustrating the concept of scarcity.

If there is any other complaint, it’s that the pieces are numerous so this may not be suitable for younger kids who like to place any items into their mouths


All in all, we think that there is a game worth considering and can be played multiple times with different outcomes and experiences. The game can be purchased from Amazon and is suitable for gift for birthdays.

Do you have any thoughts about the game? Let us know in your comments below!

Note: This article contains affiliate links that allows us to earn fees that link to for any purchase you make. We are independently owned and the opinions that we provide in our reviews are purely our own.

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