Photosynthesis is a puzzle wrapped inside of an engine-builder that works together like clockwork. It is such a special game, there is no other game that is exactly like it but there are some similar ones. There are two things going on here, you need to strategically build up your trees over time and you need to play the shade puzzle in that you are placing your tokens strategically on the grid to both maximize sun you receive and shade you cast on opponents. It is complex like a game of Go, but simple and quick in that you only have a handful of decisions to make that are really going to count over a short period of time. Photosynthesis is a special board game. You love it but if you want to venture out and try something new, this list is for you. This is the list of 5 games like Photosynthesis.
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#05 | Terraforming Mars
Terraforming Mars is starting to be a bit of a stretch but there are similarities to Photosynthesis. Both are reasonably complex (TM more so) engine-builders and both have a central game board where players compete for space and their actions there affect everyone. In Terraforming Mars you are a mega-corporation working to make Mars Inhabitable while trying to make as much money (and victory points) as possible. There are three massive conditions that everyone is working toward finishing, but along the way you have your own engine fed by six different resources to take the countless options that are going to get you to victory.
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#04 | Gizmos
Gizmos is like Photosynthesis in that they are both engine builders. In this well-crafted board game, you want to build engines — engines within the game to get things done faster. Using the four types of energy marbles, plucked from the 3D marble dispenser, you purchase and construct new additions to your works. As you build, new attachments can trigger chain reactions, letting you do even more on your turn. Whoever builds the greatest machine and collects the most victory points wins! There are many engine builders out there but the strategy mechanics at the center feel the same, making this the ultimate choice to make the list of games like photosynthesis.
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#03 | Wingspan
The engine building portion of Wingspan is very similar to Photosynthesis. Where there you have only a handful of upgrade options with the goal of maturing your trees, Wingspan has a handful of upgrade options with the goal of maturing your birds. Certainly enough to make the list of games like Photosynthesis. In Wingspan, You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors—seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). Just like Photosynthesis, Wingspan is a great medium on the intensity scale.
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#02 | Mexica
Mexica plots the development of the city of Tenochtitlan on an island in Lake Texcoco. Players attempt to partition it into districts, place buildings, and construct canals. Districts are formed by completely surrounding areas of the island with water and then placing a District marker. The player who founds a district scores points immediately. Mexica makes the list of games like photosynthesis because of that strategic board placement strategy aspect. Where you place affects all and there is still the asset of building up. Instead of trees it is an ancient civilization.
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#01 | Torres
The top title on the list of games like Photosynthesis goes to The Spiel winning Torres. Torres is an abstract game of resource management and tactical pawn movement. Players are attempting to build up castles and position their knights to score the most points each turn. Players have a limited supply of knights and action cards that allow special actions to be taken. The efficient use of pieces and cards, along with a thoughtful awareness of future possibilities, is the heart of this game. It has the engine building and it has the shade puzzle (place in a way that helps you but hurts opponents, typically from multiple angles).