<img src = "https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/1.-Photosynthesis-800×395.jpg" alt = "photosynthesis, the game. "/>
Enlarge /. Photosynthesis, the game.
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our full board game coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
I recently thought my six-year-old was going to ask one of those questions that all parents fear to answer. With an awesome serious tone she asked: "Papa, I have a question I have been thinking about for a long time …" – take a pause long enough to stop my heart – "Snails leave their slime forever Rock?"
Angry. So she wasn't awake during the parent-to-parent lesson last week.
Before I became a father, I knew that tiny people weren't prepackaged with much knowledge, but I never thought that I would have to discourage happy garbage or free small hands from the dog's ears. We may still be animals, but respect for nature is not always a given for children (or adults).
However, curiosity is easy to encourage, especially when the kids find out that board game night means staying awake long and filling their bodies with unhealthy snacks. Since Earth Day takes place last week, here are some of my favorite board games to arouse curiosity about the planet and our role on it.
The roots: appreciate nature
<img alt = "planet, with some very cool (and magnetic) dodecahedra "src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2.-Planet-980×434.jpg "width =" 980 "height = "434" /> Enlarge /. Planet with some very cool (and magnetic) dodecahedra
Let's start with the basics: Earth is pretty, animals and bugs are cool, and we should probably take care of things here if only these statements remain true.
For little fingers who like to tinker, there are not many better games than Planet. The game itself is perfect in its simplicity, so you can add magnets to a dodecahedron when trying to create suitable habitats for a number of different types. There are only three priorities to consider: creating many habitats, large habitats, or large habitats that are not near other habitats. Even my six-year-old quickly mastered the art of ensuring that every single tundra dweller flocked to their planet. As a bonus, you can admire your three-dimensional globe when you're done.
Seasoned players will likely appreciate Wingspan and Parks. There is a good chance that you are already familiar with the clever combo building and the beautiful illustrations of the former. If not, read our review from last year. Parks is less known, but just as beautiful. The artwork is licensed from the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series and allows gamers to travel to some of the most dazzling destinations in the United States, ration resources and campfires, take pictures and view wildlife. Even though it's competitive, it's a calm, almost meditative experience.
If you're more interested in immersing yourself in nature, Hive is one of the best modern abstract games – and it's completely waterproof, perfect for playing in the grass or stowing a belt bag. The gameplay revolves around catching the opposing queen with insects such as the far-reaching grasshopper, beetles that crawl over other insects, or the current-sucking mosquito. I once played that against a mustache river guide who immediately announced, "Board games are cool these days, man!"
The trunk: firmly connected
<img alt = "Ecos: First continent"src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/3.-Ecos-First-Continent-980×440.jpg "width =" 980 "height =" 440 "/> enlarge /. Ecos: First continent
"We may be separate, but we are more connected than ever." This year's Earth Day slogan both recognizes the current pandemic and reminds us of our shared responsibility towards the world we live in. The following games emphasize this feeling of connection – and its fragility.
Like Planet, but with more space to explore, Ecos: First Continent is about building a land mass and populating it with species that roam about. The attraction here revolves around a delicate balance between your own goals and those of your opponents. Everyone works with the same grasslands, savannas, and seas, and every player can easily rifle on someone else's tiles and tokens – or even use them up for points. Nothing is exactly yours, but part of the rest of the evolving ecosystem that creates a process of creation that is both competitive and collaborative.
<img alt = "Oceans, the newest game in the evolution Series "src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4.-Oceans-980×515.jpg "width =" 980 "height =" 515 "/> enlarge /. Oceans, the newest game in the Evolution series
At the more carnivorous end of the spectrum are evolution and its offshoots, including evolution: climate and the newer oceans that we examined earlier this year. There are some significant differences between entries, but all are the same in two ways: first, they contain some of the hottest card games you'll ever encounter, and second, you win by eating as much food as possible – including die Creatures have evolved from your friends. This spurs an evolutionary arms race where everyone runs (or swims) as quickly as possible to outperform predators, parasites and even catastrophic climate changes or asteroid impacts.
Arbor Day also took place this week, and the Photosynthesis game casts shadows (sorry) over the idea that plants are not a hot board game action. You hope to grow your forest from low seeds to mighty trees, but you compete for space and sunlight while trying to stay out of your rivals' shadows. The trick is that every turn turns the direction the sunlight shines, which rewards planning and ensures that no angle is completely superior. As with the Evolution series, everything is connected – you can even earn points if your largest trees decay and make room for a new generation of seedlings. Hopefully, of course, your own.
The branches: beyond
<img alt = "Bios: Megafauna"src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/5.-Bios-Megafauna-980×415.jpg "width =" 980 "height =" 415 "/> enlarge /. Bios: Megafauna
If the appreciation for nature is not sufficient, many titles dive deeper into the functioning of the earth's climate, geological processes and history. Not surprisingly, some of these offerings are considerably "heavier" than the games discussed above. But the best of them justify their increased rules and game time with involved gameplay, interesting details, and even some insightful comments.
Perhaps the most ambitious project is the Bios trilogy. This series consists of Bios: Genesis, Bios: Megafauna and Bios: Origins and traces the development of life from primal mud to the present. Each entry deals with a different topic and can be played either individually or in a row. Sometimes their concepts, rules, and terminology feel like a crash course in the entry-level biology course you slept through in college. Genesis, for example, throws its players out as amino acids, lipids, pigments, and nucleic acids when they invest in different environments and chemical processes to achieve single-cell reproduction and ultimately multi-cell life. Megafauna is the most accessible of the trio because the same creatures (or plants, molluscs, and fungi) that you developed in Genesis crawl on land and compete for limited space, even if your Earth's atmosphere is changed by your breathing processes. In the end, someone will likely have developed the basics of emotions and will go straight to Origins, a civilization game like no other. Neanderthals fight Homo sapiens, language groups and religions are formed and fought over, and cultures are defined by the philosophical concepts and technologies that encompass them.
What makes the BIOS trilogy so exciting is the way it combines attitudes and gameplay. While each entry goes well with the others, none of them play the same way. Genesis is about deciding what to invest in. This reflects the long likelihood that nucleotides will bind to RNA. Megafauna is a fast race to develop new properties and claim territory. It's always difficult to be at the top of the food chain – or at the bottom if you're a herbivore. Meanwhile, Origins is about setting your own course as your diversity of mankind develops awareness and decides which values to pursue – and eventually comes into conflict with other worldviews. The result is breathtaking in scope and full of ideas to submerge a hundred different rabbit holes in search engines.
Sol: The last days of a star
<img alt = "Sol: The last days of a star"src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/6.-Sol-Last-Days-of-a-Star-980×517.jpg "width =" 980 "height = "517" /> Enlarge /. Sol: The last days of a star
After all, no list about nature, nature conservation and our shared responsibility towards our planet would be complete without Sol: The last days of a star, a parable about the possible destruction of our sun due to unsustainable energy loss. This seems to be a strange inclusion for Earth Day as it goes beyond the atmosphere of our blue marble. (Even further, since your overall goal is to build an ark that will carry you beyond the solar system.) However, since we fill our night sky with so many satellites that observatories have trouble observing the stars, worry the switch to green energy. and given the long-term effects of Kessler syndrome – basically it orbits space debris – it is useful to remember that we carry our luggage with us, whether we're fighting climate change or shooting into space.
In Sol the days of the sun are numbered and the exodus is the only solution. Sol's parable calls for action. If we act today, we may be able to prevent tomorrow's urgent needs.
In other words, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is the perfect time to spread appreciation, understanding, and education for the world we live in. And there are many board games you can take part in.