10 January 2024
Earth is a sharp game. It’s all cards, carefully aligned in large grids representing various environments, trees, mushrooms and shrubbery. As the fauna blossoms, cubes representing sprouts of life litter the field. Trees grow, represented by chunky plastic trunk pieces stretching skyward and capped with colourful bobs. Each player is growing their own slice of an ecosystem as they foster a budding world full of point-scoring potential.
What is Earth (the Board Game)?
This is a clever engine builder that rewards careful placement and synergistic card selection. You’re building a tableau of cards in a 4x4 grid that requires thoughtful spatial planning. This is done through an action selection mechanism that mimics Race for the Galaxy. You will choose to either gather more soil, plant cards in your play area, germinate sprouts, or grow your trees. The active player selects the action and performs it, while everyone else receives a lesser version of the same action. It’s a lively process as you’re always moving and in motion. Regardless of whose turn it is, you’re involved and toiling away on your massive natural garden.
It’s also surprisingly quick. There is a points incentive to complete your 4x4 tableau first, so often someone goes barrelling towards the end game trigger, carrying everyone else along with them. The pace, combined with virtually zero downtime, produces a brisk and active experience that is simply a pleasure to behold.
These qualities are enhanced by Earth’s generosity. This is not a typical modern Euro-style design that is meagre with resources, nor does it divide players by their ability to manage very little. Instead, it showers you with benefits. Actions are rewarding to every player, but it stretches beyond this: many of the cards you plant will contain special abilities, that trigger when certain actions are selected. This allows you to focus on specialising in a certain selection, receiving a bounty of resources and sub-actions when any player picks your focus. Alternatively, you can spread out, raising the floor of your overall effectiveness.
Your hand will be overflowing with cards, offering you several vectors to pursue at any time. It’s not quite a ‘point-salad’ design that throws out scoring rewards for everything you do; it’s more a resource fire-hose, that gives you the latitude to make what you want as you navigate the many cards crammed in your mitts. What’s particularly wonderful is that the deck is huge, bigger than Ark Nova or the aforementioned Race for the Galaxy. You’ll go several plays without seeing many repeats, which in turn pushes you down new strategic paths. Additionally, there are global scoring objectives and personal victory point incentives. The amount of leeway and growth is tremendous.
Is Earth (the Board Game) Good?
Despite its charm and lavish economic approach, this can be a somewhat divisive title. Some will loathe the lack of player interaction, as the only way participants meaningfully alter each other's plans are in that overarching action selection mechanism. It’s very much a solitaire experience of tinkering with your little patch of earth, growing fauna and flora which generates its own sense of satisfaction. On the other hand, those preferring low-conflict experiences may find Earth extremely pleasant because of this.
This is a wonderful game due to its high level of engagement resulting from ample resource generation and unending ability combinations. It’s part of a new wave of Euro-games that have distanced themselves from starvation mechanisms, loan taking and just a general sense of barely scraping by. It covers up its lack of drama with an unending wave of options and benefits. Whilst not overly taxing, it is highly variable and cognitively stimulating, accomplishing a lot in its speedy playtime.
Written by Charlie Theel
Should you play Earth (The Board Game)?
A wonderful game that is flexible in player count and strategic approach. It doesn’t waste your time and manages to maintain focus and engagement at all times.
Try this if you liked: Race for the Galaxy
It cribs that classic tableau builder’s action selection mechanism, while presenting a broadly similar approach to card combos. It’s equally satisfying and crafts a rich experience while maintaining a nod to its setting.
What’s on the box?
Designer: Maxime Tardif
Publisher: Inside Up Games
Time: 45-90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 283 Earth cards
- 145 Sprout cubes
- 105 Soil tokens
- 88 Trunk pieces
- 74 Canopy pieces
- 25 Leaf tokens
- 32 Ecosystem cards
- 23 Fauna cards
- 10 Island cards
- 10 Climate cards
- 6 Solo mode cards
- 5 Player boards
- Active player token
- First player token
- Fauna board
- Score pad