Earth: Where Everything Grows from Soil and Sprouts
Grow all sorts of diverse plants on a beautiful island with its very own climate and ecosystem rewards in Earth.
So pretty! I played Earth with some of my game groups earlier this year, yet it was certainly about time to bring it out to experience the solo mode. Lots and lots of wooden components greeted me. Ha ha! With such a colorful palette that brought out every unique plant, though, I was excited to craft my own island filled with all sorts of botanical life!
With tons of cards to discover, just 4 actions form the basis for creating an area on an island. Events and terrain cards add additional elements, while the focus is typically on finding the balance between soil, sprouts, and growth. Everything about the play area is just beautiful!
October 23, 2023
October 24, 2023
36" x 26"
Saving Space to Grow
I managed to keep everything in a pretty compact space with a few UberTrayz and my favorite deck holders.
Although I wouldn’t call this a small play area, it also didn’t spread outward from this. A 4×4 grid of cards forms the main area, which I reserved space for in the middle.
My previous multiplayer experiences have been digitally, so I was a little unsure of how all of the components would work as I moved them around and managed everything.
At the table is still my favorite way to play, yet there are times when physical components can get overwhelming.
A Shared Goal Set
The solo opponent wasn’t going to compete to actually complete these goals, but there was still a race to be the first to get there and claim the most victory points.
However, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with how the solo opponent worked so predictably… And also how the point differential was so low. Not really a true race to win.
I still liked a lot of the ideas behind the design, though! The solo mode just felt like a departure from the rules.
Oddly, I struggled with some of these symbols right from the start. They should have been obvious, but not to me.
The Special Solo Board
Fortunately, everything for the solo opponent was kept on a single, separate board. Again, no spreading out!
But I do want to point out how strange it was to stack growth tokens and put together a huge supply of sprout tokens. Why use up all of those resources as counters?
As I’ll show a little further along, I stopped filling up the sprout squares and merely moved one along to mark the total. Growth tokens went that route eventually, too.
I started my journey at the easiest difficulty level to get a feel for how challenging this solo opponent might be.
Beautiful but Flawed
There is no question that this is a gorgeous solo game that shows off nature’s diversity in all its glory! I managed to complete my grid and admired the absolutely beauty.
Yet it didn’t feel like I was carefully crafting this island of plants and terrain. Everything granted victory points, and I was more concerned about the iconography than art.
The plethora of resources didn’t help, either. Some turns saw me convert everything back and forth multiple times.
I think it all really boiled down to not having a lot of choices that mattered… Everything was a decent option.
What Makes a Gaming Choice Meaningful?
A lot of times, I talk about how I love solo games that offer meaningful choices and decisions. But… What does that mean? In a nutshell, it’s all about changing the state of the game in a way that matters. If choosing card A over card B puts me on a path that’s going to result in a lot more victory points, that’s definitely a meaningful choice!
It starts to break down when choices don’t change much. Between 2 options, if they grant me the same sort of outcome or don’t change much in the game, then it doesn’t matter what I do. However, there’s an important caveat here: It’s not just a case of my options doing nothing. It’s also about options doing everything in a way that doesn’t change anything.
In other words, there were practically no choices that didn’t give me victory points. The time to calculate the difference wasn’t worth the investment because in most cases, that number was minimal. It’s very cool to be able to get ahead without having to think through a lot of decisions, yet to me, that’s not the sort of experience I want in a solo challenge.
Sprouts to Growth
It was still pretty neat to see some of the vertical growth with these wooden components! Herbs were more prolific, so everything was a little shorter. Still, beautiful!
The sprouts were neat to turn back into soil to place more cards, yet these were the cubes that felt like too much.
Looking at this photo, I’m reminded again of how much I struggled with some of this iconography. And, oddly, there wasn’t a complete reference… I had to flip around.
Some turns saw me simply ignore some of these effects due to way too many conversions for very little benefit.
As I started building my island, I ran into an issue when some cards called for adjacency to grant bonuses.
Abilities activated from left to right, top to bottom. Only some cards had adjacency requirements, so I was at a crossroads as to how my cards should be laid out.
I ended up ignoring the order of activation so I didn’t worry about it, as I could typically do anything I wanted.
But when I drew adjacency cards near the end, there was simply no way to use them… And most had base values of 0 victory points. So those were always discarded.
The solo opponent was very easy to run, thankfully! It was the icons that threw me off a few times, but I had some moments when I managed to limit any victory points.
Stacking this many growth tokens seemed pretty silly to me, as I actually started to run out and needed to pull out the other half. Solo usually requires a small subset!
The beginner difficulty level was probably too easy for me, but it was still a good way to learn how to play solo.
Near the end, it felt like gameplay was taking longer than expected for what I was getting out of the expeience.
Trading Shared Goals
I didn’t have too much trouble completing the shared goals. With the way the solo opponent deck worked, I knew I was probably giving up 4 victory points each. Fine?
Most frustrating of all was just not getting the right cards to come out. The deck was enormous and balanced, yet it was possible to not draw the right cards from the stack.
One goal went unscored for me because drawing up to 20+ cards in-hand was just a way to help the solo opponent.
This seemed like a solo game I was going to at least enjoy, yet I was sad to see it fell so flat for me. So pretty!
Onto Another Island
Everything looked so lovely, though, so I decided to bump up the difficulty level and try everything out again!
My new island played very differently, but I still discovered that I never used the red action across both plays. Just not enough reward there for me to use it.
The solo opponent was much closer, but I ran into the same problems with my first play. At least the play time moved along a lot faster, and I managed to play an event!
There is a lovely sort of game here, but the scoring just felt like it rewarded everything to result in huge score totals.
Missing a Single Card
Oh, so close! The solo opponent triggered the end of this play just before I managed to fill in my entire grid. Not too shabby, considering I had no playable cards at the start.
The luck of the draw made this play even less enjoyable. It wasn’t just about the scoring goals, either. At times, all I could draw were expensive terrain cards. Frustrating.
It was neat to activate abilities based on the action I chose, but this introduced too many conversions again.
Gain 1 of this, turn 2 of this into that, spend 1 of that for this, gain 1 of that, spend 1 of this for something else…
Play Number: 1 & 2
Expansion 1: Earth: BoardGameGeek Promo Pack
Expansion 2: Earth: Kickstarter Goodies
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: Beginner & Medium Difficulty Levels
Outcome: 287-212, 230-212 (2 Wins)
At least I kept the solo opponent to a steady score! I felt like everything I did granted victory points without a coherent strategy. Better luck with the card draw felt like it had more of an effect than me trying to focus on a certain strategy… Already found a new home for my copy!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- The table presence is simply gorgeous with the colorful artwork and vertical growth in the wooden components.
- Actions make up pretty much every element of gameplay, which removes the need for downtime between rounds.
- Managing the solo opponent is pretty straightforward and the difficulty level is simple to choose from the start.
- Lots of variety exists with the enormous stack of cards, especially with different activated abilities and scoring.
- Nearly all of the components are contained on the player boards or card grid, limiting the required table space.
- Double-sided cards provide even more options and variety in the animals, climates, ecosystems, and islands.
– Cons (Negatives)
- It feels like there are too many resources to manage, especially when they convert back and forth so often.
- Everything is worth victory points, which takes away the challenge of learning how to optimize a set of options.
- Many scoring goals rely on getting the right cards fairly early on, and the giant stack can make this frustrating.
- Although the theme should be very apparent, the confusing iconography often remains the main focus.
Score the Most Points
- Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%
Goals and Milestones
Win at least 1 game at the beginner difficulty level.
Win at least 1 game at the medium difficulty level.
Continue the Conversation
What do you enjoy the most about Earth? Have you created an island with an awesome chain of abilities? I wanted to like this one more than I did, but it will still likely have a place to play digitally! The solo mode simply didn’t do that much for me, although I still love looking over these photos. Absolutely beautiful… But happily onto its next home!