Earth Board Game Review: Unleash Your Green Thumb

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Whether you live on planet Earth or are just visiting from a galaxy far, far away, you’ve undoubtedly noticed how beautiful our little space rock is. It has been an inspiration for the creation of many timeless pieces of entertainment, including a fantastic board game I’ll be presenting to you today. Welcome to my Earth board game review. 

Rating:8
Playing time:45 to 90 minutes
Number of players:1 to 5
Age:13+
Complexity:Medium
Genre:Open-world engine builder
Release date:2023
Publisher:Inside Up Games

Pros

  • Fantastic replay value – you’ll never have the same playthrough
  • Engine building mechanics
  • Plenty of choices/player agency and methods for earning points

Cons

Earth Board Game Overview

Earth is a board game that captures the essence of our planet’s diversity and the wonders of our world. Unfortunately, we witness the destruction of that beauty every day, but thanks to games like this some people might be inspired to do something nice for planet Earth for a change.

In this game, your objective is to create a unique island by “planting” down beautiful cards representing trees, bushes, herbs, and mushrooms. Just like real plants and fungi, these imaginary ones also require good soil and plenty of water to grow and bring a lot of victory points to you. It’s your responsibility to provide them with everything they need.

If you’re not good at gardening, and even a cactus can’t grow near you, don’t worry. You can’t kill these plants that easily. But if you want to make compost and gain even more points in the game, you’ll have that option too.

Earth is a title you will surely enjoy if you like games that require good strategy, and love creating a brilliant engine as you play. In addition to that, the amazing cards allow you to get to know the fascinating world we live in better, with its stunning landscapes and a variety of plants and animals from different regions around the globe. 

Earth board game review player tableau
You get plenty of lovely cards and components with Earth.

What’s in the Box

Earth is a beautifully designed game with a bunch of components packed in the box and the cards are the biggest part of it. These are divided into different categories and each card is unique, featuring wonderful photos that show the beauty of our planet.

Fauna and player boards are primarily designed to be functional and informative. Every action and move is clearly marked and explained with symbols, making it easy for players to navigate through the game.

The cutest part is definitely the trees that can “grow” on your cards. During certain actions, you will be able to set the growth pieces, resulting in beautiful trees with colorful canopies on your board.

When it comes to the design, the only thing I don’t like is the box the game comes in. While some of the components are packed in bags, there is nothing you can do to separate the cards. This is especially problematic if you put them in card sleeves. All the cards get mixed up, and it’s not practical to separate them by category at the beginning of each game. A simple solution like partitions would have been very helpful.

Earth board game review - components, cards, and player boards
Earth board game is a real table hog when played with more than two players.

How to Play Earth

Earth is a tableau-building and strategic board game with the objective to create your own island. You’ll have a 4×4 grid to work with, and your goal is to strategically place 16 Flora and Terrain cards. It’s all about gradually building up your engine and enjoying the perfect connections of the different actions in the game.

The game has simple rules and with a well-written rulebook, you will easily master within a single game. However, winning requires focus, strategic thinking, and careful action planning. The game offers different difficulty levels, which can be of great help to new board gamers. 

Cards 

Cards are the heart and soul of this game. There are 364 of them, divided into several categories.

Each type of card has its role in the game. Some can be “planted”, while others provide bonuses during or at the end of the game. They also determine the resources you start the game with and the resources you will receive by playing some actions. Most cards will give you end-game points, but if your island gets hit by a tornado or an earthquake, be prepared to earn some negative points as well.

Earth board game cards
Lush vegetation on the player’s tableau

Many cards have special abilities, that are activated during the game. These abilities are color-coded, and the color determines whether they are triggered by choosing a certain action or provide extra end-game bonuses.

All abilities and their outcomes are explained with symbols. It can be challenging to interpret them when you first start playing, but you should pick up everything and be ready to dive into this vast and fascinating world in no time.

Earth Setup and Gameplay

At the beginning of the game, each player gets their player board, an island card, an ecosystem card, and a climate card. Depending on the island card they draw, every player starts the game with a specified number of Earth cards in their hand and some soil tokens. 

Earth board game initial setup
Player board with climate, island, and ecosystem cards.

The Fauna board takes center place during setup, with fauna and ecosystem cards placed on it. Objectives on those cards are shared by all players, and everyone can score points by completing them.

On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions. Like the special abilities on the cards, the actions are also distinguished by different colors. Depending on the chosen action, abilities of a specific color will be activated. Each card can be activated multiple times during the game, but they are always activated in order from left to right and top to bottom.

When the active player chooses an action, non-active players will also have to perform it. The only difference is that they will get a weaker version of the action, such as receiving fewer resources.

Four actions are:

  1. Planting
  2. Composting
  3. Watering
  4. Growing
Earth board game player actions
Four actions that are available to players with easy-to-interpret symbols.

Planting

Get ready to get your hands dirty with an action that’ll make your green thumb tingle. This is the only action during which you can “plant” cards on the tableau, and activate all green abilities. But no matter how talented a gardener you are, your plants will not be able to survive without good soil. That’s why you have to pay the specified number of soil tokens for each card you want to place. 

Composting 

Composting is a great action if you want to make good soil for your island and an excellent opportunity for even your unused plants to earn victory points. Also, all red and multicolor abilities will be activated during this action.

Watering

All plants need water, even these imaginary ones. If you water them regularly, they will thrive and grow sprouts. Even though in this version of Earth they’re just cute green cubes, each of them will earn you points. During this action, you can activate all blue and multicolor abilities

Growing 

If you want to see those adorable trees on your tableau, the growth action will make it happen. Your flora cards will reach their full potential, and all yellow and multicolor abilities will be activated.

Although your main goal is to place 16 cards on your tableau, planting actions alone are not enough to achieve this or win the game. In nature, there is a balance of different processes that is necessary for the functioning of an ecosystem. In this game, you’ll need to balance all four actions to create a functional engine that will lead you to victory.

Earth board game trees and shrubs
Lush rainforest with plenty of trees.

Earth Endgame

Earth is not time or round limited but will end when one or more players complete their 4×4 tableau. When all other players have finished their turn, the game ends, the points get tallied up, and the player with the most victory points is declared the winner.

One of the things that add complexity and reasons why the game requires a lot of thinking during each turn is that there are eight ways to earn points:

  1. Victory points from climate and island cards, and from earth cards on your tableau
  2. Event cards
  3. Compost cards
  4. Sprouts on your “planted” cards
  5. Trunks and canopy compilations on your tableau
  6. Terrain bonuses
  7. Ecosystem objectives
  8. Fauna card objectives

The player who finishes their 4×4 grid first gets a bonus of seven victory points, which may not seem like much but can prove to be decisive.

The Educational Value of Earth

The number of board games with themes that promote and celebrate the beauty of our beautiful planet is growing every day. Maybe those games are not interesting to everyone, but as a biologist, I believe they deserve special attention and respect.

Earth is undoubtedly a very fun and engaging game, but if you want to dig a little deeper into its values, you will discover it also has a great educational component to it.

Each card provides interesting information about our planet. They are great tools for learning and understanding the beauty and diversity of the amazing life forms, ecosystems, and climatic conditions around the globe. 

earth board game modular trees
Cute tree components.

These games have the potential to promote ecological awareness and teach us about the importance of preserving our planet’s wonders and helping maintain the delicate balance of nature as we’ve seen before with Wingspan.

Earth is another title that reminds us of the fragility of our planet and the importance of responsible management of its natural resources. It shows us the interconnection between its species and the importance of preserving biodiversity on our beautiful planet.

Earth Solo Mode

If, from time to time, you want to spend some quality time alone with the game, you can play the solo mode and compete against the AI called Gaia. In Greek mythology, Gaia is the mother of all life, and it’s clear that fighting someone with such a reputation will not be easy.

In solo mode, the rules for your turn are almost the same as in the base game. You will choose one of four actions, collect resources, and activate special abilities on cards. You will play on a board specifically designed for this mode, and you can choose between two difficulty levels. 

Gaia also has her own board and a deck of six cards. The game ends after 12 rounds, or when you complete your 4×4 tableau grid. 

Earth Team Mode

Another interesting way to play this game is team mode. The rules are the same as in the base game, but now you have the chance to team up with another player in order to win. You will plan your moves and strategize together, and you will also be able to share the resources. 

Final Thoughts on Earth

Earth isn’t just a game about placing cards on a tableau. It’s also about amazing natural synergies and creating a functional engine for victory. The mechanics with many strategic possibilities will keep you very busy and won’t give you a minute of rest during the game, which will especially appeal to the strategic-minded among us.

earth four player game
We told you that Earth is a table hog 😄

You won’t have much interaction with other players, but that doesn’t diminish the game’s enjoyment. Time will fly by as you try to earn points in eight different ways, and the winner will remain uncertain until the very end.

A lot of cards and their combinations make the game highly replayable, so every time you play Earth, there’ll be new cards to see and strategies to try out. 

Finally, there’s the ecological message that the game subtly pushes – something not everyone may care for, but a nice little bonus for those who do.

FAQ

  1. Is Earth better than Ark Nova?

    Both games are fantastic strategies and share a similar theme. It’s hard to say which one is better. Ark Nova has been on the market for a bit longer than Earth so it had time to establish its reputation.

    Earth was released in 2023 so, there’s plenty of time to see if the board game community will accept it like the beloved zoo game. Keep in mind that Ark Nova is a more complex game than Earth, so it’s not the best choice for inexperienced players.

  2. What kind of game is Earth?

    Earth is a strategy game with fantastic mechanics and a beautiful theme, published by Inside Up Games. An excellent engine and tableau builder, it gives you the opportunity to create a unique ecosystem and get to know the beauty of our lovely planet better.