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Earth, from Inside Up Games, has proved to be an instant success. It's a tableau building euro game where the 1-5 players are looking to create synergies between the cards they add to their tableaus so that they turn into points scoring engines. In that sense, Earth follows in the tradition of Terraforming Mars (FryxGames/Stronghold Games), Wingspan (Stonemaier Games) and Ark Nova (Feuerland Spiele/Capstone Games). With its ecological theme, Earth shares a thematic connection too with those other tableau builders but Maxime Tardif's game has its own very distinctive feel.

In Earth, players each have their own individual player board but, perversely, you build your tableau of cards next to your board rather than on it. You'll actually just be using your board for storage and placement of your individual scoring objectives, to indicate the action you've chosen on your turn and as a player aid. Your individual objectives are double-sided and different on each side, so at the start of the game you have a choice to make over which sides to use; this will also affect your starting resources. On your turn, you mark on your player board which of the four available actions you want to take: you then get to take the top action and all other players get the bottom action, which will be a lesser version of the top action, then all players activate all their cards in their tableau that match that action's colour.

Through the course of the game, you'll be building a tableau of plant cards adjacent to each other in a 4 x 4 grid but cards will often trigger or score when in the same row or column of other specified cards or card types. Plant cards can have sprouts and growth tokens placed on them. You can also collect points for having soil tokens and for face-down cards that are used as mulch. Soil is a core currency in Earth, as in order to play a card from your hand to your tableau you need to be able to pay its cost in soil. The game ends when a player completes their 4 x 4 grid (ie: when a player lays down their 16th card). That player earns a bonus but that doesn't mean they've necessarily won: there's likely to be quite a lot of end-game scoring; indeed, assessing how well others are doing can be key to success because you won't want to lay that 16th card and trigger the end game if you think you are trailing behind another player.

Earth isn't a race game then where players are dashing to complete their grid. That said tho' there are some shared objectives displayed on a central board that give more points to the players that are first to satisfy them...

With art by Yulia Sozonik, Kenneth Spond, Conor McGoey and M81 Studio, the cards in Earth are visually attractive, and this is a game where players can pursue multiple equally viable paths to victory, but there is quite a lot of iconography to get to grips with. That can make the game seem initially daunting for new players, but once you're up and running the game play is remarkably straightforward. And because on every turn everyone takes at least one action, plus, as the game progresses, colour-triggered actions, Earth is a game with zero downtime: every player is involved on literally every turn. And even where a player's engine gives them a cascade of actions, there's little cause for dithering or delay because the game dictates the left to right, top to bottom, order in which cards activate.

It's a euro game - so can be viewed as a 'points salad' - but Earth's botanical theme comes through strongly. Earth is competitive, particularly in getting to the shared objectives ahead of other players, but this isn't a game with a high level of interaction, and certainly there's no 'take that' danger of other players tossing a spanner into the works to wreck your bio-engine. You will need to keep an eye on what others have in their tableaus, particularly as you consider triggering the end game, but for most practical purposes Earth is a game where you can maintain a healthy focus on doing your own thing.

#Earth #InsideUpGames #botany #ecological #environmental #eurogame #enginebuilder #handmanagement #tableaubuilding

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