From the hot, dry deserts to the warm and humid subtropics to the frigid polar regions, to the highest peaks of the Himalayas and Karakorum, down to the dark depths of the Mariana Trench: our blue planet offers a diversity that is hard to grasp. 
Inspired by this, the game Earth, available in German from Skellig Games, was developed. 25.600 possible starting combinations promise a lot of variety. Our test shows whether the more than 600 cards can offer what the many options promise.

All players build their own island in this beginner-friendly engine builder. The "Island" is a 4×4 grid of flora and terrain cards formed by climate and ecosystem cards at the beginning of the game. Due to the many maps and the lack of restrictions when combining, this can also quickly be a South Pacific island with a polar climate and the ecosystem of the savannah.

The combinations do not have to be logical. It is much more important that you build up a functioning engine piece by piece with the maps of your own island, which effectively produces points via the small detour in the form of resources.

An island with three maps

As already mentioned, everyone receives island, climate and ecosystem cards for their island at the beginning of the game. Depending on their level of experience, players can also choose from multiple maps of each type.

Once the cards with the chosen side have been placed on your own tableau, more cards for all available ecosystems and fauna cards have been placed on the central tableau, the starting resources have been distributed from your personal island card and the person who can start has been chosen, you can start.

In the large Earth deck are flora cards that build up the engine, terrain cards that offer special victory point conditions, and events that can be played at any time for the printed effect.

The basis for your own island lies on the player boards, here on the solo side, and most of the symbols are clearly explained. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The islands are taking shape

The gameplay is designed to be simple. Play continues in turn until one person completes their 4×4 grid. The current round is then ended before the final scoring follows.

When it is your turn, you have the choice between four different actions, each of which is assigned to a color. The action chosen by the person whose turn it is also relevant for all other players. You may also carry out the action in a slightly modified, weaker form.

With the green action (plants) cards are played into your own grid. You pay the cost in the form of earth and place it on the island. There is also a new hand card.

The red action (composting) gives you earth and you can throw cards onto your own compost. These composted cards are worth one point each at the end.

When watering (blue action) you get sprouts from the supply and place them on empty spaces of your own flora cards. In addition, there is also earth here.
Sprouts can be exchanged for soil at a ratio of three to two at any time and are each worth one victory point at the end of the game.

The yellow action is called Grow. They give you new hand cards and you can place growth elements in the form of trunks and treetops on the growth spaces of the flora cards. Each growth element is worth one point. If a card's growth space is completely filled, you get a few extra points.

Your own island can be up to 16 cards in size and is home to a variety of flora and terrain cards. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Once the actions of the chosen color have been performed, all cards that have effects of this color may be activated. If the red, blue or yellow action was chosen, all colored effects can also be activated. When activating the cards, the order in which the cards lie in their own grid is relevant. It is always activated from left to right and top to bottom.

Actions are carried out in turn until the end of the game is heralded.

The final score

There are now points from a total of 10 different sources. In addition to the conditions of the three ecosystem cards, there are points for the flora cards, the composted cards and for the sprouts and growth. Event cards played usually bring minus points.

The terrain cards laid out in the grid score points according to their conditions. Finally, there are still points for fulfilling the fauna cards. If you fulfill one of the conditions during the game, you immediately place one of your own leaf markers next to the corresponding fauna card. Whoever does this first gets more points.

At the end, the person with the highest score wins.

A very lucrative source of points is fulfilling the conditions of the fauna cards. Image: Jonas Dahmen

In addition to the classic multiplayer game, there is also a solo mode in which you play against Gaia. The solo side of a game board is used for this and Gaia also uses a special board side.

For each chosen action, she may also carry out an action in a manner comparable to a multiplayer game, which in one form or another brings her victory points at the end.

On Gaia's turn, one card is drawn from her six-card deck. After you have performed the card's action for yourself, the effect that the card offers to Gaia is then performed. Often one's own choice influences Gaia's action.

If her deck has been played through twice, the solo game ends and the points are counted.

There is also a team mode (2v2), which we have not taken into account for this review.

information about earth

Number of people: 1-5
Age: from 13 years
Playing time: 80 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: average
Classification: engine building, tableau building

Author: Maxime Tardif
Illustrations: Conor McGoey
Publisher: Skellig Games
Official Website: Earth
Year of publication: 2023
Language: German
Cost: 55 Euro


Over 10.000 people have the Kickstarter too Earth supports. The game experienced real hype. Even several weeks after its release, the game is still in the top 5 of "Hotness" on BGG. The praise is not completely unjustified, but compared to other engine builders like Terraforming Mars or Flapping wings, with which the game was often compared, it clearly draws the short straw for us.

Many cards do not automatically mean a lot of variety. Unfortunately this is the case here. Much of the action on the Flora cards can be summed up as "Swap a lot of A for a lot of B," where A and B are most often any combination of cards, sprouts, soil, and growth elements.

The effects cannot be explained thematically either, since the same effects can sometimes be found on different colors. In general, the game has a very weak theme. From a game mechanics point of view, nothing emerges from this and various combinations, as already described above, make no sense.

A back can also delight - The most beautiful and largest pictures can be found on the backs of some game boards. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Usually the beautiful nature shots have to take a back seat to the information relevant to the game mechanics and are quite lost in the game. The beautiful cover promises more than is offered. Apart from the photos, the game material doesn't really meet our taste either optically. It doesn't just look rather dull in comparison to the colorful nature shots.

Many of the log parts cannot be put together properly, so larger trees are very unstable or you have to rummage through the stock. Otherwise, the quality of all components is good average. Especially with so many cards, it is important that they are stable in order to survive the shuffling without damage. This is given here.

When it comes to game material, the trees are the most impressive when you find the right stem elements and grow piece by piece on the flora cards of all players. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The rules are clearly written and leave no questions unanswered as far as the gameplay is concerned. Only a clear explanation of some conditions on the fauna and ecosystem maps would be desirable. You can somehow deduce everything, but some things are not really clear.

The rules for solo mode are different. These would have deserved much more care. However, Skellig Games cannot be blamed for this, since the English rules do not cover this with glory either. Especially with regard to the course of the moves and the effects of Gaia, there is a lot of confusion here, especially with the red action, and some effects are not explained explicitly at all.

The gameplay is pretty solitaire. Everyone builds up their own island map by map without really getting in the way of the others. Fulfilling the fauna cards is in part heavily dependent on the cards drawn from your hand. Some goals are also really playfully ugly, like the goal of having a hand of 20+ cards.

What at first glance sounds like interaction when choosing an action is ultimately there to make the downtime between moves not unbearable. So everyone is actually always there and tinkering on their island. This is a really well implemented idea.

Since the game ends up being a huge and rather confusing salad of points, it is not really worthwhile, if you want to make the playing time acceptable, to weigh up all the options that you might be able to give your fellow players when choosing your own action.

Since many things feel more like slight variations of each other and "only" four actions that are always the same are available, the playing time is a bit too long. For the same reason, the replay appeal is not very high for us.
Fortunately, if you play with more people, the playing time does not increase evenly, but actually always stays within limits, which is due to the simultaneous execution of the actions.


A great many elements (and thus victory points) accumulate on Gaia's tableau over the course of the game, which makes her a challenging, albeit very randomly acting opponent. However, the solo mode is not really special. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The solo mode is quite ok apart from the less successful rules. This type of solo mode has been seen many times before. There isn't really a lot of interaction here either and Gaia happily collects points for herself without really having much influence on it, while you have to try to build your own island in the unfortunately artificially limited time in solo mode.

Overall is Earth not a bad game. It's far from that. But it looks extremely smooth and polished and nothing feels like a really "important" decision, since everything somehow earns points and can also be mixed up and swapped out depending on the engine. The most positive aspects are the low downtime and the beginner-friendliness.

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