Solarpunk sees bright, lush aesthetics combining plants and technology as well as themes of environmentalism and social justice come together to create solarpunk’s unique vision.
While solarpunk is still a niche, its concepts have started influencing creative works including board games.
These solarpunk-inspired board games stand out as some of most intriguing options for fans of both sustainability and gaming.
Photosynthesis is an abstract strategy board game fueled by the theme of trees growing and competing for sunlight.
Players start with small trees on the outer edge of the forest game board and take turns moving their sun and sowing seeds to grow their trees outward seeking light and shade.
Larger trees block smaller ones but eventually age and die, keeping the forest landscape in constant flux.
With its lush forest theming centered on the natural process of photosynthesis and life cycles of trees, Photosynthesis brings solarpunk concepts to life in engaging gameplay.
The sun’s predictable movement around the board adds spatial tactics while balancing short vs long term scoring strategies lets you choose an environmentalist approach focused on regeneration or ruthless capitalist path.
Photosynthesis has beautiful table presence and makes an uncommon ecological process into an accessible and clever game.
Permafrost from Ankama Games is a tile-laying race game set in year 2126 after the planet has been devastated by the effects of climate change.
Players represent different gatherer tribes rushing to collect fruit from hotspots on the thawing cryoscape before they disappear into the rising waters.
You must carefully manage your movement and resource collecting across melting ice floes while contending with unpredictable events like storms.
In addition to its climate crisis setting, Permafrost focuses its solarpunk themes on equality and cooperation between its diverse tribes.
Event effects allow for shared victories while variable player powers let you support yourself or coordinate with opponents.
With push-your-luck fruit collection, environmental effects from the deck and board, and a tension between personal victory and communal effort, Permafrost offers a strategic challenge while promoting solarpunk ideals.
Designed by first time solo developer Elijah Kellogg, Electropolis is a tile placement and action puzzle game focused on powering a solarpunk future city.
Players collectively construct the city by placing zone tiles, build structures to produce resources, enact infrastructure upgrades, and eventually work to activate five “Project” cards representing major civic works projects to complete their utopia.
With lively artwork, innovative delayed reward action mechanics viauerto Rico token stocks, and balanced focus between personal properties and achieving public Project milestones.
Electropolis neatly packages solarpunk’s optimism and sustainability into a smooth gameplay experience.
The city creation and resource puzzle solving also naturally fits the urban/technological side of typical solarpunk style.
EcoPunk is a free print-and-play board game created by Jason Webb that situates solarpunk concepts into a worker placement economic simulation. In the game 1-4 players represent green companies attempting to fund and staff startups to provide resources, housing, services, culture, and transportation options to the community according to solarpunk principles of ecology, equity, and cooperation.
Projects in 8 Categories are proposed each round and players assign available worker meeples to contribute labor and money. After a set number of rounds, players tally their impact scores based on community projects completed, tax funds generated, and positivity versus greed to determine personal and shared victory conditions. With a leftist political lean, DIY aesthetic, and emphasis on mutualism over selfishness, EcoPunk’s systems neatly express key solarpunk values. The free print option also allows easy access for interested gamers or activists to experience its concepts in tabletop form.
5. Terraforming Mars: Turmoil
No discussion of environmentalist board games is complete without the seminal Terraforming Mars which sees players cooperating and competing to make the red planet habitable for human life.
While not explicitly solarpunk, the base game and expansions like Terraforming Mars: Turmoil incorporate central solarpunk themes around ecology as well as more critical issues like balancing economy and environment or addressing inequities and unrest in the system.
Specifically Turmoil injects political pressures into the terraforming process where distant political factions wrestle to shape development on Mars through policy agendas.
Events such as riots act as tipping points players navigate on their way to victory points awarded for terraformed parameters, infrastructure, green event participation, and political dominance.
By adding power dynamics and social crisis simulation absent from the base game, Turmoil adds sociopolitical questions important to solarpunk futures.
And it does this while retaining the strategically satisfying exponential engine-building of gameplay Terraforming Mars is loved for.
Missing Any Solarpunk Boardgames?
Have we missed out and awesome solarpunk board games? Even better, have you created your own solarpunk boardgame that you want to share with us all?
Let us know in the comments below.
I love a good baord game, so would love to have a go.
More Solarpunk Inspiration
For more solarpunk inspiration, check out articles on what is solarpunk, the solarpunk manifesto, Brazil and solarpunk, punk in solarpunk, solarpunk history, the solarpunk movement, envisioning a solarpunk world, whether solarpunk is the future, solarpunk politics, and the definition of solarpunk. As climate change continues to shape society, creative works channeling environmentalist movements like solarpunk offer both catharsis and hope.
Final Thoughts: Gaming the Future We Want
Board games focused on renewable energy, climate disasters, balanced ecosystems, and equal cooperation like Photosynthesis, Permafrost, Electropolis, EcoPunk, and Terraforming Mars: Turmoil provide early examples of solarpunk concepts translated to tabletop media.
Through their themes, systems, and components they allow players to model optimistic and sustainable futures.
Grappling with survival on a changed landscape, governing utopian green cities, or terraforming an entire planet with responsible guiding principles all engage players critically and meaningfully with questions important to solarpunk and our larger hopes for the real world future we want.
As gamers and solarpunk fans continue exploring and creating in this space, understanding and spreading a message focused on ecological wisdom, social justice, and living in balance with nature can happen through even such a recreational pursuit as board gaming.