Using Board Games in your TTRPG: Photosynthesis Edition


Picked up Photosynthesis for a steal on a clearance rack. Like $15 or so. No doubt they will be on other clearance sales near you.

Now, I don’t care if I ever play the game, it was purchased solely to be deconstructed into my table kit.

Check out what $15 got me:

56 easily collapsible sturdy cardboard trees in three sizes and four varieties.

24 tokens with 1-4 leaves on the back and numbers 12-22 on the front. Suitable for displaying a Target, or doing a “Bag Draw” mechanic for Target in Scene 1-2-3 (and 4 if you dare!)

Big Bright yellow tokens 1-4 suitable for Timer display /Bag Draw.

24 foraging outcome tokens (berries, flowers, acorns, pine cones) maybe for Blood & Snow?

4 bright yellow pips of sunlight, maybe suitable for tracking Torches in a dungeon?

A Big Tree Token, suitable for plopping on a map or maybe covering up another token till the right time…

And then there’s the board itself:

Not a bad map for tactical battle in the woods. Or for the Village Green with some Index Card shops placed around it.

Overall, this was a great deal for 15$ clearance. But I think you can still find it at $25 on the shelves at Barnes and Noble or Books A Million, and for that many quality trees and tokens, it’s still a pretty good deal.


Hell yeah, awesome idea!

I have Forbidden Island and have wanted to turn the whole concept (Find the treasures on the sinking island) into a campaign using the actual game mechanics. It has excellent art work, really nice tiles with evocative names for the locations, and you could pretty easily adapt the flooding mechanics to change the map (Suddenly the Temple of the Sun is under water, and the fire stone is in there!)

Anyone else use board games as props/inspiration?


I do it all the time… even just for a bit of inspiration.

With Forbidden Island (similar to Maximum Apocalypse) you could randomly select 3-5 of those tiles with titles, and cast them like runes to rough out an evening’s conceptual map. If you are going TOTM with thematic place art, it’s nothing to print a bigger image of the tiles you use.

::Throws a handful of tiles onto table:: So they’ll start at the Coral Palace, have an encounter at the Copper Gate, get some leads to the Howling Gardens, which contain Phantom Rock, home to the Cave of Shadows.

ETA: From there it’s nothing to extrapolate a couple mechanics, add a detail or two, change a few names, and boom! Ready to go.

But for a real sense of emergent gaming, you could just draw the tiles as you go and narrate on the fly, being as surprised as your players about where Skippy the Bard says that ancient shrine’s entrance is supposed to be.


I was thinking that I would start the game with an island hex map. As they explore we can draw a tile to see what is in that area! So yeah, it would even be a surprise to me.

Combine that with maps from dyson, or even a random map from (or use Hank’s binary method) and you got a real cool adventure going!


The board almost has a UDT theme to it


Hey! I hadn’t noticed that, but you’re spot on!


I have Massive Darkness and use all the minis when I can. The tiles are also great. Amazing art.


I actually thought about using my old Settler of Catan- or Carcassonne-tiles for a hexcrawl/tilecrawl kind of game. There could be a random table for generating which type of terrain will be drawn or it can be laid out beforehand. If I remember correctly the back of the tiles is empty so one could put a sticker there for a hexcrawl key.

I was also thinking about printing maps on sticker paper and then buying empty hex tiles in bulk to put the stickers on those hex tiles (but I’m not sure if one can get paper with hexagonal stickers or if I have to use “normal” sticker paper).


My first dm used Lord of the Rings: Risk miniatures for all our baddies and npcs.


Yeah that would be a great use. You could pretty easily use Catan tiles as the generic terrain, and then put notes or minis, or some sort of marker in place to represent what they find.