Eminent Domain galaxy conquering review
Review by Christopher Bishop
A review copy was graciously provided to the author for review.
There are many deck builders out there these days. Many of them have various mechanics that over complicate or add layers that give a superficial layer of difficulty. Eminent Domain is thankfully not among them. With clear-cut rules and fast gameplay, Eminent Domain will have you conquering planets by battle, colonization or dominating through trade.
The premise of Eminent Domain lies in building an intergalactic empire. Players each control an empire and use their cards to find planets, survey them for resources, attack or colonize them. Once a planet has become part of your empire, the resources it can produce add to your stockpile of victory points by trading resources, allowing you to survey more planets or manufacture more warships for conquering other planets. Let’s dive into gameplay, shall we!
What’s in the box??
- 1 Central Card Display
- 96 Role Cards
- 27 Planet Cards
- 6 Starting Planet Tiles
- 39 Technology Cards
- 35 Fighter Tokens
- 20 Resource Tokens
- 4 Player Aid Tiles
- 32 Influence Tokens
To begin with, you separate all role cards by type and place them on the corresponding matching tile of the Central Card Display. Each player is then dealt
- Politics Card x1
- Warfare Card x2
- Colonize Cards x2
- Research Cards x2
- Survey Cards x2
- Produce/Trade Cards x2
Next you then deal each player a random Starting Planet Tile, which they then place face down in front of them. Shuffle the Planet Card deck and place face down on the side of the central card display. Separate all Technology cards by type (they correspond to the 3 planet types, Fertile, Advanced and Metallic).
Initially, each player shuffles their starting deck and draws 5 cards. This is their starting hand. Each role card serves a different purpose that will be easily recognizable to a veteran of deck builders. Therefore, I will outline each role cards purpose below. Each card (except Politics Cards) allow for an action to be taken (optional), a role to be played out (mandatory) and a function special to being the leader of the turn. You can play alike role cards off each other to “boost” the effects you gain.
Role Card Types
- Politics card – Allows each player 1 chance to pick any role card they desire and add it to their current hand. Finally, Politic cards leave the game once they enter play and resolve.
- Survey Card – Allows for you to draw 2 cards from your deck and add them to your hand as your action. In the role function, you can “scout” or look at a number of planets equal to a number of survey cards in play minus 1. Once you gain multiple planets they can count towards your survey ability as well. Therefore, being the leader allows you to basically negate the minus 1 penalty to surveying planets.
- Warfare Card – Allows you to either collect a fighter token (the size of the ship is irrelevant in the base game) or if you have enough fighter tokens or military might (through planets you own) attack a planet and take it by force as your action. The role function lets you collect 1 fighter token for every warfare symbol in play (symbols can be both on Role Cards and planets you own). The Leader function allows you to attack a planet and settle it flipping it over and gaining its benefits.
- Colonize Card – Allows you to add 1 colony to a planet you have yet to settle or to settle a planet that you have the required amount of colonies placed on for your action. The role function allows you to add all your colonies cards together and tuck them under any planets you have yet to settle. Finally, in the leader role, you can settle a planet once again and remove all colonies under that planet to your discard.
- Produce/Trade Card – This card is actually two functions in one. The production side allows you to create resources on planets you have settled for your action. In the role phase, this is expanded to include producing resources for every production symbol you have in play on planets and Role cards. There is no leader bonus until the stack is depleted, which means in two-three player standards the game will end before you see this effect. On the trade side, your action allows you to sell a resource token for an influence token (victory points). The role phase lets you trade multiple resources in for influence tokens. Unfortunately, Produce/trade cards give no leader function until they run out.
- Research Card – The action phase allows you to remove two cards from your hand, thus clearing out space for technology cards or other role cards and giving you a greater chance of controlling your turn to your liking. The role phase allows you to purchase technology cards based on how many planets you control and how many research symbols are in play. Much like trade/produce, there is no leader function for research cards.
Gameplay and Win Conditions
Gameplay begins with whichever player drew the start card (one of the aid cards players get has a start banner on it). The player’s goal is to end with the most influence tokens. You gain Influence tokens by selling resources, conquering or colonizing planets and for certain technology cards. The play ends in the standard game when one card pile is exhausted on the Central Card Display or the influence tokens have run out. The player with the most influence at the end is the Emperor of the known galaxy. Unique gameplay mechanisms such as boosting and technology cards that always remain in play change the tactics quickly.
For a surprisingly simple game to learn there is quite a bit of intricacy. My son started out trying to win by warfare but quickly noticed my peaceful colonization and resource production. It was netting me a lot of influence tokens faster then he thought possible. Players are free to decide what tactics they will use and there is not one clear cut path to victory.
Is it worth the price?
The quality of the card stock is excellent, durable and will last. I still always recommend sleeving any deck builder you feel will get high use. The cardboard counters have a decent laminate on them and the resource tokens are wooden. Best of all, the box the game comes in is big enough for more than just the base set, which is always a plus in my book. The art is well done, although a lot of imagery is just text which can be a bit dry. Overall, art choices convey functionality which is never a bad thing.
I can firmly say Eminent Domain is worth the price of admission. There are currently two expansions available. First is Escalation which adds more warfare components into the mix (The varying ship sizes for instance). Second, comes Exotica which offers up Exotic planets and asteroids as well as new technologies based on these new types of heavenly bodies. The MSRP for Eminent Domain is currently $49.95, and you can read more about it here. In conclusion, look for it at your favorite local FLGS today. You will not regret it!