Eminent Domain - Board Game Box Shot

Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain title

Survey the galaxy to expand your empire! Will you colonize nearby planets, or take them by force? Harvest resources for trade, and do research to improve your technology. Build the best empire to win the game!

Eminent Domain is an empire building game in which your empire’s abilities are based on a deck of Role cards. At the beginning of the game each player has the same deck of cards, with just 2 cards for each Role in it. Every turn you must choose a Role to execute (your opponents will get a chance to follow suit) and in doing so you will add one of those Role cards to your deck. When executing a Role, you can boost its effect by playing cards out of your hand matching the Role you have chosen. So for example, the more you Research, the better you get at Researching (because you’ll have more Research cards in your deck).

Eminent Domain card examples
images © Tasty Minstrel Games

User Reviews (18)

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5
I play green
9
108 of 116 gamers found this helpful
“Fun, streamlined game, but seems to lack legs”

In Eminent Domain you’re adding planets to your empire, which allows you to produce and trade more goods, research exciting technology, and earn points for having the planets.

There are 5 base card types in the game: Warfare, Colonization, Survey, Research, and Trade/Produce. There are also powerful research cards you can obtain. On each turn you may choose to play one card for its Action. Then, you choose a role, which means you take one of the 5 cards above. Then, you may play as many cards from your hand as you’d like to go with that role.

For example, if I take the Survey role, which allows me to find new planets, I can play 3 other Survey cards from my hand to increase my chances of finding a planet I like. Or, I can take the research role, then play 4 other Research cards from my hand to access Tier 2 research cards.

The other twist is that your opponents may copy the role you take with their own cards, or dissent, which means they get to draw 1 card.

The game is about focus. It’s key to pick a primary strategy paired with a secondary (usually) and execute it really well. So, Capture a few planets, setup a trade engine, and earn points through trade. Or, Capture tons of planets for points using really high level technology.

It’s key to maximize your turns and take advantage of follow opportunities as the game can end really quickly (some say too quickly, but overall I find it’s about right). Research cards can be very powerful, so taking advantage of them is also key.

I’ve played Eminent Domain at least 10 times now, and though I enjoy it, the game definitely seems to be wearing a little thin. The game almost entirely lacks randomness and there isn’t a great deal of player interaction, so every play feels very similar and I feel like I’m simply refining the same strategy. I don’t feel I can play it as often as Dominion or Ascension.

The 9 I gave it a while back was premature, but unfortunately I cannot change that. I’d probably adjust that to a 7/10 now. This is a good game, but it lacks legs.

 
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5
Dragon Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Legend of the Five Rings Fan
Phoenix Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
9
118 of 127 gamers found this helpful
“Role Selection and Deck Building.”

There are a LOT of deck building games out there, some I count among my favorites, some not so much. This is one of those that I would place somewhere in the middle of my personal list.

First the pros:

– Role selection has a meaningful tactic around it that encourages different players to both abuse the choices other players make (by trying to have drafted cards that their opponents are likely to pick) as well as diversifying in order to reduce the opponents ability to do so.
– There are a few predetermined but unique and varied roles/cards that are equally strong, so going for something different then your opponents does not nerf your ability to go for winning the game. The differing roles are well balanced.
– planets add a bit of adaptability to the game encouraging players to take advantage of what is drawn.

The cons:
– Technologies are very hard to teach to new players and don’t make sense until they have a few plays in them, making newer players inherently weak at the game (it is hard to level a playing field between newbies and ‘veterans’ in general, but in the case of this game the tech cards exemplify this problem in a game that is intended to be simple.)
– Although planets add a nice bit of adaptability as mentioned in the pros, they can also do the opposite if someones luck is runnin ‘well’ and make a ‘single card’ tactic (especially military) win the game for them, which makes for an un-interesting game.

Overall i think the game is good, although playing tech1-only with new players is a must, to reduce the stated ‘tech canyon’ created between players(even shuffling the t1 cards and having only the top one show has worked well for introducing new players since games are so fast.). Prestige planets are good only when the players are experienced as they can throw someone ahead of the curve quickly. In my opinion this game is good,e specially if you need a quick game, i just wish there was some way to get around a few of the issues, especially those single tactic games.

 
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1
 
91 of 98 gamers found this helpful
“Great Addition to the Deck Building Genre”

I got a chance to play Eminent Domain at GenCon with Michael Mindes and his wife. I hadn’t really looked into the game too much, so I was just expecting to play another deck building game, but I was surprised at what the experience.

It wasn’t what I expected, thinking about Dominion and Ascension. In Eminent Domain it’s not, what I would call a “deck-building-fest.” I love buying up a lot of cards in Ascension. You have more to consider and think about in Eminent Domain. I like that about the game. You need to worry about producing and trading, surveying for new planets, researching to build up your tech, warring and settling. All of this requires cards, but I didn’t feel like I needed to focus so much on getting more and more cards into my deck each turn. There are more options, and therefore, more strategies in the game.

I very much enjoyed having the option to follow the role that other players take on their turns. This kept me engaged with what was going on and really added more to the strategies that I selected each turn. Being able to keep cards in hand was very helpful in setting up play options for future turns.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and very much enjoyed the game. I hope to add it to my collection of deck building games in the very near future.

 
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3
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Novice Reviewer
9
91 of 98 gamers found this helpful
“What a long strange trip it's been.”

Having kickstarted Eminent Domain and being lucky enough to get a PnP copy, I have enjoyed this game a lot. When I had first heard about it, I was told it was like Race for the Galaxy. However, after playing it, and getting to know the game, I think it’s much more like Glory to Rome and Ascension.

Many of you will ask “Why Ascension and not Dominion?” With dominion, from the start, based on the cards that are available off the get-go you can form a strategy. With Ascension you have to build a strategy based on what other players are doing. It’s more reactive than proactive.

As a fan of Glory to Rome, the leading and following of rolls works really well for me. It keeps downtime to a minimum and keeps the game moving quickly. Many other deck-building games suffer from “Multiplayer Solitaire” to varying extents because they don’t use a similar system and you’re often just sitting waiting for your next turn.

While some may find the number of available tech cards available a bit daunting (and it can be for the first few times), I found after a few games I was confident in my knowledge in the cards available.

All-in-all, I really enjoy this game, and look forward to many expansions ahead. Fans of Glory to Rome are sure to love this game. I can’t wait to get my production copy!

 
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5
USA
I play black
8
91 of 98 gamers found this helpful
“An Enjoyable Space Themed Twist on the Deck Building Genre”

Eminent Domain Overview

Eminent Domain from Tasty Menstrual Games is a two to four player deck building and role selection game designed by Seth Jaffee. Players compete for victory points by settling planets through colonization or warfare, exploration of technologies, and production and trade of goods. At the beginning of the game players starts with the same cards in their deck. On their turn a player can of play a card for its action, however they must choose a Role to execute (their opponents will get a chance to follow suit or decent) and in doing so you will add one of those Role cards to their deck. The game ends when a set number of decks becomes exhausted. The player with the most victory points is the winner.

Gameplay in a Nut Shell

Each player begins the game with a deck of cards consisting of two survey, two colonize, two produce/trade, two research, one warfare, and one political card. From this deck the player draws their starting hand of five cards. When a player’s turn begins they can optionally play a card for its action. These action are similar to the card’s role as in the case of the warfare, colony, or production/trade cards, or they can differ such as the research and survey cards. After the action phase player must select a role, in doing so they add a card of that type to their hand. This role allows them to do a specific action such as exploring, colonizing , or attacking new planets, producing or trading a planet’s goods, or researching new technologies. A player can boost the effects of this action by playing additional card of the same type. At this point the other players can optionally follow the player’s lead, or dissent and drawing a card from their deck. After a player finishes with both action and role selection phases they can discard any card(s) from their hand and draw up to their limit. Play continues until a set number of card decks become exhausted, the number of players determines the end game condition. The player with the most victory points is the winner. Players earn victory points for concurring planets, producing and trading goods, and researching technologies.

Overall Impression of Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain is an interesting twist on the deck building genre. The role selection mechanic adds another dimension not found in traditional deck builders such as Dominion. Players feel as if they are building a galactic empire and not constructing an economic engine to buy victory points. This allows players to choose a strategy that fits the goals of their empire rather than building a deck consisting of optimal combinations dictated by the available cards. The lack of player interaction gives Eminent Domain a felling of multiplayer solitaire, however Seth Jaffee has announced an expansion that will allow players to attack each other’s planets. The theme is a little abstract and will require players to use their imagination, but width more game expansions Eminent Domain could morph into a 4x space game that could even rival Twilight Imperium (third edition). I enjoy this game and recommend it to anyone looking to add a space themed deck building game to their collection.

 
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5
Gamer - Level 4
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Zealot
9
91 of 102 gamers found this helpful
“An Awesome New Take on the Deck Builder”

Eminent Domain is a role-selection/deck-building card game for 2-4 players that takes approximately 45 minutes to play. Each player starts with a 10 card deck that contains cards representing the various roles a player can take on their turn. On a player’s turn, they may optionally play one card from their hand for the action on it, then they must select a role card from the center of the table. They may then add any number of cards from their hand with a matching icon to the one on the role card they selected. Each played icon boosts the effectiveness of the selected role. The other players may then play card from their hand to follow the role, or “dissent,” which means to draw a card.

There is also a deck of technology cards that players can choose from when they take the Research action. These cards have multiple icons and improved actions, so researching is very important to making an efficient deck.

I helped to support this game on Kickstarter back when Tasty Minstrel was trying to get it printed and I am incredibly happy that I did. The card design and components in this game are top-notch… far better than anything I imagined when I supported it. The gameplay is also amazing, with plenty of choices and multiple strategies. Do I try to just major in one role, or do I get a little of everything? Which tech cards are right for my deck. As a fan of deck-builders, I am also happy to see some of the newer batch of deck-builders forging their own style rather than just aping Dominion. Eagerly looking forward to expansions!

 
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5
Gamer - Level 5
Comic Book Fan
Smash Up: Robot Faction Fan
6
46 of 52 gamers found this helpful
“A Space-Themed Deck Builder That Really Needs Its Expansion!”

In case you haven’t checked out other reviews of Eminent Domain let me give you the quick and dirty, capsulized version of what it is:

Eminent Domain is…

* A deck building game of space expansion.
* A bright, colorful game that is easy to understand and easy to play (though a few more examples in the rule book would have been nice).
* A rules light DBG that has a lot of room for expansion.
* A well balanced system that favors multiple ways of winning.
* An affordable game that can be picked up for around $20.

So why am I not the biggest fan of this, the base game?

E.D. feels incomplete, like the basic structure and frame work are all present but the direct conflict with other players is missing.

Each round players draw cards and can then develop their planet’s resources, explore new worlds to take over and choose a role to advance in their deck, allowing their deck to be costume tailored to a certain strategy. For example, you can stick with a colonize path which will allow you to colonize new worlds to add them to your empire. Or you could pick up Warfare cards to make your fleet of ships stronger to take new worlds by force. Or, you could develop your technology which reaps faster colonize or warfare down the road.

On the other hand, there is no direct conflict! No taking away or preventing what the other player is doing. No way to block their advances or hinder their progress. The game is a race of development only impeded by random card draws.

Now, to be fair, there is an expansion that is supposed to answer this problem. Costing almost as much as the base game, it sounds to be just what I’d need to make this game a regular hit at my game table. Unfortunately, I don’t own the expansion and until I do, my wife has little interest in playing a game of E.D. I would have rather paid the price to have the base game and the expansion in one package instead of in two separate boxes.

Finally, there is one more gripe: E.D. comes in a box that is way too big for what little you get. The box is really big by comparison to the components which is fine if you have plenty of shelf space and don’t care about the environment. Unfortunately, my shelf space is at premium considering that I have around 60 board and/or card games with more coming in about once a month. I’d also like to spare a tree now and then so a smaller box might be nice…unless the expansion is a lot bigger than I think it’ll be…

UPDATE – After some consideration and plenty of solo play through I really should amend my earlier criticism. E.D.has a lot going for it when you start experimenting with Technology upgrade cards. These tech cards really give the game its greatest degree of variation. Should I beef my Empire’s colonization skills or expand how well my warships function, for example. Sadly, I donated this game to my library and have regretted it! At some point I’ll buy it again.

 
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9
Canada
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Platinum Supporter
8
53 of 60 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 7
“Eminent Domain: A Tasty Peanut Butter Cup of a Role/Deck Builder”

Once upon a time the Jolly Dragon at TMG put out a ‘space’ deck builder that wasn’t really a deck builder. Or maybe it was a deck builder… with a twist? The key mechanic was the Euro system of Roles – playing a specific ‘Role’ per turn that allowed for specific actions to be taken (but only those specific actions) and piggybacking off of other players Roles in a minor way if possible.

There were 5 possible Roles to play:
Survey Add new planets for potential exploitation ‘unlock’ to your Empire
Warfare Gather little plastic spaceships so you can eventually unlock a planet through ATTACK
Colonize Tucking cards under a planet so you can eventually unlock a planet without the tactile plastic feel
Produce/Trade Put a resource token on a resource slot (PRODUCE) then take it off later for a VP (TRADE)
Research The currency for them ‘spicy’ Techs!

There were 3 simple phases to a turn:

ACTION (optional) Playing a Role or Tech card as a one off for the ‘Action Ability’ – a little minor pre-turn boost

ROLE (mandatory) Playing a Role card as your Turn Mechanic with a Leadership Boon and ‘boosting’ it with other copies of the same Role card from your hand. Other players with a copy of that card could choose to piggyback the Role on your turn if they wished by playing their own cards.

CLEANUP (mandatory) The deckbuilder discard sweep up.

And some gamers would live happily-ever-after…

Eminent Domain is by and large a Role Builder . Your deck consists of Roles and turn by turn you play these Roles and add more copies to your deck allowing you to play that Role more often in any given hand and boosting it. Occasionally you can buy some rather expensive TECH that either stays on table to give you permanent boosts or cycles through the deck giving you the option for a special variable unique Action during the ACTION phase. You ‘unlock’ some planets. You make and trade some resources for VPs. You hold a little plastic ship or two in your hand and feel ‘spacey’. You jump on an occasional Tech for ‘spice’. And when the VP pool dies, he who has the most VP toys wins.

Eminent Domain set out to do something – create a Euro-feel ‘Role Builder’ – and did exactly that. As someone who sort of rolls her eyes at the Roles Mechanic Genre and finds it limiting, Eminent Domain made it accessible and more interesting. As someone who loves the ‘zazz’ and ‘zap’ of a good variable deck builder, Eminent Domain came up lacking.

Eminent Domain does what it set out to do solidly – it just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A DeckBuilder Head might find it very ‘samey’ and lacking in variety. A ‘Role’ Player might find the decking too random.

BUT if you want to do the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup thing and put a SMIDGE of Deck Builder in your Role Mechanic or a LOT of Role Mechanic in your Deck Builder – this is the game to look into.

The Role heavy/Deck light aspect of Eminent Domain isn’t MY cup of tea per se – but I don’t mind sipping from it on occasion to play an accessible Role Mechanic for my tastes.

But the Jolly Dragon at TMG has since put out the expansion ED: Escalation which puts a whole new spin on things with SCENARIOS and balances the Deck Building/Role Mechanic nicely, expands the universe with variety, makes holding the plastic ships make you feel even more ‘spacey’, and creates a sequel where many more gamers will live happily-ever-after…

…so I’ll see you all over there if you want the low down. 🙂

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

 
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5
8
58 of 66 gamers found this helpful
“Little hard to learn”

This game was explained to me and I wasn’t sure my friend was speaking English as he was talking cause nothing made sense about what he was saying. I played a round and then I knew what I was doing and what to do enough that I played a decent game for a first timer. Deck building games are not my thing. Some are good but most don’t appeal to me beyond playing once. This one is not like that. I won’t die with regrets if I never play again but I wouldn’t turn down a chance to play again. It’s fairly simple once you know how to play but if you’re first learning from a friend lime I was my suggestion is to ask questions otherwise you might not give this game the chance it deserves. The basic concept is to gain control of planets either by colonizing them or using war to conquer them and then using those planets to gain actions or produce resources to then trade those resources for pts. I recommend you give this game a chance.

 
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5
Platinum Supporter
Thunderstone Fan
10
98 of 115 gamers found this helpful
“A Great Space-Themed Empire Building Game”

I like the fact that the publisher’s description for Eminent Domain uses the term “Empire Building” rather than “deck building” because the theme is what makes this game fun for me.

In Eminent Domain, you get to explore worlds, represented as cards that you lay in front of you in your play area. To utilize the unique capabilities and resources of those worlds, you need to either Colonize the world, or Subjugate it through warfare. You gain victory points by controlling these worlds, trading resources, and researching technologies.

The actions you can take depend on the cards in your hand, however on your turn you also get to draw from the pool of role cards (which is how you get more cards added to your deck). At the end of your turn you get to choose which cards (if any) you want to discard. So, if you want to save up the research cards to get a cool technology, you can do that.

The rules are very simple, and for a “training” game you can play without using the research cards. It’s not that the research is really that complicated, it just helps avoid having new players get confused on their first play.

There are many different strategies that you can try – the variety is one of the great things about this game. Your strategy often has to change based on what your opponent is doing and what worlds you end up surveying.

Oh, and the little plastic ships add a surprising amount of enjoyment to the game, even though they’re basically just tokens.

 
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3
Critic - Level 2
 
97 of 115 gamers found this helpful
“Role Selection and Deckbuilding without the chaos.”

This review, along with photographs was originally posted at http://www.nerdbloggers.com

Tasty Minstrel Games has taken their games to new heights with the space themed, Seth Jaffee designed board game Eminent Domain. While the title of the game may sound like the sort of legalese a cheap polyester attorney would feed you right before demolishing your house to make way for an interstellar bypass, in execution Eminent Domain forgoes any legal wrangling and instead tasks players with discovering and settling planets to score influence points. Any sleazy space attorneys that may be part of these proceedings have, thankfully, been abstracted out of gameplay.

In Eminent Domain, players attempt to score influence points by discovering planets, colonizing or attacking them, and researching technologies. Each planet gives different benefits to the player, allowing him to excel at certain actions or trade resources for points. Players take turns selecting a role card from the center of the table, and performing any instructions on the card before adding the card to their personal deck. By using cards in their hand, and special features of planets on the table, players can enhance the effect of certain roles. Whoever can best manage their deck, and make the best role choices will ultimately gain the most influence, and win the game.

Eminent Domain is reminiscent of several different modern games. The role selection mechanism that was popularized by San Juan and Race for the Galaxy is featured prominently in Eminent Domain’s gameplay, as is the deck building paradigm that Dominion pioneered. Despite this obvious influence, Eminent Domain manages to take these two disparate ideas of role selection and deck building and merge them together into a unique mash-up that has a flavor and strategy that stands on its own.

Components:

Right out of the gate, the components in Eminent Domain scream high quality. The artwork is colorful and pleasing, and the components are rugged and well made. This is especially redeeming, as Tasty Minstrel Games suffered some production issues during their freshman attempt at publishing games a few years ago, when a large majority of the first print run of the game Homesteaders was shipped from the factory with critical manufacturing flaws. Not willing to be knocked out so easily, Tasty Minstrel Games has shifted production of their games to a different, highly respected manufacturer, with absolutely stellar results.

Board – Although Eminent Domain is more of a card game than a board game, it includes a glossy board to hold the various cards that players will collect through the game. This is not only nice because it helps organize the play space, but it is also functional in imparting rules information to the players when all of the cards of a certain type have been collected.

Cards – Gameplay in Eminent Domain centers on the manipulation of its various cards. These cards are printed on linen stock and display vivid, colorful artwork. The cards are good quality, but they have black edges, and even after a single play the edges of my cards started to show some whitening. Because the cards will be constantly shuffled during play, Eminent Domain (like most deck builders), is a candidate for card sleeves.

Cardboard Bits – The few cardboard bits found in Eminent Domain are thick and sturdy. The Influence Point tokens, starting planets, and player reference cards were a joy to punch from their cardboard sheet; some even fell out out on their own, impatient to play. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s actually very important to me. When I first open up a brand new game and find that the cardboard pieces are difficult to punch, causing them to split or tear, it makes me anxious and affects my enjoyment of the game. I plan to keep my games around for many years, and knowing that pieces aren’t going to be defaced before the first game has seen it’s first play is greatly appreciated.

Spaceships – When first opening Eminent Domain, one finds carefully packaged in a baggie, inside of a small box, a set of small, black, plastic spaceships. The spaceships come in three different shapes, with each shape a differing size. The spaceships serve as simple counters to denote a player’s current military might, but they look really neat, and are a lot of fun to handle. It could be argued that wooden cubes or cardboard tokens would serve the purpose just as effectively as these little plastic fighters, but during play, little touches like this really help reinforce the theme. It is a bid odd though that the ships come in three sizes, because the size of the ship has no relevance in gameplay. Seth Jaffee was kind enough to talk to me about these interesting components, and I came out of the exchange with much more information about the ship tokens came to be, and what the future holds for them – You will have to wait till the conclusion of this review for that juicy info though!

Rulebook – The rulebook is very colorful, and has large, detailed illustrations of the game components. It is easy to understand, and the fact that it doesn’t contain a wall of text makes it very inviting to read. As a nice thank-you, the manual also has a list of all of the people who contributed financially to Eminent Domain‘s Kickstarter birth.

Setup:

Since Eminent Domain is a card game at it’s heart, setup mostly involves separating cards and putting them into the correct piles on the board. There are three major classes of cards: Role cards, Planet cards, and Technology cards.

The Role cards will make up the brunt of a player’s deck, and are sorted into the five roles that a player can choose on his turn: Survey, Warfare, Colonize, Produce/Trade, and Research. Each type of role card has two distinct abilities printed on it; one for the Role phase, and one for the Action phase. Once sorted, the role cards are placed in piles indicated on the game board, and each player is dealt a hand of 10 predetermined Role cards that will make up his starting deck.

After the role cards are set up, the technology cards are separated by type and placed next to the board, as well as the planet cards which are shuffled together and placed face down in a pile. The resource markers, spaceships, and influence tokens are then placed in piles near the play area.

Each player starts the game with a random unexplored starting planet in his play area. These starting planets are easily differentiated from the other planets by the fact that they are printed on a thick cardboard tile.

Once the game has been set up, players shuffle their deck and then draw 5 cards to make up their starting hand. Play is ready to begin.

Gameplay:

Play in Eminent Domain is deceptively simple. Each gameplay turn is separated into 3 distinct phases: Action, Role Selection, and Cleanup.

During the Action phase, a player may play a card from his hand, and perform the action listed in the “Action” section of the card. This action is restricted to the current player, and unlike the Role phase that will be described next, it is not performed by other players in the game. The action phase is optional, and a player may find himself forgoing an Action phase and saving his cards to take better advantage of the Role phase.

After a player has performed his action phase, the mandatory Role phase begins. During his Role phase, a player chooses one of the Role cards from the center of the table: Survey, Warfare, Colonize, Produce/Trade, or Research. Each role will give the player a specific ability, printed in the “Role” section of the card, but while the action phase gave an exclusive ability to the player, every other player in the game is allowed to take advantage of the selected Role card during the role phase.

Role cards also give the player an opportunity to “Boost” a role’s effect by playing cards from his hand, or utilizing the special abilities of explored planets in his tableau. This is where the deck building portion of Eminent Domain really becomes apparent. When you select a Role in the Role phase, the card you take makes its way into your discard pile, and eventually your deck. This means the more you select a certain role, the more likely those Role cards will be in your hand, and the more cards you will have available to enhance the effect of a particular role.

Each Role card has a very specific purpose in forwarding a player’s strategy:

Survey – The Survey card allows the player to draw cards from the planet deck, and place it unexplored in his tableau. Planets do not score points, or give effects to players until they have been explored, so this is just the first step in expanding an empire. Players can “boost” the Survey role by playing more survey cards from their hand, increasing the number of cards a player can look at before choosing a planet to explore. Since planets have differing abilities, having a larger number to choose from allows the player to better select planets that align with his larger strategy. The player who chooses Survey as a role, automatically gets to look at and take a single planet card without playing any additional cards, but players who wish to use this role on another player’s turn must play at least two survey cards from their hand. This limitation avoids the uncontrollable proliferation of planets by making planets more expensive on other players’ turns.

Colonize – While the Survey role will allow players to get planets from the deck to their tableau, the planets cannot be utilized until they are flipped over to the “explored” side. Each planet has two values printed on it’s unexplored size: The first is the number of colonies needed to settle it, and the second is the military might needed to conquer it. The Colonize action works towards the first objective, by allowing players to build colonies on the planet, or if there are already enough colonies on the planet, to “settle” the planet and flip it over onto its explored side. While other players may expend colonize cards and add colonies to a planet during an opponent’s colonize role, a player may only settle if he was the one who chose the role.

Warfare – While some players may choose to go the peaceful settlement route, those bloodthirsty gamers may wish instead to conquer planets with with military might – and that’s where the Warfare role comes into play. Similar to the colonies in the colonization role, a player may use the warfare role to amass ships to conquer planets. If the player already has enough warships to meet the attack number on the planet card, he may choose to Attack instead, by returning the required number of ships back to the supply, and flipping the planet card to it’s explored side. Like the colonize action, only the current player can attack a planet, but all players may discard Warfare cards, and use planet abilities to gain more spaceships.

Produce/Trade – Many planets have the ability to generate resources that can then be sold for influence points. The Produce/Trade role is used to activate these planet abilities. When selecting the Produce/Trade role, the player announces which aspect of the role he is exercising. If he produces, he may place a little wooden resource disk on a production planet; by boosting the role, he can produce on more than one planet. If the player chooses the Trade role, then the opposite of Produce occurs, and the player may remove a resource from the planet, return it to the supply, and gain an influence point in return. By boosting the Trade role, the player can perform this action on more planets. This Produce/Trade cycle can really start to pump out influence points for the player if he has built his deck in a way to facilitate this economic engine.

Research – With the previous four roles, the gameplay is pretty straightforward: Players Survey to gain unexplored planets; then they settle or attack those planets; and finally generate influence points by gaining more planets, or using the Produce/Trade role to sell goods. The research role breaks this predictable cycle up a bit, and is really what adds character to the game. The research role serves two purposes: The first is to allow the player to purchase technology cards with special actions that are much stronger than the base role cards; the second is to allow the player to tailor his deck by removing unwanted role cards from his hand.

The research role may be the most complicated to understand for new players, because it has an action that allows players to remove cards from the game entirely. New players will often ask me why anyone would want to use an action that makes them discard cards, but after several plays the importance of removing cards from a deck to make it more effective becomes very apparent: At the start of the game the ability to Survey and Settle/Attack is extremely important, but as the game progresses those actions can clog a player’s deck; especially one who is looking to utilize the Produce/Trade abilities of his planet. Because of this ability, the research role actually becomes one of the most important roles in the game.

The technology cards that can be purchased with the research role are also very important. Most of the technology cards act like super-powered role cards, with expanded actions that are stronger than their simple role counterparts. In conjunction with the research ability to remove cards, players can trash the more basic role cards, and increase the likelihood that one of the powerful technology cards will be drawn.

After a player has taken his action, selected his role and played any cards to boost it’s effect, the newly drawn role card and all the cards used to boost it are put in the player’s discard pile. The player may also choose to discard any number of cards from his hand, before drawing his hand back up to 5 cards. When the player runs out of cards in his deck, he shuffles his discard pile to create a new deck.

While this is the basic flow of the game, there is a bit more depth when actually looking at the special powers of the planets and the different technology cards. Many technology and planet cards have icons on them that correspond to a particular role. A card with one of these icons can be used just like a role card when boosting the matching role. Planets may also give other abilities, such as allowing a player an increased hand size. I wanted to wait until after I had described general gameplay before discussing this iconography, not because it is difficult to understand (in fact, it is very simple), but because Eminent Domain shares a lot of mechanical similarity to another icon heavy game: Race for the Galaxy. While Race for the Galaxy‘s iconography can take a while to learn, and is complicated to some, the iconography in Eminent Domain is very straightforward and very easy to understand. Simply put, if there is an icon on a card in Eminent Domain it means one of two things: either it increases your hand size, or it can be used like a Role card when boosting a role effect.

Conclusion:

I enjoyed playing Eminent Domain. It’s mechanics and theme really fit together in a pleasing, easy to understand whole. Where some games may mire the various actions in complexity, the purpose of the various roles in Eminent Domain are clearly defined, making it easy to create and execute a strategy. The addition of Technology and Planet cards add spice to the game by introducing some rule changing properties and effects which keep Eminent Domain from growing stale, and keep players on their toes.

Deck building as a game mechanism has been polarizing gamers lately. With a large number of games trying to jump on the Dominion bandwagon, many people have become fatigued with the idea. But, those gamers who dislike deck building games may not want to discount Eminent Domain out of hand. While Eminent Domain does contain a deck building mechanism, it is not presented in the same manner as most deck builders. In fact, Eminent Domain‘s gameplay is closer in feel to a role selection game like San Juan or Race for the Galaxy than a Dominion style game. The deck building acts almost as a mechanism to simulate gaining experience in a given role, and doesn’t offer the perpetual card combos that can drag out player turns in other games.

Players who own Race for the Galaxy may find Eminent Domain jockeying for the same spot on the game shelf. Eminent Domain has unique mechanics that allow it to easily stand on its own, but with such a similar theme, and role selection mechanism, both titles may feel like they scratch the same itch. Eminent Domain is certainly a more directed game experience; it’s fairly small subset of planets and powers allow players to strategically shape their empire – and drawing cards doesn’t feel like a fishing expedition. As a result, the Eminent Domain player may feel more empowered, and have more control than the Race for the Galaxy player. By the same stroke however, Eminent Domain can feel like it lacks breadth of content, with the handful of planets appearing somewhat anonymous, and without personality.

Eminent Domain is a very approachable game, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Its gameplay is simple; perhaps deceptively so. The choices that can be made, and they way different actions interact with each other, appear straightforward and understandable. While this is great from an accessibility standpoint, it also means that players may feel they have a handle on the game after the first few minutes of play, and mistakenly think that it lacks depth. Given a few games however, it becomes apparent that the workable strategies in Eminent Domain are much more varied and subtle than first glance. Understanding how to use the Research cards is a big part of opening up the greater depth of Eminent Domain, and may take a few plays before it really clicks. Once it clicks though, Eminent Domain changes from an entertaining diversion, to a truly fun game teeming with strategic choices.

There are many different paths to victory in Eminent Domain, but some strategies might seem overpowered to the new player. Take Warfare vs. Colonization as an example: When a player uses a colonization strategy, his colony cards are tied up during use, because they must be placed under the planet to be colonized. Only when the planet is settled are those returned to the deck. Warfare, on the other hand produces spaceship tokens which can be stockpiled to attack a planet later. After producing the ships, the Warfare cards go right back into the discard pile, and eventually make their way back into the player’s hand to produce more warships, whereas the colony cards languish out of play under a planet.

This is assumption that Warfare is unbalanced is deceptive, though, and one of the situations where the subtlety of strategy in Eminent Domain really shines. Although a Warfare strategy will generate lots of ships for the player, the player may instead chooses to settle planets with colonization icons on them. Using this alternative strategy the player will find that the number of colonies needed to settle each planet decreases with each new planet. Pursuing this strategy far enough, with enough icons in his tableau, the player can settle a planet in a single action without having to first add any colonies to it. This means that a player using the colony strategy is able to take over planets in less turns than a player using the warfare strategy. A player using a colony strategy may also choose to keep colonies out of play, under unsettled planets, as a strategy to change the distribution of cards in his deck. Strategies like these add a subtle balance to the different roles, and may not be apparent at first glance. But, as players become more familiar with the game, the possibilities unfold into a very rich game-space.

While most of the design in Eminent Domain is surprisingly elegant, there are a few parts of the design that seem almost superfluous. The two that immediately come to mind are the plastic spaceships, and the resource counters. Don’t get me wrong, I think the spaceships are really cool and help solidify the space theme, but the three different shapes are a bit disorienting. It feels like the different ships should each have a unique purpose, and not just act as simple counters. The colored resource disks also seem out of place. Each planet produces one of four different resource types, but these different resources aren’t really relevant to gameplay aside from a couple of technology cards that give bonuses based on diversity. Whether a planet produces water or silicon is largely irrelevant. I thought that perhaps these components were added to the game in anticipation of an expansion that would more appropriately use them, and the mere presence of the different sized ships and different types of resources made me wonder whether there is added depth just beyond their painted surfaces.

Instead of speculating about this, I went straight to the horses mouth and contacted game designer Seth Jaffee. The story behind the components in Eminent Domain actually turned out to give an interesting glimpse into the game development and production process.

Eminent Domain originally called for small back disks to represent the warfare counters, But as it became apparent that Eminent Domain would exceed its Kickstarter funding goal, Seth Jaffee and Tasty Minstrel founder Michael Mindes wanted to add some cool bits to the game that would add to the theme and increase the production value. The original plan was to design custom fighter tokens, but the cost of making the molds was prohibitive. They did, however, have access to the ship molds that were used in the game Galactic Emperor, and decided that using these ships would add to the theme of the game (I agree that it does!) while still meeting the budget. These molds happened to have all three sizes of ships in each mold, and as a result, every copy of Eminent Domain comes with those three different types of ships. Seth Jaffee is currently designing an expansion for Eminent Domain, however, and he tells me that he has some ideas for utilizing the different types of ships. In his own words:

“I am working on an expansion … [where] the small ships will remain Fighters, the medium ships will be called Destroyers, and the large ships will be called Dreadnaughts. The difference between them is really sort of like a military tech tree in a way – they are used for different things, not just ‘destroyers are equivalent to 3 Fighters’ or anything like that. So for those who can’t stand the thought of 2 different ships both being ‘1 Fighter,’ sit tight! Some time next year you will probably have an expansion that makes them different!”

As for the differing planet resources: that was a design decision to add a bit more theme to differentiate the planets, and also give players more strategy when utilizing technologies. While it may seem that the game should support planets or tech that require specific types of resources in their purchase price, in practice, those choices unbalanced the game. Seth does have some ideas that he hopes to include in the next expansion to take more advantage of the different resource types; and he even hints at a “top secret” idea for a future expansion sometime after that (maybe it’s those infamous polyester space attorneys absent from the base game!). He has certainly piqued my interest, and I am excited to see what is in store for Eminent Domain‘s future. Waiting won’t be TOO hard though, because the base game has plenty of depth packed inside of its box to keep me entertained for quite a while.

After many plays, I have come to the conclusion that Eminent Domain, through it’s easy to understand rule set, colorful cards, and sturdy components, is most definitely compelling – and perhaps more importantly, a lot of fun! Eminent Domain is a game that seems to exist to defy preconceptions; no matter what you may think about the individual game mechanisms that make up the game, Eminent Domain is sure to surprise you, and may just sneak up on you to become one of your favorites. It is certainly proof that a game can be greater than the sum of it’s parts.

 
Player Avatar
7
I play black
Paladin
Knight-errant
BoardGaming.com Gold Supporter
9
91 of 108 gamers found this helpful
“Wow! My new favorite Deck Building game!”

Eminent Domain does very little that is new, but sort of like a Stefan Feld game, it takes disparate game mechanics and puts them together to form a synergy: they add up to a better game than they were apart.

There is a lot familiar here: deck building, role selection, production/trade. It’s sort of a Race-for-the-Dominion mashup. The designer, Seth Jaffee, posted an article discussing his design process and influences here:

The game play is fast and light, with some tough decisions, and there are many different strategies. I’ve only played a few times, so I am no expert yet, but the strategies do seem balanced, with good opportunities for victory. The rules are simpler than the source games, and the game comes with good player aids (which also act as the starting player selection). Starting planets are different for each player, and are randomly determined with extra planets for added variety.

Graphically the game is spectacular, with vivid colors, large images, and clear text. The wood and cardboard bits are all unique and colorful. The plastic ships are aesthetically pleasing, and black (which gets an extra nod from me) though unnecessarily large and varied.

I really love this game, and find myself thinking about the gameplay for days after each time I play. TMG has itself another winner here.

 
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4
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
Pet Lover
9
92 of 113 gamers found this helpful
“A quick review for an excellent game”

Components: 5 of 5
The quality simply can’t be any better.

Gameplay: 5 of 5
Deck building where every player gets a turn, even on other players’ turns! If you play cards on your turn, then other players can play the exact same cards as you on YOUR turn, or they get to draw a card. This means absolutely no down time or boredom.

Replay Value: 5 of 5
The strategies are limitless and they must also be adaptive to what other players are doing on their turn. You may have a strategy at first, but then you may have to change it because other players are “piggy backing” off of it too well.

Simplicity: 4 of 5
Once players are in the flow of the game, Eminent Domain is easy to understand. Do your group a favor though and do not play with the Tech Cards their first time through. This prevents the initial “overwhelmed” feeling.

Overall: 5 of 5
This deck building game has enough to set it apart from the others while still remaining simple enough for all gamer types/levels to enjoy. Eminent Domain is easily a “go-to” game for my gaming group.

 
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2
Gamer - Level 2
10
98 of 127 gamers found this helpful
“Simple Game, Amazing Depth”

Eminent Domain is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite games. It’s elegant, easy to learn and easy to play (at least I think so) but with a wealth of strategy and tactical ideas behind it.

I really did like how it’s both a role selection game and a deck builder with mechanics like the Nightfall chaining mechanic where you can play cards on other people’s turn but also like getting card advantage from not doing it.

I also like how it really feels like set up and tear down don’t take as long as other deck builders. That’s really my only beef with deck building games is that it takes almost as long to get everything out and set up as it does to play some of them, especially if you only play one game with them.

 
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8
Rosetta Stone
Football Fan
Explorer - Level 5
Junior
5
93 of 127 gamers found this helpful
“Average deck building game”

There is some depth here, but only if you don’t race to victory. If you want a casual deck building game with a space theme, and want to explore everything that it offers, you’ll have much more fun.

Briefly, there are 5 different action cards to draw from, and when any of those cards runs out the game is over. I tried a Colonize strategy, and the two others tried Military. Because two people were cycling thru the Military deck every turn, the game ended before anybody bought any of the technology cards.

This isn’t a weakness of Military, because we all tied with 10 points at the end of the game. But most of the variety is in the Technology cards, and we didn’t even see any of them.

So if everyone agrees to not rush to victory, you might experience more of the game. But it seems a bit strange to avoid winning in order to have fun.

 
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4
9
4 of 5 gamers found this helpful
“Pretty lighthearted basic deck-builder in space”

Eminent Domain was a term that I first remember from Social Studies in grade school referring to the government’s ability to buy land from someone whether they wanted to sell it or not. So when I came across this title on the shelf of my FLGS, I was curious, particularly because it appeared to be a spacescape across the box. No ships, just what looked like a giant gas nebula. So I turned the box over and saw little ships on the box, and “Empire Builder.” I was immediately intrigued. I was fairly new to the hobby at the time, and while I had played Dominion before, I hadn’t grasped how big the genre was, and someone wasn’t able to grasp that this was one. So what happened once I opened it up?

Well, obviously, I was able to quickly deduce that it was a card based game. I had kind of expected some kind of map to fight over. The rest of it, unfortunately, was a slog to learn. The rule book was poor to say the least. All I can think is that it was written by someone who was too familiar with the game and forgot that it might be played by someone who was (like me at the time) new to gaming, and didn’t know the lead/follow mechanism. Even after going through the rule book, I saw “Game End” in the book, had been told how to choose cards, but hadn’t yet been told how to use those cards once we had them.

However, eventually, by watching some tutorial videos, I was able to figure out how to play the game. Once I was able to do this, and actually start playing the game, I found it quite enjoyable. Mind you, it was different from what I expected, but I enjoyed it. I found the mechanism of everyone just picking the card from the central display, without having to pay for it intriguing. And um, I was, before looking through each stack, shuffling them…um…anyway, this was my first exposure to the follow mechanism, since replicated in many games. I found I enjoyed it.

I also found I enjoyed having two different paths to choose from to gain points. I could either go the military route, and collect ships to conquer planets, or I could go the colonization path, and pick those cards. It was interesting seeing which method worked better, particularly depending on which planets came out. I’ve seen people succeed with both methods, and it’s fun to see players racing to try using opposite strategies. It’s even more fun to see players choose the same path to victory and race for the same planets since the planets that are good colonization targets normally aren’t good military targets. The tech cards, once we started using them, added some nice flavor to the game, and gave some direction to a strategy, rather than just move faster than your opponent. It allows the player to get an engine going to fuel their deck as they conquer planets. It was different in that you’re not trying to strip cards out of your deck like most deck builders. Instead, if anything, you want to beef your deck up with one particular strategy, so by the end, you’re able to conquer a planet in one quick shot. I’ve even seen games where by the end players were even flipping over two planet cards.

So what were the parts that disappointed me? Well, seeing different ship molds, I was expecting combat. I expected something to fight my opponent’s fleet or something to take planets from them. I was even more disappointed when the different ship molds didn’t mean anything. My understanding is that this was fixed in the expansions, but it didn’t matter whether I took a big ship piece or the tiny one. After a time it seemed to suffer from being multiplayer solitaire. It would have been nice to have some interaction, and that could have made the game a whole lot more strategic and thematic, having to worry about how is my opponent going to disrupt my plans. I also didn’t care for the method of ending the game. Running out piles seemed to end the game too quickly, especially since either the Colonize or Warfare cards seemed to be the way to go. Too many of my times with this game it seemed like we were just getting an engine going when it was forced to end. Yes, this is a common complaint about engine building games, but it somehow seemed more acute in this game.

The components were surprisingly good. The cards had a nice feel and finish to them, and are more durable than most cards in games. The ship minis were surprisingly detailed for the price point of the game. The only problem, lots of people like to paint minis, and the black plastic could have made it difficult. I can also see how the Central Display piece could easily become frayed and could break in two fairly quickly if the game gets played a lot; quicker than the folding points of many boards that I can think of. I did like the artwork of the game, and perhaps the fact that it didn’t evoke any particular sci-fi universe in my mind, as many generic sci-fi games seem to try to do with their art style, allows me to see the game on its own.

So what did I think overall? Well, despite the long list of complaints, and the lousy rulebook, I actually enjoyed it. For its price, and what it was, I found it enjoyable. Now, I am kind of a sucker for deck-builders, so I wasn’t too disappointed when building an empire didn’t mean conquering your enemy; but that lack of interaction does mean I get to this game in spurts. Eventually, after a few games of this, I just want something where I get to throw a bunch of space ships at my opponent and fight it out. If you’re looking for a simple deck builder that’s not gonna cause a fight, check this out.

 
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1
4
93 of 153 gamers found this helpful
“Meh, but solid”

I really wanted to love this game but after a couple of plays my group just fell flat with it. Its not complex by any means, I just think it felt like a semi-multi-player solitaire. Maybe we were doing something wrong, maybe not but man it just didn’t sit well with us. I see potential there for the right group, but we’ve gone so massive player interaction now its tough to go to such games. To each his own, I see someone loving this especially looking for that almost RPGish style Dominion where you can build upon what you already have I did think that was neat and well done.

 
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2
Gamer - Level 2
9
75 of 150 gamers found this helpful
“Great game”

This game is easier to learn than Race for the Galaxy and prettier than most other card games on the market. It’s fun to play (especially with three or four players) and should remain so for some time. I recommend it.

 

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