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Subject: Eminent Domain: A Brief Review rss

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Bruce Clark
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The back story:

Going back to last November and Tom Vasel’s (p)review-vertisement, I was excited about this game. I rushed over to kickstarter.com and signed up for one right away!

Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

But a few weeks ago, the game arrived on my doorstep, and it wasn’t long before I got two games in! What follows is a review based off of one four-player game, without knowing the rules or what the goal of the game is beforehand (yes, I’m one of those people that need the game in front of me to really understand what’s going on), and later a 2-player game (with a MUCH better comprehension of the rules).

The components (8/10):


I like the box, although it is a bit shinier than what I’m used to. The components are pretty nice too. Colored wooden disks, sign me up! The cards are beautiful except that under my dining room light, sometimes the reflection is so bright I have to shift my head to see what’s on the card (#firstworldproblems). The space ships are really cool too, but I wonder if they are just off the shelf components? I can’t really see them paying the upfront costs of designing and building tooling for little plastic toys, when the other bits are cardboard and wood. I like the flip-out board, but that also, too, seems unnecessary. That’s like having a board in Settlers whose sole purpose is to organize your resource card piles. Even though the cards fit on the smaller side, the insert leaves something to be desired, as I wish the flip-out board would fit inside the larger compartment. Luckily it can rest on top.

The rules (5/10):


The rules are written on very nice, glossy paper, with big fonts and good graphics. I understand what they were trying to do here, but in my struggle to read/comprehend the rules while playing, I found it difficult to understand how to play the game. “So what do you DO” and “Let’s just play and see if it makes sense” were all heard. Some points:
• How to get new planets wasn’t evidently obvious from just reading through the rules. Something that is quite important in the game should be stated, re-stated, and stated again. Instead it was buried in the “Survey” section of the Roles description. I think it should have been all tied together when it told you to set up the Planets deck, or something similar.
• Tech cards seem to be a big part of the game, but they’re not really discussed until the “Research” section. Again, I think an overview up front will help in comprehension.
• We had a hell of a time trying to decode the cards. For example, +1 Colony for every [colony symbol]. It wasn’t until a few rounds that we figured out what exactly that meant. It meant that every card in your tableau that has that symbol, you get to do what that role says. A little up front clarification might have been nice.
• There is no Index, saying which page to go to for whatever game rule you are looking for. While the rules aren’t lengthy, an Index would still be kind of helpful.

At the end of the day, we DID get through the rules, and my second game we had a lot fewer questions (and misplays).

Gameplay (8/10):


This game is pretty damn fun! One of the paths to victory is getting your resource engine going, which is a lot like Agricola (spend a turn to sow some vegetables, and another turn to harvest them) except you don’t have to feed your people! Getting a good resource engine going is highly satisfying. I also like the many different strategies you can employ to find victory, and how you can augment that strategy with tech cards. Have a lot of Warfare cards? Grab a Scorched Earth tech. Lots of resource slots? Get an Improved Production card.

Haven’t quite delved into tactical play much, like trying to screw your opponent by denying them a role to follow. I did manage to reduce my play of Colonize when I saw the Colony deck down to 3, so I could try to get more Victory Points (and face it guys, that’s what they are. Influence?). But really, at midgame, your opponent will likely have a variety of cards in their hand, so they will probably be able to follow your role if they wanted. The real trick is to maximize your plays so that you can Settle 2 planets at once. I was never able to figure that out, but watched as my wife did that with ease.

One small nit is that the start of the game you have very limited actions, basically Colonize or Warfare. So it starts slow but then gets going shortly after. And then in the endgame, if you suffer from AP, well, you can be taking a few minutes per turn (Should I try to grab another planet, or should I just go for techs?)

Choosing techs can bog the game down, since you can rummage through the deck to see what you can buy, and some cards even have technology on both sides. And if you have 5 research points and 6 planets, 2 of each, you can be looking for quite some time for what you want to buy. I understand and appreciate what the designers are trying to do, give the player options, but I think that this is a critical error - if indeed there are any - in the game. A game with fast paced action shouldn’t ever have something bog it down like this. Agricola handled this problem with only a few major improvements always visible, so you didn’t have to sort through a big stack of them. And the other improvements were always in your hand. I don’t know what the solution to this problem would be: A vast array of available technologies for purchase, that doesn’t bog the game down when making a choice. I guess after you are fluent in the game, you’ll just know what techs you want and can quickly make the selection.

But at the end of the day, there is a lot of action, and it’s good action. Points for having all players act on all turns. I know how player downtime is always a major design consideration nowadays (or, at least, should be), and this game seeks to minimize it. And decisions are fairly straightforward, yet still complex enough that there’s a lot of card maximizing going on (or at least trying to!).

Theme (5/10):


I really wanted to fall in love with the theme of this game. A game about colonizing or attacking planets, harvesting resources, intergalactic trading, what’s not to like! But for all that to translate to a board game, and to feel like I am out conquering the galaxy, this game didn’t do it for me (obligatory mention of Race for the Galaxy, does it better for me). Surveying the galaxy doesn’t feel like I’m the Galactic Empire scouring the galaxy looking for a secret Rebel base, and I feel that it should. It feels like I’m sorting through a few cards, and finding one that matches the stats I need. Colonizing a planet doesn’t feel like I’m putting a bunch of people on the planet, it feels too mechanical like I just need to have one more card tucked and then I can settle it. And technology cards are nothing more than stat boosters, to me. The starships did add a nice touch of theme, though.

With the exception of a few tech cards, the differences in resource type seem minimal to me. I hope the differences will be more pronounced in future expansions, but right now they seem trivial. While nice bits, they are just pieces of wood you put on a card, and don’t really feel like that planet is producing that item. Although the plentiful harvest, or whatever card that pre-populates a planet with product, was a nice touch.

My last nit of the game regarding theme is the name. When I see a game called Eminent Domain, I expect something along the lines of the government taking over grandma’s house to put a McDonald’s there, not what this game actually is about. With a game like this, maybe Galactic Domination would have been more appropriate. I don’t know, but Eminent Domain seems too legalese for me, for a board game

Overall (Solid 7.2/10):


Despite the many gripes, I do enjoy this game. 2-player is fast action, and 4-player has a bunch of player interactions that I can’t wait to experience. I like that you CAN play it 2-player, and that it plays in about an hour. Set up and tear down is quick, and the concepts are fairly easy. Plus it’s pretty to look at. At the end of the day, I will definitely be keeping this game near the top of my ready-to-play game stack. I can’t wait for more expansions!
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Kenny VenOsdel
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Nice brief review. After reading your few gripes about the game play I think this game will climb in your ratings. It doesn't take long to learn the techs pretty well and usually I know what one I will grab as soon as I call a Research role. As you play you will also learn what actions are important and when. Colonize and Warfare are definitely not the only actions you can start out doing! Especially you shouldn't be colonizing as an action. I'd expand on that more but I think you'd like to learn why for yourself.

Keep playing, it only gets better.
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Peter Loop
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avicell wrote:
The space ships are really cool too, but I wonder if they are just off the shelf components? I can’t really see them paying the upfront costs of designing and building tooling for little plastic toys, when the other bits are cardboard and wood.


They are not off the shelf, but where used in a prior game Galactic Emperor. They got access to the moldes(the most expesive part), so it was cost effective to use them - there would have been no platic ship counter if the had to make them from scratch

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Paul Zagieboylo
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avicell wrote:
I guess after you are fluent in the game, you’ll just know what techs you want and can quickly make the selection.


I think this is absolutely true. The 1st level techs are all basically the same: improved [standard action] with an extra icon. After that, there are only 7 2nd level and 2 3rd level techs per planet type, and a lot of them are pretty similar too, so I get the feeling you learn them pretty fast. Although I haven't gotten a chance to play it yet; my copy only arrived last week

I am forced to agree with you about the rulebook; its layout seems very random and sporadic to me.
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James Lin
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kvenosdel wrote:
Colonize and Warfare are definitely not the only actions you can start out doing! Especially you shouldn't be colonizing as an action. I'd expand on that more but I think you'd like to learn why for yourself.

Keep playing, it only gets better.

But what if no one picks the Colonize action because you have two planets with Colonize bonuses? cry
 
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Michael Logan
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DFuzzy1 wrote:
kvenosdel wrote:
Colonize and Warfare are definitely not the only actions you can start out doing! Especially you shouldn't be colonizing as an action. I'd expand on that more but I think you'd like to learn why for yourself. ;)

Keep playing, it only gets better.

But what if no one picks the Colonize action because you have two planets with Colonize bonuses? :cry:


Then they are adapting properly. They will just follow your colonize actions.
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Chris Berger
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A) you can't follow an action.
B) Colonize icons on your planets don't do anything for you when you follow a Colonize role.
 
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Michael Logan
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arkayn wrote:
B) Colonize icons on your planets don't do anything for you when you follow a Colonize role.


Correct...but if you have 2 of them, it would probably not be wise to provide additional help by using the Colonize role.
 
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Kenny VenOsdel
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Eminent Domain » Forums » Reviews
Re: Eminent Domain: A Brief Review
DFuzzy1 wrote:
kvenosdel wrote:
Colonize and Warfare are definitely not the only actions you can start out doing! Especially you shouldn't be colonizing as an action. I'd expand on that more but I think you'd like to learn why for yourself. ;)

Keep playing, it only gets better.

But what if no one picks the Colonize action because you have two planets with Colonize bonuses? :cry:


I was referring to your first couple actions. Later in the game colonize actions are very useful.
 
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