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Subject: Feeding Your Addiction: Dominant Species Review rss

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Christopher
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Leander
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The one sentence takeaway:

If my game collection fell prey to a vicious fiery hurricane tornado disaster, and I could only save one game, this would unequivocally be it.

Preface

The one new game I played in November 2012 changed my outlook on all games... forever. Typically, I trend toward medium-to-light weight games with high player interaction that can be played in less than 90 minutes. Some of my favorites include (the contentious) Settlers of Catan, (the accessible) Ticket to Ride, and (the unforgivng classic) Puerto Rico.

On the rare occasion I look for new games, I search for dependable bargains that offer a new idea (theme, mechanic, discipline, etc.) to my collection. Some things that I have learned about my tastes is that I can't handle too many pieces -- I'm looking at you, Agricola -- and too many choices lead to too much downtime/boredom. When I bought Dominant Species I was worried about what I was getting myself into; on the surface it seemed like it had too many features I disliked about games. I was delightfully surprised.


Components and Set Up

The rules for Dominant Species are very well written, and provide many illustrated examples to clarify obvious (and not-so obvious) questions about play. The game is easy to set up, and can be ready to play within minutes of opening the box.

I purchased the game with the first edition art. The components are not extravagant (no animeeples or veggimeeples), but are very well suited for play. As the board fills with our pieces they succinctly conveyed what was taking place on our earth, but didn't make the board feel too cluttered.

Playing the Game

Dominant Species plays smoothly. The choices are easy to understand, and nothing about the components or the play seems superfluous. Everything fits together perfectly for a near-perfect gaming experience.

The first part of each turn, worker placement, offers plenty of choices, but not too many for the experienced gamer to be overwhelmed with AP. (My wife, who prefers games with fewer choices, was not too keen on this phase of the game.) There are plenty of nuances to certain worker combinations and subtle, yet deadly shifts occur when a player makes a well timed placement. Even this phase of the turn feels competitive, and not worker placementy...

The rest of the turn, executing a player's choices on the board, matched the theme perfectly. Players jockey for position on the board, adapt for survival, migrate in search of greener pastures, and compete with each other for the highly-prized areas. In initial plays, it is easy to make mistakes, but Dominant Species is not as unforgiving as Puerto Rico.

NB: for many new players to the two hardest concepts to grasp are the dual scoring mechanic, dominance vs. control, and the urge to constantly count pieces.

Winning the Game

During parts of the game it may seem like one player could run away with the victory, but most of the time the game is very competitive during final scoring.

There are multiple paths to victory, and it is rarely too late to switch strategies during the game. Toward the end of the game, though, the focus often shifts from establishing your position to disrupting others' winning combinations.

Final Thoughts

If my board game collection fell prey to a vicious fiery hurricane tornado disaster, and I could only save one game, this would unequivocally be it. Dominant Species is the best game I have ever played.

Dominant Species masterfully takes everything I like about board games and puts it all into one game. It is easy to learn for the average gamer, intuitive to play, and has a superb amount of player interaction in all phases of the game. Even my biggest reservation -- the length of the game -- was a moot point.

My first game, which lasted nearly four and a half hours, felt like a quick, mind-blowing 90 minutes. Subsequent plays (four in a span of three days) cemented my feelings about the game. With more experience, the play time dropped, and, even with more players, there was never a dull moment.

I will be coming back to this game for a very long time.


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Sky Zero
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Another Convert! Wish I could get this to the table more often.
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Jonathan C
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"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
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falafel007 wrote:
I will be coming back to this game for a very long time.


This. Dominant Species is a brilliant, tactical, gut-wrenching game; definitely one of my favorites. Unfortunately it doesn't see the table as often as I would like, because we typically have only 2-3 hrs at a time, and we take longer than this. (a few of us..uhm..ahem..suffer from AP).
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Tom O'Neill
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Do the components distract from play?
 
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Sky Zero
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Tarc wrote:
Do the components distract from play?


I own the 3rd edition and find it really well illustrated. Components and game board are beautiful.
 
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Luke Morris
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I believe my copy is second edition which has the original art. I prefer that to the newer edition from images I've seen. The board colours are nuanced and earthy. Very nice. Everything is clear, nothing bright and larey except for your cubes which stand out well on the uncluttered background. The blue pieces are a lovely blue - almost aqua.
 
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Marc D
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Great review! I bought this game but have never played it soblue. However, I knew from the rules, and the theme that I would love it. I recently bought the iOS version and have found that I really enjoy the gameplay. One day it will get to the table...
 
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Jack Smith
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Great review. You hit on a few points I think some people may miss, namely several paths to victory and that you are never out of the game no matter how hopeless you think things are. In fact an early disaster such as being wiped out in turn one can be very beneficial. I also love the tundra mechanic which is a sub game in its own right.

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Christian Morasse
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Great review!

You said your wife was not keen about the worker placement phase. How was her overall impression of the game? The length?

My wife likes games like Dominion and Seasons and I wonder if DS would be too heavy for her!
 
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Christopher
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Nuzferatu wrote:
Great review!

You said your wife was not keen about the worker placement phase. How was her overall impression of the game? The length?

My wife likes games like Dominion and Seasons and I wonder if DS would be too heavy for her!


After 5 plays with 5 different people, only my wife doesn't like it. Everyone else has proclaimed their love for DS and it is my groups new favorite game.

She prefers games with fewer choices (and moving parts), such as Belfort and Ticket to Ride. She is also not a huge fan of the length, but even after a 3+ hours session today, all the players -- she did not play -- remarked that it didn't feel as long as it took...

Dominion is right up my wife's alley, but for DS isn't there yet.
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Jonathan C
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Another occasional issue that comes up in my gaming group is ..well, for lack of a better way to put it, "hurt feelings". This game has all kinds of messing with your opponents best laid plans, and vice versa. Certainly not for the faint of heart. In some cases, depending on peoples moods, DS may need to be avoided exactly because something a little less in-your-face is required. But when people come emotionally strong and mentally prepared, it is awesome.
 
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Jack Smith
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looleypalooley wrote:
Another occasional issue that comes up in my gaming group is ..well, for lack of a better way to put it, "hurt feelings". This game has all kinds of messing with your opponents best laid plans, and vice versa. Certainly not for the faint of heart. In some cases, depending on peoples moods, DS may need to be avoided exactly because something a little less in-your-face is required. :) But when people come emotionally strong and mentally prepared, it is awesome.


Yes that's true, which is why I think my group loves it so much:) I actually think of this game as a Wargame, not a Euro (boos and hisses expected) You also need people to work for their own self interest or it can throw the game completely.
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Jonathan C
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Halfinger wrote:
I actually think of this game as a Wargame, not a Euro (boos and hisses expected) You also need people to work for their own self interest or it can throw the game completely.


I agree, it is a sort of War game, probably the closest thing to a War game we have on the shelf. And your point is very valid.

We also have a few easily-embittered game-throwers in my group, which can take the fun out of life if they aren't doing well. As it has been said at my gaming table,
'the generic poor loser' wrote:
"If I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose on my own terms"

which generally means doing everything to hurt the one player at the table who is thought to be the 'meanest', even at the expense of one's one goals, and even at the expense of dramatically helping all other opponents. shake shake
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Jack Smith
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looleypalooley wrote:
Halfinger wrote:
I actually think of this game as a Wargame, not a Euro (boos and hisses expected) You also need people to work for their own self interest or it can throw the game completely.


I agree, it is a sort of War game, probably the closest thing to a War game we have on the shelf. And your point is very valid.

We also have a few easily-embittered game-throwers in my group, which can take the fun out of life if they aren't doing well. As it has been said at my gaming table,
'the generic poor loser' wrote:
"If I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose on my own terms"

which generally means doing everything to hurt the one player at the table who is thought to be the 'meanest', even at the expense of one's one goals, and even at the expense of dramatically helping all other opponents. :shake: :shake:


We have one guy who is very nice but can tend to take things personally or give up when he thinks he is losing (in DS players that do that are often wrong too)

We do not play this game with him and I have told him why.
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tom moughan
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ahh....I love the smell of a stack of sketchily placed animals in the morning!
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For those that are inquiring if 'your wife would like this' --- My take on this is that Dominant Species is not as difficult as it appears. The parts in this game (each phase) all make sense and do something a bit different to influence the overall game. It's understanding how to finesse these things is where the deepness lies. My advice would be:

- Don't play this two player with her - This game can be very mean with 2 players. When there is only one target, especially for card effects, it is very easy to feel as though there is direct conflict...always..in DS.

- Take out 5 or 10 cards - this is done in the Ios version and the rules even suggest a few that you can leave out that reintroduce cubes to the game, making it longer.

- Go down each step, one by one before you begin - set up the board and make sure you understand what YOU are teaching. The player aids essentially remind players about what each phase of gameplay does, after actions are chosen. Go down each quickly and give an example of why each might be important in gameplay (much easier to do if YOU have already played)

- Set it up somewhere you don't have to finish the game and don't teach it late at night (sounds like a gremlins reference but I assure you its not) - If you can play the first say 5 turns of the game and call it quits for the evening and return to it the next day, it will be easily digestible..plus you can talk about what happened in the first part of the game and allow her to fully grasp what actions did what to the game board.

most important concepts to convey:

Dominance - important for WHO plays cards during domination and for FINAL scoring at the end of the game (final card). governed by your symbols and how they match to ones on the hex points.

Species cubes in each hex - important for presence in a hex (so you can be eligible for dominance), and that you have the majority in a tile you wish to score during domination...or be the only one in it!

Wanderlust and glaciation give you points too!

make sure you have cubes on tundra - the survival card can really rack up points.

All the cards are strong - you want to score tiles where YOU get to use them (because you are dominant) and try to mitigate where your opponent may score heavily AND use a card, where possible.


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Christian Morasse
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lengthtoavoid wrote:
Don't play this two player with her - This game can be very mean with 2 players. When there is only one target, especially for card effects, it is very easy to feel as though there is direct conflict...always..in DS.

- Take out 5 or 10 cards - this is done in the Ios version and the rules even suggest a few that you can leave out that reintroduce cubes to the game, making it longer.


Thanks you for this reply!

Two questions:
1) Would you play a 2 players-4 animals game? Your target the same player but different animal! I don't know...it seems less irritating

2) What 5 or 10 cards would you remove?
 
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tom moughan
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ahh....I love the smell of a stack of sketchily placed animals in the morning!
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1. No...I am not saying you couldn't play this 2p with your wife...I am just saying that for the first time it's best not to make her the only target. I think playing one animal and 3-4p would be best.

2. Random! You won't miss them...you could also take out some of the most heavy handed if you wish.
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Jack Smith
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As Tom said 2 player can be VERY aggressive and tough on a new player. Having said that I like 2 player a lot.

The cards you could take out are Immigration (from memory) and the three other cards which add AP's. But really, as Tom said any will do.

Also as said the game is actually mechanically easy and the player mats are great as reminders. One think to grasp early I think is that there is a big ending score and no matter how much someone feels smashed to pieces it is always possible to recover and win.

In fact in our last game a player was miles behind on the score board and was in a terrible board position at mid game. Rather than give up she managed to not only crawl back but win with a convincing margin. It's this sort of thing that makes this game so attractive to me.

It's a game where, with smart play, you can turn a disaster into an opportunity.
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Mauricio de Souza Fonseca
Brazil
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Halfinger wrote:
Great review. You hit on a few points I think some people may miss, namely several paths to victory and that you are never out of the game no matter how hopeless you think things are. In fact an early disaster such as being wiped out in turn one can be very beneficial. I also love the tundra mechanic which is a sub game in its own right.



That's right. The game has an engine that, no matter how behind you are, just keep going and doing your best and you can still win or at least have a decent end position. Besides that, this is a gem that, even if I finished it last in a six-players game, I don't care! I enjoy the ride! My favorite board game ever.
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OP: You should try Urban Sprawl. Nearly as entertaining.
 
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