I dismissed this for the wrong reasons. There is a real gem hidden underneath but you need the right conditions to bring it out. Read on to find out what I enjoy about it and how to get the best out of it.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Eminent Domain is a top 10 game for me because of it's strategic richness. There are hundreds of different paths and engines to follow. It still splits into three main branches: planets for points, technologies for points, or trading goods for points. However, each area has many different niches and ways to go about executing them. Additionally most players will end up with a hybrid engine that focuses on at least two of those things. In fact you can't win the game without having at least a minimal focus on getting planets (because you need them for technology prerequisites and as places to produce and trade goods from) and a minimal focus on getting technology (it's not possible to get the action boosting/efficiency required with just basic role cards). I've seen a crazy variety of viable winning combinations. All cards are viable for winning strategies. However, this is no dominant strategy on account of the player interaction. This player interaction element enhances the strategic richness by forcing you to pay careful attention to your opponents' builds and optimise your engine around what they are doing. There is incredible game to game variance that keeps the game fresh thanks to the mix of starting scenarios among players, the planets you find in your initial explorations (this will push you down one technology path in the early game), and the exclusive technologies which means your usual technologies can be snapped out from under you. You can form a long game strategy before you have your first turn but the game requires a flexible approach to adapt your initial chosen strategy to match the actions of your opponents. Players are rewarded for how fast their engine can pivot into a new niche that other players can't follow. This game really rewards both strong strategic and tactical skill sets. I really enjoy the uniqueness of engines that I build from game to game in Eminent Domain. There are a few staple cards for each strategy but you can end up with a lot of of different pieces of technology each game creating a different beast every game. This is the most satisfying "build a thing" game I have. I find it immensely fun concocting my engine. Victory or defeat are secondary to the amount of fun I'm having! This is an impressive feat considering how much this game rewards player skill, you really have to earn your victory!