Dominant Species: The Card Game (from now on DS:TCG) is a card game that takes the theme and the art of his original big brother (Dominant Species, one of my favourite games) and allow the players to compete in different biomas/territory cards, trying to outscore their opponents and win Victory Points.
The game lasts for 10 rounds (each round one bioma/territory card is scored) and at the end of the 10th round, the player with the most points win.
Reason why I bought this game:
As I mention before, I am a big fan of Dominant Species so a card game version of the original game got my attention. However, when I read the rules of this game I found a lot of similarities with Condottiere, one of my favourite card games. I was not expecting this game to replace or feel in any way or shape like his original big brother.
What I liked about the game:
The artwork is great. It uses the same art of the original game. The components are also decent, the cards have a nice feeling to it, and you get some nice wooden pieces for the VPs track, round track and etc.
The game comes with a little board to presenting useful information like the turn track and when to shuffle the discard pile with the drawing pile.
I also like the fact that the game gives you a lot to think about as the amount of VPS earned by winning each round increases with the game turns. The first territory card is worth 1 point and the tenth territory card is worth 10 points however, the more territory cards you win, the more cards you will receive in the final round to fight for that 10 point card. But regardless of how many cards you spent to win those territory cards, everybody gets only two cards per round until the beginning of round 10 (when you get bonuses card according with the VPS scored in the earlier rounds).
Also there are two ways of scoring the territory cards:
1) Each card has a number on the top that represents the dominance of each animal. All animals that you play on your tableau will add their number to your strength and whoever has the higher number will win the territory card.
2) Each animal card, in addition to the number printed at the top, has also a number of icons that matches with the icons printed on each territory card (suns, seed, grass, water and etc). The player that played the most icons of the types printed in the territory cards will also get some VPs.
What I hate about the game:
Too chaotic…. Really, there is no way to plan ahead in this game. One thing I like about Condotierre is that there are some modifiers in the cards that can affect the strength of the armies in each battle. However, there is a balance between these cards and the normal cards.
In DS:TCG, there are way too many cards that affect the cards in the game. For instance, there are event that supress all animals in play (therefore making them weaker). It is a great idea actually but nearly all the cards that you play will have an icon in it that upon playing it, it will supress all animals from one kind on the table. So, most likely the animals that you play will die anyway… so, you cannot really plan anything.
I like some chaos, I like modifiers, I like card that affects the strength of other cards, but in this game it is a bit too much… to unbalanced.
Another thing that I hated is the fact that these kind of games are supposed to have a lot of conflict (which I love) so, the more players the better right? Right? No.. wrong! It just adds more to the chaos. I play a mammal card on my turn, the guy on my left plays a bird card that supresses mammals, so my mammal that was worth 8 now is worth 4. They guy on his left plays a inset that supresses birds, his bird drops from 5 to 3, then the other guys plays an insect, the guy on his left plays an arachnid that suppresses mammals, so my card goes to the discard pile, the next player plays a mammal that suppresses birds and the guys that suppressed my mammal originally loses his card and when it gets to me I have no cards in front of me, the guys on my left has no cards, two other guys got suppressed and I may kill them now with my card… really… what is the point?
I really wanted to like this game as much as I like Condotierre. I see a lot of good things in it namely: How the points are scored (territory cards get more valuable as the game progresses), the two ways of scoring the cards, the bonus cards at the end of the game, the modifiers that some terrains have in some animals, some animals get a +1 or – 1 in certain types of terrain. However, the lack of control and chaos kills it!
My score is 1 out of 5.
Please, play Condottiere instead!
Nice summary. Yes, this game is nothing like Dominant Species!
I've played this many times with four players, and I think you're overstating the chaotic nature of the game. The event cards are just as swingy in this game as in regular DS. The animal cards that suppress other animals aren't that frequent, and are needed to balance the game. Otherwise there would be little you can do to counteract the high valued mammal cards. It also creates opportunity for a lot of strategy in how you play your cards within one round and over multiple rounds.
One theme of this game is how the leaders get extra benefits and the players losing get extra punishments. I don't like this, particularly the end game scoring and some of the event cards.
(Note: I haven't played Condottiere.)