The second game of the night was Domaine which if you don't know is basically Lowenherz minus the bidding or negotiation aspects. In Domaine, players vie to enclose areas of the board which contain one of their castles & knights. Domains however can then be expanded into unclaimed terratory and/or terratory of another domain - but in the latter case only if you have more knights in the domaine seeking to expand. All players start the game with a dealt hand of 3 drawn action cards (NB: there are 4 piles of action cards marked 'A' through 'D' - these are independently shuffled and then stacked with the 'A' cartds on top followed by 'B' and so on). Players also start the game with a small amount of gold.
A players turn is pretty simple:
1) Gain income from any mines in your domains (1 gold per type of mine across all domains)
2a) Provided you have the funds, play an action card - paying it's associated cost in gold or
2b) Sell a card to the Chancery (face-up), taking the funds in gold indicated on the card
3) draw a card from the draw pile or the Chancery (excluding the card you may have just played that round)
When playing a card you then choose and take an action from the card (sometimes there is only one action on the card). Typical actions include allowing you to place boundary walls (outside of existing domains), expand your domaine, increase your knight count, steal a knight from an opponent or maybe even force two adjacent domains to be allies.
Players score for towns contained within their domains at a rate of 1 point per forest and 3 points per town. Additionally if you have a monopoly of 3-4 mines of the same type then you also score 5 points. All scoring is immediate and you can lose points if someone steals part of your existing domaine via an expansion card.
Once the draw pile is exhausted, no further cards can be drawn in the game - even if the Chancery contains cards. The game ends on the turn when a player cannot play or sell a card or when a player reaches the finishing score which is determined by the number of players.
After the initial Piddinghoe style setup phase which saw some aggressive (i.e you just stuffed me up so I'll get you back) positioning of the castles and knights saw Steve take the early initiative by building his first domaine and ransacking Andy's adjacent domaine of anything useful. Oggie however was hot on his heels and kept himself out of the melee by focusing his initial efforts on building a domaine on the opposite side of the board. A couple of turns later Andy being fed up of recieving no mine income eventially managed to get his first viable domaine.
The game proceeded with all players concentrating on the same 75% of the board and Oggie being the most cash-rich was able to turn most scraps in his favor. Somehow Oggie managed to set up a second large domaine in between the two large domaines of Andy and Steve and aided by his financial strength, recruited enough knights to enable him to start to devour Steve's domaine. Fortunately Andy had a Ally card and was able to stave off a similar challenge to his domaine.
One result of this was that Steve was forced to try to create a new domaine in the middle of the board, this was fine but in doing so he inadvertently created a huge domaine for Andy who lept into second place. From here the game effectively became a stale-mate as first Oggie and then Andy applied judicious use of the two remaining ally cards to guarentee their positions. Unfortunately this also guarenteed the Oggie the win and left Steve who at the beginning of the game said that he knew enough about the game never to come last to ponder on where things went wrong.
This was the first time we played Domaine with the correct rules and I liked it a lot. There is enough chaos and stitching each other up to appeal to the group generally and the game plays quickly enough to keep people engaged and thinking about their strategy. It is a game where you need a longer term plan as well as the ability to react to immediate threats and the ebb and flow of the scoring adds a degree of tension to the game. Oggie played the game superbly and was clearly going to be the winner and this is perhaps my only complaint that he proved impossible to catch - but then perhaps that was down to the other two players fighting each other too much.
Scores : Oggie 42, Andy 32, Steve 17
Ratings: Oggie 8, Andy 8, Steve 7