I've been looking forward to 'Dominant Species' hitting the table since I ordered it approximately 3.2 seconds after Tom Vasel's enthusiastic video review. Last night was my first game and this in turn is my first session report.
I will take a small deviation from the typical session report to say that I really had fun with this game. It did not disappoint and I am very excited for my next chance to play. If you like heavier Euros with a ton of decisions to make, you'll dig this game.
Our game consisted of Insects, Arachnids, and Mammals. The Insect player is a veteran gamer and can discuss the minutia of why he enjoys 'Le Havre' or prefers 'Steam' to 'Railways of the World' as easily as discussing the weather. The Mammal player is the smartest person I know but he typically spends every game looking for ways to screw his opponents. It should be no surprise that Mammal's favorite games are 'Munchkin' and its kin. I was the Arachnids and as a lapsed gamer who has only recently returned to the bosom of Rosenberg, Wallace, et al., I expected to be schooled thoroughly in my first game. Spoiler alert - I was. Completely. Arachnids ended up a biomass on the shoes of others.
But I digress.
Armed and prepared by Ryan Sturm's excellent podcast, I was able to teach the game in a fairly small amount of time. The brevity of my instructions would come back to haunt Insect in the end but again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
After going over the action choices - 12 of them with over forty worker placement possibilities! - we launched the game and had high hopes.
Insect got off to a crazy fast start and due to his board game expertise quickly glommed onto the fact that Seas and Wetlands score higher than other tiles and provide in-game bonus VPs. He used Wanderlust frequently after getting a few Adaptations onboard to survive and thrive. He quickly went through his species and I worried that he would lose out. However, Glaciation gave him many of his cubes back . . . something I'll keep in mind for my next play as I was very conservative in my species placement.
Mammal did well also. He spread his progeny behind Insect and was happy to stay alone on the Tundra as Insect forged a path to new lands. This would prove to be important later.
As the senator for the state of Arachnid, I did my best to steer in another direction on the board. I assured myself of dominance - - or so I thought - - by placing grub elements liberally around hexes where I populated. However, early on, grubs were removed from the board and I lost my edge. This proved to be critical to the game as I was never able to reassert myself.
In the end, there were a few things that we did not notice as a collective group that proved to steer the game in Mammal's favor. He stayed behind and alone on several Tundra hexes. This enabled him to claim an 8 hex bonus VPs bounty in the final Dominance scoring at the end of the game. He quickly caught and surmounted Insect's lead. I did not use Wanderlust nearly enough to give myself Sea and Wetland tiles like my chaps and as mentioned, was left behind. The Catastrophe Dominance card was in the final batch of cards along with 'Ice Age' so Mammal used it to wipe out even more points that Insect could have scored.
For my next game - that won't come nearly soon enough for my tastes - I will pay more attention to spreading my kin as far and wide as possible. This was the primary reason I did not score as much as the other players. I will also make sure that I pay more attention to how the game will be scored at the end. Mammal's inadvertent wisdom of maintaining a multitude of hexes where he was dominant -- including "worthless" Tundra -- allowed him to get a ridiculous amount of points.