One of my favorite genres — whether it be books, movies, television, or even games — is space. There’s something alluring about the vast, unexplored regions of the universe that leaves us in awe at how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately for me, most space games are long, epic 4x games. This means that you have to invest hours into a game, it’s complicated, and there’s direct player interaction (messing with other people in the game). These are three things my wife HATES in games.
I recently discovered an older (read: 7 years) space game called Eminent Domain and instantly fell in love with it. Let me tell you a little bit about it. Eminent Domain is a deck-building game for 2-4 players, ages 10+. It takes about 45 minutes to play, and is usually on Amazon for about $30. In the game you are building and expanding your space civilization by means of surveying, warfare, colonizing, producing/trading, researching, and politics. On your turn, you can first (optionally) perform an action by playing a card from your hand. Then, you must execute a role that will be more powerful depending on how many of that card you play. The role part of the game closely resembles Puerto Rico in that others will be able to execute this role as well, just a less powerful version of it. It’s simple, beautiful, and has many paths to victory, and this is just the base game.
Since its release in 2011, Tasty Minstrel Games has provided us with three big box expansions and two mini expansions (one of which can be found at the BGG store and one of which can be found in their mini game Eminent Domain Microcosm, which should only be bought for around $10 on Amazon.) Let’s look at what the three expansions add. The first one is called Escalation. This is by far the best of the three expansions for two reasons. First, it adds more cards to give you a 5th player. The more I play games the more I am realizing that I need games that have the ability to play five, even if I won’t always play with that number. Plus, the more people who are playing Eminent Domain, the more options you have to copy their Role and execute a strategy not on your turn.
The second great thing that is added to this game is Scenarios. This gives everyone a different starting deck of cards (YAY for asymmetry!) and creates for interesting paths to follow without two or three people trying to do the same thing every game. Other features added in this expansion are more technology cards and a focus on improving warfare in the game.
The second expansion is called Exotica, and with this comes new planets fittingly named Exotic planets. With these exotic planets comes a new alien resource, as well as stickers to give the other resources more meaning than in base Eminent Domain. You will also be introduced to asteroids, cards with alien language that can boost your Role, and the expected more scenarios and more technology. Where Escalation focused on warfare, this expansion seems to focus a bit more on production/trade.
The last (for now) expansion is called Oblivion, with a focus on politics this time. There are again more technology cards to play with, but the biggest change with this expansion is agendas! It wouldn’t be political without agendas. 🙂 Playing the politics game will require support from other players to pass the agenda you want. This adds a level of bargaining and negotiation to the game, which was interesting, but I’m not sure I’m in love with. The art is also different, and a bit more cartoony than previous expansions. Overall, I love Eminent Domain for many different reasons, but mainly it’s the theme, the many different ways to win, and the fact that I can make my game as complicated or simple as I want by simply adding or subtracting expansions.
In keeping with my theme of popular games with expansions, I also want to look at The Lost Expedition, which was one of my surprise hits from 2017. It had beautiful art, was affordable, and could be played with 1 to 5 players. (Read my full review.) This year they released an expansion to it called The Fountain of Youth and Other Adventures, so I immediately wanted to know what was added to the game/how did it change the game. Before we dive into that, I want to let you know that the base game is available on Amazon for $22 and the expansion for $19, both very reasonable prices in modern board games. The expansion itself is what is commonly referred to as modular, meaning that there are multiple parts and you can play with as many or as few of the parts as you want to. Now, let’s look at the four different modules in what I consider least interesting to most interesting.
1. New Friends – Three new cards were added to the game to make the base game easier or help equalize the difficulty the expansion adds. These companions are named Comatsi, Vulcana, and Rinty (a dog). These are a nice touch, and one you can take or leave depending on how difficult you want your game to be or the skill level of players. Personally, if I’m beating a cooperative game more than half the time, it’s a game I won’t continue to play.
2. The Mark – Six cards with a paw print (or Mark) are shuffled into the regular Adventure cards. If you ever take a Mark action card, slide the Were-beast card under one of your Explorers. If you take a second Mark, you turn into said Were-Beast. This module adds a slight supernatural element to the game, which can be fun to play with, but isn’t something I would add to every game I play.
3. The Mountain – 10 cards that change the map of the jungle. With this set of Expedition cards, you completely replace the original Expedition cards. You then can choose your difficulty level based on the number of cards you use (Easy = 5, Normal = 7, Hard = 8). This is a nice way to tweak the base game without changing much from it. Never won the base game? Play on easy mode. Game too easy? Ramp it up to hard!
4. The Fountain – 12 cards with a skull symbol are added to the regular Adventure cards. Some of these cards include conquistadors, which really ramps up the difficulty. This is the module most people will gravitate to if they have been playing the base game with regularity, as it really increases the difficulty and gives you more cards to think through the puzzle.
Overall, I am pleased with this expansion. It checks all the boxes most people want in an expansion, which is more cards and more options without overly losing the flavor of what made the base game great. I personally was hoping for an entire new deck of adventure cards, comparable in size to the original game, but I guess that would have been more a sequel/standalone expansion. If you love The Lost Expedition, you’ll want to check out this expansion.
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Copyright 2018 Stuart Dunn
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