Table for Two: Eminent Domain: Microcosm

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Eminent Domain Microcosm

Table for Two is a series about board games designed for 2 players. Today’s game is Eminent Domain: Microcosm, which boils down the essence of the deck-building game Eminent Domain into a 2-player game that plays in 10 minutes. Note: Tasty Minstrel Games decided to use one of their short Kickstarter campaigns for this one, so it’s down to the last couple days to back the project if you’re interested.

At a glance: Eminent Domain: Microcosm is for 2 players, ages 13 and up, and plays in about 10 minutes. The pledge level for a copy of the game is only $10, and also includes some promo cards for a few of Tasty Minstrel’s other games. You may be able to play the game with younger players if they’re more experienced, but there are definitely some tough choices to make throughout.

New to Kickstarter? Read our crowdfunding primer.

Eminent Domain Microcosm Components
Only 34 cards, but it packs a punch. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components:

  • 18 Domain cards
  • 5 Technology cards
  • 11 Planet cards

Players familiar with the original Eminent Domain will recognize a lot of the icons and names used here, but the gameplay isn’t quite the same.

Eminent Domain Microcosm Domain cards
Domain cards have various actions, icons, and point values. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Domain cards have a lot of different information on them. First, the top left portion of each card has two icons: one representing a type of technology, and one representing a planet type. The top left of the card indicates how that card will score points at the end of the game: per planet you own, or per tech card you have, and so on.

Eminent Domain Microcosm Technology cards
Technology cards may be claimed with a Research action, and provide extra icons. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Technology cards just have a name and a single symbol on each: Capital, Improved Warfare, Improved Colonization, and so on.

Eminent Domain Microcosm Planet cards
Planet cards may provide icons and points; they also have defense values based on whether they’ve been colonized yet. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Planet cards show a cost on the back, and then on the front there are various icons and sometimes point values. There are also two shields indicating the defense value of the planet if it is uncolonized (still in the center area) or colonized (taken by a player). There are also several types of planets, distinguished both by the image itself and the color bar.

How to play

The rulesheet is available as a PDF here, and you can also get a Print and Play version if you want to try it out for yourself.

The goal is to have the most victory points by the end of the game.

To set up, you shuffle the Domain cards, set out 3 to form the supply, and place the deck next to them. The 5 Technology cards are placed face up, and the Planet cards are placed face down in three piles, sorted by cost (0, 2, and 3).

On your turn, you take either a face-up card from the supply, replacing it immediately from the deck, or the top card from the deck. Then, you either play a card from your hand and resolve its effects (and then discard it into your personal discard pile), or pick up all of the cards in your personal discard pile and return them to your hand.

Eminent Domain Microcosm
Playing a game of Eminent Domain: Microcosm. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Some cards allow you to reveal icons in order to get a better effect—in this case, you may reveal cards from your hand, turn up planets to reveal icons, or use technology cards. After resolving, revealed cards from your hand go back into your hand. Revealed planets remain face up.

There are five basic types of actions:

  • Colonize lets you take planets from the supply and put them in front of you
  • Warfare lets you attack planets and put them into your Spoils
  • Research lets you take Tech cards or force your opponent to discard them
  • Politics has special effects, including effects while they’re in your discard pile
  • Survey lets you peek at face-down planets, plus some additional effects

The game ends when all of the supply cards are drawn—the active player finishes out the turn. Collect all of your cards from your hand and discard pile (keep colonized Planets and Spoils separate) and then count up points. Highest score wins.

The Verdict

When I wrote up microgames last December, I mentioned that it’s always fascinating to see how much depth a game designer can get out of a small set of components. Seth Jaffee, designer of both Eminent Domain and Eminent Domain: Microcosm, has certainly packed a lot into his 34-card universe.

Because it’s such a short game, every turn counts, whether you’re colonizing more planets, attacking your opponent, or grabbing technology cards. What’s key is knowing what things you’ll get points for and trying to maximize those. The decision between playing a card and picking up your discards is a tough one: with only 9 turns, can you afford to spend one of them picking up cards? On the other hand, if you don’t pick up your discards, there may be icons there that will help you attack a planet or collect an extra technology card.

At $10 for the game, Eminent Domain: Microcosm is a great deal. (Or get two copies for $16 and give one to a friend!) I highly recommend checking it out—but be quick, because the campaign ends tomorrow evening!

Visit the Eminent Domain: Microcosm Kickstarter page for more.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a demo prototype for review.

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