Future Buzz: Eminent Domain

Back when I talked about Alien Frontiers, I mentioned that the publishers had used Kickstarter to finance the publication.  Now a new game is going that route…are we looking at a trend?

Eminent Domain is a game designed by Seth Jaffee that will hopefully be published sometime in the near future by Tasty Minstrel Games, a small publisher who has found some good success with their first couple of games (namely Homesteaders and Terra Prime).  I first became aware of the company when they did a contest giving away copies of those two games on BGG.  I still haven’t gotten to play Terra Prime, but I did get a chance to play Homesteaders this past weekend and enjoyed it.  I had heard about their printing issues, and was able to see for myself how off center many of the tiles were.  They apparently also had some moisture issues, but that didn’t seem to affect the copy we played.

Since then, Tasty Minstrel has switched printers and is coming out with three all new games – Belfort, Jab and Train of Thought.  They also have another game that is ready to go, but alas, they apparently do not have the cash.  The rules are already online (not in their final form obviously), so I’ll give a brief rundown.  I’m not going into a whole lot of detail this time.

First, a few vitals.  The game is for 2-4 players, takes 45-60 minutes, and is for ages 10 and up.  You’ll be trying to build up a space empire by playing various roles.  The more roles you play, the better you’ll get at that skill because you’ll be adding cards of that type to your deck.  This game is being billed by Tasty Minstrel as “the next evolution of deck building games.”  Deck building is a genre that is like a snowball rolling downhill lately.  Ever since Dominion came out in 2008, more and more designers have been trying their hand at it.  Now, apparently, it’s Jaffee’s turn.

The game will come with 96 action/role cards, 33 planet cards, and 39 technology cards.  If my calculations are correct, that’s 168 cards, far less than the 500 of Dominion (just for comparison’s sake).  There’s a reference board, 30 army tokens, 24 resource tokens, and 30 VP tokens.  There are 6 different types of action/role cards – 20 colonize, 20 research, 20 survey, 16 trade/harvest, 16 warfare, and 4 politics.  There are 3 different types of technology cards – 13 fertile, 13 advanced, and 13 metallic.  There are 4 different types of planet cards – 9 fertile, 9 advanced, 9 metallic, and 6 starting planets.  You’ll be starting the game with an initial deck of 9 cards, including 1 politics card, 2 colonize, 2 research, 2 survey, and 2 trade/harvest.  You’ll also have a face down starting planet in front of you.  The remaining action/role cards and technology cards are placed face up in stacks by type, while the remaining planets are shuffled and kept in a face down draw stack.

Each player draws an initial hand of five cards and takes their turns one at a time.  In each turn, there’s an action phase (optional), a role phase (mandatory),  and a cleanup phase (mandatory).  In the action phase, you play a card and take its action.  Every action/role card and technology card has an action.

In the role phase, you’ll take a role card from one of the face up stacks and resolve its effect.  You can boost the effect by playing matching cards out of your hand.  Each other player can choose to follow by playing cards with matching symbols, or can dissent and draw a card.

In the clean up phase, you’ll discard any unwanted cards and reset your hand to its current limit (by drawing or discarding).  The endgame is triggered when a certain number of action/role decks is exhausted, or when the VP supply is exhausted (you set aside 6 at the beginning).  You’ll continue playing until everyone has had an equal number of turns, and the player with the most points wins.

My first impression from looking through the rules is that this is Race for the Roman Dominion.  It seems to combine elements of Race for the Galaxy (thematically and the way you use planet powers), Glory to Rome (how you use roles and contribute cards to the building of planets), and Dominion (building your deck into a point producing engine).  By adding more roles to your deck, you become better at certain things.  It’s a clever way of gaining knowledge, making it more likely that you’ll both be able to use a role and that you’ll be able to boost that role.  I’m very interested in playing the game when it comes out.  I also am looking forward to seeing the eventual artwork.

So, where can you find out more?  Tasty Minstrel has a game page where you can read the rules, and you can go contribute to the cause by going over to Kickstarter.  At the time of this posting, there are 78 backers and the company has raised $5,220 from a $20,000 goal.  By comparison, Alien Frontiers had a goal of $5,000 and managed to raise $14,885, so we’ll see how Tasty Minstrel does.  The game is going to retail for $40, but you can basically preorder through Kickstarter for a pledge of $35.  Of course, if you go with more, you’ll get more…a pledge of $60 gets you two copies of the game.  $90 gets you 3 limited edition copies.  $150 gets you 6 regular copies.  $200 gets you a limited edition copy, three regular copies, and the right to name one of the technology cards (this golden opportunity for corporate sponsorship is going fast…only three of 15 remain!).  The big one, which will only go to one backer, is available for a $2500 donation.  For that, you get a Tasty Minstrel sponsored game night, including a visit from Seth Jaffee and owner of TM Michael Mindes, and a copy of every game they have published, plus everything available for $200.  The drive ends on November 23, so get in there quick.

Once this game gets published (which I’m sure it will eventually), I may return with a more in depth overview.  Until then, I’ll keep covering the buzz.  Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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