For centuries we have looked to the heavens seeking answers to questions. Is there life, resources, habitable planets out there in this vast universe? We have charted the stars, and peered deep into darkness with our telescopes, yet no man has made it beyond our own moon.
Eminent Domain seeks to capture this curiosity and creates a possible answer to centuries old questions. Players are trying to expand their galaxy wide empire by colonizing and capturing nearby planets, researching new technologies, and trading resources.
Eminent Domain is a deck-building game, and as with Ascension, the most important part is the cards. There are 96 role cards (Produce / Trade, Research, Colonize, Warfare, Survey, and Politics), 39 technology cards, and 27 planet cards. The game also contains 6 start planet tiles, 35 fighter tokens, 32 influence tokens, 24 resource tokens, 4 player aid tiles, and one central card display.
Object of the Game
Players are trying to gain the most influence by expanding their empire, researching, and trading. At the end of the game the player who has accumulated the most influence will win the game.
Each player starts with the same deck of cards: 1 politics card, 1 warfare card, 2 colonize cards, 2 research cards, 2 survey cards, and 2 produce / trade cards. The rest of the role cards are separated by type and put face up on the central card display. Each player also gets a start planet. This is placed face down in their empire area. The Planet cards are placed face down in a draw deck on the side of the central card display. The technology cards are separated by type and placed to the side of the central card display.
The eight influence tokens that have a blue boarder are set aside. The 24 remaining tokens are left in the supply.
Each player is dealt 1 player aide. The first player will be the person who receives the player aide marked "first player." Each player then draws five cards from their deck to form their first hand. The game is ready to begin.
Players take turn playing clockwise and complete 3 phases during their turn (in order.)
1. Action Phase (optional)
2. Role Phase (mandatory)
3. Clean-up Phase (mandatory)
1. Action Phase: Players can choose to preform or not preform the action phase. If they choose to take an action they choose one card from their hand and resolve its Action affect. They can not boost the action and the other players can't follow the action. After preforming the action, that card is placed in the discard pile.
2. Role phase: Players must preform the role phase. The player leads (starts) one of the six roles and resolves its affects. The player choses a role from the central display and takes one card of that type from the stack (if it is still available) into their hand. Players can boost the chosen role if they have cards in their hand with the same symbol. Face-up planets, in their empire, that have the same symbol may also be used to boost.
Next, in clockwise order each other player has the option to follow or dissent. If they follow they play cards in their hand bearing the symbols matching the chosen role and preform the same role. Symbols and face up planets in the empire may also be used. In fact, a player can follow a role without playing cards from their hand and using only the symbols in their empire. If a player chooses to dissent they just draw one card from their deck into their hand.
3. Clean-up Phase: The player now discards any used cards. Cards tucked under planets stay. They may choose to discard any other cards from their hand. They then draw cards until the hand limit is met. If the deck is empty, they reshuffle the discard pile.
Politics: Politics is played only as an action. When you play your politics card you choose one role from the stacks and add it to your hand. The politics card is then removed from the game. Politics can not be used to boost or follow a role.
Survey: If you play survey as an action draw to cards from your deck. If you play it as a role, look at one fewer planet cards then the number of survey cards played. Choose one and place it face down in your empire. If you are the leader you may look at one additional card.
Warfare: If played as an action you may do one of the following: collect one fighter (size doesn't matter) or attack one planet. You attack by returning the amount of fighters listed as the warfare cost of the planet. For example, for the planet below you would need six fighters. The planet is then flipped over.
If played as a role, you collects one fighter token for each warfare symbol played. If you are the leader you may attack one planet instead of taking fighters. As before to attack discard the number of required fighters and flip the planet over. Someone following the leader role may not attack. You can also only attack planets in your empire. If you had colonies on the planet they are placed in the discard pile.
Colonize: If played as an action you may choose to tuck the colony card under a planet showing a colony symbol or they may settle one planet. To settle a planet you need the number of colonies listed on the card, tucked under it. For example the planet above requires 3 colonies. All the colonies are placed in the discard pile, and the planet is flipped over.
If Colonize is played as a role you get plus one colony for each symbol played. Tuck all cards played under any number of planets in your empire. The leader may settle one planet instead; if the planet has a sufficient amount of colonies. Each colony symbol in your empire reduces the number of colonies needed to settle a planet by one.
Produce: If played as an action you add one resource token to an empty resource slot in your empire. The type is determined by the recourse slot. The type of resource does matter for some research cards. If played as a role add one resource token per production symbol played to an empty resource slot in your empire. The leader does not receive a bonus until the stack of Produce / Trade cards is empty. When it is empty the leader receives a plus one produce symbol.
Trade: If taken as an action, return one resource token from your empire to the supply and take one influence token. If chosen as a role the return one resource token per trade symbol played. Take one influence for each token returned. The leader does not get a bonus until the stack is depleted. They then receive a plus one trade.
Research: A note on research for new players, you may wish to play your first few games without the research role. Then you may slowly want to add technologies to the game. For simplicity sake we did start with just the level one technologies but it is up to the players comfort level. I think that the cards add a lot to the game.
Chosen as an action you may remove up to two card,s from you hand, from the game. This may include the research card you are playing. Removed cards are put back into the box not the discard pile. They are not used for the rest of the game. Chosen as a role, you may take one technology card. There are three types of research cards that correspond to the three planet types: fertile, advanced, and metallic. The player takes one of the technology cards from the pile and adds it to their hand. Each technology card has a research cost and a prerequisite number of face up planets of that type. For example a level one technology requires one planet of that type and three research symbols, a level two, two planets, and five research cards, and a level three, three planets, and seven research cards. The leader receives no bonus until the stack is depleted. They then get plus one research.
You may choose research as a role and not take a technology card in order to get another research card into your deck. Some technology cards are not added to your hand. They are put into the play area. These are double-sided. You must choose which side to use. Level two and three technologies have influence points on them, this is used for game end scoring only.
There are multiple ways to trigger the end of Eminent Domain. If the influence supply is empty the game ends. Or, if a specified number or role stacks are empty, the game ends. In a two or three player game if one stack is depleted, and in the extended three player game and the four player game when two two stacks are depleted, the game ends.
At game end, add up all your influence. Count your influence tokens, technology cards, and face up Planets to determine your influence. The winner is whomever has the most influence.
If players are tied the player with the most resource and fighter tokens in their empire wins.
I have a feeling that as I play Eminent Domain more, my feelings will change. Right now I am lukewarm on the game. I enjoy it, but it isn't as fun as some other games. I know I am still figuring out the strategy and when I do, I'll enjoy it a lot more. I also find it hard to know just how well I am doing. Yes, I can count my points, but its more than that. I'm not always sure I'm making the right decisions. Truthfully, this can be seen as a strength for the game. It means its deeper than it looks on the surface.
The game is very well designed and game play feels very sleek. I like being able to follow the other players role. Sometimes I find myself in trouble because I followed when I should have dissented. Just, one example of the strategy I'm still trying to learn and understand. I also like the technology cards. I ignored them the first few times I played. Now that I have seen some in action I really like them. I especially like "Fertile Ground" that gives you three symbols (colonize, produce, and research. I think I will start trying to get technologies sooner in future games. They are so much more powerful than the regular role cards.
I also really like the artwork in this game. The planet cards are just beautiful. It may be silly but I downloaded a galaxy live wallpaper for my phone after playing Eminent Domain because it reminded me of the planet cards and the box.
I also like the well written rule book. After reading through many a rule book I appreciate one that is easy to read and leaves you with few questions when you are finished. My husband usually asks if I understand or have any questions when we are reading rules together. With Eminent Domain the answer was usually yes I understand, and there are no questions.