Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dominant Species by BoredMormon

Board games are my current obsession, expect to see a few more of these reviews coming up

The feel

The ice age is coming. Food is scarce. Competition is not. The landscape is changing dramatically, fertile oceans quickly become icy wasteland. Resources that were once abundant disappear in an instant. Life is balanced on a knife edge.

The board represents this changing landscape well. The board never stays the same round to round. Long term planning is difficult. Strategies tend to be short term survival measures.

The game plays well at both ends of the player spectrum. With two players it’s a battle of wits, reducing your opponents ability to score is as effective as increasing your own scoring potential. Six player strategy tends to be more defensive, exert too much energy attacking and you’ll find yourself vulnerable.

The rules

For a game this complex the rules are rather simple. It’s not a game you can teach as you go, you do have to invest about twenty minutes explaining the game to new players. But once the game starts you rarely have to go back over a rule.

The short version: There are a bunch of actions you can take each turn. Players compete for the best actions. Then the actions are executed one at a time. Then the board is reset.

The competing for actions phase takes the longest and is most prone to AP. Determining the board position after twenty odd actions by players with differing strategies and motives before any of those actions occur is near impossible. Its this level of uncertainty that gives the game its complexity.

Executing actions is where the fun happens. You get to adapt, change the map, add more cubes, eliminate your opponents’ cubes and score points. You find out just how sneaky and underhand your opponents are. They get to see your sheer brilliance.

The game has two scoring mechanisms on each tile. Being the best adapted to your environment give you access to cards. Having the most species give you access to points. The game is full of interesting situations where you need to choose between scoring a tile with good points and gifting points to get the best card.

No discussion of Dominant Species would be complete without mentioning the cards. The cards vary greatly in power, making the first domination (scoring) action is more valuable then the last. Of course choosing the first domination action means you have second choice on all the other actions. All of the cards are visible from the beginning of each round, allowing everyone to prepare for their potentially game changing effects.

The game is won by being the most abundant animal at the end of the game. Actually the game is won by having the most points, and the biggest point swing comes in final scoring. In our plays so far the game has never been won by the person out front when we go into final scoring.


- You’re only ever one turn away from disaster.
- Setup is relatively short for players who know what they are doing
- Individual actions are very short, even with six players there is very little down time
- The game works well across the entire players range


- Not intended for casual play
- High powered cards and a high bias towards the endgame scoring mean new players get smashed. This is after repeatedly emphasising these two facts.


If you have a group that enjoys heavy games with lots of moving parts then buy this one. This is not one to pull out after dinner for casual play.