A Small Conversation With…Seth Jaffee About Eminent Domain: Microcosm


Tom: Hi Seth, It’s good to talk to you again. Remind us of your gamer cred.

Seth: My first published title was Terra Prime. My better known title is Eminent Domain, for which an expansioisle of trainsn (Escalation) came out early this year. I’ve also got a game coming out from Dice Hate Me (co-designed with Dan Keltner) based on the Dice Hate Me 54 Card Challenge, but I’m mostly known for my affiliation with Michael Mindes and TMG.

In addition to publishing my games, I’ve done extensive development work on many TMG titles, including Ground Floor, Belfort, Kings of Air and Steam, and the upcoming Captains of Industry to name a few.

I’ve also got an iPad game (free download!) called Seth Jaffee’s Brain Freeze.

Tom: You have a new microgame out. Tell us all about it.

Seth: Eminent Domain: Microcosm is a 2 player microgame. It plays in 10-15 minutes, but is packed with what I feel are interesting choices. It’s reminiscent of Eminent Domain, but definitely distinct.EmDoM1

Tom: Where did the idea blossom from?

Seth: I saw microgames blowing up, and I figured I’d try my hand at making one. I usually feel like microgames don’t have enough depth for my liking, so I tried to make a microgame that I would enjoy playing. I think Microcosm packs more decision density and depth (and therefore replayability) into the small package (34 cards) than I see in some of the other small games out there, so I’m happy about that.

Where did it come from? Good question… I like multi-use cards, and I remember drawing out a grid of cards and thinking that each row could have a particular action, each column could have a particular symbol, and each diagonal could have a particular color. That way I could make a set collection game where going for 1 set necessarily meant not getting another set. In other words, you can get cards with the same action but different icons, or cards with the same icons but different actions… meaning in this case that you could either do that action more often but in a weaker way, or less often but in a stronger way.

I liked the symmetry of that, and I went from there.

Tom: Why did you set it in the Eminent Domain universe?

Seth: I originally wanted to avoid the EmDo universe – I’d done that already! But in the end, the feel of the game did match the EmDo family –  many players said so. And when Michael suggested retheming for marketing purposes, I couldn’t argue. It really is an Eminent Domain game.

Tom: The Kickstarter is doing well. It’s 900% funded! WOW! The game is only $10 so very affordable. Do you have any overfunding goals.

Seth: There aren’t any overfunding goals for this project. Instead they’re sort of built-in… we’re including promos for 3 other games:

  • 5 New Base Games Scenarios for Eminent Domain (plus 3 Politics cards to go with them)
  • 5 cards for the upcoming Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers by Philip duBarry
  • 1 Time Traveling hero for Dungeon Roll

These promos are intended to (a) add value to Microcosm for everyone, and (b) help introduce Microcosm backers/players to other TMG games, as well as introduce players of those games to Microcosm (and thereby Eminent Domain).EmDoM2

I have seen some comments from people who backed Microcosm for the Dungeon Roll promo, for example, and are now going to see what Microcosm is all about. I’m sure not ALL Dungeon Roll players will be interested in Microcosm, and vice versa, but I’m sure there’s a decent amount of overlap.

Tom: You’re off to Essen like tomorrow. What are you looking forward to there?

Seth: I have just come off of a weekend running Rincon. I’ve got a great staff to help me out, but honestly I’ve had little time to think about anything related to Essen. I’m lucky my passport is up to date!

In the little Essen coverage I’ve seen and read, I am a little interested in that new game by Andreas Steading: The Staufer Dynasty. I can’t tell if I’ll like it a lot or not, but I might give it a shot.

At Rincon I picked up a used Japanese copy of Tragedy Looper with paste ups – I’d like to see how that one works. I’m a sucker for time travel 🙂

Tom: What is next for you? Any more games in the queue?

Seth: Yes, of course! Mostly I’m working on development of TMG games at the moment, but there are a couple of in-house TMG designs that I’ve got my fingers in (even something Zombie themed, I’m almost ashamed to say… they’re popular, but in general I really dislike zombies!), and I’ve got several old projects I’d like to get back to.

And of course I’m wrapping up Exotica, the next EmDo expansion. I’m soliciting Print And Play feedback on that one in the BGG Tasty Testers forums.

One new project I’ve started is another game, much different from Eminent Domain, using the Deck Learning mechanism. This one is a network building/delivery game, like Railroad Tycoon.

Thanks for the interview! I should probably get to packing for Essen (I leave in less than 14 hours as of this writing!)spiel 2014

Tom: Thank you Seth! It’s great to talk to you again. Have fun at Essen and bring back some cool stuff!

Readers, you can find Eminent Domain: Microcosm here. Please consider backing it.

Under The Microscope – Chroma Cubes by Chip Beauvais


Color-by-number.  But I never thought I would see that in a game. Then Chroma Cubes came along.Crayon Banner Text2

I recently received a copy of Chroma Cubes, the newest game from 5th Street Games. The game was designed several years ago by Chip Beauvais. Chroma Cubes is a very unique game. It has three central mechanics – color by number, dice rolling, and set collection. I know what you’re thinking, crayons, coloring. Really? But stay with me a minute. It will be worth it.

What is in the game? Chroma Cubes comes with four sets of six dice in six colors. So six green dice, six red, etc.. Each die has two colors per face. Next, there are the game sheets. These look like coloring book pages except the spaces are marked with symbols corresponding to the colors on the dice. Some spaces have one symbols. Some have two, some have three or four. The number corresponds to the number of dice of that color needed to color in that space. And there are crayons to match the colors on the dice.

Now to how to play Chroma Cubes. Let’s start with the dice rolling. Each player gets one set of dice (one of each color). Players roll their dice and that’s when the fun starts. They then make sets of dice separating by color/symbol on the face. So if you roll red/green, blue/green, yellow/red, purple/yellow, purple/green, and blue/orange you could match the greens, the blues, the yellow, reds, and/or the purples. Once you select your sets you grab a crayon the color of one of those sets and color in one space on your game sheet that corresponds to that color. The space depends on how many symbols are on the dice. If there are three green symbols then the player colors in an area with three green symbols.IMAG0663

The rolling and coloring continues until someone colors in their whole picture. So it’s a race to complete the picture. And not just that but be first to complete each section. Because the first to score a section scores the most points for that section of the picture. It’s a tiered scoring mechanic that really adds some tension to the game.

That sounds really simple. It is. The rules and game play are straightforward and easy to pick up. The 6+ age rating in the game description is accurate. Almost anyone can play this game and enjoy it.

Big Blue

Four blue.

As we played I noticed something. This game has strategy! Timing when to color, which sets to make or not, which die to save for the next roll all were choices I had to make. And while they weren’t difficult or hard choices, they were choices none the less. And if you have been reading this blog for a while you know I like having choices in a game.  As soon as I realized this my respect for the game went up. The second game was quite good as my opponent and I both began thinking more about what we would color each turn, which dice to use and which to save. Because we found out that those choices can come back to bite you near the end of the game when you don’t have the needed spaces to match your dice.

Something else, dare I say ‘emerged’, as we played. This game can be really social because you can trade dice. Yep, if you need a blue and don’t have it but your neighbor does, you can propose a trade. Also, there is only one set of crayons. Often times the other players have the crayon you need right now!  So there can be some ‘fighting’ over the crayons.

So what do I think of Chroma Cubes? I like it. It has a lot going for it. It is easy and accessible to practically everyone. The rules are clear and understandable. The central mechanic of color-by-number is unique and will appeal to a wide audience. Though gamers may turn their noses up at it. It has dicey randomness. It has set collection. It has player interaction and a great social aspect. I think Chroma Cubes is a lot like The Little Prince. It’s a simple game that can be deceptive, hiding a strategy game behind it’s box of crayons. And that is very cool.IMAG0664

Chroma Cubes’ color-by-number mechanic hides a game with depth and strategy. I went into the first game not expecting to have to think very much. But I was surprised. Planning and strategy abound here. It’s a really fun game  on the light end of the strategy game spectrum  with enough to  satisfy the gamer in me.

Support Chroma Cubes right here.

Thanks to 5th Street Games for providing a copy of Chroma Cubes for review.

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Under The Microscope – Dead Drop by Jason Kotarski


dead drop1Dead Drop is a new microgame designed by Jason Kotarski and published by Crash Games. It consists of 13 cards with art by Adam McIver. It’s a spy themed card game. Cards are numbered 0 through 5. Additionally there are four player help cards. Add in the rules sheet and that’s it. Speaking of rules, they are well written and easy to grasp making Dead Drop an excellent pick up game.

First, you need to be able to do simple addition. Set-up starts by shuffling the cards. Deal one card face down in the middle of the play area. This is The Drop. You deal face up a number of cards equal to the number of players. This is called The Stash. Now deal the remaining cards equally to all players. That’s it.

Game play is very simple. On your turn you can do one of several actions. You can Share Info (trade a card), Swap The Stash (trade a card with The Stash), Sell Secrets (find out some info about another player’s cards), and Grab The Drop (guess the number on the central card). Players take turns doing one of the above actions. The goal of the game is to Grab The Drop. You do this by placing two of the cards in your hand next to The Drop. The sum of these cards should equal the number on the The Drop card. If you guessed correctly, you win the round. If not you are out of that round. The game ends when someone wins three rounds.dead drop2

That’s how the game plays. Now, what do I think about it? Well, Dead Drop is a pretty pure deduction game. You need to be able to gather information, compile it, comprehend it, and deduce what cards are out and what card is The Drop. I’m not a lover of deduction games. I’m not very good at them. That being said, I like Dead Drop. Why? you ask. Well, I think because it is small and quick. There are only thirteen cards to keep up with. My brain can handle that. Reason two that I like the game – it’s social. The actions of the game encourage, even force, players to interact. I like social interaction games. Dead Drop does this well. The trading and info gathering actions makes sure that players talk to each other. I would even go so far as to categorize Dead Drop as a party game. The third reason I like Dead Drop is the art. Adam McIver has done an excellent job. His spies are humorous and fun.

If you like deduction games Dead Drop will scratch your itch. It’s a fun, easy to learn, and will fit in your pocket. I would categorize it as a gamer’s party game because there is a high player interaction quotient. I enjoy it even though I stink at deduction games. You can find the Kickstarter right here.cg_logoThanks to Crash Games for providing a copy of Dead Drop for review.