Category: Read Through Reviews

The Tasty Minstrel Gets Kickstarted!

Tasty Minstrel Games is going the Kickstarter route with its next game Eminent Domain.  Listen to Michael Mindes discuss this news.  And here is the BGG link.

Why am I posting about this?  One,  think Tasty Minstrel is a class outfit.  I think Michael and Seth are trying to bring us quality games.  Homesteaders is one of those and if they continue with their future games, we will benefit.  Second, I’m playtesting Eminent Domain.  I contacted Seth Jaffee, the designer and TM Game Developer, through Michael.  I volunteered to be a playtester of any of their games.  Eminent Domain was the one, hopefully the first of many, Seth sent me.  So I got the files for the game, built a copy, and have been playing it for about 6 weeks now.

What is Eminent Domain?

It’s a deck building card game.  I hear you.  You’re groaning ‘oh boy. another Dominion clone.’.  Wrong.  I’ve played Dominion several times.  I did not like it.  With all the cards and combos, it is hard to pick up unless you play it a lot.  Which I haven’t.  I just wasn’t impressed.  Back to Eminent Domain.  While it shares some mechanics with Dominion, it is a game that stands on its own.

First let’s talk about theme.  In Eminent Domain you play an expanding galactic empire.  You play cards to colonize and settle or attack an conquer planets.  Each planet is able to produce resources.  Those resources can be used to get victory points.  And everyone likes victory points.  How do you do all this?  Each player starts with a hand of the same cards.  These cards are Colonize/Settle, Research, Politics, Survey, Trade/Harvest.  Each card type has an Action and a Role.  These two aspects allow you to do different things on your turn.   Colonize/Settle allows you to begin establishing colonies and/or take over a planet.  With Research you can get cards out of your deck.   Trade/Harvest allows you to produce and then trade in resources for VP.   Survey lets you draw two cards from your deck.

On your turn you to do a couple of things.  You can choose to take an Action or not.  The actions are described above.  Then you must take a Role.  These Roles are Colonize/Settle, Research, Warfare, Survey, Trade/Harvest.  Each of these enables you to do certain things.  Colonize/Settle allow you to add colonies to a planet.  Research allows you to get new technology to your civilization.   With Research you can ‘buy’ Technology Cards which give bonuses and special actions.  There are 3 levels of these corresponding to how many of each planet type you have in your system.  Warfare allows you to attack and take over a planet, adding it to your system.  Survey lets you bring a new planet into your system ripe for conquest. Taking your action and your role constitutes your turn.

One of the unique things about Eminent Domain is the Follow action.  Follow allows you to do something to/with your system based on what role another player has taken on their turn.  These Follow actions are similar to Role actions letting you enhance your system in some way.  This is a really cool aspect of Eminent Domain.  It adds a level of complexity and interaction that you don’t find in the other deck building games.

What do I think of it?  I like it a lot.  It is very easy to learn.  My eight year old son has picked it up in just two plays.  The small number of card types makes it easy to remember what every one does and that enables you to build strategy from the start.   The rules are fairly clear though it did take some correspondence with Seth to clear a couple of things up and ensure that we are playing correctly.  The game play is fun.  There is enough depth and interplay between the cards and making combos to engage your brain.  And the Follow aspect just bumps the thinkiness up notches.  This part of the game really leads to hard decisions.  How does taking this Role affect the other players?  Will it enable them to get a leg up?  Can I do something to hinder them?  I really like this part of the game.  It reminds me of Witches’ Brew’s “so be it’.  And I’ve heard that there are similar aspects in Puerto Rico.  But I haven’t played that yet.

All in all this is and will be a great game.  I cannot wait to see a professional version of this.  I hope you will visit the Eminent Domain links and support the Kickstarter campaign.

Quick Review of Saga

This is the cover of the box.

Saga was a pleasant surprise.  I won the game in a contest and was going to trade it.  But my son and I played it and it was fun.
Saga is a card game and has a medieval theme.  You set out 5 kingdom cards that everyone races to win.  The kingdoms are defended by two knights.  Each knight has a point value and the sum of their values is the Defending Force’s strength.  You have to attack with a greater strength to conquer a kingdom.  Each player has a hand of knights to make up these Attacking Forces.  As the game goes on the kingdoms are conquered by the players and the game shifts into a battle among the players for the kingdoms.  So what happens to the Defending Force when a kingdom is conquered?  If the kingdom is not owned by a player, the knights become Free Knights and are available as mercenaries for a price (Fame points).  If the kingdom is ‘owned’ by a player, the Defending Force goes back into the loser’s hand.  The game ends when a player plays his last knight from his hand.

Some examples of the cards and art of Saga

The winner is the player with the most Fame Points.  Fame points come from several places.  First, you get 1 for each conquered kingdom at the start of your turn.  At the end of the game, these are summed along with the value of the Defending Force of each of your conquered kingdoms.  And there are some kingdoms that give you additional points.  Knights left in your hand count negative points.  Sum all your points and the highest score wins.

The presentation of the game is pleasant.  The box art is nice and clear.  The art on the cards is quite nice and colorful.  The kingdom cards are particularly good.  Lots of detail and clean.

As I said this is a fun, light game.  It does have some issues though.  If you run out of knights that us can use for attacking, you must buy a knight so you can attack.  While not a problem I don’t remember this being addressed in the rules.  And it can go long.  It is suggested at 40 minutes but one of our games lasted an hour because we kept conquering each other’s kingdoms and replentishing our hands.
All in all, we like this game and it will stay in our collection for a while.