Eminent Domain: Microcosm is a two-player game from designer Seth Jaffee. It’s set in Tasty Minstrel Games’ Eminent Domain universe, but the game stands alone.
It takes about 10 minutes to play and its suggested price is $9.95, but it can be found for less than $7 online.
But can a 10-minute game deliver “the entire cosmos,” as promised?
How it works:
Five technology cards are placed in the center of the table. Planet cards are separated by cost, then shuffled, into three piles.
The remaining 18 cards form a draw deck, and three of those cards are placed face up on the table.
On their turn, players can take a face-up card or risk taking the top card from the draw deck.
Then they play a card from their hand and do what it says or pick up any number of cards from their discard pile.
Sounds simple. But the actions on the cards are the heart of the game, as is choosing when to pick up cards, forfeiting the chance to do an action that turn.
Players can colonize planets, attack planets (either uncolonized or already colonized by their opponent), research technologies, and play a host of cards that affect their opponent.
Each card in the draw deck awards points at the end of the game for a specific symbol the player has collected on cards throughout the game.
The player with the most points wins.
Why you might buy Eminent Domain: Microcosm:
The game is fast, and the price is incredible for the amount of depth you get.
While the rules are simple, the strategies and tactics available are not. You’ll have to try to collect cards that benefit you while trying to block your opponent, and sometimes actively steal cards.
That said, battle isn’t the main part of the game, and it’s not overly mean. If you spend too much time trying to take down your opponent, you’ll likely be left not having collected the right cards to win.
Everything feels balanced and well thought out.
The art is colorful and interesting, and it evokes a world.
If you’re a fan of Eminent Domain, the box also includes promotional cards for the base game, Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers, and Dungeon Roll.
Why you might not buy Eminent Domain: Microcosm:
While what you do on a turn is clear, how all the cards work is a bit confusing at first. You’ll want to read through all the cards, then look at the rules again before you play, especially if you haven’t played Eminent Domain (and I have not).
Because it’s so fast, you may not get to do as much as you’d like. The game feels like it has more potential for depth than it actually gives you in a single play. This could be considered a strength, since you’ll try to optimize every time you play, but it may turn some people off.
If you don’t like two-player card games, you probably won’t like this one.
Scoring is a bit cumbersome. It can take as long to score the game as it does to play it, especially when you’re new. A suggested method for counting points in the rulebook would have helped a lot. (I just write down the points for each card, moving it to a new pile, and then add my list at the end.)
I love that every time I play the game, I can try something new, and I can aim to beat my own score as well as my opponent’s.
I’m a sucker for a good two-player game, and this fits. Combined with the incredible price and the quick play, this game earns its place on my shelf.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Eminent Domain: Microcosm from Tasty Minstrel Games. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.