Two deck-building card games promise excitement and adventure: Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games and Professor Pugnacious from Sixpence Games.
In Eminent Domain, two to four players take on the roles of galactic factions, each trying to build the greatest star empire. Each player is assigned a starting world, face down, with information on what it takes to add the world to your empire in terms of military strength or colonization.
The game revolves around five different kinds of cards that are used for just about everything in the game. On each player's turn, they may play a card from their hand for its action, then must play one of the five cards from the game board as a role. When a player plays a card for its role, other players can do the same thing, though whoever played the card gets a "leader" advantage. If the other players do not want to follow the role card, they may dissent and draw a card from their deck.
Survey cards let players draw more cards from their deck, or search the worlds deck for more planets. The Warfare cards give players plastic fighter ships, a kind of military currency in the game, or let them attack worlds and flip them. Colonize allows players to add the card to a world they want to colonize (every world takes a set number of these cards), or when they have enough cards they can flip it. Produce/Trade cards allow players to produce goods that can be traded for influence tokens (victory points), and Research cards allow them to draw cards from the technology decks.
The three technology decks correspond to the different kinds of worlds — fertile, metallic and advanced. Players must hold a certain number of those worlds in order to gain specific technologies, and new technologies can give players major advantages. The game ends when a set number of decks on the player board is depleted, depending on the number of players. Also, the game can end when all of the influence tokens from the general pool are taken.
Eminent Domain is a great card game that succeeds in both creating its science-fiction theme and in its game mechanics. Players must be careful when selecting a role because other players can then emulate that action and move closer to victory. There are a surprising number of options available for just having the five main cards, and each plays quite differently, depending on whether it is used for an action or played it for its role.
Eminent Domain often feels like players are playing individual solitaire games, however, and Tasty Minstrel Games has recently released its first expansion to Eminent Domain that addresses that issue. In Eminent Domain: Escalation, players have more options like attacking other players, gaining powerful new technologies, unique starting scenarios, and more. The expansion is not necessarily a must have add on, but Escalation is a lot of fun and really does bring some new dynamics to Eminent Domain. It will no doubt impress fans of the base game.
Playable in about 45 minutes to an hour, Eminent Domain is recommended for ages 10 years old and up.
The full title of Sixpence Games' new two to four player deck-building game is Professor Pugnacious' Portfolio or Perils, Pugilism, and Perfidy. Set in a steampunk universe of odd contraptions and horrid monsters, Professor Pugnacious is unique among deck-builders, which usually see players buying cards from a central line-up.
Rather, each player has five cards laid before him or her, creating a ring around the board. Players can only purchase cards from their section of the ring. If any cards are purchased, they are replaced from a central deck, and at the end of the turn they slide one to the left, giving opponents the chance to buy cards that the original player didn't or couldn't on his or her turn.
Each turn is divided into four phases. First, players may play cards from their hands for their abilities. Then, players may add up the number of skill points on the cards in their hands (all things being equal five cards) to purchase cards from the ring in front of them. Players then select tokens depicting who they want to fight during the fight phase. Three monster cards are laid out, as is a training dummy (useful for trashing cards), and the Finale card. Players reveal which monster they will fight with numbered tokens, then add up the number of fight points on their cards to see if they equal or exceed the monster they're fighting. Players may also play failure tokens on their opponents, which count as a negative to every fight point in the cards. Players gain Experience Points (victory points) every time they defeat a monster.
Finally, players must suffer any penalties that happened during the round and discard their cards before drawing a new hand. The game ends when someone defeats the Finale card, or when the main deck or the monster deck runs out. Whoever has the most Experience Points at the end wins.
Professor Pugnacious is a generally fun and engaging deck-building game that succeeds in its theme through its clever artwork and historical quotes that seem to fit. The real innovation here is the card ring, which allows players unique options every turn, and makes sure that players are focused on what is coming up and what may potentially shift to their opponent's section of the ring.
The failure tokens are a nice touch, allowing players to attack their opponents and spoil their plans. It's a bit of a mean-spirited mechanic, so one shouldn't play this game with people who easily get their feelings hurt. Also, it can be a bit hard getting the right combinations together to fight the monsters, and the failure tokens only make it harder. It's an interesting device that will delight some players and frustrate others to no end.
The base game does include some hints at future expansions, and it will be interesting to see where Sixpence Games takes this unusual deck-builder.
Professor Pugnacious is recommended for ages 14 years old and up and plays in about 45 minutes.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. He has also appeared on many local stages, including Hale Centre Theatre and Off Broadway Theatre. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org