Game Night – Dominant Species

Dominant species review
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So last night was my first game of Dominant Species. I’ve heard a lot about this game, it being one of the top 100 games on BoardGameGeek, but never thought to seek it out. It seems a little heavy for my group, although my group is progressing quite a bit these days. I finally got to try it at a game night hosted by Aaron, and this is what went down…

Learning the game

Aaron’s got a limited number of games that plays 6 players which are not party games, and Dominant Species was chosen based on overwhelming accolades. Gabe, whose collection of board game is massive, taught the game to 3 of us new players. He patiently went through each of the actions possible, and demonstrated how to calculate dominance and scoring. I find the game to be a fairly straightforward to learn, but the strategies and direction can be confusing at first for a new player. The player aid and rules book are thankfully incredibly well written, and we found ourselves referring back to it quite a few times for special cases and clarifications.

I found that the hardest part to learn was the abundance and depletion section. This has to do with the fact that abundance and depletion is discussed early in the game, but extinction and domination is not talked about until the final step. If it was me I’d give quick overview of the process before going through the possible actions.

Gameplay

The game then begins with us rolling dice to choose the species we want to be. I chose the birds for their mobility. This choice saved me from total annihilation a few times, as you shall find out. For my first action I picked glaciation, because that was heavily recommended as an important action. This was also my worst mistake of the game. For my glaciation action, I targeted Aaron’s wetland amphibians to eliminate the points from that tile. He was apparently not so happy about that action. For the rest of the game he decided to stop playing Dominant Species, and start playing Carcassonne. He decided to take revenge on my damn birds and took glaciation and Wunderlust for the rest of the game to chase me down and score points purely by tile placement.

I knew amphibians were cold blooded, but not like this…

So the game went on, with the rest of the group playing a fairly normal game. I managed to score a few points from domination thanks to my birds’ migration ability. I was also fortunate in the draws to only have the seeds show up in abundance a couple of times throughout the game, thus it was not depleted. Out of the corner of my eyes however is the ever inching Tundra of Aaron that is slowly but surely depleting my home and food supplies. There were a few times where Aaron had a choice to score 10 points to place a tundra, but instead he chose to kill a whole flock of my birds instead.

On the other side of the tundra was a relatively calm jungle of Jay’s spiders. They got plenty of grubs to eat, with no fear of the neighboring tundra going in that direction. The spiders soon expanded to an ocean with even more grubs that allowed them to multiply further. They started taking over the neighboring tundra for the survivor bonus, and was steadily climbing up the ladder through points from domination.

Don’t birds eats spiders? but I guess mine are vegetarian

While all this is happening, the reptiles, mammals, and insects are waging a fierce war for food . Their food tokens are often drawn into the abundance tray, forcing the players to take action so it won’t go into the depletion bin. They are also compelled to adapt to the ever changing food supply, evolving into much more versatile animals. Despite all this, the mammals still went extinct at one point during the game, and speciated again to join my bird army down south.

End game

Glaciers only flow one way  –  Aaron

The game ended in the 7th round, with the fertile card appearing on the board. Aaron now has a choice. He can eliminate the 25 possible points from Jay’s spider by glaciating the other direction, and let the reptiles take victory, or continue his onslaught of birds. At this point we all know what he’s going to do. The spiders were victorious over the reptiles by a mere 3 points, thanks to some freezing tundra spiders and the huge spider family in the jungle. The reptiles dominated a lot of land at the end thanks to their adaptability. They were as good at eating seeds as my birds, plus using other nutrients as well.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I always like games where the rules are intuitive, but the strategy is deep. I find this game to be even more cutthroat than Food chain magnate, the last game I wrote about. As you can see from this playthrough, the potential for kingmaking is great. Despite that, I find the interactions to be enjoyable for the most part. This freedom of movement and interaction adds another level of diplomacy and intrigue into an already strategic worker placement/area control game. I’d totally play the game again, once Aaron forgets about the first turn tundra.

 

 

Specter Ops

Specter Ops
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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. PDF Manual
  6. Buy now at $43.00

Introduction

Specter Ops is a hidden movement game where one player as the Agent attempts to move secretly around the board completing objectives along the way. The rest of the players play Hunters to try and find where the agent is and either eliminate or prevent them from completing the objectives. Each character has unique abilities, and the agent also has many equipments at their disposal to complete the objectives. The goal of the Agent is to complete any 3 of the 4 objectives. The goal of the hunter is to reduce the agent’s hit points to 0 or prevent escape by end of round 40. The following reference is for 2 to 3 players.

Set Up

Agent set up

  • Roll die and mark locations of the 4 objective on pad
  • Place objective tokens on board
  • Secretly choose agent and 3 Equipment cards
  • Circle N1 on pad

Hunter set up

  • Pick 2 hunter characters
  • Place vehicle card beside board
  • Place vehicle token on space K17
  • Place hunter minis on vehicle card

Gameplay

On each turn, the agent will move first, followed by the hunters in any order

Agent movement

The agent moves secretly on the movement pad circling and writing the space where each movement ends. Use the follwing rules for movement

  1. If beginning turn within line of sight of hunter, place last seen token at current location, remove mini
  2. Move up to 4 spaces orthogonal or diagonal
  3. May use Equipment card
  4. If starting turn adjacent to objective, flip over objective to complete it before continuing
  5. If passing through line of sight, must place last seen token at the last seen location
  6. If ending turn on line of sight, place mini on location

Once 3 objectives are completed the agent can escape through A3, N1, or W3.

Hunter movement

  • Each hunter can move up to 4 spaces orthogonally or diagonally
  • A hunter must fully complete their turn before another hunter begins
  • A hunter may use the Vehicle
  • At end of movement, check with agent for visibility
  • If visible, attack agent

If hunter is stunned by agent ability, movement is limited to 2, remove market at end of round. Cannot be stunned in vehicle

Attacking the Agent

  • Roll dice
  • If dice roll is equal to greater than distance to agent, agent lose 1 HP
  • If agent and hunter in same spot, automatic hit
  • Dice roll of 1 is miss, dice roll of 6 allows hunter to roll again and add dice values together
  • Cannot attack from vehicle

Using the vehicle

  • Hunters start the game in the vehicle
  • The vehicle can be moved up to 10 spaces on road or use motion sensor when it is occupied
  • Use the vehicle token to indicate location, and the vehicle card for occupancy
  • Entering or exiting a vehicle ends that hunter’s turn
  • Exit vehicle to space adjacent to vehicle token
  • Vehicle does not block line of sight

End Game

The hunters win when the agent has lost all HP, or has not escaped by turn 40

The agent wins when they’ve completed 3 of 4 objectives and escaped by turn 40