Game Night – Dominant Species

Dominant species review
Standard

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.

 

 

Alchemists

alchemists
Standard

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. Appendix
  6. PDF Manual
  7. Buy now at $45.90

Introduction

Alchemists is a worker placement puzzle game with players trying to figure out what components or “alchemical” makes up each ingredient. Points are primarily scored by publishing papers about these ingredients. This game uses an app that contains the solution for the game, and is also used to give clues throughout. The alchemist with the most points at the end of the game wins. The following reference is for the apprentice variant. See appendix for master variant.

Set Up

Board set up

Use the side of the board corresponding to player number

  • Shuffle the Adventurer tiles and remove 1 from the game
  • Turn over the top card of the adventurer deck and place in adventurer space
  • Insert the conference tiles into the adventurer deck
  • Separate the artifact cards by card back and draw three from each deck, return rest to box
  • Place the cards with back 1 face up on artifact row, set other cards aside
  • Shuffe the ingredient cards, draw 5 face up onto ingredients row
  • Shuffle favor cards and place on board

Theory board set up

  • Arrange grants into corresponding spaces
  • Set the 8 alchemical tokens to the side

Player set up

  • Player board
  • Action cubes depending on player number
  • Set of bid cards
  • Draw 2 favor cards and choose 1
  • Draw 3 ingredients
  • Take 2 coins
  • Flask on 10 of score/reputation track
  • Set of seals in your color
  • Assemble laboratory and caldron
  • Give a player the starting player token

Gameplay

The game is played over 6 rounds. Each round consists of

  1. Choose turn order
  2. Declare actions
  3. Resolve actions
  4. Clean up

Choose turn order

Player choose when they want to wake up starting with the start player. Take the bonus associated with the space. Waking up first requires you to Pay one coin.

Declare actions

Starting with the player that woke up last, declare the actions you want to perform by your action cubes on action spaces. The row you place them in corresponds to your position on the turn order chart.

Action space rules

  • Some locations have multiple action spaces, you can perform this action more than once
  • Some actions require multiple cubes to perform
  • Actions are resolved top down, one action at a time
  • When it is your turn, you have the option to decline your action. Place your cube(s) in the unused cube section. Take 1 favor card for every pair of cubes at end of round

Resolve actions

Actions are resolved in clockwise order starting from Forage for ingredients. The action spaces are

Only Forage for ingredients, Transmute ingredient, Buy Artifact, Test on Student, and Drink Potion are available for the first round.

Forage for ingredients

Take one face up ingredient from the row or one face down from the top of the deck. The ingredient row is not replaced until all actions are finished

Transmute ingredient

Discard one ingredient and take one gold.

Sell potion

This action takes place in 4 steps and requires two cubes. The steps are in this order


Buy Artifact

Pay the cost in the upper left and take an artifact from the row. Keep the artifact in a visible area. Follow text on card. Artifacts are worth victory points at the end. The artifact row is not replenished. It is replaced by level II and level III artifacts when the conference cards are drawn. All upcoming artifacts are public information.

Debunk Theory (Apprentice variant)

This action is only used when a theory has been published. Debunk a theory by using the app. Pick an ingredient, and an aspect that you think is wrong. The app will show everyone the correct sign.

Publish Theory

Pick an alchemical token and place it on one of the ingredients on theory board. Mark it with one of your seals. Pay one gold to the bank and gain one reputation.

One can also endorse a theory by paying one coin each to the bank and to each player with seal on the theory. Gain no reputation.

If you have seals on 2 of the 3 or 4 ingredients depicted in the Grant tiles, take the grant and earn 2 coins. For any grants after the first, you must have seals on 3 ingredients depicted.

Experiments

All experiments involve using the app to mix two ingredients. Show the resulting potion to the table, and place a matching potion token on your results triangle, and a token on your player board. Discard the ingredients face down after use.

Experiment – Test on Student

Perform the experiment as described using “Test on student” on the app. If a negative potion is made, the players testing after you must pay 1 coin to experiment.

Experiment – Drink Potion

Perform experiment as described using “Drink Potion”. If negative potion is made, suffer the effects listed

  • Negative Blue – Insanity
  • Negative Green – Paralysis
  • Negative Red – Poison

Negative potions cannot effect you twice in the same round.

Exhibition (Final round only)

In the 6th and final round, place the exhibition board over the experiment spaces. Select Final round on the app. To resolve, place action cube on the potion you wish to demonstrate. You cannot demonstrate two of the same potion. Mix two ingredients using “exhibit potion” on the app. The following can occur

  • You are the first to demonstrate a potion, score one point and move cube to thumbs up space
  • You do not make the required potion, move cube to the thumbs down space
  • Second to demonstrate that potion, gain no points, but keep the cube on the space
  • You make both signs of the potion, score two extra points

Clean up

At the end of each round, perform the following

  1. Top alchemist award Point awarded for all tied players
  2. Gain one favor card for each pair of unused cubes
  3. Move cube from hospital to unused cube space
  4. Remove the old adventurer tile, turn over next adventurer
  5. If conference is revealed, players that meet requirement gain one point. If they don’t, lose points as indicated
  6. Set up new artifact cards at the end of conference
  7. Remove old ingredients and draw 5 more
  8. Pass starting player token to the left

End Game

The game ends after the 6th round and the final exhibition. Add the following to your score

  • Points from artifact
  • Points from grants
  • Exchange one favor card for 2 gold piece, Purchase 1 point per 3 gold pieces

Use the app to “Show Answers”. Gain points according to seal for correct theories. Lose 4 points for any incorrect unhedged seals. Players do not suffer extra reputation due to zones. The player with the most points wins. Ties broken by gold remaining

Appendix

Master Variant

The master variant has 3 differences to the apprentice variant, they can be combined and mixed.

  • Masters receive 2 ingredient cards in the beginning
  • Different conference tiles
  • Master Debunking rules

Master Debunking

To debunk a theory, you need to prove with an experiment that the theory is wrong. Using the app, select 2 ingredients and the potion you believe it will produce. The app will tell you if it produces that potion, or if it doesn’t. Explain to the group why this debunks the theory. If it doesn’t, lose one reputation. If it does, there are 3 possible outcomes.

If the demonstration does not debunk a theory, debunk 2 theories, or demonstrate a new conflict, it is an invalid demonstration. Lose 1 point if demonstration cannot be explained to be useful.

Roll for the Galaxy

roll for the galaxy
Standard

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. PDF Manual
  6. Buy now at $40.65

Introduction

Roll for the Galaxy is a dice rolling space empire building game. Players roll their worker dice to determine which worker will do which action this round. The workers will be assigned to settle new planets, research technologies, or get more income. The catch is that each player may only “activate” one of the 5 available actions, so not every worker will get to perform its assigned task. The game ends when one player has 12 tiles in their world, or the victory points pool is exhausted. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.

Set Up

Board set up

Place in center

  • all dice
  • Phase tiles X side up
  • 55 game tiles in bag
  • VP pool containing 12 VP per player + 10 for final round

Player set up

  • Dice cup
  • Player mat
  • Credit marker on 1
  • Player screen
  • Phase strip
  • Initial tiles
  • Draw 2 game tiles and place on mat
  • Put 3 white dice in cup
  • Put 2 white dice on citizenry
  • Take the dice as indicated by starting tiles

Gameplay

During each round, the players will perform these 5 steps. There are no turns, players can all play simultaneously. Repeat until one of the Game end scenario is met.

  1. Roll
  2. Assign
  3. Reveal
  4. Do Phases
  5. Manage Empire

Roll

Roll all workers in the cup.

Assign

Place dice onto the phase strip using the following rules

  1. Initial placement
  2. Phase selection
  3. Reassignment

Reveal

All player reveal the screen. Flip over the phase tiles to the active side for any activated phases among the table. Return to the cup any dice on inactive phases and the dice used to dictate. note for 2 player game

Do Phases

Simultaneously resolve each of the activated phases in numeric order. Use all workers assigned to the phase, including any workers that selected it. Place any used workers in the Citizenry. Note powers of developments when placing workers or resolving phases. The phases are

Manage Empire

Recruit workers from the Citizenry back into the cup by spending one credit for each dice recruited. If the credit tracker is at 0 at the end of recruitment, move it to 1 for the next round. Recall developers, settlers, and goods from the tiles back into the cup.

Flip all phases back to the X side. Check if game ends, and start new round if not.

End Game

Game end is triggered when the original VP chip pool is exhausted, or any player has 12 or more tiles. Add score as follow

  • VP
  • VP equal to cost of tiles in tableau
  • Bonuses from 6 cost developments. Round up fractions

Ties are broken by number of dice in cup, then credits.

Viticulture: Essential Edition

viticulture
Standard

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. PDF Manual
  6. Buy now at $48.98

Introduction

Viticulture is a worker placement game where players are owners of competing wineries. Throughout years in the game, the players will plant vines, harvest grapes, and eventually turning them into wine. Players earn victory points mainly by completing wine orders. The player with the most points wins.

Set Up

Board set up

  • Rooster tokens on Wake up chart
  • Cork token on start space
  • Shuffle the 4 colored decks and place into matching color spaces on board
  • Bottle token in middle of residual payment tracker

Player set up

  • Receive player mat
  • Place three Field cards in ascending order
  • Pick a first player and give grape token
  • Randomly select one set of Mama and Papa cards, collect resources accordingly

Gameplay

The game consists of years of 4 seasons plus a clean up round, to be played until the end game trigger is reached. Depending on the number of players, some action spaces are not used. Each year or round is played in order as followed

  1. Spring
  2. Summer
  3. Fall
  4. Winter
  5. Year end clean up

Spring

Starting with the first player, place a rooster on a wake up chart space to determine turn order for worker placement. Take the bonus associated with the space.

Summer

This is the first worker placement phase. In wake up order, place workers on action spaces until all players pass. These are the rules for worker placement

  • A worker is only used once a year
  • A player may place more than one worker on a location on subsequent turns if space allows
  • Workers can only be placed on the current season’s spaces
  • A player must take the action when worker is placed
  • Some spaces have bonuses, take bonus when that space is used
  • Grande worker can be placed on location even if it is full
  • Grande worker can only take bonus when placed on bonus space

Summer action spaces

The summer phase ends when all players have passed.

Fall

In wake up order, draw either a summer or visitor card

Winter

Using the remaining workers in wake up order, take turns placing workes as in summer phase.

Winter action spaces

Year end clean up

  • Increase value of all grapes and wines by 1
  • Return all workers
  • Collect residual payments
  • Discard down to 7 cards
  • Rotate first player token

End Game

The game end is triggered when one player reaches 20 points. The current year is finished. Player with most points wins. Ties are broken by lira, value of wine in cellar, the value of grapes on crush pad.

Trickerion

trickerion
Standard

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. Expansions

Introduction

Trickerion is a worker placement game with aspiring magicians trying to earn fame in the city of Magoria. Over the course of 5 weeks, players will learn illusions, build sets, and finally perform them infront of an audience. Players can hire assistants and specialists to aid them in their quest. The magician with the most fame after five weeks is the winner. The following Quick Cardboard is for the base game only. See expansions.

Set Up

Board set up

  • Place game board in middle of table
  • Separate the trick cards by category and place above Dahlgard’s Residence
  • Fill Market with Wood, metal, glass, and fabric components
  • Create performance deck with two Riverside theater and two Grand Magorian cards. Fill theater with Riverside Theater cards.
  • Trickerion stone on slot 1 of turn counter
  • Wooden point markers on fame 5

Player set up

Each player choose a magician and take

  • Player board
  • Magician card
  • Magician Poster card
  • Trick and symbol markers of chosen color
  • Take components with total value of 2
  • Trick Card of threshold 1, chosen from favorite category
  • Starting hand of 9 Permanent assignment cards
  • All Character Disks of player color
  • Place one magician and one apprentice disk in their corresponding spot on player board
  • Take one Specialist of player choice and respective game board
  • One trickerion shard

Place Magician meeple in random order on the intiative order track. 1st player gets 10 coins, 2nd 12 coins, 3rd 14 coins, and 4th 16 coins.

Specialist Abilities

  • Engineer
  • Manager
  • Assistant

Gameplay

Each round of the game consists of 7 phases. The game lasts 5 rounds

  1. Roll dice
  2. Set initiative order
  3. Advertise
  4. Assignment phase
  5. Place Character
  6. Performance
  7. End turn clean up

Roll dice

Roll the 6 downtown dice and place according to color in the downtown location.

Set initiative order

This step is skipped for the first round. Starting from the second round, the player with the least fame points will go first and so on. If tie, reverse previous initiative position.

Player can choose to advertise by paying coins equal to their initiative order and gain 2 fame. Place poster on the track to indicate you have done so.

Assignment phase

Place an assignment card facedown onto each character to determine where they go in the next phase. This is done simultaneously. Characters with no assignment cards cannot be placed in the next phase.

Place Character

The game uses an action point system where each worker placement action also requires the appropriate action points to be spent. A worker may perform more than one action from a single placement if they have enough action points. Action points available can be increased by 1 for every trickerion shard spent (except for theater). Locations have slot modifiers that can increase or decrease the action points available.

In turn order, each player chooses one character to place in a location. The action points are immediately spent to perform one or more actions. The next player in the initiative order takes their turn. The locations are

Downtown

Downtown consists of up to 6 actions from 3 category that you can take. The actions available are determined by the dice faces. When you take an action available, flip the dice to show the X indicating it has been used. These are the categories for the actions

  • Learn tricks
  • Hire characters
  • Take coins

Players may also choose to reroll one die with one action point, or pay 2 action points to freely change a die to any face.

Market

Components bought from the market are taken from the supply. The market only shows the types available, quantity is theoretically unlimited. There are 4 actions available in the market

  • Buy
  • Bargain
  • Order
  • Quick order

Workshop

The workshop is on the player board. The following actions can be taken

  • Prepare
  • Move tricks (engineer)
  • Move components (manager)
  • Permanently move apprentice (assistant)

Theater

The theater is divided up into 4 days. A player may only place their workers on one of the days, and may not place on a day already occupied by another player. You cannot increase actions with trickerion shards in the theater. The bottom slot can only be occupied by magicians. The following actions are in the theater.

  • Set up trick
  • Reschedule
  • Perform

Performance

Starting from Thursday going to Sunday, player with magician on a performance slot can select a performance card containing at least one of their tricks.

Reward

Players collect fame and coins as indicated on the trick card when the trick is performed. The Performing magician also receives bonus for

  • 1 fame for each link in card
  • Specialist bonus for specialists backstage
  • Bonus on bottom of performace card

The payouts for Thursday and Sunday are modified. Any trick rewards to be collected by all players are decreased by 1 coin and 1 fame per trick on Thursday. Any trick rewards are increased by 1 fame and 1 coin for all players when their trick is performed on Sunday regardless of performer.

End turn clean up

Once all the performances are done, perform these steps to set up for next round

  • Pay wages
  • Return characters
  • Orders arrive
  • Move performance cards
  • Remove posters
  • Move round marker

End Game

The game ends after 5 rounds. Add on to the score

  • 1 fame for each unspent shard
  • 1 fame for every 3 coins
  • 2 fame for each apprentice
  • 3 fame for each specialist

Player with the most fame points win. Ties broken by initiative track.

Expansions

Dark Alley

Set up

  • Use the dark alley side of player and main game board
  • Separate and shuffle individually the special assignment cards
  • Use all trick cards
  • Create the performance deck with 2 Riverside Theater, 2 Grand Magorian, then 2 Magnus Pantheon
  • Use the dark alley side of the magician card. Each magician also has a Special Ability
  • Randomly choose 3 pending prophecies, place the other next to board
  • Each player also receives dark alley assignment card

Place Character phase

Players can also use the dark alley location. The actions are

  • Draw first card
  • Draw further cards
  • Fortune telling

End turn phase

  • Move prophecies
  • Discard special assignment cards

Game end

The game ends after 7 rounds. Add on to score

  • 1 fame for each unspent trickerion shard
  • 1 fame for every 3 coins
  • 2 fame for each unused special assignment
  • Number of fame as indicated on threshold 36 tricks if requirements are met

Magician Abilities

  • The Mechaniker
  • Priestess of Mysticism
  • Master of Chains
  • The Great Optico
  • The Red Lotus
  • Yoruba Spiritmaster
  • Electra
  • The Gentleman

Magician powers

Must be played with the Dark Alley expansion.

Set up

Shuffle each of the 3 power decks and place next to game board. Deal 4 from each deck to every player. The player will than choose 8 from the 12. Each player will receive 3 shards intead of 1.

Gameplay

Store all available shards on the left of player board from the bottom up. The slot is considered open when it is filled with the required amount of shards. At the beginning of the assignment phase, a player may learn a new power by placing it in the open slot.

Game end

The scoring is the same as dark alley, except you do not earn points for unspent trickerion shard.

Dual of Magicians

Set up

Create deck with 5 or 7 turn set up cards. Place face up beside board. Use performance cards with gray trick markers to create performance deck.

Gameplay

After rolling dice, reveal the next turn set up card and cover slots accordingly with the current card.

Player can also link tricks with pre-printed trick markers.

Trigger