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Overview

Eminent Domain is a space-themed deck building and role selection game from one of the industry's newer designers, Seth Jaffee. Eminent Domain is often compared to Race for the Galaxy and Dominion, but, despite a few similar mechanics, the successful strategies are completely different.

One primary consideration is that role selection in Eminent Domain is never going to be an all upside. In Race for the Galaxy, if you select a role that no one else wants, they get absolutely nothing. In Eminent Domain, they still get to draw an extra card for dissenting. As a result, this reduces the sting of not matching an opponent's role and opens up a few more strategic options.

The deck building in Eminent Domain is a bit different, as well. Like Dominion, from the start, you will have cards you don't want in your deck. But with Research and Politics available from the beginning, you can thin those cards out of your deck straight away. Furthermore, because you are choosing a card each turn to add to your deck you will need to keep from overdoing any one thing.

There are three primary strategies in Eminent Domain. Each strategy will need to utilize the Research role to get Technology cards, but their other point gaining strategies are different. The Colonizing and Warfare strategies focus on getting points from planets from the Colonize and Warfare roles, respectively. The Trade strategy focuses on getting its points from trading away goods. I've outlined some key considerations for each strategy below.


The Colonizing Strategy

This strategy settles many planets through the Colonize role. Colonizing many planets requires a decent amount of Survey cards in your deck to continue finding new planets. Additionally, you will want Research cards to help you find cards like Terraforming which will let you settle more than one planet at a time. Colonizing players will want to keep in mind that they have a lot of access to Production from the Fertile worlds and Technology cards.


The Warfare Strategy

This strategy attacks many planets through the Warfare Role. Attacking many planets requires a decent amount of Survey cards in your deck to continue finding new planets. Additionally, you will want Research cards to help you find cards like War Path which will let you attack two planets at once. Warfare players often run out of planets to attack. As a result, they will want to make extensive use of the Surveying cards from the Metal worlds and Technology cards.


The Trade Strategy

This strategy regularly uses of the Produce/Trade Role. Like other strategies, you will need to be able to Survey to increase your access to planets. However, with just a few planets, you can get started. Generally, for the Trade strategy you will want one of the two Technology cards that help you score points for trading: Specialization or Diversity. Both of these are in the Advanced worlds technology tree, making those planets the most desirable to settle or attack.

With the above strategies in mind, there are a few other things you'll want to keep in mind to improve your chances of winning:


Learn The Tech Tree

It takes a few plays of Eminent Domain to really understand how to play well. One contributing factor to the learning curve is the tech tree. Each of the three tech trees has something very different to offer, and without a little bit of study for the patterns, it can be hard to understand it as a whole. In general, the Fertile worlds offer support for Colonizing and Producing. Metal worlds offer some of the best Warfare and Survey options. Advanced Worlds offer the best Research and Trading options.

The first thing you'll want to know about each tree is the lowest tier technologies follow a distinct pattern. For each of the six Improved role cards in the lowest tier, there are four available in each tree. The two that are not available in each tree are the Specialties of that tree. For example, the Fertile Worlds tree specializes in Colonizing and Producing. However, that tree doesn't have the Improved Colonize or Improved Production technology cards.

This lack of their own specialty's Improved role cards means that each tree must branch out a little from the very beginning. If done haphazardly, this branching can easily lead you in the wrong direction. That said, if you start with a Fertile world, for example, you may still want to plan a Warfare based strategy. You will have access to Improved Warfare straight away, and then you can focus on acquiring the Metal worlds needed to get access to the really good Warfare technology cards.

Here is a more detailed look at what each of the trees has to offer:

The Fertile Worlds Tree

If you plan to stick to the Fertile tree the tier one technologies you will want to start with are probably Improved Survey and Improved Research. Both of these can have a particularly good symbol combination for you (Colonize + Survey or Colonize + Research). Improved Research is also very good for its action effect. Early access to strong deck manipulation is very useful!

The Metal Worlds Tree

The Metal World tree is rich with Warfare-minded cards. I favor Survey Team and Mobilization because they help you conquer worlds faster. Survey Team helps you find worlds without glutting your deck with Survey cards. Mobilization lets you gain ships and still lets you attack the same turn. The tier one technologies you will want most is Improved Research. You might also consider opening up some Produce/Trade options with one of their Improved versions.


The Advanced Worlds Tree

The primary reason people want the Advanced tree is for Research. There are lots of great Research Technology cards here, particularly ones focusing on removing cards from your deck. Any of the primary strategies can make us of the Advanced tree, though the Trade strategy really wants to get access to Specialization or Diversity to solidify their strategy. The tier one technologies here depend on your strategy. Improved Colonize and Improved Warfare are good for their respective strategies. Improved Trade is clearly a solid choice for the Trade strategy.

Research, Even When It Hurts

Good technology cards are a very strong advantage. You can win with a low amount of technology, but you need at least a few. Beyond adding cards to your deck through role selection, Research is the only way to add cards to improve your deck faster. This makes it very worthwhile to acquire technology cards with Research symbols on them to help you research more. If your deck is short on Research cards, it may be worth it to choose Research as your role, even if you can't actually acquire any technology cards from it.

Diversify

It's very rare to get a hand with just one type of card, so you want to be able to reasonably utilize whatever mix of cards you might get. Following frequently lets you use more of the cards in your hand than you might otherwise. While not following someone on a role isn't devastating, you are better off if you follow frequently. Diversifying will give you the most options for following others.

Another reason to diversify is that you have to anyway. If you only Colonize the whole game, you can't possibly win. You at least need to add in Surveys. Most winning strategies include at least three different roles. Basically, every deck needs some amount of Survey and Research to keep up with finding new planets and improving your deck. And then, you have your primary strategy for gaining points.

Choose Your Role Well

There's a lot of balance in the role selection process. If opponent A follows you, then that opponent isn't likely to follow opponent B before their own turn. With the normal 6 cards a player sees on a turn (5 base plus 1 for dissenting), they can't realistically follow more than one player.


Produce/trade

This is generally the hardest role to get working well. Ideally, you want to get more than one planet producing and trading at a time. In order to make that happen, you have to start down the colonizing or war path to get an extra planet.

Waiting to settle multiple planets means every produce/trade in your hand you've drawn up to the point has been a dead card. You can't realistically trash one or more of your initial produce/trades if you want to keep that role open to you in the future. If you trash both, the next time you attempt to produce, you are almost guaranteed only one resource. (Which negates the purpose of getting a second planet online). As a result, you have two options: Keep your produce/trades in your deck and simply discard them when they come up, or produce on your first two planets as actions and plan to trade them both off at once later.

The balance required to make Produce/Trade successful means you will have to piggy-back on other people's roles as often as you can. This means keeping or crafting a versatile hand of cards that will let you follow Colonizes, Warfares, or Surveys to help get you enough actions to get the breathing room you need.



Concluding Thoughts

Consistently winning Eminent Domain is tough, especially against experienced opponents. My suggestions above will get you started on a solid path to victory. It's a lot to keep in mind and may take several games for it to all sink in. Even then, you still need to be flexible. You can't really go into a game thinking "I'm going Warfare" until you get a feel for what everyone's plans are! Good luck on your next game!



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