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Eminent Domain - new game design!

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

It's been a loOOOong time since I've shared a game design here at BGDF, mostly because it's been a long time since I've had a new design to share! I'd been spending a lot of time (a) dealing with the publishing of my first game (yay!) Terra Prime - one which was designed largely right here at BGDF, with lots of good suggestions and commentary from the community, and (b) working on upcoming Tasty Minstrel releases and submissions. But I've finally started a new design, and I'm really close to being able to test it - just a few more blanks to fill in and I can give it a first run, which I fully expect to reveal all the glaring weaknesses in it!

That said, it's the perfect time to share the game with you all, and see if you have any thoughts on it before I give it a go. Here's a basic description, and I'll be posting the rules (such as they are) in a game journal "any minute now."

Eminent Domain is a streamlined civilization building game based on the initial premise of making a card game version of Twilight Imperium 3, using a "Dominion Engine" to build a deck reflecting your civilizations power. Here's some of the thought process that went into it so far:

Imagine that you have some number of actions (5, maybe 6 different actions) in the game, and everyone starts with a little deck with 10 cards in it, 2 relating to each of the actions. When you take an action, you always get the base action, and you reveal the top X cards of your deck (at the start maybe it's just 2 cards or something). Any card matching the action you took boosts the potency of your action. So if you want to gather wood, you reveal 2 cards, and you get 1 wood plus 1 wood per Wood card that comes up.

One of the actions you can take is to "train one of those actions" (i.e. get better at it). So for example, let's say there's an action in which you gather wood, and an action in which you attack. Maybe you could spend your turn 'training' attack, thus you add a card showing an attack icon (like the basic ones in your deck). That way, more often when you flip a couple cards, more of them will be 'attack' - and therefore more often your attack action will be boosted.

In addition to possibly boosting your action, each card has a coin value on it (probably just 1 coin, but maybe some could be worth 2 or something). There would be a common set of cards like Dominion's Kingdom cards which you could buy into your deck. For example, you could buy an Axe card which shows both an Attack icon and a Wood icon - the Axe helps you gather wood AND it helps you attack. The Axe goes into your deck to be flipped later.

So that would be the Dominion engine. You add to your deck in order to customize your reasonable abilities. So if you start doing a lot of attacking for example, you'll want Attack icons, and that will make you better at attacking, encouraging you to attack more. Ditto Explore or Gather Wood or whatever.

For a TI3 theme, maybe you don't "Gather Wood" though. I started thinking about how it might work:

Imagine there's a deck of Planets. On the back of the card you see the type of planet, but not the specifics. The type or category of planet tells you what type of effect or ability it will give you. When you take an EXPLORE action, you take 1 Planet card (plus 1 per Explore icon revealed) and look at them (backs only!) - choosing one to put face down in front of you. Since everyone can see the back of the top card, it's like you went to check out that system - maybe you found some others along the way, and you chose one of them to explore. You have now explored, but not settled the planet. Another action is Settle. Maybe the planets all have some number on them which you have to hit on a Settle action - that is to say you Settle for 1+X (revealed) "points" worth, and you need to meet or exceed the number on the card. When you Settle the planet you get to flip it over and gain it's benefits. Maybe one category is likely to have money, one category is good for one or more of the Actions (adding a symbol to the number you reveal when you take that action), etc. One should probably boost the number of cards you reveal when you take an action. The Settled planets could also be worth points.

Another thought I had, but didn't get anywhere with (yet) is that maybe there's a community deck as well, and whenever you add a card to your deck, you also add 1 to the community deck. Not sure how that would be useful. Maybe for some actions (or all actions) you reveal one or some cards from the community deck as well as your personal deck.

That was the basic idea, and it's evolved since into something more along the lines of San Juan or Glory to Rome. I thought it would be better to choose cards out of a hand rather than reveal cards from a deck - basically pick your action after seeing which will be 'good' this turn. Adding Role Selection to the game seemed natural, as I was trying to model TI3 anyway - so rather than BUY cards in to your deck, I figured you could just add them as a result of choosing that role. Meanwhile, as you choose a role, other players get to partake in that action (in the usual TI3/Puerto Rico/Glory to Rome/RftG way).

The long and short of it is that the more you choose a particular action, the better you get at doing that particular action. There will be ways in the game to improve the efficiency of your deck (what symbols come up and how often) by removing unwanted cards and adding more versatile cards (Research cards which have 2 different symbols on them and therefore boost 2 different actions).

Any thoughts so far? As I mentioned, I'll be posting the rules as I'm currently considering them in a game journal later today.

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