Dominant Species the board game is, according to the prevailing descriptions, a sprawling and detailed euro game, a tight mesh of interwoven mechanisms that makes for a detailed and deep game - it’s also a game I haven’t played. In the wake of this apparent titan comes Dominant Species: The Card Game, similarly decorated with a loose evolution theme, but far from the tense epic that is its namesake.
That it doesn’t live up to the austere complexity of its older brother is nothing of concern, the Card Game is a solid and enjoyable game in its own right. It feels a mixture of elements from other games I enjoy, such as Condottiere, but stands on it’s own as a good little card game.
The goal is obvious: to end the game with more points than the other players, and in play the game is fairly simple - you play a card, or you pass. Whoever has the highest total once their played cards are added will win the points from the environment card (which is what everyone is competing over each turn). On it’s own this would be a simple affair, but there are enough twists to make the card play interesting. There are other avenues to score points, there are cards which will affect other cards, there are event cards, there are environment effects that will influence the values of some of the cards played... phew.
Now - while this seems a laundry list of exceptions and possibilities it is all very simple to explain and works very easily in practice. Through the use of species cards, special powers and events players are both trying to claim as many points as they can every round, as well as set themselves up for the next round. This pressure of needing to play cards for the current turn, manipulate the cards already played, and wanting to hold things back for what might be coming up, makes for a range of tense, tactical and interesting choices.
All in all Dominant Species: The Card Game is pretty simple to learn and play, but offers some tactical depth and interesting choices each turn. There is chaos and luck, but there is also the opportunity for clever play - and this all makes for a game that I found to be really enjoyable. In all - I like it, and am looking forward to it hitting the table again soon.