Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-6
Amount of time to play: 15 min per player
Age requirements: 13+
Set-up time: 5 min
Dominant Species is an excellent worker placement game that is a brain burner. Dominant Species the Card Game is lighter, faster and only related in theme and art.
Dominant Species the Card Game takes place over 10 rounds. You win by scoring the most victory points. To score you either have Dominance or matching the elements on the current biome card.
There are two types of cards, Biome cards and Action cards. You randomly discard two of the twelve Biome cards and place them in the center of the table. Biome cards contain 2 or 3 sets of the six elements. Each card also shows two animals. One species is given +1 for determining Dominance and one species is given -1. The exception is the Sea. This Biome card is always at the bottom of the Biome deck and the final Biome to score. It has one of every element except water. It has four water icons and no animals.
Action cards include animal cards and events. Animal cards have a species, Food Chain number, 1 to 4 element icons and may show a crossed-off species. They have better stats right-side up and enter play this way. If you play a card that suppresses another species (by showing it crossed-off) you must flip one card of that species to its weaker side. If a weakened card is suppressed again it is discarded.
Event cards usually help you or hurt other players. They offer advantages to help gain Dominance or increase your element icons. Some get you extra cards, score points, suppress animals or even end the round early.
On your turn you play on card or pass. After everyone has passed the round is over. If you have no cards in your hand you must pass and the round is over. You then score for both Dominance and element icons. You have Dominance if you have the highest Food Chain value. This includes bonuses (or penalty) the current Biome gives. All players with the highest Food Chain value score points equal to the current round. They also move up one on the Survival Track. The player highest on the Survival Track scores five bonus points at the end of the game. The play lowest on the Survival Track loses five points at the end of the game.
The player (or players) with the highest number of element icons that also are on the current Biome gets points equal to the number of that icon on the Biome card. This is from 1 to 3 points except in the Sea Biome which has four water icons.
After each round all your cards are discarded. Then the player left of the starting player starts the new round. After 10 rounds you score the last round and add (or subtract) based on your place on the Survival Track. If you have the most victory points you win.
First if you are expecting Dominant Species the Card Game to be a port of the board game you will be disappointed. The card game is lighter and more accessible than its big brother. There is more randomness since It is a card game and like I said, beyond theme and art these games are not much alike.
I guess there is one more way these games are similar, the components. Just like the board game the card game has excellent, high quality pieces and cards. The rules are pretty easy to follow and trying out a few rounds with a friend or solo should solidify the game play and scoring.
Some people have called this game a filler and part of me agrees. But I think it is a heavier filler full of tension, with some luck and a bit of chaos from the Events. It hits a nice sweet spot. It is easy to teach and learn and the length fits the depth of the game very well.
Depending on your group there may be some kingmaker in Dominant Species the Card Game. We had some kingmaking in our games, but without it we may have had a run away leader. If this irritates you be aware of that potential. Another thing to be aware of is that with more players (like 5 or 6) the rounds are more hotly contested. If you go all in to win a round and lose, it may take a couple rounds to recover or even lose you the game.
I am impressed with the way the theme fits well into this game. Even though it could be simply tacked on it the terminology and actions you take make sense within the theme. And yet it feels very different from the same theme that is used in the board game.
Dominant Species the Card Game is not an adaptation of the original board game. But it has its own merits and a place in your collection. If you want a filler with a bit of weight that plays quick and is easy to teach, give Dominant Species the Card Game a try.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 5 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 3 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6