Finally had a group day again on Sunday. The best we could manage was three of the regulars (me, Dave and Jason), though my roommate Baron was available and willing to spend part of the day playing games, so we were figuring on doing a bunch of little games.

However, Jason showed off Dominant Species, which he’d gotten recently, and we decided to give that a try. That took up the entire day (with a slightly early end), but was well worth the time.

It’s a fairly interesting game, and probably the best evolution-themed game I’ve heard of. I know just enough of Euro-games to recognize the action selection mechanic, though I assume it’s a bit more involved here. Certainly, the planning stage at the beginning of each turn where the players declare what kind of actions they will take during the turn out of the limited pool available makes for an interesting mini-game. Then the chart guides you through everything in order; very neat.

We drew random animals to start, with me getting the Arachnids. It took a bit for everyone’s ‘super power’ to sink in, but once it did I tried to emphasize it by picking at least one competition action a turn in addition to the freebie I got. Jason got off to an early lead with the Amphibians with me and Baron following a bit behind, and Dave trailing in last. I came up with a long-term plan to try to reduce Jason’s position (since he not only was in the lead but had prior experience) by going for two glaciation actions in a row. Since there’s only one of these actions a turn, and the rest wait in a queue, this left me with fewer actions than normal, but allowed me to direct the expansion of tundra into his high-scoring stronghold.

Dave had the Insects, and by mid-game was using their high initiative to get two of the five domination (scoring) actions each turn, so he caught up, and pulled ahead by the time my plan to contain Jason went off. By the end of the game he had an extremely dominating lead. Meanwhile, my VP collection had just puttered along, and I had fell well behind everyone.

Part of the problem was our inexperience; it was easy during our game to have a high-scoring tile with no one else on it to give points for second to. I’m sure that will change next game. Baron did pretty well for himself as the Mammals, who he shifted up to second in the initiative order, and had a nice little area without the really big (sea) tiles, but not much competition until the last couple turns.

When the Ice Age card (for the end of the game) came up, I had a decent position, even if I had few VPs, and came up with a desperate plan. I would try to hold dominance on as many tiles as possible, to get a lot of bonus points which would turn into a good number of VPs. At the same time, this allowed me to try and get the Survival bonus (which had pretty well migrated around the table every turn). A Cataclysm card seemed to put an end to the latter as Jason used it to clear out a decent stretch of tundra. I got the last ‘special effect’ card, which allowed me to place an extra tile of tundra. For a while, it seemed like there was no way for it to help, but I finally realized I could use it to knock out two water food sources that Jason was relying on, and clear him off the tundra. As it turned out, all four of us tied with three species each on the tundra for the last turn and no Survival bonus to anyone.

My plan to Dominate my way to victory worked out well, with 8 dominated tiles, and 36 VPs. This put me at 101 VP to squeak out a second place above Baron (95), and Jason (90). Dave was nowhere in reach at a final total of 142(!) VPs.

It was a fun and interesting game, and I’d like to see it with six players; I think the extra crowding on the action chart will lead to some very interesting fights.