Tasty Minstrel Games has done it again. Exotica is another great expansion for space 4x deckbuilder Eminent Domain that adds a ton of depth and layers of strategy to an already excellent game. If you like Eminent Domain, with or without the Escalation expansion, then Exotica is a no-brainer. For those players who like the base game but weren't fond of the more directly competitive mechanics that Escalation introduced to the game, Exotica is still a no-brainer, as it is, at its core, a "more stuff" style expansion that focuses on adding options without increasing direct player interaction.
The new additions include a new Exotic planet type and technology cards that go with them, as well as Asteroids that function similarly to planets but aren't nearly as lucrative. Also new is the Exotic symbol that doesn't do anything on its own, but can be can be used in a variety of different ways by players who are careful about which planets they conquer and which technologies they research. These new additions slot in very well with the base game, yet add a plethora of new strategic options to explore. These new additions greatly increase the game's complexity, but that complexity is what helps it stand out against the myriad other deckbuilding games on the market.
The Asteroids can be fairly underwhelming on their own. Combined with the right technology though, they can be turned from underwhelming hunks of space junk into powerful, versatile resources by clever players. Players also have the option of Mining the Asteroids, flipping them face up by discarding their entire hand. That sounds like a crazy idea at first blush, but Mining allows a player to follow the role of another player fully on that player's turn without having to worry about lacking options due to a reduced hand size. Even if you don't use it often, it's an excellent option to have.
Exotica also adds a few things that were first seen in Escalation. With either expansion, the possible player count rises to 5 players. Exotica also adds a deck of Scenario cards, which were my favorite addition from Escalation. Scenario cards give each player a different starting deck and most give each player a specific starting planet, and one or more Technologies with which to start the game. The Scenario cards add just enough asymmetry between players to really shake things up and keep the game interesting over numerous plays. Scenario cards will generally encourage each player towards a specific strategy, so there is the possibility of players starting with a deck that leans towards a strategy that they don’t enjoy, but that can be mitigated by drafting Scenario cards or selecting a Scenario card rather than drawing at random. The Scenario cards keep the game fresh and exciting and dramatically increase re-playability.
Exotica also comes with a "promo-pack" of cards that is only used when playing with both expansions. The promo-pack adds even more Scenarios, planets, Technologies etc. that are specifically designed to tie all of the options from both expansions together. With both expansions added in, the number of available Technologies and Scenarios are staggering, and replayability, fun, and strategic depth all increase significantly. When playing with everything available from both expansions, Eminent Domain becomes a deep and complex experience that will probably be too heavy for new players, but should really excite players already familiar with the game.
A note on “chrome”: The art and components in Eminent Domain: Exotica fit in seamlessly with both the Eminent Domain base game and the Escalation expansion. Exotica also includes some handy cardboard chits that represent groups of three fighters that, while they are cardboard instead of plastic like the other ships, are a welcome addition to the game.
The bottom line:
Eminent Domain: Exotica is another great expansion to a great game. Fans of Eminent Domain who want to add even more strategic depth to the game shouldn't hesitate to pick this expansion up, even those who weren't keen on the mechanics from Escalation that focused on direct player conflict. When both expansions are added to the game simultaneously, the strategic options increase exponentially, and the replay value of the game skyrockets, turning Eminent Domain from a great game into a phenomenal game.
The copy of Eminent Domain: Exotica used for this review was provided by Tasty Minstrel Games.
Eminent Domain: Exotica is a great expansion for experienced Eminent Domain players that gets even better when combined with the Escalation expansion.