There’s a new Finnish review of Domaine posted on my website.
The game’s about medieval lords, fighting over the lands while the king is gone. Players form domaines, areas circled with walls (or the borders of the board) that contain their castle. Points are scored according to the forests and villages in the domaines.
When the game begins, there are only the players’ castles on the board — not a single wall. Players must start to lay down walls, creating enclosed regions. While laying walls is important, it’s not the only concern the players have. The domaines need defense in form of knights. There’s an expansion action that lets players expand their already-formed domaines into enemy territory, if the enemy has fewer knights than the attacker.
All actions are done through an interesting card system. Each card offers an action (lay down walls, add a knigh, expand a domaine, force a truce or convert an enemy knight) at some price. If player wants to use a card, the price must be paid. At some point money will run out and players are forced to sell cards instead of playing them. Choosing what to play and what to sell can be difficult — especially as other players will be able to pick up the cards you sell.
There’s a lot of conflict in this game. Every time a player reaches out and conquers a bit of land, it comes from someone else’s domaine (or a potential domaine). You can’t make a move without targeting a player, which is rather untypical in German games. It makes Domaine stand out a bit, making it an interesting exception.
The mechanics were improved a lot from Löwenherz and the look of the game got an update, too. It’s colourful, vibrant and almost garish. The plastic castles and knights are detailed, but at the same time look a bit cheap — like something that could come in a Kinder egg. I’d probably prefer something more simple, abstract and wooden. That’s a question of taste, of course. It all works and looks pretty good, too, so nothing’s really wrong here.
The best thing about Domaine is that it can be played in an hour. That’s amazing. It’s a game full of excitement, tactical choices (it’s certainly more tactical than strategic), tough battles and bloody wars. It’s quite unlike other German games and has certainly deserved its place in my collection.
I would certainly recommend Domaine to anyone who’s interested in games that feature prominent conflict. That’s what it is, and little else. Through that conflict comes a lot of interaction between players and the theme works out well, too. I’d say Domaine has many of the good characteristics of American school of game design, while still retaining a distinctively German feel in the mechanics.