Exotica is the second expansion for the deck-building card game Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games.
Two new aspects of play are added to Eminent Domain with the Exotica Expansion. The first is asteroids and the ability to mine them. The second is the new Exotic tag and the planets and technologies that go along with it.
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What do you get with Eminent Domain: Exotica?
Eminent Domain Exotica was designed by Seth Jaffee, the original designer of Eminent Domain itself and features art from Eric J. Carter and Ariel Seoane. It was published in 2016. This expansion does not change the original player count of two to five players but can extend the play of the game well past forty-five minutes especially when players are first learning the new stuff in this expansion.
Note you do not require the first expansion for Eminent Domain, Escalation to play using Exotica.
For a look at what you get with this expansion check out our Eminent Domain Exotica Unboxing Video on YouTube.
This small box expansion comes filled to the brim with stuff to add to your copy of Eminent Domain. There’s a lot more in here than you got with the Escalation Expansion which I’ve reviewed previously.
With Exotica you get thirty-one new technology cards, twenty-seven new planets, four new starting planets, nine new scenarios, four mining technology tokens. some new fighter tokens (each representing three fighters), a tech poster (containing all of the techs for the base game and both expansions), a whole new resource (crystal) and counters for it, and a sticker sheet with stickers for the new resource and all the ones for the original game.
Now that’s just the stuff for Exotica alone. This box also contains a pack of cards that are only meant to be used if you are playing with the Escalation expansion. This contains even more new technologies, planets and scenario cards. There is also one more starting world and one more mining technology token. Each of these components is marked with a small X in the corner so you can easily remove them from the game if you don’t wish to use Escalation. With this pack plus the basic Exotica stuff, you are looking at ninety-nine new cards and twelve new tiles in total.
I was very impressed by the amount of stuff in this small box. As for quality, everything matches up with the original and I have no complaints.
The rulebook for Exotica is a thick nineteen pages and is in the same format as the other rulebooks in the series. Of these nineteen pages, only nine are actually new rules, with the other ten being reference information for all of the new technology cards.
What does the Exotica expansion add to Eminent Domain?
The big things that are added by the Exotica expansion for Eminent Domain are Asteroids and the ability to mine them, a new Exotic keyword representing the finding of ancient alien technologies, and a new resource called Crystal. All of the new components, new technology cards, and new planets feature these new gameplay elements.
Asteroids in Eminent Domain Exotica:
I’m going to start by talking about mining and asteroids. Asteroids are a new planet type, each of which costs three colony symbols to Colonize or three fighters to conquer with Warfare. In addition, a new action is included with Exotica; mining. With basic mining, you can discard your entire hand to flip over an asteroid (no Colonize or Warfare needed). Basic mining can be upgraded with three Knowledge and a Research action, this reduces the cost of flipping over all future asteroids by one.
While some asteroids do give you resources, most don’t seem to do much of anything until you start looking at the new technology cards. Many of these new technologies do something based on the number of asteroids you have successfully mined. For example, Asteroidal Colonies gives you one Colony symbol for each mined asteroid you have in play or Asteroidal Warfare which gives you one Fighter and lets you attack one planet for each mined asteroid you have in play.
The new Exotic Keyword introduced in Eminent Domain Exotica:
All of the new Exotic stuff in Exotica is a bit more complicated than the asteroid rules. To start, there is a new Exotic symbol that looks sort of like General Grievous’s head. There is also a new Exotic planet type and along with that, there is an entirely new technology deck for that planet type.
Here’s where it gets a bit odd, planets don’t generate Exotic symbols themselves. Instead, some planets (including some of the new Exotic Planets and some of the original three planet types) have what is called an Exotic Translator on them. These Translators let you convert Exotic symbols into one of the standard role symbols like Colonize or Explore.
To actually get Exotic symbols players are going to have to buy the new Exotic technologies. Once a player has technology with the Exotic symbol on it and also has a planet with a converter, the Exotic symbols become much more powerful acting almost like wildcards in your deck. Thematically this represents gaining a better and better understanding of the ancient aliens.
Along with this, some of the new technologies work like the asteroids do where you get something for each Exotic symbol you can trade-in when you use them as your action for the turn.
Crystal is a new resource added to Eminent Domain with Exotica:
The last thing Exotica adds to Eminent Domain is Crystal, a new resource. Crystal can be found mostly on asteroids and the new Exotica worlds and is overall rarer than the original resources in Eminent Domain.
Crystal works the same as the other resources but is harder to find and doesn’t count towards any existing cards that say “any resource.” When playing, we found this new resource made some existing buying and selling strategies a bit more viable which is a welcome change.
A few other minor updates were added in the Exotica expansion for Eminent Domain:
Along with the gameplay aspects I’ve already mentioned there are a few other minor rule additions and tweaks added to Exotica. These include things like resources that replenish each round, new scenarios, diverse technologies that take all three original planet types, etc.
All of these minor tweaks improve the game in some small way or fix a problem with the original game (like everyone getting a final turn after an end game condition is met).
There is nothing I think I need to get into here. Most of these new rules were actually introduced in Escalation but repeated here in case you don’t own that expansion (which isn’t required to use this one).
Does the Exotica expansion improve the Eminent Domain play experience?
As for my thoughts on Eminent Domain: Exotica, I like it quite a bit. I really like how the two main new features, the Asteroids and the Exotic system are multi-step processes.
To actually get anything out of these new systems, you have to complete a series of actions. You need to get the Asteroids in play, you need to mine them and then you need to find technology to put those mined Asteroids to use. Similarly with the new Exotic converters, just having a world with the Exotic tag does nothing. You need to build your deck with a focus on technologies featuring the Exotic tag in order to actually get any use out of those planets. Simply having a bunch of Exotic symbols can be useless if you don’t have a way to use them. Something about that progression is very rewarding and feels very 4x space exploration to me.
The problem with Exotica here is the same problem I’ve stated multiple times about Eminent Domain in general, and that’s all about the learning curve. This expansion tosses in a lot of new elements at once and it’s not modular, you are expected to use all or none of it. Added to that, the interaction of these new elements isn’t obvious at first.
I just explained how you have to progress your way through things to get the most out of these new game aspects, and that isn’t actually spelled out in the rules. It was something we had to figure out and discover during play.
The first game we played we were confused and trying to figure out why anyone would actually want asteroids? They aren’t as good as the planets, they don’t unlock technologies and don’t give you much resource-wise. So why would you want them? It wasn’t until studying the new technology decks that the advantages of collecting multiple asteroids became evident. We had a similar experience with the new Exotic elements.
That said, once you do take the time to learn all of these new technology cards and how they interact with each other and with the other game elements, there’s a lot to like here. The problem is that getting over that hurdle and to that point isn’t going to be something everyone is going to want to do.
Having played with Exotica a good number of times and having played around with these new elements, I’m pleased to say that the new elements presented all seem to lead to very valid strategies. We’ve had games won by using an Exotic based strategy and by using an Asteroid based strategy. as well as combining these with previously existing strategies. It was also nice to see the new Crystal resource adding some strength to a trade based strategy.
What I also liked is that, when using Exotica, it is still a valid option to just ignore the new stuff and work on a Colonization, Warfare, Research or Trade based strategy. Of course, what works best is going to be based on what planets come up and what the other players are doing and that I think is the biggest draw of Eminent Domain as a whole.
I have to recommend this expansion to any Eminent Domain fans out there that don’t have it yet. I actually preferred this expansion to Escalation as it felt like it gave me new options without changing the overall feel of play like Escalation did. That said it does play really well with just the base game or with Escalation. If you aren’t an Eminent Domain fan, this expansion doesn’t do anything to change the original so that it would appeal to a broader audience.
Are you an Eminent Domain fan? If you are I would love to know what your favourite expansion is, or what your favourite combination of expansions is to play Eminent Domain with. Let us know in the comments.