When I first heard about Domaine, this new
reincarnation of Löwenherz, I was excited.
Löwenherz is one of my favorite games and,
for the most part, it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
My initial vision was of designer Klaus Teuber taking the game to another
level, which sent a rush of giddy feelings all over my body.
Then I learned the awful truth: this wouldn’t be an upgrade of the Löwenherz
system, but rather a downgrading. Apparently,
the objective was to release a game that used a similar system, but which
simplified it, making it easier to learn and more accessible for the family
market. Not exactly what I was
hoping for, but certainly an interesting idea that could give the game a wider
appeal than its ancestor.
When my copy arrived, I cautiously read the rules, fearing the game would be too
simple for my tastes and pale in comparison to the richness of Löwenherz.
My reading did nothing to douse these fears.
The game seemed simple and too luck prone. I was actually dreading having to play this as I would
inevitably be making unfavorable comparisons to its forefather. I do have to admit, however, that the bits are awesome.
The castle pieces are a thing of beauty and remind me of the fantasy
castles that dot the German countryside. So,
I gritted my teeth and vowed to be fair when the opportunity arose to play it.
does maintain many of the aspects of Löwenherz.
The objective is still the same: enclose
large amounts of resource-rich territory around your castles while denying the
same to your opponents. The basic
rules for placing borders (walls) and knights, expanding your territory,
encroaching into neighboring territories, etc. remain virtually the same.
The major change, however, is there are no longer negotiation elements to
the game. Basically, each player
plays one card on his turn and takes the indicated action.
This is the part that seemed, well, lame to me after reading the rules.
Fortunately, in practice, it is actually quite good.
Players begin the game by placing three castles and knights onto the board. The board itself is modular, so the layout for each game will be different. The nine pieces that comprise the board are held together by an inter-locking frame, similar to the concept used in Euro Games’ Castle (featured in the Summer 2000 GA REPORT). The artwork on the board is attractive and functional -- vintage Franz Vohwinkel.
Each player receives three action cards and seven ducats.
The cards are arranged in a format identical to Löwenherz
– stacked in order from A – D. Generally,
the cost of executing the power of a card rises as players progress through the
The sequence of play is straight-forward and easy.
On a turn, a player must:
a) Sell an action card to the Chancery. Each card depicts a ‘sale’ price in brackets, which is the amount of income received when the card is sold. Instead of placing pieces onto the board, a player may opt to sell a card, which is placed face-up beside the board. The player takes the indicated amount of income and that ends his turn.
b) Play an action card. Each
card depicts a red numeral, which is the cost that must be
paid to execute the action listed on the card.
There are five
different actions depicted on the cards in the deck:
Place borders. Players place
the indicated number of borders onto the board.
The placement rules are identical as to those in Löwenherz.
Place knights. Knights are
needed to make incursions into opponent’s territories and to protect your
domains from incursions by your opponents.
Again, the placement rules are identical to those in Löwenherz.
Expand Your Domain. Again, similar to Löwenherz.
Borders are pushed out into new territory.
If you expand into an opponent’s domain, you must possess more knights
in your domain than he does.
Deserter. This one can be
devastating. The player removes an
opponent’s knight from an adjacent domain and places one of his own knights
into his own domain. This one card
ultimately cost me the game!
Alliance. Similar to Löwenherz.
A player may force an alliance between two neighboring domains.
Neither one can make an incursion into the territory of their neighbor.
However, in Domaine, once an alliance is
formed, it CANNOT be broken … ever.
Scoring will occur whenever a new domain (territory containing a player’s
castle) is formed or an existing domain is expanded.
The points scored are based on the type of terrain enclosed:
1 victory point
3 victory points
If an opponent
lost territory due to an incursion, he will lose an appropriate number of
victory points. Victory points are
recorded on a track that rings two sides of the board.
The board also depicts several different types of mines (gold, silver, copper
and diamond). At the beginning of a
turn, a player will collect 1 ducat for each DIFFERENT type of mine he owns.
Building a consistent income base in this game is important as money is
very tight. The only other source
of income is the selling of action cards, which means that the player will
forfeit performing any actions on that turn.
Mines have a further benefit as capturing 3 or 4 of the same type of mine will
give the player a monopoly, which translates into five victory points.
However, if this monopoly is ever lost, then the player will lose those
player concludes his turn by drawing one card, either from the face-down deck or
a card from the Chancery. Thus, cards sold during a player’s turn will be available
for purchase by the players. The
only restriction here is that a player may not select the card he just sold on
his turn. I really like this aspect
of the game as it does somewhat mitigate the “luck of the draw” problem.
Now, instead of blindly drawing a card each turn, players can select one
of the face-up cards in the chancery if they see something that is useful.
The game can end in one of two manners. If
one player achieves the required number of victory points (30 in a 4-player
game), the game ends immediately with that player’s victory.
The game can also end if when all of the cards in the action deck are
depleted. At that point, the game
continues, but no further cards may be drawn from the Chancery.
The game ends once all players have played or sold their remaining action
cards. When this occurs, bonus
victory points are awarded for ducats as follows:
1st: 5 points, 2nd:
3 points. The
player with the most cumulative victory points is victorious.
spite of my apprehension and initial bias, I have been pleasantly surprised by Domaine.
Yes, I miss the negotiation and conflict resolution mechanics of Löwenherz,
but the card play here is much better than I expected.
The constant need for money in order to perform actions forces players to
balance their turns between actions and selling, and often forces players to
sell cards they would have preferred to keep and use.
This puts pressure on players to capture mines as they provide
much-needed funds. Players should
not just blindly expand, however, as it is important to fortify your domains
with knights lest your unscrupulous neighbors will be tempted to make incursions
into your territories. Also, be
wary of the dreaded “deserter” card, which can swiftly and suddenly sway the
balance of power in a region. Trust
me on that one!
The game plays quickly and is surprisingly tense.
You always want to do more than you are allowed to do on a turn –
usually the mark of a good game. Further,
the game plays very quickly – about an hour or so.
This forces you to narrow your focus a bit and concentrate on certain
areas. You simply don’t have time
to build and expand each of your domains. This
forces even more tough decisions.
I’ve since played Domaine half a dozen times and
continue to delight in introducing others to its pleasures.
Domaine is a fine game and one which will
also appeal to folks who are relatively new to the gaming scene, as well as
"casual" gamers. There is still
some nastiness involved, which might prove distasteful to some (my spouse comes
to mind!), but should be pleasing to many gamers. Veteran gamers will likely still prefer this game’s
grandfather, Löwenherz, but probably won’t
object to this one in the right setting. On
a broader scale, Domaine just might have broader
appeal in the family market than its predecessor, which apparently is what the
designer and manufacturer are hoping for! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - -Greg J. Schloesser
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