GMT are generally regarded as a WAR games publishing company, yet every so often they surprise with an off the wall game that has an excellent theme yet is really an abstract fun game.
Dominant Species, the board game, is an excellent example of this. The following is a description of the board game. I copied this part (in Red) from the Boardgamesgeek.com site but much
of it is directly from the back of the box:-
15,000 B.C. -- A great ice age is fast approaching. Another titanic struggle for global supremacy has unwittingly commenced between the varying animal species.
Dominant Species is a game that abstractly recreates a tiny portion of ancient history: the ponderous encroachment of an ice age and what that entails for the
living creatures trying to adapt to the slowly-changing earth. Each player will assume the role of one of six major animal classes -- mammal, reptile, bird, amphibian,
arachnid or insect. Each begins the game more or less in a state of natural balance in relation to one another. But that won’t last: It is indeed "survival of the fittest."
Through wily action pawn placement, players will strive to become dominant on as many different terrain tiles as possible in order to claim powerful card effects.
Players will also want to propagate their individual species in order to earn victory points for their particular animal. Players will be aided in these endeavors via
speciation, migration and adaptation actions, among others. All of this eventually leads to the end game -- the final ascent of the ice age -- where the player having
accumulated the most victory points will have his animal crowned the Dominant Species. But somebody better become dominant quickly, because it’s getting mighty cold....
The large hexagonal tiles are used throughout the game to create an ever-expanding interpretation of earth as it might have appeared a thousand centuries ago. The
smaller tundra tiles will be placed atop the larger tiles -- converting them into tundra in the process -- as the ice age encroaches. The cylindrical action pawns (or "AP"s)
drive the game. Each AP will allow a player to perform the various actions that can be taken, such as speciation, environmental change, migration or glaciation. After being
placed on the action display during the Planning Phase, an AP will trigger that particular action for the owning player during the Execution Phase. Generally, players will be
trying to enhance their own animals’ survivability while simultaneously trying to hinder that of their opponents’ -- hopefully collecting valuable victory points (or "VP"s) along
the way. The various cards will aid in these efforts, giving players useful one-time abilities or an opportunity for recurring VP gains. Throughout the game, species cubes will
be added to, moved about in, and removed from the tiles in play (the "earth"). Element disks will be added to and removed from both animals and earth. When the game ends,
players will conduct a final scoring of each tile -- after which the player controlling the animal with the highest VP total wins the game.
Dominant Species, the card game uses the basic idea of survival but is a quick paced fun game that can be played quickly because the rules are so well written and it can also be
easily explained to younger players. Players have a hand of cards - there is no hand size limit once the game has started - most of which have a picture of one of the six species
involved and a food value; actually make that 2 food values for the cards can be turned around (not over) so that the species can be shown as suppressed (endangered) in which
case the food value is devalued.
There are 10 rounds per game; the 10 Biome cards that determine the round are randomly selected from a small deck so that each game isn't exactly the same. The Biome card
shows one of more element types with possibly a different number of element icons per element (eg. 3 Suns 1 Water). Players play cards towards the Biome card until they cannot
or do not want to play any more or they can pass at any time. They may play any cards, one at a time, whether or not the card being played has any match with the Biome card.
At the end of the round (when all players have passed) they add up the total food value - this may be enhanced or depleted by Event cards - and the player who has the highest
food value total wins this part of the round and scores points accordingly - they also get to move their token on the Survival Track (this will determine the number of extra cards they
get for the last round). The points scored depend on which round is being played - so Round 1 scores 1 VP while Round 4 will score 4 points etc.
Now the elements on the Biome card come into play - the player with the most of each element icon on their played cards win points to the number of element icons (per type) on the
Biome card. For example: If there are 2 Sun element icons on the BIome card, the player with the most Sun elements gets 2 points (not 2 per card or per icon).
The event cards can be game winners if held back until the best time to play them. Players can only play one card (event or species) at a time. Once a player passes they can no longer
take part in the round but any cards already played still count - other players can continue to play cards.
This is a very nice game, it plays well, the cards are mostly well conceived - the only part of them that could have been better in my mind is the suppression icon on some of the cards.
This is rather small, with the species under the red suppression circle (with a diagonal line), and very difficult to make out in regular home light. That is the only flaw I have found and this
isn't enough to upset the want to play - the game is great fun to play.