In The Bluff--A Double-Take Review of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers

Today's review is a new bluffing game from Tasty Minstrel Games and designer Philip duBarry: Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers. Though it's set in the Eminent Domain universe, it's a completely standalone filler of bluffing and card-play. Is Battlecruisers on cruise control, or does it crash and burn? Let's find out!

Battlecuisers comes with five complete sets of 33 different cards. You'll play with some subset of these cards each game--either six, seven, or eight cards, depending on the number of players. You're given a suggested starting set, and there are 21 other sets, too. Or you could just deal them out randomly. The point is that each player in the game will have the exact same set of cards for the entire game. 

Everyone gets a play mat that helps them organize their cards into the three areas: Discards, Recovery Zone, and In Play. At the beginning of the game, each player shuffles his deck and places one random card facedown in the Discard and face-up in his Recovery Zone. 

Players pick a card and everyone simultaneously reveals it. You resolve the cards in order from lowest to highest. 

If you're the only person who played that exact card, then you resolve the top portion of the card (the Main Effect). If another player also played that card, you resolve the bottom portion of the card (the Clash Effect). 

Here are some card examples: 

Tech Officer (2): Gain 2 VP; cards are resolved in the order you choose this round (Main); lose 2 VP (Clash)

Reckless Pilot (22): Discard one card; gain 4 VP (Main); discard this card or one other card from your hand (Clash)

Escape Pod (43): Gain 1 VP; if you have no cards in your hand, return up to three cards of your choice from your Discard pile to your hand (Main); discard this card (Clash)

As you can see, you want to be the only one to play a card if you can help it. 

The only thing left is to talk about is what happens at the end of the round. 

  • If you have no cards left in your hand, Recovery Zone, or In Play, you're out of the game. The only remnant of your once-great fleet is your Discard, which can be pillaged by other players' card effects. 
  • If you have exactly one card left between your hand, your Discard, and your Recovery Zone, you flip your mat over to the Red Alert side. When your mat's on that side, your In Play is also your Recovery Zone, so you can play that last card over and over until you're forced to discard it. Or you might be able to recover more than one card through the play of you or others. In that case, you flip your mat back to the regular side. 
  • Cards from your Recovery Zone go to your hand, and cards In Play go to your Recovery Zone. 
  • If someone is the last player left in the game, or if someone gets to 15 VPs, that person wins. 

The Verdict

Firestone--Normally I wouldn't enjoy a game that was entirely bluffing, but the fact that this is just a 15-minute filler makes it okay for me. It's the same reason the chaos of One Night Ultimate Werewolf works--when the chaos of Fluxx or Munchkin doesn't. Also, it's customizable. If you don't like take-that cards? Don't use them. Like to just race to VPs? Use those cards. Love to use a certain card? Just always include it. 

Jeremiah--There's something simple and elegant about the design of this game. You have almost perfect information but because of the facedown discard at the beginning everyone has a slightly different hand to work with. I didn't like that, because I really wanted to deduce which cards were where, but that's also why I liked it. If you take what I mean.  

Firestone--You mean you're an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a Cavs jersey? Yeah, we get it. The cycling of cards between Discard, Recovery Zone, and In Play takes some getting used to, but you'll quickly catch on.

Jeremiah--Yeah. Just a touch fiddly but nothing that slows down the gameplay much. And a turn of two in everyone has caught on and you can really dig in on the strategy instead of the mechanics.  

Firestone--Though it's fine with 3 or 4 players, I think it's best with 5. The fun comes in when there's interaction, and with 3 players, especially, there just didn't seem to be as much interaction. 

Jeremiah--Totally agree. There's a little too much elbow room with fewer than 5 (especially with 3). It doesn't ruin it and you can still have a good time with it, but it really shines at 5! 

Jeremiah--If I had one knock on it, it's the quality of the cards themselves. They're a little thin and easily dinged up. The artwork is great, but the card stock needs a little help.

Firestone--Yeah, after one play I knew I'd be sleeving these cards. That's not a huge deal, but it feels a little weird to be sleeving a filler. My biggest problem is the small text on the cards. Add to that the small red text on black and you've got everyone sitting around squinting at cards. What are we? A bridge club?!

Firestone's Final Verdict--I like the bluffing. I like the double-think. I like the game length--which makes the bluffing aspect okay here. I liked the decisions. I had fun with this. It worked with gamers, nongamers, and family. And it doesn't overstay its welcome. Thumbs up from me. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers is a nice easy-to-learn filler. The variety of cards makes for great replayability and gives the game real legs. It's fun for casual gamers, families, and gamers alike. If you're into bluffing games at all, this one is for you!

Theology of Games would like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for providing review copies of Battlecruisers. This in no way affected our opinions of the game. 

Thanks for reading! How do you feel about bluffing games? What's your favorite one? Let us know in the comments!