Eminent Domain: Microcosm is a game you may not have heard of. It is a much smaller and quicker adaptation of Eminent Domain, the card game by the same creator, Seth Jaffee. It makes my list here because Eminent Domain: Microcosm gives you that epic feel of building your own galactic civilization, yet it plays in under 30 minutes. The entire game deck consists of 18 cards. Each player gets only 9 turns. A turn consists of drawing a card and then either playing a card from your hand, or taking your discard pile back in your hand. That’s it. Again, simple. But during your 9 turns you will have many difficult decisions to make. – Do you go research heavy and grab one of the 5 tech cards? Do you go military and start nuking planets for spoils? Do you colonize and assimilate planets and their bonuses into your civ’s abilities?
I’m not pretending that Microcosm will make you throw away your copy of Sid Meier’s Civilization, but in a two player table-top game, it gets that itch scratched in a pinch. (Almost a rhyme there). Because there are only 18 cards, once you have played a few times, you will begin to learn exactly what each card does, and exactly what icons are contained on those cards. You can explore different strategies – more peaceful or cutthroat – and play off your opponent’s tendencies. The games are usually pretty close, and oftentimes you are not quite sure if you’ve done enough to eek out a win until the very end. These close finishes leave you second guessing a turn here and there, because with 9 turns the margin of error is small. You can’t afford to make too many bonehead moves.