Domination Review

As strategy games become more and more complex, it is sometimes refreshing to find a game that gets back to the basics while managing to provide a challenge to strategic minded gamers. Domination is one of those games. While it is not without its share of problems, its simple gameplay is a throwback to strategy games of yore and proves that there is a lot of challenge to be found in simplicity.

The maps look 3D, but they're really 2D game boards.

Like most strategy games, Domination provides players with a variety of units – 36 in all. However, there are no special attacks, upgrades, or any of the other strategy game standards to consider – you’ll know exactly how much damage each unit will do to another. This is because every unit is rated in just four categories: movement allowance, attack strength, defensive strength, and attack range. When a unit’s damage is equal to its defense strength, it is destroyed. It’s that simple.

Simplifying things even further is the game’s maps. While the maps appear in 3D with rolling topographies, they are essentially 2D game boards with defined spaces. When you select a unit the game highlights the spots into which it can move, and since most units have a very small movement allowance you won’t have a lot of possible moves from which to choose. Further limiting your movement is the fact that only one unit can occupy a space at a time and units can not pass through an occupied space on their way to an open one. These limitations make movement an important part of strategy, as you must ensure that the right units are in the front ranks and since you can lose valuable turns if a unit moves in the wrong direction.

Play alternates between the two sides – once all of you units have moved or fired your turn ends and it is your opponent’s turn to move all of his or her units. There are variations in play which allow you to spend points to create your starting army, capture enemy cities by moving onto their squares, and build reinforcements as the game progresses, but it always boils down to your ability to outmaneuver your opponent and pick your battles. A simple set of rules that lead to a wealth of strategic choices works quite well for classic games like chess, and it also works for Domination. Like many good games, its simplicity belies its challenge.