About a year ago Eminent Domain was featured on Reddit as "game of the week", and I answered a bunch of questions there.
I don't spend a lot of time on Reddit, but I logged in just now to set up an AMA about Yokohama (TODAY, 7/15, at 10am Mountain time!) and I noticed a reply in one of those threads that I never saw.
That thread has been archived, and I don't think I can reply anymore, but it was a good question and I feel bad for not responding. Also, the person asking the question (Alex Churchill) is a friend and fellow game designer, with whom I worked developing Steam Works for TMG. Alex reads this blog sometimes, so I wanted to take a moment and respond to his old comment.
In reference to my saying that Colonize and Warfare are early game actions in Eminent Domain, and that the point of the game is to hustle into the mid-game, Alex replied:
How can Survey and Colonize/Warfare be the early game? Getting points from planets is more effective than getting points from Produce/Trade 90% of the time, so people are doing it right up until the final round. I'm guessing the "mid/late" game you refer to must be Produce/Trade? But by the time you've got more than 1 or 2 symbols, your deck is full of Colonize/Warfare/Survey cards, diluting the Produce/Trade, which makes it much more natural to continue to focus on points for planets rather than try to switch focus and lose out on the follows.Alex has a point, if you invest (and especially if you over-invest) in Colonize or Warfare int he early game, then it looks like changing to a Produce/Trade or Research path mid-game would be inefficient, and so there's a temptation to just continue flipping planets. Indeed, this could be your strategy, and if you do a good enough job with it you might pull out a win. I'll note however that "doing a good enough job" against good players will likely involve targeting specific technologies to support your strategy (things like Survey Team, Fertile Ground, War Path, Improved Warfare...), as well as good timing of plays and correctly reading and reacting to your opponents' roles (as well it should).
Therein lies the rub. That point of view is kind of a "n00b" outlook, and even if it sounds counter-intuitive, you can do better by minimizing the number of times you call Colonize or Warfare, making good use of following your opponents, and setting up a research or trade engine as quickly as possible. Level 1 technologies help you do this, as they have 2 different role symbols on them, which helps combat the dilution effect Alex mentioned. Using research to keep your deck slim is also a potential strategy there.
The thing to note is that once you get 3 or 4 resource slots in play, a Produce/Trade cycle is actually more efficient than a Survey/Colonize/Settle or Survey Warfare/Attack cycle. Once you get a trade engine going, the longer the game goes on the more you'll outpace planet flippers. Mix in a well timed Genetic Engineering, Specialization, or Diverse Markets, and you can really pick up those Influence tokens in a hurry, possibly curtailing the game before your opponents get a chance to make their big endgame play (researching a level 3 tech, or flipping that last planet).
Eminent Domain is not just a Role Selection game with Deck Building in it, it's a Deck Management game as well. The whole point is to find a way to make your deck perform better :)
I hope that answers Alex's question, and I hope some players still find this kind of thing useful. It warms my heart to think that people are still playing Eminent Domain!