«Dominant Species» review

Dominant Species

California-based GMT Games is a world-known board game publisher. The company was founded in 1990 and became successful due to designing fascinating wargames. GMT’s strategic games cover different times (from ancient epoch to modern) and different locations (Europe, Asia, Americas). But in this article we’ll speak about the game that is a bit extraordinary for a board wargaming. Actually the struggle takes part not among humans but among the animals fighting to survive. This game is called «Dominant Species».

«Dominant Species» was designed by Chad Jensen from Santa Rosa, California. He is also a co-owner of a game store (Castle Games). Chad began to work as a game designer in 1995 when he remade some other famous board games like Dungeon Crawl or Axis & Allies. The same year Chad Jensen opened a game store and customers were able to test his modifications. His first game – Combat Commander (CC) was published in 2006. This game describes events of WWII in the Europe. «Combat Commander» creator chose GMT Games as his publishing company and since that time he was collaborating with this company on other projects (like «Dominant Species»).

Dominant Species Game Board


  • Rulebook;
  • Gameboard;
  • Player displays – 6 items;
  • 27 cards (available actions);
  • Wooden parts: 330 cubes (animal species), 60 cylinders (action pawns), 60 cones (domination marks);
  • 120 tokens (Earth resources);
  • 6 squares (animal’s Initiative);
  • Bag.


Each player gets determined set of cubes, cylinders and cones. The quantity depends on the general number of gamers. Then each of them must choose animal class – Mammal, Reptile, Bird, Amphibian, Arachnid or Insect. Each class has some attribute that overwhelms other animals. When deciding which class to choose player should take this into account. Playing area contains only 7 areas and tundra in the center. Resource tokens are placed at the edges of these hexagonal tiles in such way that no one is dominant all over the world from the game start. Other tiles will be added during the game process (Wanderlust action). After these preparations the planning area is in the focus of gamers’ attention. In this part of gameplay players place their action cylinders to reserve actions. Each player has 12 different actions.

Dominant Species Gameplay


Game process is separated into three phases: Planning, Execution, Cleanup. During Planning Phase players must think over their actions and choose one out of twelve. But choosing from 12 actions is available only for first player, because next player will have only 11 possible ways, the next one 10 and so on. These actions can be aggressive and defensive as well, so before making a move you must think over what are you going to do. During execution phase all actions are carried out on the board in special way – from left to right, from top to bottom. Due to such order previous actions can influence the next moves. Preparations are made for the future turn during the next phase – Cleanup.

Main actions in game:

  • Initiative allows changing turn order – player who chooses this option makes first move.
  • Adaptation. Dominance in the game is reached not by number of your species but by possibility to thrive. Resources that are represented by tokens are one of the main components in this process. By Adaptation card player can add one more resource available for his animals.
  • Regression. Each turn one of the species is deprived of some vital element. If player has no available tokens on gameboard, his animal class is endangered.
  • Glaciation makes placing Tundra tile on one of the terrains with elements on three corners of terrain removed. Moreover, all cubes on this tile must be returned to players except one species.
  • Speciation allows player to enhance quantity of animals on one terrain depending the type of this tile.
  • Wanderlust. Players can take one terrain tile and add it to the board, then they place elements on the corners and fill it with their cubes.
  • Competition allows player to remove one enemy’s cube from one terrain tile. Gamer which cube is removed can’t have it back, so he lost it until the end of game.
  • Abundance. One element token can be placed on the free corners of a terrain.
  • Migration is a possibility to move your animals around the gameboard. Due to ability of flight Birds have advantage to migrate two terrains instead of one.
  • Domination. Taking this card player is awarded by other card and scoring of terrain tile.

Dominant Species 4 player game


First edition of this game was released in 2010. Frankly speaking, it was a bit raw – cards were made from thin paper, images were too minimalistic or there were no images at all (e.g. terrain cards). But further editions are much more colorful and finished. Cards are printed on thick cardboard and include great pictures illustrating gameplay actions. Game box is also made from sturdy paper – without a doubt this factor acquires crucial importance for those who want to play the game as long as it’s possible. Except paper components game includes 450 wooden bits – 330 cubes of different colors, 60 dominance cones and 60 action cylinders. So if there are 6 players each of them get 55 cubes, 10 cones and 10 cylinders.

Similar games

«Dominant Species» is a board game designed in Euro-style and it provides short playing time (max 3 hours). Gameplay is built on good strategy and tactics but not on luck. There is no player eliminating until the end of a game and no direct conflict (only competing for resources). Dominant species is very similar to other Eurogame – «Caylus», but only its Planning phase. On the other hand Execution phase is all about moving units, attacking enemies, making dominant claims on the board.

Dominant Species Birds vs Insects


iOS app is available in iTunes and you can find it in the link here –


Q: What happens to the animal class when no species left on the board? Is there a way to get respecied?

A: Yes, there is a Speciation action.

Q: Player cannot optionally remove elements from animal’s display. The only way elements can be changed is through Regression. Is that correct?

A: Yes, players cannot decide which elements to remove. But changes can be applied not only though Regression. There is also one dominance card that can do it.

Q: If no one choose Initiative during Planning phase does it influence the order of turns?

A: No, if no player put his/her action pawn on Initiative eyeball order is unchangeable. For example order was Spiders – Birds – Insects, but if Birds choose Initiative, so they replace Spiders in a queue.

Q: Player chose Initiative eyeball during Planning phase, so he has one more move as a final part of action. Can he place action pawn on the same place or must he choose another one?

A: He must choose another one.

Dominant Species Ice Age Card



This is a great game for those who want to spend several hours in the evening. And better be ready to spend some time reading rulebook because this game is a bit complex but after that you’ll see that game is really engaging and fascinating. If you want to know about the price or you want to buy this magnificent game, please visit its page on Amazon. We hope that our «Dominant Species» review will help you to decide whether this board game is worth buying or not.