Calvin’s Commentaries: Dominion and Barbarossa

Dominion is usually seen as the grandmother of deck building games, hit the stores in its first edition back in 2008.

But, in Japan at around that same time (2010) Barbarossa was released.

The two games hold a lot in common, beyond the obvious of using the deck-building mechanic. While terminology differs, many of the same ideas of buying cards from a common pool or market, with certain cards being the currency of the game hold through the two.

“Barbarossa is a deck-building game for 2 – 5 players. Each player controls a German army division invading Russia during WWII. The goal of the game is to conquer cities until finally taking Moscow.

“Players begin the game with identical decks of eight cards. As the game progresses, players will recruit new cards to make their deck stronger, and use those cards to conquer cities and other strategic targets. When one player conquers Moscow the game ends and the player with the most victory points wins,” details the rules of Barbarossa.

But the games are far from being foreign clones of each other.

The WWII theme here is interesting as it comes from the viewpoint of Japanese game designer Atsuo Yoshizawa. The game has players taking on the role of the German army attacking Russian cities. That may not be everybody’s cup of tea as they say, although dozens of games over varied genres re-enact battles from the two world wars.

The original release of Barbarossa went on a bit more of a tangent using ‘good girl’ anime art on the cards, a rather significant juxtaposition to war battles for major cities, We have not seen this set, but reading other reviews suggest the art is never to the point of lewd, but again some might find it in questionable taste given the war theme.

The set we played uses historical black and white photos of German military units, tanks, artillery, etc. It is one of the best aspects of the set as it provides an actual glimpse into the military of the time.

The game plays smoothly, especially if you have played a deck builder like Dominion so you understand the basic principles, there is new terminology here, but it is easily absorbed.

The goals of the game are straightforward, build your forces by buying them, and then attack cities. In such situations, a random card is them revealed which impacts the encounter, the vagaries of war element, which is a great feature.

Overall, this one flirts with being top-12 of the genre, and one that deck building fans in particular should enjoy.

Check it out at

Thanks to fellow gamers Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.

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