Dominion is the deck-building game. This game is incredibly influential because it launched the deck-building genre.
In a deck-building game, everyone starts with an identical deck of cards. These cards are used to acquire new and better cards during the game. All cards you acquire are eventually shuffled into your deck. This means that you will then be able to use the new cards you acquired, in that same game. In addition, all of the decks will diverge as each player makes their own card acquisitions.
Different deck-builder games handle scoring and end game in different ways. Some other deck-builders include but are not limited to: Baseball Highlights: 2045, Paperback, Star Realms, Thunderstone, and Valley of the Kings.
Types of Cards
There are 4 types of cards in Dominion: Treasures, Actions, Victory Cards, and Curses.
Treasure is used to purchase new cards. The value of a treasure card is depicted in the center of the card. All cards have a cost to buy in the bottom left.
Actions have a variety of uses. Each turn you are allowed to play one action. Some actions let you play more actions. Other actions draw you cards. You can also attack your opponents, get rid of cards in your deck (trash them), or do a combination of these and other effects.
Victory cards are how you win the game. Whoever has the most victory points is the winner. Victory cards, however, have no inherent value in game. So you have to decide when you want to start buying them.
Curses are worth -1 victory point, and they also have no value in game. In other words, they are just bad to have.
Each player is dealt 7 coppers and 3 estates. This creates their starting deck. 10 piles of “kingdom cards” are then placed in the center of the table within reach of all players. The copper, silver, and gold treasure cards are placed on the table, as are 12 estates, 12 duchies, 12 provinces, and curses (10 per player). Only 8 of each victory card is used in a 2-player game.
On your turn, you play cards from your hand, buy card(s), discard your cards, and draw 5 new cards from your deck. This is broken down to A, B, C (Action Phase, Buy Phase, Clean Up Phase).
The first part of your turn is playing actions. You start your turn able to play 1 action. Some cards, like village, give you extra actions, so you can “chain” action cards. For instance, you can play Village, then Smithy, and finally Woodcutter. If you run out of available actions, you may not play any more actions that turn. Unplayed actions have no effect that turn.
Once you have played all of the actions you want to/are able to play, you play your treasures. Add the value of all of your treasures including any treasure-value from your played action cards. The combined total is how much you can use to buy card(s).
On your turn you start with one “buy”. You can gain more “buys” on your turn from action cards. For each “buy” you have, you may buy 1 card. But, your total treasure-value must cover all purchases. For example, if I have 2 “buys” and 6 treasure-value, I could buy 1 gold. Or I could buy a smithy and a moat.
Cards you buy immediately go to your discard pile.
Clean Up Phase
Once you have finished buying card(s), discard all your cards from this turn. This includes cards you played and cards you did not play (Victory cards for instance).
Then, draw 5 cards from your deck. If at any time you need to draw cards and you do not have enough cards in your deck, shuffle your discard pile to form a new deck.
I love deck-building games. This was the first deck-builder I ever played. It is my favorite deck-builder, still. In general, I love deck-builders because they have high variability (a lot of different cards to choose from), and I enjoy strategizing around that high variability.
One of the things that separates Dominion from other deck-builders is the set up. In Dominion, you know every potential card you can buy on turn 1. Other deck-builders have the cards available change throughout the game. I am the type of player who wants to sit down, think of a strategy, and attempt to execute it. I want to see a bunch of new cards thrown together and then try to figure out an optimal or interesting/crazy strategy. Generally, people who know me would say I am a very reserved person, but playing an excellent game of Dominion legitimately makes me giddy. (I included a picture below for reference.) For me, it is just so satisfying figuring out something that no one else sees, and then winning with it.
Another reason why I love Dominion is my family loves Dominion. This was one of our first modern games, and it is one of our favorites. We like this game so much, that between all of us we own all 9 expansions. (Apparently there is another expansion coming out, Empires. This is either the 2nd or 3rd expansion after they said they were going to stop releasing new ones.) For the most part, the rest of my family generally creates their strategy as they play. If they have 4 treasure-value, they buy a 4-cost card, etc. And, this strategy also works. I will often win if I chase the optimal strategy, but this frees me up to go after the craziest combinations I can think of for a game instead. Sometimes they turn out spectacularly, while sometimes I get crushed. I’m generally less giddy when crushed, but if I really liked my strategy, I still count it as a personal win.
My major problem with this game is the attacks in a 4-player family game. While I am fine with the idea of the attack cards, they can be incredibly annoying in practice. If all 3 of your opponents get attacks, you will generally be attacked at least once each turn. This can be unbearably frustrating. Attacks are interesting in a competitive setting, but in family games I recommend limiting the number available. They can and have ended gaming and goodwill on multiple occasions.
Overall, I love this game, and I love the expansions. If you decide on an expansion, most people would say Prosperity is the best first expansion. As a measure of how much I enjoy this game, I will probably talk about it more in future posts on this blog.