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Board Game Review # 6 – Dominion

2016 August 1
by Michael Schroeder

The following is a resurrected post. It was originally posted in 2010 but I’m refreshing it for those that missed it.

There’s no way I could own this game for too long, without giving it a stellar review…Dominion.

Number of players: 4

Age: 10+

Playing Time: 30 minutes +

Dominion, Rio Grande Games

Dominion, Rio Grande Games

What’s the game about: A description from Rio Grande Games, web site…

You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion!  In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.

But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, would be delighted.

Basic idea in my own words: Dominion is a deck building game where your goal is to build a greater dominion than your opponents. Your dominion, is your deck of cards. Your deck of cards, or dominion, consists of …

Chancellor, Dominion

Kingdom Cards…

Treasure Cards, Dominion

Treasure Cards…and

Dominion Victory Point Cards

Victory Point Cards

The player with the greatest amount of victory point cards at the end of the game, is the winner.

Game setup: During game setup (3/4 player game), each player starts with 3 estate cards (worth 1 VP), and 7 copper (worth 1 gold) and this deck is shuffled – this represents your current dominion or “hand.” Then victory cards, treasure cards and kingdom cards and the trash card are laid out on the table. Kingdom cards are the special action cards in the game that enable you more options when cards are drawn. There will be 10 kingdom cards in each deck, and 10 kingdom card decks are laid out. See below for example.

Dominion, Rio Grande Games

Dominion play area

Note – it is advised to lay the cards out in order of denomination, so for instance, all the cards that cost 5, lay next to each other horizontally across the table and so forth.
How you play: On your turn, you will leave your deck on your left, and pick up the top 5 cards. This is your hand. This is what you have to play with on your current turn. You will have a mix of cards, hopefully lots of money and little victory cards. On each turn, there are 3 phases…

A.) Action

B.) Buy, and..

C.) Clean-up

A.) During the action phase, this is where you can lay down 1 action/kingdom card and resolve it’s effects. For instance, the card may give you, +X gold, +X actions, +X buys and other special text.

+X gold means that during your buy phase, you will get +X amount of gold in addition to your treasure cards. +X actions means that in addition to this card, you get X, more actions. +X buys means, you receive additional, X, buys. The standard is 1 buy. And finally, there is often special text, for instance, “trash this card and receive a card costing up to 5 gold.” That card meaning, put this card into the trash pile (meaning you’ll never have it back) and you can take any card on the table, costing up to 5 gold.

B.) During the buy phase, this is where you may buy 1 card, let it be a victory card, treasure card or kingdom card. Anything you buy, must immediately be placed in your discard pile and cannot be used this turn, unless otherwise specified by the card.

C.) During the clean-up phase, you make sure your purchased card/cards, victory cards and all action cards (used or not) are placed face-up in your discard pile (usually to your right). Then take another 5 cards off the top of your deck, and put in your hand and wait until your turn again. If you cannot draw 5 cards off the top, for instance, if you have 2 left, then take your discard pile, and shuffle it and place the shuffled discard pile, back into your deck – making sure these newly shuffled cards are placed on the BOTTOM of your existing deck cards. Now, you’ll have  a freshly shuffled deck of cards to choose from.

Then, play proceeds clockwise around and everyone does the same.

On everyone’s first turn, you will not have an action phase, as you don’t have an action card – so this phase is skipped. But more than likely, depending on your purchase, you will have an action card at this point.

On your next turn, you’ll have 11 cards in hand, ohh more cards to play with now! On your next hand, you have that action card you just bought, oh boy, lets use it! So you lay it down first. You announce what it is, “I am playing the smithy – it gives me +3 cards.” So that means you get 3 more cards off the top of your deck. What does that mean? Well, at this point in the game, it means you have more money to buy something better…hopefully! Now you have…6 dollars. You have an option here, buy the gold card for 6 dollars, which is worth 3 gold, or buy the laboratory, which is an action card. So you make a choice…

Having higher value denominations is always a great thing. Because this is a deck building game, you want to stack your deck with better cards – you want less of those low value, copper cards, in your hand. So start buying silvers and golds!

A word about the balance of this game and strategy. The goal of this game, is again, to have the most victory points. Well, how do you do that? Having higher denomination gold cards and having action cards to help you along in that process. So that means I want to buy up all the victory cards immediately, right? No way! By doing that, your going to have lower value victory point cards and you’ll have more VP cards in your hand when you go to play your hand. You don’t want that. Think about it. You choose your next 5 cards from your deck to form your hand. “Oh no, I have 4 victory point cards and 1 copper.” You can’t do anything with that, except get another copper card – which you really don’t want. Those victory point cards, when drawn, just end up being discarded and serving you no purpose.

See, at the end of the game, everyone counts their VP cards in their entire deck. So you must strike a fine balance in this game between reserving yourself from buying too many Vp cards early on, and building your action cards and treasure cards up. That is the strategy of the game.

But you may ask yourself, when does the game end? This is something you must keep watch for. The game ends, when all of the 6 point province cards are gone. Or, when 3 of any other card piles are gone. So when you see 2 card piles are gone, you better have some good money and cards and start scooping up those provinces. You really want to try and build your deck up to get 8 dollars to buy provinces, they are worth the most.

So I hope you can see the cycle of how the game flows. It’s really easy to get a hang of. I absolutely love this game. When I first played it months ago, I don’t think I was taught very well, and I was totally confused. But after playing it a couple more times then purchasing the game. My rating quickly went from a 7-ish, to a 9.5, and I’m debating raising it to a 10. Only 2 other games I rated a 10, Agricola and heroScape. I really wish I could have thought of this game before the creator did! There’s deep strategy within it’s simplicity of game play – it’s really genious, and addicting! I would highly reccommend this game to anyone, gamers and non-gamers. My wife loves it, my friends love it, I love it. In the short amount of time I have owned this game, I have played it so many times.

At the time of this review, there are currently 3 expansions out, with a 4th coming soon! Dominion Intrigue (which is also stand-alone), Seaside and Alchemy. Also soon to be released is, Dominion Prosperity.

Go pick this game up, right now!

If you’re interested in purchasing this title, visit my store at Meeple Village! We throw in an extra goody in each order and the more you purchase, the more discounts you’ll receive!

Component Quality: 3/5

Standard fare cards, not textured, but that doesn’t really matter as I would highly suggest sleeving the cards.  Buy the Mayday Games Standard Euro size card sleeves. Do not get the extra thick ones, because if you want the cards to fit into their handy compartments, they won’t. I already have enough trouble fitting all the coppers into the copper compartment. Comes with nice insert to tell you what cards go where and the opposite is blank, so you can come up with your own scheme. Comes with 2 instruction books, 1 standard rule books and the other is specifics about the cards, and illustrations of game play. Overall, average-good component quality.

Theme: 3/5

The theme works, but it can really be anything. The illustrations and the theme blend very well though.

Instruction Manual: 3/5

The manual is very easy to follow, but has uneccaary siderail which summarizes things, which I didn’t find that useful. The manual artwork and graphics aren’t that great.

Luck Factor: 2/5

This is a deck building game, so you mostly make your own fate, but a large part of it does depend on what your hand that you drew.

Strategy: 4/5

There’s a lot of strategy in this game, especially for such a simple game, which makes it a gem! While there’s drawing cards that are shuffled, there’s enough strategy where you shouldn’t be complaining too much if you lost – it was your fault.

Overall Feelings: 5/5

I love this game, and you will too. Pick it up NOW!

Buy Now

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