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Game Review: Dominion

Dominion is often called the Granddaddy of deck-building games. But, given that it was released in 2008 and not quite old enough for grandpa status, it’s really more of a trailblazer. The first successful game of its kind that has withstood the harshest of tests: time and gamers.

The game consists solely of three types of cards: Action, Treasure and Victory. Use Action cards to gain Treasure cards and use Treasure cards to buy Victory cards. The person with the most Victory cards wins. Easy enough to understand, and difficult to master. A deck full of Victory cards will earn you a quick dead-end in the beginning game. While a deck full of Treasure cards ultimately means nothing in the end. Building your deck is a balancing act and Dominion makes it easy to understand the ropes.

Pros

  • Dominion is super easy to pick up. Beginners have no problem quickly understanding the mechanics of the game or deck-building. You never have to worry about explaining the rules 30 times over to newbs.
  • The deck-building in Dominion happens in-game, so there’s no tedious time spent prepping. Just pull ‘er out, set-up and play! This also means that your deck is different every time, which makes for a refreshing take on deck-building.
  • Instructions are straight-forward and the rare moments spent arguing over rules are quickly ended by the well-organized guide which seems to know of every dispute in existence. Wizards.
  • Strategy could help you win, but it’s not necessary. You can treat this game as a casual good time or as a fierce competition and either way, you’re gonna have fun. That’s a fine line to walk, and Dominion pulls it off beautifully.
  • Variety of cards and combos makes Dominion feel like a fresh game, every time. Your first game won’t be the same as your 20th game. Multiple card combination and expansion options gives Dominion vast variables of game-play.

Cons

The cons in Dominion come off as a bit nit-picky considering its brilliant simplicity, but there are a couple downsides to take into consideration.

  • The storyline isn’t solid. Despite the premise being one of the most clever things ever written, the actual gameplay is simply about the cards and there is very little immersion. You don’t actually view yourself as monarch defending your kingdom. You’re just a guy (or gal!) playing cards with friends.
  • Speaking of gals, the instructions and cards imply that only males play. If you don’t possess a Y chromosome, you could make the argument that a rule doesn’t apply to you since they use male pronouns exclusively! (…this tactic doesn’t actually work. Trust us.)
  • Another possible con is that Dominion provides minimal interaction among players. There are some cards that allow you to screw over others a bit, but overall your main concern is your own deck. However, this aspect could definitely be a pro depending on your mood (hey introverts!) or your feelings toward other players (who invited that guy?)

Basics of play

The play of Dominion is easy-peasy, just follow the “ABCs”:

  • A) Play an Action, if you can.
  • B) Buy more cards! (…if you can)
  • C) Clean-up your deck. Discard your current hand and draw another.

At the start of the game everyone is dealt the same 10 cards: 7 Coppers (Treasure cards) and 3 Estates (Victory cards.) So, no actions can be played in the first round. How you spend your first few Treasure cards is up to you. You can purchase Action cards which have varying benefits, Treasure cards to increase your buying power or Victory cards which have zero benefit until the end of the game.

The ultimate goal of Dominion is to have the most Victory cards, but a deck full of Victory cards is gonna get you nowhere fast. That’s where the fun of buying Action cards comes in. The Actions allow you to build up your deck and achieve a nice balance of Treasures, Victories and more Actions!

There are 10 Action cards to choose from, and those 10 can vary with every game, adding to the depth of Dominion. Memorizing what each card does isn’t necessary, as their printed instructions are crystal clear. Strategy comes into play when you choose which Action cards to load up your deck with. Some people go for multiples of the same three or four, and some people see the benefit in stocking up on all 10. Fantastically, the best strategy depends on which 10 Action cards are on the table. So your personal strategy can successfully be changed up with each game. Brilliant!

Action cards typically grant you multiple buys in a turn, more Treasure to spend, or more Actions to use. There are some cards that “attack” other players by reducing their hand or giving them Curses, which count against them at the end of the game. There are also Action cards that act as defense against these attacks. Take a moment while the game is being set-up to read through each Action card and start deciding which ones would pair together well.

The beginning of a game is typically wrought with Actions being bought and played. At some point mid-game, there will be one player that’ll start buying Victory cards like mad and you’ll notice the rest of the table follow suit.

Once all the Provinces (Victory card) are gone, the game is over and everyone counts up their Victory points. Alternatively, the game can end when three piles of any type of card are gone. You can use this to your advantage, once the cards start getting low, by buying cards that will end the game faster. Or avoiding them to draw the game out.

Overall Experience

Dominion is incredibly easy for beginners and varied enough for seasoned players to enjoy regularly. It’s a forgiving game that doesn’t punish too harshly for lack of strategy. However, strategy can definitely pay off in the end. It’s a game that streamlines all the things you love about deck-building and made it accessible to everyone.

Dominion is one of the most balanced games we’ve found. The minimal learning curve combined with depth from variety is what has kept this game around and popular for so long. It’s definitively a classic, and it always has a place on your table no matter whom you’re playing with.

Dominon Board Game

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