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Dominion - Review

The Quintessential Deck-Building Game

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Dominion

Dominion

Image courtesy of Rio Grande Games

This award-winning card game has inspired many imitators with its ingenious deck-building mechanic. Both easy to learn and strategic enough for serious gamers, Dominion may well be a "must-play".

Vital Stats

  • Players: 2 to 4
  • Time: 20 to 40 Minutes
  • Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Components

500 cards. This isn't a CCG; everything you need is in the box. There are large piles of treasure cards -- copper, silver and gold -- and smaller piles of victory cards which you acquire to win the game. But the meat of the game is the 25 Kingdom Card piles, with ten copies of each. Each time you play, you'll pick 10 of these 25 card piles to use in your game. This means there are literally millions of possible combinations for your game setup, which gives the game a lot of replay value.

Gameplay Summary

After laying out your 10 kingdom piles, as well as the treasure and victory piles, each player gets an identical 10-card deck with some copper and estates. On your turn, you draw five cards, and reveal treasure from your hand to purchase any card on the table. Whether you buy an action card, more treasure, or a victory card, your new card is placed into your discard pile, along with every card you had drawn that turn.

After two turns, your draw pile is empty, so you shuffle your discard pile and that becomes your new draw pile. Then you will start to draw whatever cards you purchased in the first two rounds. You can play actions to draw more cards, attack opponents, and various other special effects. You can play your better treasures to purchase even better cards, which will be added to your deck to use later. Eventually, you will buy victory cards for points, and whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

This is only a summary. For a more in-depth look, read How to Play Dominion.

The Good And Bad

Good Stuff

A common complaint in many card games is "I only lost because my opponent drew better cards." In Dominion, each player starts with an identical 10-card deck. After two turns of 5-card hands, you'll have drawn the exact same ten cards as your opponent. If your draw worse cards after that, it's partially your fault for not buying better cards! The game still has plenty of luck, but unlike many card games, bad luck alone will not ruin a player's chances of winning.

The deck-building mechanic makes for an incredibly fun game. Players are working towards a goal, and always tangibly improving their own deck after almost every turn. This allows even players who don't win to feel like they have made a lot of progress by improving their deck.

Another neat feature of the deck-improvement mechanic is that you get to feel the results of your early choices all game long. If you buy the Militia on the second turn, then your opponent will be forced to discard two cards in the near future, and again every few turns for the rest of the game. If you start with a Moneylender instead, you'll be improving your buying power.

Bad Stuff

Not much, really.

Some setups have no way to attack the other player, and may feel insufficiently interactive. But if this bothers you, you can simply be sure to include at least one attack card in every setup.

Other than that, the worst thing about this game is that it's so addictive that it's hard to stop playing!

Conclusion

Dominion has an incredible replay value, even without the new sets of kingdom cards that have been released. Once you start mixing in cards from a second set, the possibilities are endless. Highly recommended for anyone who might enjoy a light strategy card game that can play in half an hour. (Although you'll probably want to play a few games in a row.)

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