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Rio Grande Games: Dominion – Review

July 7, 2011

Publisher Rio Grande Games
Genre Card Draft
Number of Players 2 to 4 (can play up to 6, but is not recommended)
Play Time 30 minutes
Initial Review Date  7/6/11
Last Updated  7/6/11
FAQ
Files/Tools
Click here to Play

Dominion is a card drafting game. I’m not sure if it was the first of its kind but it certainly the game that made this genre popular.

In dominion every player starts with the same set of 10 cards which forms a personal deck. This deck consists of 7 copper and 3 estate cards. On the table between all of the players is a sort of market. In this market the rest of the cards in the game are for sale.

The prices of the cards vary from as little as 0 coin to as much as 8 coin in some expansions there are cards that cost as much as 11 coin. But for the purpose of this review I’m going to stick to the base game. The prices are printed directly on the card meaning that a given card always has the same price. More powerful cards are therefore more expensive.

Turn Sequence

The turn sequence is pretty simple and straightforward. You start with a hand of 5 cards. First there is the action phase where you have 1 action and may play an action card. After the card’s effects are resolved you have 1 “buy” which can be used to purchase cards by revealing coin cards from your hand (you do not have to reveal all of your coins if you don’t want to). The card you purchased goes to your discard pile and then all of the cards you played, all of the treasure cards you revealed and any remaining cards in your hand are all discarded as well. Then you draw back up to 5 cards reshuffling the discard pile as needed.

As you can see, it is though this method that your deck will change over the course of the game. However, the thicker your deck is the more of a delay there is between when you purchase a card and when you’ll get card you’ve purchased in your hand.

Types of Cards

There are 3 types of cards in the game. There are Treasure Cards, Land Cards and Action cards. Your initial deck contains only Land and Treasure.

Land cards: These are the cards that count for points at the end of the game. Unfortunately, they don’t do anything during the game meaning that they act as dead space in your deck. So, buying these cards is a tradeoff. They make your deck less effective but are the only thing that matters at the end of the game. These cards come in three different verities. Estates (1 point), Duchies (3 points) and Provinces (6 points). These cards are also respectively more expensive. In general you want to buy provinces not only because it is more cost efficient but because they take up less space in your deck. For this reason it is rare to see people purchase Estates unless the game is about to end.

Treasure Cards: These are the cards you use to buy other cards. Like the land cards they come in three different types. Copper (1 coin), Silver (2 coin) and Gold (3 coin). Again, these cards get progressively more expensive but once more the more expensive coinage is better since they provide more buying power per hand.

Action Cards: These are the cards that really make the game interesting. They also vary from game to game as there are XXX possible cards and out of them only 10 are used per game which are determined randomly. These cards can do all sorts of things. Some of them let you draw and play more cards. Some of them let you buy more than one card in a turn or count as money. Some can even put special cards called “curse cards” in your opponent’s decks, which not only take up space but actually give negative points at the end of the game! This is just a sampling of what’s out there.

Ending the Game

The game ends when one of two events happens. Either 3 of the piles are depleted of cards (that is all copies of 3 different cards are no longer for purchase) or The province pile runs out. Keep in mind the aforementioned Curse cards do count as a pile and I have seen it run out. Once one of these two things happen the game immediately ends and everyone counts up their points. In this way if you know you’re ahead you’ll want to end the game asap since no one will get to go after you. Which in some cases can mean buying the last copy or two of a popular card so that 3 stacks are depleted.

Conclusion

My only real complaint about dominion is that you have to play it a lot before you can start to get good at the game. The reason for this is that it takes a bunch of games just to see all of the action cards. Additionally, even if you figure out an awesome combo between X and Y card you may not see those two together again for a long time. Instead you have to learn each individual card and understand what types of cards it works well with and what types of cards make it worthless. This is compounded by the fact that there are a lot of expansions for the game now, each of which add a large number of cards as choices.

I would say try it out at least once. The game is a lot of fun. Just be careful if you decide to buy it. I have a copy and yet it’s collecting dust because I know way too many people who also own this game. So, anytime I want to play I just use their cards. It does mean I get to play all of the expansions though without having to buy them. 😉


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