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Subject: Three Wacky Kingdom Setups (and a Battle of Principle) rss

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Matthew Cordeiro
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Cumberland
Rhode Island
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The wife thought I was reading too many strategy articles and winning too much recently. She decided to throw me a curveball by handpicking three wacky kingdom sets. We played them in 4-player games with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who have both played Dominion plenty of times.

Game 1 - All Alchemy
Herbalist
Vineyard
Transmute
Apothecary
Scrying Pool
University
Familiar
Alchemist
Philosopher’s Stone
Golem

The university was kind of a waste in this setup. Still, we thought it might have some use for the extra actions and for picking up herbalists. This was the only game I’ve ever purchased more than 2 potions. It was necessary since 9 out of 10 kingdom cards required them. I was getting rocked right out of the gate. Everyone bought familiars, and I was the last to buy one simply because of my card draws. By the time I actually played it, all the curses were gone, and many of them were in my deck. That set the tone for the rest of my strategy. My deck was clogged with coppers, estates, and curses. Transmute was the only trasher, and it only trashes one at a time. I’ve never been a huge fan of that one anyway. I did pick one up, though, to help get rid of curses and maybe to pick up some points at the end. Knowing my deck was garbage, I focused on herbalists and small, multiple buys. With multiple potions in my deck, I could use the herbalist to get a vineyard with the potion and then something else with whatever I could afford. Then, I could carry over my best treasure to the next draw. I bought a bunch of vineyards and herbalists and a few other actions. I was basically trying to end it on 3 piles, which is exactly what happened (curse, vineyard, herbalist). The winner had multiple familiars very quickly and was cursing us left and right. He was also able to string together a few alchemists.

Game 2 - All Victory
Tunnel
Great Hall
Island
Gardens
Silk Road
Duke
Harem
Nobles
Farmland
Fairgrounds

Tunnel’s reaction was useless, but 2 points for $3 would be useful at the end of the game. Silk road would undoubtedly be worth a fair amount in the end. I didn’t see fairgrounds as being a smart buy due to all the other ways to get points and a need for gold, and sure enough it wasn’t bought at all. I bought the islands as fast as possible. It was the only way to get the junk out of my deck. I wasn’t the only one to think of this. Islands were the first pile depleted. I also focused on buying Harems as a source of money and expected this pile would be depleted. It came close, but there were still a couple left at the end. I switched to gardens mid game, but this didn’t get me very far due to a lack of extra gains/buys. The game indeed ended on 3 piles (silk road, island, estate). The winner focused on silk road and great hall. His silk roads were worth 7 points each. I should have gotten in on that earlier. My gardens were only worth 3 points each.

Game 3 - Half Attack / Half Reaction
Ambassador
Pirate Ship
Jester
Margrave
Goons
Moat
Secret Chamber
Watch Tower
Trader
Horse Traders

I went into this one thinking the best defense is a good offense. I used the ambassador to get rid of coppers, estates, and curses. This made my opponent’s jesters and pirate ships less effective while allowing me to run an efficient deck. I was the only player to buy an ambassador. For some reason the other players either don’t like or undervalue the ambassador. I was also the only player to not buy any reactions. For the most part, this strategy seemed to work. By the end of the game, I had an ambassador and 3 pirate ships in a deck that had very little copper, estates, and curses. My pirate ships produced 5 coins, which was the highest of the 4 players. The wife went in the opposite direction and got a couple of each type of reaction. She ended up with some dead cards in hand due to a lack of extra actions, but she used the different reactions very frequently to manage her hand, her deck, and the attack effects really well. She won this one, with me being just a single point behind her. The other 2 players finished well behind us. One of them overreacted (pun intended) and bought too many moats. On one unfortunate turn, he had 3 moats in hand. The other player fell into the Jester trap and kept taking copies of everyone’s actions to the point where she had way too many action cards in her deck. This was yet another 3 pile ending (moat, duchy, estate).

Conclusions (and the Battle of Principle)
The wife claimed her wacky setups beat my strategy research because I finished third, third, and second in setups I couldn’t have "read up on". Personally, I think I just hit a hot streak in the recent past. Winning something like 4 out of 5 games isn't "dominating the game due to strategy research". When you play hundreds of games, those little streaks will happen. But I wasn’t going to convince her. She sees researching strategy as an unfair advantage that’s not in the spirit of the game. I understand her point, but I see it as a way to advance the level of the play of the whole group by breaking out of group think and introducing new ideas. My wife and I are pretty intelligent people, and we play with pretty intelligent people. They'll figure this stuff out quickly. Any research I do will only give me a temporary advantage until everyone else figures out how I'm playing. In fact, I often share my findings with the group. My goal isn’t to win all the time. But I do enjoy quantitative analysis on what works and what doesn’t. (It’s what I do for a living.)

In reality, I think her exercise didn’t prove anything. We also tracked total points scored in these 3 games. I finished third with 120 points. First place was 123 points. No one was dominating this night. So, I’m chalking up the wife’s experiment as "inconclusive". Still, it was fun to play some crazy setups that wouldn’t happen just picking randomly. And for the sake of keeping my #1 Dominion partner, I should probably cool it on the strategy research!

(edited for grammar)
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Kevin Costello
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Yeah, you need a pretty large sample size with 4-player games to draw any serious conclusions. Assuming all players are equal, you only have a 25% chance to win. But all players are of course not equal, but then its a question of how unequal are you. If you're playing 4-way games with even moderately experienced players, I think even a win rate of 30-35% is impressive, and might mean you're the best player at the table. But there's no way to get a good reading on win rates if you only play 3 games.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Washington
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I saw a pretty glaring flaw in her experiment, despite whatever might be drawn from it. Each set she chose isn't any less likely than any other randomly determined set-up of 10 kingdom cards.

It might seem odd to have all 10 be Victory (or hybrids of) cards but eight of those cards and a Talisman instead of Gardens and Tribute instead of Great Hall is as likely to occur--it just wouldn't look as weird to randomly appear.
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Jeremy London
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Nollamara (Perth)
Western Australia
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Free cider juice remedied dim river duck.
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FlatOnHisFace wrote:
I saw a pretty glaring flaw in her experiment, despite whatever might be drawn from it. Each set she chose isn't any less likely than any other randomly determined set-up of 10 kingdom cards.

It might seem odd to have all 10 be Victory (or hybrids of) cards but eight of those cards and a Talisman instead of Gardens and Tribute instead of Great Hall is as likely to occur--it just wouldn't look as weird to randomly appear.


We'll yes, but that's irrelevant. Although any particular kingdom is no more or less likely than any other kingdom, there are more kingdoms with roughly even mixes of actions/victory/treasure/reaction/attack than there are kingdoms falling into the subset of eg being all victory cards. It is therefore natural that strategy articles spend less time on less common subsets of kingdoms, even if the individual kingdoms all have an equal probability. The OP's wife simply created kingdoms with features that are less likely to have been dealt with by strategy articles.

Also, even if eg Gardens and Great Hall were swapped for Talisman and Tribute as in your example, I think the kingdom would have still been sufficiently different from most of the kingdoms considered by strategy articles for the OP's wife's experiment to be applicable.
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Vince Lupo
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ALEXANDRIA
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This is a potential trap of playing the game so much or reading about it too much. My wife isn't all that interested in dominion anymore because she feels my strategies are too dominant. I'm hoping to get her back into it via the eventual official dominion iOS app.
 
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Dennison Milenkaya
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But the point isn't whether you can classify all the cards the same or not. The point to "strategy" is:

How do I handle a set-up without virtual coin?
How do I handle a set-up without +1 Buys?
How do I handle a set-up without trashing?
How do I handle a set-up with certain Attacks?

All the same rules apply to any of the above hand-selected kingdom sets. In fact, I'd say that she tipped the scales against anyone who doesn't contemplate strategy so much. She eliminated almost any variety at all, which ought to have made "the right path" to victory all that more obvious.

Game 1, I would've went heavy on the Transmutes. I've won using them in far less restrictive set-ups and the OP's main downfall there is that he doesn't really like the card. Buddy, it freakin' rocks. Especially if he is late getting the Familiars. Golems to play more of them. And when you have too many, they kinda take care of themselves, getting you points right about the time you need those most.

Game 2, Islands are quite obvious but I'd also stick to Treasure 'til I had a bit of Gold. No sense rushing to an all-green deck just because there isn't some other pretty color out there. Big Money might have been the way to go. Silk Roads look tempting but there's little chance they'll be picked up quickly enough without extra Gains or Buys to rival Provinces--unless only one person is getting them in a 4-player game! You can go with Great Halls over Silvers once you start rubbing Golds together, which won't take long if you cleared out the early Estates with Islands. Alternatively, Farmlands to improve Estates to Islands (early) and those Farmlands to Provinces for the Islands to sequester. According to the read, no-one went for Farmlands nor Provinces and you can empty the Provinces pretty quickly this way. If you let a set-up like this end on three depleted piles, those Gardens and (especially) Silk Roads will necessarily be huge. Take advantage of that: get the Silk Roads, even if only as possible Farmland fodder so someone else doesn't get 'em.

Game 3, I'd say he played it right. Without explosive actions, you don't want Jesters or too many defense cards. I might've experimented with a 2-part Goons --> Amabastard combo to buy 2 Curses every other turn and hand them around between those turns. But who knows? There's too much chance of interactivity to guess what's effective 'til you see it in motion. What I'm certain of is an Ambastard opening to get a thin deck, lest those Attacks be too harsh. A thin deck can survive on a single Moat, unmolested.

The point is, none of this analysis is strictly new. It is just taking the general good advice and applying it to specific set-ups, none of which are more likely to occur than any other.
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Jamie Tang
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Tonight, we tried the all Victory points set-up with 2 players. Island ran out first, followed by Harem, with the game ending when Duchy ran out. Silk Road was worth 7 or 8 points due to how many victory point cards we had. I won with 104 points. Getting all those green cards made us feel like we were accomplishing something. This was the first game of Dominion where I didn't get any Gold cards. The Harem with 2 gold and 2 victory points was more attractive!
 
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Dennison Milenkaya
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jatang wrote:
[...] where I didn't get any Gold cards. The Harem with 2 gold and 2 victory points was more attractive!


A Harem with 2 gold = Province.
 
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Vince Lupo
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ALEXANDRIA
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jatang wrote:
Tonight, we tried the all Victory points set-up with 2 players. Island ran out first, followed by Harem, with the game ending when Duchy ran out. Silk Road was worth 7 or 8 points due to how many victory point cards we had. I won with 104 points. Getting all those green cards made us feel like we were accomplishing something. This was the first game of Dominion where I didn't get any Gold cards. The Harem with 2 gold and 2 victory points was more attractive!



There have been many a game where I never bothered with gold and won. Even without platinum available. It all depends on whether you can generate enough money/draws another way. A simple example would be festivals and libraries. And of course, a real helper to library is any card that lets you discard for benefit or requirement.
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