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Subject: Thinking of buying Dominion? Consider this - a review rss

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Jon Ward
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As a stand-alone game Dominion doesn't last.
As of this writing there are some 170 reviews of Dominion on BGG. Why should I bother to add my voice? Well, this review is directed to the person deciding whether to buy this game.

If you want more details on every facet of this game, you may want to find that elsewhere first, then come back for my review. If you already have a good grasp of the game, please read on.

In a nutshell, you start with a meager hand of copper pieces and (useless until the end) victory point cards. In front of you are other money and victory point cards and 10 other mini-decks of cards that change from game to game to give you a new experience and new decisions to make which you can buy to help you get the most victory points.

Dominion was very exciting to me when a friend introduced it to me. Why had I never played deck-builder before? (Magic scared me away.) So I dropped the $30+ for the game thinking it would be a hit at home. It was. Over several days during Christmas break we took every opportunity to play Dominion.

We loved the quick game play (~20 minutes per game), the variety from game to game, that there are varying levels of attacks on other players depending on what cards are before you and that the same strategy didn't always win. Some folks say that the buy-only-money-until-you-can-buy-provinces strategy is unstoppable. Not in my experience. So those were good things.

After a few weeks, I couldn't get anyone to play with me. We were tired of seeing the same card combinations and we longed for more cards to play. I realize that the math will tell you there are 7 bazillion variations with 25 cards so how could you ever get bored? Well, some cards you never want to play, so that number becomes irrelevant.

What weighs on me about this game? Is it the theme? It's contrived around increasing your influence - your dominion. But really it's about building a deck for no other reason than to build a deck so you can buy green cards. There is no placement of cards to mimic a city or kingdom, no real thought that you're building something cool. something. Nope, just a stack of cards. Though that is a legitimate complaint, that wasn't it.

Was it the shuffling? No, I don't mind it. Some people complain about the shuffling. It didn't bother me. It gave me something to do while waiting for my turn. Plus, I like the tactile nature of board (card) games. And, the cards have great artwork!

The real problem is that it's not a complete game. After, say, 20-30 plays you're aching for more cards. It's like splitting the Hobbit into two movies and only seeing the first movie. You're won't be satisfied. You have to see the second one to get full. Or in the case of Dominion, (as I've heard from other folks) you have to catch 'em all (the expansions, that is) to continue to enjoy the game. I realize many other games have expansions that you would feel compelled to buy, and that I have purchased. The problem with Dominion is that without buying the expansions, you won't enjoy the initial game for very long.

Dominion is a fun ride. But before you buy in, consider that you will feel compelled to buy multiple expansions (I love Seaside!) to continue to derive enjoyment from it. So if you're happy with spending $90-120 for a real, lasting game of Dominion with some expansions you'll love it.

Bottom line: In the end I've decided I don't love this game. This review is for Dominion, not Dominion and all of the expansions. In that vein, I can't recommend it. I congratulate the designer for a well-implemented great idea and wish the fans the best. But as for me and my family, we're making a clean break before things get out of hand.
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Paul W
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I suppose it's a matter of perspective...there plenty of games I own and enjoy that haven't gotten 20 or 30 plays. For me, the fact that playing the game made me hunger for more was a sign of just how strong the game system is.

If it's not for you that's fine, but there are more options than all in or nothing.
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Jonathan Morton
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I've played my base Dominion set over 100 times, plus over 50 plays with Intrigue, plus over 50 plays with Seaside.

It's been fantastic value for me.
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Darren M
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Ok... so to be clear... you don't like the base game which is too repetitive/stale after a few (20-30) plays and you need further expansions to revitalize it.

Yet with an added expansion or two (Seaside and let's say 1-2 others) you'd likely (or already do) love the game?

I can see your point that the game may not feel complete and re-playable enough with just the base components but I think if I loved a game... an extra $30-$100 spent on it to squeeze the full "love potential" from it would probably be money well spent.

I can see how some would feel conned about buying a $30 dollar game and then having to shell out $25-$30 for every expansion for the "full game experience".

Personally I look at the game something like a LCG. You can stick to the base which is perfectly playable but the extra expansions do add more variety and replay value. For the extra money and the number of plays you can get from the "game system" I think it's worth the extra cash layout but everyone will have their own feelings regarding the bang for the buck that provides.

Personally I think it all comes down to how often you play the game... hundreds of plays and the extra costs become almost irrelevant on a cost per play basis. If all those expansion boxes sit un-played then of course the extras are a worthless drain.

The review provides a good alternative perspective though... people should realize that the game is likely going to cost them $100+ in the long run instead of just $30 if they like it... of course if they don't even like the base game then no worries... dump it and be free from having your wallet dominated.
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Jon Ward
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fizzmore wrote:
I suppose it's a matter of perspective...there plenty of games I own and enjoy that haven't gotten 20 or 30 plays. For me, the fact that playing the game made me hunger for more was a sign of just how strong the game system is.


Good points, and I have the same situation with my games. However, those games are generally more substantion games - i.e. last more than 20 minutes each.
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David Boeren
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kovajatka wrote:
Dominion was very exciting to me when a friend introduced it to me. Why had I never played deck-builder before? (Magic scared me away.)


You'd never played a deck-builder before because they didn't exist before. Dominion was the first. Magic and other CCG/LCG games are a separate and extremely different type of game which bear zero resemblance to Dominion in how they work.

Personally, I've noticed a certain trend. Gamers who picked up Dominion back when it was fresh and new tend to love it. Gamers who encountered it later don't. It's been well explored and exhausted and later games have taken the once-new deckbuilding idea and taken it in different directions and/or improved on it. Also, the mechanic is no longer so new and shiny that everyone wants to try it out.

Essentially, Dominion relies on a new and clever mechanic to furnish much of the gameplay. Your goal is to look at the cards that are out, "solve" the puzzle of what combination is the best, and then pick up those cards. The game consists of three phases:

1. Recognize the overpowered combo in the available cards and determine a buying plan
2. Execute the mechanics to acquire these cards (few decisions required here)
3. Determine the point at which you switch from this buying plan to one favoring end of game VPs. This requires a bit of feel but is not all that complex.


Newer games are starting to use deck-building as a mechanic to build a game around, rather than expecting the mechanic to BE the entire game.
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Matt N

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kovajatka wrote:
As of this writing there are some 170 reviews of Dominion on BGG. Why should I bother to add my voice?


I hate it when people post this as a reply to reviews. Don't worry about them, just put your opinion out there.

kovajatka wrote:
I realize that the math will tell you there are 7 bazillion variations with 25 cards so how could you ever get bored? Well, some cards you never want to play, so that number becomes irrelevant.


Never is too strong of a word (unless you really do mean "want to" instead of "should"). Some cards are much weaker than others, but there's a place for each card.
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Jon Ward
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Thanks for the tips, Matt. This is my first review.

Concur with your comment on the use of the word "never." Now to think of it, I tell my kids the same thing...
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Simon Blome
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Good review and I would give another thumb for the last sentence!

Although I DID enjoy the game for a couple of plays, there was the need of buying more to keep the game fresh early on. But it still felt empty.
I think it's the fact that the game is pure mechanics and that most cards feel just like combinations and variations of the same basic elements (like '+ cards', '+ actions' etc.) IMHO.

I'll play it from time to time, if asked. But I won't buy any further expansions.
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Ronnie
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We wanna be free. We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. And we wanna play games. And we wanna have a good time. And that's what we're gonna do. We're gonna have a good time; We're gonna have a party...
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kovajatka wrote:

Dominion is a fun ride. But before you buy in, consider that you will feel compelled to buy multiple expansions (I love Seaside!) to continue to derive enjoyment from it. So if you're happy with spending $90-120 for a real, lasting game of Dominion with some expansions you'll love it.

Bottom line: In the end I've decided I don't love this game. This review is for Dominion, not Dominion and all of the expansions. In that vein, I can't recommend it. I congratulate the designer for a well-implemented great idea and wish the fans the best. But as for me and my family, we're making a clean break before things get out of hand.


Here is the problem. If someone had told me this before I played Dominion, I might not have played it. The nearly $200 I spent on Dominion and has been the best money I have spent on board games. Dollar for dollar I have gotten more out of this than any other games I have played.

The variation, replayability, and scalability for 2-4 players is spectacular and beyond compare to anything else I have played.

I see where you are coming from but I am very very glad that I kept buying expansions as they came out.

The best advice you could give to someone who is concerned about the base game being too bland is to buy Dominion: Intrigue first.
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C Witcomb
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I came from a heavy MTG background, and I have to say that Dominion has lasted me really well. As a 3+ player game, it's not so great, but two-player is awesome.

My buddy and I played the base set I don't know how many times, and went through several phases of "learning" different strategies. After a while, we were only both pursuing the same strategy at the same time rarely (and then the trick is knowing when to switch!).

I have to confess to buying some of the expansions too. With these, the game becomes fantastic, with really NO cards becoming unplayable in the right situation (though the poor old Chancellor struggles to see the limelight!).

So, I'd say, buy the base set (or Intrigue - I don't rate these two that differently) plus Prosperity, and you have a game that will take more replayability than virtually any game I own. All for a reasonable fee (and MUCH cheaper than the white-line-of-powder MTG experience!).

One more tip - when shuffling the purple deck to determine the Kingdom cards, include the gold, silver, copper, and victory point purple cards. If any of these come up, remove that deck from play, and draw another purple card (so there are still 10 Kingdom cards). Having no Provinces to buy, or no Silver, can really alter a game, and sheds new light on some of the older cards.

X
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David Debien
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Stunna wrote:
kovajatka wrote:
I realize that the math will tell you there are 7 bazillion variations with 25 cards so how could you ever get bored? Well, some cards you never want to play, so that number becomes irrelevant.


Never is too strong of a word (unless you really do mean "want to" instead of "should"). Some cards are much weaker than others, but there's a place for each card.


And what are these mysterious kingdom cards that never get purchased? I agree some cards are better than others, but I cannot think of a single card in the base set that is not worth purchasing if the correct combinations become available.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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idoru wrote:
One more tip - when shuffling the purple deck to determine the Kingdom cards, include the gold, silver, copper, and victory point purple cards. If any of these come up, remove that deck from play, and draw another purple card (so there are still 10 Kingdom cards). Having no Provinces to buy, or no Silver, can really alter a game, and sheds new light on some of the older cards.


I really want to see the game where Estates, Duchies, and Provinces are kicked but Witches and Gardens aren't in the kingdom.

I want to see it. I don't want to play it.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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If it was possible to more than 100 percent disagree with a review, I would do that here. The game has as much variety and is a fulfilling as any board game I've ever played right out of the box. Buying expansions isn't necessary, but it is like saying that after you eat your favorite dessert that there's no need to eat any other dessert for the rest of your life. There's very little about this review that makes any sense to me at all.
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David Debien
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rickert wrote:
If it was possible to more than 100 percent disagree with a review, I would do that here. The game has as much variety and is a fulfilling as any board game I've ever played right out of the box. Buying expansions isn't necessary, but it is like saying that after you eat your favorite dessert that there's no need to eat any other dessert for the rest of your life. There's very little about this review that makes any sense to me at all.


I like Dominion. I don't love it.

There are plenty of complaints about Dominion I understand and a few I even agree with, but I cannot understand Dominion being accused of lacking replay value. If you like the game play of Dominion, then replay value will not be an issue.

Replay value, to me, is the most appealing virtue of Dominion. That applies just as well to the base game as it does to the expansions.

PS Still waiting for someone to post a list of the cards from the base game which should never be bought under any circumstances.
 
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Kris Dabi
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My impression is that you're suffering some form of burnout and/or buyer's remorse. It's natural given our hobby's a bit expensive.

Though, you shouldn't just knock on Dominion.

I tend to lose interest in all games -- even ones I'd thought I'd "never get tired of." Much of my collection were impulse buys before getting any self-control. (oh RFTG... we're growing so apart)

But perhaps, there might be some compulsion to force Dominion on the table to justify the purchase. Like: "I can't believe I bought this expensive ugly suit. It looked good in the store. I might as well wear it since I bought it."

Just hope you don't re-buy the game again in the future. cry I'm so guilty of that w/ other games -- where I gave them away, only to buy them again later.
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Ryan James
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casualgod wrote:
PS Still waiting for someone to post a list of the cards from the base game which should never be bought under any circumstances.


I could be wrong, but I assumed from reading this review that the OP is just saying there are some cards you'll tend to like playing with more than others, and those 'others' just won't see the table nearly as often.

Like, I think the movie 'Office Space' is pretty funny, but I like 'Spinal Tap,' 'The Big Lebowski,' 'Dumb and Dumber,' and 'The Holy Grail,' a LOT more. If I had to choose which comedy to watch, I'd most likely always choose one of the latter. That doesn't mean that 'Office Space' should never be watched under any circumstance. I just personally don't like it as much.

Again, I could definitely be wrong here, that's just the perception I had from the OP.
 
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Roberta Yang
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I only have Dominion and Intrigue, and those alone have lasted 200+ plays so far. It's more "you need one expansion" and less "you need every expansion".
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Jon Ward
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It seems I may have struck a nerve.

Neuroplasticity wrote:
My impression is that you're suffering some form of burnout and/or buyer's remorse. It's natural given our hobby's a bit expensive.


Kris D, you may actually be right about that.

Neuroplasticity wrote:
Just hope you don't re-buy the game again in the future. I'm so guilty of that w/ other games -- where I gave them away, only to buy them again later.


Thanks for the warning.

salty53 wrote:
I only have Dominion and Intrigue, and those alone have lasted 200+ plays so far. It's more "you need one expansion" and less "you need every expansion".


Roberta, you almost have me convinced, especially since I never played Intrigue. Actually I want to play more.

 
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The Compulsive Completist
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Sandmanx82 wrote:
Like, I think the movie 'Office Space' is pretty funny, but I like 'Spinal Tap,' 'The Big Lebowski,' 'Dumb and Dumber,' and 'The Holy Grail,' a LOT more. If I had to choose which comedy to watch, I'd most likely always choose one of the latter.

WRONG! You should ALWAYS choose Spinal Tap.
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Andy Andersen
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My wife and I enjoy it. You don't, good for you.

Thanks for your comments
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Ido Abelman
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I think it's true that just base dominion doesn't have enough replay value. But since the number of combinations grows factorially, just one extra expansion is enough IMO. I personally own base, intrigue and alchemy and I didn't become tired of them for a long time.
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CBpegasus wrote:
I think it's true that just base dominion doesn't have enough replay value. But since the number of combinations grows factorially, just one extra expansion is enough IMO. I personally own base, intrigue and alchemy and I didn't become tired of them for a long time.


[math]
First, it's not factorially, it's n choose 10 which grows like n^10. Second, as already mentioned, also by Donald, n choose 10 is not the right metric. If there is Ironworks/Gardens on the board, there are not many other cards that influence the gameplay, and it's for sure not all other the 8.
So the board might be a different, but if the 10th card is Chancellor or Navigator does not really matter in this case.
But you certainly have something like n^3, 2-card combos with influence from a third card are on almost every board, so that's a good lower bound
[/math]
 
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Matthew Roskam
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With 600+ games logged on my iPhone (which as of the moment, is base set only), I'm surprised by this review. I know no game is for everyone, but this one has more staying power for me than any other game out there. The fact that the reviewer makes the statement that "some cards you never want to play" tells me there is much more to the game that he has yet to explore! Hopefully he will discover some of the other card combinations that make this game the great game that it is! Get seaside at least !
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Joker Smiley
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Dominion plus Dominion: Intrigue is a pretty good combo, and you can stop there.

Just like Catan + Catan: Cities & Knights: you could play the base game just with newbies, but you'd want the expansion to make the game 'complete'. And you can stop there.
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