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Subject: Full Course Reviews: Dominion rss

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Nick Fleece
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This is the first of my reviews I will be writing called Full Course reviews. I will try to discuss every aspect of a game to help you decide whether or not you would like to try or purchase a game, or just for your reading pleasure.

Dominion

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Players: 2-4
Time: 30 mins

Intro


Dominion is a deck-building game about making a kingdom in the Middle Ages. Some call it THE deck-building game, as Donald X Vaccarino created the deck-building mechanic with this game. It is highly regarded on BGG and won the highly acclaimed Spiel des Jahres in 2009. After that long introduction, you're probably wondering if the hype is real. Lucky for you that is exactly what I will discuss.

Gameplay



In Dominion, players will be adding and removing cards from their personal deck of cards in order to more efficiently acquire victory point cards. At the games end, the player with the most victory points from their victory cards is the winner.

"How do you do this?" You ask? Well, here's how...

Setup


The players will place all of the Copper, Silver, and Gold cards in the center. You will then place a certain amount of Estate, Duchy, Province, and Curse cards in the center as well. You will then select 10 piles of 10 "kingdom" cards of the 25 available and place those in the center as well. (I suggest you use the first game card in the back of the rule book for your first game). All of these cards make up the supply. You also place the Trash card next to the supply.

Each player starts the game with a 10 card deck consisting of 7 copper cards and 3 Estate cards. Everyone will shuffle these cards and draw 5. They will place the rest of their cards face down next to them, creating their own personal deck.Pick a player to go first. The game then proceeds like this...

Rules of play


As the Jackson 5 would say, Dominion is as easy as ABC. A player's turn has three phases: Action, Buy, Cleanup. However, in the first 2 or 3 turns, you won't be playing actions.

At the beginning you will look at your hand, and play any treasure cards you have. A treasure card is yellow, says treasure at the bottom, and has a yellow number at the top left and right. In the beginning, these will just be "copper" cards, each of which produces one coin. You will play all of these cards, then add up all of your coins. You then have this much money to buy with.

Buying Phase

On the bottom left of a card, there is a yellow number. This is the card's cost. So, after I play 4 coppers, I have 4 coins to spend, which means I may buy ONE card whose cost is 4 or less from the supply. So, if Smithy was in the supply this game, I could buy a Smithy. To buy it, I simply take the Smithy from the supply, and place it in my own personal discard pile face up.

Cleanup Phase

The clean up phase is even easier. Place all cards in front of you that are in play in your discard pile. You will also place all cards in your hand in your discard pile. Your left over hand will most likely contain just Estate cards for a while. These cards do nothing for you in game, but are worth a victory point at the end (more on this later).
After doing all of your discarding, you draw 5 new cards, and then it is the player to your left's turn.
If you go to draw, and there are no card in your deck when you go to draw, you shuffle your discard pile and create a new deck. This deck now contains all of the cards you have previously bought to be able to play. Woo!

Action Phase

If you remember ABC, then you know the action phase is first. This is where you play action cards. An action card is most likely gray and says action on the bottom.

You can normally just play one action on your turn. So, if I play a Smithy from my hand, I place it in front of me, the follow what it says to do underneath the picture. A Smithy says +3 cards. This means I draw 3 more cards from my deck and place them into my hand. If I were to draw another action card into my hand, I wouldn't be able to play it because you can only play 1 action card on a turn. There is a way to get around this, however....

Some cards say +X amount of actions. This means you can play that many more action cards on your turn. So, if I played a Village, which says +1 card, +2 actions, I would draw a card and get to play two more action cards. So if I played a Smithy after that, I draw 3 cards, and could still play another action. Sounds like a combo!

There are all kinds of other actions. Here are some things they might say:
+X buys: Remember how you can only buy one card on a turn? This lets you buy more than one. So if I played a card that give me +1 buy, I can now buy 2 cards on my turn. So if I had 6 coins to buy with once I got to my buy phase, I could buy a card that cost 4 and a card that costs 2, or two cards that cost 3.
+X coins (written in a yellow coin): These are worth coins and add to how much you can buy.
Trash: When a card lets you trash a card, you place the card you are trashing on top of the Trash card. It is gone forever! This helps you streamline your deck so you can play the cards you want to play more often.
Other stuff: some cards gain you other cards, some let you draw until you have a certain number of cards in your hand. Just follow what a card says to do.

Other card types
Some action cards have a second type at the bottom. Here are what these mean:
Attack: these hurt the other players. They might have your opponents discard cards, gain Curse cards, or make them trash cards.
Reaction: there is only one reaction; Moat. You can reveal this card when a player plays an attack to protect yourself. You can also play it is a normal action to draw two cards.

Some more cards

Other Treasure cards
In addition to copper, you can buy Silver and Gold cars. These are played during you buy phase like copper and are worth 2 and 3 coins respectively.

Curse cards
Curse cards are worthless cards worth negative points given out by the evil Witch card. You want to Trash these. Fast.

Victory cards
Victory cards are worthless cards during the game. They simply take up a space in your hand. However when the game ends, they are worth points equal to the number in the center. Speaking of the game's end...

End of game

As soon as all of the province cards are bought, or once 3 other piles of cards run out, the game ends. Players add up all of the numbers on their victory cards. Whoever has the most points is the winner.

Review


Now that you know how to play, here's what I think of Dominion.

Complexity: 4 (10 being the most complicated)

Dominion isn't a hard game to learn. Once you understand you don't get rid of money when you buy things, everything else is easy. Most of the complexity comes from the different card combinations and figuring out how to build the most efficient deck.

Theme

The theme is not captured well in this game. I don't really feel like a monarch building a Dominion. I feel like myself playing cards that let me get more cards. The cards names barely correspond with their effects. That doesn't bother me that much, but if you are looking for theme, it's not here.
Bonus points: +0

Components

Everything looks and feels good in this game. You get 500 cards, an insert, and the rule book, all in a square box.

Box
The box has nice artwork and serves its purpose, although it is a little big.

Rule book
The rule book explains the game well and answers most questions you might have. It has an FAQ about each card.

Insert
The insert keeps all the cards organized with a sheet of paper showing where to store everything. It makes it easy to quickly pull out the cards you need. I would have preferred a divider system for the sake of expansions, but, again, it serves its purpose.

Cards
First off, 500 cards is alot! The cards have beautiful artwork from a ton of different artists. Some complain that the art isn't very consistent but I think it helps to differentiate the cards. My only complaint is that the cards have a black border which makes it easy to see wear and tear.

Points: 9/10


Variety/ Replayability

Each game you pick 10 kingdom cards out of a pool of 25. That means you could play two games in a row with completely different kingdom cards. There are a thousands of combinations and this helps to keep the game fresh. The game has randomizer cards with which you can shuffle to get 10 random cards. You can also use some of the recommended kingdoms in the back of the rule book or do some kind of draft. There are plenty of options.
However, even when you play the same game twice, the game can play differently because of what cards are bought. The replayability is Dominion's strongest point.
Points: 30/30

Depth

Dominion is a very deep game. There are multiple strategies in each setup. The depth of this game come from evaluating each setup and choosing a path to victory. You also must react to how your opponent(s) play(s). If they are buying card that make you discard card, you should probably get cards that let you draw more, or get cards that stop the attack, etc.
Some say there is a bit too much luck, but the deep strategies in this game definently help to negate this, and many cards are their to make you have more chances of drawing good. Even though a lucky draw can give someone a good turn, it is consisting of cards they chose to buy.
Dominion gets better with repeated plays as you learn all of the different combos between the cards.
Points: 20/20


Fun/ Feelings

It is very fun to evaluate a setup and pick your strategy. Since some strategies might be easier then others, you feel a great since of accomplishment when you win with a tough/unique strategy. Since points are hidden, it can get tense when the province pile is low. Getting better at this game is a very rewarding experience.
Points: 40/40


Other bonuses
None here


Rating

Components: 9/10
Variety/ Replayability: 30/30
Depth: 20/20
Fun/ Feelings: 40/40
Bonuses:
Theme: +0
Other: +0

Total: 99/100
9.9/10

Final Thoughts

Dominion is an excellent game. The depth and replayability push this one over the edge. I am always willing to play it, and it is currently my most played game.
Go buy it, Now!
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Collis Jeppesen
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The many available expansions add much to the base game and really enhance game play with new mechanics that allow all new strategies. The base game is good, but add Seaside and Prosperity expansions to start. Intrigue is good too and adds more money, properties, etc so you can have 6 player games (better to play two 3 player games to keep the turns at a good clip, though).

The base game alone can sometimes feel like 4 people playing 4 individual hands with little interaction against your opponents. The expansions make it much more interactive with the other players besides using attack cards.
 
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Nick Fleece
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You are right. The expansions do add plenty of replayability and interaction. I plan on reviewing the expansions soon.

There is still plenty of interaction in just the base game. For example: if an opponent builds a village-council room engine, a library deck wouldnt work as well for you. Or, if there are 3 players, and the council room player is to you right, a militia ciuld help negate the benefits for your left hand neighbour. Militia and Witch are also very interactive attacks.

The biggest joy of dominion for me is to evaluate a set and figure out the best strategy. Even if no interactive cards are in play, you are still trying to build a better deck than your opponent.
 
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Richard Hutnik
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I am not sure how deep Dominion is. It is a game I like a lot, but can't have due to the weight of carrying the cards with the expansion. I consider it a pretty wide game though, with a bit of a narrow focus on optimizing. This optimizing is a lot of fun though.
 
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Charles Ting
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One thing regarding the insert- I personally think that the slots could be made taller so that the cards can fit more steadily. Just a minor issue though.
 
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