10 reasons why... I still suck at Dominion
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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(Here goes… 1st Geeklist… Please be nice!)

As a reformed Magic player (clean since Ravnica block!), I’m really loving Dominion. Unfortunately, the course of true love never runs smooth, and I'm losing lots of games due to factors entirely under my control. This list has ten such examples on, with my fiendishly amateurish analysis of what I’m doing wrong.

Feel free to add your own! Feel free to tell me why I’m still wrong! And hey, feel free to thumb this list! (it was worth a try)
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1. Board Game: Festival [Average Rating:5.56 Overall Rank:12340]
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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No specific examples here, as I’ve lost track of the number of times people have beaten me when I haven’t bought a Festival early, and they have.

Remember when you started playing Dominion? Remember how Village seemed like the best card in the world ever ever ever? And those early games where the Village pile ran out by the fourth time round the table and everyone had really long turns before ending up with three money in hand? I think that really soured me on cards with "+2 actions" on them. Having gone through a period of, stupidly, avoiding them like the plague, I've come to recognise that they have a valuable place in action-heavy decks and for a particularly nice (if basic) combo with the Smithy.

Festival also has "+2 actions" on it, Laboratory has "+2 cards". It's that "+2 cards" – I'm obsessed with it. Even in decks where Festival is pretty clearly better than Laboratory I always think that I'm bound to draw better cards with the Lab, and buy it first. I really should recognise that until I'm going to draw cards with a value of more than the two money the Festival gives me, I should probably buy the Festival. The early lab might just draw you a Copper and that one Silver card you've bought so far; it's more likely to give you a Copper and an Estate. Festival is good early (for the money), it's good mid game (for the actions) and it's good late game (for the buys).
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2. Board Game: The Loan Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Stewart Cowan
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In most CCGs, there's a minimum deck size, and most decks are built to be exactly that size. Why? Because the smaller the deck the higher the chance that you'll draw your best cards. That's why the Chapel deck works so well; with every Copper and Estate you throw out, you're more likely to draw your Silver and Gold. I know this principal, and I've built decks on it for years. So why in the name of a-higher-power-of-your-choice do I not pick up more Moneylenders? It gets rid of copper, it accelerates you to higher-value buys, and it thins your deck.

I look at it thinking "But when I run out of Copper, it'll be useless!" and go in another direction. Why do I think that I've been getting this wrong? Because I keep losing to decks which run off an early Moneylender, effectively converting Coppers to 5-cost cards and Gold, and getting more quality in their decks faster than I can without it.

In fact, in one four-player game I think I was the only player who didn't buy a Moneylender. I was the last player to buy a Gold, the last player to buy a Province, and only managed to avoid coming last by hoovering up some Duchies late in the game as my deck continued to cough and splutter.

I need to recognise that deck acceleration in this game is not who can draw the most cards, but who can get the most money in their hands come the buy phase.
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3. Board Game: Hold Your Horses [Average Rating:5.17 Unranked]
Stewart Cowan
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Sometimes, even I am capable of building a deck that roars out the blocks and gets above that precious eight-money threshold early in the game. Case in point; I'm in a two-player game where we've both gone for a Chapel deck, and as Festival is the only 5-cost card I've picked one up, along with quite a few Silver and Gold. I draw my first really big hand, with eleven money in it including the Festival. Good times, I think, and buy a Province and a Silver. It then turns out my opponent has drawn the exact same hand as me - and he buys a Gold and another Festival.

Over the next few turns, My province crops up in several of those annoying seven-money hands while my opponent, starting now from a higher quality base, starts to crank out the VPs and end the game faster than I can deal with. It's good to be up-and-running early, but not too early.
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4. Board Game: See you later ... [Average Rating:4.79 Unranked]
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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Several games after the last one, and against a different opponent (offline, of all things!), and it's Chapel deck racing time again. Of course, the difference here was a set with no +buy cards in it, but which did have Cellars. Thinking back to the previous game, I continued to buy Gold after my opponent had started on provinces. In fact, I got so cocky I even removed some Silver from my deck to increase the relative amount of Gold. Boy, did I get hammered. Too little too late, with no way of converting my excess money to an increase in cards bought per turn, I bough my first province in response to his THIRD, losing by 36 points to 12.

I think the lack of +buy actions were definitely the key - once I got behind I had no way of catching up unless my opponent's deck self-destructed - and with cellars in the game that was never likely to happen.
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5. Board Game: Mouse Trap [Average Rating:4.09 Overall Rank:15337]
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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One for the on-line crowd here. On BSW, if you're finishing your action phase with actions still available, and just want to buy something in your turn, you click on a small green arrow to advance the phase. This is replaced by another small green arrow which can be used to skip your buy phase, which I do frequently and accidentally. Late in one particular game, I'd played several actions and ended up with thirteen money available and two buys, which were to be a Duchy and the last Province for nine points. I misclicked, skipped my buy phase and watched my opponent pick up that last Province and win by five.
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6. Board Game: Double your Money [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Stewart Cowan
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Ah... the Adventurer. I'm sorry, if I have six money, I'm buying Gold and that's the end of it. Many people also seem to play this way - I've been in lots of games where ten Adventurers sit huddled together in a pile at the middle of the table all game long; presumably having decided to stay in with a cup of tea and try the quiet life for a change. I'm not convinced this is correct. The key cards in the set for this next game were Adventurer and Village. I would typically play a Village, a couple of actions if I was lucky, and maybe draw some of the Gold I'd bought. My opponent would do the same, but his random-other-card was normally an Adventurer. In a slow game (compared to some of the ones with Chapels in), again I took a beating.

Actions in this game were not at a premium, so you can almost (ALMOST) look at the adventurer as a Treasure card. If you do, the only time he was worse than a Gold is if I hit two Coppers. Draw even one Silver and I break even at worst.

I look forward to losing a future game where I buy Adventurers too early and end up with several in my hand come the buy phase...
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7. Board Game: My First Counting Game [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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In one game I was going for the Chapel deck again, and it seemed like it was going pretty well. I'd ditched all my Estates and most of my Copper, picking up multiple Laboratories and even a Festival (hooray!) along the way - in fact I had more than enough card draw to put my entire deck in my hand at once. The first time I did this, set to buy a Province I counted my money... one Festival, two Silvers and a Copper... total seven...

Oops. I'd committed the cardinal sin of getting too fixated on all the shiny looking action cards and ignoring the money. I started buying more at that point, but my opponent’s deck was too good for me to recover and I ended up losing by ‘many’ provinces to ‘less’. At least, I think the score was about five to three in his favour, but I’d lost faith in my ability to work with numbers at that point.
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8. Board Game: Which Witch? [Average Rating:5.26 Overall Rank:15088]
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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I just don't seem to be able to value Witches correctly. If it's the only 5-cost in the set then I'm okay, but pair with almost any other and I go to pieces. I buy the Laboratory, for example, realising only too late that the cards I'm drawing from it are mostly Curses from my opponent's Witch. I then panic, buy one to try and deflect a few Curses the other way but still end up getting only a couple of uses out the card before it ends up being an overpriced Moat. To play the Witch correctly I think you need to have a sense of opportunity and timing that I'm not quite up to speed with at the moment; i.e. if you're going to get them, get them early so you can get the most use of the Curses.

In a four-player game with no Moats, the maximum number of Curses you can end up with is ten (assuming that you don’t buy them yourself…). I did buy a Witch, but I bought it late. Guess how many Curses I ended up with in my deck before I drew it for the first time?
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9. Board Game: Gold Thief [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:12322]
Stewart Cowan
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Milton Keynes
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Another attack card, and another card that can send me skipping merrily off down the wrong path. A few nights ago I was playing in a four player game which included Thief, Chapel, Throne Room, Workshop, Village and Smithy. No Moat. Now, I'd decided that going down the Chapel route would be a bad idea, as that would leave me vulnerable to the Thieves that one player was buying almost every turn. For some reason, I fixated on a Workshop-Village-Throne Room based strategy to try and run out three decks very quickly, including estates to give me the points I needed. Cunningly, I decided not to take any new money cards, unless I lost some to the Thief.

Wow. As I write that it looks even more terrible.

The player who won pretty much ignored the Thieves, gradually bought more Silver and Gold, and bought four of the eight provinces that went before the game finished, as I languished twenty points back in third (The only small satisfaction was the six points scored by the Thief player).

Looking back, I think that those Workshops really should have been pulling Silvers on most turns to give me a money base to run a Village/Smithy Engine. My determination to cut the value of my opponent's Thief cards had led me towards a plan that just didn't work.
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10. Board Game: SET [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1221]
Stewart Cowan
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If you've read all of the above, it will probably shock you to hear that I do actually win a fairly respectable proportion of my games of Dominion. I find that when I do, I'm left with fond, lingering thoughts of the cards that won me the game. So, for example, say I've just won a game where a Remodel-based strategy sent me to victory; I'm much more likely to try that again in the next game if the same card appears, neglecting that the rest of the card pool for the game might well be different. It's one of the things I like about the game; the relative value of each card is always in flux depending on what's available to be bought.
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11. Board Game: Attack! Deluxe Expansion [Average Rating:7.06 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.06 Unranked]
 
Jess i TRON
United States
Saint Louis
Missouri
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I suck at Dominion because it is so fun and exciting.

Why buy boring gold pieces when I could buy exciting Witches, Moats, Spies, Thieves... Action! Attack!
Villages are awesome - more actions! More attacks!

I get so caught up in the fun of the game that I fail to win. Losing is also an excuse to play again. Again again!
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12. Board Game: The Peculiar Game of My Wife and I [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ben Bateson
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Ross-on-Wye
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I don't know why I lose at Dominion!

My usual opposition is my wife. I've read all the strategy articles; I know about Chapel decks, Library decks, Steward decks and Gardens/Workshop decks. I know the Festival is great and the Village Smithy is pretty much the best combo out there. I know in which order it is correct to buy Dukes and Duchies. But I nearly always lose!

My wife is my main opposition, and the scores are nearly always close (except for one disastrous game where she thumped me about 60 points to 13). She seems to do daft things like buying Action cards late in the game, and VP cards really early. She NEVER buys anything in bulk - just one or two of things here and there (even Gardens, but not Provinces). Don't get me started on the relative amount of luck we have with the Thief and the Saboteur. And she nearly always beats me! Often by only one or two VP.
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