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Subject: Review of Dominion by @EuroGamerGirl rss

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Sarah Reed
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Brief Synopsis:
Dominion is one of the original deck-builders and is often seen as the grandfather of the genre. In Dominion, every player starts with the same set of cards and a tableau of ten stacks of kingdom cards in the middle of the table. Through the course of the game, players will purchase and add these kingdom cards to their deck. The game ends when any three stacks are depleted or the highest value victory card stack is depleted. Then players add up the victory card points in their deck and the player with the most points wins.

Introductory Thoughts:
Dominion remains my favorite deck-builder. I’ve tried several others, but none of them compare to the simplistic complexity of Dominion. What I mean there is that the game is simple to understand, but the strategies of the game can be complex and challenging. I like that there are so many expansions to the game that add different mechanics, but it’s not overwhelming because in any one game, you still only use ten kingdom cards. What those kingdom cards are determines the complexity of the game and greatly affects the strategies you employ.

The 6 C’s

Chance: Since the cards are randomized, there is a bit of luck in the game. You could get lucky with the draw or really unlucky. Shuffling is quite a challenge in this game as early on, you only have a few cards so mixing them up adequately can be difficult. Clumping of cards happens a lot in the early game, though sometimes this can be good, but it can also be bad. But this is true of most card-based games.

Choice: This game is all about your choices. What cards do you add to your deck to make it the most efficient machine possible? That’s the hardest part of learning the game. But once you start making your choices, it usually becomes easier as you follow your path, hopefully to victory. The downside is that it is possible to make critical mistakes that you cannot recover from. The good news is most games are short enough that you could just play again with the same kingdom cards if you wanted to get better at it.

Character: I personally think this game has a lot of theme. There are those who disagree with me, but then I just ask, did you read the introductory paragraphs on the boxes or instructions? Those are hilarious! Do you even look at the pictures on the cards or pay attention to the names of cards? We have had some highly thematic kingdom card selections using the randomizer cards. One set we even wrote down because it was so good not only in terms of theme, but for the strategies behind the set. True, there are games that have much more theme, but I feel that what’s in Dominion is enough as the focus is mostly on the strategies and mechanics.

Conflict: This really depends on the kingdom cards that are selected. This can be a very Euro-style game with no direct conflict and the only thing that you can do to affect other players is to buy out a stack of kingdom cards that they want. On the other hand, this game can be highly aggressive if you use a lot of attack cards that directly affect the other players, usually in a bad way for them. So this game is highly customizable for different groups of players. I’ll have to say that I actually enjoy most of the attack cards because it provides the only form of player interaction in the game. Except Possession – I hate that card with a passion!

Clarity: This game is as easy as A B C. On your turn you start with A, play an action card. Then you go into the B phase where you buy one card. Finally, you end your turn with C, the cleanup phase where you put all your cards in play and hand into the discard pile and draw five cards. Very very simple… until you get to the strategies and that’s where the learning curve comes in. Understanding, recognizing and employing the combos in the set of kingdom cards in front of you is the real challenge of the game, especially if you use random cards which may not synergize. But this is the fun and meat of the game and after a few games, most people pick it up.

Concealment: I’m happy to say that this is one of the few cards games that those with limited vision can play relatively easily. Not because you play open-handed (because you don’t), but because the titles on the cards are large enough to be seen with a strong magnifier. So those with limited vision, like my husband, can play away from home. We just read the kingdom cards to him since they’re all out in front of everybody and he memorizes the main text of the cards. It takes him a bit of time in the beginning of the game, but the more we play, the more he learns the cards and doesn’t need to be reminded what the cards do. I think a lot of others with limited vision will also be able to play, if able to memorize quickly.

Final Thoughts
Those familiar with Dominion already know this, but I did want to point out that the base game is for 2-4 players except if you buy Dominion: Intrigue then you can play up to 6 players with the extra base cards included in there. You still only play with ten kingdom cards, but the base victory and money cards are increased when you combine the two. Intrigue can also be played on its own and offers a more complex variety than the base game. Oh, and personally, my favorite expansions are Prosperity, Cornucopia and Hinterlands. Though the newest one Guilds might replace one of those, but we haven’t had a chance to play with it very much, but I like what I see of it so far.

While I do keep my eye out for new deck-builders, it’ll take a very strong one to come close to, let alone replace, Dominion, especially considering we own all the expansions and promo cards. This is solidly in my top ten games and it’ll be a long time before I get bored with it. I always enjoy the ease of play, the complex strategies and how I’ll never play the same game twice! Plus, a lot of my friends enjoy the game so it hits the table quite often.

For more tabletop game reviews, check out my blog @EuroGamerGirl on Games.
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David Debien
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The only game in my collection with 100's of plays and the only game in my collection I expect to get 100's of more plays out of.
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Sarah Reed
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casualgod wrote:
The only game in my collection with 100's of plays and the only game in my collection I expect to get 100's of more plays out of.

I'm not quite to that level, but most of the games in my collection had 1-5 plays in 2013. Dominion was played 12 times in 2013. And I expect the plays to grow over time. Won't get bored any time soon.
 
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