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Subject: MeepleTown Reviews: Dominion rss

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Derek Thompson
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Welcome to my 100th review! It was tough to decide what game to review, but I think it only makes sense to finally review the game I most often mention: Dominion. Now over five years old, Dominion was, by accident, the next step for me after years of Magic: the Gathering and an impromptu, mind-blowing initial session of Settlers of Catan with some friends. I haven’t stopped playing it much sense, spending hours upon hours on isotropic in graduate school, and now still playing often on Goko’s site and in person. In my Social Board Games class this semester, it was also the class favorite. Let’s get to specifics, shall we? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:



Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

Components: If there’s a spot where this game fails, it’s with the components. It’s great how many cards you get in each set, and they’re reasonably priced – but the artwork is stupid, ugly, and inconsistent. I’m tolerant of the non-committal card names, but the art is just bad. It’s quite surprising, really, considering I recognize several of the artists’ names and have enjoyed their work in other games. Some of the tokens and things in expansions are somewhat clunky as well, but the base game doesn’t have that problem. The insert is actually very nice – so nice that I never bothered with some sort of “storage solution” for the game and its expansions. There’s 500 cards in the box – $45 MSRP is pretty reasonable for that.

Accessibility/Depth: I’m putting these together, because Dominion ties them together more beautifully than just about any other game I’ve ever played. When I reviewed Castles of Burgundy, I talked about how it has the best kind of complexity: one that’s hidden in the game and not the rules. Dominion is the absolute mastermind of that. The actual rules are quite simple; it’s the rule-breaking action cards that make it more interesting and fun. The rules are as easy as ABCD: one Action, one Buy, Cleanup, Draw five new cards.

Not only does this make the game quite easy to teach, but it’s also makes this the game that most elegantly divides strategy and tactics. At the beginning of the game, every possibility is laid out before all of the players, so you can develop your strategy before the game even begins – but as you draw each individual hand, you have to tactically adapt that overall strategy each turn. This is one of the many things that elevates Dominion over every other deck-builder, and not just because it was first. I’ve tried at least ten others, and I would always rather play Dominion, because it is both more elegant and more strategic.

Since I’m talking about the base game here, another huge advantage in the accessibility department is the fact that these cards are specifically simpler than the others, making the game much easier to learn. There are a few tough points for beginners, like when to reshuffle, and how +$2 doesn’t mean “gain a Silver”, and so on, but they’re quite negligible given how deep this game is. The base game does get boring eventually, but there are literally millions of possibilities and subtle interactions when you mix all of the expansions together – and yes, that’s a large investment, but it’s so, so worth it.

Theme: The terrible artwork and extremely generic card names make this game practically an abstract. This is where Dominion fails miserably, and people who play games like Magic: the Gathering (Dominion’s granddaddy) because of the cool dragons and the novels about the planeswalkers, not because of the clever combos and tests of skill, are probably going to dislike Dominion. For people like me, who never read the flavor text or looked at the art on Magic cards but only saw possibilities for outmaneuvering an opponent, Dominion‘s lack of theme is irrelevant. It really depends on what type of gamer you are.

Fun: I loved Magic because I loved the competition – the mathematics, the psychology, and the constant variety. Dominion has all of that without end, for a fraction of the price. The competition is even fiercer, since you know the variables when the game begins and won’t lose to something you could not have anticipated or couldn’t afford. Even a free “CCG” like Hearthstone, which I’ve been constantly playing on iOS, doesn’t have that same feeling of truly outwitting your opponent on a completely even playing field. Dominion is like the Chess of Magic - and to me, that’s awesome.

There are deck-builders aplenty these days, but nothing has topped the original - Dominion is still king in my book. If you haven’t given this masterpiece of design a whirl yet, then you are doing yourself a disservice.



Originally posted on http://meepletown.com
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Re: Review: Dominion
Liked most of the review, but I also like the artwork and I mean just about every piece of it through each base set and expansion.
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Kent O.
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Re: Review: Dominion
I don't really understand the critique of the artwork. Although I agree that it's a bit inconsistent, but I like most of it. It actually reminds me of my Magic days (I played 3rd edition mostly about 20 years ago), and there were some artists I liked more than others, but I always thought that was part of the fun. It was kind of like going to an art museum, some I liked better than others, and some I just really loved.
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Eric Matthews
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Re: Review: Dominion
I agree with most of the review, despite a feeling of hyperbole with the art complaints. The art is inconsistent, but not consistently terrible.

The theme though, I still insist this theme criticism while not entirely invalid (because it is light) is also highly influenced by groupthink. There is a theme and it very present in the core mechanics. And while there are deckbuilders with better art and better fluff, none of them do a better job matching their theme. The core idea of point cards (land) verses currency cards (coins) fits with the idea of building a kingdom better than exploring a dungeon with monster trophies clogging your deck and individual copies of vampires fighting themselves.

e
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bryden
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Re: Review: Dominion
There's art?

I hadn't noticed. Still I agree that there is still not a deck builder out there that rewards in-game deck building skill more. There are other deck building games that I think are more fun but none of those have shown that an experienced player will win 90% of the time.

It is all about what you want from the genre, fun gameplay (general pick up fun) or mechanical strategy (which is fun for some). Dominion is the latter.
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Derek Thompson
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Re: Review: Dominion
Ganybyte wrote:
I agree with most of the review, despite a feeling of hyperbole with the art complaints. The art is inconsistent, but not consistently terrible.

The theme though, I still insist this theme criticism while not entirely invalid (because it is light) is also highly influenced by groupthink. There is a theme and it very present in the core mechanics. And while there are deckbuilders with better art and better fluff, none of them do a better job matching their theme. The core idea of point cards (land) verses currency cards (coins) fits with the idea of building a kingdom better than exploring a dungeon with monster trophies clogging your deck and individual copies of vampires fighting themselves.

e


Pardon the hyperbole. However, your thought that other deckbuilders do theme worse, certainly doesn't mean Dominion does it -well-, at all. How does buying money with money even make sense? Isn't that how currencies get ruined?
 
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Derek Thompson
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Re: Review: Dominion
NoDicePlease wrote:
There's art?

I hadn't noticed. Still I agree that there is still not a deck builder out there that rewards in-game deck building skill more. There are other deck building games that I think are more fun but none of those have shown that an experienced player will win 90% of the time.

It is all about what you want from the genre, fun gameplay (general pick up fun) or mechanical strategy (which is fun for some). Dominion is the latter.


You are a wise man. And for me, the mechanical strategy - the intense battle of skill - THAT is the fun.
 
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