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Subject: Dominion: Let the Deck Building Begin rss

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Chris Poon
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Dominion was the first card game I learned that wasn’t a “simple” game like Uno, Dutch Blitz, or Hearts. The first time I was introduced to Dominion, the cards weren’t even in the original box! My friend had created his own custom-designed box that held all his Dominion cards, sorted by expansion and in alphabetical order. I was speechless. I didn’t know that people did this with their games. Little did I know what I was about to get into.

Game Specifications

Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Published: 2008
Suggested Age: 12+
Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Gameplay

In Dominon, each player begins with the same starting hand of 7 coppers cards and 3 victory point (VP) cards. In the middle of the table you’ll stack 10 piles of Kingdom cards (the game comes with 25 Kingdom cards), along with 3 piles of money cards and 3 piles of victory point cards. Over the course of the game, you’ll be buying a combination of Kingdom cards and/or money cards with the ultimate goal of purchasing victory points. Whoever has the most victory points at game’s end (when either the Province pile or any other three piles of cards run out) is declared the winner.



One of the most interesting aspects of Dominon, in my opinion, is its deck-building mechanic. As the game progresses, you’ll be building your own unique deck. When you buy cards with your money, you won’t be returning your money to the supply. In fact, the same goes for every card you obtain throughout this game. Each card you acquire will remain in your deck until you play a card that gives you permission to “trash” it (which means it’s gone for the rest of the game).

The strategy of the game lies in the balance of purchasing money cards, Kingdom cards, and victory point cards. When you begin the game, you only have Coppers ($1) and Estates (earth worth 1 victory point). You’ll want to buy Silver ($2) and Gold ($3) cards in order to augment your purchasing power, and you’ll want Kingdom cards in order to add bonuses to your turns. But you need victory points to win.



So why not just buy victory points the whole game? Because they’re just points, and other than that they offer no additional benefit. Buying too many of them them early in the game means you’ll clutter your deck with essentially useless cards. On the other hand, if you wait too long to buy victory points, you might give your opponents the chance to snap them all up while you’re busy buying other cards.

I love this game because there are so many different ways to win. You can build up your economy and just buy tons of Silvers and Golds. Or you could go for Kingdom cards and try for a “chaining” strategy whereby all the bonuses add up to give you extra cards and purchasing power in order buy Colonies (each worth 10 victory points).

The Pros

It’s easy to learn. I’ve taught this game to dozens of people, and every time it’s only taken about 5 minutes to explain the game. The mechanics are fairly simple to grasp – you’re buying, playing, and shuffling cards. That’s it. Now while learning how to play the game is fairly simple, there’s definitely a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to strategy. Experienced players will definitely have an advantage over newer players simply because they will know the strengths of each Kingdom card. I remember being a little over-whelmed with all the descriptions of every card when I first played, and as a newbie it took a couple games before I figured out which cards had the most synergy.

The artwork is family-friendly. There are a lot of card games out there (primarily those in the fantasy genre) where some of the characters can look pretty gruesome or the women are dressed rather provocatively. As someone who is about to become a father in only a couple short months, I’m thinking a lot more about what kind of games I want my kids playing. Thankfully, the artwork in Dominion is perfectly safe for the family. (If you’d like to see for yourself, you can always check out the artwork used by heading over to the Dominion Wikipedia page.



There’s an infinite amount of replayability. Because you only play with 10 Kingdom cards per game, it means that every game is going to be different. With the 25 Kingdom cards that come with the base game, that amounts to more than 11 trillion possible card combinations! (That doesn’t even take into consideration any of the 11 expansions that are available as of Oct. 2016.)

The Cons

The theme is pretty generic. In Dominon, you’re not playing a specific race or civilization. Though the rulebook hints at a Middle Ages time period, it’s not explicitly stated, nor is it integral to the game. I wouldn’t say the game’s theme is bad by any means. It’s just not particularly strong or compelling. Now some might argue that this is actually a strength of the game, making it more accessible to a wider audience. Because it’s not tailored to a super niche market, Dominion shouldn’t scare away casual gamers.

In some games, player interaction is minimal or non-existent. Some people complain that Dominion plays like a group game of Solitaire. And it can sometimes feel like this, because you’re just working with the cards you have in your own hand and you don’t really need to pay attention to what everyone else is doing. (Of course, it will definitely help if you do pay attention.) After completing a game, some new players have mentioned to me that they were so occupied with how to play their cards that they didn’t even know what else was happening in the game!

Solution: Play with Kingdom cards that are interactive. These are cards where others players have to do something when you play that card (like discard one of their cards or add a card to their hand).

Conclusion


If you enjoy card games and you’re not intimated by a little bit of strategy, then you will love Dominion. There’s something rather thrilling about buying cards, shuffling your deck, and crossing your fingers as you pray for a handful of really good cards.

Overall, Dominion is a fun, light card game that both new players and experienced players can enjoy together. I’ve played over a hundred games of Dominion and never once have I been bored. Rio Grande Games just released the Second Edition of the base game, so I definitely recommend you check it out!

(This review was originally posted on my blog, More Than Just Monopoly.)
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Jo Bartok
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Interaction leads to Immersion.
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Give Arctic Scavengers a try if you more a tad more thematic immersion.
 
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Chris Poon
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ionas wrote:
Give Arctic Scavengers a try if you more a tad more thematic immersion.

Thanks for the suggestion! I'll take a look.
 
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Jack Rudd
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morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
With the 25 Kingdom cards that come with the base game, that amounts to more than 11 trillion possible card combinations!

Actually, it's "only" 3,268,760. Still plenty, mind.
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Chris Schumann
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JackRudd wrote:
morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
With the 25 Kingdom cards that come with the base game, that amounts to more than 11 trillion possible card combinations!

Actually, it's "only" 3,268,760. Still plenty, mind.
Actually, it really is 11 trillion. 11,861,676,288,000 to be exact.Don't mind me. I should not try math on a Monday morning.
 
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Matt E
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Whizkid wrote:
JackRudd wrote:
morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
With the 25 Kingdom cards that come with the base game, that amounts to more than 11 trillion possible card combinations!

Actually, it's "only" 3,268,760. Still plenty, mind.
Actually, it really is 11 trillion. 11,861,676,288,000 to be exact.

I'm pretty sure Jack Rudd has it right. Are you calculating permutations rather than combinations?
 
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Chris Schumann
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LastFootnote wrote:
Whizkid wrote:
JackRudd wrote:
morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
With the 25 Kingdom cards that come with the base game, that amounts to more than 11 trillion possible card combinations!

Actually, it's "only" 3,268,760. Still plenty, mind.
Actually, it really is 11 trillion. 11,861,676,288,000 to be exact.

I'm pretty sure Jack Rudd has it right. Are you calculating permutations rather than combinations?
Yes. Derp.
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Chris Poon
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LastFootnote wrote:
Whizkid wrote:
JackRudd wrote:
morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
With the 25 Kingdom cards that come with the base game, that amounts to more than 11 trillion possible card combinations!

Actually, it's "only" 3,268,760. Still plenty, mind.
Actually, it really is 11 trillion. 11,861,676,288,000 to be exact.

I'm pretty sure Jack Rudd has it right. Are you calculating permutations rather than combinations?

Whoops, yes. I also was calculating permutations. Thanks for keeping me honest with the math!
 
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Nice review sir, full with pics and all!

It's ironic you say Dominion was your first (as I'll say) "catapult" game into the hobby, as it was mine as well. My buddy introduced it to me around 5 years ago, and since then it's been a whirlwind of a ride searching for the next best game, new or old, reading reviews, watching reviews, buying games, perusing Kickstarter, etc. etc. But needless to say, I have an affinity for Dominion that few other games give me. I've heard all the arguments against it, and I just don't agree with them. Pretty much everything people tend to hate about it, I love! I list it #4 on my top 25 games list.

On a side note, I think your calculations, and maybe those of others here, too, could be slightly inflated accidentally. The order of cards used in the market doesn't matter for an individual setup. This would be a combination, and the formula I believe would be (25!)/((25-10)(10!)), which equals 3,268,760. And that's just with the base set! Throw in a few expansions...and, well, like I said in my short review on my top 25 list, you have just about the most replayable game...ever (?).

Anywho, if you haven't yet, do check out the expansions. I have several, and my friend has all 12 (I think the total now), and every one is a ton of fun. Just when you think Donald Vaccarino couldn't possibly come up with anything new, he not only does but does it brilliantly and the new mechanics make the game even better.

Truly a remarkable game!

EDIT: After looking up the expansions, if I counted correctly, there are 10 expansions and 1 base set. So the total is 11 sets, if you include the original. But then there is the 2nd edition printing, plus all the promos...
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Well, now you've all done it! I can't stop thinking about just how many combinations there actually are in total for Dominion. I suppose you'd have to factor in all the promo cards, plus the 7 new cards in recent 2nd edition reprint of the Base game...but the numbers I'm sure are astronomical.

Let's say for the sake of posterity that there are roughly 25 cards for each of the 8 large sets (200), and 15 for each of the 3 small sets (45). Plus say maybe another 15 total for the new edition plus promos (please someone correct me if I'm way off here...uncertain on the promo counts).

But regardless, using those numbers (200+45+15), the combination would then be 260 "C" 10, which on my calculator comes to approximately 3.265E17, or 326,500,000,000,000,000. This can be read as 326 quadrillion, 500 trillion different setup combinations. That's pretty staggering.

So to all the naysayers, how many games do you play that can boast that?!
 
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Steve Gitis (just my village's name)
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As others said above, the possible combinations are just 3.268.760, because we don't care about unique order, so 123 = 231 for example.

The "11 trillion thing" is only if you DO want to have unique order each time, which is something non crucial for the game and it's only for uneducated 13 year old players to say "wow mummy! Please buy me this game!"

Apart from the statistics thing, it's a very good review!
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Ben

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ragamuffin jojo wrote:
Well, now you've all done it! I can't stop thinking about just how many combinations there actually are in total for Dominion. I suppose you'd have to factor in all the promo cards, plus the 7 new cards in recent 2nd edition reprint of the Base game...but the numbers I'm sure are astronomical.

Let's say for the sake of posterity that there are roughly 25 cards for each of the 8 large sets (200), and 15 for each of the 3 small sets (45). Plus say maybe another 15 total for the new edition plus promos (please someone correct me if I'm way off here...uncertain on the promo counts).

But regardless, using those numbers (200+45+15), the combination would then be 260 "C" 10, which on my calculator comes to approximately 3.265E17, or 326,500,000,000,000,000. This can be read as 326 quadrillion, 500 trillion different setup combinations. That's pretty staggering.

So to all the naysayers, how many games do you play that can boast that?!



For all those combinations you calculated above, you can play once with the normal victory/treasure cards, again adding colony/platinum, again starting with ruins cards instead of estates, and again using both ruins and colony/platinum. So 4x your conservative (the later big sets have more than 25 cards, I think, but I'm just quibbling here) estimate.

And let's agree not to consider combinations of Landmark/Event cards! I think we already know enough to say that the game has replay potential.
 
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Chris Poon
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ragamuffin jojo wrote:
Nice review sir, full with pics and all!

It's ironic you say Dominion was your first (as I'll say) "catapult" game into the hobby, as it was mine as well. My buddy introduced it to me around 5 years ago, and since then it's been a whirlwind of a ride searching for the next best game, new or old, reading reviews, watching reviews, buying games, perusing Kickstarter, etc. etc. But needless to say, I have an affinity for Dominion that few other games give me. I've heard all the arguments against it, and I just don't agree with them. Pretty much everything people tend to hate about it, I love! I list it #4 on my top 25 games list.

Thank you for the kind words!

Wow - #4! That's high praise. Now I'm really curious to know what three games you listed higher than Dominion. Care to share? (As a random side note, I read your BGG profile and it sounds like we have a lot in common - minus the two kids. Got my first one on the way!)
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Really good review. Since its release, Dominion has been my favorite game of all time. Nothing had dislodged it.
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morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
ragamuffin jojo wrote:
Nice review sir, full with pics and all!

It's ironic you say Dominion was your first (as I'll say) "catapult" game into the hobby, as it was mine as well. My buddy introduced it to me around 5 years ago, and since then it's been a whirlwind of a ride searching for the next best game, new or old, reading reviews, watching reviews, buying games, perusing Kickstarter, etc. etc. But needless to say, I have an affinity for Dominion that few other games give me. I've heard all the arguments against it, and I just don't agree with them. Pretty much everything people tend to hate about it, I love! I list it #4 on my top 25 games list.

Thank you for the kind words!

Wow - #4! That's high praise. Now I'm really curious to know what three games you listed higher than Dominion. Care to share? (As a random side note, I read your BGG profile and it sounds like we have a lot in common - minus the two kids. Got my first one on the way!)


Hey Congrats on the little one! It's lifechanging for sure, but it's awesome laugh Boy or girl?!

If I can remember correctly, #3 is 7 Wonders, #2 Star Realms, and #1 is Talisman. If I knew how to share links, I'd throw up one to my top 25 list. Maybe you can search under my profile a little and see if you can find it meeple
 
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Chris Poon
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ragamuffin jojo wrote:
morethanjustmonopoly wrote:
ragamuffin jojo wrote:
Nice review sir, full with pics and all!

It's ironic you say Dominion was your first (as I'll say) "catapult" game into the hobby, as it was mine as well. My buddy introduced it to me around 5 years ago, and since then it's been a whirlwind of a ride searching for the next best game, new or old, reading reviews, watching reviews, buying games, perusing Kickstarter, etc. etc. But needless to say, I have an affinity for Dominion that few other games give me. I've heard all the arguments against it, and I just don't agree with them. Pretty much everything people tend to hate about it, I love! I list it #4 on my top 25 games list.

Thank you for the kind words!

Wow - #4! That's high praise. Now I'm really curious to know what three games you listed higher than Dominion. Care to share? (As a random side note, I read your BGG profile and it sounds like we have a lot in common - minus the two kids. Got my first one on the way!)

Hey Congrats on the little one! It's lifechanging for sure, but it's awesome laugh Boy or girl?!

If I can remember correctly, #3 is 7 Wonders, #2 Star Realms, and #1 is Talisman. If I knew how to share links, I'd throw up one to my top 25 list. Maybe you can search under my profile a little and see if you can find it meeple

Thanks! We're pretty sure it's a boy.

According to your profile, Dominion is listed at #10. 7 Wonders and Star Realms are great games, but ironically my wife really dislikes them both. laugh Dominion she finds more tolerable, but the theme is not interesting enough for her.
 
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Yes, I think that is from when I first made my profile a while ago...some of those have since fallen, and Dominion has stood the test of time.

In my top 25 list (an actual Geeklist), I have it ranked at #4.

Sorry your wife doesn't like those...but if it's any consolation, neither does mine! cry
 
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Dominion, with Prosperity, Seaside, and Empires, would be my 'desert island' game.
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