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Subject: A Festival every day makes the world go round. rss

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Jarratt Gray
New Zealand
Upper Hutt
Wellington
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Date: 26/11/08
Players: 3
Games Played: 2

Intro
So I played Dominion a couple of times last week and while I found it enjoyable I wasn't sure of the depth of the game. It gave me fun, but seemed lacking, primarily in the areas of interaction with other players and deck control. The whole game is about managing your deck, but I found a lack of combo orientated options in the two games we played.

But I was still back for more. I was happy to actually play this game at the end of the evening, but fate put me a smaller group and we decided to give it another go. John was new to the game, Andrew and I were not. The rules are quick to explain and we actually finished our first game before the other group had got through the rules explanation of what they were playing.


Game 1
Deck: Beginner
Length: 20-25mins

Only buy money
In my first game I tried to use the mine to increase the value of my money but found that while useful I was constantly bogged down by non-money cards, most notably actions. My goal was to not let that happen again so I concentrated on buying money early and often. On the first two turns I took Silver and in the early stages I continued to buy money or VP. If I had $8 I would get a Province, $6 I would get a Gold. I didn't go for the Duchies until much later as the game was winding down.

It wasn't uintil about halfway through that I finally took an action, buying a couple of Smithy's to help increase the number of cards in a hand to hopefully buy more Provinces. I also took a Mine at one point and that was the end of my action card buying.

Beware the Militia
In the first game using this deck that I played the Militia wasn't really taken so I wasn't able to gauge it's usefulness until it got played on me a few times. Obviously I never bought a Moat, and while neither John nor Andrew played a strong Militia strategy, they both had at least one. Two turns in a row during the endgame I found myself knocked from +$8 to $7 preventing me from buying the valuable Provinces. This combined with the increasing number of VP cards in my deck started to slow me down as the other engines started to kick in.

Because this game is so heads down I really couldn't say what the others were doing. I know they both bought actions on their first few turns, and that Andrew switched to getting Silver for a while. I thought they both bought a good mix of Actions and Silver/Gold cards and tended to get better action cards like the Market, Militia and Smithy. John had some Cellars which became quite useful as the game progressed. They both certainly played more balanced strategies than I did so I think there are different ways of approaching this game and trying to build the right engine.

A quick note on the Smithy
Lance (who wasn't playing this game but played again later) really likes the Smithy and I think Andrew and John both used them as well. As far as buildings go though I'm not sure exactly how useful it is in a deck that consists of quite a few actions. The reason I went for the Smithy was to dig into my deck and get more money to buy Provinces. This worked well because aside from VP and a couple of actions my deck was jammed full of money. I wonder about the usefulness of the Smithy under different circumstances.

Obviously in a heavy combo orientated deck it could be very useful, for example +2 actions, +1 buy, Smithy, Smithy with 8 cards to buy 2 thinsg from. But I don't really see the combinations of action cards a strength in the basic game.

Final Scores
Jarratt: 42
Andrew: 40
John: 39


Game 2
Deck: Interactive
Length: 30

Interactive and Interaction
I've been talking about looking for interaction in this game so I was interested to play this deck and see what occurred. Having just won I was interested to explore a different strategy so my original buy lots of money strategy was thrown out the window. Given the fact there is a thief I'm not exactly sure how good that strategy would have worked without several Moats as backup.

I didn't actually find this deck to be that interactive really. While your cards and others cards affect you, there is little control over what they do to others, and ideally you are just looking to do the best you can on your turn. The Moats ran out in this game so there was a lot of blocking (even though I didn't bother buying any until the late in the midgame).

What I did find was that the level of combo-control in this deck was far greater. There was no Market, which basically does everything for you, so you needed to string at least 2 cards together to get a similar effect to the market. Additionally the Festival, Council Room and Library all work pretty well together. The Festival is great if you have some rogue Moats in your hand, and bonus actions can be pretty useful with the Spy, which is really just a placeholder for a potentially better card. I often found myself stringing together 3-4 cards, with some of them being harmful to my opponents, on route to getting something valuable.

Rogues, Wars, Spies and Paper Pushers
I think I bought at least one of each of the harmful cards and found that the Militia and the Spy were probably the most useful. Everyone had a Theif so the money was flying around a lot, but everyone also had a lot of Moats so the Theives got blocked a lot as well. Because they give you no other benefit they are less useful than they look when the game goes this way. The Spies on the other hand don't really do much damage to your opponent but they do help you. They could be better, but at least they can help.

I think I like the Militia most though. It can really slow people down, even more than the Bureaucrat. Combine it with the Council Room where you make them pick up and then you make them discard down and it can be awesome.

So ultimately I think the name Interactive refers to the fact that the Action interact with each other more than the fact that you interact with your opponents.

But where did I go wrong?
Again I thought John and Andrew balanced their decks well. I had too many actions early and not enough money. Additionally I never really got switched over into VP mode. I was close, but only because I knew I was way behind and just started grabbing Duchies and Estates on +1 buy turns when I didn't have enough for a Province. I think I probably tried out too many of the cards with really getting a nice set together.

I was surprised that Andrew didn't win. He seemed to have a great thing going with his Library, but John's combination f Theives, Moats and Festivals (Mostly Festival followed by 2 Moats on a turn) was the winner. This game was exceptionally close and probably the most interesting of the four games I have played of Dominion.

Final Scores
John: 32
Andrew: 31
Jarratt: 30


Final Thoughts
After two games all of us had enough, not because the game isn't fun to play, but mostly because the game is so heads down doing your thing. The game moves at a wicked pace so yu never really have time to think of anything but what you are doing next. As a social game it probably fails in that regard, which makes me inclined to suggest this isn't really in the realm of filler. Possibly more warm-up or warm-down. It certainly gets your brain going, but equally I can see how it could be quite relaxing after a real brain burner.
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Jeff Feuer
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I get a chance to see what opponents are doing all the time, and it makes a difference. If I see attack cards getting bought, for example, I might buy more moats.

Thief is the most overrated card, in my opinion. Unless your opponent is dumb enough to use a chapel strategy with a heavy money deck...most of the time you get nothing good and I'm sure there was a better 4 card buy out there. Militia, is a guarantee +2 buy for this turn. Thief is a maybe gold some time later when you shuffle (if it doesn't get stolen out of your deck before then in a tit-for-tat fight that slows the game down). But the odds of getting a gold are so low, that the +2 for this turn and making your opponents discard is far superior.
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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The more I play, the more interaction I see. What my opponents buy will have an effect my whole strategy - *especially* if there are interactive cards available, but it's not limited to the interactive cards. They have an effect on what I can buy (if someone buys five Villages, say, then I'm unlikely to get more than three of them - which is bad if I have a plan that calls for buying at least four of them). It has an effect on the tempo of the game (ever caught someone out when they're playing for a long endgame, and you finish the game *way* early by running down three piles before they've even started looking at VP cards?). And there's the whole question of "do I want until I'm reliably churning 8 treasure a turn, or should I start buying Provinces with the first 8 treasure that I see?" - which should be decided upon based on what the opponent is up to, and also affects what the opponent ought to do next.
 
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Jarratt Gray
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RDewsbery wrote:
The more I play, the more interaction I see. What my opponents buy will have an effect my whole strategy - *especially* if there are interactive cards available, but it's not limited to the interactive cards.


I don't see this as interactive play, I see it as Reactive play. What they buy might affect what you buy, but ultimately you don't effect them and you are still trying to build the best engine you can. Reacting to your opponents play to build an engine that works for that particular game is a good thing and it does mean that some of the action combinations can be wildly different each game depending on the play of others.

But if you are trying to play with your opponents then the only thing you realistically have a chance of controlling and doing is reacting to their play. I haven't played enough to know whether reactive play is better than focused plan execution play, and of course each set of actions offers differences to the nuances of the game that will change that dynamic anyway.

RDewsbery wrote:
ever caught someone out when they're playing for a long endgame, and you finish the game *way* early by running down three piles before they've even started looking at VP cards?


I'm actually interested in exploring a strategy like this. If you only take the popular cards and Duchies it would be interesting to see what others do to try and stay in the game.


YankeeFan wrote:
Thief is the most overrated card, in my opinion.


Yeah I can see that, and I certainly agree with you opinion of the Militia. It doesn't matter if the Militia works or not against your opponents, the +$2 is way more valuable anyway. A hand full of Militia isn't going to be great, it would be better to have Silver then, but they certainly can come in handy.
 
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Attack Cards usually result in players buying Counters or having to change their strategy so that it isn't disrupted by the Attack, but to me there is another important factor. There are only 10 of each action card and 12 of each victory card save the Estate. Emptying a pile increases the odds of the game ending early before an engine can kick into full gear. As such, taking a card means that a person risks shortening the game when they grab the card themselves, or the card running out altogether anyway before they can get enough.

So, overall the game could be summarized as:
Figure out how to build an engine with the cards at hand...
that is resistant to opponent's attacks...
and is resistant to opponents taking cards first...
and if possible attacks or deprives opponents as well.
 
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