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Subject: What we learned in our first play of Dominion rss

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My incredibly awesome Secret Santa sent me a copy of Dominion along with other cool stuff. I've managed to stay away from most of the hype for this game so while I had some solid expectations, I wasn't expecting the best game ever. I read the rules the night before and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple the gameplay actually was. I had no doubts that we'd be able to understand it right away.

Bianca and I sat down to play our first game on Saturday morning. I explained her the rules which she understood perfectly and then we went over the individual cards. She seemed pretty confident so we started. I took the first turn and was able to buy the Workshop. I felt confident that this was a good choice. Bianca took the Cellar.

As the game progressed, Bianca was really grasping the game. She started chaining together cards to take several actions in one turn. She had taken several 3 point victory cards pretty early and I was feeling a bit behind. I decided to take the Militia which helped me get back into game. I realized pretty quickly that the Militia is a solid card since it not only helps you but hurts your opponent. Bianca had taken a few Moats but never seemed to have them when I played the Militia. It only really affected her 2 or 3 times so it wasn't a lopsided card at all, but I could see how several of them could be very effective.

Bianca again struck first into the Provinces, getting the 6 point victory card on a brilliant turn. I responded by getting another 2, but she kept grabbing 3pt cards. She then went on to get 2 more 6's. We hit a point where neither of us could grab one for several turns, but I finally ended the game with the last one.

As we counted the scores, I thought for sure Bianca had won. I counted out 36 points. Bianca had 43 and had won the game. We sat there discussing the game and I realized a small stack of cards which I had not sorted. It turns out that I had 9 victory points in that stack and therefore had 45 making me the winner. Luckily, Bianca was so proud of herself for doing very well that she didn't care about winning or losing. The funny part is that we were talking about how without that last 6, I would have gotten crushed. It turns out that the final 6 actually gave me the win by 2 points.

So what did we learn in our first game of Dominion?

1. The rules are very easy. I think I could explain this game to almost anyone and they would understand it. I applaud the designer for making a game that is both deeply engaging and easy to learn. As much as I love Race for the Galaxy, this game is drastically easier to teach without sacrificing much in the way of gameplay.

2. We both had waaaaaaay too many cards in our decks. Now we know to keep it down. I felt like my deck was really watered down so I couldn't count on any cards coming up. Bianca said she felt the same way. So next game, we'll try to keep the decks a bit smaller.

3. None of the cards suck. I'm amazed, but every card in the game is very useful albeit at different times in the game. The Restore card is not very good in the beginning of the game but it gets really useful later in the game as a way to improve the quality of your deck. The Market appears to be the best at first glance, but its not. I don't think any one card is strictly better than any other.

4. Our first game took too long. But this was our first game and it was a learning process. Just about 50 minutes. But I can see it getting much faster the more we play.

Overall, this is an awesome game. Bianca has declared it as a possible all-time favorite. I like it, but not quite as much as her. She said she'd rate it a 9. I put it at 8.5, but that will probably fluctuate in the future. I'm really glad to have a copy and I think its going to see a lot of play. Its a fun game that is very simple to play but offers great choices.
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Kevin Bourrillion
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Quote:
The Restore card is not very good in the beginning of the game but it gets really useful later in the game as a way to improve the quality of your deck.


Do you mean Remodel? Because I think Remodel is good in the beginning of the game for getting rid of those Estates in your deck.


Quote:
The Market appears to be the best at first glance, but its not.


Good that you realized this. If what your deck needs is a way to get extra buys, and you have the cash to use those extra buys efficiently, then the Market is the ideal card. Especially when +actions are scarce (festival, village). Otherwise it's sort of useless.
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Sheamus Parkes
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stormseeker75 wrote:
4. Our first game took too long. But this was our first game and it was a learning process. Just about 50 minutes. But I can see it getting much faster the more we play.


Definitely speeds up. Our first games ran almost 45, but now we're closer to 20 easy. You turns go quicker, and your decks get better so it takes less turns.

Glad you're enjoying your secret santa!
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kevinb9n wrote:
Quote:
The Market appears to be the best at first glance, but its not.


Good that you realized this. If what your deck needs is a way to get extra buys, and you have the cash to use those extra buys efficiently, then the Market is the ideal card. Especially when +actions are scarce (festival, village). Otherwise it's sort of useless.


It's a self-replacing card (+1 card, +1 action) which gives a coin and a buy.

They go well with, as you say, +2 action cards (festival, villages).
They are ideal with a cellar or two in the deck to 'hop' over junk.
They are ideal with throne rooms.
The coin cannot be stolen by the thief.
The Militia can push them to the discard, but if you can draw out your deck, that doesn't matter.

Hardly useless, but entirely dependant upon what other options exist in the supply and what other cards you pair it with via your choices.
 
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Stephen Schaefer
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I think the Market is extraordinarily useful. What it is not, is extraordinarily powerful. It's like in the Mario style games or fighting video games, where you have all these characters with different specializations, and then you've got the guy who doesn't specialize in any one thing but he's a very good all-around character. That's Market: a very good general-purpose card.

I think your observations map very well to the first plays of a lot of the intelligent gamers to whom I've taught Dominion. Especially the part where they bulk up their deck first round, and then realize that it tends to bog them down. I taught two new players on Friday, both of whom would use their extra buys to suck up coppers, and then finish the game with 12-15 points.

Another keen observation is how cards seem to vary widely in their usefulness if you just look at them at face value, but once you start to grok the combinations then the game opens up a lot more. Another friend of mine, after first play, thought (as many people have at some point) the village was substantially underpriced at 3 coin. In the starting set it is a very good value but the more games we played, the more the Village sank back a little bit; not terribly much but enough that people weren't going through them like water. At various times I have undervalued the Smithy, the Spy and the Library, only to be burned by each of them on BSW at some point, and taught a hard lesson in being aware of the whole set.

One of the new players from Friday questioned the utility of the Chapel ("why would you WANT to remove cards from your deck?"), and then saw what happened when I pared down to 8 coin, a Woodcutter and a couple Labs. The other was a hard sell on board/card gaming, but ended up playing this three times because she was so keen on the idea of mixing-and-matching to create all kinds of different games with different styles.

All this, I guess, to say that your early returns on the game sound spot-on to me, and I'm glad you're enjoying it.
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Gary Bradley
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kevinb9n wrote:
Good that you realized this. If what your deck needs is a way to get extra buys, and you have the cash to use those extra buys efficiently, then the Market is the ideal card. Especially when +actions are scarce (festival, village). Otherwise it's sort of useless.


Ohh I disagree here. Since it is a "cantrip" (to use Magic terminology), it can ALMOST NEVER be useless by definition. It replaces itself with a new draw and gives +1 action, which means when you play it, it's as if nothing happened and it's still your start of turn - except you have +1 Buy and +1 coin.

The only bad case I can think of, and it really is the VERY WORST case scenario, is if it does nothing (i.e. you don't use that coin or the extra buy), AND you have no other action card in your hand AND you don't draw one, AND you have nothing you can buy in your buy phase. Extremely unlikely.
 
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Sheamus Parkes
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GaryB wrote:
kevinb9n wrote:
Good that you realized this. If what your deck needs is a way to get extra buys, and you have the cash to use those extra buys efficiently, then the Market is the ideal card. Especially when +actions are scarce (festival, village). Otherwise it's sort of useless.


Ohh I disagree here. Since it is a "cantrip" (to use Magic terminology), it can ALMOST NEVER be useless by definition. It replaces itself with a new draw and gives +1 action, which means when you play it, it's as if nothing happened and it's still your start of turn - except you have +1 Buy and +1 coin.

The only bad case I can think of, and it really is the VERY WORST case scenario, is if it does nothing (i.e. you don't use that coin or the extra buy), AND you have no other action card in your hand AND you don't draw one, AND you have nothing you can buy in your buy phase. Extremely unlikely.


*sigh*, this always comes up doesn't it?

It's never bad to play a Market.
It is however sometimes bad to BUY a Market.

Why? Because even a Smithy (+3 Draw) is going to be better than a Market in a starting deck. The Market is great for support, but it just doesn't provide any *oomph* on it's own.

You need to look at the opportunity cost of purchasing a Market. Not just the play value.
 
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Stephen Schaefer
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That can be argued just as well, though. The Smithy is a nice way to get a pile of coins early when your deck is small, but the two things to consider is that it burns an action rather than paying for itself, and even if you draw your whole deck, seven coin will never buy a Province, and coppers will diminish in relative value as the game goes on and deck size grows. Whereas the Market immediately and permanently increases your buying power. I've already confessed to valuing the Smithy less than some players, sometimes to my detriment, but I think that you get more value out of the Smithy if you have a deck that can stockpile actions (Village, Festival, Cellar to some extent).
 
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