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Subject: From indifference through exuberance to dissapointment.. all in two days rss

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Branko K.
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I'd like to write this review a little bit differently. Let's face it, there are enough of Dominion reviews here already, and since it's a new and a very popular game there's bound to be more. I don't want to rehash the rules (especially since the official rulebook is nice, short, concise and best of all available online here). I don't even want to describe the game, components and the usual schtick you find in these reviews (for THAT I suggest a rather excellent - if lengthy - review over here). I'd like to relate my personal experience with the game which I hope you will be at least instructive to some of you caught in all the hype excitement and perhaps pretty eager to find out more about this new kid on the block.

Dominion, then.

It's really hard to not get this game on your radar - it came out of nowhere and soared to #6 on BGG's Top Games list. It's even harder not to get excited about it - it's a card game (so no fiddly components and boards you need a separate room for), it's quick (and a true boardgamer learns to respect a quick setup and gameplay) and it's nicely suited for that dreaded speices called "non-gamers", and everyone knows that the sacred calling of every geek is to convert as many of those strange breed to his own kind. Dominion also got a rarely seen compliment of being "original" and even "revolutional", incorporating a gaming mechanism rarely seen before, if ever - you don't get a deck and play it, like MtG, you actually BUILD your deck WHILE you play it. OK, to some this may sound as fun as filling tax return forms, but the idea is actually quite neat, and the theme of starting small and building your way up is present in almost every succesful game.


Phase 1 - this really doesn't sound like much

I must admit that personally I didn't find the concept too engaging, but that was mostly due to misinterpretation. I thought the game was some bastard child of a CCG - instead of getting a starter deck and boosting your way up (and thinning your wallet down) you get a bunch of cards right away, ripe for tweaking. Well, wrong - the game doesn't require the player some highly esoteric knowledge BEFORE the game, all the players start with basically nothing, they build their deck in small, easily digestible and really intuitive moves. And contrary to how it perhaps sounds like, it's a lot of fun and not complex at all - you can either pick the money cards (for buying more cards), the victory cards (which give endgame points, but are basically dead weight in your hand) or the kingdom cards, whose function isn't what some might expect - a MtG-like exhaustingly convoluted block of text for which you need three lawyers to decipher what the hell it does - but rather a straightforward and intuitive bonus which more often then not boils down to something like "play some more cards", "get extra money this turn" or "draw more cards". Easy.

The best way to get the feel for the game is to, well, play the game. The rules make it sound much more complex than it is. Thankfully, there's BSW where you can try it out for free, and since it moves fast learning it and trying it out is a piece of cake. So after my initial indifference, I decided I'll read the rules carefully, join a few games on BSW and really try to see what all the hubbub is all about.


Phase 2 - hooked

What. A. Great. Game.

Seriously, one play on BSW and I was interested. Two and I was hooked. The game is brilliant. Simple as it can be, yet deep. Fast but rewarding. When you end one session, you immediately want to try another one. And all those lovely kingdom cards... brilliance. In the beginning I was really flabbergasted by some (Chapel lets me throw my cards in the trash - WTF?) but then I realized the sheer genius of this game design - you never really "discard" your cards, you merely recycle them, and what you want is a concentrated pile of goodness, so getting rid of "trash" is something which is actually quite useful.

Quick trip to my local game store. Have Dominion? No. When will you have it? Cool. Order placed without any amount of re-thinking. This is one game I really need in my collection.

Back to BSW, two more games, finding out combos, experimenting.. bliss. Thank you BGG for recommending this great little game.


Phase 3 - The curse of Stormparkiet

Since I was at work I decided it isn't really proper to play on BSW. I mean, seriously, playing games on your workplace? Not cool. Reading reviews of boardgames? Acceptable. Shut up.

And then it happened.. I came across.. this.

zombie

If you haven't read this thread I will paraphrase it. This guy, Stormparkiet didn't really like the game. He saw through all the nice fun deck-building kingdom-themed facade and boiled down the game to depressing essentials - it's not about building your deck, it's about maximizing your chance to get 8 coins in your hand as often as possible. And when you start looking at it THAT way, then your choices are depressingly simple. It devolves to this:

a) if you have 8 coins or more, buy Province
b) if less then 8 but more then 6, buy Gold
c) if less then 6, buy silver or a card that is better then silver, most commonly one that will net more cards in your hand. This he called, rather cunningly, a "Silver test".
d) enjoy your win

Say what? Noo... this is a complex game, you can't turn it into.. into.. THAT!? It's about combos, and trying out different stuff, and many, many ways of winning..

Bah.. I will not listen to heretics and I will try it out for myself. BSW, 4 player game, want experienced players. Let's go!

First game... I get 45 points, opponents 42, 36 and 29. I get congratulated on a great game.

Great game? All I did was brainlessly follow the upper a), b) and c). I bought one Moat on my first turn (mostly because it gave me two extra cards and it was a nice calming shade of blue to boot) and then for the rest of the game I only bought Provinces, Gold, Silver and occasional Council room (4 extra cards). I didn't even bother to read the rest of the kingdom cards or watch what my opponents did.

Another game. I win again. Another. A win.

zombiezombieAaaargh!zombiezombie

This.. can't.. be.. true! Dominion.. is.. broken?


Phase 4 - The Day After

I don't know what to think anymore. Is the game broken? Is it possible it includes such a dumb killer strategy? Or are all the BSW players I happened to play with complete and utter noobs?

I am sure this must be in some extent false. There's this Thief card, after all, which would kill this strategy quite efficiently. Noone played it against me, though, but still it looks quite powerful. I guess. But nevertheless, I don't want this strategy to exist at all! There shouldn't be such a simple way to win!

I still hold hope that this is a fluke. That this Stormparkiet guy just stumbled upon one of many, many ways to win and that after a while people will laugh at the simplicity of it and the days when some poor noobs thought they could win so easily. But still.. where does this leave me now? When I play with my friends, should I encourage them to experiment away with different combos and pretend "Silver test" doesn't exist? Or should I force them to use it and then enjoy the search of trying different ways to defuse it? Whatever the case may be, this is not what I signed up for.

What now? I don't know. I still think it's a great game. Its merits still shine - simple, fast, easy to teach, quick to set up, quick to put away, many many possibilities and strategies to find out. However, this "Silver test" somehow ruined it for me. I hate playing sub-optimally, but I also don't like when the optimal way of playing is so... dumb. Apparently. Which I'm sure it isn't. It simply must not be.

Hmm.. I sent this as a "review", so I guess I must make some closing words. My suggestion? Try the game. Definitely try it. Read the rules, fire up BSW and play a few games, it's free after all. Or better yet, buy it, "silver test" or no "silver test", you should most probably buy the game just based of its obvious merits. But I cannot truly say that I'm sure this one will stay as beloved as it is now. Even though I hope so.

Please, please, make me feel good about Dominion again.

-googoo-
--- -
- -
-

Edit: Wanted to make make an addendum after around 100+ plays.

"Silver test" strategy mostly IS the game. However it's not as bad as it appears initially. As one guy further down neatly put, once you are aware of it, it's mostly a "psychological" shock - you cannot believe there is such a simple, direct way to victory. And it does feel disappointing. But once you let this fact settle, you realize the game is not really broken, but rather that you have to start with the "Silver test", and build up. It's not about having the neatest combos and flashiest action cards, it's (mostly) about having the most effective deck and grabbing those provinces as quickly as possible.

So the game IS shallower then it first appears, but it's not as shallow as the "silver test" makes it look, not by a long shot. I was wrong to say that the "optimal" way to play is dumb.. more correct statement would be "there is a rather dumb strategy which will make your deck very effective". Which perhaps is not such a bad thing, after all.. because finally there is a game where a new player can get a quick jumpstart and play effectively minutes after lerning the game, and experienced players will still have a rather large number of options at their disposal, most of them more effective then the "default strategy".

Now about that Chapel...devil

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McDog
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Have ever played the real physical version? Is all this based on playing the computer game? Just curious, that's kind of what I gathered.

edit: Missed that line about it showing up soon. I generally play a treasure heavy deck but have tried other things and won. The FTF people I've played have enjoyed the game and enjoyed trying out different strategies too so it was well worth it for me. I buy games to have fun, this provides that for us anyway.
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Branko K.
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I told it already. The physical version is payed for and coming any day now... and that's what I'm afraid for.

The BSW folks are usually people who play much boardgame much more often then.. well.."physical" friends I play with. If BSW-ers are so easy to beat it doesn't bode well for the real-life experience...

I'll edit in the experience with the physical game as soon as it arrives. Until then I hope someone will add an efficient defusal of silver test strategy, either here or in the original Stormparkiet's thread.
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James Palmer
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baba44713 wrote:

a) if you have 8 coins or more, buy Province
b) if less then 8 but more then 6, buy Gold
c) if less then 6, buy silver or a card that is better then silver, most commonly one that will net more cards in your hand. This he called, rather cunningly, a "Silver test".
d) enjoy your win
This is the strategy I follow. I have yet to lose a game. I don't really understand why people say this game has more depth than Race for the Galaxy. Anyways, I have to say that the "or a card that is better than silver" phrase of part c is what at least gives the game a bit of interest, as this is where you get some good card combinations, etc. going.
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Tim Seitz
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Rastak wrote:
Have ever played the real physical version? Is all this based on playing the computer game? Just curious, that's kind of what I gathered.
Playing online or F2F does not affect the viability of a strategy.

To the OP, this is a powerful way to win, but it is more the "default" strategy. However, the game becomes much more interesting when everyone realizes that. Then the trick is to be even faster than that! And it is possible.

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Archibald Zimonyi
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out4blood wrote:
Rastak wrote:
Have ever played the real physical version? Is all this based on playing the computer game? Just curious, that's kind of what I gathered.
Playing online or F2F does not affect the viability of a strategy.

To the OP, this is a powerful way to win, but it is more the "default" strategy. However, the game becomes much more interesting when everyone realizes that. Then the trick is to be even faster than that! And it is possible.

Thank you, I just started writing a response saying exactly what you say above. If everyone plays with the a) through d) in mind then there can only be one who achieves d). That is where the difference is. That is also what makes the game re-playable.

Also, since c) is a pretty big step (i.e. basically the whole game) then I do not even see the problem with following a) through d). The point is to build the most optimized deck that allows you to purchase cards that give you the most victory points.

Archie
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Felkor wrote:
I don't really understand why people say this game has more depth than Race for the Galaxy.
Me neither! shake I have seen people on BGG who said they got tired of Dominion after 40, 60, or 80 games; I have never read anything like this for Race for the Galaxy, but instead have found people commenting on the 100 or 200 games they had already played while still looking forward to exploring the game even further!

I do like Dominion, but as a relatively light, quick, nice looking and original game.
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James Palmer
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lebigot wrote:
Felkor wrote:
I don't really understand why people say this game has more depth than Race for the Galaxy.
Me neither! shake I have seen people on BGG who said they got tired of Dominion after 40, 60, or 80 games; I have never read anything like this for Race for the Galaxy, but instead have found people commenting on the 100 or 200 games they had already played while still looking forward to exploring the game even further!

I do like Dominion, but as a relatively light, quick, nice looking and original game.
My sentiments exactly.
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Tony Chen
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Maybe 4ers are different, but I didn't find Dominion to be as easy as that. For one, what are your exact criterias for passing the Silver test? That's the whole game right there. And I don't always buy Provinces/Gold when I can. I've boughten Villages with 6 coins before.

How did you get a game with 45-42-36-29? People had problems ending the game with Provinces?

Dominion is all about combos. The silver test may be a good way to set a baseline for gauging the effectiveness of a certain combo. Not that that is terribly deep either.
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Brad
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Quote:
I hate playing sub-optimally.
For better or worse, this is where Dominion's variety comes from. As you play, you experiment with different combos, sometimes losing badly when you find that something doesn't work. To attempt to play truly optimally you would have about 3 or 4 combos you're tweaking and at least one of them would come up just about every game. Otherwise, you spend a fair amount of time dinking around with unfamiliar combos. This is common knowledge, though, so you don't get too excited when you win or too upset when you lose. You just shrug and say, "Let's play another."

Quote:
To the OP, this is a powerful way to win, but it is more the "default" strategy. However, the game becomes much more interesting when everyone realizes that. Then the trick is to be even faster than that! And it is possible.
QFT. For example, if there were Council Rooms in play, as you noted, the goal is to buy more than a province.

Quote:
I don't really understand why people say this game has more depth than Race for the Galaxy.
I haven't heard anyone make this claim, but I would laugh out loud if I did.

Quote:
I do like Dominion, but as a relatively light, quick, nice looking and original game.
Me too. I like it a lot, actually, but I don't see a tremendous amount of depth or strategy in it.

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Werner Bär
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baba44713 wrote:
a) if you have 8 coins or more, buy Province
b) if less then 8 but more then 6, buy Gold
c) if less then 6, buy silver or a card that is better then silver, most commonly one that will net more cards in your hand. This he called, rather cunningly, a "Silver test".
a) and b) are good rules of thumb. There are situations where you want to buy something else (another gold with 8 coins early in the game, or two cards if you have an extra buy), but i you don't have a reason to do something else, use them.

c) is the game. Really.
"If you have 3-5 coins, buy a silver or a card that's more useful than a silver in the current situation."
Judging your buy, based on your current deck (and the deck of the other players), is the biggest part of the game.
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Jeffery Bowling
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I think this strategy works well for certain combination of cards. But there are too many powerful combos out there that this will simply be too slow to work. (Especially if there is a chapel out there.) As for the level of competition on BSW, I think it varies greatly depending on the game. With as many games of Dominion being played on BSW right now, the level of competition is all over the map.

All that being said, I think it is Race light. Play this when you can't find people to play Race. This does not have the steep learning curve that Race has and thus it does not scare people off as easily. As I have played about 100 games of each, Dominion has never approached the challenge or fun of Race. This is not saying it is a bad game, but it is no Race.
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out4blood wrote:
Rastak wrote:
Have ever played the real physical version? Is all this based on playing the computer game? Just curious, that's kind of what I gathered.
Playing online or F2F does not affect the viability of a strategy.

To the OP, this is a powerful way to win, but it is more the "default" strategy. However, the game becomes much more interesting when everyone realizes that. Then the trick is to be even faster than that! And it is possible.


It does change the experience greatly and the bottom line is the original poster was concerned it would not be worth it when he got the real game. I would contend perfecting a strategy on BSW doesn't always equal "no entertainment" from the real thing.
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Stephen Schaefer
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I'm not immediately concerned by this. I remember the outcry about starvation breaking Stone Age, so I'll wait to see if the metagame sorts this out with time. Besides, if there's one thing I've learned in my time on BSW, it's that playing there is a very different animal from most live groups with whom I play.

I think anyone who compares this to Race in any fashion, other than both being a card-driven game, is kidding themselves. The more I play the two, the more distinctly different they are in nearly every aspect. Race is a deep, thick, rich strategy game. Dominion is comparatively light and usually plays in half the time.

No game is going to have everything, and what people are going to have to do is just take each game's pros and cons and judge them on their own merits. The points for Dominion are that it's card-driven, it's light, it's quick, it has a high degree of variety based on the 25-choose-10 model, and it is an extensively expandable game system (that's right folks, you're investing in a system here, a la BattleLore or Magic or Carcassonne). It's deep enough for the short play time, but if you demand a really meaty game, then you'll find this lacking.
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I have not played Race for the Galaxy, but I have played several games of Dominion FTF and on BSW. So far, I continue to learn more efficient card play from watching others play and experimenting with combos. So far I am seeing some principles emerging. 1. keep a lean hand at first. 2.Play the right combos based on the Kingdom cards on the table. 3. Adjust if necessary once you see the opponents focus. A lean hand allows this.

One varient we are going to try FTF next time is to create a set of ten random kingdom cards to the table. It could throw a nice twist to the game.

Now I am interested in Race. $igh.
 
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slate43 wrote:
I have not played Race for the Galaxy, but I have played several games of Dominion FTF and on BSW. So far, I continue to learn more efficient card play from watching others play and experimenting with combos. So far I am seeing some principles emerging. 1. keep a lean hand at first. 2.Play the right combos based on the Kingdom cards on the table. 3. Adjust if necessary once you see the opponents focus. A lean hand allows this.
I've got well over 100 plays of Dominion, so clearly I'm a fan. With that bias, though, I wouldn't say the "silver test" breaks the game. That open-ended "c" gives you a lot of options, and depending on the combo on the table some cards may pass in one game and be worthless in another.

slate43 wrote:

One varient we are going to try FTF next time is to create a set of ten random kingdom cards to the table. It could throw a nice twist to the game.
This is essential to the replay value of Dominion. The number one thing that keeps the strategy fresh is the constantly-evolving set of options on your turn. If you just play one of the pre-set arrangements over and over again, you will find your entire group playing the exact same strategy as they figure out the "optimal" play for that set.

slate43 wrote:

Now I am interested in Race. $igh.
Let me be the lone dissenting voice here....RFTG blows goats. I like deep games, even when I'm not good at them; but the list of things I'd rather do than play Race again ranges from staring at a blank wall to slipping into a month-long coma. All of which would be more mentally stimulating.

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Coming on to the "Default" strategy is part of the growth cycle. many of us have come to the same conclusion and you either give up the game or move on to more advanced study.

If stay at you'll come across someone who is beyond it and they smash your face in. If you keep playing them and watch and learn you'll start to see there is more. Like KOALA said, sometimes your deck needs a village now even if you have 6 coins to make the rest of the game better. Sometimes Default is the best strategy on the board, but most times there's something better and if you play the right people they'll show you.

The strategy beyond "Default" is the balance of keeping your engine going smoothly after you start buying provinces and other victory cards that clog your deck.

If you want to be schooled on BSW look for:

Sceadeau
drunkenKOALA
ihatepants
williamilsanguinario
Pampero
load_dropper6969
timato

All of these players are beyond the default stage, look for 'em. (couple of them I play with irl and they are pro VS., MtG and WoW players so they understand games in ways I can't even begin.

(and if you want, I think I'm not to shabby either- Kirkwb on BSW)
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Thread after thread....everyone (who thinks the game is limited on strategies) is at a different level of Dominion and wants to pronounce that level as the entirety of the game. I don't know, maybe I'll write a thread that analyzes why the 'default strategy' is exactly that, the 'default strategy'. Or maybe it's already been done and i just missed it. It would be nice to have the strategy discussed all in one place, so at least referrals could be made to the thread in other discussions.

At any rate, any card drawing plus +action strategy will beat a silver strategy, nearly every time. Silver strategy is slower than +card/+action, particularly when the +card is Smithy or Council Room. In order to incorporate the +card/+action card strategy, you naturally have to buy the cards you need instead of buying a Silver. The highest chance to get a Gold after two turns (which you should almost always buy if you have 6 treasure but not 8) is +smithy/Silver (29%), not Silver/Silver (21%).

There are some questions about strategies after you realize the default strategy is in fact not a good strategy in many cases. The Chapel strategy is probably next in line, but I think there are some others that haven't been fully discussed yet, like Adventurer. And the Chancellor discussion has been interesting too.

So if you like the game, go back to it. If you see someone buying silver/silver, buy +smithy/silver and see what happens.

Edited because my percentages were off, but the point stands
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David desJardins
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baba44713 wrote:
The BSW folks are usually people who play much boardgame much more often then.. well.."physical" friends I play with. If BSW-ers are so easy to beat it doesn't bode well for the real-life experience...
There are good players of many games on BSW, but the "average" player of most games is pretty bad. That's why you see people with 80% win rates.
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Steve Duff
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baba44713 wrote:
a) if you have 8 coins or more, buy Province
b) if less then 8 but more then 6, buy Gold
c) if less then 6, buy silver or a card that is better then silver, most commonly one that will net more cards in your hand. This he called, rather cunningly, a "Silver test".
d) enjoy your win
Texas Hold'em:

a) if you have a great hand, raise
b) if you have a crappy hand, fold
c) bet the amount of money that will net the most chips in your pile.
d) enjoy your win

I think we've got the BGG version of the Underpants Gnomes here.

As the others said, (c) is the entire game, choosing wisely which cards to buy that fit with your other cards and the game situation.

I don't see why this has disheartened you.
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John Douglass
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I heard about the above mentioned strategy before I ever starting playing and teach it to everyone I introduce to the game. Let me tell you, I've had multiple friends beat me on their second time ever playing, even though I know and have used the strategy at least 50 times on BSW and in person. A lot of players on BSW haven't figured out this strategy yet, so I also win alot. But there are better players than me and playing against them and seeing how they deal with my "default" strategy is fascinating and I'm becoming a better player as a result.

To top it off, some are better at the "default" strategy than others, and my wife is better than me arrrh. She beats me more than I beat her because she is somehow better at the "default" than I am, plus I try different things to beat that strategy and tend to lose. But that's because I need to improve as a player, I think. I lost three games to a player on BGG, all three were close, but all three she thwarted my "default" strategy and she did something different.

In short, there is more to this game than one dominant strategy. You could say there is one easy dominant strategy, but getting better beyond that strategy is challenging, to me anyway.
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Armando Gurrola
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After playing dominion once I have to say that people have to realize that money and victory points are the main things in the game. The other cards are mainly fluff but important sometimes too(esp the drawing ones). I did enjoy my game a decent amount, but I have thought about not buying it right away and letting it fizzle down. Plus the interactions aren't as fun for me as a former CCG player. IMHO of course.
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Kirkwb
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"After playing dominion once..."

After reading this opening to your paragraph I disregarded any opinion on strategy you may have.

IMHO of course. devil
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Dave Eisen
United States
Redwood City
California
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There is the point that a lot of newcomers are dazzled by the array of interesting action cards and figure getting the right ones is the key to the game. Getting gold is better. Getting silver needs to at least be considered. Do not overuse the action cards.

But that is different from saying that one should ignore the action cards. And in fact, in some card mixes, with specific game situations, going heavy on action cards is in fact the right answer.

But your default strategy: "buy money and spend it on VP" is certainly a fine default strategy. Just don't be surprised if it doesn't work very well against strong players.
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Dave G
United States
Illinois
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dkeisen wrote:

But your default strategy: "buy money and spend it on VP" is certainly a fine default strategy. Just don't be surprised if it doesn't work very well against strong players.
"Hey, are you allowed to play a two laboratories, a council room, and two festivals on the same turn? Eesh, that's a lot of treasure cards...with how many buys? Oh...At least I have all these silvers...and now you get to shuffle again?" devil
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