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Subject: Dominion after 15 plays rss

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Chris Ferejohn
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The Magic: The Gathering phenomenon has spawned a lot of imitators and derivatives. The first were other CCGs that essentially tried to imitate the Magic model: intermittent releases of randomized booster packs to keep players buying. As CCGs flooded the market, the problems for new entries became obvious: in order to have a successful product, you needed a fairly large pool of players all investing in their collection. Unlike self-contained board games, selling single units of the game was not going to create the community that the game required to succeed.

Inevitably, this led to games being created that borrowed the deck-based combat aspect of Magic without the collectability. Games like Blue Moon and Hera and Zeus gave each player their own deck and let them fight it out. Blue Moon even added some limited deck customization through non-collectible expansions.

Dominion represents an attempt to capture a different aspect of the Magic: The Gathering experience - deckbuilding. For many Magic players, deckbuilding was the true heart of the game. Hard-core players would tinker with their decks for hours and hours, like a car enthusiast carefully tuning an engine to be ready for a 2 minute drag race. Skillful play was still needed to get the most out of a deck, but most of the game was won or lost before it even started.

In Dominion, you start with a 10 card deck consisting of 7 copper pieces (worth one money each) and 3 estate cards (worth 1 victory point each). Each turn, you draw 5 cards and use these cards to buy additional cards to add to your deck. These additional cards can be more valuable money cards, victory point cards, or action cards, which allow you to perform various actions such as drawing extra cards, performing extra actions, buying additional cards, removing unwanted cards from your deck, or forcing unwanted cards into your opponent's deck. In each game, there are 10 types of action cards that can be bought, with 10 of each type available. In the first release of the game, 25 types of action cards are available, and each game players must choose 10 types to use for that game. The rules give some example sets of 10 action cards or players can select 10 by any method they wish (randomly, drafting, etc).

The game proceeds until one of two ending conditions are met: either the most valuable victory point cards have been exhausted or 3 other stacks of cards have been exhausted. At this point, players count up the total victory points in their decks and whoever has the most is the winner.

Dominion is all about deck tuning. To win, you need to accumulate the most victory points, but the victory point cards otherwise do not do anything, and too many of them can cause your deck to grind to a halt. The victory point cards come in 1, 3, and 6-point flavors, and obviously the 6-point ones offer the best value for the cost (as measured by the amount by which they slow your deck); however, the 6-point VP cards are quite expensive, costing 8 money, and getting your deck to the point where you draw 8 money in a turn is one of the most important strategic considerations in the game.

There's no way around the fact that experienced Magic deckbuilders will have a huge advantage while learning this game. The concept that you can make a deck stronger by eliminating marginally valuable cards to allow the very valuable cards to come up more often can be counter-intuitive to a non-Magic player; most Magic players will remember the time someone in their group figured this out and started wiping the floor with everyone with nostalgia and a bit of sadness. This concept is absolutely vital in Dominion - the temptation is to keep adding the "cool" action cards, but add too many and you'll find your deck rarely produces enough money to add the big victory point cards.

Who Will Like This Game
The people who I have found to be the most split on this game by far are former (or current) Magic players. Some of them really like the "real time deckbuilding" feature of the game, but others find that to an experienced deckbuilder most of the decisions are usually obvious. The degree to which this is true will vary depending on the cards available in a given game, but the fact that the goal of the game (victory points) runs directly counter to what a magic player would consider "good deck building strategy" (eliminating bad cards), means that most Magic players who stick with it find there are subtle strategies and inflection points that make what seemed to be obvious decisions not as obvious as they may have first seemed.

Dominion is also very appealing to players who are not fans of direct conflict. My wife, who rarely will play more than one game of *anything* in one sitting (even ones she professes to like), played four straight games of this on one night. She said she really liked the fact that she could concentrate on making her own deck as good as possible without worrying too much about what I was doing. Again, the degree to which this is true varies depending on what cards are available.

Who May Not Like This Game
The flip side of my last point, players who like games with lots of conflict where players are constantly attacking each other may not find that this game satisfies them. With the more non-interactive sets of action cards, the interaction between players is subtle almost to the point of non-existence. In these cases you could make nearly all of your decisions completely without regard to (or knowledge of) what the other players were doing without hurting yourself strategically, and if that is not the definition of "multi-player solitaire" I don't know what is. Even the cards that offer more interactivity affect all other players equally, so there can be no alliances or ganging up on the leader.

Also, this game involves shuffling. A lot of shuffling. You are going to run through your deck many times in the course of a single game, and in the early going you're going to be shuffling once every 2nd or 3rd turn. Some players can find this fiddly and annoying. Some folks have created a tile-drawing version of the game to combat this (rather than playing cards, you are drawing tiles from a bag, and when you have gone through your "deck" you just dump the tiles back in the bag). Also, bretspielwelt.de has an excellent online implementation that takes care of all the shuffling for you.

Review Haiku
Shuffle, shuffle, draw
Tune your deck efficiently
Buy gold. Buy province.
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Myke Madsen
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psst...it's www.brettspielwelt.de
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Chris Ferejohn
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HappyProle wrote:

Of course it is! Who said anything different? ninja ninja

cool
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Branko K.
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cferejohn wrote:
Also, bretspielwelt.de..

HappyProle wrote:

Good thing browsers aren't picky with those double-t's...

 
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Spare Tire
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Quote:
Review Haiku

thumbsup just for that!
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Isaac Citrom
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OK, now you've screwed me up. I really want a good card game but I have no intention of spending hundreds of dollars on a CCG. I've been hunting about for a self-contained good card game. I purchased Blue Moon and its OK but not exactly what I was after.

Depending on the great popularity of Dominion I thought this was going to be the game. But, now I hear you say that there is little or no player interaction. That's precisely the reason I did not buy Race for the Galaxy. I want a good card game that allows players to interact. For me, that's the point of FtF gaming.

I'm hoping that others will chime in to confirm or counter this review.

Good review, by the way--helpful.
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Andrew Hardin
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isaacc wrote:

OK, now you've screwed me up. I really want a good card game but I have no intention of spending hundreds of dollars on a CCG. I've been hunting about for a self-contained good card game. I purchased Blue Moon and its OK but not exactly what I was after.

Depending on the great popularity of Dominion I thought this was going to be the game. But, now I hear you say that there is little or no player interaction. That's precisely the reason I did not buy Race for the Galaxy. I want a good card game that allows players to interact. For me, that's the point of FtF gaming.

I'm hoping that others will chime in to confirm or counter this review.

Good review, by the way--helpful.
.

It really depends on what you want in interaction. The quirk of Dominion is that your define the types of interaction you want as you buy the cards, not as you play the hand. You pick how you intend to interact.

Most of the interaction we have had in our games is the social interaction of people trying to win quickly. Sometimes the 10 Kingdom Cards provide no real way to attack the other player, but they often allow subtle decisions.

There are cards that allow you to 'hit the other player' but you hit everybody. The positive to this is that we have had very few of the Kingmaker problems that plague our 3-player games and instead just enjoy the experience.

Dominion is really a game about deck building. This is where the game really shines or can fall apart. A small percentage of the games provide a set of 10 Kingdom Cards that produce a strongly systematic set of buys and the game is saved only by the fact that it ends quickly. Most games have more decisions to be made along the way.

Having played both Race and Dominion I find that both rely very heavily on indirect and subtle interaction that rewards a player who can interpret and understand the opponents strategy.

But it is a very social game FTF. A lot of that is lost online but in person our group tends to get very involved in the game. We cringe when the Thief steals our Gold, look sad the Spy trashes a draw we would have liked, grimace when the Bureaucrat forces us to draw that VP card yet again, moan as the Witch gives us yet another Curse, and try to hide the fact that the Militia kept us from buying that key Province or Gold and pretend the card never hurts us.

There is a very real sense of urgency when somebody buys that first Province and near panic if they buy the second before we buy even one. If we detect somebody is charging for the Gardens our group tends to make a big deal of it in an attempt to get others to buy some and thwart the strategy.

Our best moment came when one of the players did Throne Room then Council Room and drew eight cards to buy that last province. He showed the cards face up as he drew 8 green/blue/purple cards with no more actions and the other players let out a cheer and grinned at his bad luck.

So, your mileage may vary, but we found it interactive enough and there are enough subtle plays that can effect the other player that we don't mind so much. But not enough that the game is painful.

- Lex
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joe quintana
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Isaacc

If you want a great self contained card game
with player interaction, I can recommend
GLORY TO ROME
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Dave Simpson
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isaacc wrote:
Depending on the great popularity of Dominion I thought this was going to be the game. But, now I hear you say that there is little or no player interaction. That's precisely the reason I did not buy Race for the Galaxy. I want a good card game that allows players to interact. For me, that's the point of FtF gaming.

I've played Race for the Galaxy. about ten times and having played Dominion less than half that amount, I bought Dominion. I won't buy RftG. Dominion seemed more flexible, more varied, offers more replayability and has more interaction, so I bought accordingly.

I agree with what LexH says. FTF is FTF, you could play almost any game imagineable with little talk or interaction if that's what you want, but it's unlikely to happen. There's no reason to suggest that players can't talk, trashtalk, banter or whatever around a game of Dominion. I do. So there's that level of verbal interaction, which you can have in any game.

For actual game interaction between players, the cards you play on your turn can, for instance, cause another player(s) to throw away 2 of their 5 cards, to gain a card in their hand, to take the least useful card from their hand and have to get that card in their next hand and so on - all actual direct effects of your play on others.

The card(s) you buy on your turn may cause other players to look to buy countermeasures or to scramble to keep up with your sudden rush to buy high VP cards etc. Again interaction of a sort.

So, its not everyones cup of tea, but I would say that folks are more likely to be put off by the amount of shuffling involved in ftf than by the lack of interaction.
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Andrew Hardin
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The shuffling can be a bit much at times, but the tactile sense of playing a game is somewhat enhanced by the experience.

Playing online is faster, and not having to shuffle can be kind of nice. For someone like me who likes to chew on information the slower pace induced by shuffling improves my ability to sense and learn from other players.

And the one key bit of interaction in both Dominion and RFtG is understanding what your opponent is doing (and potentially hiding your own). In RFtG this decision faces you all the time through the mechanism of picking your action. A lot of bluff and second guess happens. Beyond that you can't actually interfere with the plays. In Dominion you can play cards that do interfere, but you can only do so in limited ways and sometimes not very effectively at all.

I tend to appreciate this kind of interaction, which avoids the 'kingmaker' problems that plague our 3 player games. The last 3 player game of Power Grid resulted in a mutual agreement to tie after we ended up in the kingmaker equivalent of a Mexican standoff. We don't have those kind of problems with Dominion or RFtG.

- Lexander
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Chris Ferejohn
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I'm surprised to hear someone say that they found it more interactive than RFTG. I find RFTG to have plenty of interaction, albeit indirectly. I suppose with the more interactive cards Dominion has more direct interaction since you can actually affect other people's decks and hands.

For the most part, I would think of the interaction in Dominion like a foot race. You can see when you are getting behind, and maybe you can try harder or, umm, run differently if you see that you are in trouble. The interactive cards are the equivalent of getting to make hurdles pop up in everyone's lane but yours.

But as for Isaac's concerns, it definitely sounds like you should try it before you buy it. If you can't get a live game together with someone who has a copy BSW (hah, now I don't have to spell it) is a good option. I don't usually enjoy playing board games online, but I did get in a couple dozen plays of Dominion (the 15 plays in the title are FTF only).

I haven't played Blue Moon, but I've played Hera and Zeus a number of times. It is a very interactive deck-based game and might be what you are looking for Isaac (only 2 player though).
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Stephen Schaefer
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Quote:
But, now I hear you say that there is little or no player interaction. That's precisely the reason I did not buy Race for the Galaxy. I want a good card game that allows players to interact.

Just wait. devil
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Marc Frank
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isaacc wrote:
I want a good card game that allows players to interact. For me, that's the point of FtF gaming.

Try Roma. It's absolutely cutthroat. There are dice involved, but it has a very CCGish feel.
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Steve Duff
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isaacc wrote:
I want a good card game that allows players to interact. For me, that's the point of FtF gaming.

Much of the interaction will vary, depending on the 10 cards you use, and how many of the 10 are attack cards.

There's more than enough interaction for me. Last game, I had 4 gold stolen from me in quick succession, leaving me with naught but a single copper, literally unable to do anything until the end of the game.
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Branko K.
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Agreed.

I am constantly amazed how many people find Dominion to be non-interactive. You can steal money from your opponents, fill their deck with crap, cut their hand size in half, move dead cards back in their draw pile... what more do you want?

OK, if you choose a set without attack cards, the game lacks direct interaction. But that's the beauty of it - every game is different! In one game I'm having a pure "who can tweak his deck better" race against my opponent, in the other I'm actually messing with his deck directly.

The only time the game DOES feel like MS is games where people amass ridicilous amounts of +action cards and take forever to play out their turn and then ending with 5 coins or less (the infamous 'Village idiot' strategy). Thankfully, with experience, players learn that "long combos" don't necessarily equals "good deck". But in general, I think the level of interaction in Dominion is fine.
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Isaac Citrom
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OK, thanks everyone, I'm convinced. Perhaps I overstated or mistated "player interaction". I just ddidn't want a game of wholly multi-solitaire, which from what I've read, RftG is that (unless you are an expert player and are playing like a poker player).
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John Richert
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I think anyone comparing RftG and Dominion are short changing both games. Outside of being card games, they share very little in common.

Dominion is about generating an engine/deckbuilding. The only true interaction the game has is seeing what your opponent is taking and taking the counters for it. If you see your opponent taking attack cards, you take some moats, etc. Now I am not an expert player by any means, but the game can be somewhat solveable based upon which cards are available. That said, the decision for what you do can be largely determined by what cards you draw. You then decide how to build your deck. I have had games where I could not get anything larger than a 4 cost card due to opponent actions. Try upgrading my gold, it gets taken by a thief or bureaucrat.

RftG on the other hand is a more interactive game (with 3+ players). You have to constantly be looking at what your opponent is doing to determine your best course of action. You are constantly thinking of what you should do. Should I develop, or do I gamble that my opponent develops and I can then consume x2. Or, should I bank that my opponent settles, so I should trade and take advantage of my windfall planet. There is plenty of interaction here, but it is subtle. Again, you are deciding what to do, vs. what you can do.

Both are great games, but they are not necessarily for everyone and people really should not be comparing these games to one another because they have completely different mechanics and styles in the game.
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Chris Ferejohn
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isaacc wrote:

OK, thanks everyone, I'm convinced. Perhaps I overstated or mistated "player interaction". I just ddidn't want a game of wholly multi-solitaire, which from what I've read, RftG is that (unless you are an expert player and are playing like a poker player).

Not sure what you've been reading, but that's not even remotely true. After 3 or 4 plays when you've got your head around it, it is a pretty interactive game, just not directly.
 
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Bruce Wigdor
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I played this for the first time today, and I took an instant liking to the game.

I think it's fair to label the game as largely multi-player solitaire; the focus is buying and creating a deck that will outperform everyone else's. That said, there are cards that allow you to throw monkey wrenches into the others' plans, and you might have to alter your plans to maybe buy a card or two that can defend against such cards (like the Moat). Also, it appears that there are certain cards that have a "if he buys one, then I have to buy one" aspect to them.

So there is interactivity to a certain degree--you do need to know and sometimes react to what your opponent is doing, but there are several forms of multi-player interactivity that are absent from the game. Other than on an extremely subtle level, you can't form alliances, nor can you target the leader; as has been mentioned, the attack cards affect everyone (though the results are not always equal). Essentially, there's virtually no diplomacy in the game, and some people might not like that.

The upside of no diplomacy, is that the interactivity doesn't degenerate into an argument over who is winning and who is not. You don't have to shout anyone down lest his voice be the one that's heard instead of yours; you can just enjoy the action, and the players that I played with really did that. There's nothing to take personally this game; though there was plenty of banter when it turned out that an attack card hurt one player far more than it hurt another.

Interactivity aside, the game seems to present lots of interesting choices, and the aspect where only 10 of the 25 action card types are used should result in a very high level of replayability. I haven't had such a good first impression of a game in a long time.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Anyone that wants to label Dominion as "multi-player solitaire" should try playing without opponents and see how dull that really is compared to the real game.
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Branko K.
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Yeah.. I tried playing with myself. Wasn't really that much fun.

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Justin Robben
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baba44713 wrote:
Yeah.. I tried playing with myself. Wasn't really that much fun.


I find this to be great fun...
So does my wife.
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Christopher Paul
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I played for the first time today and loved it! I want to buy it right now, but my local store is sold out...

It is not multi-player solitaire. And it is not Race for the Galaxy (I hate that game, BTW, for some of the reasons stated above...)

In the game we had today, someone bought a thief card, used it once, then everybody started buying thief and moat cards. How is that solitaire? I am an ex-MTG player and have finally found a suitable board game replacement: Dominion. I think my play group (serious gamers and casual gamers) will enjoy it too.
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Branko K.
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Well the thing is that the solitaire feeling is governed both by the set you choose AND the way people choose to play the game.

If your first few games were with sets where very few Attack cards are present and/or people chose to ignore them, then I can very well see why some folks get the "solitaire" feeling. Especially if there are many "+Action, +Card" Kingdom cards so you just sit and watch people placing those neverending chains.

That's why folks should at least play a few games before placing that "MS" sticker on it.
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Diplomacy can be considered "multi-player solitaire", for what it's worth, if people choose to play it that way. You don't have to negotiate with other players. You don't have to pay attention to what they're doing. You don't have to socialize, speak, or even glance up from the board. But you aren't going to do very well, on average.

The point is, it isn't the game that causes someone to think of "multi-player solitaire"--it is the person (or perhaps, group). If said person can even give meaning to this contradictory term, then the problem lies within. It isn't just moronic ... it's oxymoronic.
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