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Dominion: Intrigue» Forums » Reviews

Subject: More of the Same (but that's a good thing)! rss

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James Sitz
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I. Introduction

If you don’t feel like reading my entire review, take these three points home with you.

1. Dominion: Intrigue is still Dominion.
2. It’s still pretty awesome.
3. Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that Intrigue is quite accessible to new players. I discovered this by actually teaching new players with the expansion alone.


II. Dominionitude

So what is that makes Dominion what it is?

For those who have yet to try Dominion, think of it like Settlers of Catan or a peaceful kingdom building video game, only played through cards. You start out with a bunch of junk- a few lousy estates that your grandpa (King) Mortimer left you when he died, as well as some hapless peasants to tax. It’s up to you to buy new buildings and hire some help, as well as enrich the kingdom.

Instead of being played on a board, you build up a deck of cards from the starting coppers and estates mentioned above. Each turn follows a very simple ABC process with the 5 cards that are currently in your hand. A is for Action, this let’s you play the action cards (like the Saboteur or Coppersmith) that you’ve previously purchased. B is for Buy, this let’s you buy stuff, like the aforementioned Action cards, Treasure cards, which will improve the quality of your future buys, and Victory cards, which help you win. C is for Cleanup, which means that you discard any of the cards that you had in your hand but didn’t use, and then you draw 5 new ones.

If at any time you run out of cards in your deck, you lose! Just kidding. You re-shuffle your deck. If shuffling gives you flashbacks of the time you saw a man get stabbed to death over a game of Gin Rummy, then Dominion is probably not the game for you. For the rest of us though, it gives us something simple and tactile to do while Phil plays his 5th Mining Village and 6th Nobles of the turn.

So how does the game end?

The game ends one of two ways. If three of the supply stacks (action cards, curses, victory points, etc) are gone, it’s over. The other way is for the stack of Provinces to be exhausted. These are just the big point cards. They cost more coins than anything else in the game, yet they are also the best bang for your buck.

Speaking of bang for your buck, how does this compare to the original? I think of it like this. Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue are like identical twins separated at birth. Dominion is a girl you could bring home to mom, but a very pretty gal who likes a good time. Intrigue has some tattoos, and maybe a small scar under her left eye. She’s also hot, but more open to suggestion and new things. You can’t go wrong with either one, unless you just don’t like hot girls. If you’re looking for the level of player conflict found in Magic: The Gathering or a chance to dust off your Card Gaming Law Degree, Dominion: Intrigue is still not for you.


III. Awesomeness

There’s a lot to like about Intrigue. There are cards like Shanty Town and Mining Village, which are interesting twists on earlier cards- in this case the Village from the base set. The duty of Chapel and Moneylender is shared between Trading Post and Steward. The new Torturer is something of a hybrid between Militia and the Witch. Although I’ve already seen some grumbling about Swindler and Saboteur, they remind me a lot more of the Thief than anything else- while they might help bring down the leader, they don’t contribute a whole lot to the player using them in the long run. There’s Masquerade, which at first looks like an innocuous card-draw a la Smithy, but allows you to pass garbage to the player to your left at the same time. (It also serves as a way to mess up players who use certain popular deck thinning strategies). Then there are cards like Baron or Coppersmith, which don’t care about how slick your deck is, because they can turn garbage into gold.

So what’s actually new? The most obvious direction to point is the addition of the hybrid victory cards. For 6 coins (a pretty high price) you can buy the Harem or the Nobles. Harem, the Victory – Treasure card, can be played from your hand for 2 coins, just like a Silver, and they constantly add 2 Victory points each to your Dominion. Nobles also add 2 Victory points each, but they can be used for two different Action choices (either gain more actions or more cards). A deck full of Nobles can combo decently with itself while contributing to your score. There is a third hybrid victory card for 3 coins, Great Hall, which gives 1 VP, 1 action, and 1 card (essentially replacing itself). One of my favorite new cards is the Scout, which can quickly give you a hand full of these new hybrid cards.

With all of these new cards, the game pretty much plays the same way. It's fast, fun, and accessible.

IV. Accessibility

I’ve seen a lot of people complain that this game is too dense for new players, adds tons of game length, and that everyone should get base Dominion first if they don’t have it yet, or not even bother trying to teach new folks how to play with Dominion Intrigue. These people are all wrong.

Three weeks ago, I gave a friend of mine regular Dominion. We played it like crazy, but I still only clocked in about 20-30 games during that time. I loved it so much that I felt I had to have my own copy, but then I found out about Intrigue. Since it came boxed on its own as a complete game, I decided I’d start with just that. I’ve never played on BSW and seen the horrible brokenness of the game when Chapel, Laboratory, and 5/2 starting splits showing up in 103% of the games.

On Saturday, I taught two new people how to play using just Intrigue. One of them is my 70-year-old father. I’m not gonna lie, he’s a smart guy and in great shape for a man of his years, but he also thinks of Monopoly when I say “board game” and Pinochle when I say “card game.” Yet he picked it up just fine. The second person I taught was my 6 -½-year-old nephew, who hasn’t even started first grade yet. Yes, he can already add and multiply, but he also can’t read more than “+buy” or “+card.” Yet even by his second game, he was kicking my butt, as he had already intuited the basic “big money” strategy, buying silver, gold, and provinces almost exclusively. He bought maybe one bridge and one torturer that second game. They’re both asking to play it again.

Although it’s true that Noble/Pawn chains might lead to people being paralyzed by the choices and it might take longer to play the action phase of a turn, I think one factor that many people are neglecting to mention when they speak of the complexity of this expansion is the fact that buying just got easier and more accessible. There are fewer unintuitive skill-testing cards such as “why would I ever want to do that” Chapel and “wow, that’s a lot of money to fish for 2 copper” Adventurer. Meanwhile, cards like Harem and Nobles make some choices really easy and can keep a player in a game by making essentially the same choice over and over. Courtyard is a safer play than Smithy, because if you draw into a dead action or get more money than you can use with your buy, you can just plop that card back onto your deck for your next turn.

When it comes to game length, in my experience with face-to-face games over this last weekend, it seems just the same as regular Dominion. After the first game learning some of the new cards, we were burning through games at the same old 30-minute rate. Some of the cards that were most responsible for increased game length in some of our mixed games came from the old set, such as the times that one of my friends would play 5 Laboratories and 3 spies every turn, and then buy another one at the end of it.

V. Conclusion

See part I.

In short, this is a great addition for existing fans, and an equally appealing first experience with the game. It comes highly recommended!

(Thanks for reading my first BGG review).
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P.D. Magnus
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Good review. I mostly agree.

Jexik wrote:
I think one factor that many people are neglecting to mention when they speak of the complexity of this expansion is the fact that buying just got easier and more accessible.


Except with the Bridge. Adding a buy, adding a coin, and changing the price of everything makes for a jumble.
 
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Dave Daley
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pmagnus wrote:
Good review. I mostly agree.

Jexik wrote:
I think one factor that many people are neglecting to mention when they speak of the complexity of this expansion is the fact that buying just got easier and more accessible.


Except with the Bridge. Adding a buy, adding a coin, and changing the price of everything makes for a jumble.

I don't see it that way at all. I've had NO trouble with the Bridge, but then I'm good with numbers. The coin is no different than the other 10 cards that have a coin, and the lowering of the costs -- well, that I could see getting some people confused.

One thing about the Bridge is that it adds +Coin +Buy on top of lowering the costs. So if you have 8 coins to spend, you can actually buy TWO 5-cost cards. Essentially giving you +2 for the turn. That's a bit mind-bending I guess. Ok, you talked me into it. a BIT more complex.
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David Jackman
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Jexik wrote:
If at any time you run out of cards in your deck, you lose!


I highly endorse this variant. Much more balanced play experience, in my opinion.
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James Sitz
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pmagnus wrote:
Good review. I mostly agree.

Jexik wrote:
I think one factor that many people are neglecting to mention when they speak of the complexity of this expansion is the fact that buying just got easier and more accessible.


Except with the Bridge. Adding a buy, adding a coin, and changing the price of everything makes for a jumble.


Yeah, maybe. The Bridge was definitely my nephew's favorite card though. While it might involve a bit of mental gymnastics, the mathematical know-how to use the Bridge isn't something that needs to be learned specifically about this game... if that makes any sense. Explaining the Bridge to my nephew was a bit simpler than explaining to him how the Library worked when we mixed the sets later.

Trashed Mining Villages, coins from Tribute, Pawns, or Stewards can cause similar issues in the buy phase as well, but I think it's easiest just to push them up a little, or perhaps "tap" them as in Magic to show when they've been used for coins.

I still haven't noticed a significant slow down in my games though. I played 4 Intrigue-only games in less than two hours just now.
 
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David Jackman
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Jexik wrote:

I still haven't noticed a significant slow down in my games though. I played 4 Intrigue-only games in less than two hours just now.


Same here - the only game that seemed to drag on is when we played a 5 player game and three (3!) people started with 5/2 splits, getting sabateurs. That was brutal.
 
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Zoe M
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I think the most significant added complexity is in keeping track of what's happened on a turn. "Um, how many actions do I have left?" "Just count how many actions you've gained and how many you've used... Oh wait... did you use the Nobles for actions or cards? What did you get with that Ironworks?" And so on. In Dominion, it's a lot easier to figure out what's happened if you somehow lose track.
 
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Bill Barksdale
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Saan wrote:
Jexik wrote:
If at any time you run out of cards in your deck, you lose!


I highly endorse this variant. Much more balanced play experience, in my opinion.


Well it certainly removes the first player advantage.
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