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Jeff Forbes

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Background

A note - I've played the original Dominion a few hundred times. By itself, it is a bit tired for me right now... but even the five cards added on BSW have shaken things up enough to make the game very enjoyable again.

As most of us have played or heard more than enough about Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue, I'll skip the explanation of the game - it doesn't serve much point to waste time and space, eh? This review assumes you've played the original, and have a passing familiarity with the new cards in Intrigue. If not, check out the cards:
http://boardgamegeek.com/image/496639?size=original
http://boardgamegeek.com/image/496638?size=original
http://boardgamegeek.com/image/496637?size=original



What has changed?

Dominion was a ground-breaking game for many. It introduced a rather unique mechanic that people seem to like quite a lot (myself included), and while it did have its failings, it has proven to be a game worthy of significant repeated play, even without expansions.

The thing Dominion did best was provide a simple, easily modifiable template for the game to be played. The original cards were universally easy to understand and follow, and there was enough variety to give the base game life for 200+ plays for myself - someone who thinks the original game is slightly lacking in the depth department.

Where it fell flat was simplicity, and decision making, or, rather, a lack thereof. There were few agonizing decisions to be made. The variety of cards generally resulted in only a couple near-optimal paths that you could take - for example, if you could take smithy/silver with your first two buys, with rare exception, that is what you would take. For me, it did not take very long to see that the strategies involved were fairly obvious (Chapel deck, workshop/gardens, general strategy of pushing for good coins, eliminating bad ones, and using a moderate amount of actions cards). The cards themselves lack points where you actually have to make difficult decisions - other than buying cards, the toughest decision you have to make is which of two actions you have to play when you have only one to use between them - and even then, is only rarely a difficult decision to make. Otherwise, one would simply run through their chain of actions, and, when it is done, add up buys and coins, make purchases, and finish their turn. Because the cards in the original set did not offer decisions to make, they were also quite easy to follow - as you lay your cards down, you just pile them up, and it was a near trivial matter to track actions and buys as each card did everything listed.

Dominion: Intrigue fixes that. No longer do you only have a single path of options to take when running through your hand of cards. You have to make, at times, mildly agonizing decisions, take risks, and see what happens. There are a multitude of cards that actually force you to make tricky decisions now. They also force more interaction, and also tend towards a slightly more random game experience. Cards like Saboteur and Swindler force you to take on cards that you otherwise might not want to have, mostly out of your own control. Tribute is a calculated risk. It can be a very valuable card, giving you cards, actions, and treasure, or it can give you something you don't need. If you've been watching what your opponent has been purchasing, you can figure some rough odds, and determine if, for example, you want to use the tribute before you use the torturer. 4-6 player games with a lot of attack cards can get particularly nasty - you will oftentimes have your turn come around, and your deck has now changed by 2-3 cards, and you may also be short a few cards in your hand in addition to this. This makes the game less predictable, and quite a bit more fun... if you like smacking other people down! If you like the more multiplayer/solo aspect of the original game, there will be some cards in Intrigue that you aren't going to like - but there are others that you most certainly will enjoy, so the game is still worth looking at.

Now, some cards in Intrigue take on two kinds of card. This is most interesting. The game has been designed with this in mind, so multiple cards benefit significantly from these multi-type cards. Scout would be nigh useless without them, Bureaucrat gains new life, Tribute takes advantage of your opponents that buy a lot of them, and some other cards combo with them in interesting manners - Mine can get you victory points in upgrading a gold to a harem, for instance.

There are also cards that allow you to choose the card that ends up on top of your deck, like Scout and Courtyard. This is a nice means of indirect defense, as you can control, somewhat, what the other players are going to mess up on you. You can hide the gold from the saboteur, or stick a curse on top so the Swindler can't harm you.

All of this makes Intrigue a far more tactical game. In the original, you didn't really need to play tactics unless the provinces are running low (IE, you're losing, 2 player game, 2 provinces left, and you have 1 buy, 8 gold - buying a duchy is the best move most of the time). Now, with far more cards that affect other players, you need to leverage what you've got to minimize damage from others' attacks, and as there are far more VP cards in play at times, you need to consider which path you take in buying cards far more carefully. No longer is it so frequently a straight-shot to provinces. In a game with Harem and Nobles, going straight towards gold/province is quite possibly a losing proposition, for example. It can also be far more difficult to tell who is winning, just because with multiple kinds of victory cards, and more curse cards getting tossed around, it's simply not as clear-cut as "who has more provinces/gardens, and did anyone purchase any estates or duchies?".

Another side effect of all of these other VP cards and curses being dished out, is that games tend to take a bit longer. We're not talking 60+ minutes here, but some games I've played have pushed close to 40 minutes - compare to 20-25 minutes or so for the original with experienced players.


The cards in Intrigue also seem to run up with the rules of the game more often. For example, it took a quick reference back to the rules when a player in one of the games we had going used a Torturer when there were no curses present. It was not clear that the person on the receiving end could choose to obtain a curse if there were no curses left. (The answer is yes - so when there are no curses left, you can opt to receive a curse, and as there are none, nothing happens. There have been a couple other minor cases where we needed to check with the rulebook, however, these have been one time checks - these rules "issues" are not complicated, and do not take away from the game once everyone has gotten over this tiny hump.

The biggest issue I have with Intrigue does not crop up all that frequently, but it is certainly present at times: because cards can have so many different functions, it can be difficult to track everything that you've got going on at once. Did I get 2 actions from that tribute? What did I use the Steward for? And so on. I think I'm going to make a play sheet in Excel so you can place cards in boxes to more easily track what they are giving you. In the end, however, for me this is a minor quibble - I am noting it here because it is something that has a good chance of coming up if you don't read the instructions before you play.


Conclusion
Intrigue takes a solid, but stale (after 200+ plays, mind you!) base game, and adds far more interaction, more decisions, more nastiness, and more randomness to a game that needed exactly that. It is not without its faults - it is slightly more fiddly than the original (Still, by no means is it complicated - it is just more complex, and occasionally can be tough to keep track of the actions you've played), it has a couple areas where rules aren't entirely clear, and it has a level of randomness that will turn off some of the people that loved the original game. Overall, however, Dominion: Intrigue plays quickly, offers more where the original offered less, and is a worthy successor and addition to the base game.

As a standalone game, I'm not sure I'd like Intrigue as much as the original, on the simple basis that the game doesn't play quite as smoothly as it did before. Most of the cards in Intrigue offer a choice to be made, which is a good thing, but I think the game plays best when you mix cards from both sets together.

Recommendations

If you:

Enjoy the original but are getting bored of it - Intrigue is a must buy.

Enjoy the original but fear the level of randomness - You should still strongly consider Intrigue - you will find some cards you may not like, but it is not difficult to play without them

Enjoy the original but dislike the idea of slowing the game down - Again, you should consider Intrigue. Even adding 2-3 Intrigue cards in with cards from the original set will open up many new possibilities. On this note, if you don't have the original game, I would recommend it over Intrigue, but still feel it is a worthy addition.

Enjoy the original but don't like the nastier cards in Intrigue - Simply, you don't need to play with them. Even if you don't want to use Swindler, Saboteur, Tribute, Torturer, there are still 20 or so cards that you might be interested in playing with. Definitely a try before you buy, in this case, though!

Dislike the original because it is too simple - Again, it is worth considering. You may or may not like it - the game is still the same basic core, only you have decisions to make. Try before you buy!

Dislike the original because it is too complex - Well, this makes it more complex, so avoid it!

Dislike the original for lack of interaction - Again, Intrigue is worthy of consideration, but is far from a certain purchase. Surely you know someone with it. Give it a try!




Final notes

Color me as excited for Seaside - I understand that it will throw some more interesting loops in to the system. For a select few, I suspect even Intrigue has caused Dominion to "jump the shark", but, for me, at this point, I'm not seeing that. Get back to me in a couple more expansions and we'll see where I stand on that.

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Joost Poldervaart
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A very convincing review, thank you; I'll definately consider buying it!
 
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Matt N

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I'm pretty sure that rearranging the order of cards on top of your deck does not help against attacks, since you just draw them after your turn ends.

The scout is not useless per se without new victory cards; it's a way to sacrifice a card in your current hand so your next hand will be better. I'm not currently sold on it however.

I feel that Intrigue adds a lot of interaction through the new attacks, so people who disliked that about the base set would perhaps prefer Intrigue.
 
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Travis Cooper
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Stunna wrote:
I'm pretty sure that rearranging the order of cards on top of your deck does not help against attacks, since you just draw them after your turn ends.

The scout is not useless per se without new victory cards; it's a way to sacrifice a card in your current hand so your next hand will be better. I'm not currently sold on it however.

I feel that Intrigue adds a lot of interaction through the new attacks, so people who disliked that about the base set would perhaps prefer Intrigue.


Yeah, the two cards mentioned in the review, scout and courtyard, would mean you drawing those cards before an attack could happen. However, the secret chamber does allow you to change what's on top of your deck at the time of an attack. So you really can put cards on top that will minimize the attack.
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Simon Johnston
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Stunna wrote:
The scout is not useless per se without new victory cards; it's a way to sacrifice a card in your current hand so your next hand will be better. I'm not currently sold on it however.

Scout is ok combined with any card that draws cards, as you can rearrange the order of your deck to draw the cards you want, and not waste your draw card drawing into useless VP cards.
 
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Travis Cooper
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Simon J wrote:
Stunna wrote:
The scout is not useless per se without new victory cards; it's a way to sacrifice a card in your current hand so your next hand will be better. I'm not currently sold on it however.

Scout is ok combined with any card that draws cards, as you can rearrange the order of your deck to draw the cards you want, and not waste your draw card drawing into useless VP cards.


Scout is also awesome if you have a lot of harems, or if you are going for a duchy/duke deck and need a way to cycle through all the dead cards. Those are my favorite two uses for it. Of course being able to play a +X card action afterward is cool too.
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Jeff Forbes

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Er, wow.

I'm honestly quite surprised that I wrongly thought of scout/courtyard as defenses to attacks. I don't play the game that way, I just forgot about the "draw cards at the end of your hand" for some reason when I was writing this.

Excuse that little foible.


Everything else stands, however.


I also didn't mean to imply Scout is normally useless, more that without the new combo-type cards, it would generally not be worth its cost. It hits maximum value when combined with Great Hall, Harem, and Nobles, and the secondary usage to get through cards in a duke/duchy or gardens deck isn't bad, though at a cost of 4, I'd probably prefer a bridge or Baron for those decks, if possible... but with so many cards, there's no guarantee that they will show up!



Of the cards, I think my favorites are Bridge and Courtyard - the latter can be better than Smithy on a pretty regular basis (ie using it as your last action, and picking up action cards or coin you don't need to use).
 
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Chris Linneman
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Scout can be good combined with Wishing Well. The only problem is Wishing Well sucks on its own so you need to have a few of each in your deck to maximize the chance of drawing them together.
 
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Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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I just wish they found a way to add more interaction, without adding nastiness.
 
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Dave Daley
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Surya wrote:
I just wish they found a way to add more interaction, without adding nastiness.

LOL.

The Tribute adds interaction without nastiness...
But really, isn't "nastiness" just another word for "interaction" in most games? You are out to WIN the game really, and by definition, putting your own interests in front of others is "nasty".

In Powergrid, I am not above buying all the damned coal if I can stop a "friend" from powering his plants for a turn. In Ticket to Ride I am not above taking Nashville "just in case". In Dominion:Intrigue, I am a BIG fan of the nasty "Torturer" - it's a Smithy on big evil steriods!

I do know what you are saying, and I do agree - this game is certainly more nasty than the last, but in my eyes at least, the interaction itself is conflict. You just can't ask for more interaction and expect it not to be a bit more nasty.
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Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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elkabong wrote:
Surya wrote:
I just wish they found a way to add more interaction, without adding nastiness.

LOL.

The Tribute adds interaction without nastiness...
But really, isn't "nastiness" just another word for "interaction" in most games? You are out to WIN the game really, and by definition, putting your own interests in front of others is "nasty".

In Powergrid, I am not above buying all the damned coal if I can stop a "friend" from powering his plants for a turn. In Ticket to Ride I am not above taking Nashville "just in case". In Dominion:Intrigue, I am a BIG fan of the nasty "Torturer" - it's a Smithy on big evil steriods!

I do know what you are saying, and I do agree - this game is certainly more nasty than the last, but in my eyes at least, the interaction itself is conflict. You just can't ask for more interaction and expect it not to be a bit more nasty.

Most of the interaction in Dominion comes from you playing cards that make other players gain curses, loose cards or replace cards. Interaction in Power Grid comes from cometition for space and resources. You never play cards to blow up power plants and you never steel their resources. That's nasty interaction, as opposed to competitive interaction, which is what I prefer. That's not to say that competitive interaction can't be nasty, but there's not screwage just to screw them, which is the feeling I get when I play Intrigue.
 
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Stephen Schaefer
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Cards are a limited resource and there are multiple achievable end-game triggers. In addition, if you see someone going for a particular strategy, e.g. Gardens, you can short them on cards or look for other ways to counter them in the cards on the table. Dominion has competitive interaction even in the base set and minus attack cards, it's just that there is still a lot of freedom of movement compared to games like Power Grid where resources are scant by design. Thence came the accusation of "multiplayer solitaire".

The thing about the attack cards, however, is that they affect all other players fairly equally (for certain, they at least target all other players). Attacking one player would be a screw job, but tactically, attacking all other players equally is really just a reverse way of giving yourself an advantage. In that regard, I don't think of even the "nasty" cards as being particularly "nasty" compared to gotcha-style games like Munchkin or Cutthroat Caverns. That's just me, though.
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Dave Daley
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Surya wrote:
You never play cards to blow up power plants and you never steel their resources. That's nasty interaction, as opposed to competitive interaction


My friend, if you have never purchased the last bits of coal, leaving your opponents without enough coal to fire their plants - you haven't truly lived!

In fact, a big part of Power Grid is controlling (raising) the price of goods. If you force someone to buy one extra power plant, or raise the cost of fuel repeatedly (damn you back-runners, sitting back buying fuel first), you help yourself, as well as hurting them.

I am not arguing the point - you don't like this sort of interaction. I guess I'm just ok with it Hopefully the Seaside expansion holds a bit more of what you like.
 
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Matt N

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No worries about the confusion over rearranging the top of your deck defensively; I made the exact same mistake a week ago, which is why I pointed it out.

On Interaction:
Well there's positive interaction, like that found in Settlers. You trade for mutual benefit, which hurts the other players indirectly. There's also untargeted negative interaction (attacks in Dominion) and targeted negative interaction (thief in Settlers).

I prefer untargeted negative interaction... but that doesn't mean you can't target it indirectly. If I get a thief, it's probably not to snatch your coppers (excluding Gardens strategies); it's to snatch silver/gold, and certain strategies (big money, chapel) mean that their deck is more vulnerable than other strategies (village + whatever).

On the Scout:
I really would like a chance to use the card well in some sort of action + cards chaining deck, or mass nobles/harem, etc. As it stands, it tended to be the card my opponents would swindle me into taking. Still, I can at least see the potential of the card.


What I really want to see out of this expansion are the subtle relationships (i.e. library as a counter to militia) that were present in the first game, but were often trumped by other strategies. I've only played about 4 times, so I'm trying to reserve my judgement.
 
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Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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elkabong wrote:
Surya wrote:
You never play cards to blow up power plants and you never steel their resources. That's nasty interaction, as opposed to competitive interaction


My friend, if you have never purchased the last bits of coal, leaving your opponents without enough coal to fire their plants - you haven't truly lived!

In fact, a big part of Power Grid is controlling (raising) the price of goods. If you force someone to buy one extra power plant, or raise the cost of fuel repeatedly (damn you back-runners, sitting back buying fuel first), you help yourself, as well as hurting them.

Hey, I know all about that, I have won a few games playing that way, but it still feels differently to me than playing a card that makes other players loose cards they had in hand. They payed for them. In Power grid nothing is yours until you pay for it, but if you do, no one can take it from you.

So yes, me no like the new nasty take that aspect of this new expansion.
 
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Steven Tan
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I think if you ever find yourself victory card heavy, Scout + Secret chamber is pretty sweet. Especially if you have some gold in your hand.
 
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