Image from Aldie
Background: Why I Didn't Like the First Dominion Very Much
A while back, I wrote a (mostly) negative review of the original Dominion: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/395147. Briefly, my wife and I didn't like three major aspects of Dominion:
1. The cards themselves don't do anything interesting -- even without choices, cards could do "interesting" things. In general, in the first Dominion, they don't.
2. Card-play in hand is trivial: the only interesting decisions tend to be in buys.
3. Interaction is of a rather stilted, limited kind: direct interaction is pretty much "Got a moat? No? This bad thing happens" and indirect is largely "oh, they're taking that pile" or "time to grab Duchies!"
A fourth problem, not articulated in that article, is that the card-buying choices seemed fairly obvious, after a few plays, at least if you're not planning on hitting the BSW-champ level play where you start thinking seriously about ratios, odds, timing niceties, and doing significant statistics in your head. Playing Dominion really, really, really, really well seems tedious; playing good enough to turn most games into luck-of-the-draw (who got the first unlikely gold? who took the last Province, once both decks were hitting them 70% of the time?) was pretty easy for seasoned gamers. There wasn't a nice curve of improvement with occasional play.
We kept the game, but never played it unless company was over (it's a great game for teaching quickly, and a bit better with 3-4 than with 2).
Along Comes Intrigue
We took a look at the new cards for Intrigue:
Image from cnidius
They looked a little better, but they still seemed mostly of the "+1 of X, +1 of Y, do this minor thing" variety. More complex, certainly, but would they change the unappealing flavor of the game? Eh.
It's not clear why we ended up buying Intrigue, really. But we did. And, here's the remarkable thing: we played it. Not just a couple of times to "give it a chance." But, we, confirmed Dominion-dissers, played it a good bit.
What Intrigue Does Better
It mixes things up. There is a similar mix in some ways: some card drawing, some money-enhancers, some offbeat stuff, 7 or so "attacks" or the like, one (in this case perhaps weak or at least tricky to use well) defense card... However, many offer a choice at the time they are played. There are three cards that mix victory points (1 or 2) with an action or with cold hard cash. It's suddenly no longer blindingly obvious what to buy with 6 coins, sometimes. With respect to the four big problems we had:
1. The cards do slightly more interesting things. This is subjective, but I think the proportion of simple "+1 X/+1 Y" cards is now low enough to make most sets have some "card action" interest.
2. There are now choices when you play your hand; these choices are not always automatic. Consider the Steward: do I want to trash these two Estates (YES, I DO)? Do I want that more than I want to push up to a gold buy early? Which card do I put back with Courtyard? This Gold, giving me a higher shot at a better card next turn, but forcing me to buy an unappealing 2-cost card this turn, or this Estate, letting me get that ok (but not critical to what I'm working on) 5-cost card now?
3. Interaction is still pretty stilted, but with more attack/switch-up cards (Masquerade/Swindler/Torturer perhaps especially) there seems to be more need to worry about what the other players are doing -- a thin Province/Gold heavy deck is not happy with Saboteur (but it's a weak card otherwise), if you're getting Tortured regularly you want to think about how to deal with it (and there's more than Moat to handle it now).
4. The strategic choices are more complex, without getting into precise ratio plans or heavy card-counting. In a given set, multiple interesting approaches exist. Two player games, thanks to the VP/action/treasure dual-nature cards, are much less likely to be simple races for the Provinces. Anecdotal: after I learned to, say, defend myself against the Witch, my wife and I tended to split games of the first Dominion 50/50, and almost never wanted to replay a given set of 10. Luck of draw and first-player advantage seemed to determine the winner. We now will often re-play a set two or three times without change. Out of 21 games, I've won 4 and tied 1. There is more to Dominion: Intrigue than there was to Dominion.
I understand the idea of keeping the initial release of the game simple, but I still wish the initial game had been more like Intrigue. I now view the original Dominion as an overpriced lackluster "expansion" to the "real game" -- we tend to play mixes with 6-8 Intrigue cards and 2-4 original cards, and sometimes play pure Intrigue.
I still think Dominion is over-rated. The improvement in card complexity doesn't raise it to the level of something that should take two spots in the top ten, in my mind. It's a game I burn out on quickly, playing a burst one night, then putting it aside for weeks. There are annoying cards in the new game (a 5-2 split with Trading Post out seems to make it too good, but otherwise it stinks, which seems overly luckish), etc. etc. That said, if you actively disliked, or simply weren't very excited by the New Insect Overlord of BGG, Dominion, you perhaps should give Dominion: Intrigue a try. It probably won't turn it into your favorite game, but it might make it something you can enjoy from time to time, and make the double-barrel appearance in the top 10 less infuriating.
A rather fun, quick-playing card game with high variety that scales pretty well from 2-4 with plenty of interesting decisions is always welcome in my house. This iteration makes the Dominion system a basis for that. I can't guarantee staying power (though if Seaside keeps the pace with this game, it might just be there for the long run!), but it's definitely not bad.
Advice: if you tried Dominion and didn't take to it, try Intrigue. If you own Dominion, and are really sick of it, try Intrigue. If you think you might not like Dominion, skip the boring first stab, and try the real game.
- Last edited Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:51 am (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:32 pm
My wife and I felt the same. Not enough interaction - cards seemed to be rather simple - we like it (although not enough to buy it). HOWEVER - I bought Dominion:Intrigue for my wife for her birthday - I am thinking she will love this one. More options, more interaction means more fun!!
Great review. I'd agree with most of your points about the first game, with minor qualms. 4 player games of basic Dominion play very differently with the thief versus no attacks, and I feel that version of the game has the most strategy out of the various player modes... There are plenty of games where it doesn't turn into a province rush (or garden rush), but these are much less likely with fewer players.
Intrigue has a much better interaction level, which I would define as the number of times that someone else's action causes you to deviate from your strategy if you only knew your deck, the number of players, and how much of each card was left. Probably the most symbolic card of Intrigue would be the Swindler; decent benefit, gives the user a choice, and makes other players try to avoid it. Beyond the learning curve (which took me a few games), Intrigue is far better.
Bernhard von Gunten
Great review. Full ack!
If anything, Dominion might be under-rated. It has more strategic deck-building options than Magic because they all take place in game and in reaction to what's available and what the foes are doing. All players have the ability to get the same cards.
As for the cards not doing anything exciting, they are just as exciting as most card games.