Mr. Cat. Hold on I think I know my next move, just give me another minute....NO!!!!!!!
I write this review after the already many reviews about Dominion have been written. I also own the expansions, and promo cards up to this date as well as played the 5 and 6 player variants easily totaling 100+ games. I also play Dominion with friends on BSW, so I have played the game from almost all angles. Almost a year after its initial release, the game is still high up the BGG list (6th as of this review). On this review I will be focusing solely on the initial Dominion set and not via BSW, but the physical tangible gameplay experience.
When I first saw a couple people playing Dominion, I thought I was going to hate the game. I shuddered at the thought of a fantasy card game, as I had immediately associated it with collectible card games and I was turned off from Dominion. I am not big on fantasy themes either so Dominion had a couple strikes against it, before I had even tried to play it. It was not until a year later a good friend of mine had tried to get my fiancée and myself to try out Dominion. After playing, I found it was the card game I wanted to play. Especially after seeing so many friends had blown so much cash collectible card games, treating them almost like scratch-off tickets
Overview: Dominion is a card drafting game, in which the cards in your hand decide what can be drawn, played, or bought. Everything in the game somehow boils down to some modification of what is called the ABC. From your hand of 5 cards there is 1 Action, 1 Buy, and 1 clean up. All cards that are bought and played somehow add to that chain either allowing more draws, more plays, or increasing or reducing the size of your or another players hand.
From most of the discussion against the Dominion, those who do not like the game state there are many different cards to use but there is not much for strategy, and variance of the goal. Which is partially true, the game does tend to favor certain action sets, and revolves around buying cards with victory points. To this argument I counter with the game of hockey, I have played for 10 years and I still love it, the literal goal of the game has not really changed, put the puck in the net and do it more times than my opponent. It has been that way and people still love it. And people have countered by stating the game and players change and new rules are made. True and when teams change their tactics so do I, do I play more defensively in my zone, do I buy attack cards or build my capability, do I go with a tight point high, do I risk drawing more cards for gold or risk losing some actions until I have to shuffle again. And as in hockey as I did in dominion some people I play more than others, they are in my dominion division as I call it. Now if people do not play for the above reasons I do not believe that is a strong argument versus the game. Now if they just do not like the game and are bored of it I can see that as a better argument rather than saying Dominion is too similar and there is only one way to win.
I have played the game with all numbers of players 2 through 6 (5 and 6 obviously being with Intrigue), but I can honestly say the game holds it own with any number of players. I think 2 and 3 player games are the optimal games, as I find attack cards get a bit more powerful as more players are in the game. This is great with the only deviation on the number of victory cards changes depending on the number of players in the game. Very Easy.
Gamebits: 500 cards. Dominion comes in a box that allows the cards to be separated by card type and a cardboard “spine” that allows for semi-easy locating of the cards. The game comes with a well set up rulebook to explain all the cards and how cards are handled.
Gameplay: As I already touched upon the game is pretty much all cards. There are treasure cards in amounts of 1,2, and 3 to purchase, Victory points(land) in point values of 1,3, or 6. And kingdom cards which either add more actions to your turn, allow more cards to be drawn, attack other players, allow more than one buy in the buy phase (if you have enough cash in hands) as well as gain more cash for that hand by playing cards, or cards that add to Victory points depending on the size of your deck you are building. There is also a method you can lose points or gain curse cards, but there is only one card in this starter set that makes use of the curse card.
The game flow is quick, sans for sometimes minor AP and sometimes very large combo chains. I think there has been one time I have almost exhausted my full deck in play where I could not draw anymore cards to put into play. It looked like 52 card pick-up in front of me when I was done. But I also believe that is part of the game's intrinsic beauty.
My highest praised aspect of the game is, no matter how bad you are losing, you still always feel in the mechanic of the game. You can still pull off good and satisfying moves up to your last turn. There are a few cards that attack and stymie another player on how they can use their cards, but even in last place you are still able to “play” the game and do all the same in game actions the winning player is doing. The game is very satisfying and allows for newer people to not be excluded as they are learning the game. Dominion does not create a rubber band AI type of system, but allows players that can get ahead to stay ahead without leaving others out of the game play mechanic. I think this aspect along with the multiple tactics a player can choose is the crux of what makes this game fun.
There is also a randomization option that allows you choose which 10 kingdom cards you will play the game with. Basically there is an extra copy of every card in the game to allow you to randomly choose your 10 kingdom cards. You can use this randomization method or just choose cards you and the other players want to use.
For new players you may have to coach them on action counting to keep track of actions left, and guide them through the pre-made “starter” game in the rulebook. The intro setup is still quite fun, and I find I go back to that kingdom card combination.
Pros, Cons, and Observations:
+ Dominion plays quickly and easily, I find it is amazing how many new people enjoy the game.
+ Dominion is very modular and allows for many tactical decisions and high replay value.
+ Keeps players involved until the end, even if they are on the losing side
+ Game plays well and similarly with any number of players.
+ Dominion is one of those games I find I keep coming back to, even if I seem tired of it.
- With so many cards the game looks intimidating at first, you may need to coax new players.
- Card art is a little shoddy, some images are good, but the majority are mediocre or sub-par.
0 Some kingdom card combinations can make the game slow and painful, but it is that way for all. But every once in a while those painful games are fun.
0 There seem to be only a few set strategies on how to win, but there are multiple methods to apply that small set of strategies. I think that is where the beauty in this game lies.
Personal Spin: Overall I love playing Dominion, even after as long as we have been playing I still find I will jump at the chance to play, though not for as many hands as when I first encountered Dominion. I find it is a game that is very inclusive, even with the attack cards. Also BretSpielWelt is Ok to get a quick fix in if you and friends cannot meet up, but there is something to be said about playing the game in person. Though I have grown accustomed to not having to shuffle with BSW.
DNA results:Scottish, Dutch, English, Irish, German, French, Iberian Peninsula = 100% American!
Though I have grown accustomed to not having to shuffle with BSW.
This was the one thing that bugged me about playing my one game. After thinking about your review, I am going to get into some more plays to give it more time.