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Subject: Seaside first impressions: My wife the smuggler... rss

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Jeff Hannes
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This is part session report, part review, but mostly the latter. I'll skip all the rules summary and get right to my opinions and first impressions.

COMPONENTS
* The coins may not be necessary (this wouldn't have been the first game I owned that suggested the use of pennies or something similar), but IMHO they are frickin' sweet. I own a ton of games, and off-hand I can't think of a single one with coins as nice as the Seaside ones. The stamped metal is weighty and tactile, and as I've seen others put it, really gives the feel of pirate treasure. And as has also been pointed out, you can use them for functions other than the cards they pair up with, like tracking extra actions and coins. But most of all, they're just cool to own. I could see complaints if they were just plastic or cardboard punchout coins, but the Seaside coins are unique among my massive collection of game components and I like that. So don't diss the coins until you've actually held them in your hands. If you have and still think they're a waste... well, everyone's entitled to their opinion.

* I think the artwork and graphic design are the best yet among the Dominion sets. The color palette in this set is particularly strong and vibrant, and the orange cards just look nice on the table. The artwork is very evocative of the Seaside theme -- I could hear pirate shanty music in my head as I played -- and I particularly like the three-piece artwork split among the Island, Pirate Ship and Native Village, which is also used for the player mats.

* Speaking of the mats, personally I like them. They are quite sturdy and the perfect size for tracking the stuff that's supposed to go on them. Sure, you don't NEED a Pirate Ship mat, but it's helpful to avoid any confusion with wayward coins which are part of the supply. And using a mat for the Native Village was extremely helpful, as I could easily see confusing that pile with your deck, hand or discard pile without the mat. I also really like that they included six copies of each mat. While not necessary, it's a thoughtful addition which I very much appreciate, since my game group is usually 5-6 players.

* My one component gripe, which I quickly got over, is that when I filled all the card slots in the tray (including the base-game essentials which I borrowed from my Intrigue set), there was no room to put the player mats. Mildly annoying, until I realized I could squeeze all the coins and VP cards I needed into the Copper and Silver slots, leaving a corner of the box open for the mats. The game won't live in its box too long anyway (I keep all my cards in a binder for easy access and swapping between games), but for now it's fine.


GAMEPLAY
As a long-time player of Magic and many, many other card games, I was immediately won over by the original Dominion from my first play. I'm pleased to say Seaside gave me that same glowing first impression. I love the way the Duration cards impact the game, particularly in the strategic decisions as to whether or not they're worth buying versus other available kingdom cards, especially when you have to rethink common notions you might have after many plays of regular Dominion.

Like with the Merchant Ship... "Spending 5 for +2 coins and nothing else seems like alot, but then it IS for two turns in a row..." The spread effect over multiple turns is so different from any previous Dominion cards that in some ways you really are re-learning and re-analyzing the game. You can't just play the game using the same old conventions and thought processes of the original game. You have to develop new strategies and new ways of analyzing interactions, which is the best praise I can give any expansion.


THE WIFE TEST
The most important question for some... how does Seaside do on the wife test? Apparently quite well, and this is where a bit of my session report comes in.

Perhaps feeling some pity for me, my wife -- knowing how much I'd been anticipating the arrival of Seaside -- agreed to play a game with me so I wouldn't have to wait until my regular game night. I'd convinced her to play Dominion once before not long after the original came out, but hadn't played it with her since then. WAY back when, we used to play Magic, though it's been a long time since I've been able to really interest her in any games other than abstract strategy ones like Ingenious and Quarto.

Anyhoo, I more or less had to re-teach her the rules to Dominion, but I figured since she already had a good grasp of deck-building from her Magic days, using just Seaside cards wouldn't overwhelm her. I went with the prescribed "High Seas" set, although I replaced Embargo with the Native Village. I think Embargo is an awesome card, possibly the most innovative in the set, but anything that adds curses or limits choices (let alone does both) just seems a bad idea in a first game, especially when you don't want to be antagonistic.

My wife picked up on the strategy quickly (from our first play she'd remembered me explaining the importance of not only buying action cards, but also buying early silver), and on her first pass through the deck she found her favorite card... The 4-cost Smugglers. (That's the one where you gain a card costing up to 6 that the person before you bought/gained on his or her turn.) She reasoned that I probably knew what I was doing, so taking what I took couldn't hurt, and as it turned out, it pretty much won her the game. One turn she gained two Gold (one from the Smuggler, one from her buy), but where it was most effective was the victory point cards.

We were back and forth on the Province race, but she was always ahead of me by one. So towards the endgame I started buying Duchies to close the gap -- except every time I bought a Duchy she followed up with a Smuggler. There were a couple turns at the end where I had enough to buy the last Province but didn't, because I knew she would still be 2 VP up on me. And yet every time I went for a Duchy, there came the Smuggler. After I finally bought the last Duchy and triumphantly declared she couldn't Smuggle one herself... she bought the last Province. Suffice it to say, she crushed me.

Now, I'm not complaining that I lost. Far from it. One of the reasons my wife doesn't play games with me often is because I'm usually a quicker study and therefore usually win. I knew she'd have a good chance of beating me when we played Seaside because I'd be drawn to the allure of the new action cards instead of taking a proper amount of silver (not that I threw the game... I did play to win, but I also enjoy experimenting). In any case, she earned the victory and felt quite good about it... although perhaps with dubious results. She said she had fun, but it'd probably be awhile before we play again because she wanted the victory to last. Heh. C'est la vie.

But at least I got to play Seaside the day it arrived, and play competitively at that.


FINAL THOUGHTS
Overall Seaside is everything I'd hoped it would be. New, innovative mechanics and cards, high-quality components (honestly much higher-quality than I'd expected or hoped for) make for an excellent expansion for an already excellent game. Whether you pay full retail or a discount from an online dealer, if you felt the price of the original Dominion was worth it, then the price of Seaside is worth it too. You'll get every bit as much play out of this set, even more once you start combining it with the two (or three if you include Intrigue).

There's a reason Dominion is as popular as it is, and Seaside will do nothing to diminish that. If you enjoy Dominion and have the budget, Seaside should absolutely be on your list.
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Craig Somerton
Australia
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Great review. Now I'm jealous. I had pre-ordered for Oct delivery, only to now find it won't be coming to Nov.cry
 
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Jonathan Warren
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Nice review... glad I have it preordered now.
 
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Matt Hudgins
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xanalor wrote:

Now, I'm not complaining that I lost. Far from it. One of the reasons my wife doesn't play games with me often is because I'm usually a quicker study and therefore usually win.
I can't believe you don't let her win, at least the first few times. I always try my hardest to lose. Sometimes when the opponent is playing miserably it actually becomes very difficult to lose, so I have to actually hide some of the gold I have when I'm discarding so they don't realize I could of bought a province instead of that silver ^.^

I guess I desperately want people I show the game to like it, and I know how some people don't like games they lose at, so I do everything they can to have an enjoyable first time, so they actually want to play again.

But anyway, awesome review. The pirate coins sounds exciting!
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Freelance Police
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Late comments, but:

* Smuggler is a 3-cost card, so is an alternate to Silver.

* Smugger's easy to defend against. OP played a Big Money strategy, which Smuggler takes advantage of.
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/584874/smugglers-most-annoyi...

Otherwise, thanks for the review!
 
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Mark Judd
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Sam and Max wrote:
Late comments, but:

* Smuggler is a 3-cost card, so is an alternate to Silver.

* Smugger's easy to defend against. OP played a Big Money strategy, which Smuggler takes advantage of.
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/584874/smugglers-most-annoyi...

Otherwise, thanks for the review!
My favorite defense for Smuggler is to get to the $7+ range quickly (especially with Prosperity) and buy the higher cost cards, thus making their Smugglers useless (barring any Bridge/Highway antics).

Frequently when City/Smugglers appear on the same board, my opponent has gone for the Smugglers to try and rush the Cities even faster. In that case, I make an even bigger point of avoiding the Cities so they don't end up with 2 Cities every turn (one bought, one smuggled) to my one.
 
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Dennison Milenkaya
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So their one City for every zero Cities you have is a more favorable ratio for you than their two Cities for each one of yours?

Man, I suck at math!
 
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Mark Judd
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FlatOnHisFace wrote:
So their one City for every zero Cities you have is a more favorable ratio for you than their two Cities for each one of yours?

Man, I suck at math!
They spend 10 turns buying 10 Cities while I spend those 10 turns buying something else, getting to Provinces before they do and beating them. Done it many times.
 
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Perhaps but while you are buying something else, they are picking up that something else for a single card, using the Smugglers that they woefully cannot play on to pick up a City. And unless that something else is 20 other Action cards, they wouldn't spend 10 turns getting more Cities than they possibly need. Your avoidance of buying Cities because they have Smugglers doesn't stop them from using their Smugglers.

If, however, you do play with people that spend so much time to pick up an entire stack of cards they don't need (only slightly more advantageous with Cities than with Villages) then I don't doubt that you've won many times that way. You could've probably also beat them by playing blind-folded.
 
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