Those that know me are fairly certain that a significant part of my job description is now "play Dominion regularly". Of course, working at a game store, I've been able to create something of a unique buzz around the game. If I had information about the next expansion, for example, I could probably sell 7 or 8 pre-orders before the end of the year.
Anywho, one does not play Dominion as often as I do without getting bored with the standard randomization of kingdoms. Here are three techniques we've used recently, to varying degrees of success:
Quite simple, really. Divide the kingdoms into the following number of piles:
- 2 players: 10 piles
- 3 players: 6 piles
- 4 players: 4 piles
Each player will end up drafting one kingdom from each pile (because of this, uneven pile sizes are acceptable). In two players, this could be done with each player looking at five piles, one at a time, then passing each of the five piles to his opponent. With three players, we like to pass one set of three in a circle, then pass the other set of three in the other direction around the circle. With four players, all piles are being drafted at the same time.
This leaves each player with twice the number of kingdoms they'll be contributing to the board. Once each player has their stack, they pick the (5/3/2) that they're contributing and put them face-down in the middle of the table. For the 3- and 4-player games, the drafted but unused cards are then shuffled and the remaining necessary kingdoms are dealt at random from the stack (one card from nine in 3-player, two cards from eight in 4-player).
The lack of information that each player has when making their picks can cut down considerably on combo-picking. Furthermore, forcing a player to pick the best card from what can be a selection as small as 8 or 13 cards can lead to some interesting decisions.
Money Draft/Private Kingdoms
I described this one briefly in a comment once, but since then I've had a chance to fine-tune the format.
Start with a number of kingdoms equal to 5x the number of players plus 5 (2: 15, 3: 20, 4: 25). Each player is given 15 Copper. The first player announces one of the available kingdoms and an opening bid, in Copper, for that kingdom. Each other player, in turn, either raises the bid or passes. Once you pass, you cannot re-enter bidding. High bid gets to take that kingdom for his "private" area. He takes a number of Copper equal to his high bid from his pool of 15 and places them on other kingdoms, "incentivizing" them. The player to the left of the first player then starts a bid for another kingdom. When a kingdom with Copper on it is won, that Copper is added to that player's Copper pool.
Once a player has won five kingdoms, he can no longer bid. The last player must spend at least one Copper to bid unopposed on his final kingdoms to get to five. Each player then adds three Estates to his remaining Copper pool and shuffles to form his initial deck.
The five kingdoms in front of each player are "private"; that is, they can only be bought by the player that won them in the bidding. However, "gain" effects can reach into other players' private pools! The final five kingdoms that were not bid on stay in the middle of the table as publicly available kingdoms.
The game still ends when three supply piles, or the Provinces, are empty.
In this variant, certain cards can take on remarkable new power. Feast, Remodel, Workshop, and even things like Swindler can force a player to give up part of his private kingdom or have to adapt to playing with someone else's cards. Managing to win a bid for a victory card, particularly a hybrid, can mean a fast track to victory. However, beware of your starting deck composition; hoarding silver might lead to a rich yet thin deck to start the game, whereas starting with 6 or fewer Copper may slow you down even though you have a smaller deck size to begin.
Confirm/Deny, or Jury Duty
This is by far the most popular variant we've employed. I'd go so far as to say it's become the "standard" way to play in our group.
A dealer randomly places ten kingdoms face-up on the table. Starting with the first player, each player will get a chance to "confirm" or "deny" one of the visible kingdoms. After each player's choice, another kingdom is dealt from the top of the deck so there are always ten options. Each player gets the following number of choices:
- 2 players: 5 choices
- 3 players: 3 choices
- 4+ players: 2 choices
When a player "confirms" a kingdom, it will definitely be part of the game.
When a player "denies" a kingdom, it is removed (usually face-down, though all players are allowed to know what has been denied) from the board.
After each player has had an equal number of choices, the final ten cards are shuffled. The remaining spots needed to get to ten kingdoms are filled at random from this pile of ten.
While the number of choices made by the table are usually around ten, I've never seen all denials, nor have I seen all confirms. Usually the final number of confirms are in the 4-7 range, leaving 3-6 to be dealt randomly from the pool of ten. Again, there is a certain strategy in what you choose, and what you pass over: is the player to your left going to confirm a card that combos well with your pick? Is he going to deny a certain card if you don't confirm it this time around the board, or vice versa (he'll confirm if you don't deny)? Toward the end, is it worth denying a card you definitely don't want in order to maximize the number of "good" cards in the random pool?
I hope everyone else gets a chance to play around with these three kingdom selection variants. I look forward to hearing the thoughts of the BGG community.
These look cool, I look forward to trying them out!
Wow, actual variants!
I like jury duty, and I use a similar method when with my friends - except denial only, and only one round of choices (with 4+ players).