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Subject: Failure of a Chapel build vs. Indomitable Wife, with Guest rss

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James Adrian
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I've never done one of these before, so, here goes! Enjoy!


Well, we had a friend over just this last weekend who seldom plays games of the "European variety." Too bad for her, my wife and I love board games! We had a captive audience and +1 player. How exciting! Dominion is the game of the month right now, what with it being purchased for me for Christmas by my dearly beloved, Joy.

Here’s something you need to know:
We’ve played a good number of games now; we’ve been able to try out all of the buildings and I’ve been testing out a number of strategies. Regardless, my wife beats me in Dominion. Pretty much every time. Not that it’s a great frustration, but I am perplexed as to how she does it.

So, we sat our friend, Ilsa, down and gave her the rundown of the "ABCs" of Dominion. It appeared to sink in rather well: we still had her attention. Joy and I took to choosing the Kingdom cards this time to save Ilsa from having to make guesses about the relative values and abilities of cards. We typically use a draft technique, trading back and forth for turns. Here’s how the buildings turned out:

Cellar (Joy)
Chapel (James)
Moat (Joy)
Feast (James)
Bureaucrat (Joy)
Market (James)
Festival (Joy)
Council Room (James)
Adventurer (Joy)

From the get go, my desperate plan was to attempt a Chapel strategy, something I devised on my own but was then encouraged through fellow geeks to attempt. The cards looked to support such a strategy this time around.
My characteristic, internal plotting aside, we gave Ilsa one more run over the rules, capitalizing on describing the game according to creative terms (that is to say, "you are building your dominion, and you are most interested in, what? Land, of course!" as opposed to, "you are building your deck; the player with the most points, wins").

Commence game.

I went first, snapping up a Chapel with anticipated glee, anxious to destroy the original garbage heap that was my little kingdom.
Both Joy and Ilsa collected Silver: both typical actions due to Joy’s general focus on money and points and Ilsa’s gravitation to a card with no text.

Next round, a Silver for my kingdom. Joy knabbed a Feast and a Bureaucrat was suggested to our newcomer, which she considered and eventually opted for of her own volition. It appeared her interest held, at least for the time being.

The first shuffle. On the draw: a Chapel, 3 Copper, 1 Estate. One mistake: I KEPT the Estate. It’s a free point, right? Someone should have kicked me...
Up came the Feast (which somehow generated a Festival) and the Bureaucrat, along with more silver and a Woodcutter, respectively.

From this point on, I made every effort to grow my stores of Silver while destroying any of the blighted copper left in the deck. Joy, after attaining her (favourite) Festival, dedicated her Feast to collecting Duchies as she also aimed at procuring Silver. Ilsa felt her way around, copying someone here, adapting to her deck there.

To my glee, I was able to pick up an early Gold card. The Chapel had done wonders so far, accelerating my deck so I could get at those Silvers and the previous Gold. This lead to more Gold as well as a few more buildings. I can’t say I purchased much for points at this point: I was aimed at creating a factory for purchasing Provinces, and the going was good. 1 Province down, 11 to go.

My wife continued to amass Silver. A Bureaucrat was added to her deck, as well as a Market or two. Joy continued to sneakily Feast upon Duchies every time she was able to.

After the first few rounds, Ilsa picked up the ways of the game with confidence, striking out for a Council Room, Moat, Cellar, and Feast. Unfortunately, Ilsa’s hand filled up with action cards; a first timer’s mistake which we failed to mention at the beginning of the game. Not to worry, however. She managed to snatch a few duchies and the second province despite all the white cards.

My deck was growing in glorious Gold! From here, I procured a couple Markets, a Council Room, Cellar, and Feast. A few Duchies made their way into my hands, though Provinces were more the fad.

Aye, suddenly the engine jumped to life: one of my hands consisted of 3 Gold, 1 Council Room, and a Province. With the Council Room, I drew another green card (due to a previous Bureaucrat) and coin up to a value of 14. With my two Buys, I happily took a Province and a Gold.

Suddenly the game ended. The duchies had been gone for a while, leaving Joy and Ilsa to collecting hoards of estates. I figured the Provinces would outweigh such things, so I kept to the expensive collections. I was, again, able to grab a Province, putting an end to anyone’s hopes in gathering up those coveted last 6 points.

The count. We sorted our decks and counted points in our heads. I always like to count my other buildings first, just to get an idea of what my kingdom’s been made up of all this time. The Chapel had been efficient: only one Copper remained. I had 9 Gold and a decent amount of Silver. Nothing more than what’s mentioned before about Kingdom cards.

At this point we revealed our score. Well, wouldn’t you know it? My genius plan had FAILED:

Joy - 50
James - 48
Ilsa - 41

Somehow, Joy had countered my Province collecting by amassing the majority of the estates in the final turns. The duchies made up the significant chunk, of course, but it was the ridiculous amount of Estates that had tipped the scales in her favour. +1 win for Joy!

Ilsa came through with a good score of 41. More importantly, she seemed to enjoy herself. The simplicity of the game was just right for someone not accustomed to such games, I think.

In the end, it was a great game. Lots of fun, and friendlily competitive. I know now that I’ve got to be more strict with myself and the Chapel. Get rid of those Estates! Get rid of Silver, too, perhaps. Something to mull over before next game.

Until then, cheers, and happy gaming!
Thanks for reading!
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Ingo Keiner
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I enjoyed reading this.
It sounded so well-known to me...
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Peter Van de Voorde
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I enjoyed reading this, but I was wondering did you trash a feast every time you used one? It seems from the text that you did not do that.
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Michael Link
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You mentioned that you failed to trash your initial estates even when you drew the Chapel and were aiming for a canonical chapel deck. You also stated that you aim to amass silver with a chapel deck.

Then you went on to mention that your wife plays what sounds like a modification of Big Money with a keen eye on when to switch to duchies. This is a generally winning strategy.

I would have bought feast for 4, with plan to ditch for market, market at 5, no more than 1-2 silvers, and mostly gold. You should have won that game handily. You gave your wife way to much time to buy so many duchies and estates, and helped both your opponents out by buying council rooms. Honestly, I'm not sure HOW you failed to win that game.

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Carc >> BSG
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sirjeyhmis wrote:


The first shuffle. On the draw: a Chapel, 3 Copper, 1 Estate. One mistake: I KEPT the Estate. It’s a free point, right? Someone should have kicked me...


With Cellar available I wouldn't have trashed Estates, either. I've won enough games by 1 point that I always think twice before trashing Estates.
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Ted Vessenes
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How many times will you shuffle your deck during the game when you've used Chapel to thin it? I'd suspect between 7 and 12, depending on what other card throughput options you have. Lets estimate 10 shuffles. That Estate would have been in your hand during a reshuffle maybe two or three times. That means that on average, the Estate will get reshuffled into your deck for you to draw it seven times.

Phrased alternatively, trashing that Estate would cost you one point but cause you to draw 7 useful cards throughput the game. That's similar (but not equivalent) to an action reading:

+1 Action
Trash this card. Draw 7 cards.
+1 VP at end of game

And you're saying that if this card were you in your deck and Cellar was on the board, you wouldn't play the card? Because +1 VP is better than drawing 7 cards? I just can't see why that's the right choice.
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James Adrian
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BelgianBoardGamer wrote:
I enjoyed reading this, but I was wondering did you trash a feast every time you used one? It seems from the text that you did not do that.


I was in a quandary about trashing the Feast each time you use it, so I checked it with the rules. My understanding is that the trashing action is optional. Is my interpretation wrong?

From the rulebook:
"Gaining the card isn't contingent on trashing Feast; they're just two things that the card tries to make you do."
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Rob Neuhaus
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tedv wrote:
Phrased alternatively, trashing that Estate would cost you one point but cause you to draw 7 useful cards throughput the game. That's similar (but not equivalent) to an action reading:

+1 Action
Trash this card. Draw 7 cards.
+1 VP at end of game

And you're saying that if this card were you in your deck and Cellar was on the board, you wouldn't play the card? Because +1 VP is better than drawing 7 cards? I just can't see why that's the right choice.


Your analogy is flawed, 7 cards on one turn tends to be a lot better than 7 cards across 7 turns (which is why a lab is more expensive than a caravan), but I still agree with the logic that you should trash the estate. "I only one by 1 point and kept my estate" is a terrible reason to keep the estate, for if you'd gotten rid of it, you'd likely have won by more.
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Michael Link
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sirjeyhmis wrote:
BelgianBoardGamer wrote:
I enjoyed reading this, but I was wondering did you trash a feast every time you used one? It seems from the text that you did not do that.


I was in a quandary about trashing the Feast each time you use it, so I checked it with the rules. My understanding is that the trashing action is optional. Is my interpretation wrong?

From the rulebook:
"Gaining the card isn't contingent on trashing Feast; they're just two things that the card tries to make you do."


Yes! You must trash the feast. The reason the rulebook discusses the contingency about trashing and gaining is due to the throne room. You must always do as much as you possibly can on an action card. For example, if your hand is Festival-Throne Room-Remodel-Province-Province, and you play the festival followed by Throne-Remodel, you must trash and remodel both provinces. If there's only one left, you're stuck downgrading to Duchy!!
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Rob Neuhaus
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sirjeyhmis wrote:
I was in a quandary about trashing the Feast each time you use it, so I checked it with the rules. My understanding is that the trashing action is optional. Is my interpretation wrong?

From the rulebook:
"Gaining the card isn't contingent on trashing Feast; they're just two things that the card tries to make you do."


This language just lets you throne room a feast to gain 2 5 cost cards while trashing a single feast. It does not excuse you from trashing the feast if you play it. You must do everything that a card says, unless you cannot because of other restrictions, if your discard pile is empty and you have only 1 card to draw and you play a smithy, you draw only one card.
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Jeff Wolfe
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sirjeyhmis wrote:
BelgianBoardGamer wrote:
I enjoyed reading this, but I was wondering did you trash a feast every time you used one? It seems from the text that you did not do that.


I was in a quandary about trashing the Feast each time you use it, so I checked it with the rules. My understanding is that the trashing action is optional. Is my interpretation wrong?

From the rulebook:
"Gaining the card isn't contingent on trashing Feast; they're just two things that the card tries to make you do."


Yes, your interpretation is wrong. The general rule is:
Quote:
The player may still play an Action card even if he is not able to do everything the Action card tells him to do; but the player must do as much as he can.

(emphasis added)

The sentence you quoted only applies when you are unable to trash Feast, such as when you play it with Throne Room. The previous sentence is significant:
Quote:
If you use Throne Room on Feast, you will gain two cards, even though you can only trash Feast once. Gaining the card isn't contingent on trashing Feast; they're just two things thatthe card tries to make you do.

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Ted Vessenes
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rrenaud wrote:
Your analogy is flawed, 7 cards on one turn tends to be a lot better than 7 cards across 7 turns (which is why a lab is more expensive than a caravan), but I still agree with the logic that you should trash the estate. "I only one by 1 point and kept my estate" is a terrible reason to keep the estate, for if you'd gotten rid of it, you'd likely have won by more.


That's why I stated it was "similar but not equivalent to", because it draws 7 cards over 7 turns. Perhaps a better example would be a caravan that lasts for 7 cards and then trashes itself. I was just looking for a rough example for comparison.

7 cards on one turn is usually better than 7 cards over 7 turns but not always. You are pretty much guaranteed to have $8 if you draw 7 extra cards, but what happens if Gold is better than provinces? All that extra buying power is wasted unless you have extra buys. Meanwhile if you will average $6 over the next 7 turns and each extra card is worth $1.5, then those 7 extra cards will help you buy 4 or 5 extra provinces. So that could be better.

I suppose this is a rather petty thing to discuss though. It's the broad strokes that matter. Trashing the Estate early gives you roughly seven additional useful draws later in the game. That's always worthwhile.
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tedv wrote:
How many times will you shuffle your deck during the game when you've used Chapel to thin it? I'd suspect between 7 and 12, depending on what other card throughput options you have. Lets estimate 10 shuffles. That Estate would have been in your hand during a reshuffle maybe two or three times. That means that on average, the Estate will get reshuffled into your deck for you to draw it seven times.

Phrased alternatively, trashing that Estate would cost you one point but cause you to draw 7 useful cards throughput the game. That's similar (but not equivalent) to an action reading:

+1 Action
Trash this card. Draw 7 cards.
+1 VP at end of game

And you're saying that if this card were you in your deck and Cellar was on the board, you wouldn't play the card? Because +1 VP is better than drawing 7 cards? I just can't see why that's the right choice.


Wow... I've been winning wrong all this time...
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ejcarter wrote:
tedv wrote:
And you're saying that if this card were you in your deck and Cellar was on the board, you wouldn't play the card? Because +1 VP is better than drawing 7 cards? I just can't see why that's the right choice.


Wow... I've been winning wrong all this time...


Just because you are winning doesn't mean you're playing optimally. I've personally played around 700 games of Dominion, and I can't remember a single game I played perfectly. Only two purchase mistakes is a pretty good game for me.

Winning the game generally just means you made fewer mistakes than your opponents. If you made two purchase mistakes and they made five, then you're going to win. If you use Chapel to remove all seven copper from your deck, you are in a better position than someone who didn't. 7 cards of deck thinning beats 0 cards of deck thinning. But know what's better than 7? 10.

My point is just that I think you could be winning by even more. At least that's what the estimations on thinning one estate imply.
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Andrew Hardin
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One of the great myths of the Chapel deck is that it is an instant 'I win!' button.

My direct experience with the Chapel has been that it will win, and it can win big, but it has to be played to the hilt. Otherwise the Chapel deck is actually too slow. I want to have 0 Copper, at least 2 Gold and no Estates by the eighth or ninth turn at worst.

Big Money is a stronger strategy than a lot of people would like. The Chapel strategy IS faster, but not by as much as you might think. And the loss of those 3 Estates to make it work means you better go all out or you will get beaten.

And if you don't deal with the problem of a clogged deck it will get you killed in 3 player. In 2 player 4 Provinces+2 Duchies is typically enough to win or tie, and the same is typically true in 4 player. But in 3 player you better be ready to find some VP's hiding in the other piles or you better get a 5th Province.

Sounds like a great session though. Thanks for the report.

- Lex
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I think this is a purchasing problem. Most players defacto jump on the victory point stack as soon as someone else does, and that's not always correct.

For example, at a certain point in the game, one player might have a 20 card deck while another player only has 10 cards. It may be correct for the first player to buy provinces but not the second. The thinner deck suffers twice as much from polluting the deck with victory points, so more infrastructure might be warranted for another turn or two.

I distinctly remember one game where the winning play was when I had $12 and three buys on turn 8 and decided to buy three conspirators. I bought five provinces over the next three turns, and would have mustered at best one province a turn had I bought Province + Conspirator.

The easiest way for a Chapel deck to fail is to underestimate the harm from buying early point cards. Buy more infrastructure in the mid game and expect to make it up in the late game through deck consistency.
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