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Subject: Like anything popular, Dominion is hated more than it deserves rss

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Brian McCormick
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Dominion

A snoozefest.

A luckfest.

A shuffle-fest.

No strategy. No theme-to-gameplay connection. No player interaction.





Out of all the games in the Top 10 list (not that the Top 10 list means EVERYTHING...), Dominion gets the most hate, in my experience. It seems as though there aren't any fans of this game anymore. All of us BGGers have seen the above comments, yet I almost never see anyone take the side of poor ol' Dominion.

I want to take a look at Dominion. Not at the mechanics or the strategy of the game, necessarily. Y'all know that pretty well by now. I want to examine the popularity of the game, the "it" factor, and if it deserves to keep its spot in the Top 10.





Why all the hate?

I think Dominion's popularity and the hate generated toward the game both come from Dominion's driving mechanics. It's a simple game. If you look at the other Top 10 games, it is easily the "simplest" of them all. And of COURSE, "simple" is the opposite of "strategic". "Simple" means "luckfest", "casual", and "boring". "Strategic" means "intellectual", "deep", and "fun". Oh, how the stupid little labels we slap onto games can guide our loyalties...

And as much as we'd like to deny it, we geeks can be pretty snobbish when it comes to our preferred hobby. I've seen it a million times over in the video game industry over the past three decades: something new comes out, and the "hardcore" crowd sticks up their noses and calls it "simple". Can you believe that when the Nintendo Entertainment System came out - one of the most iconic game systems ever - it was mocked by "hardcore" video game players? It's true. The games and the technology were simple. It seemed like a step backward. Only kids would love that stupid toy, right?



Dominion is that "stupid toy" to many hardcore boardgamers.


Why all the love?

For what it's worth, Dominion gets a lot right:

thumbsupA new concept: I don't claim to have played every single board game out there, but in practical terms, Dominion introduced and popularized the deck-building genre. Other games may have done it, I'm willing to admit, but Dominion brought it out into the open.

thumbsupFast gameplay: This game is quick. I taught and played this game to a 9-year-old kid during a Superbowl party at my church in under 45 minutes. If all the participating players have at least one or two games under their belts, the time between turns is non-existent.

thumbsupEasily taught: As mentioned before, it's easy to teach this game. Not much else to say on this matter.

thumbsupPlenty of replayability: Say what you will, but the 24 different kingdom cards really DOES add a lot of replayability. This keeps the game fresh, even for experienced players.

thumbsupScales well: 2-player Dominion is veeeeery different than 4-player Dominion. New strategies develop. New defenses are needed. And although it still feels like Dominion, the game has a different feel depending on how many people are playing.

thumbsupSticks in your brain: This is hard to quantify, but let me explain: to me, a game is good when I think about strategies after I'm done playing. When I'm still thinking about it hours after the session ends, it's probably a great game. Dominion is such a game. I've played it since the middle of 2009, but I still think about card combos and unique strategies.





Why all the excuses?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. "I hate it" IS a valid opinion. Whatever happened to letting someone hate something just for the sake of hating it? Why do we have to quantify and qualify our hate for a board game? If we don't like it, we don't like it!

But again, we're geeks, so if we don't like something, we feel the need to come up with a 27-point Geeklist as to why NO ONE should like it. We try to validate our opinion with forum posts and blogs and rants.

Here are lots of the common complaints against Dominion.

thumbsdownIt's too lucky: One day, a bunch of boardgamers got together and decided they were fed up. Their fragile egos had been shattered too often by lucky dice rolls and unlucky card draws. So, "luck" became a byword. Any game with luck, it seems, is automatically inferior to one without luck. "Since when?" I ask. Luck is normal. If you can't handle losing due to luck, you have emotional problems. If you blame all of your losses on luck, you're a sore loser, too.

thumbsdownI hate shuffling: What'd you think you were signing up for? This is Dominion! It's like saying "I hate getting into character" while playing a PnP RPG. Would you deny Yahtzee its dice rolling? Would you deny Carcassonne its tile draws? You can hate the mechanic. That's fine. But don't try to act as though the game would be better without such an integral mechanic.

thumbsdownThe theme is pasted on: I love theme. Certain games such as Chaos in the Old World really shine extra-brightly due to theme/gameplay integration. But let's pick our battles. I admit that Dominion's theme isn't too important, but who cares? If there were a bunch of numbers and stats on a white background, you'd all be whining that there wasn't enough theme.

thumbsdownNo player interaction: Race to buy the Gardens. Or end the game early. Or use Militia. 'Nuff said.

thumbsdownIt's boring: This complaint is valid. No game is loved by everyone, but calling a game "boring" is about as helpful as calling the sky "blue". It's such a generic, opinionated term. To be fair, calling a game "fun" is just as generic, but it's simply a reflection of your personal opinion. Nothing more, and nothing less.


thumbsdownIt's "solved" after a little while: Dominion is not perfect. There are a lot of strategies, but - if available - a couple of strategies are "the best". So, is Dominion solved? Hmmm, I don't know. And I don't really care. What's the focus on "solving" a game, anyway? Maybe I'm not playing with mathematicians, but nobody in my gaming groups feels the need to solve games. We just want to play. Win, lose, draw...who cares? If you are the sort of person who likes to "solve" a game, I'd argue that very few games are going to meet your standards.




Why yet another review, dude?

A new Dominion expansion is coming out soon. I feel that because of Dominion's reputation, a lot of boardgamers - new and old - are going to ignore it.

If you have played Dominion for a while and you hate it, that's fine. But be enough of an adult to realize that your own preferences will not be the same as others'.

If you have played Dominion for a while and you're disenchanted with it, mix it up. Teach it to new people (this always reinvigorates my interest in the game). Try new card combos. Buy an expansion if you haven't already. Or try some house rules: I like to "draft". You take turns picking two sets of kingdom cards. Include one set of your choice in the game, and the other set is permanently removed from the choices. You'd be surprised by how cutthroat this setup phase of the game can become.

If you have not played Dominion a lot or if you've never played it, give it a chance. The Top 10 list isn't everything, but there ARE real reasons why those games are on the list. Give the game an honest shake. Don't try to turn it into something it's not. Enjoy it for what it is.


In the end, I fully support Dominion's spot on the Top 10 list. It's a great game, in my opinion. It's plays quickly, and it is very unique compared to other games on the market.
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Mikko Ämmälä
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Even if I have rated Dominion only (strong) '8' it deserves its top10 spot as it is clearly the best filler game out there. It serves for different purposes than your average '10' or '9' ranked game.

.mikko
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Darrell Hanning
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Just because I find it about as engaging as knitting, that doesn't mean I "hate" it. In fact, I don't think it's the case for most people on BGG who say some of things that seem to bother you. They just don't have much use for the game.
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Freelance Police
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I actually agree with the "solved" complaint, although other BGG games, such as Stone Age, are also "solved" yet are nonetheless popular and widely enjoyed.

But, like many Dominion players, after mastering the Big Money strategy, I look for ways to *beat* this strategy -- and I do.

One trillion games done. One trillion to go.
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Joshua Gardner
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Excellent review. I knew it was going to get a thumbsup from me after reading the title. I agree with the op across the board.

Like anything in the world, people point to the extremes as an excuse to be extreme themselves. I feel there is such an anti-Dominion bias that I have to fight against it. I've spoken with people who feel there is such a pro-Dominion movement on this site that they have to fight against it. Democracy and the two party system works the same way, all in the effort to drive out the vote.

Sam and Max wrote:
But, like many Dominion players, after mastering the Big Money strategy, I look for ways to *beat* this strategy -- and I do.


I feel this way too. Sure, we all know the "buy money" strategy is a damn good one. When the player is utilizing the strategy to prove the game is broken, there's nothing more satisfying than proving them wrong.
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Matt Sargent
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Dominion doesn't have very many posts saying how great it is, because every time I start to write one, I think about how great Dominion is, and then I go play it on BSW instead of writing the article.
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Rauli Kettunen
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Aurendrosl wrote:
Out of all the games in the Top 10 list (not that the Top 10 list means ANYTHING...),


Still valid statement, at least IMO.
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David Murray
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After the first 4 lines I started boiling with rage, luckily you brought yourself back.
I love Dominion and some people hate it, but that can be applied to anything, it's all opinion, everyones different. I'll probably buy Alchemy the day it is released from my FLGS or soon after.
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A. B. West
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Hated? Huh. If I look at any stats on this game, it is played like crazy, in the top 10 of BGG, won the Spiel award and has 11 pages of reviews - mostly positive. Negative reviews are nearly shouted down. Expansions are spilling out into the streets and show no sign of stopping in this decade (Don has like a billion cards ready to go in his magic spreadsheet). Hated? This game is absurdly loved. Ticket to Ride is hated more. Agricola is hated more. Puerto Rico is clearly hated more (and then not again - depends on the weather).

Dominion doesn't need anybody sticking up for it. It's like sticking up for an NBA player because he makes too much money. He doesn't need the extra love.
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Judit Szepessy
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Very good review! I liked how you summed up the positive aspects of the game.
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Chad Hensley
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Honestly this is one of the best reviews ever because it contains a picture of the original 8-bit Nintendo system!!! And count me in on buying the Alchemy Expansion. I haven't had enough money to buy any other expansion (I'm a poor youth pastor) but can hopefully afford this one since it should be a little cheaper.
 
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Corin A. Friesen
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Aurendrosl wrote:
Any game with luck, it seems, is automatically inferior to one without luck.

Yeah, Tic-Tac-Toe is waaayyy better than Dominion.
 
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Ed Bradley
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bullseyetm wrote:
I feel there is such an anti-Dominion bias that I have to fight against it. I've spoken with people who feel there is such a pro-Dominion movement on this site that they have to fight against it.


What a strange way to think.

Why waste your energy "fighting" against something so unfightable? What kind of twisted thinking makes "popular" become "biased"?

"A lot of people like Dominion but this must be fought! We must make other people dislike it in order to redress the balance!" Pure craziness.
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After my initial enthousiasm wore off, I found there was not that much to hate or love in Dominion. The deck building is clever, but the alleged diversity of the 25 different cards is thin at best. Before buying any extension, I sure need to try them.
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While I like Dominion, it seems like your responses to the complaints against it are a bit weak, so I'll respond to those. Good work on the upsides, no complaints there.

Aurendrosl wrote:
thumbsdownIt's too lucky: One day, a bunch of boardgamers got together and decided they were fed up. Their fragile egos had been shattered too often by lucky dice rolls and unlucky card draws. So, "luck" became a byword. Any game with luck, it seems, is automatically inferior to one without luck. "Since when?" I ask. Luck is normal. If you can't handle losing due to luck, you have emotional problems. If you blame all of your losses on luck, you're a sore loser, too.
Sometimes losses really are from luck. I think it'd be naive to say that luck never happens, and it makes sense that players don't want to be punished for something out of their control. That said, "luck" is often greatly overstated, and players often use it as a scapegoat for their losses instead of asking "what could I have done better?" I've been playing this game quite a while and still lose to better players, so the amount of luck seems fine.


Aurendrosl wrote:
thumbsdownI hate shuffling: What'd you think you were signing up for? This is Dominion! It's like saying "I hate getting into character" while playing a PnP RPG. Would you deny Yahtzee its dice rolling? Would you deny Carcassonne its tile draws? You can hate the mechanic. That's fine. But don't try to act as though the game would be better without such an integral mechanic.
I can't agree with this at all. It's a valid complaint. Just because you know about a flaw before you start doesn't excuse the flaw. There are other ways of doing it, as well.

Admittedly that would have led to issues with manufacturing costs, though. Still, it's a valid complaint.

Aurendrosl wrote:
thumbsdownThe theme is pasted on: I love theme. Certain games such as Chaos in the Old World really shine extra-brightly due to theme/gameplay integration. But let's pick our battles. I admit that Dominion's theme isn't too important, but who cares? If there were a bunch of numbers and stats on a white background, you'd all be whining that there wasn't enough theme.
I agree, flavour is overrated. While I appreciate it when it works, I'd rather have a good solid game to play than one whose theme fits well.

Aurendrosl wrote:
thumbsdownNo player interaction: Race to buy the Gardens. Or end the game early. Or use Militia. 'Nuff said.
While I agree that "no interaction" is an absurd hyperbole, the interaction is subtle. Some players like a more obvious and prominent level of player interaction, which seems fair enough.

Aurendrosl wrote:
thumbsdownIt's boring: This complaint is valid. No game is loved by everyone, but calling a game "boring" is about as helpful as calling the sky "blue". It's such a generic, opinionated term. To be fair, calling a game "fun" is just as generic, but it's simply a reflection of your personal opinion. Nothing more, and nothing less.
I'm surprised you even bothered to address such a vague and useless complaint.

Aurendrosl wrote:
thumbsdownIt's "solved" after a little while: Dominion is not perfect. There are a lot of strategies, but - if available - a couple of strategies are "the best". So, is Dominion solved? Hmmm, I don't know. And I don't really care. What's the focus on "solving" a game, anyway? Maybe I'm not playing with mathematicians, but nobody in my gaming groups feels the need to solve games. We just want to play. Win, lose, draw...who cares? If you are the sort of person who likes to "solve" a game, I'd argue that very few games are going to meet your standards.
Just because you don't care doesn't mean it's not a valid complaint. If a game is easily "solved," it lacks depth, which is important to many people, including me. When I play games, I play to win. Figuring out the nuances and the best strategies is a lot of fun to me. Your remark about very few games meeting my standards seems accurate, I suppose, but I think you're missing that a great game with a lot of depth will last a long time.

In any case, the varying opening board states do a lot for Dominion's depth, as do the expansions. I think that saying that the game is easily solved is false, though I do find the base set by itself a bit lacking when compared to the expansions.
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Mike Forrey
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I myself started playing the game with Intrigue as there were no base copies at my local shop to buy. After i went back played with the base set i culd definetly see where people had issues with the game. However, Intruge made this game so much better and is well worth a second look at the game. You may have come up with a great strategy using the base game but there's no easy win once you mix in intrigue and seaside.

This game is a great intro game as well which makes finding players for it very easy. Some people just don't like those have strategy board game but want something beyond your basic monoploy game. This game like Ticket to Ride is a great one to intro them to. It's also one of those few games you can get your Wife or GF to play even if they don;t normally play games.

Every game has some amount of luck involved. Some are just larger in that department than others. this game has a moderate amount but really it's about learnign the flow of the game. I guess people that hate games with luck don't play superb games like Arkham Horror either? Which is probably one of the best games ever created in the BG genre of games.
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