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Dominion: Alchemy» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Alchemy: the Bane of 2-player Dominion rss

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Jeff P
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I am writing this review after logging just over 50 Dominion with Alchemy games, all 2-player. All of these games are random draws from all sets (plus promos).

This review is meant only for how Alchemy effects the 2-player game. I have not logged any 3 or 4 player games yet, but I suspect that it works much better.

The Good

It's an expansion for Dominion! It can't be that bad, and sure enough it ain't. There are no major new mechanisms added. Potion integrate themselves easily into the game. And it just adds more cards adding new combos and even more re-playability to an already extraordinary re-playable game.

Plus, did I mention it is Dominion.

The Bad

There are two cards that stand-out as disruptive cards. The Philosopher's Stone (count all cards in discard and draw) slows the game down too much as players have to count their decks.

Possession operates much differently than any other card in Dominion. It allows a player to gain control of the next players turn but the controlling player gains all the cards. It is possible to have a 12 point swing come from Possession (if the controlled player had enough for a Province, then the controlled player gets it). I'm not ready to write this card off completely. But is a very different animal and will not be liked by all players.

The Ugly

Alchemy doesn't scale as well to two players any of the other sets. There are too many cards that allow players to draw multiple cards and take other actions. In a two player game each player can easily have up to 5 of these cards in a relatively small deck. This often means that players are completely (or nearly completely) going through their deck on every turn. It slows the game down too much.

Overall

Alchemy is by no means a bad expansion. Nor does it make Dominion a bad game, even for two players. However, it does greatly effect the scalability.

In our games we have found that limiting ourselves to only 1-potion requiring card greatly improves the game play. This is contrary to the rules suggestion of having at least three.

I believe that alchemy would be much better with a larger group. But as I have not tried it, I cannot speak to it.

If you are mostly playing Dominion in twos, Alchemy should be the last set on your list.


Edit 1: Bad math

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Branko K.
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So Alchemy is bad for 2ers, because it slows down the game too much..

I don't get it. How is this a scalability issue? Are longer turns preferable with 3ers and 4ers?
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Jeff P
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In a 3 or 4 player game the cards will be more spread out across the players. So it is less likely that players will be able to string together the actions in the relevant way.

Edit (clarification): In a 4 player game it would be *much* harder for one player to get 5 or 6 scrying pools or apothecaries... where it is common in a 2 player game.
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Branko K.
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Wildcatfight wrote:
In a 3 or 4 player game the cards will be more spread out across the players. So it is less likely that players will be able to string together the actions in the relevant way.


Umm.. sorry to be a hard-head, but I still don't get it.

How will the cards be more spread out, when the number of players does not affect the distribution of cards between players' decks? You can build an identical deck in 2er and in 4er, and it will play exactly the same; unless everyone is hellbent on having more then 5 copies of the very same kingdom card(s), which might be an issue you are having. And in THIS case, I think the players might be focusing TOO much on Alchemy cards - by the time someone has the opportunity to put that many Action cards in his deck, I am definitely pushing for the end-game and clogging my deck with VPs.
 
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David desJardins
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baba44713 wrote:
You can build an identical deck in 2er and in 4er, and it will play exactly the same; unless everyone is hellbent on having more then 5 copies of the very same kingdom card(s)


No, you can't. There aren't 20 Alchemists in the game. Even if everyone just wants 3 Alchemists, there aren't enough.
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Branko K.
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I guess we are still buying action cards in too modes quantities, then.

But in any case, turns are longer in 3ers and 4ers, too, I will think twice before including Throne Rooms, Golems and Nobles in the same game again...
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Yaron Racah
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DaviddesJ wrote:
baba44713 wrote:
You can build an identical deck in 2er and in 4er, and it will play exactly the same; unless everyone is hellbent on having more then 5 copies of the very same kingdom card(s)


No, you can't. There aren't 20 Alchemists in the game. Even if everyone just wants 3 Alchemists, there aren't enough.


Looks like the OP has his solution, then. In a 2 player game, just play with 5 of each (non-victory) kingdom card.
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Matt
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yaron wrote:

Looks like the OP has his solution, then. In a 2 player game, just play with 5 of each (non-victory) kingdom card.


It's the Alchemy cards that are taking the heat, so I'd even try only 5 of each Alchemy action card and a full 10 of everything else. It seems like he had no problem with these kinds of chaining issues before Alchemy was introduced. And limiting every kingdom card to 5 would make it very much easier to force a quick end by depleting piles.
 
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Drew Spencer
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Wildcatfight wrote:
It is possible to have a 16 point swing come from Possession (if the controlled player had enough for a Province, then the controlled player gets it).


How is this a 16 point swing? If you count the Province as one "lost" by the possessed player (which isn't accurate anyway), then it would be a 12 point swing, wouldn't it?
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Christopher Mayer
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Can't say I've played nearly as many games yet with the Alchemy cards, but pretty much all of my games are 2-player with my fiancee, and we both have the exact opposite reaction.

The games we've played with Alchemy cards have been awesome. Possession is an evil evil card and I had a LOT of fun losing to it. Familiar in multiples is an evil evil card, and we both had a lot of fun throwing curses at each other.

Yes, the game is completely different with 2 players than 3 or 4. But the cards in Alchemy are really no different in this regard than the majority of the cards from the other sets. My fiancee HATES Tribute when playing 2-players, for example.

I think you may have more of an issue with the expansion itself than how it works for two players, but you are very entitled to your opinion. This expansion certainly isn't for everyone, but my fiancee and I love it.
 
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Jeff P
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banyan wrote:


How is this a 16 point swing? If you count the Province as one "lost" by the possessed player (which isn't accurate anyway), then it would be a 12 point swing, wouldn't it?


Yep. That was just a brain fart... it should be 12. I wrote down the cost not the value.

I do think that the "lost" Province counts though.
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Jeff P
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yaron wrote:

Looks like the OP has his solution, then. In a 2 player game, just play with 5 of each (non-victory) kingdom card.


I don't think that solution is ideal. That messes with the core rules of the game which is something I typically like to avoid (that is a discussion for another place though). I prefer to just limit the kingdom cards to 1 alchemy set. It is normally the combination of scrying pool, apothecary and alchemist that allow players to chew through their deck. If you only have one in the game, then most of the time players will have at most 5 of those cards in their deck and they typically end up being distributed in a non-disruptive way. It also makes the decision to buy potion that much more difficult. When there are several alchemy cards a potion is a no-brainer.

As for the suggestion from other posters that players just be self-limiting in their purchase of these cards. I disagree. As boring as this strategy is, it does work. The self-limiting player would lose every time.
 
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Myke Madsen
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While I don't disagree with the point, I don't think it's a new problem that Alchemy introduced. There are certain cards/sets from the base game as well as Intrigue that feel a little over-powered in the 2-player game when compared to how they are with 3 or more, simply because you'll have no problem getting enough of them. Minion is the first one that comes to mind, but there are many others.


I'd recommend cutting the kingdom piles down to 8 of each for 2-player games and see if that helps. It's a small tweak but it may be enough. If you try it I'd be curious to hear how it goes. (I usually only play 2-player games on BSW; F2F we usually have 4-6)
 
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Jeff P
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HappyProle wrote:
While I don't disagree with the point, I don't think it's a new problem that Alchemy introduced. There are certain cards/sets from the base game as well as Intrigue that feel a little over-powered in the 2-player game when compared to how they are with 3 or more, simply because you'll have no problem getting enough of them. Minion is the first one that comes to mind, but there are many others.


I'd recommend cutting the kingdom piles down to 8 of each for 2-player games and see if that helps. It's a small tweak but it may be enough. If you try it I'd be curious to hear how it goes. (I usually only play 2-player games on BSW; F2F we usually have 4-6)


Thanks for you comments. I agree that Intrigue also had a lot of cards that aren't as well balanced in the 2-player game. I think there are more of them in Alchemy and certainly more proportionally because Alchemy is a smaller set.

 
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James Sitz
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If it made 2-player Dominion so tedious, why did you log 50 plays?
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Jeff P
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Jexik wrote:
If it made 2-player Dominion so tedious, why did you log 50 plays?


A few reasons

1) As I noted at the start of the review, we played with a completely random deck each time using all the sets and promos. Not all of the games had any alchemy cards in them. It was just a count of Dominion games since adding Alchemy. The ones that did often only had 1 or 2 and weren't that bad. Overall, there were only 4-5 games that were very tedious.

2) My GF *REALLY* likes Dominion. I can get her to play just about any time. She asks to play. This is novel and I will milk it for all it is worth.

3) I don't dislike Alchemy. I think using too many alchemy cards should be avoided in 2-player games. But one or two adds a little more depth to the game.

4) I also really like Dominion. Even Alchemy isn't going to ruin that. And I really like playing games and most of my group is now out of town (and see reason 2).

My review was meant for people who primary play Dominion with 2 players who don't have all the expansions. I think those people should wait on Alchemy until they get the rest of the expansions (which I do think are better).

I don't think Alchemy is a bad expansion at all. Especially when used frugally. But you really don't have to worry about being frugal with Intrigue or Seaside.
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Drew Spencer
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Wildcatfight wrote:
I do think that the "lost" Province counts though.


It's lost in the sense that they would have gotten it before, but they still get a turn in which they get to buy something, so you have to subtract the province and add whatever they actually bought in order to get the actual loss. Sometimes they'll be able to buy a Province on their regular turn too, which means no loss to them at all. Other times they may be able to buy a Province plus another card or even two Provinces, which would be a gain for them.

In fact, if you're counting turns in which they would have gotten a Province but no longer do as a loss of 6 points to them, you would have to count turns in which they would not have gotten a Province but now do as a 6 point gain. Since it's the same number of cards and the same deck, that should happen just as often.*

* this isn't taking into account the effects of cards that let you manipulate your next turn, including durations and cards like Spy. With Possession in play, players should minimize their use of such cards.
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Jeff P
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banyan wrote:
Wildcatfight wrote:
I do think that the "lost" Province counts though.


It's lost in the sense that they would have gotten it before, but they still get a turn in which they get to buy something, so you have to subtract the province and add whatever they actually bought in order to get the actual loss. Sometimes they'll be able to buy a Province on their regular turn too, which means no loss to them at all. Other times they may be able to buy a Province plus another card or even two Provinces, which would be a gain for them.

In fact, if you're counting turns in which they would have gotten a Province but no longer do as a loss of 6 points to them, you would have to count turns in which they would not have gotten a Province but now do as a 6 point gain. Since it's the same number of cards and the same deck, that should happen just as often.*

* this isn't taking into account the effects of cards that let you manipulate your next turn, including durations and cards like Spy. With Possession in play, players should minimize their use of such cards.


I think a possession does more (potential) damage to a hand than any other card. Other attack cards that make you discard cards have a limit (can't make you drop below 3) or give you a choice (pick up a curse instead). So you always have some cards in your hand. Let's imagine you drew this hand: 3 gold, 1 copper, 1 random action/victory card. No attack could prevent you from buying a province. A possession not only prevents you but gives that province to your opponent.

That's a huge shift!

You can disagree with me, but I think we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Again, I've also only played with possession once. So take what I say with a grain of salt.
 
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Dave Daley
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Wildcatfight wrote:
Alchemy doesn't scale as well to two players any of the other sets. There are too many cards that allow players to draw multiple cards and take other actions. In a two player game each player can easily have up to 5 of these cards in a relatively small deck. This often means that players are completely (or nearly completely) going through their deck on every turn. It slows the game down too much.

There are many players that think Dominion is a very poor 2player game WITHOUT ALchemy for the same reason. I am guessing that Alchemy just exacerbates this situation.
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Jeff P
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elkabong wrote:

There are many players that think Dominion is a very poor 2player game WITHOUT ALchemy for the same reason. I am guessing that Alchemy just exacerbates this situation.


I could definitely see some arguments for that. Overall, I enjoy Dominion with 2 but think it is better with 3 or 4. But I could totally see some people not enjoying it with two.
 
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Myke Madsen
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Wildcatfight wrote:
Let's imagine you drew this hand: 3 gold, 1 copper, 1 random action/victory card. No attack could prevent you from buying a province.


Minion?
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Jeff P
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HappyProle wrote:
Wildcatfight wrote:
Let's imagine you drew this hand: 3 gold, 1 copper, 1 random action/victory card. No attack could prevent you from buying a province.


Minion?


Touche.
 
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Drew Spencer
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Wildcatfight wrote:
I think a possession does more (potential) damage to a hand than any other card. Other attack cards that make you discard cards have a limit (can't make you drop below 3) or give you a choice (pick up a curse instead). So you always have some cards in your hand. Let's imagine you drew this hand: 3 gold, 1 copper, 1 random action/victory card. No attack could prevent you from buying a province. A possession not only prevents you but gives that province to your opponent.


Again you're failing to take into consideration the next hand the possessed player gets to draw and play with. For illustration, lets consider two possibilities:

First, you draw 3 gold, 1 copper, and 1 random action/victory card and are possessed. Your opponent buys a Province with your turn. At the end of your possessed turn you draw a new hand which has 1 silver, 3 copper, and a random action/victory card. You buy a Duchy. Without the Possession, you would have gained 6 points. With it you gain 3 and your opponent gains 6, for a swing of 9 points. The Possession card hurt you and helped your opponent immensely.

Next hypothetical, you draw 1 silver, 3 copper, and a random action/victory card and are possessed. Your opponent buys a Duchy with your turn. At the end of your possessed turn you draw a new hand which has 3 gold, 1 copper, and 1 random action/victory card. You buy a Province. Without the Possession you would have gained 3 points. With it you gain 6 and your opponent gains 3 meaning there is no net loss or gain. The Possession card actually helped you (by allowing you to buy a Province earlier and cycling your good cards faster) and did not help your opponent at all.

You may object in that without the Possession you would have gotten both hands and not just the first one, but those cards are still in your deck whichever hypothetical happened and you will still get to draw them later, not to mention whatever else is in your deck that you now get to cycle toward faster.

My point is that although Possession can hurt you quite a bit, it can also help you and will do so just as often as it hurts you (although it should help your opponent far more often than not, it is very expensive after all) so it should not be thought of as an attack card at all.

Once again, all of this assumes that the possessed player is not using any cards that allow him to manipulate his next turn or cards that allow a possessing player to alter the possessed player's deck (like Masquerade). Those really can turn Possession into an effective attack.
 
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David desJardins
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banyan wrote:
My point is that although Possession can hurt you quite a bit, it can also help you and will do so just as often as it hurts you (although it should help your opponent far more often than not, it is very expensive after all) so it should not be thought of as an attack card at all.


He never said it does harm on average. What he said is that it introduces a lot of big random swings.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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The thing I like best about Possession is that it is really effective against players whose decks are set up to go through the entire deck in a single turn. In that way I can maximize the points I can get with the Possession card.
 
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