Robert Seater
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I just played the worst game of Dominion of my life, but it was entirely my own fault.

I wanted to do an experiment with cards I dislike, to see if they were fundamentally bad cards (at least, given my taste in games) or if they were merely out of place in Dominion (or just not as awesome as the rest of the game). That is, if you just played with those cards, are you simply playing a different game, or are you playing a bad game?

While I think every Dominion set has a few cards that are at the wrong cost/power level, it doesn’t bother me. (a) the game is self-balancing enough that a card that is too strong or too weak doesn’t ruin the game, and merely reduces the number of viable strategies, and (b) it’s easy to house rule a card to have a different cost. However, there are some cards that have effects that are fundamentally bad for the game, and ruin the fun for me. They fall into two categories:
(1) extremely random (so much variance that it doesn’t average out over a game)
(2) runaway leader (first there has an insurmountable advantage)
For example, ‘Treasure Map’ and ‘Thief’ are type 1. ‘Grand Market’ and ‘Tournament’ are type 2. ‘Dame Anna’ is both. I theorized that, when mixed together, the type 1 random cards would on average hurt the winners and help the losers, so they should counteract the type 2 runaway leader cards. I was wrong.

I built the following set of cards and played it 2 player:
- Wishing Well (played as costing 2, which worked out very well.)
- Village (3; a fine card, and I only added it since the set needed some action netting)
- Swindler (3)
- Masquerade (3)
- Noble Brigand (4)
- Treasure Map (4)
- Tournament (4)
- Knights (5)
- Counting House (5)
- Grand Market (6)

The final score was 46 (my wife) to 1 (me). Our games are normally within a few points. She got an early Dame Anna (who was randomly on top of the knights deck), which locked me out while she went on to get the first province, making the tournaments in her deck powerful and the tournaments in mine terrible. She ended up with all 8 provinces, two curses, and about 8-10 gold. My Noble Brigands never once hit gold. My ending deck had Dame Josephine (2 VP Knight), 1 curse, and 2 gold. A completely one sided blowout that was largely dictated by randomness in the first few turns. And it was a frustrating 90-minute slog to finish, despite the enormous lead she grabbed and held for the entire game!

Well, hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t like those cards individually, and putting them together didn’t help. I’ll just omit them from now on, and go back to enjoying one of my all-time favorite games.

The silver lining was, to my surprise, Wishing Well. When costed at 2, it was a bit random but it averaged out nicely. I'd play it again, at least in the right mix.
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Maarten Robinson
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I know what you mean.
My wife and I played a game on Friday just gone and with 50vp she was the unhappy one. I had 98. Halsabschneider [aka Goons] was in play with hamlet and a few other bits and pieces ; but it was the getting extra buys and the the vp chips that did the trick. The thing is, I do believe it's the combinations not the cards themselves and we try to play everything strictly to the rules (most of the time). I agree about tournament - I like to get in first if possible. Knights ... Each has their own benefit.
What a great game that it can generate so much fruitful discussion.
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Clement Tey
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What's a "Halsabschneider", please?
 
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princemousey wrote:
What's a "Halsabschneider", please?

Goons
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Pieter
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Two words:
Black Market.

90 minute game, runaway leader known in the first few minutes.

There is a reason why this is a bonus card and not included in any of the official sets.
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amerynth

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Read your session with interest because some of the cards you dislike are among my least favorites too. I would have been afraid to pile all the cards I don't particularly like into one game though... too much of a bad thing.

(We do keep all our cards in the rotation, though we always deal out an extra kingdom card per player so everyone has one veto, which means the "lesser" cards don't get played as much.)

One of the things I really like about Dominion is that the card sets always change. Even cards I don't like or find very useful can shine some times based on what else is out there. I've definitely been pleasantly surprised on occasion when I've started picking up cards I don't generally like (and also when I haven't bought any of the cards that I consider my favorites.)


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Dr. snowMan
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I don't know if this is going to help, but I do have some comments:

Not all sets will provide the same experience, but there is always some fun to be had trying to figure out the best way(s) to play a set. In this case, buying 1 masquerade and monies would have been a quick route to victory (or if not victory, at least a quick game). Then you can play another one!

If you insist on trudging through a game trying to create fun combos (I love to do this when playing with the cards) it is ok to resign when it is clear you've been bested by your opponent and/or fate. Then you can play another one!

I understand some cards are not so much fun, but I personally like a lot of those cards you've listed. And that set didn't have to be a slog.
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Robert Seater
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Here’s the full list of cards I regularly exclude from the mix, as violating rules #1 and #2:
* Masquerade (random; although fine in 2 player games)
* Swindler (random)
* Noble Brigand (random)
* Tournament (runaway)
* Treasure Map (runaway, random)
* Thief (random)
* Pirate Ship (random)
* Knights (random, runaway)
* Counting House (random)
* Saboteur (random)
* Treasury (runaway)
* Rogue (random)
* Scrying Pool (random)
* Philosopher’s Stone (balanced, but too much darn counting!)
* Grand Market (runaway)
* Peddler (runaway)
* Possession (runaway)

Of course, I also have a laundry list of cards I think should be re-costed, but that’s another story. I have my own opinion about what Chapel and Navigator, but that’s a matter of accurate costing, not of the effects themselves being bad. The above are just card that I think are bad for the game at any cost.

Thoughts? Am I excluding any gems here that I should reconsider?
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Robert Seater
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DsnowMan wrote:
In this case, buying 1 masquerade and monies would have been a quick route to victory (or if not victory, at least a quick game). Then you can play another one!

I tried that! But it got stripped out of my deck immediately by a knight. Random!

I still love this game; just not these cards.
 
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Robert Seater
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
Two words:
Black Market.

90 minute game, runaway leader known in the first few minutes.

There is a reason why this is a bonus card and not included in any of the official sets.

I agree. Black market as printed (with all unused kingdom cards) is really terrible. I've had good experience selecting an interesting subset of cards for it, but it still fundamentally undermines the self-balancing aspect of the game.
 
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rseater wrote:

Thoughts? Am I excluding any gems here that I should reconsider?


I have the impression most of the "random" statements come from using the cards in the wrong situations. In these cases, the cards are usually weak, because in the majority of cases they won't help or even harm your deck, and in some lucky cases they might help you. In this cases the card should be just ignored. But there are other cases where they are better and less random.

Quote:

* Swindler (random)

Can't argue against this one
Quote:

* Noble Brigand (random)

Don't want to argue against this one.

Ok, that was a great start...
Quote:

* Treasure Map (runaway, random)

TM without support is rather weak, and unlikely to connect. Of course it could happen that someone without support connects the maps early, but buying them without support just against some reasonable BigMoney or TM with support should lose in most cases. By far.
Quote:

* Thief (random)

Speaking 2player. Thief is weak. In BigMoney, you shouldn't buy it. There are things like Gardens where you maybe want, but there you also like Copper, so it's a lot less random. There is also the situation engine vs. BigMoney, where the engine uses the Thief as payload to attack the BigMoney player once (or maybe twice) every turn. This is also a lot less random, as the Thief is played often enough for some luck to average out.
Quote:

* Pirate Ship (random)

Somehow see Thief. PS is a bit stronger, but if there is only part of an engine of the board, the PS can help you cleaning the Coppers. On the other hand, again an engine can attack BigMoney very well and with a lot less luck with PS.

Quote:

* Counting House (random)

In BigMoney, CH is weak. Just don't buy it. In a standard engine, CH is weak, just don't buy it. So why should it be on the board then you ask? There are some funny situations where it indeed works. But you can't just add a CH or two to some decks and hope that it will pay out. But with tons of Coppers, and tons of CH and not much else, you can get to Provinces or Colonies quite reliably twice per shuffle, which might be really good in ugly decks. Like with Cursers. Especially against Mountebank.

Quote:

* Saboteur (random)

2p, weak card, Big Money no, engine vs. Big Money yeah, less random there.

Quote:

* Treasury (runaway)

wooot? I don't have the impression the Treasury is that strong. Of course, a stack of Treasuries helps you to get a stack of Treasuries, but $5 is not that hard to reach, the Treasury does not attack so it keeps easy to reach, and once you start buying Provinces you have a stack of Peddlers costing $5 in the deck. There might be better things at $5 (or $6) for the deck.

Quote:

* Scrying Pool (random)

I would have accepted a "runaway" here, but I don't feel that it is random. SP is strong (really strong) if you have reasonable trashing and the possibility to get tons of playable actions, in which case it doesn't matter if the Pool draws 5 cards or 7. The hand will get you more tons of playable actions...



Of course, some luck remains with this cards. But some luck always remains. When you play BM-nothing against BM-Smithy, you win in 20% of the games. If you buy Treasure Maps without support against BM-nothing, you win in 25% of the games (and there usually is something better on the board than 'nothing'). So buying TMs can luck you into a win against a better strategy. But so can buying nothing.
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Mike Miller

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What's wrong with Wishing Well that you need to make it more attractive? If you know how to play Wishing Well it can be a dominant card. Try a game where you flood your deck with Wishing Wells and Silvers (maybe grab a Bureaucrat or some other Silver generator).

Early in the game guess copper (maybe start to get rid of the copper or mine it into silver etc).

Keep mental track of the number of Wishing Wells in your deck as you pass them, early in the deck guess Wishing Well, as you run out of them start to guess Silver (or late in the game when you just have more silver than anything, always guess silver).

Keep other action buys to a minimal, you are building a linear deck that should only attempt to buy one province at a time, but for 5 or 6 turns after you start buying straight, with minimal interruption.

This of course assumes you are playing against a player that also hates WW, and will gladly let you snag as many as possible until they see what you are doing (you should be able to grab 7 or 8 easy if this is the case).

Of course, WW strategies aren't always dominant, and will often be trumped by better strategies, you just have to be vigilant for when it is going to be good.
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Robert Seater
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pinkymadigan wrote:
Try a game where you flood your deck with Wishing Wells and Silvers (maybe grab a Bureaucrat or some other Silver generator).

I'll give that a try!
 
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