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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Dominion

"Who will reign supreme?"





Dominion is a 2-4 player game created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published in 2008 by Rio Grande Games. The game is centred around deck building; a mechanic where each player concentrates on creating their own deck of cards from the supply (500 cards, not all at once!) and then reusing those cards to in turn acquire more cards. Still with me?! It sounds complicated but it definitely isn't.


A quick bit of history on this purchase. In April 2014 I was in Cardiff for a friends wedding. My wife and I ventured into town and went to the excellent shop Rules of Play. After browsing for a few minutes and being overwhelmed by the selection, one of the assistants kindly recommended some games and this was one of them. The deck building genre was completely alien to us but we thought we'd give it a go. It didn't win the 2009 Spiel des Jahres for nothing!

Each player is the ruler of their own Kingdom and is looking to expand it and end up with the most points at the end of the game. How do you do that? Be patient, we'll get there! The playing area is made up of Treasure , Kingdom, Victory, and Curse cards. Treasure cards are split into Gold, Silver, and Copper and are used to buy cards. Kingdom cards give you various actions which help you during the game. 10 different types are available to purchase in any game (from 25 total). There are set games which are stated in the manual or you can pick 10 at random. Victory cards give you points at the end of the game and comprise of Estates, Duchy's, and Provinces, each with different values. Curse cards are bad (who knew!) and deduct points from your total.


Initial setup
Each player starts with 3 Estate and 7 Copper cards, shuffles them and draws 5, and places the rest as a draw pile in front of them. Their hand is used to buy more cards to place in your discard pile. You then discard the ones from your hand and then redraw 5 new cards. This is the basis of the game. When the draw pile is empty, all the players cards are reshuffled and a new stack created. The turn progression is; play Kingdom cards (only 1 unless stated otherwise), buying phase, and then the clean-up (discarding and redrawing). Repeat until someone wins!


A sample 5 card draw
The idea is to build an even deck which will enable you to play Kingdom cards and then buy the cards you want each turn. The initial temptation is to buy Victory cards but these are useless until the end of the game. The key is to acquire these at the right time so as not to dilute your deck early on. The tactics used to build your deck will vary from game to game as the 10 Kingdom cards will dictate  the pace and style of game. You could end up with a selection that encourages attacking other players or ones that give you lots of extra actions. I've had games that end in under 30 minutes due to the number of cards that gift additional treasure for the buying phase! It can get pretty hectic and becomes a race to get the last Province! The game will end when either 3 supply piles are gone or when all Provinces have been bought. Game time usually takes between 30 mins to 1 hour, although this is largely dependent on the Kingdom cards.


The very helpful inlay!
There aren't many components to speak of in this game, it just consists of 500 cards which are of good quality and feature some pretty artwork. One nice touch about the box is that it has a special plastic inlay which houses all the cards in a specific order. This makes it very handy when setting up or packing the game away.

The great thing about Dominion is that you can effectively play it how you want. There is no correct way to play it. If you want to hoard treasure, go for it! Want to stack your deck with Kingdom cards? Who am I to stop you! There's only one way to win but several ways to get there. New players will be able to get to grips with Dominion fairly easily. The initial explanation can be a bit confusing (why am I discarding cards?!) so the best thing to do is to play a few hands, after which everything will make sense. The manual is also great at explaining what each card does if anyone gets confused. It also features a good balance of luck and skill which will definitely assist rookies. The game plays equally well with 2, 3, or 4 players.

One small downside; the theme at times seems a little tacked on. Some Kingdom cards have actions that have no relation to the character (why would a Throne Room let me play an action card twice?). This however has no bearing on the playing of the game and it just a very minor gripe.

My main thought on this game; Wow! I was completely blown away by it! I had never played anything like it before and found myself hooked with 10 minutes. In fact, the morning before my friends wedding, what started out as 1 quick game between my wife and I turned into 3, 4, 5 games! We still made it on time by the way! I absolutely love the variety that this game offers, with every play through being different. This is one of those games which offers great replay value. Trying to figure out the best strategy provides a unique challenge and one that I will always come back to. Everyone should play this game!


Rating 10/10

Get it HERE from Rules of Play (free delivery!)