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dominion

kate learned to play this game whilst in new york called Dominion and she liked it enough to buy it. her, bryson, and i ended up playing it for a few hours last night.

i think i like it a lot. the entire principle of the game is developed around taking the Magic The Gathering deck building idea and making it an integral part of the gameplay, and there's this intricacy in how you have to build your deck in various stages of the game in order to try to win. In the early game you have to make sure you buy enough resources to be able to buy more things later, but you also have to buy things that give you more buying and action flexibility, and you might have to buy things as a reaction to what other people buy that could potentially fuck with your actions. in the mid-game you have to be careful about what cards you add to your deck because you don't want to spread your deck too thin and get cards that are less likely to be playable and useful for your strategy because they don't come up as often as you add more cards to your deck. in the endgame you have to start flurrying for victory points and then strategize based on your perception of whether or not you're ahead or not whether you want to steer the game towards ending or towards dragging on.

there are two flaws of the game. first, the opening rules could be designed a little better. The game starts you off with 7g (money) plus 3v (victory points which are useless in the actual game but is how you win the game). gameplay involves picking up the first five cards in your deck and finding a configurable way to play them, which is fine for midgame when a deck is more established, but for the beginning of the game creates a random element that feels a little off. the four possibilities of opening hands (5g0v, 4g1v, 3g2v, 2g3v) are *vastly* different given the huge difference of strength of cards that you can buy for those denominations, and i feel like it would make more sense to not give the player any g cards and instead tell them 'you can spend xg on whatever cards you want to create your initial deck."

second, some of the card abilities are horribly imbalanced and don't cost enough resources to justify how powerful they are. one example: three cards that cost 5g each: first card is a +4 cards to your hand/+1 buy. second card is a +2g, +2 action, +1 buy. third card is a "give everyone else -1 points"/+2 cards. all of those are theoretically similarly powerful but just in different ways, but the power of the third card is negated by the fact that you only need to spend 2g to get a card that makes you immune to all attacks which makes it easy to stockpile on that card and makes it likely that your five-card hand draw will have that card in it as a defense, *and* when you use it to defend you still have it in your hand which has a +2 cards property. for only 2g that's an extremely powerful card and diminishes the value of any expensive attack card thus making it not worth the waste of a turn and a buy to get offensive cards at all.

(granted, this depends on what cards you decide to employ for that particular game, so choice of cards to use is important and balances out some of the imbalances.)

it's a pretty well-crafted game, and if i had a crowd of people here who i played games with on a regular basis, i'd buy it and teach it to them. too bad i don't have that sort of crowd here, or maybe not; i have enough distractions and responsibilities right now as it is.

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Comments

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c_wraith
May. 31st, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
I think you're mis-analyzing the opening. There are only two opening states. Your first two hands are 2 gold and 5 gold, or your first two hands are 3 gold and 4 gold. This is because whatever you buy in those first two turns will go into your discard pile, so your second hand is always "the five starting cards you didn't draw the first turn." And after you shuffle, it doesn't matter what order you got those two cards in.

It is still some variation, but I think the difference between the two openings not really severe with most card pools.

My main complaints with Dominion are as follows:

1) I'm really bad at it. ;)
2) At least in the original game, it's almost entirely non-interactive. I hear the expansions are better about interaction, but I haven't played them at all.
c_wraith
May. 31st, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
It is still some variation, but I think the difference between the two openings not really severe with most card pools.

I think I a word in that sentence.
lifeofmendel
May. 31st, 2010 07:08 am (UTC)
right, that was a lot clearer when i played it more today enforced by your comment, that the hands possible for the first ten cards doesn't change a *whole* lot, just changes the initial direction.

the non-interactive thing is somewhat of a problem, but that depends on what the deck pool is, so you can (and should) shape it so that at least the possibility of interaction is there. that makes an offensive card like the witch (-1 to players, +2 cards) and a defending card like the moat (immune to attacks if in your hand, +2 cards) very important and in different ways. in the first game, i bought up a bunch of moats and their moats were scattering, and then in the mid-game i started buying witches like mad to try to lay down negative points on them, doubled by the use of a "play any card twice" whammy. as a result, in the second came, the two of them bought up almost all of the moats between them with me only having a handful, which meant that my goal was to buy up as many v's as possible and end the game as soon as possible because i didn't want them to be able to buy witches and then curse me out.

without those cards in the pool, yeah, it just ends up being three builders in parallel that only have to try to keep track of the v points and the card trends to determine when to move from the midgame to the endgame.
ddryuni
Jun. 1st, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
Dominion is an OK game. The second expansion, Seaside, is REALLY good. It does a neat thing, with introducing orange cards to the game. These cards stay around for your next turn, and most of them are very good. First expansion, Intrigue, has some extremely powerful cards, I am mainly talking about Minion here. Third expansion, Alchemy, has very powerful cards, but most of them require Potions to buy, which is a new treasure card that is introduced. A Potion costs 4 money, and then you have to draw it with other money to buy whatever Alchemy card you want that has a potion in its cost. The expansions are all pretty good, and I would encourage you to play them if you get the chance :)

I've played them all a lot, but we personally own only Dominion and Seaside. There is a website where you can play many euro/strategic games in realtime against other people. "brettspielwelt.de" You can give it a try if you want. Unfortunately, for Dominion, they do not include every card from the expansions. I believe they include every card from the basic game though. It is very nice to play online since it is so much faster. There are also other really fun games on there you might enjoy, Ra and Stone Age are 2 examples which are pretty easy to pick up and very fun.

I do agree with you that the game has definite flaws. Being the starting player is very powerful, since you usually have had more turns by the end of the game; and if there are attack cards in the game, such as militia, you are often the first to draw them and use them to screw up other people, while getting your third turn free of other people screwing with it. Most strategy games give some disadvantage to the first player. And yes some of the cards are way more powerful than others. Festival, which you mentioned in your description, is the best card in the basic set, in my opinion. And Adventurer, which costs 6, is totally stupid compared to it. I would MUCH rather have Library, which only costs 5. There really is a LOT of luck in which cards you draw together. If someone draws something like Festival Festival Festival Library and whatever, that's pretty much the best turn ever. If someone draws Library Chapel copper copper estate, that's much worse.
lifeofmendel
Jun. 3rd, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
as we played more and more often i started to favor decks that didn't include the village (which really should be a 4) nor the throne room. that seems to help balance out some of the randomness since multiple actions can be a very powerful thing.

first action advantage?... i dunno. the thing that started happening was that when people were buying heavy attack cards, more often than not people would gobble up the moats, so if they had 4 moats in their hand with a deck of 30 or less, it made it so likely that it would come up in their hand that attack cards were useless. it's a game of trying to react against reactions and to try to disguise your actions until it's too late for them to do anything about it (somehow they didn't notice once that i had bought 8 of the gardens and thus was buying as many +buy cards as possible).

but maybe the first action advantage becomes more apparent as people become more expert at the game. the three of us were pretty much newbies, and initially i was the only one who had a big picture notion of why i was buying what as opposed to 'this card seems good' or 'i'm just going for the provinces'.

i'd be very interested in some of the expansions. i saw that website out there, but haven't tried it yet.
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