Review: Dominion

Earlier this summer I was introduced to Dominion, a card based tabletop strategy game.  Wait! Before you run in horror, hear me out on this.

Let me begin with the simple declaration that I love this game.  In this review I will do my best to explain why I love Dominion and why YOU should give it a try.

It’s a Deal

Coming from a world of collectible card games I have to say that Dominion is an absolute deal.  With CCG’s (Collectible Card Games) such as Magic: The Gathering, you could theoretically invest an unlimited amount of money and not have all the cards that you want.  It’s the business model for CCG’s, but let’s not confuse the issue, Dominion is NOT a CCG.  With Dominion you buy one box for and MSRP of $44.99 ($29.65 at Amazon.) At that price you get everything you need for 2-4 players.  There is practically no way to get four players worth of Magic cards for that price.

$40 for 500 cards and EVERYTHING you need for 2-4 players, it's a deal.

What do you get?

You get 500 black bordered cards, the instruction book, the box and the plastic card organization insert (w/cardboard insert to organize cards by name and cost).  Here’s how the card types break down:

The 500 cards are well organized in the included box insert.

Gameplay

Setting up:

Ten different Kingdom cards are selected, either at random, or according to one of the five recommended sets of 10 (First Game, Big Money, Interaction, Size Distortion, and Village Square) suggested in the rule book. The ten Kingdom cards are placed in piles of ten each. You’ll also need the Trash card, piles of the three different valued Treasure cards for money, and a certain number of Victory cards (depending on the amount of players). For a two player game, the set-up would be something like:

Image courtesy of boardgamegeek.com user EndersGame

Each player then shuffles their deck (of 10 cards) and draws five cards.

Gameplay: Overview

For a full explanation of gameplay you can head over to boardgamegeek.com and find plenty more information.

The condensed version: the basic gameplay is about building a deck and trying to finish the game with more Victory points than your opponent(s).

In turns, players complete three phases:
1. Action phase: play an Action card
2. Buy phase: buy a card
3. Clean-up phase: discard played and unplayed cards, and draw five new cards.

If at any point you are required to draw a card and there are no cards in your draw pile, you simply shuffle your discard pile and you have your fresh deck.

Yes, it really is that simple!  You will find yourself quickly working through your deck, shuffling up the discards, and rinsing and repeating. Slowly, as the game progresses, your deck will start to take form, and you’ll try to put together card combinations that maximize your income and the purchase of victory points. This is the beauty of the game!  Simplicity.

But not THAT simple!

Thoughts and Feelings

After a very few number of games, perhaps during the first game, you will get the feeling for the game.  It will gel and you will say, “Ohhhhhhhhh…”  When this happens, don’t panic, don’t run, try to enjoy the sensation.  It rarely comes so easily when learning new games and systems.  Trying to keep track of how my Provinces your opponent has bought, deciding if that Victory Card you want to buy will prevent you from drawing a good hand the next time you shuffle your deck.

This game for me, epitomizes a successfully simplified design.  The theme of the game works well with the mechanics.  I have a HUGE appreciation for cards that play and feel like they belong, not only in the mechanics, but in the design and “flavor” of the game world.

Pros

  • Replay-able
  • Variable
  • Extendable
  • Easy to learn.
  • Easy to setup.

Cons

  • Limited Interaction with other players.
  • Cards are black bordered, wear down quickly with excessive shuffling.
  • Lots of shuffling.
  • Simplest strategy is often the best and frankly, kind of breaks the game if your opponent is not as experienced.

Summary

Try the game, then buy the game.  If you have a decent gaming group, only one of you will need to buy the base set. There are currently five expansions, some of which are stand-alone, others are more traditional “add-ons.”

While I typically prefer a game with more complex rules and dice and all that nerdiness, this game has absolutely won me over with it’s elegant simplicity.

This has been a review of Dominion
a board game published by Rio Grande Games
and designed by Donald X. Vaccarino
all Dominion related images courtesy of boardgamegeek.com
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About Michael Boyd

Gaming, Movies, Science Fiction and Fantasy are my passions. Combine any two of these and I typically lose my mind over whatever that thing is. Living in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. with my beautiful wife and our four legged little ones. Together, we do the best we can to improve our life every day.

Posted on August 25, 2011, in Tabletop Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Let me also add my endorsement for Dominion here. I had that “ohhhhhh” moment about five turns in, and had fallen in love with it by about game two. Then it was basically all I thought about for several days.

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