In Dominion, you play the role of a monarch of a small kingdom, represented by your starting deck of ten cards, a little bit of money (literally seven copper coins) and a little bit of land, and naturally, you want more. You’ll slowly but surely increase your holdings by purchasing Kingdom cards, and these can be anything from Smithys, to Woodcutters, or even build up your own private army with plenty of Militia. You’ll also look to increase your treasury with some Silver and Gold, and of course, you’ll need land, after all, to have the greatest dominion, well, you need the greatest dominion.
The mechanics of this game are so simple you may think you are doing it wrong, but you’re not; trust me. Here is the bullet point version of how to play:
- Draw five cards into your hand
- On your turn you can:
- Play one action card (cards labelled as actions)
- Buy any one Kingdom Card, Treasure Card or Victory point card
- Cards bought, cards played and all cards left over go to your discard pile.
- Return to point one until all the Province cards are gone, or any three Kingdom card stacks are gone.
The winner is the player with the most victory points (Victory Point Cards). This is the classic Deck Builder game, you’ll aim to expand (or build) your deck to give you more options. The options these cards give you is the make or break of any player’s strategy, some cards will allow you multiple actions, or purchases, or increase the value of the treasure in your hand, or give you additional cards from your deck, or allow you to attack you opponents or steal cards from them and so on.
There are twenty-four different decks of Kingdom Cards in the core set of Dominion, and in each game you only need ten, so from one box there is a lot of replayability, as certain Kingdom cards work very, very well others, (I’m a big fan of the Throne Room Thief combination) but they all work to ultimately bring you towards your goal. When learning the ropes of this game you may find yourself a little overwhelmed by all the choices on offer, and then even more so when your hand of cards presents you with increasingly more options yet again, but this learning curve is not only short, it’s pretty good fun too. There is a great deal of enjoyment in stringing together action after action, to increase the cards in your hand, the amount of money and purchases. As you play the game more and develop your own style of play you’ll learn and create patterns and begin building your deck to that end.
Dominion also boasts a very short play time of about thirty minutes (and a very short set up time too), and within that short time, it has great escalation, where play gets faster and faster through the game. A player’s choices become narrower as the game progresses and reaches what I like to call the Tipping Point: this is where the game shifts gear, or moves into a different phase of play. This happens when the first Province Card is purchased, up to this point the game will have been about building your deck, after the Tipping point, it becomes an all-out race to buy as many Provinces, in as few turns possible. Being a very simple game, with very simple rules means that there is a dominant strategy; a method that will almost always prove successful I’m not going to tell you what it is, because, once discovered it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of the game, it becomes very mechanical and mathematical.
There are five hundred cards in this box, and an insert to neatly organise and store each deck, which is great and rarely seen in many board games. The card art is very much of its theme, it is medieval so there are scrolls and parchment effects everywhere, and the artwork style itself is a loaded paint brush, so details are minimalized which with very clear iconography make game play smooth and non-distracting (if not a little boring). The theme though is very replaceable, some could argue that the card’s name and effect are linked to the theme, and maybe the theme inspired the mechanic, but there really is no reason why Dominion couldn’t have a stereotypical fantasy or sci-fi skin, or even a Star Wars version (come to think of it, I’m now quite surprised there isn’t a Star Wars Dominion).
Player interaction in this game can be very limited, in some games, you could play in virtual isolation, in others there could be swathes of attacks, and spying and thefts; it all depends on which Kingdom cards are in play, and that is something which is in the hands of the players; you can decide how confrontational any game of Dominion will be, which is something really quite unique and makes this game assessable to a very wide range of players.
Everyone I have ever introduced to this game has really enjoyed it, I on the other hand; after playing countless games am not a fan for two reasons:
- I always, always lose at this game (seriously, it’s like some sort Witch’s Curse)
- In theory, I know how to win, and still can’t
There are a lot of cards, a lot of expansions (yup, even more cards) and a lot of quick and fun games to be had from just one box.