Table top games have a tendency to be both really good and great fun to play or really bad and not enjoyable at all. Dominions creator, Donald X. Vaccarino, has crafted one of the best strategy games we here at The Gaming Experience have played.
The initial setup for the basic Dominion game is quite lengthy, as should be expected, because the 250 cards are wrapped in decks that need to be separated. Once the separation is complete a thorough reading of the rules is absolutely necessary in order to even complete the first round of turns, again as should be expected. The setup of the first game took roughly 30 minutes of reading the rules and placing each card in its location. After the first experience setting up the game each subsequent setup was much quicker.
Understanding the design of Dominion is a difficult process initially. Again we advise thorough reading of the rules and how each card and effect works. Before the game starts treasure, victory, curse and kingdom cards need to be placed on the playing space. Treasure cards are what each player uses to purchase other cards consisting of copper (1), silver (2) and gold (3). Victory cards are what are required for winning the game. Curse cards are a form of attacking other players that are dependent on other cards for use. Kingdom cards are the player’s means of increasing their abilities with a large variety of effects. In the base game there are 25 different types of kingdom cards, each having their own specific effect such as drawing more cards or attacking other players. Attacking other players usually consists of giving other players curse cards with “Witch” card which takes away a victory point and takes up space in your deck or the “Thief” card which forces other players to reveal cards in their deck and allows the player to take a treasure card if revealed (this card was the source of many office rivalries). The kingdom cards effects are incredibly varied and fun to experiment with. Once ten kingdom card types are placed on the field and the victory, treasure and curse cards are placed the game begins with each player getting 7 copper and 3 estates which are worth 1 victory point. Each player shuffles the “deck” and draws five cards and the game continues from there. Each players turn consists of the “action”, “buy” and “clean-up” phases. The first round of turns in a game does not include the “action” phase. The “action” phase consists of the player using the kingdom card/s in their hand. If the player has a kingdom card that increases the amount of actions a player can take then multiple kingdom cards may be used in a turn.
The “buy” phase consists of using the treasure cards in the players hand and any +treasure gained from a kingdom card to buy more treasure/victory/kingdom cards (typically only one card can be bought in a turn but more may be bought through the use of kingdom cards). Each card has a price listed on it and can only be purchased if the player’s funds are at or above the amount shown. The “clean-up” phase is simply taking all purchased, used and unused cards from the players hand and placing them in the discard pile to later be shuffled into their deck. The game ends when 3 supply cards (kingdom, victory or treasure) are empty or when all of the “Province” cards which are victory cards worth 6 points are gone. Each player then counts all the victory points they have and the one with the highest wins. This usually takes roughly 30 minutes or more.
Dominion is a fantastic strategy game that certainly takes some time to get used to. But once the players understand the rules and each cards effects the game becomes incredibly engaging. We here at The Gaming Experience have played the game nearly 30 times and have used multiple action card configurations that have resulted in many very interesting games. Most notable is the optional victory card “garden”. This card adds a single victory point for every ten cards in the player’s deck so changing strategy to acquire multiples of these before other players is key to winning when they are in play. Depending on which action cards are in the game individual strategies will change as well. The only problem we have with the game is that certain action cards, if they are in the game, are simply better then others and it usually becomes a race to get those cards. There are also some action cards which are completely undesirable outside of very experienced players and extremely specific situations. With one standalone and seven expansions outside of the basic game, Dominion is a game every table top gamer should have in their collection as well as those who simply enjoy strategy. Dominions publisher, Rio Grande Games made a great decision in publishing this title and bringing it to the customers.