Game Title: Dominion
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Manufacturer: Rio Grande
It's important to remember where you came from my son. When I was your age our treasury was all but empty and all we owned was a small section of the countryside. Now we have chests full of gold and we own everything from the far mountains to the river A'rn. Hard work and wise investments, that's how we made it my son! It doesn't hurt to get down and dirty with your populace too, every so often you'll need a woodcutter who owes you a favour. I know it's easy for us to rest on our laurels and enjoy the good life, but that isn't the life I want for you son. Someday you'll thank me, but for now take this bag of coins, and the deeds to New Arden and the surrounding lands. Until the day you can rival me in wealth you are no-longer my son!
Dominion is a 2-4 player deck building game where you play as medieval land owners with grand dreams of power. You must aim to be the player who owns the most land (green cards which gives you victory points) by the end of the game. This is made more complicated as the green cards are entirely useless in your deck until the game ends, so it's important to get a good balance between useful cards and game-winning victory points.
To give the basic premise, everyone starts with 7 copper coins (worth 1 money) and 3 estates (worth one victory point) in their deck, they shuffle this and draw 5 cards. They then use the money cards to buy improvements to their deck, giving them more money or special actions to play. These new cards go into the discard along with the hand they just played and then you draw the next 5. After the second hand of 5 you won't have a deck to draw so you'll shuffle your discard pile to make a new deck which includes the new cards you bought. By repeating this you end up getting more and more good cards and hopefully a stronger deck that can win you the game.
Cards come in 4 main variants; Money cards (gold) which you can play as many as you want, these all give you the amount of coins printed on them (1 for copper, 2 for silver and 3 for gold) for use that turn. Action cards (white) do special things, you can only normally play 1 action card a turn, but the abilities on action cards can include extra actions, extra money, drawing more cards or other more complicated abilities. Victory point cards (green) which are useless filler, but win you the game... I guess that kind of counts as being useful right? Finally there is one reaction card (blue) in the base game which you can play as a normal action, or play in response to someone playing an attack action (You could count that as a fifth card type, but they are really only actions that affect other players).
Everyone has access the same cards, there are generic stacks of money cards and victory point cards that are present in every game. The action cards however are different each game, when you set up you include 10 (chosen randomly or deliberately, your call). Each of these are placed in 10 piles that anyone can buy from, assuming they have the money anyway. The game ends when any 3 piles have completely run out or the Province victory point pile has been depleted, at which point players dissect their deck for any and all victory point cards and tot up their totals to see the winner.
|The games set up with the generic cards on the left (money, victory points, curses) and the 10 selected action cards on the right, these are the cards that vary from game to game.|
The game is really well crafted with plenty of strategies that can be employed depending on the cards that appear. The amount of choice often means that people will end up with vastly differing decks by the end of the game, yet the open market means that no-one has an advantage over anyone else (bar random luck of the shuffle anyway, and since you shuffle your own deck you have no-one to blame but yourself). I've heard people complain about the theming, but I think that's unfair, the base game does have a clear theme running through it with naming and illustrations on the cards. But this is a game you are likely to play a large amount of times, and like many card games it soon becomes all about the card effects rather than the card itself. No-one really cares mid-game that your witch is casting dark magic, all that matters is you draw 2 cards and give opponents a curse.
The other main flaw I'd attribute to the game is that it wears thin with time, but then that's only because I play it so darn much! I enjoy deck builders like Dominion, probably because I find it satisfying to build up a deck from a generic pile of use-impaired cards to being something that is very powerful. Especially when I know that my opponents had exactly the same opportunities as me (shuffling luck excepted). We've actually decided to invest in one of the expansions (Prosperity) and with a vast amount of expansions to choose from there's sure to be something for everyone's taste.
Oh flaw number 3, you're going to need a lot of card protectors for this one!