Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 25 August 2020

Horses in Exile:- Dominion: Menagerie

Game: Dominion: Menagerie

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino

Year: 2020


To anyone who has been in the hobby for a while Dominion is a game that needs no introduction. Ever since its 2008 release the quintessential deck-building game has had expansion after promo after expansion. The 13th expansion to the game Dominion: Menagerie is a non-standalone expansion that adds thirty new kingdom cards to the game. These cards build upon existing mechanics that have previously been brought in by expansions, such as actions that activate on your next turn and Events. But it's not just a revisit to old mechanics Menagerie also adds in three new big mechanics: Horses, Exile and Ways.




For anyone not familiar with Dominion, it is as traditional a deck-building as you'll ever see. You start with seven copper cards, each worth one money, and three estates, powerless cards worth victory points. From these humble beginnings you'll use your money to buy action cards (which you can typically only play one of per turn), invest in better currency cards and eventually buy more victory point cards to win the game. The trick in navigating which of the 10 action cards are worth investing in, how much money to invest in and when to commit for going for victory cards, knowing that they will gum up your deck if you act too soon. Over time this formula has had many different mechanics bolted onto it, several of which Menagerie revisits, but for the sake of explanation let's focus solely on the new mechanisms.

First up we have the Ways. Each game you'll get one of the twenty Ways randomly selected for your game. A Way sits in the middle of the table face up for all to see, whenever you play an action you have a choice between performing the card text of your action as normal, or instead doing the action written on the Way. As such Ways tend to be on the weaker side of things, but come in handy when your actions arrive at inappropriate times. Next up is Exile, when an action card with Exile is in play each player gets an Exile board. Whenever you are instructed to Exile a card (which may be from your  deck or the supply) the card is placed onto this exile board. The next time you would buy, or otherwise gain, a copy of a card you have in exile you not only get the new card, but all copies of that card from your exile placed into your discard. Cards in Exile do count as in your deck for victory conditions, so it can act as a way to store cards you don't want in your deck or to build up a huge deck for cheap.

The final new mechanic is Horses. Horses are an action card which simply let your draw 2 new cards and perform one more action. Certainly nothing special by themselves, but what is special is how you get them. You can't buy a horse, but instead many cards reward you with horses either when you play or buy the card. This can lead to your deck growing rather rapidly, but the abilities of a horse are so frequently usable that you'll rarely complain. The only downside to horses is that after playing them they are immediately returned to the horse supply rather than to your discard pile as normal. If you want a frequent supply of horses you'll have to start building up an action economy around getting them!


Dominion: Menagerie certainly changes the game up a lot. managing your deck is made even more fascinating by the options to create a micro-economy of horses withing your playstyle, or building your deck via getting cards cheap in your exile until you can finally afford to buy a card normally to empty the exiled cards into your deck. It results in more options for customizing your deck which is really what Dominion is about. I've certainly sat in disbelief as I saw Fi go through most of her deck horse after horse only to generate as many as she used. To counter that she later looked in horror as I finally managed to get my 6 exiled gold into my deck that had been built up my a tremendous camel train. The new combos and abilities available certainly feel more powerful than the base Dominion experience, which always suggests to me that they may be better used in combination with the Prosperity expansion or else you run risk of games ending rather abruptly.

As much as I loved the Exile and Horses mechanics, the big game changer here are the Ways. Such a simple little card, but being able to use your actions as something else really frees up your deck-building potential, suddenly those action cards which start useful but get worse with time have a long term benefit, even if it's weaker than it is before. I'll always love a game that lets me "invoke the way of the squirrel" as an action! Ultimately Dominion: Menagerie is "yet another Dominion expansion", but in my mind it's one that is certainly worth investing in. The new mechanics flow into the traditional gameplay so well that they almost feel like they have always been there. I'd put it down as my second favourite expansion for Dominion, which is a bold statement for a game with enough expansions to create a meaningful top 10 from!


Dominion: Menagerie was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £45.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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