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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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Thursday, 27 August 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Dominion: Menagerie

Game: Dominion: Menagerie

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino

Year: 2020

"I wonder which number expansion to Dominion this is?"

"It must be a lot - they've run of colours and gone back to base game brown."

Dominion: Menagerie is the 13th expansion to Dominion. It's a classic deck-building game and it's one a the first board games we ever added to our collection. It's still in our collection, and it's still one of our favourites because it's so quick to get to the table, it's possible for every game to be different and it's just super satisfying to play.

As you might expect from the name, Dominion: Menagerie is themed around animals. It comes with two new core game modes, one of which is simply 'Horses' and the other is 'Exile. In addition 'Ways' and 'Events' can be introduced to every game.

We've got one box on the shelf for Dominion, and it's got Seaside and Prosperity crammed into it. We didn't expect to be trying to cram Menagerie into the box too, but let's find out why we did.

If you've never played Dominion, then it's a very standard deck-builder. You start with a deck of ten cards that are pretty low quality. Each turn you'll draw a hand of five cards and then play those cards. Some cards are actions and you can play one of those per turn, but there's a possibility to chain together more actions. You can play all of you money cards to buy more action cards, money cards or victory point cards from the central supply. Again, you have a baseline of one buy per turn unless your cards allow you to buy more. Everything you've played and bought goes into a discard, and then you'll draw another hand of five for your next turn, shuffling your discard to make a new deck when needed.

Compared to other Dominion expansions I've played, Menagerie adds a heck of a lot of content. First are the Ways and Events which can be added to every game of Dominion. There are twenty different Way cards included in the set, which offer you an alternative action you can take if you don't want to take what's written on one of your cards. Similarly, one Event card can be added to each game. To use that event card you simply pay the cost to take whatever is written as the reward of the event. Whilst events are not new, it's the first time I've encountered them, and when combined with the Ways there are so many different combinations and opportunities to make each game slightly different, so long as you remember to make the most of them.

But, these are just the two most simple new mechanisms that Dominion: Menagerie introduces. Next us are Horses. Horses are a type of card that cannot be bought, but can only be acquired as a result of the text on other cards. As such, you can either follow the recommended setup from the rulebook to make sure that the Horses combine well with other cards in the supply, or you can simply make sure to select at least 2 or 3 card to make up your supply that mention Horses. The Horse card allows you to draw 2 cards and take an extra action, so it doesn't really take up any space, it just allows you to have bigger turns with a bigger hand of cards to work with. However, they are single use, so you'll want to replenish them to use them effectively. The Horses part of this expansion gives you a feeling of power, similar to playing the 'big money' games with the Prosperity expansion. Having bigger and better turns is always fun, even if it makes for quite a short game of Dominion. When playing a game with Horses, I thought that it might be beneficial to add the Platinum and Colony cards, from the Prosperity expansion, to try to extend the game.

The other main suggested setup in Dominion: Menagerie is to play a game focused on the Exile mechanism. Some action cards give you the option or obligation to exile cards. Cards in Exile are no longer in your deck, but do still exist for the purposes of end game scoring. The way to get cards out of exile is to purchase a card of that type and then all cards of the matching type are released from exile into your discard pile. This can be a very effective way of obtaining more expensive cards earlier in the game. If you can stockpile some gold cards in exile and then buy your first gold card, you can give your deck a huge boost, although sometimes it's a bit too late because another player has slowly improved their deck over the same period.

Upon our first play, I was uncertain about Dominion: Menagerie. It felt like a very generous expansion, with lots of next content, but one that was just a little bit over complicated. I totally forgot to even consider the Ways and Events and that was only after introducing the Horses, never mind combining the Horses and the Exile mechanism into one game! However, after multiple plays, I really warmed to this expansion. Familiarity with the mechanisms opened up an opportunity to play with each new aspect of the expansion and there was plenty to explore. Dominion:Menagerie is an expansion that has a lot to offer for experienced Dominion players. We've added it to our collection, but I'm keen to keep playing it regularly so that I can enjoy the really enjoyable combo-filled experience that brings a big and exciting feel to Dominion in a way that feels similar yet different to my previous favourite expansion, Prosperity. For the Yellow Meeple, it's an 8.5/10.

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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