Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dominion Grandé

Andy had picked up Dominion by Rio Grande Games, so we broke it out the other night and played a debut game. Neither of us had read the rules, although Andy had the gist of it, but we were able to hit the ground rolling in surprisingly little time.

Based on awards alone, this one seems like a 'must have', including the top 'game of the year' in 2009. So what's all the fuss about? I've seen it for as little as $33 bucks online, which seems like a good price for such a vaunted game. I labeled it as a 'boardgame' below, but really it's a card game, and after seeing what you get in the box, that's what you get indeed. Five hundred cards round out the game, no tokens or figures, just cards, your playing surface is your table. There is a nifty, plastic card divider in the box to separate the cards out by type, and a clever organizer template that goes in the middle that labels which cards are where.
In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end. -from BGG
I'm not kidding, by the third turn, Andy and I knew what we were doing, and knew it well. The mechanics are so simple to grasp, it takes no time at all to jump right in. It's solidly in that category of "easy to learn, difficult to master". In fact, our turns were going along at a quick clip too, the only times we slowed down was when we had to reshuffle a deck.

So basically you're building a deck against one another of cards. You build your deck with places such as the smithy or a mine, which give you bonus actions, or you can take cards such as militia which affects your opponent, of course more cards, like the moat, can thwart attackers. Just thinking about talking about all the cards can make you go crazy, suffice it to say there's a ton of varieties and they all act (and interact) in all kinds of ways.

You buy these cards with coins you pick up during the game. If you have too many places in your hand, and not enough coin, you'll never be able to buy anything, but too many coins and not enough items...well you can never do anything. You win the game by having the most number of estates, fiefdoms, and the like. Of course if you're buying these up, you lose out on everything else. Once the game picked up pace, the tension was building and you find yourself reacting to the other player while subtly trying to take the initiative on your own. The game was close, the final score being Andy with 42 points, and me with 38.

The replay value is wide open with Dominion, so it will get plenty of limelight on your shelf. It's also so easy to pick up and play on the fly, it's a good one to have to fill in the gaps waiting for players to show up on game night or break out in a lull. I did see in the rules something about multiple games, I don't know what that was about, but games go so quickly, you could link them in a type of campaign. The only drawback I see is that it is, at its core, a card game, no bones about it. If you're cool with that, you may want to check it out.


  1. I enjoyed the game a lot. I was hoping it would make for a good family game, and I don't think there's any mechanic that would prevent it from doing so, EXCEPT there's so much shuffling, I don't think it's practical for me to try and play with two young kids.

  2. This actually sounds pretty cool. I would definitely like to try it if and when I escape from my cocoon.

  3. The game builds up a lot of synergy and I can see the fun factor exponentially ramp up the more players you add.

    Andy, I joked about it, but look into getting one of those auto-shufflers, that'd solve your younger player factor, and add a cool gadget to boot.

    Oz, last night Miller and I test drove Descent a couple of times. If you're not unchained, or ready to run MouseGuard when Andy's intermission as Dark Heresy GM comes up (and soon) I'm more than willing to run that. I think it will be a fun departure for us.

  4. I picked up Dominion at Christmas, but have only had a chance to try out a couple of solo test runs. Definitely looks entertaining and I can see how some of the attack cards would be much more useful in a 3-4 player game. I can see that you could play this one many times before you had adequately explored the various card combinations.

  5. Mik,

    We broke out my copy of Dominion after our CY6! game and played with four players. It was a hoot and did have a different vibe in some ways. The main thing I noticed was that the game ended by three sets of kingdome cards being depleted rather than all of the province VP cards, so you have to take a different approach to when you start picking up VPs, etc. Still played pretty quick though. With 4 people playing their first game and with Audrey providing interruptions way too often, we still got through the game in a little over an hour.

    Since Friday, Beth and I have probably played half a dozen two player games and are really enjoying this one. It plays quick, so we can get in a couple of games during nap time or some such.