On A Guide To Dominion

Today we have a guest post, Written by James Breakfield on Dominion and a guide to playing the game, as well as where to play online for free.

On average, each two player game takes about 15 to 20 minutes and increases by approximately 10 minutes for each additional player.  You can access the FAQ link from the site above to learn more about how the interface works and inquire into the leaderboard ranking system.
 The game basics are as follows:
 There are three types of cards - Action, Treasure, and Victory.
  Action cards give you a specific ability or several abilities.
  Treasure cards allow you to buy additional cards.
  Victory cards provide you with points upon completion of the game to determine who won.
 The point of the game is to build a deck allowing for the purchase of victory cards.  The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins, and if there is a tie, the winner of the tie is the player who was last in the turn rotation.  All games start with the same 10 cards in each player's deck - 7 copper (worth $1 each) and 3 estates (worth 1 VP each).  You will draw 5 of these cards to start the game and as you play, your deck will be reshuffled and reused over and over including the cards you purchase throughout the game.  Each turn will consist of an "action" phase followed by a "buy" phase.  Once you start playing treasure cards, you can no longer play any action cards that turn.  You start each turn with 1 action and 1 buy but can acquire certain cards that will allow you to increase the amount of cards in your hand, actions available for your use, or the number of possible buys.
 The game setup is as follows:
 Dominion currently has 5 expansion sets so there is a large selection of cards available.  The game will select cards at random from one of these sets unless you specify which cards you want to play with.  Each game will consist of 10 cards (mostly actions with occasional speciality treasure and/or victory cards) selected for each game.  Since these 10 cards are different for each game, every game is unique and may require a different approach or strategy for achieving victory.  Regardless of which 10 cards are selected at the start of the game, each game will also include the following cards:
  Treasure cards - Copper ($1), Silver ($2), and Gold ($3); which cost $0, $3, and $6 respectively.
  Victory cards - Estate (1 VP), Duchy (3 VP), and Province (6 VP); which cost $2, $5, and $8 respectively.
  Curse cards - worth -1 VP and cost nothing 
 Depending on which expansion set is being played, there is a possibility that an additional treasure (Platinum - worth $5 and cost $9) and victory card (Colony - worth 10 VP and cost $11) will be available.  
 The game mechanics are as follows:
 You will start the game with 5 cards as mentioned above.  This will provide you with between $2 and $5 on your first turn depending on your copper to estates ratio (meaning your second turn is the remainder of the original 10 cards).  With this coin, you must decide how to set about your purpose of creating the most efficient deck to allow for the quick acquisition of large victory point cards (Provinces and if available, colonies).  You can start by purchasing a card which is equal to or less than the total amount of coin in your hand.  Bear in mind that you currently do not have any action cards so your action phase goes unused and you move immediately into the buy phase.  Once you play cards (whether action or treasure), they are placed within your discard pile.  At the end of your turn, you place all purchased and unused cards within your discard pile and draw a new hand for the next turn.  Once your deck is exhausted from drawing cards, you shuffle your discard pile back into your deck and begin again, thereby cycling through your deck every couple of turns.  As you begin to acquire better treasure cards, you can purchase more expensive cards which tend to have better properties.  Some actions require you to trash a card which means it is removed from the game permanently as opposed to discard which allows it to be reshuffled into your deck.
 Conditions for Victory:
 There is a set number of each type of card available depending on the number of players.  For instance, on a 2 or 3 player game, there will be 10 of each action card and 8 of each victory card.  The game ends when a certain number of card stacks are depleted (3 stacks for a 2-3 player game or 4 stacks for 4-5 players, etc.).  The game also ends when all of the provinces or colonies have been purchased, regardless of how many stacks of cards have been depleted.  Once the game ends, all of the victory cards are added together and the winner is the player with the highest number of victory points.  There is no value for treasure or action cards once the game ends.  The only exception to this is that there are a select number of action cards which award victory points as they are played during the game.  These points are also added into the final victory point total at the conclusion of the game.  These cards hold a lot of value since they provide victory points which are not associated with victory cards that can bog down your deck and lower its efficiency.
 Combination/Specialty Cards:
With some of the more recent expansion sets, cards types have been combined to provide more versatility during game play.  An example would be the Harem which is a victory card that doubles as a treasure card (2 VP and $2) or the Great Hall which is a victory card that doubles as an action card (1 VP with +1 card and +1 action); essentially counting as a cycling estate since it replaces itself with another card.  Keep in mind that playing this card consumes an action which is then refunded.  To allow for multiple actions to be played in a turn, you must use a card which provides you with +2 or more actions (replacing the current action and providing you with a free action).  Some action cards are considered attack cards since they manipulate the opponent's deck.  You will notice that there is a color pattern to the cards which is as follows:
  Green - Victory card
  White - Action card
  Yellow - Treasure card
  Blue - Reaction card (can play in response to attack cards)
  Orange - Action/Duration card (effects both this turn and next turn)
  Purple - Curses
  Potion - counts as a treasure (used to purchase cards from the alchemy set)

In the early stages of the game, you will want to increase the effectiveness of your spending capability by purchasing silver and gold coins.  It is also beneficial to acquire cards which remove the copper and/or estates from your deck, thus increasing the value of the cards drawn at the start of each turn.  The basic idea is to refrain from making unwise purchases which will overload your deck and decrease it's purchasing capability in later turns (such as buying estates or copper).  Most players will try to avoid buying victory cards until the end of the game (since they are essentially dead weight within your deck preventing you from drawing a better card) at which time it will be the only thing they purchase from that point on.  There are several combinations of cards which will allow you to continue drawing cards until you have most or all of your deck within your hand at one time (possibly allowing for the purchase of multiple cards with an abundance of coin).  These will take the form of playing a card which gives you multiple actions followed by playing a card which gives you multiple cards.  Mix in some attack cards to disrupt your opponent's rhythm and/or load him down with curses to assure yourself the victory...unless he does it to your first. 


  1. Dominion is a very fun game, I just got it a few weeks ago as a birthday present. My wife and I have played it a few times together and we both enjoy it (she is a 'non-gamer' so take that as high praise). I'm looking forward to trying it out with 3 or 4 players.

    Overall, it is worth trying a few demo games in a store or at a friend's house, or just jump in and buy it.

  2. Looks like you killed it by posting about the isotropic.org link. Too many players all of a sudden :)

  3. Oh, Dominion. I love Dominion. It's one of the few games that overcomes my 'try before you buy... oh, wait, you've tried, so you must know someone who's bought, so you don't need to buy' principle and goes directly to 'just buy the damn thing already, it has replayability out the wazoo'. I do advise changing up the deck composition regularly, though. Playing any one set of ten card types for too long results in a very mechanical experience once one or more players has figured out how to game the beast.


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