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Dominion Articles / Glossary Update
« on: February 25, 2019, 11:09:33 pm »
The glossary on the front page is in need of some updating. It still references some first edition cards, for example. Below is the proposed updated version.  Note, I am going to delete all the abbreviations that are on that page, as well, unless there are strong objections.

Definitions should be as simple and straightforward as possible to help new players who might reference the glossary. If you have any additions or suggested changes on how the definitions below could be clearer, please post in this thread. Thanks!

EDIT: Version 3.

Some of the terms commonly used in the Dominion community include:

Base Cards: A set of the non-kingdom supply cards (such as Coppers, Provinces, and Curses) needed to play any game of Dominion. Purchasing a set of Base Cards makes any expansion playable or expands play of the base set to five or six players. Compare base set.

Base Set: The original Dominion, with no expansions. For example, "In the base set, Chapel is the best early-game trasher." Compare Base Cards.

Big Money:  See money.

Board:  See kingdom.

Cantrip: Any card that gives +1 Card, +1 Action; it costs no action to spend it and it replaces itself in the hand.  Usually does not refer to cards that give more than Card or more than one Action. Compare village and lab.

Colony Game:  Any game in which Colony and Platinum (from Prosperity) are available for purchase.

Combo: A small set of cards (usually two, sometimes three) whose interaction is particularly strong, especially if the cards are individually weak but together can become a game-winning strategy. Compare engine, money, rush, and slog.

Counter:  A card or strategy that acts to neutralize another card (usually an attack) or strategy, whether directly (e.g., Moat) or indirectly (e.g., Library vs. Militia/Goons).

Cycling: Moving through your deck.  Scavenger and Messenger provide an extreme example of cycling because your entire deck is moved into your discard, but cards like Warehouse and Cellar also cycle your deck by drawing and discarding cards.

Draw Dead: Generally refers to drawing an Action card when you have no more Actions to play.  In context, may refer to drawing an Action card that cannot be effectively used (e.g., Baron without Estate, Moneylender without Copper).

Duchy Dancing: When players are buying Duchies instead of Provinces, even if Provinces are available, as no one is willing or able to buy Provinces without risking losing the game.

Early Game:  The first few decisions or turns which sets up the rest of the game. Usually, the opening two hands through the first couple of shuffles.

Endgame (or Late Game): The time of the game when players are looking to score points, empty piles, or considering immediate abilities to do so.

End on piles:  Force the game to end by emptying three or more piles (four or more with 5+ players).

Engine: Deck which dramatically grows in value or lets you do more and more as it gets built. Usually characterized by drawing and playing lots of Action cards, but not always. Sometimes augmented by a descriptor of a key feature of the deck, such as a “draw-your-deck engine” or “multi-Province engine”. Compare money, combo, rush, and slog.

Gainer: A card with the ability to gain other (usually desirable, c.f. junker) cards.  Most gainers are restricted in what they can gain, such as a card that only gains silvers, or a card that only gains cards costing up to $4.

Greening:  Purchasing victory cards, usually in the endgame.

Junk: (noun) Bad cards that add bloat to a deck. Coppers, Estates, Curses, and Ruins are the usual examples. (verb) Add bad cards to a deck (preferably an opponent's).

Kingdom: The set of cards that make up the game of interest. Sometimes referred to as the board.

Lab: Short for the card Laboratory, also refers to any card that non-terminally increases your hand-size by one.

Late Game: See endgame.

Midgame:  The middle of the game. Players have decided upon a general path of deck building, but players aren’t necessarily looking to score yet and there aren’t active threats to end the game.

Mirror Match: When players pursue identical or near-identical strategies.

Missing the Shuffle: Refers to any cards that aren't included in the next shuffle. Cards that miss the shuffle are usually in your hand or in play. Oftentimes, you want bad cards to miss the shuffle and good cards to stay in the current shuffle.

Money: Narrowly, a deck where no Actions are bought at all, only Treasure and Victory cards.  More broadly, a deck that gets economy from Treasures supplemented with some Actions.  Money decks usually don’t draw much. When using Treasures and one other card exclusively, this is sometimes called Big Money + X. Compare combo, engine, rush, and slog.

Non-Terminal (or Non-Terminal Action):  Any Action card that gives at least one additional Action.

Opening:  Purchases made on the first two turns.  Usually clarified by the opening split.

Opening Split:  Treasure values of the first two hands (usually 5/2 or 4/3). Compare split piles and winning the split.

Piles: See end on piles.

Province Game (rarely, Non-Colony Game):  A standard game in which Colony and Platinum are not available.

Pseudo-Trash:  Remove cards from your deck without trashing them. For example, Island sets aside cards.

Rush: A strategy that attempts to end the game as quickly as possible, typically with a three-pile ending. Compare combo, engine, money, and slog.

Sifting: Selecting one set of (usually good) cards and discarding or returning another set of cards. For example, Cartographer sifts by letting you discard unwanted cards from the top of your deck. Compare cycling.

Slog: A game or strategy characterized by decks filled with junk, willingly (e.g. to beef up Gardens) or unwillingly (e.g. because of attacks). Compare combo, engine, rush, and money.

Split Piles: Piles containing more than one differently named card, in a particular order. For example, Encampment and Plunder. Contrast with Knights and Ruins which are shuffled. Compare opening split and winning the split.

Stop Card: A card that does not draw any more cards from your deck, like Giant or Gold. If Actions are limited, this may or may not include terminal draw.   

Terminal (or Terminal Action):  Any action card that does not provide another Action when played.

Terminal Collision: Drawing multiple terminal action cards together, especially when you can only play one of them.

Terminal Draw: An Action card that draws cards but gives no additional Actions. Usually refers to +2 Cards or greater. For example, Moat, Smithy, or Hunting Grounds.

Terminal Gold: Any terminal action that gives +$3.

Terminal Silver:  Any terminal action that gives +$2.

Topdeck:  Place a card on top of your deck that would normally go elsewhere (e.g. Alchemist, Royal Seal).

Three-Pile: Ending a game by emptying a third pile, often while ahead on points. See end on piles.

Trasher (or Deck-thinner):  Any card that allows one to trash cards from one's deck.

Trash-for-Benefit:  A card that trashes, then does something (useful) based on what it trashed. For example, Apprentice draws cards and Salvager gives coin.

Village:  Besides the card of the same name, can refer to any card which allows someone to play multiple actions in a turn; most (but not all) such cards have "Village" in their names.

Winning the Split: Getting the most copies of a Kingdom Card from a heavily contested pile, oftentimes a card that all players want as many copies of as possible. For example, if you gain 6 Bridges and your opponent gains 4 Bridges, you win the split 6-4. Compare opening split and split piles.

Puzzles and Challenges / It's Me, Puzzles and Challenges
« on: March 01, 2018, 11:17:41 am »
It's nice to see new puzzles and challenges being posted. Too bad they are being posted in Articles.

Simulation / Geronimoo's Dominion Simulator: Bug with Number of Ruins
« on: February 20, 2018, 03:49:21 pm »
When playing with 3 or 4 players, the number of Ruins in the game is incorrect. For example, when playing Cultist v. Cultist v. BMU v. BMU, the number of Ruins is 10, according to the sample games. There does not seem to be a problem with number of Curses.

Dominion Articles / Masquerade - Market Square is Not a Combo
« on: February 15, 2018, 08:20:25 pm »
Trying my hand at a short, simulation-based article. What do you think?

Masquerade and Market Square seem like they should be an absolutely unstoppable combination because Market Square gives out Gold for doing what Masquerade does naturally: trash cards! The extra buy on play is an added bonus that can help out late game, as well. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that a strategy that always buys Market Square over Silver after getting one Masquerade actually loses to buying no Market Squares at all[1]. At some point, the Market Squares stop colliding with the Masquerade as frequently and money density is almost always going to be less than $2/card[2], so beyond about 2 Market Squares, Silver actually becomes the better buy[3].

Figure. Each data point represents 10,000 simulated games in Geronimoo's Dominion Simulator. The graph displays the percentage point difference in win rate between a Masquerade - Market Square strategy and a Masquerade alone strategy.
Masquerade with two Market Squares does beat Masquerade alone, but only just barely[4]. Masquerade alone is a strong strategy, and while Market Square helps, it is not that special. For example, Masquerade with two Markets does about as well as Masquerade with two Market Squares, even though Market costs $5[5]. Also, Masquerade with two Market Squares still gets beat by other strong money strategies like Courtyard[6].

Masquerade and Market Square is not a killer combo, but the two cards do have a good synergy that can be easily supplemented to create some very fast strategies. Look out for ways of getting extra actions, extra draw, or an additional attack. It does not take much more than what Masquerade and Market Square already provide to create a deck that will come together really quickly and beat any money-based strategy!


[1] See Figure. The "Masquerade alone" strategy is the default two-player Province Masquerade strategy with one change: the strategy buys Province if the number of Golds in deck is greater than 0 (rather than greater than 1). This change slightly improves the bot and is consistent with the Gold buying rule of the "Courtyard" strategy, which is used later. The "Masquerade - Market Square" strategy augments the "Masquerade alone" strategy by buying the given number of Market Squares after one Masquerade but before buying Silvers.
[2] Simulation results show that average coin generated per turn does not ever exceed $8, which is less than $2 per card in a five card hand.
[3] See Figure.
[4] See Figure.
[5] Based on 10,000 simulations of a Masquerade with 2 Market Squares strategy versus a similar Masquerade with 2 Markets strategy that buys 2 Markets after buying one Masquerade but before buying Silver (if the Markets are affordable). Masquerade with two Markets wins 49% of the time while Masquerade with two Market Squares wins 46% of the time.
[6] Based on 10,000 simulations of Masquerade with two Market Squares versus the default Courtyard strategy. Courtyard wins 53% of the time while Masquerade with two Market Squares wins 43% of the time.

Dominion Articles / Gold
« on: September 14, 2017, 08:30:53 pm »
Update 9/17/17: Re-wrote second half of article reflecting comments in thread below. Example games still to come.
Update 9/21/17: Edited section headings; minor tweaks to first half of article; removed some wishy-washiness; added example games; added concluding challenge.

“Over you gold shall have no dominion.”
Lady Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring

Gold increases your buying power, does not cost an action to play, and is available in every kingdom. What a great card! You can’t draw it dead with Smithy! It’s so shiny! A no-brainer buy, right? No. Do not succumb to dragon sickness.

"Just because you can afford it, doesn't mean you should buy it." This aphorism -- who knew Suze Orman gave such great Dominion advice? -- is especially true with Gold. In fact, buying Gold whenever you can afford it or even just when you can first afford it is often an unmitigated disaster.

Why does the allure of glittery Gold spell your eventual defeat?

  • Gold is a “stop card”, preventing drawing or cycling through your deck.

Ask yourself at the beginning of the game: “What’s my ideal deck going to look like? What cards do I need lots of? What’s my plan?” With each passing expansion, a deck that buys mostly Treasure with only a couple of Action cards is increasingly a losing proposition to Action-heavy decks thinned of cards that stop you from drawing or cycling through your deck. Estates, Coppers, Shelters, sure, they’re junk, and too many terminal Actions can obviously stop up your deck, but even though Gold produces $3, it, too, is a “stop card” that slows you down.

  • Gold isn’t the strongest card you can afford.

Costs in Dominion are a funny thing. Just because something is expensive does not mean it’s better than all of those other cheaper things. There is usually something better to buy to advance your plan and improve your deck than Gold, and it may not cost $5 or $6 either. Do you need a village for more actions? Or maybe desperately need an extra buy? Sure, it may feel pretty terrible to buy a $6 Herbalist at first, but if you need the card, get the card! And it makes sense, right? What's the point of having lots and lots of cool Kingdom cards and lots and lots of expansions from which to pull those cool cards if buying Gold on $6 is always the right call? Boring! Dominion expansions would be such a rip off.

  • Gold is not the best payload in the kingdom.

“Payload” is what you actually use to end the game with a win. Gold should be thought of as the payload of last resort, not the default one. There are lots of great cards in Dominion and lots of interesting decks you can build that do not rely on Gold as the payload to buy Provinces outright. For example, Gold isn’t always the best Treasure available for maximizing your coin available. Or maybe you are building a very Action heavy deck that gets more than enough coin and buy from Action cards, instead. Maybe you are able to gain lots of cards and empty piles early. If your answers to “What’s my ideal deck going to look like? What cards do I need lots of?” and “What’s my plan?” do not involve lots of Gold, then don’t buy it! Don’t be afraid to buy something more useful, instead.

I’ll admit, there are some good uses for Gold.

  • Gold can be engine fuel and a trash for benefit target.

Gold in a engine? Yes! A timely Gold or two can directly fuel a draw engine that relies on Encampment or Storyteller. It’s also the necessary companion card for Legionary’s attack, which is great for slowing down your opponent while you continue to build. Finally, Apprentice loves the high cost of Gold, drawing you as many as six cards. 

In fact, Gold is often a great target for many types of trash for benefit. It’s exactly $2 away from Province which is very convenient for cards like Remodel and Governor, and the $6 cost is great for VP from Bishop and Ritual, boost of coin from Salvager, or gaining expensive engine components or late Duchies from Stonemason.

  • Gold is sometimes the only payload option you've got.

So even though I just knocked the idea, sometimes Gold is the best payload for implementing your plan (you haven’t forgotten your plan, right?), either through generating lots of coin, then buying Provinces or through trash for benefit. (Hey, sometimes it happens!)

However, even if Gold is your designated payload, resist the urge to add Gold to your deck sooner than you need it. Build your deck first, then add Gold as payload as late as possible. You need to first ensure that you have enough draw in your deck to handle the additional stop cards (i.e. The Golds). When you add the Gold before you're able to reliably draw it, it will simply get in the way.

  • Gold can be a good card in a money-ish deck.

Sometimes you just can’t build a deck that draws a huge hand every turn or cycles efficiently through the junk. In fact, the fewer cards you play on your turn, the better Gold tends to be. For example, in a Legionary game with no way to increase handsize, gaining multiple Golds is almost certainly going to be essential to victory.  On the other hand, a deck with Embassy and Treasures can get by fine with 0-2 Golds.

  • Gold provides economy.

Sometimes you just need the money to act as a reliable springboard to more expensive engine pieces. I get it. Just don’t get greedy. Ask yourself “Do I really need a/another Gold now?” If there is a critical Attack, trasher, engine component, or other card you need first to execute your plan, and you can afford it, get it. Do not be afraid to buy a cheaper card that you need, and look for other ways to integrate the necessary Gold gaining, instead.

Also, even if you have to rely on Treasure to get the necessary economy for your deck, ask yourself whether you really need Gold, specifically. You already got to $6, didn’t you? Was it a perfect shuffle to get there? Or is your deck already capable of what you need? In many kingdoms, due to it’s convenient price point and the many possible gainers, Silver may be the only Treasure you need.

Free Gold is better, but not always good.

When using Gold as engine fuel, payload, economy, or even in a money-ish deck, the last thing you want to do is waste a precious buy and $6 on such an expensive lump of coal. Luckily, Gold is often easier to gain than to buy. The gaining is built-in on cards like Governor, and interactions like Apprentice-Market Square and combos like Hermit/Madman-Market Square rely on Gold gaining to work. Lots of cards like Tunnel, Soothsayer, Bandit, Courtier, Bag of Gold, and events like Windfall, can give you the necessary golden fodder easily, as well.

However, do not get bogged down with too much Gold. It’s tempting to overuse the “gain Gold” option. Every Gold you add to your deck is a stop card, even if it’s free. Too much Gold and you’re just Cursing yourself to the delight of your opponents.

Example games.

Burning Skull Base Dominion #06:

Burning Skull focuses on his plan of building a draw engine, so he buys cheaper cards he needs even when he could buy Gold. In contrast, his opponent grabs Gold at their first opportunity. Even gaining Gold for free through Bandit is a mistake because their deck is not at a place where the Golds’ buying power can be utilized effectively.

Encampment Cage Match, Game 1:

Mic Qsenoch’s game plan is to eventually utilize Tactician and Encampment for draw while maintaining control through trashing, cycling, and attacks. Gold is not important to his plan. Turn 6 he opts for Potion over Gold with the idea of getting University for extra gains. Also, even though Mic Qsenoch utilizes Encampment for draw, Gold is not is not needed to keep the draw going. Instead, he uses the extra gains his deck produces to add Encampments back to his deck.

Fun fact: A Gold is not gained until an hour and a half into the match!

My challenge to you.

If you are stuck in a rut with your play with your friends, always buying Gold on $6, then try this: commit to never buy a Gold. Ever. You will likely find that once you re-orient your game plans, it's not a handicap at all and your play will actually improve. And the situations you lose because you avoided buying Gold? Well, you will find they are fewer and farther between than you thought.

Dominion Articles / A Note on Durations
« on: September 07, 2017, 06:06:02 pm »
[[This is an example of what I would eventually like to see as far as article type on the blog. Not too long, not necessarily card-specific, and friendly to all players.]]
[[Updated 9/10/17]]

Duration cards, cards that do something after your turn, were introduced in Seaside and expanded upon in Adventures and Empires. They usually have a small effect now and a large effect later. For instance, Caravan simply replaces itself in your hand this turn, but next turn you get to start the turn with an extra card.

There are primarily two very different ways Duration cards can be utilized: to create consistency and to create big turns. Consistency makes play predictable, minimizing bad luck. No one likes tripping up at the finish line because of a bad draw. Contrastingly, big turns are important because Dominion is often a game of thresholds rather than continuity. Often, $7 is not much better than $6, but $8 is much better than $7. A deck that can create very big turns, even at the cost of some completely lost turns, can often generate a win.

Durations are great at creating consistent decks because their effects are spread over multiple turns. For instance, consider using Village versus Fishing Village to supply extra actions for a deck. With Village, in order to have extra actions on a given turn, you need to play a Village, and often, that means starting with one in your hand. With Fishing Village, you could play a Village on that turn or have played one at any point the previous turn in order to have extra actions. That it usually easier to accomplish and lets decks “kick off” easier, leading to fewer dead turns.

When using Durations to create consistency, it’s important to not let them “lump up” when playing them. For instance, suppose you have 2 copies of Haunted Woods in your deck and you want to use them to create a larger starting hand every turn in order to increase the chance you are able to kick off your engine to draw your deck every turn. Suppose further that you end up with both in hand after an unusually good turn. Then, consider playing one copy this turn and holding off on the other. This is going to create more consistent future draws. If you play both now, next turn will be guaranteed to be great, but what about the turn after that? It could be a costly dud. Smoothing so you play one a turn rather than two then zero then two then zero… could benefit you long term.

Making sure you have at least one Duration card in play every turn is especially important for the cards where part of the effect does not stack: Lighthouse’s defense, Haunted Wood’s attack, Bridge Troll's attack and Enchantress’s attack. One card in play is all you need to get the effect and having one in play every turn maximizes the use of that effect. For example, while Lighthouse is a very good card in many two-player kingdoms, Lighthouse is often the key card in multiplayer games. Having one Lighthouse in play every turn to prevent junking attacks is critical; one missed turn can easily lead to 3, 4, or more Curses! If you draw more than one, consider saving that second Lighthouse instead of playing it. That extra $1 is probably not worth it.

When using multiple Durations to create big turns, you do want their effects to lump up. For example, suppose you are building a deck with the idea of using a slew of Bridge Trolls to lower the cost of Provinces in order to buy out the pile in one turn (the classic "Bridge Megaturn"). Playing one or two Bridge Trolls consistently is probably not going to cut it. Get 7 or 8 in play in the span of two turns for the big win! What’s nice about Bridge Troll in this example is that, as opposed to Bridge, you have 2 turns to get the necessary cards in play rather than just one turn. The duration effect stacks nicely while requiring less of your deck to accomplish the stack. For example, you could play 5 Bridge Trolls one turn then 3 the next rather than all 8 at once.

Duration cards can sometimes be used for consistency and other times used for big turns. For example, Tactician alone creates a monster hand size next turn at the expense of this one, giving you a chance to pull together some key cards for a big buy. But you could employ two Tacticians in combination with lots of virtual money, Black Market, or Villa to build a deck that consistently starts each hand with 10 cards while still having a powerful turn (the classic “Double Tactician” deck).

Duration cards’ major downside is an increased chance of missing the shuffle because they usually stay in play for at least one more turn after playing them rather than being cleaned up with the other cards in play. However, because Durations do tend to miss the shuffle and also stay in play longer than your normal Action, a deck can handle a lot more terminal Duration cards than it can pure terminal actions.

Sometimes one great turn is better than two smaller turns. Sometimes consistency is critical. The trick with Durations is being able to utilize the cards’ strengths to create consistency or create big turns and play into those strengths.

[Edit: see comments below; changed paragraph order; clarification of Village/Fishing Village example; added paragraph on non-stacking effects with Lighthouse in multiplayer games as an example; clarified big turn; added additional Tactician discussion.]

I bought Windfall for the first time ever in a game yesterday and it got me thinking that there are some Events that I almost never use. Or want to use. Or really ever think is the best use of a buy. What is the worst Event? Maybe the winner of the poll should be declared The Event Most Likely To Replace Scout As The Butt of Every Joke Because It's Almost Completely Useless?

Here are my candidates:

Windfall -- Very rarely do I draw my deck, want Golds as a payload, and not have a better way of gaining them.

Tax -- Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems like it's only really worth buying when you are playing an engine against a big money-ish player. But how often does that happen anymore?

Raid -- I've bought this in maybe two games. And it just feels like I'm cursing myself.

I haven't played enough games to have a solid feel for Annex, Banquet, or Conquest, but they also strike me as potentially very situational, at best.

What do you think?

Dominion General Discussion / Advice for Playing Against Stef?
« on: October 19, 2016, 12:33:09 pm »
I have my F.DS Championship Round 3 match against Stef scheduled for Saturday. Any advice for playing against him? Or on how to prepare? Or maybe more generally, how do you make sure you bring your "A" game to a match?

Let's Discuss ... / Let's Discuss Alchemy Cards: Potion
« on: April 28, 2016, 02:39:55 pm »

Did you shuffle up a Felix Felicis or Draught of Living Death?


When you go for Potion-cost action cards, do you always open Potion?
When do you buy more than 1 Potion?
Is the variance Potion adds to the game good or bad for Dominion as a whole?
Have you ever resigned after drawing 1P?
Do you want to see Potions utilized in future expansions?

Dominion Articles / Pile Control Ponderings
« on: April 27, 2016, 11:32:58 pm »
(... or PCP for short.)

Pile control is simply the ability to influence when piles run out. The better you are able to do this, the more pile control you have. When you have a lot more control than your opponent, you determine when piles run low, you have the power to keep playing when you're behind, and you have the ability to empty piles and win when you are ahead. There are a lot of different aspects of play that affect your ability to exert pile control. For example, having cards that gain more cards,  building leaner, meaner engines that get to those cards more often, and confounding your opponents’ ability to exert pile control with attacks. 

Extra gains not only help get your deck up and running, they can get you a lot of pile control. Look for opportunities to empty cheap piles such as Estates, Ruins, or Curses when you have extra buys (and the lead!). Cards like Remodel, Rebuild, or Butcher are great for end game pile control. They don't get you "extra" cards, but you can use them to lower key piles like Provinces while maintaining a point lead. Possession, which is mostly just a big Workshop that uses your opponent's deck (Donald X., May 2014), and its more polite little brother, Outpost, can get you those extra gains through an extra turn, too.

Playing junking cards (or not!) like Witch and Cultist help you control certain piles like Curses, Ruins, Copper, and Estates in addition to slowing down your opponents and reducing their ability to put together a strong deck. Sometimes you can empty other piles, too, by dishing it out using cards like Messenger or Jester. Ambassador a Province or two for the win, anyone?

By the way, did you know you can empty ENTIRE PILES at will? Well, you can!  (... sometimes.) Certainly if you have a big engine that can gain a lot of cards, but Rats, Upgrade, and Magpie can all be emptied in particular situations in one shot with just a couple of cards, even though they don't DIRECTLY say things like "gain all the cards”.

Suppose you have Fortress, Rats, and Rats in hand and you have an empty deck and discard pile. Play Rats (gain a Rats, trash the Fortress). Play Rats (draw Rats, gain a Rats, trash a Fortress). Play Rats (draw Rats, gain a Rats, trash a Fortress)... and so on until the pile is empty and you can have ALL THE RATS!

You can pull the same trick without an empty deck and discard pile if you have Watchtower in hand. Or even without Fortress if you have nothing but a couple of Rats in hand, no deck, and no discard pile (WanderingWinder, August 2012).

Upgrade with Fortress works similarly to Rats with Fortress (Hertz_Doughnut, April 2013), and is often more useful.

You can also empty the Magpie pile with Watchtower (Gromph, April 2015).

Or, you know, with perfect shuffle luck, just empty the supply by turn 4 (Celestial Chameleon, February 2013). OK, so that won't ever be a real-game scenario, but it's impressive, nonetheless!

Back to more realistic scenarios. You can decrease your opponents' control (which increases your own), too. Deny them key control cards, pin your opponents (maybe even with Bureaucrat, like Marin did in December of 2013?), junk them (as noted above), or let them junk themselves by buying green too early and often.

The point here is that thinking about emptying piles as an active process rather than just thinking “what gets 4 Provinces the fastest?” can help elevate your game and increase your chances of victory. After all, “In Dominion, the objective is not to have the most points when the game ends. The objective to have the game end when you have the most points” (Tables, December 2013).

Help! / Beggar Counting House?
« on: April 18, 2016, 07:56:36 pm »
So, I am dusting off my Dominion skills. Usually, when I get cleanly beat, I can usually say "yeah, I should have seen that." But, this game, NO WAY would I have seen Beggar-Counting House as playable. And that concerns me. Is this a thing I have missed? Did I grossly misplay? If I had stuck to 2 Masqs and money would that have been better?

Code: [Select]
Beggar, Cellar, Masquerade, Philosopher's Stone, Caravan, Fortress, Militia, Scavenger, Counting House, Adventurer
From Schneau's Beggar article:
Similarly, Counting House can be a good partner in an otherwise mediocre kingdom - you can easily get more than enough Coppers in your deck to get Colonies. Also, since Begger is a terminal Gold, it is easy to hit early $5 to get the Counting Houses. This should come with the usual caveat that Counting House is not a good card, and should only be attempted if no strong strategies are present.

I guess so? But with Masq on the board?

Goko Dominion Online / Client Download Problems?
« on: February 01, 2016, 12:32:59 pm »
I thought I would play a quick game or two of Dominion Online last week, but I ran into an issue downloading the new client. Did anyone else have problems downloading the most recent client for Windows?

(For me the download is very slow and often fails around the 15 MB mark. I have tried several times in various ways. No problems with other downloads, but I want to gather more info before posting to MF's forum.)

Game Reports / He Resigned on Turn 41
« on: May 06, 2015, 09:37:06 pm »
... Or Why Ambassador Games Suck.

Code: [Select]
Ambassador, Chancellor, Thief, Golem, Cartographer, Inn, Rogue, Stables, Trading Post, Harem
There just isn't much going on except playing Ambassadors. There was a tenuous moment where I felt I was falling behind, but Golem helped me catch back up. I probably went a little heavy on Silver buying. I regretted sending over the Potion, as well. This game could have easily gone on for a while with each of us trying to (safely) get our decks to play more and more Ambassadors until the other was too swamped to catch up. I was just about there when Dingan resigned.


edit: gender (Sorry!)
edit: gender (Sorry again!)

Feedback / All Cards
« on: April 27, 2015, 03:51:11 pm »
The All Cards link off of the main page needs to be updated with Prince and Adventures.

Help! / Help Me Close the Deal (Governor)
« on: April 22, 2015, 12:54:04 pm »

Code: [Select]
Transmute, Squire, Market Square, Sage, Spice Merchant, Baker, Butcher, Cache, Governor, Trading Post
Monsieur X (wins on turns) 34 - 34 Polk5440

In this Governor-centric game versus Monsieur X, I got ahead but ended up losing in the end (even with pretty good shuffles). I quickly regretted not opening Sage before a Market Square, but I was ahead around turn 8, anyway. However, I fell behind and X took the game (though I was only $1 short from snatching the game back from him).

After, X suggested that I should have greened rather than buying two Governors on turn 9. I had decided that gaining three Governors that turn and winning the split was the better move. Given the outcome of the game, I am inclined to agree with X, but I do not see why greening is the right move there versus building.

How would you have handled this transition to the endgame? Was there a bigger error elsewhere?

Code: [Select]
---------- Polk5440: turn 9 ----------
Polk5440 - plays Sage
Polk5440 - reveals Spice Merchant
Polk5440 - places Spice Merchant in hand
Polk5440 - plays Market Square
Polk5440 - draws Sage
Polk5440 - plays Sage
Polk5440 - reveals Copper, Copper, Governor
Polk5440 - places Governor in hand
Polk5440 - discards: Copper, Copper
Polk5440 - plays Governor
Polk5440 - chooses to draw cards
Polk5440 - draws Governor, Governor, Gold
Monsieur X - draws Governor
Polk5440 - plays Governor
Polk5440 - chooses to gain a gold
Polk5440 - gains Gold
Monsieur X - gains Silver
Polk5440 - plays Market Square
Polk5440 - draws Gold
Polk5440 - plays Governor
Polk5440 - chooses to gain a gold
Polk5440 - gains Gold
Monsieur X - gains Silver
Polk5440 - plays Butcher
Polk5440 - receives 2 coin tokens
Polk5440 - trashes Spice Merchant
Polk5440 - uses 1 coin token
Polk5440 - gains Governor
Polk5440 - plays 3 Gold
Polk5440 - uses 1 coin token
Polk5440 - buys Governor
Polk5440 - gains Governor
Polk5440 - buys Governor
Polk5440 - gains Governor
Polk5440 - shuffles deck
Polk5440 - draws Copper, Gold, Governor, Governor, Governor

General Discussion / I Am Engaged!
« on: March 24, 2015, 04:21:09 pm »
I proposed to my girlfriend on March 14, 2015 at 9:26..... And she said yes!

Maybe this should go in the math thread?

* Well, approximately 9:26. Say, within the hour.

Game Reports / The Best Rats Trash Ever!
« on: May 31, 2014, 12:50:50 pm »
I just played a completely baffling game against JOG. Here's the kingdom:

Code: [Select]
Herbalist, Shanty Town, Swindler, Death Cart, Feast, Ironmonger, Rats, Throne Room, Count, Counting House
Board Analysis: Swindler is the only attack, and it's a strong one here. Look at all the great cards at $4: Ironmonger, Throne Room, Death Cart (and Feast). They all can become Rats. At $5, Count provides much needed economy, trashing, and points. That's also really important. But Counts become Counting Houses, and no, that's not secretly a good thing in this game (I don't think). There is so little draw on this board (Ironmonger, Shanty Town, and Rats), Ironmonger is going to very important. Throne Room makes these cards better. What's an action dense deck going to look like? Lots of Ironmongers and Thrones. Swindler for the attack, and Count and Death Cart for trashing and payload. I didn't think of it at the time, but later in the game, JOG goes for Feast, aiming for Throne-Feast into Counts and Duchies for a payload. Golds are Swindler-proof, but I don't know if a more money-based deck can hold up.

The Opening: I get to open Count, which is great. I pick up Herbalist on $2 thinking: I am going to have a great deck that gives me at least $8 a turn; I'll need that extra buy! Yeah, I didn't see how this was going to go down very well. JOG opens Ironmonger-Swindler.

Midgame: I think I trash down too much. At the end of turn 11, my deck is just 6 cards: Rats, Count, Throne Room, Ironmonger, Herbalist, and Swindler. JOG has 3 Ironmongers, 2 Thrones, a Swindler, a Count, two Coppers, and a Silver. He is in great shape. I am able to pick up a Death Cart and get my deck going again before JOG closes me out, though. My Swindlers start biting his deck, and we both end up with a lot of Rats. At then end of turn 17, I have 8 Rats and JOG has 6 Rats. We are still tied 0-0 somehow. My plan at this point is to buy stuff and hope I can end the game on a win.

The Rats Trash: On turn 17, my Swindlers hit two of JOG's Rats. I replaced them with 2 more Rats. On his turn 18, he returned the favor, only the Rats pile was now empty. I get two Ironmongers in their place, and things are looking up. Feast is actually a dangerous target here because Throne-Feast gets you points and pile control. On turn 19, after playing an Ironmonger and a Shanty Town, 5 of my 6 Rats collide -- with a COUNT! That's probably the best Rats trash I've ever had. Trash 5 Rats, draw 5 cards, a brand new hand to continue the turn. My deck is cleaned and I am able to buy.... a Duchy!

The Endgame: I was skating on thin ice through the endgame. With my deck cleaned out and Rats gone, I just had to hang on for the win. I was probably not aggressive enough at getting points, there was a turn or two where JOG could have had a perfect draw to win, but his deck was filled with Rats, so it was unlikely. But I probably could have shut him out all together at that point if I was more careful.

This is a game where I really felt good on the opening, but then felt like resigning after turn 11. I played it out because there was a chance I could come back. Swindler is such a swingy card, and the board so confusing, that there was a chance I could get lucky and capitalize. And mounting a comeback from a thin deck is usually better than mounting one from a fat deck.

This ended up being one of the most interesting Rats games I've played.

Dominion League / 6 Designed Kingdoms to Use if You Want
« on: May 26, 2014, 11:38:52 am »
It would be great to see designed kingdoms used in league play.  Maybe the last week of each season, but I don't know how that would work. 

What's that? You want more?

Well, if you and your opponent are interested in using more of the Kingdom Design Challenge kingdoms for league play, here are 6 more good ones that were submitted. Feel free to use them in your match! (They are spoilered in case you want to use them but not look at them before your match.)

The six kingdoms use all of the expansions, but none of the promos.

I have no idea how fair or feasible it is just to post 6 kingdoms if you actually want to play them for a league match, but here you go anyway. Enjoy!

shark_bait  (No Colonies, No Shelters) Develop, Menagerie, Feodum, Quarry, Salvager, Horn of Plenty, Royal Seal, Inn, Bank, Wishing Well

Itchiko   (Use Colonies, Use Shelters)   Hunting Grounds, Rebuild, Duke, Saboteur, City, Procession, Island, Smugglers, Trade Route, Embargo

Polk5440 (No Colonies, No Shelters) Chapel, Farming Village, Silk Road, Taxman, Wandering Minstrel, Harvest, Rabble, Fairgrounds, Harem, Young Witch, Moat (Moat is bane)

JacquesTheBard (No Colonies, Use Shelters) Scrying Pool, Upgrade, Procession, Rats, Highway, Squire, Scheme, Vineyard, Workshop, Fortress

DG (No Colonies, Use Shelters) Pearl Diver, Scheme, Armory, Plaza, Procession, Tactician, Pirate Ship, Death Cart, Transmute, Native Village

Qvist   (No Colonies, Use Shelters)    Stonemason, Market Square, Steward, Farming Village, Herald, Salvager, Baker, Bazaar, Butcher, Journeyman

Well, ok, ok. Five were submitted, plus one I would have submitted had I not judged. shark_bait's wasn't considered because he judged (this is a different one from the Designed Kingdom he posted in Game Reports), and Qvist's kingdom was played by AdamH. Itchiko's kingdom would have been played next had AI and JOG continued their match. The other two were candidates. So these are good kingdoms to play.

Tournaments and Events / 2014 KDC: How the Kingdoms Were Selected
« on: May 18, 2014, 07:45:43 pm »
Discuss and vote for your favorite kingdoms here.

View the spreadsheet with a list of all the entries, the candidates, the finalists, playtesting comments, card statistics, and expansion statistics here.

Juding Round 1: Initial Evaluation.
(123 Kingdoms)

Shark_bait and I each independently scored every entry as a 1 ("no"), 2 ("maybe"), or 3 ("yes") over the course of a week and a half. We did not look at submitters' names.

For me, at this stage, if there were a lot of a certain type of kingdom (e.g. Menagerie engines, Procession chains, "make Scout useful", "make Rebuild bad") I tried to compare these kingdoms directly to each other.

The kingdoms that scored at least 4 points became "candidates" and moved on to the playtesting round. The only kingdoms which were not playtested were the kingdoms receiving two "no"s or one "no" and one "maybe".

Judging Round 2: Playtesting.
(54 Candidate Kingdoms)

Over the course of many weeks we playtested all of the candidates. Playtesters were me, greatexpectations, Mic Qsenoch, and Shark_Bait. Greatexpectations and I playtested the most. After each game, we made some comments.

During this phase we were concerned with questions like "Is it interesting and fun?" "Does it require a lot of skill to play?" "Are there multiple paths to victory?"

Actually, that last one was the hardest. Many, many kingdoms claimed they had a money vs. engine or engine vs. alt vp, or two competing strategies. Most of these kingdoms didn't in fact play as described. Very often there was one dominant strategy. 

Read more about that discussion here.

During this phase we rated each kingdom as a "yes" or a "no" for consideration in the final eight. There were definitely moments where we thought, "man, if we could just swap out a couple of cards, this kingdom could be really great!" We resisted the temptation to tinker.

Judging Phase 3: The Final Deliberations
(22 "yes" Kingdoms)

During Phase 3, for the final 8, a kingdom was disqualified if:

-- a judge submitted it
-- a GokoDom medal contender submitted it
-- A GokoDom medal contender played it before (e.g. was on the other side of a video or log submitted in the description)

We wrote down our favorites and then talked about how to create a great set of 8 kingdoms from those 21 kingdoms. We wanted to build as diverse, interesting, and exciting set of final kingdoms as possible. If a kingdom is interesting, but the other 7 kingdoms are very similar, it's not as interesting a match as it could be. Our criteria were:

-- "Interesting-ness"
-- Strategic diversity within and across the kingdoms
-- Expansion diversity across the kingdoms
-- Card diversity across the kingdoms
-- Submitter diversity across the kingdoms

Not all 21 kingdoms were created equally. We definitely had favorites, and we pretty much agreed on those favorites, so the final deliberations went pretty quickly. We also selected the play order for the kingdoms to make the match as exciting as possible and to showcase each selected kingdom in the best way possible. For example, three kingdoms used Throne Room, so we tried to separate them. Kingdom 2 was a "slower" kingdom, so it was sandwiched between two faster kingdoms. Stuff like that.

Honorable mentions were picked in case GokoDom finals went long. They would be eligible for voting if they got played.

If the final had gone really long, any of the candidates could have been played, but would not have been eligible for voting.

Judging Phase 4: Voting

And now you vote on the overall KDC winner!

Discuss and vote for your favorite kingdoms here.

To all the contenders, gl, hf.

[If you can't see the poll above this post, you must log in or register!]

These are the ten sets that were used for the final match of GokoDom III.  (The final match did not end in eight games, so two honorable mentions were used as well and are eligible for the final vote.)

Voting is one round of approval voting. You may vote for ("approve of") as many kingdoms as you like. So if there are a few kingdoms you really like, you can vote for all of them without fear of "wasting your vote." You may define favorite in any way you choose. You may change your vote at any time before the close of the poll.

Voting will close one week after the end of the third place match for GokoDom.

The winner will receive the Dominion expansion of his choice.


CONGRATULATIONS to the 8 finalists (in alphabetical order): Awaclus, c4master, liopoil, MarkowKette, RobertJ, Rush_Clasic, soulnet, and Stef, and the two honorable mentions: markusin and WanderingWinder. Because the two honorable mentions were played as part of the GokoDom final (kingdoms #9 and #10), they are eligible to be voted upon, as well.

How the final kingdoms were selected (judging criteria) is here.

Here's an article on Kingdom Design in which I tried to outline some of the issues that came up when the judges were evaluating kingdoms.

Feel free to discuss the kingdoms in this thread. How would you play them? Which are your favorite? 


Full Steam of the Gold Medal Match (kingdoms played in order):
Youtube playlist of entire match. Mic Qsenoch and Shecantsayno commentate last two games. AI and JOG do post-game commentary for some of the games.

Full Stream of the Bronze Medal Match (kingdoms played in alternate order):
Part I, Adam Horton commentates
Part II, for fun, Adam Horton commentates; MarkowKette fills in for michaeljb for kingdom #10

Kingdom #1: (No Colonies, No Shelters) Moat, Vagrant, Scheme, Island, Throne Room, Salvager, Jester, Rabble, Fairgrounds, Peddler

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #2: (No Colonies, No Shelters) Oasis, Shanty Town, Marauder, Young Witch, Mining Village, Silk Road, Market, Stables, Merchant Ship, Graverobber, Vagrant (note: Vagrant is bane)

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #3: (USE Colonies, No Shelters) Storeroom, Wishing Well, Coppersmith, Mining Village, Salvager, Throne Room, Mint, Tactician, Bank, Forge

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game1] [test game2]

Kingdom #4: (No Colonies, No Shelters) Horse Traders, Fool's Gold, Menagerie, Develop, Warehouse, Conspirator, Minion, Duke, Horn of Plenty, Candlestick Maker

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #5: (USE Colonies, No Shelters) Counting House, Mountebank, Inn, Festival, Throne Room, Plaza, Gardens, Trade Route, Storeroom, Scheme

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #6: (No Colonies, No Shelters) Poor House, Hamlet, Tunnel, Oracle, Doctor, Remake, Sea Hag, Inn, Merchant Guild, King's Court

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #7: (No Colonies, USE Shelters) Squire, Bridge, Apprentice, Haggler, Marauder, Urchin, Shanty Town, Library, Hoard, Harem

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #8: (No Colonies, USE Shelters) Stonemason, Tunnel, Storeroom, Watchtower, Rats, Bishop, Fortress, Catacombs, Minion, Hunting Grounds

[video 1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #9: (No Colonies, No Shelters) Fool's Gold, Native Village, Stonemason, Market Square, Wishing Well, Ironmonger, Procession, Catacombs, Witch, Adventurer

[video1] [log] [video2] [log] [test game]

Kingdom #10: (USE Colonies, No Shelters) Scavenger, Philosopher's Stone, Gardens, Squire, Worker's Village, Vault, Steward, Caravan, Mountebank, Adventurer

[video1] [log] [video2, AdamH v. MarkowKette] [log] [test game]



The spreadsheet contains a list of all the entries, the candidates, the finalists, playtesting comments, card statistics, and expansion statistics.



Ok. So, last night we had a little leak. The player we were most concerned with having his name associated with a kingdom is now associated with the kingdom he created.

Given this, and the fact that people can simply log search by kingdom to see play test logs on Goko to find out the creator, I think it would help all the other kingdoms out if we post the spreadsheet with the kingdom descriptions and play test comments. This spreadsheet associates the kingdoms with the people who submitted them and includes all 123 kingdoms, 54 playtested candidates, and honorable mentions. I will also add playtest logs later where I think the playtesters attempted to implement something different from the GokoDom games or highlights something in the submitter's description of a kingdom. 

Edit: added the last two kingdoms.

Dominion Articles / Kingdom Design
« on: May 16, 2014, 08:33:35 am »
Some kingdoms are just better than others. Some kingdoms utilize more kingdom cards in interesting ways, use unusual card combinations, or have no obvious dominant strategy or straightforward path to victory. While judging the kingdom design challenge, several themes came up over and over again among the judges; what makes a kingdom interesting? What makes it balanced? Is it fun? Is it unusual? Is it replayable?

I thought I would share some of that discussion with you.

Interesting Engines

An engine that has everything it needs is less interesting than an engine that is lacking something.  Some people go to great lengths to set up a kingdom that hands an engine on a platter including a plethora of + Card, + Action, and +Buy in addition to strong trashing and a payload of some sort.  Those types of games are not as interesting as the engine using Expand for +Buy, or the engine with only Tactician for +Card, or the engine with no Village, or the engine with no trashing.  Putting limitations on a kingdom enhances how a player thinks about and ultimately responds to a given kingdom.  It forces them to think about the trade-offs and viability of the strategy and ultimately is a harder test of skill to pull off successfully.*

“Engine” versus a “Non-Engine” Strategy

It is difficult to match an action-heavy “engine” strategy against a treasure-heavy “money” strategy and end up with a balanced kingdom. There are several reasons for this.

Cards can be used in multiple capacities. Sometimes strong money cards are also strong engine cards. For instance, Counterfeit and Wharf are great cards for money decks and engine decks. It’s easy to forget that players will not go out of their way to bucket a kingdom into different strategies when evaluating a kingdom at the start of a game. They will evaluate all the cards to find the best strategy (if one’s there).

Often, alt VP cards can provide an alternate path to victory and a distinct, competing, balanced strategy. However, it is often the case that alt VP cards simply enhance the engine. Having more options to score often lets a mirroring engine player who falls behind keep building and go for the big finish at the end. This is especially true if the engine player who is ahead greens too early.

Players’ Skill

When talking about balance, it’s important to note that balance is CONDITIONAL UPON PLAYERS’ SKILL. If a kingdom is balanced for good players, the engine may win 70 percent - 30 percent among very good players but lose 20-80 among mediocre players. This mostly comes from the fact that money strategies are usually easier to play optimally than engine strategies. It’s important that the balance is right for the skill level of the players involved.

Building a kingdom that attempts to balance engine versus money is a good exercise in improving play of engines, too. Engine wins? Weaken it by swapping out some cards with weaker ones (e.g. Trade Route for Forager).  Play the engine again. Try to make it win.

The Balancing Act

So, how should one balance an action-heavy strategy against a money-heavy strategy? Playtest! Playtesting engines, especially, makes it easier to gauge their speed and ability to control the endgame.  Be sure to playtest without explaining your intentions. Let players find what they think is best. They may “mix” cards in ways you didn't intend. If the kingdom is unbalanced, swap out a card or two and play it again. If you are unsure, play it again. It’s a designed kingdom – if it’s interesting, it should be fun to play multiple times, right?

For complex kingdoms, even the best players have a hard time seeing exactly how some games will play without actually test driving them. One interesting outcome of our play testing sessions for the Kingdom Design Challenge was that when we sat down to put together a list of finalists, the judges’ favorite kingdoms tended to be ones they had personally playtested.

Using All of the Cards

To me there is nothing less fun in Dominion than robotically playing a Rebuild + X board. They come up more than enough in uniform random kingdom generation. When building kingdoms, take the opportunity to include cards that go well together that don’t play that often, encourage strategies that utilize lots of kingdom cards, or relate to some kind of theme. Try to use the cards to provide multiple paths to victory (taking the above points into consideration when doing so).

However, there is a problem with trying to make use of all the kingdom cards: It often creates a scenario where the designer has put the players “on rails”. This often happens when a power card is clearly the focus of the kingdom (e.g. Goons). Power cards are power cards because they dominate the kingdom. If all 10 cards are useful, it might be because they all support an obvious-to-build Goons engine. Sometimes build order is interesting, and sometimes building big engines where you can’t go wrong with any buy can be fun; however, it can be a negative for the kingdom, especially for top players.

A corollary of this is that dead cards can make a kingdom interesting. If there are two distinct, balanced strategies that each potentially makes use of 3 cards each, then that’s an interesting 6 card kingdom. Don’t ruin it by adding cards that beef up one strategy at the expense of the other. Having “two strategies” with one strategy obviously dominated is not very interesting. They may as well be random dead cards. The best kinds of dead cards are “temptations”. These are cards that related to a strategy, and tempt you to go for them, but their inclusion would actually make the strategy worse off. Or maybe they are obviously dead cards, but fit the theme of the kingdom, so it’s fun to see them on the board anyway.

There is a tension here: why design when a lot of cards are going to be unused, anyway, unless you just want to try out a particular combo? I prefer when I can see a potential use for all the kingdom cards, or at least a temptation to use them. But I can also see the argument that when there are balanced, competing strategies of a few cards each, to just leave it at that.

Two Players, Three Players, or More?

Strategies can be balanced for different numbers of players. This is particularly true when there is an engine that requires a lot of cards.

Suppose you see this 5 card kingdom: Village, Bridge, Jack of All Trades, Junk Dealer, Tactician. 

Double Jack is a powerful money strategy and Junk Dealer can help here, too. But Tactician, Village, Bridge, Junk Dealer is a more powerful engine with very high end game control. Uncontested, a player can build until he can empty the remaining Provinces and enough Duchies to win on one mega-turn. So, Jack alone is tempting, but going for the Bridge mega-turn dominates.

If there is one best strategy, anticipate a mirror. In the mirror, HOW you play will change; what strategy you play should NOT change. This is why engine mirrors in two player games can take more turns to play out then big money games. If the engine is best, an engine player will defeat the big money player. If both players go engine, then the players are competing for the same pieces and three piling becomes a concern preventing players from picking up all the pieces they need. That can slow the decks down a lot; however, it’s not better to deviate and play big money because the player that gets uncontested access to the engine pieces will win outright.

Suppose the 5 card kingdom above was a three player game and players 1 and 2 go for the bridge mega-turn strategy. What’s the third player going to do? Mirror and make the engine even worse? Or go for an alternate strategy, like Double Jack? In this example, Double Jack can give the contested engine a run for its money. Maybe all three players will go Jack-Village-Bridge-Junk Dealer and ignore Tactician, or use all 5 cards. Whatever happens, it seems interesting to me! (As an aside, I think randomly drawn kingdoms are better balanced for three and four player games, because Donald did more testing with 3 and 4 players rather than 2.) Having dead cards or live cards change depending on who plays can make a kingdom interesting.

One Last Thought

Engine versus money, competing strategies, build order decisions, using all of the cards, tactical tricks, tricky endgames, multiplayer dynamics. All these things make a kingdom interesting. But the biggest tip-off that I’ve found that signals a kingdom will be interesting is when I look at the board and say, “I have NO IDEA what to do!” Then I know it’s going to be a great game!

* Edit: added shark_bait's interesting engine comments to the start of article.

Dominion General Discussion / The Pillars of Dominion
« on: May 09, 2014, 09:05:23 am »
The four pillars of Dominion as espoused by Donald X are Witch, Chapel, Gardens, and Thief. They are "pillars" because of the way they make you change the way you play. [For example, see this post on Chapel.]

Now that Dominion and all of its expansions are out, what cards represent the pillars of Dominion strategy for you? They do not have to be from the base set and you don't have to pick four.


For me, I would stick to four cards from the base set, but my pillars would be Witch, Chapel, Gardens, and Throne Room. Engines are such an important part of Dominion, and Throne Room is one of the great engine enablers. Treasure trashing has an impact on your deck building in much more subdued ways, usually, so I think Thief has to be demoted.

Game Reports / When Council Room Hurts Your Opponents
« on: May 05, 2014, 11:05:58 pm »
On a Rebuild Board! GokoSalvager is down, so can't post the kingdom.

Code: [Select]
Squire, Doctor, Procession, Cartographer, Catacombs, Council Room, Merchant Ship, Rebuild, Bank, Peddler
What I wanted to highlight was how Council Room's externality killed No Pawn's Intended's turn 13 by drawing his last green card into hand. That was fun!

Code: [Select]
Polk5440: turn 12
Polk5440 plays Council Room
Polk5440 draws Doctor, Silver, Silver
Polk5440 shuffles deck
Polk5440 draws Silver
No Pawns Intended draws Duchy
Bella Cullen draws Silver
No Pawns Intended: turn 13
No Pawns Intended plays Peddler
No Pawns Intended draws Silver
No Pawns Intended plays Rebuild
No Pawns Intended names Province
No Pawns Intended shuffles deck
No Pawns Intended reveals Squire, Peddler, Peddler, Copper, Rebuild, Copper, Copper, Council Room, Doctor, Squire, Copper, Silver
No Pawns Intended discards: Squire, Peddler, Peddler, Copper, Rebuild, Copper, Copper, Council Room, Doctor, Squire, Copper, Silver
No Pawns Intended plays Rebuild
No Pawns Intended names Province
No Pawns Intended shuffles deck
No Pawns Intended reveals Peddler, Rebuild, Copper, Copper, Council Room, Doctor, Copper, Silver, Squire, Peddler, Copper, Squire
No Pawns Intended discards: Peddler, Rebuild, Copper, Copper, Council Room, Doctor, Copper, Silver, Squire, Peddler, Copper, Squire
No Pawns Intended plays 1 Silver
No Pawns Intended buys Peddler
No Pawns Intended gains Peddler
No Pawns Intended shuffles deck
No Pawns Intended draws Squire, Council Room, Rebuild, Peddler, Copper

We all played a little loose on this kingdom, but I thought this was an interesting one.

Dominion Articles / Reading a Kingdom
« on: May 05, 2014, 08:46:46 pm »
A brand new kingdom is in front of you. What do you do? Before you make that opening buy, you have to read the kingdom. The following checklist is not a decision tree to tell you which strategy is best in a given kingdom or with what to open; this checklist is about organizing the information that’s there to make the decision easier.

The Pre-Game Checklist
  • Acknowledge my opponent; affirm that I am playing a friendly game of Dominion (type “good luck”, shake hands, or similar).
Ok, now look at the kingdom! What’s there? Look for both categories AND specific cards. Dominion is a game of 205 kingdom cards, and it is not so useful to completely divorce combinations of abilities from published cards when reading a kingdom. Categories and the cards within them are not mutually exclusive, they overlap somewhat. This is good because important things get repeated in the reading of the kingdom. When I think of cards within categories, I have a loose ranking of them in my head. This helps me better organize the kingdom in my head and speed along analysis. In my pre-game checklist, you will see categories and cards I keep at the top of the loose ranking for that category. 
  • Attacks?
    • Junking (Mountebank, Cultist, Ambassador, Witch,…)
    • Discard (Ghost ship*, Goons, Militia, …)
    • Possession** (ugh) or Knights (double ugh!)
    • Treasure Trashers (Noble Brigand, Pirate Ship, Thief, …)
    • Are there hard defenses/counters? (Lighthouse, Watchtower, Trader, …)
    • Are there soft defenses/counters? (sifting, trashing, draw to X, virtual coin, …)
The first thing I usually look for are attacks and defenses for them. This isn’t an exhaustive list of attack types; however, the others (like spying attacks) are usually too weak to bother with making a special note up front.

(* and **) Yes, I know. Ghost Ship doesn’t technically make you discard cards and Possession is not an attack card. I put them in those lists, anyway.

Next, I am on the lookout for strong, single-card strategies. I want to make a mental note that these cards are in the kingdom AND remind myself they are very powerful alone.

  • Single Card Strategies? (Rebuild, Jack of All Trades, Hunting Party + X, Governor, Minion, Ill-Gotten Gains, …)
Next up are the power cards. These cards are not necessarily amazing all by themselves (although they can be). What is true is that they are usually hard to ignore; they are focal to most games in which they appear.
  • Focal/Power cards? (Goons, King’s Court, Fool’s Gold, Knights, Potion-cost cards, Tournament, Tunnel, Bridge, Highway, Tactician, Menagerie, …)
I usually try to identify the “most powerful/most focal” card(s) in the kingdom. In addition, at this point I start looking for cards that go well with or counter the single card strategies or power cards and begin laying out strategic options. For example, I see Minion. What goes well with Minion? Pawn? Candlestick Maker? Or maybe, there’s Rebuild… and Possession. Tunnel is enabled by Navigator and Cartographer. There’s Witch, but also Chapel. And so on. I try to read the kingdom in a way that organizes the information in useful ways around (potentially good) strategies.

Next, up? Well, next up are a series of things I look for “at the same time.” I have to list them, so they are in an order, but for me, they’re not really in order.

One of the things I do at this point is check off what “engine” components are present in the kingdom: Villages, plus buy, cantrips (+1 Card, +1 Action) and non-terminals (+1 Action), draw, and trashing (not in any particular order).  Or A-B-C-D-T (actions, buys, cantrips, draw, and trashing). I am using “engine” loosely, here. It’s more like “action-based deck.” At the same time, I try to figure out how the components fit together.
  • “Engine” Components?
    • Villages?
      • +2 Actions or more? (Village and its variants, Nobles, Squire, etc.)
      • Throne Rooms (King’s Court, Procession, Throne Room, Golem, …)
    • Plus buy?
      • Actual +Buy
      • Gain (Ironworks, Workshop, University, Haggler, Border Village, Black Market, Horn of Plenty, …)
      • Remodel (Butcher, Upgrade, Remake, Remodel, …)
    • Cantrips and non-terminals? (Conspirator, Mystic, Wishing Well, Highway, Peddler,…)
    • Draw?
      • Big Draw (Scrying Pool, Smithy, Hunting Grounds, Menagerie, Tactician, ….)
      • Draw to X (Library, Watchtower, …)
      • Little draw (Courtyard, Laboratory, Oracle,…)
    • Trashing?
      • Strong (Masquerade, Steward, Chapel, …)
      • Weak (Spice Merchant, Moneylender, Trade Route, Lookout, Loan,…)
      • Cycling/Sifting? (Cartographer, Warehouse, Storeroom, …)
I group cycling cards with weak trashing when identifying what’s possible for action-based decks. They often serve a similar purpose: see and play good cards more often.

I like to think of “big draw” and “little draw.” This is not so much a function of the number of cards drawn as it is a function of whether the card is good for decks with lots of actions. Courtyard and Embassy are usually “little draws” when it comes to fitting them in an engine, but “big draws” when it comes to big money strategies (we’re be looking for those components later). More so than other categories, big and little draw depend heavily on the actual cards and whether they are fitting with a money- or action-based strategy, not parsing out the ability.

Whether and what type of draw is present is going to determine what your action-deck options are going to look like. No cards in the kingdom draw you more than one card? Then be on the lookout for gaining lots of cantrips and utilizing good trashing. Good draw to X? You don’t need to pay a premium for cantrips or villages that also draw a card. Lots of big draw? You want to benefit from those large hand sizes. Little draw? You are probably going to need a plan that doesn’t require gigantic hand sizes or a very action-dense deck.

You do not need to check off all 5 categories to put together a reasonable action-based deck. How many you need and in what strength depends on what else you have identified in the kingdom. We’re still trying to figure out what’s possible; however, at this point, some very rudimentary analysis is worthwhile. What is the payload of an action-based deck going to be, and what is the eventual goal? How will you win?

  • Combos or Rushes? (Hermit-Market Square, Ironworks-Silk Road, Native Village-Bridge, KC-Bridge, Beggar-Gardens, …)
It’s important to be on the lookout for powerful known combos, and this is about the time I do it. Even if they are not stronger than the engine based strategies, single card strategies, or power card strategies identified earlier, you have to be aware of them. Sometimes, combos will be the strongest and most obvious thing to do in the kingdom.
  • Big Money + X Enablers? (Courtyard, Jack of All Trades, Embassy, Vault, Smithy, …)
Lookout for Big Money + X enablers. I like to figure out what my best money-based strategy is after I have determined the action-based strategies. Often, you can just breeze right though this step because you already have such powerful options on the table, but every once in a while there will be a couple of viable options to seriously ponder, often because there is nothing much happening in the kingdom. I also like to remind myself that weak trashing like Loan and Lookout are probably not going to help a Big Money + X strategy, and the presence of strong trashing or attacks (especially discard attacks) makes Big Money + X weaker.
  • Treasures? (Platinum, Ill-Gotten Gains, Masterpiece, Counterfeit, Horn of Plenty, …)
While I am looking for big money strategies, I also ponder the Treasure options. Many Treasures give Big Money + X a real boost, but I also take this opportunity to double-check for Treasures that might help out other action-based strategies. And I look for IGG again. Just in case.
  • Colonies? Alt VP? (Vineyards, Fairgrounds, Duke, Silk Road, Gardens, VP tokens, ...)
We’ve looked for Action-based strategies and Treasure-based strategies, so also be sure to check for alternative victory point strategies. Check for Colonies. Check for VP tokens. Check for green kingdom cards. We’ve already done a lot of this; maybe you’ve already integrated alt VP into an action-based deck as your ultimate goal. But here I ask, “Is there another strategy built around alternate VP I haven’t considered, yet?”
  • Are there any special setup differences to note? (Bane? Colonies? Shelters? Ruins? Spoils? Is there a second page to Goko? Do I start with a Baker token?, … )
Lastly, be sure you’ve scanned the whole set up. This is already done if you are the one setting up the cards for your friends at the kitchen table, but just in case, make sure you understand if there are any special set-up differences to this kingdom such as Colonies or Shelters, whether you start with a Baker token, and so on.

Now, you’ve read the kingdom! You have in hand some strategies to think about and compare. Often, you’ll just have one you think is best. If so, play that one***! If not, then you’ve hit upon an interesting kingdom; do some thinking, do some comparisons, make a decision and dive in – it’ll be a fun game!

(***) A quick note on play: Even if you are convinced there is one best strategy, watch out for whether your opponent mirrors you. HOW you play will change. What strategy you play should NOT change. This is why engine mirrors in two player games can take more turns to play out then big money games. If the engine is best and one player goes big money, the engine player will crush the big money player. If both players go engine, then the players are competing for the same pieces. That can slow the decks down a lot; however, it’s not better to deviate and play big money because the player that gets uncontested access to the engine pieces will win outright.

An Abbreviation
GASP! ABCD-T times two! (“Good luck” or similar, Attacks? Single card strategies? Power cards? For an action-based deck, are there actions, plus buy, cantrips, draw, and/or trashing? Alt VP? Big Money enablers? Combos? Differences in the setup? Treasures?). Ok, that was stupid.

But it’s really not as much to remember as it seems.

Game Reports / Where to Stash that Stash
« on: April 10, 2014, 09:22:36 am »
I enjoy some simple games every once in a while. All the little tactical decisions you make throughout the game add up over over a lot of games even if the outcome of one particular game is "mostly luck." Here's one that was essentially just a Jack of all Trades money game. I got one Market Square and one Stash, and sangatsu got two Stashes.

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Herbalist, Market Square, Bridge, Bureaucrat, Caravan, JackOfAllTrades, Marauder, Mine, Stash, Tribute

On the shuffle, Stash can be used to guarantee you enough money in your first hand or placed into the next hand. With the chance of drawing Jack in the first hand, this can be a good thing because it gives you the option to draw the Stash into hand if you need it. I do this on turns 4 and 6. Note I should have placed the Stash a little more carefully on turn 4 (one card further down) in order to use Jack's spying ability (if I draw Jack in hand). 

sangatsu on turn 6 and I on turn 8 place the stashes further down in the deck in order to chance a better draw now. Why guarantee $7 when you can take a chance to get $8?

On turn 10, I get triple collision, but that's not so bad. Trash a Jack and discard a Market Square for a Gold. I wanted to play Double Jack, but the way my draws worked out, my deck obviously didn't.

Thanks for the quick game, sangatsu!

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