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Dominion Articles / Core Concepts of Dominion Endgames
« on: August 27, 2019, 03:31:39 am »
(I found this draft in my old files. It's probably over a year old. I don't think I'll have time to polish it for a while, so I'll share it in its unfinished state.)

In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to level up your gameplay is improve your endgame. Dominion endgames are very difficult to play perfectly, but they give concrete edges, because tight endgame play lets you absorb bad luck and misplays without losing.

What is the Endgame?

This is a deceptively tricky question to answer. I define it like this: the endgame starts when players start worrying about how much VP they have or can achieve. I don't define it by when players starting buying Victory cards, because plenty of endgames revolve around the threat of buying VP cards, rather than actually buying them.

Another way to put it is that the endgame is the point where players are thinking about win conditions. Is the board going to 3-pile soon? Am I positioned well? Do I have a lead of VP that I can hold until the end of the game, or can I catch-up to a VP deficit in time?

Level 0: Can I Win This Turn?

On every turn, you should be considering whether you can win this turn. If you have a guaranteed win and you don't go for it, you're leaving free wins on the table.

Of course, this is all very obvious, but I've seen countless players miss clear wins, particularly 3-piles. It's easy to tell when you can empty the Provinces, but 3-piles can be more complex.

Roughly, in the endgame, each player has a certain amount of potential. When ending the game, you are usually bottlenecked by these constraints.

  • The money you can produce
  • The number of gains and buys you have, and what kind they are (Workshop gains are only up to $4 costs, for example).
  • How many points you need to end with a lead.

Your potential is defined along these 3 axes: money, gains, and VP. Different 3-pile endings hit these constraints in different way. For example. with $24 and 3 buys, I can buy 3 Provinces for 18 VP. If I have $16, I can't buy 3 Provinces, but if I have 8 buys/gains and two piles are empty, I can empty Estates for 8 VP. If, somehow, 2 piles are empty, I have $0, I have 10 buys, and have a VP lead of 11 points, then I could even buy 10 Curses to get the 3-pile ending.

The most complicated 3-piles involve overdraw, trash-for-benefit, cards that gain cards to the top of your deck, and so on. Many 3-piles are not this complicated. I generally follow this flowchart:

"Can I gain enough cards this turn to potentially trigger a 3-pile?"
"If I can, do I have enough money and the right types of gains to do so?"
"If I do so, how much do I have left-over to pick up VP, and is that enough?"

If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you have a 3-pile. Otherwise, you don't, which takes you to the next part.

Level 1,2,3,4,...: How Do I Make Sure my Opponent's Can't Win?

Now we're getting to the fun stuff. If the most important part of Dominion is ending the game on a win when you can, then the 2nd most important part is making sure your opponent can't do this.

This is much harder because it requires tracking what your opponent's deck can do. Luckily, your opponent does you the favor of playing their turn right before yours. It's usually good enough to get a feel for how strong your opponent's deck is based on what it's previously done, and you can leave the card counting for high-stakes scenarios.

Like every other game, if you can't end the game, you want to make moves that make sure your opponent can't end the game. This is Level 1 - planning 1 turn ahead. Ask the same 3 questions, as if you were your opponent, and see what board states give them the guaranteed win. Then, figure out if that limits anything about what cards are safe to buy this turn.

More subtly, if your opponent is good (and you should always assume your opponent is good), then they're trying to do the same thing as you. So at the same time, you'd like to make moves that give you more endgame potential. The more pileout power your deck has, the more limited your opponent's moves become, since when they do their Level 1 planning, they'll have fewer safe buys because you win in more board states. This is Level 2 - planning 2 turns ahead by making a play that makes it harder for your opponent to play 1 turn ahead.

The levels keep going up from there, but it generally turns into intuition / "game sense" when you try going much further up the hierarchy. Dominion's a game of chance and it's just too hard to reason about the odds several turns in advance.

Once you know what parameters you can play with (what cards are and aren't safe buys), you have a few options.
  • Pick up a bunch of VP this turn. This protects you from losing because it forces your opponent to dedicate more resources to picking up points, which can give protection against pileouts. It can stop you from winning because your deck will generally become less consistent.
  • Pick up a cards that increase what your deck can do. This makes life harder for your opponent, because it opens up more potential pileouts, but it doesn't give you any points and it generally brings the game closer to an end.
  • Do a bit of both: buy some Actions and Treasures and then pick up some VP as well.

In correct play, you want to be spending all your gains on Actions, then flip a switch and spend all your gains on VP until the end of the game. Because of this, the 3rd choice of "do a bit of both" is something you want to do at most once, if you're on a in-between turn between deck improvement and cashing in your deck for points. If you end up doing this multiple times, you're probably playing loose, or the game's just weird.

When unsure whether you should build or buy points, building is usually better because it keeps your deck more consistent. If possible, you really want to keep your deck consistent in the endgame, because the endgame is about threatening what your deck can do. If your deck isn't consistent, then your opponent can respect your pileouts less, and that frees up their options.

Dominion General Discussion / The dead can rise again
« on: July 03, 2019, 03:25:45 am »
You know what they say: no one's ever really gone. From the ashes of ill-advised VC funding and abandoned domain names comes a new company, taking up a mantle that's been dormant for years.

Dominion Articles / Fool
« on: April 01, 2019, 03:07:43 pm »

Fool is my greatest creation, and my worst mistake.

Fool is one of the strongest $3 costs in recent memory, and has a tendency to take over games, especially if multiple players decide to pick it up.

Most of its power comes from the passive effect of the Lost in the Woods state. Getting to discard a card for a Boon every turn is powerful enough to deserve contesting it heavily - the 3 Boons you get when playing Fool the first time are simply a rounding error.

Due to the power of Lost in the Woods, it's important to pick up as many Fools as possible. Not only does this protect you from other players taking the Lost in the Woods effect, it also gives you plenty of fodder to feed to Lost in the Woods. A Fool's a Fool, but you could discard that Fool to to Lost in the Woods and get The Sea's Gift to get +1 Card. You could draw anything! It could even be another Fool. This was strong enough that Donald X ended up pairing Fool with Lucky Coin to slow down the game.

In the end though I decided maybe I could pair it with Lucky Coin and the Silvers you gained would slow down how often you played Fool enough to avoid problems.

As everyone knows, Silvers are the same as Curses. It's only thanks to this Lucky Coin balancing that Fool doesn't take over games quite as strongly as Ambassador or Masquerade do. Strategy-wise, there isn't much more to say, besides

1) You should open Fool (Fool/Silver is a common choice).
2) You should try to pick up a 2nd Fool before your 2nd shuffle.
3) It's important to check the date of all strategy articles, as many old articles are no longer relevant in the current age.

Dominion Articles / When Should I Start Greening?
« on: March 30, 2019, 04:29:12 am »
If you're not familiar with Dominion slang, "greening" is when you start buying VP cards for points.

You should start greening based on how quickly you can improve your deck and your buying power. The faster you can improve it, the longer you should delay buying VP. The reasoning's simple: buying VP cards slows down your deck. Part of the problem is adding a junk card. The bigger problem is that $8 spent on a Province is $8 less that could have gone to more money or Action cards. If the Kingdom supports faster growth, you're better off investing into your deck now and buying points later.

If you're playing a Gardens rush, then, well, for one Gardens rushes are not as strong as we thought they were 5 years ago and a lot of Big Money baselines compete with it. But something they're right, and in these cases you start greening right away. It's not like your deck is going to do much better than hitting $4 for Gardens.

If you're going for Duchy-Duke, then you want to start greening a bit later, late enough that you can somewhat reliably hit $5. But still much earlier than you would in a Province game.

If you're playing a 1 buy a turn deck, you don't have any reason to hit more than $8 for Province (or more than $11 for Colony), so you start greening when you think your deck can usually hit $8.

If you're playing a reasonable engine, one that draws a lot of cards but not always your entire deck, you start greening around the point where you're hitting $13 (Prov + Duchy), $16 (2 Provinces), or $18 (Province + 2 Duchies, a useful option to have in endgames). Two Provinces a turn is a sweet spot where the game ends very soon if both players decide to start greening - 8 Provinces goes away in 4 turns, or 2 turns each.

However, if you're playing a Kingdom with a strong engine, something like Wharf + Village + trashing, you may want to build even more. $24 for triple Province, $28 for 2 Province + 2 Duchy, maybe even $32 for 4 Provinces. On these boards, it's common for high-level play to turn into a game of chicken that eventually ends in a low-scoring 3 pile. When both players believe detouring for points will cost them the game, they both buy actions instead, bringing the game closer to a 3 pile.

And then there are Bridge boards and Bridge Troll boards, where you play for the megaturn and buy all your points on the final turn, because these cards grow quadratically and there's really no reason to pick up points unless you have to in order to avoid a 3 pile.

Here are some toy examples. In these examples, when I say a deck hits $N, I mean it always hits $N, even as Victory cards are entering their deck.

Both decks can hit $8, takes 2 turns to build deck into one that hits $16

Let's say first player goes for Provinces, and 2nd player tries to build

P1: Province
P2: build
P1: Province
P2: build
P1: Province
P2: Province + Province
P1: Province
P2: Province + Province, both players have 4 Provinces, tie at game end.

So it isn't any worse at hitting 4 Provinces. But in a real-life version of this scenario,
1) P2's deck is more reliable because they buy Provinces later, and
2) if P1 misses $8 once, P2 can punish that bad luck more severely.
If P2 gets unlucky, then well, they lose. But if they didn't build and got unlucky, they would have lost anyways, and P2 is less likely to get unlucky if they build their deck a bit more.

If we reverse the roles, and have P1 build, then P1 wins.

P1: build
P2: Province
P1: build
P2: Province
P1: Province + Province
P2: Province
P1: Province + Duchy (P1 has 3 Prov 1 Duchy, P2 has 3 Prov)
P2: "If I buy Province, P1 wins on Province. If I buy Duchy, P1 wins on 2 Provinces." P2 loses.

Both decks can hit $16, takes 1 turn to build deck to one that hits $24

Say P1 goes for double Provinces and P2 goes for building.

P1: Province + Province
P2: build
P1: Province + Province
P2: "If I buy 2 Provinces, P1 wins on Province + Province". Buys Province + 3 Duchies (costs $23)
P1: Province + Province (P1 has 6 Provinces, P2 has Province + 3 Duchies)
P2: loses

In this example, P2 loses because they don't have time against a double Province player.

If we reverse the roles, P2 still loses.

P1: build
P2: Province + Province
P1: Province + Province + Province (P1: 3 Province, P2: 2 Province)
P2: "If I double Province, P1 wins on Province + Duchy. If I don't buy any Provinces, P1 wins anyways on triple Province." P2 loses. (In a real game I would buy Province + Duchy and hope P1 has a dud and hits less than $16.)

In fact, P1 wins even if both players go for double Provinces.

P1: Province + Province
P2: Province + Province
P1: Province + Duchy (P1: 3 Prov + 1 Duchy, P2: 2 Province)
P2: "If I double Province, P1 wins on a single Province. If I Province + Duchy, P1 wins on double Province". P2 loses.

In this setting, P1 wins because they have first mover advantage. But what if we can build to $24 while picking up some points along the way?

Both decks can hit $16, takes 1 turn to build deck to one that hits $24, on the building turn you can afford buying 1 Province

P1 goes for double Prov, P2 builds

P1: Province + Province
P2: builds + Province
P1: "If I double Province, then P2 ties on triple Province. Can I win if I don't allow the tie?".
    (P1 hypothetical)
    P1: Province + Duchy (P1: 3 Provinces + 1 Duchy, P2: 1 Province)
    P2: "If I buy 2 Provinces, P1 can end the game." Province + 3 Duchies (P1: 3 Provinces + Duchy, P2: 2 Provinces + 3 Duchies)
    P1 "Only 3 Provinces are left, so P2 can end the game no matter what I do. I should get as many points as possible." Province + Province
    P2: Province + 3 Duchies (P1: 5 Provinces + Duchy. P2: 3 Provinces + 6 Duchies. P2 wins)
P1: "Okay, I can't, I take the tie". Province + Province
P2: Province + Province + Province

If we give the option of picking up a Province while building towards $24, then P2 can turn a losing situation into one where they can get a tie instead, as long as P1 goes for the double Province strategy. But, if P1 builds, then P2 will once again lose no matter what they do.

P1 builds, P2 does double Province

P1: builds + Province
P2: Province + Province
P1: Province + Province + Duchy
P2: "P1 can end the game no matter what I do and I can at most get 4 Provinces, while they have 3 Provinces + 1 Duchy". P2 loses.

P1 builds, P2 builds

P1: builds + Province
P2: builds + Province
P1: Province + Province + Duchy (P1: 3 Provinces, 1 Duchy. P2: 1 Province)
P2: "A 6-2 Province split is not beatable. If I buy a single Province, P1 can end the game on Provinces. Therefore I should deny all the Provinces I can." Province + Province + Province
P1: Province + 3 Duchies (P1: 4 Provinces, 4 Duchies. P2: 4 Provinces)

These toy examples are far enough from reality that I would not follow them religiously. In particularly, they're missing a model of how your deck becomes less reliable as you add VP cards to it. But, they do show how the decision of when to build and when to green isn't just "stop at $8" or "stop at $16". It's dependent on the context of how quickly your deck can become better, how many VP cards are left in the pile, and how well your deck can handle Victory cards.

Even though these examples aren't perfect, they do show off the emergent complexity of Dominion endgames. It's quite tricky to play them correctly, and there aren't really any shortcuts besides thinking about the possibilities and seeing what happens in each one. But that's a subject for another article.

Dominion Articles / Guildhall Money
« on: December 22, 2018, 07:10:10 pm »
Think of this mostly as a draft + hot take, since Coffers strategy is quite difficult. I think Guildhall is pretty good but also suspect I'm slightly overestimating it.

Guildhall is the Project that helps bring treasure-based strategies back. In an era where people are describing Silvers and Golds like Curses, it's refreshing to see something pull in the other direction.

Now, I'm not saying Guildhall is bad in a less money-based strategy. But the main problem is has for engine-style decks is that in those decks, you often need to be very careful in how many Treasures you gain, since you're trying to maintain control of your draw and your deck. The guiding principles of engines is that they aim to play cards they buy as often as possible. Since Guildhall only triggers on-gain, it doesn't get to take advantage of the compounding effects engines normally give you. This means the main use of Guildhall giving better weapons to "the fun police" - strategies that generally buy Silver and Gold instead of lots of fancy actions.

Base Guildhall-BM

Excluding any other synergies, Guildhall-BM feels just a bit worse than Smithy-BM. (This is based off of trying it against the bot and checking when I hit 4 Provinces, so it wasn't the most scientific study.) Obviously you never actually play Guildhall-BM, this is simply to show how useful Coffers are for a money strategy. It's already been noted that Spices + money is about as strong as Gear + money, and Spices is basically a Silver that lets you change $2 into 2 Coffers when you buy it. Coffers are especially useful in money strategies because they smooth out price gaps between things you care about. $3 for Silver, $6 for Gold, $8 for Province, often anything in between is useless.

In some limited testing I tried, without any other treasure synergies, buying Guildhall over the first Gold consistently saved at least 1 turn to hit 4 Provinces, sometimes 2 turns if the shuffles work out nicer. This is the base power of Guildhall, but there are things that make it better.

Incidental +Buy

Q: If I've built Guildhall and can't afford Silver, should I buy Copper?
A: Usually, yes. In a money deck the Coffers is usually worth having the extra Copper in your deck, especially because you get the Coffers right away. This is less true in Colony games but the cutoff point for when a free Copper is good is surprisingly early.

Because of this, having a bit of +Buy can help speedup time-to-first-Province, and if there are easy ways to get extra +Buy at little cost (like Pouch or Market Square), you should see it as speeding up the money baseline as well. Normally +Buy is only good for the engine because they can use the +Buy more effectively, Guildhall changes this a big.

Light Treasure gaining

This is along the lines of cards that gain 1-2 extra Treasures per play. Stuff like Jack, Haggler, or Lucky Coin.

They're good. I don't have anything to say besides that they're good and you should be aiming to take free Treasures if you're in a position to do so, because in a Guildhall-powered money deck, you'd take free Coppers if you could. With a Guildhall, Cache is actively better than Gold.

Heavy Treasure gaining (the Guildhall combos)

Here are the cards that give you lots of treasures. These cross the line from "money deck" to "Guildhall combo deck". Important ones are:
  • Guildhall + Beggar: When Beggars effectively give +$6, you can empty Provinces very quickly. Buy all the Beggars you can early, then buy Provinces whenever you can.
  • Guildhall + Masterpiece: Getting back everything when you overpay makes it easy to accumulate a massive store of Coppers that guarantees hitting $8 every turn afterwards.
  • Guildhall + Delve: Although the price-per-Silver is higher than with Masterpiece, this is still a very powerful synergy.
  • Guildhall + Trader: This is not as powerful as the other cards (seems to be about 11-13 turns to hit 4 Provinces), but it's another Treasure flooder that's worth mentioning. Trader trashing Silver is net +$1 that turn and gives you 3 Silvers. Trader trashing Gold is net +$3 and gives 6 Silvers. In my testing I aimed for 3 Traders, bought 1 Gold, then went for Provinces.

Guildhall Tactics

Q: Should I be using all my Coffers to hit the most expensive price points?
A: No. One thing about Guildhall is that it's only feeding you Coffers if you're buying Treasures. Once you start greening, the Coffers flow will slow down, so you generally want to bankroll some Coffers (about 2-3) for redundancy before you start greening. In other words, if you haven't bought Gold yet, don't spend your Coffers to buy Province. Generally your aim is to switch to buying Provinces at the point where you expect to hit $8 every turn, and if everything goes perfectly your Coffers stockpile should slowly dwindle to 0 while you do so.

This could be optimized much more but here's the guide I've been following.
* Spending 1 Coffers for a better card is always okay.
* Spending 2 Coffers is okay if you're buying a Gold, or other action improving your deck, but should be done with care. If I have $6 and 2 Coffers I will often buy the Gold to keep the Coffers for an upcoming Province rush.
* Spending 3+ Coffers should only be done when you're in greening mode.

Q: How should I handle buying non-Province VP cards?
A: If you are unmirrored, don't buy Duchies. Just, don't do it. Unmirrored means you're in a race against an engine, which means you just want to empty Provinces. If you need the VP from Duchies, you made a bad call early and Guildhall money wasn't fast enough, but you should commit to your win condition of emptying the Provinces rather than trying to not-lose. This is how you should normally play money vs engine, but it's extra-true for Guildhall, because treasure buys give you Coffers that let you stockpile Coffers across several turns to hit $8. This Coffers accumulation gives Guildhall-money a lot of inevitability.

Q: How should I handle Duchies if I'm mirrored?
A: Oh, I have no idea. It's shuffle-dependent and a big mess and there's a whole bunch of risk-reward involved. If the Duchy doesn't cost Coffers, I think you normally take it. If it costs 1 or more Coffers, it's a lot less clear.


It even auto-plays the title screen music! None of the buttons work anymore, but you can click them if you want.

Although the site isn't functional, if you look in the source code you can find a bunch of Javascript libraries. is one of them, where FSSDK.js is likely short for Funsockets SDK, and is the Javascript for the game UI. The code is surprisingly readable - it's not fully minified so a lot of the variable names make sense.

Dominion Articles / Draw-to-X engines
« on: October 10, 2018, 04:44:23 am »
I started this a while ago, then ran out of steam when I realized it was a lot harder to write than expected. This draft is very rough but I'm putting it up now just to be done with it.

Draw-to-X engines are a special subcategory of engine, formed by two pieces.

  • An action that says "Draw until you have X cards in hand".
  • Disappearing money - a way to get money during your Action phase that decrases your hand size. This doesn't have to be fancy, a terminal Silver will do.

When they work, draw-to-X engines are one of my favorite engines to play. The core idea with these decks is that the fewer cards you have in hand, the more cards the draw-to-X action gives you, so if you can consistently turn cards-in-hand into money, you get to draw a lot more cards than you normally would. For $5, the going rate is +3 Cards and a bonus, with +4 Cards costing $6. Meanwhile, Library can draw up to 7 cards if the conditions line up.

The big question is whether the conditions line up. Draw-to-X engines differ quite a bit from more traditional Village-Smithy engines.

1. Treasures and Victories Super Super Suck For You

A Village-Smithy engine can get away with only using Gold for payload. This does not fly for draw-to-X engines. Like, it completely fails.

Let's suppose you play a Library and draw a Gold. If you don't have a way to get the Gold out of your hand, it effectively says "every future Library you play this turn draws 1 less card". This is really, really bad! It adds up to 3-4 missed card draws, depending on how many Libraries you have. (Cards like Scholar don't have this problem, since they discard your entire hand.) This has greening consequence as well. Eventually, you need points. Each Province hurts your deck a lot more than it would hurt a normal engine.

It's really hard to start a draw-to-X engine if there isn't trashing, just because of how many stop cards you start with. Trashing on its own is sometimes but not always enough for the draw-to-X engine. Eventually, you need to pick up points, usually through Provinces. You can't trash Provinces without losing the VP...

This leads to the other important piece: a discarder, like Warehouse, Artificer, or Storeroom, that lets you get unwanted Treasures and Victory cards out of your hand. That way you can dig for Actions instead. An effect like Villa or Black Market (to play Treasures midturn) can also play the role of a card discarder.

If either trashing or card discarding were missing, I would need an exceptional circumstance to consider the draw-to-X engine. The classic Base set combo is Festival/Library, but in my experience with Base-only games, the combo is really more like Festival/Library with Cellar and some kind of trasher.

2. +Buy is Great

Engines like +Buy since it lets them buy lots of engine pieces in one turn, then green later. The "green later" part is what makes them extra nice for draw-to-X engines. In draw-to-X games it's usually correct to build longer, then end the game fast, since your engine isn't designed to handle greening over several turns.

3. Your Deck Can Be Less Consistent

Often, Draw-to-X engines use a disappearing village to get +Actions, because it turns the drawback (not getting to draw a card) into a benefit (will draw the card for free off the draw-to-X card anyway). Buying Fishing Village instead of Village gives you an extra +$1 over the next 2 turns while not hurting your draw - it improves your payload.

Except, it kind of does. If you're playing a Village-Smithy engine and your starting hand is

4 Villages, 1 Copper

you're a little unhappy, but not that unhappy. You get 4 chances to draw into the Smithy.

By contrast, in a Festival-Library deck, if your starting hand is

4 Festival, 1 Copper

you're *really* upset. You're unable to "go-off" with a Library this turn, and your later Libraries are all likely to be dead because your Festivals collided. I've had this happen a few time and it sucks every time.

Because of this, it helps to have reliability increasing effects, like Scheme, Travelling Fair, Tracker, or Overlord. If a disappearing village and regular village are in the Kingdom, I personally like buying 1-2 copies of the regular village when my draw-to-X deck starts working, since I value the reliability more than the payload.

4. Hand Size Tactics are Sweet

The point of draw-to-X engines is to play lots of disappearing money, but there are other ways to get value while decreasing hand size. Trashers are one of them.

Consider this turn.
  • Play Festival, Festival, Library.
  • The Library draws a Steward and a Library.
  • Steward, trashing 2 cards.
  • Play Library
By trashing with Steward before playing the draw-to-X card, you get to draw 2 extra cards, which is a pretty great deal. You can't really plan for this, but it's an important tactical play. Ambassador 2 Coppers (handsize -3), then play Library. Remodel Silver into Festival (handsize -2), then play Library.

From a strategy perspective, plays like this don't tend to change what you buy - odds are you're buying trashing anyways. They're just important parts of optimizing draw-to-X builds.

5. Key Draw-to-X cards

An incomplete list of cards that are especially nice in draw-to-X games: Villa, Count, Storeroom, Steward, Inn, Warehouse, Cellar, Fishing Village, Squire, Junk Dealer. As an exercise it might be worth thinking through why some of these cards are so nice.

Help! / Is it possible to do better than tie here
« on: September 21, 2018, 02:14:49 am »
Game ID: 18509989

On my final turn I decided to go for the tie, I felt my deck was worse and there was a good chance my opponent would Province next turn. I got there by Butchering Artisan --> Province and buying Estate, hoping that would be enough to trigger my Silk Road. It wasn't.

I've been trying to see if I can do better, and there's a surprising number of tricks you can do here, despite the inability to draw. I've managed to get a tie on VP in 3 different ways. Is there a way to end the game on my turn with a win?

At the start of my turn, I have 5 Victory cards and 1 Silk Road.

Dominion Articles / Turn 1 Plan's effect on Turns 3 and 4
« on: September 14, 2018, 01:25:10 am »
On a recent trip, I had a few hours free with my computer and no Internet. Out of curiosity, I wrote a script to simulate a few thousand opening turns given openings where you open Plan/X vs Silver/X.

I'm assuming a bunch of things here:
  • You buy Plan turn 1, placing its Trashing token on an Action you buy turn 2.
  • There are no Heirlooms.
  • You don't get attacked.
  • There are no Shelters (didn't want to simulate Overgrown Estate.
  • On turns 3 and 4, you buy nothing. Depending on your opening, you may reshuffle before turn 4, and I didn't want to assume anything about what you buy on turn 3.

Obvious caveat: You don't buy Plan only because of what it does in the next two turns, you buy it because of the long term trashing you get to do. Given all these assumptions, idk how useful this data actually is, but it's sure a bunch of data!

Let me know if you see something interesting. Two things I noticed:

  • Plan + Terminal Silver guarantees you hit $5 in the next two turns
  • Plan + Poacher (or Tournament) is even more absurd of an opening than it sounds. Either you hit $5, or you hit $4 twice because you draw an Estate on turns 3 and 4. But in the 4/4 case, you just buy 2 Poachers to trash your last 2 Estates.

Silver + Terminal Silver
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 8.85%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 76.22%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 14.93%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 35.34%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 64.66%

Plan + Terminal Silver
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 100.00%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 28.03%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 71.97%

Silver + Terminal Copper
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 27.83%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 70.20%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 1.97%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 51.51%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 48.49%

Plan + Terminal Copper
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 55.39%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 44.61%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 44.61%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 55.39%

Silver + Terminal Giving $0
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 50.41%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 49.59%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 5.15%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 73.16%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 21.70%

Plan + Terminal Giving $0
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 83.23%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 16.77%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 100.00%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 0.00%

Silver + Poacher
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 8.06%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 83.87%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 8.07%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 37.38%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 62.62%

Plan + Poacher
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 10.19%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 86.09%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 3.72%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 25.45%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 74.56%

Silver + Smithy
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 5.10%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 71.83%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 23.07%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 32.11%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 67.89%

Plan + Smithy
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 67.52%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 32.48%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 22.44%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 77.56%

Silver + Terminal Giving +2 Cards
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 5.06%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 94.94%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 39.97%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 60.03%

Plan + Terminal Giving +2 Cards
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 22.66%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 73.72%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 3.62%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 23.76%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 76.24%

Code is at

Dominion Articles / Making the Most of Your Turns
« on: July 03, 2018, 02:02:39 am »
This is basically a rewrite of an old article I wrote.

If you have an example of one of these, I'd appreciate a picture / replay.

Competitive Dominion is first and foremost a game of optimization. It's not enough to do something cool - you have to do it quickly. Accordingly, a lot of the strategy is about figuring out what's cool and whether you can do it fast enough to make it worth it.

I like to think of Dominion gameplay as two broad categories: strategy, and tactics. Strategy is your plan for the entire game - tactics is your plan for this turn. In this article I'm going to focus on just one aspect of the tactics: how to play your hand. This is the nitty-gritty of Dominion optimization - you can usually autopilot your hands, but sometimes you get a slight edge if you don't, and those edges can add up over the course of a game. More importantly, the correct play is a lot less ambiguous - this makes it easier to give advice that actually doesn't depend on the board (which is a rare situation in Dominion.)

There are two principles to keep in mind.

1. Keep your options open as long as possible.
2. Watch your reshuffle timings.

Let's begin.


If you have a card that gains other cards to your discard pile, and you want to draw those cards, then playing the gainer before you reshuffle lets you get that card into your draw pile sooner. Conversely, if you don't want to draw the gained card, playing the gainer after the reshuffle guarantees you can't draw it for 1 cycle through your deck.

In either case, you should play the gainer as late as possible - if you can, gain cards right before the shuffle, or at the end of your turn. This gives you more information - depending on what you draw, you may decide to gain a different card than you intended.


For cards that trash from your hand, play them later rather than earlier. It doesn't matter when you trash your cards, because you've already drawn them. The only thing that matters is that they get trashed before you finish your turn.

This is most important for Junk Dealer - because Junk Dealer is a cantrip, it can be tempting to play it early to draw another card, but unless you need that card now, you should play your other draw cards first, to see if you can find a better trash target.

Saving Your Throne Rooms

Some cards are better to copy than other cards. You always want to double the Action that gives you what you're lacking the most. If you need draw, then Throne Room Hunting Grounds. If you can comfortably draw your deck, save it for a card that gives +$ or +Buy. If you need Actions, then try to save your Throne Room for another Throne Room if you can, and then double a card that gives +Actions if you can't.

In any of these cases, it is better to hold onto Throne Room until you know what you need this turn. Maybe you need the +Cards because you drew poorly. Or maybe you don't, in which case you'd rather have the +$.

If you draw a hand of Throne Room and 4 other Actions, then playing Throne Room first is probably wrong. You want to play your other Actions first, to see if you can draw a better target for Throne Room, and then play Throne Room only when you're at-risk of running out of good Throne Room targets. (Either because you are running low on Actions, or because you are drawing too many Throne Rooms and not enough non-Throne Room actions.)

This logic is especially important for King's Court - the best target for King's Court is almost always another King's Court, so you want to save your KC until as late as possible.

A smaller note is that if you have plenty of Actions, you actually don't need to Throne Room your Throne Room. TR-TR-Action1-Action2 takes 1 action. TR-Action1 then TR-Action2 takes 2 actions. In both cases, you play Action1 twice and Action2 twice. The latter case costs 1 more action but gives you more flexibility. (For example, TR-Action1 to get close to the end of a reshuffle, play Butcher to gain a card, TR-Action2 to trigger reshuffle.)

Cards relying on cards in your deck

These are cards like Ironmonger, Chariot Race, and Golem, where they reveal cards from your deck and do something based on what you reveal. In games where you can draw your deck, you want to play your card-revealers first, while you still have cards in your deck to reveal. It's always sad when someone saves their Golem and then it only reveals 1 Action instead of 2.

Wishing Well ordering

Dan already mentioned this in another article. Say you have N cantrips, 1 Wishing Well, and the only thing you care about is drawing a specific card (say a Remodel to Remodel for the final Provinces.) You should play the Wishing Well last.

  • If the Remodel is in the top N+1 cards, you draw it no matter when you play Wishing Well.
  • If the Remodel is the N+2nd card, then you only draw it if you play Wishing Well last and wish for Remodel.

The same is true if your hand is generally draw cards, instead of just cantrips.

Card-Revealers and Shuffle Timings

Speaking of Wishing Well, note that because it draws a card and reveals a card, it triggers a reshuffle if you have fewer than 2 cards in your deck, even though it only draws 1. If you don't want to shuffle, your hand is Peddler + Wishing Well, and there are exactly 2 cards left in your draw pile, then you need to play WW first (wishing for a card you don't have), and then Peddler.

Similar principles hold for Sentry (reshuffles with < 3 cards), Cartographer (reshuffles with < 5 cards), Patrol (reshuffles with < 7 cards), and others.

Unintuitive Discards

If you get hit with a discard attack like Militia, you have to choose the best 3-card hand. Note this may be different from the 3 best cards in your hand.

Here's the game state: It's early in the game. I have 2 cards left in my draw pile. My hand is Warehouse, 2 Coppers, 2 Estates. My opponent plays Militia.

The play here is to discard 2 Coppers. Why? Well, I'm not going to buy anything that costs $2. If I discard 2 Coppers, I can play Warehouse to trigger the reshuffle, making both Estates miss the shuffle. Sure, the Warehouse misses the shuffle too, but that's worth it. This was a rare scenario where the best hand was actually one that had Estates in it.

Throne Roomed-Minions

An old classic. If you Throne Room a Minion and plan to discard your hand, you should discard your hand first. That way, you have the choice of +$2 (if your new hand is good) or a 2nd discard (if your new hand is terrible).

It's usually impossible to attribute a win entirely to these choices, since each choice only gives you a small edge. On the other hand, there's no reason to not do these things, so you should just do them. It takes a bit of practice to keep it all in mind, but soon it becomes second-nature, and then you can focus on the important strategy questions instead.

Other Games / Dicey Dungeons
« on: June 14, 2018, 02:19:40 am »

One of the latest games Terry Cavanagh is working on. He's most well known for VVVVVV and Super Hexagon. It's a dice-based roguelike, and it's free to play in the browser. New builds have been coming out every 2 weeks. Interface is pure drag-and-drop, there's no save file and you'll lose progress on a refresh.

It's somewhat unpolished, but it was still strangely fun. I beat Warrior and Inventor on my first try. Thief took me a few tries, I beat it when I got the Thieves Guild and learned Backstab which helped my damage output a lot. I still haven't beaten Witch, I feel like I'm always too low on health, and die on floor 4 to a high damage enemy or a Banshee that keeps silencing me.

Edit: just beat Witch, essentially by lucking into a floor 4 where I only had to beat one enemy to pass, and where I set up a good spellbook before I got silenced every turn.

Dominion Articles / Castles
« on: March 28, 2018, 02:40:07 am »

Despite having lots of different effects, Castles aren't that complicated. Just think of them as having a 2nd pile of Provinces in the game. If it's the kind of game where that's appealing to you, then imagine when you'd start greening in a game with 2 Province piles, and start buying Castles about 1 shuffle or 1-3 turns before that.

If you do the math, buying 8 Castles gives you 45 VP, plus whatever VP you gained from buying Grand Castle. 8 Provinces gives 48 VP. In principle, this shows that buying only Castles is competitive with buying only Provinces. In practice, no one will ever let you buy all the Castles uncontested. At minimum, expect competition on the $8+ Castles. Sprawling and Grand are almost always worth more VP than a Province, and players will buy King just to deny VP from the player who has more Castles.

Having more VP in the kingdom leads to all the follow-on effects you'd expect. More VP makes the game go longer, and longer games favors building your deck more. Many of the Castles help with this - all the Castles between $4 and $7 give you more than just VP. The two Action castles, Small Castle and Opulent Castle, are particularly important. Small Castle can quickly upgrade itself into a better Castle, whereas Opulent is important because it can produce a lot of money when players start greening. This makes buying either Crumbling Castle or Haunted Castle a bit of a risk, because it gives your opponent the first chance at buying Small Castle and Opulent Castle respectively. Of course, how big a risk this depends on how long you think the game is going to go. The sooner the game end, the less the Action castles matter. Buying Haunted Castle also makes it less likely your opponent hits $7. I often find that the risk of revealing Opulent Castle is worth the 2 VP + Gold + topdeck attack that Haunted Castle gives.

As for Humble Castle, it's a little weird. It gives VP for every Castle, and there's only 1 Humble Castle, which can make it look like it's worth fighting over. However, it's still a genuinely bad card to buy. At the end of the game, Humble Castle is usually worth 3 VP to 5 VP, and although that's above-average rate for $3, buying it early on is a huge opportunity cost. There are two cases where it's worth buying Humble Castle early. One is Shelters games, to turn your starting Hovel into a Copper. The other is Keep. In a Keep game, Humble Castle is always worth at least 6 VP. Even in this scenario, I don't like opening Humble Castle. 6 VP for $3 is very cheap, but opening buys are very, very important. On most boards I'd gladly give my opponent 6 VP if they were forced to open Copper.

Besides these considerations, Castles are mostly a tactical decision, not a strategical one. They aren't like Gardens, or Duke, or Fairgrounds, where you have to plan a bit to get VP out of them. Castles are just there, and whether the VP is worth it or not depends on where you think your deck and the game are at.

Dominion General Discussion / If you could only have 1 opening
« on: February 14, 2018, 03:47:06 am »
Context: there was a recent Reddit thread about the balance of the opening hands, and some discussion on the subject in the markusin vs Stef World Cup match, where Stef had to open Amb/-- on a 5/2 split.

If you had to pick between only 5/2 or only 4/3 for all future games, which would you rather have?

To address pedantic points:
* The order is still random, i.e if you pick 5/2 it's still random whether you get $5 on turn 1 or turn 2.
* If Heirlooms are in the game, they replace a random Copper.

Dominion Articles / Witch, revised for 2018
« on: February 10, 2018, 03:47:41 am »
It's still good.

You should still buy it.

If you don't, you should still have a good reason, and I mean a REALLY good reason.

"But there's trashing!" - No, every Curse they trash is a Copper or Estate they didn't get to trash.

"But the trasher competes at the $5 price point!" - You may want to buy the trasher first, but if you do, you should probably still buy the Witch later.

"But Mountebank is in the kingdom!" - Actually, after you play Mountebanks a few times, they block it often enough that you probably want to buy the Witch to hand out the rest of the Curses.

"But Moat is in the kingdom!" - Having a Witch still threatens handing out Curses. They only have to fail to have Moat once to get punished for it. And if they buy a lot of Moats, then you've hurt them in a different way: they spent a bunch of Buys on Moats.

"But Lighthouse is in the kingdom!" - Okay. The Moat principle still applies - they only have to miss it once to get hurt. However, it's a lot more okay to have lots of Lighthouses, and in some games it's even beneficial (i.e. Minion games). So sometimes, they do have enough Lighthouses to make buying Witch redundant. But if you notice they've gotten complacent and are starting to miss Lighthouse turns, maybe you should reconsider that Witch...

"But Ambassador or Masquerade is in the kingdom!" - These do counter Witch the most regularly. It sucks when they give you back a Curse.

"But I'm drawing my deck, and I have a trasher, and I'm out of things I want to trash with it! I'll just trash the Curse if I get Witched!" - Sure, this is true for now. It's easy for this to stop being true, as you add payload or VP to your deck. Much like the Moat argument, if they're playing Witch every turn, you only have to fail to draw your trasher once to fall behind on having a thin deck. Once you fall behind the first time, it's more likely you fall behind the next, and soon your thin deck has 3 Curses in it. It's a classic recipe for beating people who are overconfident in their deck's reliability.

A lot of new players don't like Witch, because it slows down the game. Most people's idea of fun is getting to play a bunch of cards and produce a bunch of money. Witch gets in the way of that. But I like Witch. When I give out Curses, I think to myself "yes". When I get Curses, I think to myself "no". Even if you don't like it, you have to respect it.

Sometimes, you can skip Witch, and you get to be a Hero. Maybe even a Champion. Just be careful out there. Curses make the world a scary place.

Dominion Articles / Trash-for-Benefit and Stored Value
« on: January 27, 2018, 08:55:24 pm »
Stream of consciousness article, may clean up later.

I should start by defining trash-for-benefit.

A trash-for-benefit card is a card that trashes other cards, then gives you a benefit based on the cost of the trashed card or cards.

This excludes cards like Spice Merchant, Forager, and Trade Route. All of these cards trash cards, and they all give some benefit, but the benefit isn't tied to the cost of the card.

Why do I bother making this distinction? All trash-for-benefits that care about cost hit upon the same concept: the idea of stored value. I believe MicQ was the first to coin this term. It's a pretty simple principle: whenever you buy a card, you "store" the money spent that turn into the card you bought. You can later "cash-in" that value with a trash-for-benefit card.

Once you start thinking in terms of cost, you can derive several synergies.

Trash-for-benefit + on-gain cards: The cost of some cards is tied to their on-buy or on-gain effects. Border Village and Farmland are classic examples, and Skulk is a more recent example. Once you've gained the card, you've already gotten a lot of the value, so feeding those cards to a trash-for-benefit lets you cash-in more value than a typical card of that cost.

Trash-for-benefit + cards that get worse over time: Spice Merchant is a good opener, but gets worse as you run low on Coppers to trash. Witch is a good card, but once the Curses are gone, it's just a Moat. A trash-for-benefit card can let you get rid of the Spice Merchant or Witch after it's done most of what you wanted it to do.

One of my favorite synergies is Butcher + Spice Merchant. Normally, you don't buy that many Spice Merchants because they quickly run out of treasures to trash. Butcher lets you buy more Spice Merchants because you know you'll be able to cash in your extra Spice Merchants once your deck is thin.

Trash-for-benefit + cards that gain other cards: Magpie lets you gain a ton of Magpies, but from a trash-for-benefit perspective, it's more important that it gains you a bunch of $4 costs. Rats is similar - it converts junk cards in your deck into junk that costs $4. That isn't great, unless you have something that cares about the cost of cards, like a trash-for-benefit...and then suddenly it's ridiculous. Port gives you two $4 costs per buy.

Often, treasure gainers let you gain high-cost cards for less than their true cost. Think how Bandit (a $5 cost) gains you Gold (a $6 cost) every time you play. Treasure gainers can do this because treasures are usually worse than Actions, but this opens up neat lines of play if you can feed the treasure-gain to a trash-for-benefit.

A final note: it's usually not worth going too far out of your way for these trash-for-benefit synergies. One of the big newbie mistakes is to believe that you should always spend all your money each turn. This is still a mistake, even when trash-for-benefits are in play. The one exception is when you have a very consistent engine, and it's very important to have a card of a specific cost. The last example I can think of is an old game where Procession, Adventurer, and King's Court were in the Kingdom. On that board, I definitely Processed Adventurer a few times to gain King's Court. But that was very much the exception, and not the norm. More commonly, you add these trash-for-benefit synergies to an existing strategy, and let those synergies nudge you in the direction of buying extra Spice Merchants, or knowing you can buy something other than Gold because you're going to Remodel Witch into Gold. Not enough to sustain a deck by itself, but certainly enough to make an existing deck better.

Dominion Articles / Overdrawing
« on: January 02, 2018, 04:11:51 am »
In this article, I use "actions" to denote the resource that lets you play Action cards, and "Actions" to denote the actual cards.

What is overdrawing?

Your deck is overdrawing if the number of cards you can draw each turn is greater than the number of cards in your deck. As an extreme example, consider a deck of 5 Laboratories, nothing else. Your starting hand will be 5 Labs, and none of them will draw any cards, because there are no cards left in your draw or discard. A less extreme example is a deck with 5 Labs, 3 Coppers, 1 Silver. This deck is guaranteed to play all 5 Labs. The first 2 Labs will draw cards, and the remaining 3 Labs won't draw cards. Both of these decks are overdrawing.

You can calculate overdraw carefully if you want to, but usually you can figure it out on the fly. On a given turn, if you've drawn your deck and have extra drawing Actions left over, you're overdrawing. If you've drawn almost all of your deck and you're out of drawing Actions, you're on the cusp of overdrawing, and can get there if you buy more drawing Actions.

Overdrawing is only possible on boards where it's possible to draw your entire deck each turn, which limits the discussion to strong engine boards.

Is overdrawing good or bad?

Generally, overdrawing is a good thing, but major overdrawing is a bad thing. A deck that overdraws too much is inefficient, because too many buys have been spent on cards that could have been payload. However, a deck that overdraws a bit can do plenty of tricks that a non-overdrawing deck can't do. A big example is mid-turn gaining. An overdrawing deck can play a gainer (like Workshop), draw through the rest of the deck to trigger a reshuffle, then draw the gained card and play it the same turn it was gained. This can help if, say, you really need another $2 this turn. You can Workshop a Silver, then draw it with overdraw to get the $2 you need. I've done this several times in Base-only games.

With the right setup, you can do some explosive things. Here's an example from a game I played about two weeks ago. At the start of my turn, I had 2 Stonemasons, a Bandit, and tons of overdraw and actions thanks to several Lost Cities and Encampments.

  • Played Bandit, gaining a Gold.
  • Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into Bandit and Plunder.
  • Drew Bandit and Plunder with overdraw. Played Bandit to gain Gold.
  • Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into 2 Plunders.
  • Drew Plunders with overdraw.

So, to recap: in a single turn, I gained and played a Bandit and 3 Plunders, which gave me an extra $6 that turn (not to mention 3 VP). From here, I ran away with the game.

The core principle of overdraw tricks is simple: any time you could have drawn a card but didn't, you're wasting a draw. If there's a way to avoid wasting that draw, you can use it to get more out of your turns. Gainers are the easy way to do this, because it adds a new physical card to your deck. However, there are other ways to convert extra card draws into resources.

Consider Plaza. Plaza can convert a draw of a Treasure card into a coin token. If you draw your entire deck, you can repeatedly draw and discard a single Copper to multiple Plazas. letting you get several coin tokens. There's an elegance to this: Plaza both gives the overdraw and gives a way to convert your draws into something else. The same can be done with Baron, where you repeatedly draw and discard the same Estate to multiple Barons. However, you need other Actions to give you the overdraw required.

In a game with Storeroom and Scrying Pool, if you have extra Pools after drawing your deck, you can play Storeroom, discard all your Actions for coins, then play Scrying Pool to redraw all those Actions. Here, Scrying Pool is the source of overdraw, and it gets converted into coins with Storeroom.

Tournament is another big example. With overdraw, a single Province can be discarded to multiple Tournaments, to gain multiple prizes in one turn. It helps that the Prizes you gain can themselves help with triggering the reshuffle needed to get the Province back into your draw pile. I once played a game where it was clear Followers was the most important prize. My opponent got to Province first, and gained Trusty Steed first. I thought this was a mistake, right up to the point where he redrew Province and played a 2nd Tournament to gain Followers too. Gaining Steed first simply minimized the chance he would run out of actions to play the rest of his deck.

I've even had this happen with Castles. Opulent Castle lets you discard Victory cards for $2 each. Grand Castle gives you extra VP on-gain for each Victory card in your hand. So, in one game, I played Opulent Castle, got money out of my Victory cards, then redrew them with overdraw to get more points out of the Grand Castle I was planning to buy.

In these examples, we are not using our overdraw on newly gained cards to our deck. Instead, we are using our extra draws to draw existing cards multiple times, and using other card effects to make this useful. This principle is key to two of the most powerful combos in the game, Hermit + Market Square and Apprentice + Market Square. Heavy overdraw (from Madmen or Apprentice trashing Gold) lets you repeatedly redraw Market Squares, which can be repeatedly discarded to gain more Golds from the Market Square reaction.

I've focused on the flashy examples in this article, but that doesn't make the less flashy examples useless. Whenever you're in a position where you're about to waste card draw, take a moment, and see if you can gain a small edge by doing an overdrawing trick. Trust me: it adds up.

PS: a final exercise. Consider these comments from the reveal thread for the Dismantle promo.

One of the more useful things to do with [Dismantle] is probably "discard a Gold to gain a card costing up to $5".
Woodcutter can also gain $5s in combination with Gold, just not midturn.

Suppose Dismantle only worked with Gold, and it literally read "You may discard a Gold. If you do, gain a card costing up to $5." Is it clear that in some games, you'd still want this Dismantle over Woodcutter?

Dominion Articles / Band of Misfits and Overlord
« on: December 26, 2017, 05:03:14 am »

The ultimate "depends on the kingdom" cards. Also, the cards with some of the most annoying rule headaches.

For both Band of Misfits and Overlord, you're looking for Actions that are contextually powerful. What does that mean? Some Action cards are usually strong, and other Action cards are usually weak, but some cards are strong / weak depending on context. For example, Noble Brigand is strong if you know they have a Gold in their first 2 cards, and it's weak if no Silvers or Golds are on top of their deck.

Noble Brigand is an extreme example, because it goes between "+$1" and "+$1, opponent trashes a Gold, you gain a Gold", which is a huuuuge shift. However, the power of most Actions depends a bit on context. Consider a classical Village + Smithy deck. Village is contextually strong when your hand has a lot of Smithies and you only have 1 action. Smithy is contextually strong when you have plenty of actions. And, consider a +Buy card - strong when you have a lot of money, weak when you don't.

Band of Misfits and Overlord are especially powerful in games where you expect to run into several contexts where the best Action is different. This is because of an obvious observation: if you always play your Band of Misfits as the same Action, you could have just bought that Action. The only way you can get extra value is if you play your Band of Misfits as different Actions depending on the situation. For example, in a game from Dominion Championship 2017, I played Overlord as Rabble (when I needed draw), Village (when I needed the Actions), Explorer (when I had a Province in my hand), Chariot Race (when a previous Chariot Race revealed a low cost card on top), and Catapult (when I had good ammo for my Catapult). If I had wanted all of those effects, I could have bought an actual Explorer, or an actual Catapult, but it would have been much less consistent. I didn't want an Explorer or Catapult in my deck, because I don't always want to play an Explorer, or play a Catapult, and having the terminal when I don't want to play it is wasted space. But a card that could be an Explorer or a Catapult when I needed it, and a Village / Rabble when I didn't? Sign me up!

There are some trade-offs to this power. It costs more to buy BoM / Overlord, compared to buying the action directly. And, if the pile you want to copy is empty, you can't play BoM / Overlord as that action, which can strand your deck in some situations. In my experience, Band of Misfits is okay, but often has a lot of competition at the $5 cost spot. Overlord, on the other hand, is incredibly strong. Seriously, if you haven't tried it yet: just buy Overlord whenever you'd buy a $5 cost Action, or whenever you want to buy a $5 cost but don't have $5. 8 debt isn't that much more than $5, and the benefits are usually worth it.

Some final points: copying a Reserve card doesn't work, because once BoM / Overlord goes to the Tavern mat, it is no longer a copy of that Reserve card, so you can't call it anymore. Additionally, when Adventures tokens (+1 Card, +1 Action, +$1, +1 Buy) are on the board, BoM and Overlord get the bonus of both the tokens on their pile and the tokens on the Action they copy. If you have a lot of Overlords, consider placing your most important token directly on Overlords, instead of the Action you normally copy. Finally, for Conspirator, BoM / Overlord count as two separate Action plays, since you first play the BoM, then play the action it copies.

Rules Questions / A Peddler cost reduction edge case
« on: October 29, 2017, 05:14:30 am »
Peddler says "During your Buy phase, this costs 2 less per Action you have in play."

Say I play Possession, and the possessed player plays at least 4 actions. During the possessed player's Buy phase, I make them buy Cursed Village. I gain the Cursed Village instead, so I get the Hex. The Hex pile turns up Locusts and trashes a Peddler. Did my trashed Peddler cost $8 or $0?

Dominion General Discussion / Help me solve an idealized endgame
« on: October 14, 2017, 05:53:13 am »
I was thinking about endgame buy decisions, came up with a simple setup, and spent a few minutes trying to solve it. I didn't get a finished solution so I'm passing it on to you.

Alice and Bob are both playing an engine that's capable of drawing the entire deck every turn. Both of their decks start by producing $13 each turn. They both have a reasonable amount of buys: at most 4 buys a turn. (Enough to do most things you want, but not enough to empty the Estates in one turn.)

Neither has bought any VP yet. There are no ways to gain cards mid-turn. The only way to get more money is by buying Treasures. You're guaranteed to draw all Treasures you buy. To make this better model a real game, you are not allowed to buy Copper, you must buy Gold instead of 2 Silver, and you cannot buy Estate unless there are 6 or fewer Provinces in the supply.

Alice goes first. What is Alice's optimal strategy? She's guaranteed to either win or tie by a strategy-stealing argument, but I'm not sure what the right buy-path is.

Dominion Articles / How Do I Hit $5? An Opening Principle
« on: October 11, 2017, 03:39:47 am »
Stream of consciousness article. Might polish this later if I have time. I was just in an article-writing mood.

Costs in Dominion work out roughly like this.
$2: Always openable, players might want a lot of these, competes with Silver.
$3: Always openable, can open with 2 of these on 4/3, competes with Silver.
$4: Always openable, competes with Silver.
$5: Openable only if you get lucky, competes with Gold.
$6: Not openable except for weird edge cases, competes with Gold.

In practice, because $5 cost Actions compete with Gold, the gap in power between $4 cost Actions and $5 cost Actions is big. Big enough that on several boards, figuring out how you buy a $5 cost is one of the biggest considerations in the opening.

Not all boards are ruled by their $5 cost Actions, but on boards where the $5 costs are important, you need to have a plan for how you're going to buy those $5 costs early. By early, I mean the first 4 turns.

Why the first 4 turns? Barring weird shenanigans, your first reshuffle is right after turn 2, and your 2nd reshuffle is right after turn 4. If you want a $5 cost, you want it by the 2nd reshuffle, just because of how much more powerful they can be. You want them by then because of the cascading effect of Dominion: the better your deck, the better cards you can buy, and in practice $5 cost Actions are often very good at helping you buy more $5 Cost Actions.

Why $5 in particular? In practice it's difficult to get good guarantees of hitting $6+ before turn 4. There also simply aren't that many $6 cost Actions in the game.


In the first 4 turns of the game, it's tricky to get more than 5 cards in your hand, and most of your sources of money are Copper. This limits how many ways you have to get to $5. Here are the broad ways you can get there.

1. Draw 5 Coppers

With 3 Estates in your starting deck, it's hard to draw 5 Copper. Usually, this happens by pure luck. Sometimes, you open a card like Smithy or Oracle, to get more than 5 cards in your hand.

2. Draw 3 Coppers and a card that gives $2

The "card that gives $2" can be Silver, or a terminal Silver like Fortune Teller or Swindler, or Mill discarding 2 cards, or even Salvager + Estate. This is a common way people aim for $5, because it's fairly safe and flexible.

3. Draw 1 Copper, 1 Silver, and a card that gives $2 (Silver or terminal Silver)
This is the safest option, because if you don't hit this option, you have good odds of hitting Silver + 3 Copper anyways.

3. Draw 4 Coppers, get $1 from something else

The "something else" could be the +$1 from Poacher, or the Duration effect of Lighthouse, or a saved coin token from Candlestick Maker. Note the last 2 options require drawing Lighthouse / Candlestick Maker on turn 3, so that the +$1 effect happens on turn 4. So again, not something you can count on. Poacher/Silver and Tournament/Silver, however, are tried-and-tested openings. Compared to Silver/Silver or Silver/terminal-Silver, they trade off a slightly lower chance of hitting $5 for the upside of having 1 fewer Silver / terminal in the deck.

4. Horse Traders

Horse Traders + 2 Copper = $5. Opening Horse Traders almost always guarantees hitting $5, except for exceptionally unlucky scenarios.

5. Expedition

An early Expedition can be worth it over buying a Silver when it comes to hitting $5.

I'm most likely forgetting a few cases, but the key principle is figuring out how to count to $5 when most of your deck is Coppers and Estates. Everything else follows from that.

The cards you buy on turns 1 and 2 influence which paths you can take. If you don't buy a Silver, or a terminal Silver, and don't buy a +Cards action either, then you're stuck with hoping you just draw 5 Copper, which isn't great odds. If you open 1 Silver + a card that doesn't give money (like Silver/Sea Hag or Silver/Remodel), you're hoping you draw Silver + 3 Copper. If you open Silver/terminal-Silver, you get more safety. If you open Silver/Warehouse, you're aiming for Silver + 3 Copper, but can use Warehouse to set it up.

I'm not here to enumerate all the variations, so stepping back a bit, this is roughly how the opening goes.

1. There are some cards you want as early as possible. Trashing effects like Chapel and Steward top this list. Gaining effects like Workshop and Ironworks can also be important if there are important cards that cost $4 or less. Trash-for-benefits like Remodel, Salvager, and Remake are nice to open with because it's easier to collide them with Estate.
2. Those cards usually don't help you hit $5. This pulls you in 2 different directions and forces you to guess at the correct trade-off. A bit of payload now to hit $5, or accept higher risk and buy a card that helps me sculpt my deck?
3. Furthermore, the cards you open with are going to matter for the rest of game. Maybe I don't want 2 Silvers so early! But on the other hand, maybe I really don't want to miss $5! AHHHHH DECISIONS.
3. The correct answer depends on just how important hitting $5 is, the risk-reward of openings with less chance of hitting $5, and your personal risk tolerance.
4. No one has all the answers, so it's on you to make the call.
5. Welcome to Dominion.



I generated these by picking a few random boards. Assume I always open 3/4.

It's hard to care a lot about hitting $5 if there are no $5 costs to buy.

Governor, Cultist, and Upgrade are all great $5 costs. Workshop has lots of great targets (Scheme, Conspirator, Magpie). No +Actions means you need to be pretty careful. This is a tricky board and I'm not sure what I'd open, but for sure I'm buying at least one of Silver, a Conspirator, or Horse Traders. Missing $5 is pretty bad here. You can definitely still win if you don't hit $5, but it gets a lot harder.

Here, $5 is pretty important, because it gets you Council Room, Bridge Troll, and Crowns. The end-goal is to play a ton of Bridge Trolls. I would open Ironmonger/Silver or Transmogrify/Silver, more likely on Ironmonger. Transmogrify is secretly a way to get $5 if you're lucky, because you can transform Estate into Silver in your hand which gets you $2. That being said, it takes a bit of time to do this, and given that I want $5 early, I think Ironmonger is the better open.

Here, you want Giants eventually, but you don't need it right away. Your main draw is going to be Rangers and Masquerade backed up by Fishing Village, so you can focus on the $3 and $4 costs and pick up a Giant or 2 later. (This is in some ways similar to the First Game engine: you mostly want Village + Smithy, want to pick up a Mine at some point, but don't want to go too far out of your way to get that Mine ASAP.)

This is easily Ironmonger/Silver for me.

Ironmonger/Candlestick Maker: too easy to miss $5.
Silver/Silver: doesn't hit $5 that much more often than Ironmonger/Silver and having an Ironmonger instead of a Silver is way better long run.

Dominion Articles / How to Win at Dominion, With Minimal Jargon
« on: September 25, 2017, 02:30:29 am »
This is intended to be a newb-friendly article.

How do you win a game of Dominion?

You win by ending the game with more points than your opponent.

How do you do that?

You do it by buying cards that let you win the game, and playing those cards more often than your opponent does.

How do I identify which cards let me win the game?

Generally, you want to look for cards that either give you lots of coins, give you lots of VP, or let you quickly end the game while getting a small amount of VP. You want to combine these cards with a story for how it's going to come together.

Here are some examples.
  • I'm going to play Golds and Silvers to get lots of coins.
  • I'm going to play a lot of Bridges in one turn, to get lots of Buys while making cards very cheap to buy.
  • I'm going to play Ironworks to gain Ironworks and Gardens, aiming for a 3-pile ending.
  • I'm going to play a lot of Goons to get VP tokens.
Sometimes, it's enough to look for cards that stop your opponent from winning the game. Examples:
  • I'm going to play Militia every turn, to force my opponent to start their turns with 3 cards instead of 5.
  • I'm going to play Witch to drown my opponent in Curses.
The avenues-to-victory aren't mutually exclusive. In a given game, your plan might be to play Festival/Library, but also with some Bridges and 1 Militia thrown in. Or, your plan could be to play Witch, while buying Golds and Silvers to hit $8 for Province. The strategy comes in figuring out which avenues-to-victory are fastest, strongest, and most complementary to one another.

Most games are decided by the person who makes the most coins each turn, and that's the case I'll be implicitly talking about for the rest of the article, but there are exceptions where having more Buys or more VP-giving cards is more important, and it's worth keeping those exceptions in mind.

Before continuing to the next section, an important distinction. Cards like Smithy, Village, and Council Room are not winning cards. They are cards that let you draw your winning cards, but they don't win games by themselves. Nobody wins just by drawing lots of cards. They win by drawing lots of winning cards. And again, an important clarification: this doesn't mean buying Smithy, Village, etc. can't help you win. In fact, they often do help you win, just in a different way.

I've identified my winning cards. How do I play them more often?

Broadly, there are two approaches.
  • Buy lots of winning cards and try to win on pure quantity.
  • Buy Actions that let you cycle through your deck quickly, then play a few winning cards very often.
Let's bring this back to the terms commonly used in the community. Cards that directly win you the game are payload cards. Generally, these are the cards that give you coins, or buys, or gains, or some other resource that lets you obtain VP cards or stops your opponent from getting VP. Cards that help you draw your payload more often are cycling cards. Smithy and Village are cycling cards because they draw more cards. Cellar is a cycling card because it lets you discard bad cards to draw better ones. Chapel is a cycling card because it trashes away your low quality cards, which makes it easier to draw your winning cards more frequently and to shuffle more often. Cards like Chapel are called trashers, and they are often the first cards top players look for when deciding how to approach a Kingdom. Although trashers don't directly draw cards, their effects are among the strongest in the game.

Again, repeating for emphasis: Payload cards directly give you what you need to win. Cycling cards help you play your payload more often.

Some cards straddle the line between both categories. Poacher and Market both draw cards and give some coins. Minion also straddles the line, because you can either play it for +$2 (payload) or discard and draw 4 (cycling). The one truth of Dominion is that the categories are always a bit loose.

When it comes to overarching strategy, there are usually two broad approaches: buy mostly payload cards, or buy mostly cycling cards. A payload-focused strategy is historically called Big Money, since it usually applies to decks where your payload is Gold and Silver. More recently, some people have called payload-heavy strategies "the good stuff deck", to indicate that the payload isn't always a Treasure card. For example, Haggler is a perfectly fine payload card. A cycling-focused strategy is historically called the engine, because it focuses on buying Actions and combining their effects to make something bigger than the sum of its parts.

Let's say I want to play the "good stuff" approach. How should I do so?

Buy payload cards instead of cycling cards.

Let's say I want to play the "engine" approach. What should I do?

Buy cycling cards instead of payload cards.

That didn't really help, you're just repeating the definition! Which approach is best?

Trick question! In most games, you do both.

...say what?

Whenever you gain a card in Dominion, you have to make a choice: payload or cycling? Sometimes you can buy a card that does a bit of both, like Market. But usually, you have to make a choice between a card that will give you more money / attacking power / VP, or a card that helps you draw other cards more often. Each choice has trade-offs. A payload card increases what your deck can potentially do, but it doesn't help you play your existing payload more often. A cycling card lets you play your existing payload more often, but may not increase what your deck can do.

A good stuff approach focuses mostly on buying payload, but may buy Cellar over Silver because it wants to cycle a bit faster. An engine approach focuses mostly on cycling, but may pick up an early Silver or Gold because it lets the engine buy more powerful cycling Actions. Focusing on only one kind of card or the other is overly simplistic and can lead to bad play - I have lost several engine games because of underestimating the value of an early Silver.

Okay, okay, I get it. Which is the better approach on average?

With the caveat that there are very few 100% truths in Dominion, most new players overestimate payload. On many boards, it's better to focus on cycling cards, and a properly built engine will beat everything else.

Why is the engine often better?

It's more efficient.

Here's one way to think about Dominion: after buying a card, you get to play that card at most once per shuffle. (There are cards that get around this, like Harbinger, but let's ignore those for now.) Given this, if you want to get as much value out of each buy that you can, it helps if you can shuffle your deck more often. And how do you shuffle your deck more often? You do so by buying cycling cards! Cycling cards let you get through more of your deck each turn, which lets you reach the end of your shuffle faster. Again, this is why trashing cards is good - a small deck shuffles itself much faster than a big deck.

Another reason to favor the engine is that there's a higher ceiling on what an engine can do. Let's say you want to play Witch every turn. You buy lots of Witches. Okay, cool. But what if you also want to play Militia every turn? Ignoring Action constraints for a second, if your deck can't draw lots of cards, you have to buy lots of Militias too. Buying both a lot of Witches and a lot of Militias is a lot of buys to spend, and often Buys are the limiting resource in Dominion. Add back the action constraints, and it quickly becomes infeasible. In contrast, if you can set-up an engine that draws itself every turn, you can buy 1 Witch and 1 Militia, and then draw and play them every turn.

Engines are like an investment. You invest your early buys on cycling cards, even though the only payload you have is Coppers, because it will pay off in the long term when your payload is higher quality.

Is the engine always better?

No. It isn't better when the investment takes too long to pay off. In those games, if you try to go for the engine, you durdle around for a long time, your opponent Keeps Calm and Buys Provinces while you're still building, and you lose while feeling really silly. This has happened to everyone - don't feel too bad when it happens to you, and don't let it stop you from trying. Because every now and then, you'll identify an engine that's just barely better than the payload-focused deck, win the game by 1 VP on your final turn, and feel like a legend.

Cool. How do I actually implement any of this?

Like most things, practice and experience.

At lower skill levels, games are won and lost by whether you correctly identify when to go for a cycling-light approach or a cycling-heavy approach. This is the level where boring strategies like Smithy-Big Money tend to dominate, since it's harder to play those strategies badly.

At higher skill levels, players will often agree on the broad approach of a board. Top players will certainly still disagree on whether the engine is good enough, but the main differentiator between players is the execution of an overarching strategy.

This, to me, is where the depth of Dominion really expands. Remember earlier, where I said you have to choose between payload and cycling on each buy? Those choices are where games are won and lost. If you buy cards in a more optimal order, it's common to hit the deck you want 1-2 turns faster than a worse order. Dominion is all about snowballing incremental advantages. Small mistakes add up, and proper sequencing is just ridiculously hard to do consistently, especially when you factor in the inherent randomness of card games.

Dominion isn't like Chess or Starcraft, where a new player can memorize a well-studied opening and copy it until they understand how it works. The random Kingdom prevents this - you have to learn good game intuitions to do anything productive improvement-wise.

If you're new to the game, like it so far, and want to get better, here is what I would recommend.
  • Play whatever you want. Over time, you'll naturally notice which cards tend to be more important. (Reading the Qvist card rankings can shortcut this step, but it helps to experience the strength of cards firsthand. I didn't understand Ambassador until somebody destroyed me with it.)
  • During that period, play a few Big Money decks. I'd recommend Smithy + treasures, Council Room + treasures, Courtyard + treasures, and Witch + treasures. These are all surprisingly effective, and it helps remind you what you're racing against if you decide to go for an engine.
  • Once you get a handle on the cards, practice making judgments on whether you would play an engine. Err on the side of playing engines more than you think you should. They're often better, and cycling-based decks usually have more decisions than payload-based decks. It's hard to practice engine decision-making if you're only willing to play the obvious engines.

Finally, when your opponent beats you, don't look just at what their deck did at the end. Look at how they built their deck, what cards they bought on which turns, and try to spot what made their deck work when your deck didn't. You will certainly have games where your opponent plays poorly and wins because of luck, but that doesn't mean there's no lessons to learn from the game.

Dominion Articles / Occasionally Relevent Rule Edge-Cases
« on: September 10, 2017, 04:26:11 am »
EDIT: with the September 2019 errata, many of these edge-cases are no longer relevant. See the update post later in the thread.

Sometimes, Dominion rules can get complicated. Most of the time, they don't matter. In a few scenarios, they matter a lot. Those scenarios are overwhelmingly "gotcha" scenarios: they make sense when you think about them, you always remember them after the first time, but they can be hard to notice on the fly.

I think people shouldn't be unreasonably rewarded for knowing more rules minutiae than the other person, so here are some edge cases. This list certainly isn't complete, but I believe most things off the list are too close to rules trivia - interesting to think about, but not powerful enough to keep in mind. (Several things in this list are already near or past that threshold.)

These are ordered roughly by relevance.

Fundamental Rules Principles

When you play a card, you do exactly what it says, in order. If you can't do something, you do as much as you can. This happens even if the card leaves play for some reason.

If multiple effects trigger at the same time, you choose what order they resolve in. Sometimes the order matter. For the online client in particular, be careful you do things in the right order. For example, if you play Alchemists + Herbalist, you should topdeck all your Alchemists before using Herbalist to put the Potion back.

When buying a card, first you trigger all on-buy events, then you gain the card, then you trigger all on-gain events.

Card Costs

Dominion cards have 3 axes of cost: coins, Potion, and debt. A card costs more than another one if it is greater than or equal on all those axes. So for example, $4P > $3P > $3, and 8 debt > 4 debt, What about $3P vs $4? You can't compare them, neither costs more than the other.

This lets you do several neat things, like

* Remodel Familiar into Golem.
* With Haggler in play, buy City Quarter and gain Engineer off Haggler.
* Play Stonemason, trashing University to gain 2 Vineyards.

If you play Salvager and trash a Familiar, you get +$3, not +$3P, because Salvager specifically says "+$1 per $1 it costs" - it ignores the Potion and debt axes.

Stonemason Overpay

If an action costs $0 (because of Bridge or Highway, for example), you cannot overpay by $0 to gain two copies of that action. You also cannot overpay by debt to gain two copies of an Action that costs debt. You are, however, allowed to overpay by Potion, so with $5P you can buy Stonemason and gain 2 Alchemists.

Prince + Durations

Prince does not work with Durations. When you play the Duration, it stays in play past the end of the turn. Because you didn't discard it the turn you played it, it doesn't go back to the Prince when it finishes resolving.

There is an exception. If you Prince a Gear, and don't set aside any cards with Gear, the Gear won't stay in play and will successfully get Princed next turn. But normally, you should assume it won't work, and Prince something else instead.

Procession + Reserve cards

If you Procession a Reserve card, the Reserve card goes to the Tavern mat. Procession loses track of the Reserve card, so it can't trash it. However, you still get to gain an Action costing $1 more. This also applies to Island.

Band of Misfits / Overlord + Reserve cards

If you play Band of Misfits or Overlord as a Reserve card, you're going to have a bad time. Both cards say "This is that card until it leaves play." Moving to the Tavern mat counts as leaving play. Once it's on the mat, the card doesn't remember what it used to be, so you can't call it and it'll be stuck on the mat forever. Just don't do it.


Buying an event doesn't count as buying a card. Some side effects of this:

1. You can turn Hermits into Madmen while spending your Buys on events.
2. You can buy events on Mission turns.
3. Haggler, Goons, and Swamp Hag will not trigger on buying an event.

Buying an event doesn't count as buying a card, which can make it easier to gain Madmen.

Hermit + Scheme

If you don't buy a card and topdeck Hermit with your Scheme, you can gain a Madman without trashing the Hermit. From the wiki:

In this scenario, two things happen simultaneously, and you get to choose the order :

    (Hermit) Trash the Hermit and gain a Madman.
    (Scheme) Hermit goes on top of your deck.

If you resolve (1) then (2), you gain a Madman, the Hermit goes to the Trash, and then (2) doesn't do anything because Scheme lost track of the Hermit.
If you resolve (2) then (1), you put the Hermit on top of your deck, then Hermit attempts to trash itself but fails because it lost track of itself, then you still gain a Madman because you do as much as you can of the Hermit statement.

Capital Tricks

Capital gives you debt only when you discard it from play. If you can avoid discarding it from play, you don't take debt. You can topdeck it with Herbalist, or trash it with Counterfeit / Bonfire / Mint on-buy. If you Crown it, you get $12 + 2 buys and only take the 6 debt once. Of special note is the Mandarin on-gain. If you play Capital + 4 other Treasures that give at least $7, you can buy Mandarin + Province every turn until the Provinces or Mandarins run out.

Throne Room variants + Durations

The official ruling is that if a Throne Room variant directly applies to a Duration card, that Throne Room stays out until the Duration leaves play.

* You play Throne Room on a Fishing Village. The Throne Room stays out until the Fishing Village gets discarded next turn.
* You play Throne Room on Throne Room, using the doubled-Throne Room to play 2 Caravans twice. The first Throne Room was applied to the 2nd Throne Room, and gets discarded at end of turn. The 2nd Throne Room was applied to both Caravans, so it stays out until next turn.
* You play Throne Room on Hireling. The Throne Room stays out for the rest of the game.

The rule works this way because for IRL play, it's easier to track which Durations are modified. In practice, if you're playing a big King's Court stack, you want to bunch all the Durations under the same King's Court if possible.

The rule gets trickier is with Procession. Because Procession trashes the discarded Duration, it always gets discarded at end of turn. But, you still get the Duration card's effect next turn.

* You play Procession on Caravan. You trash Caravan and gain a $5 cost Action. Procession is discarded at end of turn. On your next turn, you draw 2 cards.
* You play Procession on Hireling. You trash Hireling and gain a $7 cost Action (if one exists). Procession is discarded at end of turn. For the rest of the game, you draw an extra 2 cards.

Adventures Tokens + Travellers

If you have a token on Page, only Page will get that bonus. The other Travellers in the Page line won't. Similarly for Peasant. This is because the other cards in the line are not in the Supply, and didn't come from the Page pile.

Band of Misfits / Overlord + Conspirator

When you play Band of Misfits as another action card, it counts as two action plays for Conspirator. The first action is the Band of Misfits, and the second is the card you copy.

Yes, this means that if all 3 are in the Kingdom, you can play Overlord as Band of Misfits as Conspirator for your first action, and the Conspirator will be activated. Let me know if this ever happens to you.

Band of Misfits / Overlord + Adventures Tokens

Band of Misfits gets the bonuses of both the Band of Misfits pile and the pile it's copying. This happens for the same reason as the Conspirator case.


When you inherit an action, your Estates gain the types and the card text of that action, but they're still called Estate and still cost $2. This has a bunch of follow-on effects. Among them are:

* If an Adventures token is on the pile you inherit, your Estates will not gain those effects, because your Estates did not come from that pile.
* You cannot put Adventures tokens on the Estate pile, because the Estates in the supply are not actions - they aren't your Estates.
* Estate as Crossroads can never give +Actions, because Estate keeps its name. When you play an Estate, it can never be "the first time you played Crossroads this turn". For similar reasons, Estate as Treasure Map doesn't work.

Charm + Knights

If you play Charm in gain mode, you cannot buy a Knight, then gain the Knight underneath it with Charm. The on-buy happens first, and at the time you're picking a card to gain with Charm, the top Knight hasn't been gained yet.

Split Piles + Adventures Tokens

The official ruling is that if a token is on a split pile, it applies to all cards in that pile. When deciding whether you can put a token on that pile, you decide based on the card type of the randomizer. For Castles, the randomizer is a Victory card, and for everything else it's an action.

What that means in practice:

* You can place a +Card token on the Encampment/Plunder pile, even if the top card is a Plunder. Both your Encampments and Plunders will draw you one card.
* You cannot place a +Card token on the Castles pile, even if the top Castle is an Action.

The one way a token can get on the Castles pile is if the top Castle is an Action, it costs $4 or less through cost reduction, and you gain it with Seaway.

Playing Treasures During the Action Phase

So far, you can do this with Black Market and Storyteller.

* If you play a Silver, then play a Merchant after, the Merchant will not give $1 if you play another Silver. Merchant only triggers the first time you play a Silver, and a Silver was already played.
* If you play a Crown during Black Market / Storyteller, it's played as a Throne Room because it's still the Action phase. You resolve the Crown in the middle of Black Market / Storyteller.
* If you gain a Mandarin during your Action phase, treasures played by Black Market or Storyteller go on top of your deck.

Summon + Cards that Gain Other Cards on Gain

(I learned about this interaction very recently.)

If you Summon Border Village or Death Cart, Summon won't play it next turn.

Wait, what?

Here's how Summon works, if you spell it all out.
* Gain an Action card costing up to $4.
* (The gained card goes to discard, or on top of the deck if you gain Nomad Camp.)
* (Summon looks for the card where it expects it to be, the discard or top of the deck for Nomad Camp.)
* It sets it aside, and if it did, it sets it aside next turn.

So what happens with the cards above? To quote the wiki:

Summoning a card that gains other cards when gained (such as Border Village or Death Cart) will cause the Summoned card to not be set aside, and thus not played at the start of your next turn. This is because the extra cards gained cover up the Summoned card in the discard pile (since the Summoned card is not set aside immediately), causing the Summoned card to be lost track of.

What you can do, however, is Summon a Border Village, then reveal Watchtower to topdeck the card gained from Border Village. Then Summon will successfully find the Border Village and set it aside.

Game Reports / Here's a surprisingly tricky Base-only board.
« on: September 08, 2017, 02:06:44 am »

The numbers spoil what I went for - a Village/Moat/Witch engine. I was mostly uncontested, I got 7 of the Villages.

I thought this board was neat because it has a lot of subtleties to it. I think Festival and Bandit are both traps, you really don't want to lose any draw on your +Actions card and gaining Gold makes it too difficult to draw your actions.

Without Moat I wouldn't go for engine, because the Curses will slow you down too much. If Remodel was Workshop I wouldn't go for engine, because you couldn't get rid of your Estates. But with both, it's just barely past the bar where I go for it. The way it plays out is that you use mostly Village + Moat for draw, laugh as your Moats block any attacks your opponent plays, then you play a Witch every turn and drown them in Curses. Remodel turns Estate --> Village or Harbinger and Copper/Curse --> Moat.

I wanted to pick up Mine but by the time my deck felt consistent enough for it I had to worry about 3 piles.

Dominion General Discussion / Dominion Strategy: Then, Now, and the Future
« on: September 04, 2017, 05:02:08 am »
(This is part history, part strategy advice, and part opinion piece. Although I intended it to be an article's worth of content, I don't feel like it fits in Articles or Feedback. So I'm putting it here.)

I've been around Dominion for over 7 years. In those 7 years, Dominion discussion has changed a lot.

Let's start at 2010, back when the main DominionStrategy blog had regular updates. There was a heavy focus on understanding Big Money play. People knew that on average, Smithy-BM got 4 Provinces in 14-16 turns, Masquerade-BM could do it in 13 turns, and Courtyard-BM was similarly quick. The Big Money rule-of-thumbs were known by heart: buy Gold over the first Province, Duchy over Gold when there are 5 Provinces left, and Estate over Silver when there are 2-3 Provinces left. This was also the heyday of people using simulators to guide decision making.

Of course, people didn't only talk about Big Money. There was plenty of discussion about things we now call engines. But when you re-read many of the articles from the main site, they follow a similar format: a few paragraphs about the card's objective power level, and then a list of relevant synergies and anti-synergies at the end. Take the Cutpurse article, for example. It focuses mostly on the strength of its opening attack, then gives some token references to cards that make Copper discard more relevant.

I claim this is representative of a larger trend: strategy discussion was focused primarily on explaining cards in isolation. It turns out that's good enough to beat a lot of players! Telling players not to buy Pirate Ship in 2 player is actually pretty effective advice when people are still usually bad at the game, and showing Courtyard-BM is faster than Smithy-BM ended up giving people (including me) a few free wins over people who bought the "Smithy-BM is unbeatable" meme. Engine play was a lot worse, and Silver was better than many of the removed cards from Base + Intrigue 1st edition.

Then, things changed. More expansions came out. Cards got more complicated. Compare the Cutpurse article to the one about Procession about 2 years later. Although the article still talks about specific pairs, like Procession-Ironworks, it mostly talks in more abstract terms. In the Cutpurse article, interactions are listed at the end, but for Procession they're the focus of the entire article.

It's like starting chess discussion by pointing out that knights can attack queens without getting attacked back, and then the discussion evolves into one about material and position. Concrete pieces --> abstract generalizations.

This eventually came to a head with the most influential Dominion articles of all time: The Five Fundamental Deck Types, written by WanderingWinder. This codified strategy discussion for years. It's a framework for thinking about the game, that everything else can be funneled through, and soon it became expected that everybody knew what engine, slog, and rush meant.

It's probably a heavy case of nostalgia, but I consider those years to be a Golden Age of Dominion discussion. It was a wonderful time to get into the game, if you were looking to play competitively. And I'm no longer sure that's true. Everything's been on a gradual decline since those days.

There were a few catalysts for this (the biggest one being the end of Isotropic), but in retrospect I blame the decline on two things. The first:

It depends on the kingdom.

This meme took over the forums for a while. It's true, but it's also supremely unhelpful advice. People would say that Dominion is too big to describe all the nuances, and the best way to get better at Dominion is to just play more Dominion, watch more Dominion, and get better at reviewing your old matches. Again, very true, but people don't want to read forum posts that state the obvious. For all that the early card articles get wrong, they still form a helpful flotation device for novice players to hold on to before jumping into the deep, seemingly endless strategy pool.

I'm very glad that the "depends on the kingdom" meme has mostly died, because the joke got old fast, and any strategic value in the statement shriveled away long ago.

The second thing I'd like to blame doesn't have as pithy of a quote. I think people spent a long time getting hung up on classification and categorization, at the cost of doing useful things.

First off, why categorize in the first place? If we categorize things, it helps offset mental load. The single word "slog" represents several concepts, like a large deck that wants the game to go long to accumulate more points. It's very useful to have these definitions! But I feel like there was a point where people started to overcategorize and overgeneralize, and would only talk about Dominion within the Five Deck Types framework. That led to debates over whether a deck was Big Money or Engine, whether something was a combo or just a synergy, and all sorts of other arguments. The distinctions between the labels matter a bit, but what matters overwhelmingly more is your opponent buying lots of Provinces or drawing lots of cards. Deciding on a True Name for what they're doing doesn't always help you understand why it's working, and I think arguing about the definitions too much distracts from actually understanding the game.

Dominion players are a group predisposed to pedantry, and these arguments gave plenty of topics people could be pedantic about. I participated in my fair share of this - pedantry can be eerily fun. But in retrospect, it messed with strategy discussion in surprising ways. I once played a game shortly after writing the Beatdown vs Control article. It was a ridiculously fast rush, where the game ended in 10 turns. At the end, my opponent asked who was beatdown and who was control. Although I tried to answer, in retrospect the correct answer was that the game was so weird that Beatdown vs Control didn't apply, and trying to make it apply was a waste of time. Frameworks are great, right up until they stop working.

(To forestall some obvious complaints: I think pedantry is part of f.ds culture, and I don't think the forums need heavier moderation. If the forums were meant to discuss just strategy for Dominion, then they would need heavier moderation. But they aren't. Your off-topic derailment is my community building. I'm just calling for people to stop taking the pedantry arguments so seriously.)

* * *

Let's assume you buy my argument that we're no longer in a Golden Age of discussion. If you don't, treat it as an assumption that everything after this depends on.

The natural question is: can we bring the Golden Age back?

Well, what is the Golden Age? Is it the concentration of Dominion discussion in a single place? Is it the rapid production of content? I think those are elements of it, but the most important one is the experience of the new player. Can we make it easier for new players to get into the game, and grow the Dominion community?

I think that the answer is yes, but it's going to require explaining a bunch more Dominion theory.

Dominion is simply a very different game from what it used to be. I now view Dominion like a bag of interactions. Each card has certain properties, which interact with other properties in positive or negative ways. The strategy comes from identifying which interactions are most important to the game, and from doing small optimizations that make the interactions point in similar directions.

I know this is very abstract. so let me give an example. Take Marauder.

Marauder gives you Spoils and gives your opponents Ruins. So far all we've done is read the card text. How does Marauder interact with the rest of the game?

  • Marauders give Spoils. Spoils give $3. Thus your money distribution is naturally a bit spikier - it's a bit more likely you'll hit $6 or $7 early.
  • Marauders give Ruins as junk, which interacts with things that care about actions, like Vineyard and Library.
  • There are several different Ruins, which makes them interact with things that care about names, like Fairgrounds and Wishing Well.

How have I used these interactions?

  • I've once chosen to open Marauder specifically because I wanted to spike an early Forge.
  • I've considered not picking up Marauder because I knew we were both going to go for Vineyards, or for Fairgrounds.
  • In a game with Wolf Den and no trashing, I opened Marauder and carefully making sure my opponent only got unique Ruins. I got lucky and gave out -12 VP before my opponent resigned.

Ruins weren't designed with Wolf Den in mind, and I assume Wolf Den wasn't designed specifically to make Ruins stronger. It's emergent gameplay that arises from the interactions between different game components.

In this view, the way you become a better player is by

  • Memorizing the very powerful interactions.
  • Getting a deep understanding of the remaining interactions.
  • Use that understanding to devise an argument for what to do on the current board.

In GokoDom III (the finals between JOG and Andrew Iannaconne), Stef submitted this designed kingdom.

Kingdom Cards: Scheme, Storeroom, Trade Route, Gardens, Plaza, Throne Room, Counting House, Festival, Inn, Mountebank, with Platinum/Colony

Everybody loves this kingdom, because it turns out there's actually an engine here. You use Counting House to draw lots of Copper, Storeroom to discard the Coppers for $$$, then play Counting House again and repeat. To make the deck work despite having all those Coppers, you use TR-Scheme and Inn to avoid ever shuffling the Coppers back into your draw pile. It only works because of all the pieces working together perfectly - Storeroom turning cards into money, and Counting House letting you draw lots of cards, and Scheme/Inn to let you skip shuffling. In the stream, there was a magical moment where you can see Andrew literally figure out on the fly that this deck is possible. Those are the moments that make Dominion such an interesting game - seeing a web of interactions come together so elegantly and beautifully. And that board certainly isn't something you could base a whole article about.

To a lesser degree, the same is true of Marauder. Sure, the things I said apply to Marauder, but parts also apply to any Spoils giving card and any Ruins giving card. The only unique part is that Marauder does both, but that's a pretty minor distinction. If I was trying to write an article about Marauder, I could repeat what I said...but it wouldn't really be an article about Marauder. It would be an article about Spoils and Ruins.

Unless a card does something super, super unique, I don't think there's a point in writing an article about it, and most cards just aren't unique enough to justify an entire article.

So instead, it would make more sense to explain how you find these interactions, what the most common ones are, how you decide on a plan and adapt to new scenarios and avoid treating the game as a memorization of all two-card combos. If I had the time, I'd write more content from this angle, and would point players looking to get better in that direction...except I don't have the time.

It feels like the same is true of f.ds in general. People are less interested in talking about principles they find obvious, because obvious things aren't interesting. Unfortunately, those principles are the most important for new players. The end result is that f.ds has turned into a place where experienced players talk to other experienced players, useful ideas get scattered across 10 threads in 3 subforums, and no one bothers condensing them into useful Dominion lessons, because again, who's got time for that?

* * *

Please don't mistake this as me declaring that Dominion is dying. The community has been through a lot and the game is still going fine. I just think it could be more than it is. I do think there's cause for optimism. Intentionally or not, there's been some really good recent articles in this direction. (For example, Dan's 20 questions post and Adam's blog post about openings.)

Consider this more as a call to action. The game doesn't flourish unless new blood joins the scene, and I don't think we're doing a good job at making that easy.

Feel free to prove me wrong.

(Edited September 5, 2017 to fix minor typos and some poor phrasing.)

Dominion Articles / Stop buying Duchy over Gardens
« on: August 29, 2017, 03:32:02 am »
I've been playing a decent amount of Base-only games, and I'm surprised at how often people are messing this up.

It's okay to buy Gardens over Duchy when your deck has fewer than 30 cards. As long as your deck is 30 cards [by the end of the game, you'll break even. And on the off-chance the game turns into an endgame slog, your Gardens could tick up to 4 VP. If you know you'll hit 30 cards, buy the Gardens instead.

You judge cards not by how good they are right now, but by how much value they'll give you over the course of the game. It's easiest to get an appreciation for this by opening Monument. The 1st Monument play only gives 1 VP, which is okay but not great. By the end of the game, that Monument is usually worth 4-5 VP in money-based games and potentially more in engines.

Figuring out when to buy one card over the other is hard, but for Duchy vs Gardens it shouldn't be hard to make the right choice.

(In similar veins: it's okay to buy Silk Road before you have 12 Victory cards, and it's okay to buy Fairgrounds when they're worth 2 VP, as long as you have a plan to meet the requirements in time.)

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