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Topics - Triumph44

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I don't post here very often, but I do play a lot of Dominion.  I've no idea how many unrated games I've played, but I'd guess it's around 5000, which probably means around 7000.  I don't play rated games all that often, but I have played nearly 500 of those on dominion.games and played a little bit on the previous implementation.  I've been starting to play them more as my yen for Dominion during leisure time has increased and the availability of my regular Dominion partner has either plateaued or decreased.  All this preamble is to say that I'm not coming at this from the perspective of a relative noob, nor am I upset that I lost a recent game because of Black Market.  I'm also not arguing that Black Market should disappear from the game, just from rated games.  In casual games it can be a neat change of pace.

Thesis:  Black Market extends the game and causes a bunch of strange rule interactions while being a wildly swingy card that is contrary to the basic idea of Dominion.

Let's take each of these individually -

A:  Black Market extends the game

I'd be curious to see numbers regarding turns of games with Black Market, but I don't think there's any argument that it extends games by time.  Players who use Black Market get a whole new buy phase where they have to evaluate the strength of 3 cards relative to the board they are playing.  Players who are behind in the game late may try Black Market in an attempt to fish for alt-VP cards or attacks that can slow down their opponent.  I recognize that not all Dominion games will take the same amount of time and that short games may not be a virtue, but taken with the points I'm going to make I think it at least merits some consideration.

B:  Black Market causes strange rule interactions

As Dominion has expanded, so have the amount of possible card interactions.  One of the great things about Dominion is that it rarely sends me scrambling for a rulebook or other errata - it's a remarkably streamlined game for how complex some of the interactions are within it.  Again, a lot of cards have complex rule interactions, but that's not the only problem with the card.  Searching for Black Market on here to see if anyone had made a post like this within the last few months brought up pretty much entirely either 'what are the rules for Black Market in this instance' or 'here's a crazy edge case with Black Market'.

C:  Black Market is wildly swingy

The obvious huge swing card in the Black Market is Fairgrounds, which in a heavy Black Market game can be worth between 8 and 12 points easily.  Other alt-VP cards like Goons or Bishop are less likely to impact the game in a serious way, but could very well do so.  The other thing is that there are cards that are outright useless or decidedly nerfed in the Black Market deck - Potion cost cards in a game without other Potion cost cards, Travellers, cards that interact with a Supply pile, cards that would normally be in split piles, and so on.  Avanto and Wild Hunt become Smithy.  Farmer's Market becomes Ruined Market.  Meanwhile, some other cards gain in power - Experiment becomes a 3 cost Laboratory.  I understand from a strategy perspective why dominion.games made it so that the Black Market deck is not visible to other players.

D:  Black Market is contrary to the spirit of Dominion

I recognize the absurdity of this claim in that Black Market is a Dominion card like any other and therefore can't be contrary to the spirit of the game, but the thing that separates Dominion from most other games, even games of this ilk like Star Realms, is that what's available to my opponent is always available to me.  Black Market does the opposite - what is available to my opponent, if he or she buys the only copy, is necessarily now not available to me.  I can't really plan for that contingency, either, except by getting my own Black Market and hope to pull the powerful cards myself.

Possession finally got the boot because new rules made it too unwieldy to have in the game.  Black Market is not so potentially onerous as that - there's no real danger of stalemates/locked decks - but I don't like how it extends the game without really expanding the strategy space.  Yes, I recognize there are edge cases, but I think the card was created in a different era of Dominion and its current implementation does not reflect that.  I don't think there's much point in trying to find the balance in a fundamentally unbalancing card.  It should go.

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Dominion General Discussion / Any new thoughts on IRL handicapping?
« on: September 02, 2017, 02:18:00 pm »
I browsed the forum for threads on handicapping and saw that this had been discussed before, but not for several years.

I've played Dominion a ton online and play it a few times a year IRL.  IRL the games are usually 3 and 4 player games with people who are casual players.  I've definitely chosen some less than optimal strategies in these games to try to give others a better chance to win, but it's hard to overcome my natural inclination to want to win, or at least not to lose in a stupid way.   Does anyone here have any experience with handicapping the game in this situation?   Obviously always going last is one way, but has anyone tried altering their starting deck to give them a disadvantage - e.g. replacing Estates with Curses or one Copper with an Estate/Curse or anything like this?   I'm not sure I would ever suggest this in my own games, but I am curious if anyone actually does it and whether they've found something that works.

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This has probably been asked/answered somewhere but it's a tricky thing to search for - I'm curious if anyone has looked at winrates where the player who goes first (hereafter Player A) gets a 5 2 split and Player B does not.  I play most of my Dominion with one other player on Goko, and we've agreed that when Player A has a 5 2 split and Player B does not, we reshuffle.  I recognize this is 'part of the game' and that were I playing against a worse player, I'd want to keep 5 2 splits in the game to increase variance, but for the most part it makes for a worse game among players of intermediate skill and above.  It took years for Magic: The Gathering to realize that the advantage inherent in going first meant that that player should not draw a card on his or her first turn, and I suspect something like this is going on in Dominion as well.  I'd estimate that among equally skilled players, the winrate is around 70% for a Player A going first and getting 5 2 while his or her opponent has a 4 3.

I'd also be curious about winrates where Player B gets a 5 2 split and Player A does not.

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