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Dominion General Discussion / Surplus
« on: March 09, 2018, 12:05:38 pm »
I feel like there's an article here, but every time I think about posting some kind of authoritative article, what I mostly want to do is get insight from the community on an issue (such as with my "payload first" post) so once again, I'm posting it as an open-ended subject.


Cards in Dominion are costed according to their function. What if you buy a card and are not using some key part of its function? Surplus anything left at the end of a turn could indicate that you're overinvesting. Sometimes that's acceptable, but sometimes the surplus can be used as a guideline to identify bad play or bad buying decisions. So, at the end of a turn, what do you have left over?

Extra actions -- Don't overinvest in cards that generate +actions you don't need. You could be a Village Idiot.
Extra coin -- Don't overinvest in coin-generating you can't spend if there's no +buy.
Extra buys -- Don't overinvest in buys that you don't have the coin for.
Extra action cards -- Don't overinvest in terminals you can't play.
Extra value -- "Gain a card costing up to X" is a fuzzy's frequently worth it to gain a card costing less than the maximum, but there could be some lost efficiency here.
Extra cards you couldn't draw -- All the cards left in your deck were an investment that didn't pay off this turn. If you can only draw half your deck, you've paid for cards that you can only use every other turn, making them fundamentally half as valuable.
Extra cards you could draw -- Overdrawing is a thing you want to do, but even then, it's possible to overdo it. If your deck is in hand and you can still draw more cards than you could possibly want for the whole rest of the game, you may be overinvested in draw (I hesitate to even suggest this, but I've done it.)
Underbuying -- Some cards are just terrible without the overpay. You generally don't pay $3 or $4 for a Masterpiece, or $2 for a Stonemason; doing so would be failing to use a key feature of the card. (Herald gets a pass. Buy all the $4 Heralds you want.)

Dominion is about efficiency, and if one player wastes resources and the other doesn't, the more efficient player is more likely to win.

So here's the question: What common overinvesting do you see when playing? Which ones would you consider mistakes, and when is it just a side-effect of wanting a unique function of a card that just happens to be giving you something else you don't need?

Here are some examples I see with particular cards:

Festival -- if you're not using the actions and/or +buy, you're paying $5 for Silver.
Minion for $2 -- I've seen players literally never get a new hand in a whole game. Facepalm.
Witch for draw -- if the curses are already gone, that's a $5 Moat. (Torturer, fine, I'll pay $5 for a Smithy.)
Wine Merchant -- if you never buy multiples, and you always leave $2 to get him back, that's a $5 Woodcutter.
Bank -- if ever a card needed +buy...
Highway -- is there +buy or gainers? If not, it's a bad Treasury, worth $4 according to conventional wisdom.
Cursed Village -- Used with terminal draw, it's a $2 Necropolis that hexes you. This is essentially another category: Any time you have a draw-to-X in hand and your hand is already >=X you've overinvested.
Scheme always topdecking itself -- Why did you buy it?
Ghost with deck in hand -- Oops. Exorcise something into an Imp right now or be sad.
Settlers with no Copper. Bustling Village with no Settlers. Either one with no discard pile or sifters -- You have paid for functionality you're not using. Maybe it's worth it, maybe it's not, but it's worth pondering if your plan could have been better.

Notice that I'm not listing bad cards here. I'm listing good cards misused by not taking advantage (or not being able to take advantage) of their natural synergy with other card categories.

Sometimes the overinvesting is subtle. I got into a long argument about Highway + University not being a synergy, and it hinges on this very issue: If you're not gaining $6/$7/$8 actions, University is overinvesting in surplus gain value. If you're not using the +2 actions, you're overinvesting in surplus actions. Highway (even without +buy) gains more Highways faster than University because of the addition of two stop cards (University/Potion) to the deck. With +buy it's not even close. And without +buy, Highway might not even be good. (But since many +buy cards are terminal, you might need that University after all!)

There are also plenty of examples where surplus just happens, such as City chains, Champion, King's Court -- lots of explosive engines accidentally generate gobs of +Actions that you don't need once they go off. KC often accidentally generates a bunch of +buys and other things you don't need, as well. But even then, the surplus could be a good indication of what to buy for next turn (if there is one!) Also, you sometimes generate surplus because you're battling to win the split on a key card, which will result in some inefficient turns after the pile empties but before you've bought the other pieces. But battling too hard over a split can also lead to suboptimal play, and a large surplus of anything helps expose this.


Rules Questions / Trader + Changeling
« on: December 22, 2017, 05:15:43 pm »
Trader in hand. Buy anything, reveal Trader, gain a silver.

1. Choose to trigger Changeling. Give the Silver back, triggering a gain on Changeling.

2. Reveal Trader. Instead of gaining the Changeling, gain a Silver. Go back to step 1.

Isn't this an infinite loop? Couldn't you then buy Triumph for infinite points, because you DID gain infinite Silvers (If you are one of those guys, please substitute "arbitrarily large number" for "infinite".) There are probably other things you can do with it, but this seems like it needs errata, or perhaps I'm missing something.

Dominion General Discussion / Cost Increasers
« on: December 15, 2017, 11:32:51 am »
A question for Donald X: Has there ever been any thought of creating cost increasers?

I tried searching the forum for prior discussions but couldn't find anything. We have Bridge, Highway, Bridge Troll, Quarry and Peddler, all of which are cost reducers, but there are no cards that I can think of that cause cards to cost more (Summon, Ball and Seaway, arguably, but that's a stretch.)

A cost-increasing attack seems plausible, though on reflection, it could be more painfully crippling than any other attack, particularly if it stacked. The fact that even the -1 coin token can't stack, and that there's no attack that gives debt is probably a good indication that this is a non-starter.

Dominion General Discussion / "But it worked"
« on: November 30, 2017, 12:41:28 pm »
I hope this will be a fun can of worms to open.

What are some bad plays you've lost to?

Have you ever played a game, on-line or IRL, where you lost to someone who was using a suboptimal strategy (for whatever reason...shuffle luck, playing a weak engine vs. BM and just barely missing the tempo shift, etc.) and tried to be helpful by pointing out misplays, only to be told "but I won, so therefore it worked."

I thought about this because of a thread about Inheritance in which someone describes winning by Inheriting Baron, which I pointed out was just Delve with downside and didn't seem like a particularly effective play.

Some others:

Keeping Cursed Gold in a deck-drawing engine because you can reliably trash the Curse every turn. CG+Curse+Trasher is three cards generating $3. Seems like Copper the hard way to me.

Playing the first of two Pearl Divers and revealing a Victory card...and topdecking it, because then the NEXT Pearl Diver has a chance to reveal a GOOD card.

Dominion General Discussion / Payload first
« on: November 21, 2017, 01:01:26 pm »
In continuing to improve my engine-building skills, I have a question to pose to the community: How often do you buy payload first, or at least, as early as you can afford it?

I ask because players appreciate the value of strong trashing, drawing deck, and using gainers to acquire engine pieces. Where I've often found myself, however, is focusing on these elements too narrowly and waiting too long to get payload. We all know about the Village Idiot, but there are times when I feel like a Smithy idiot. Drawing a bunch of junk feels like spinning my wheels, and I will sometimes struggle to get an engine up to speed. Drawing three cards and having $4 to spend is a wake-up call.

At some point, I started asking myself things like "How am I going to hit $5 on the second shuffle" and the answer is often "buy at least one payload card before turning towards actions/draw cards."

In particular, terminal payload cards that give any of coin/buy/attack/gain. Militia and Swindler can be good openers, for example. Weak cards like Messenger less so, but if I know I want at least one Messenger for the +buy, I'm starting to feel like buying it early and using it to spike $5 often makes more sense than prioritizing draw and buying it later only when I'm drawing deck. A card like Bridge, even if your plan is to load up on extra actions and play as many as you can get, is a card you want just one of early in the building process for the economy, then turn to actions/draw, then turn back to all the Bridges you can eat.

Payload attacks, likewise, seem better to get as early as possible, particularly junkers. I'll try to at least buy one early, then switch to prioritizing buying enough draw to play it as many times as possible, only buying multiples if there is a benefit to playing multiples in a single turn.

The point is, I've been shifting my build order from trashing/draw/payload to trashing/payload/draw and finding that's better most of the time. (Did I say "trashing" yet? Trashing, trashing, trashing. I'll open double Lookout or double Ambassador or double Forager without blinking. I need no convincing on that front. I even get misty-eyed driving by the Goodwill with their "Donate" sign.) And yeah, sometimes the payload is treasure, but I don't have to like it. I'll hold my nose and open Chapel/Silver if I have to.

And I feel like there's another reason to buy a payload card as early as possible, and it's kind of the dirty secret of Dominion strategy: Your plan might not work. I know we all love the deck-drawing, pile-controlling, meat-grinding, rock-crushing engines that most of us are capable of. But sometimes, it's just not fast enough, or the opponents' attacks are more crippling than we expected, or something about the game state changes in such a way that it's clear that the engine just isn't going to explode; payload cards are going to be more likely to get you to an alternate win condition than superfluous action/draw cards that aren't able to do their one job. You may say "but by then you've already lost," but that's not always true in messy games and can depend on what the opponent buys and in what quantity. Or just plain luck.

Special mention goes to multi-purpose cards like Steward and Count who can trash early and pivot to providing economy later, and to cards that fill the payload/draw role all at once like Torturer and Wild Hunt, so there are some fuzzy boundaries.

It all comes down to balancing draw with something worth drawing.


Dominion: Nocturne Previews / Spoilers?
« on: November 06, 2017, 09:55:28 am »
Are the on-line cards and/or remaining spoilers only going to be available when the physical product ships, or is there an official "release date" that's going to flip that switch regardless of whether delays hold up the manufacturing/shipping? I had a hard time finding that information in the other threads.

Dominion General Discussion / Trashing vs. Buying
« on: June 05, 2017, 10:58:19 am »
I've been mulling this one over, waiting, but what the heck, I'll do it. Someone said "start a new thread" so I'm starting a new thread.

I was shocked to see that anyone would even bother to argue this, but to review: You open Chapel/Silver.

Question: With a hand of Chapel-Silver-Copper-Copper-Copper, do you trash three coppers or buy a key power-$5?

Answer: You trash three coppers.

Trash down/build up is such a fundamental principle it's hard to imagine why there would even be an argument. You're going to have at least another $3 hand before your next shuffle, and if you want to be sure to hit $5 you can always buy another Silver. Your odds of colliding two Silvers increases dramatically with three fewer coppers in your deck.

I tried to imagine any situation in which it would be beneficial to buy the $5, and I had a really hard time doing so. If you're worried about losing the split, well, you'll probably lose it anyway to the player who builds correctly and can buy $5s reliably every turn. I've seen many people make this mistake, and inevitably, they build up their drawing capability while their deck is still half-full of junk and then start complaining about how they never draw their Chapel with their junk cards, or draw their Chapel dead.

It's even worse with Steward. The number of times I've seen Steward used for money early in a Steward, Copper, Copper, Copper, Estate hand because they wanted that power-$5 so badly is astounding. Or even Steward-4C being used to buy Gold. (Ick. Yellow cards.) The beauty of Steward is that you can trash Coppers even more aggressively than with Chapel because it can switch to giving economy for the build phase.

There's nothing like the audible "click" you hear when an engine snaps into place and starts humming because you've draw a tiny deck into your hand. The world is your oyster. You've made your own shuffle luck. Anyone who has bought a Donate on turn three or four and trashed down to five cards or less knows what I'm saying. Did you really need a power-$5 first, or are you just going to start getting them by the handful starting now?

It would be nice to have some clarity about this, if nothing else for the benefit of newer readers.

Game Reports / Slog engine
« on: April 26, 2017, 09:15:08 am »
I'm mostly creating this post to annoy Awaclus with the subject line.

Kidding. Actually, it's partly because I need to get better at slogs. In my IRL playgroup, I feel like everyone almost always plays an engine, even when it's probably wrong. I can usually look at a kingdom and know immediately there's just no way anyone's going to draw deck before piles run out, or get to doubles before singles drain the pile. I also roll my eyes at players settling for singles when the kingdom clearly supports doubles/triples or even a megaturn.

So...Sea Hag. 3P, 20 curses. I opened SH and Silver. Festival/Oracle sure didn't sound enginey to me, but Herald? And City Quarter? Overlooked cards in my group.

As soon as I started hitting $5, I repeatedly overpayed for Herald, topdecking my one copy of Sea Hag. The only trashing was Raze. Picked up a Festival at some point for the +buy to get Pearl Divers in handfuls to make Heralds/City Quarter better.

The other two players struggled to do anything. One tried many Razes. One bought two copies of Sea Hag, but still lost the curse split badly. So many curses!

I picked up a couple of Pearl Divers on dud turns, and one City Quarter, and a late gold.

It seems ridiculous to call that an engine, because the whole build was predicated on playing key actions reliably without necessarily drawing deck and without sifting. I played SH far more often than opponents, and got to my razes far more often, killing the few curses I had (and the dead Sea Hag) but ended the game with a final turn in which I did, in fact, draw deck, and with $10 and two buys bought the only Province in the game and the last Pearl Diver, for something like a 6/-3/-2 victory. Silly. (Curse/Raze/Pearl Diver.)

And probably wrong. This is why I say I'm bad at slogs. I feel like I would have been killed by experienced players who know to grab lots of cheap VP (even Duchies and Estates) knowing that there's no way anyone's going to hit $8 before piles run out.

On the other hand, my build worked exactly as I planned, and feels like it may have out-performed a points slog in a 2P game because those are some nice components that could easily have bought a few Provinces before ending the game.

Dominion Articles / Golden Decks
« on: April 07, 2017, 01:32:44 pm »
Fun exercise: Enumerate every way you can think of to make a deck Golden.

Definition: A Golden Deck is a deck that achieves its intended purpose reliably, every turn, and fundamentally cannot stall.

Worth noting is that any deck that buys VP cards for points must be able to do something about them. Even if an engine can kick off with any one action card, if there is even the remotest possibility of drawing five VP cards to start the next turn, that's not Golden. It's just "reliable."

(The Classic: Bishop/Money/VP, trashing a single VP card for tokens every turn, rebuying.)

Hand reliability techniques:

-- Junking down to a 5-card deck (Chapel/Donate/etc.)

-- Having a deck of any size containing no more than 4 stop cards.

Stop cards include all terminals, treasure, VP, or non-drawing splitters. In addition to cantrips and non-terminal draw, Action-fixers like Champion/Lost Arts/Teacher can turn decks golden in an instant.

-- Starting each turn with a hand size greater than 5

Duration-draw, such as Tactician, Haunted Woods, Enchantress. Prince. Even Summon can do the trick. Also noteworthy are Gear/Archive/Haven. Also Expedition.

-- End-of-turn deck stacking

You may be able to turn a deck golden with topdecking. This includes the classic Scavenger/Stash, but also Secret Passage, Scheme, etc. This could completely and utterly prevent any possibility of stalling even if the deck contained 6 stop cards, for example, by ensuring that the top of the deck was guaranteed to grow your hand to 7 cards with an action to spare.

Points reliability techniques:

What to do about greening so that the deck doesn't turn from gold to lead while you buy VP cards?

-- VP token strategies. (Duh. Goons/Groundskeeper/Watchtower/etc. Multi-Monument, Just about Everything from Empires...)

-- Setting VP cards aside.

Island, Native Village, and arguably, Archive/Gear/Haven if carefully managed.

-- Sifting?

Sort of. If you can guarantee a minimum starting hand size, each sifter in a Golden Deck can "spend" VP cards for extra draw, but you still can't expand your VP cards beyond your guaranteed minimum starting hand size - 1.

Attack vulnerability:

Attacks often destroy Golden Decks, but there may be exceptions. Some can play three-card hands or four-card hands, making Discard attacks irrelevant, possibly including Minion. Some can play trashers every turn, making junking attacks irrelevant. Note that Prince and duration draw resist discard, but Expedition does not. Trashing attacks and/or topdeck attacks can also spoil a Golden Deck, but could possibly be mitigated by gainers.

Dominion General Discussion / Matching up cards
« on: October 07, 2016, 01:39:37 pm »
I was responding to a "neat and useful" message when I realized that there might be a hole in the wiki.

It occurred to me that a great deal of the time, certain cards/combos rely on getting two or more specific cards to match up in the same hand (or at least during the same action chain.) It also occurred to me that there are a number of ways to get that to happen, but that they should be enumerated.

So, first of all, is there a generally accepted term for this phenomenon? I know that cards in the same hand are often referred to as "colliding" but more often than not that's use to indicate a negative connotation, such as colliding terminals (crash!) Should we be using the same term for getting cards to meet up that want to meet up?

The list of cards that want/need intentional collision is pretty long. Some of them are absolutely required (Treasure Map), some are strongly implied (Urchin/Urchin) and some are simply beneficial (Market Square/self-trasher.)

In any case, here's the list of ways to collide (match?) (meet?) cards that I can think of, loosely categorized:

1. Draw your whole deck

Kind of a no-brainer. If you can draw everything, all your cards meet. Included for completeness.

2. Trash everything else

See item 1. If your deck is very small, everything meets, so this is basically an extension of 1. Again, included for completeness.

3. Sifters

Cards like Warehouse and Inn and Forum may decrease handsize or keep it the same, but they give you an opportunity to match up cards much quicker than waiting for shuffle luck to do it for you, and can be faster than trashing down in the absence of multi-trashers. If this were a wiki article, I'd refer to the sifter page.

4. Diggers

The wiki does have a digging page. Some diggers like Hunting Party/Sage/Golem can help action combos meet up, though I'm not certain it's faster than just buying more copies of the pieces you want to match.

5. Waiters(?)

This is a group of actions/events that's almost guaranteed to produce a match because they set aside a card for the next hand in one way or another, continuing to set them aside until the two or more cards that want to be together are together.

This category includes Save, Haven, Courtyard, Archive, and arguably even taking advantage of topdeck attacks like Ghost Ship or Haunted Woods. You could possibly include Prince in this overall category, since it ensures that the Princed action meets up with its mate in a future hand.

Perhaps this concept deserves its own article on the wiki? It's one of those things I suspect people look for when evaluating a kingdom: If certain cards rely on synergy to be good, are there enablers in the kingdom that allow the match to happen quicker than it would by chance/draw/trashing?

I notice that the wiki has pages for "trasher" and "sifter" and "terminal draw" and "digger"(digging) but no article on this category of card that sets cards aside so that they can meet up with their combo pieces, unless I'm missing it.

Comments? Any mechanisms for matching up cards that I neglected? Any cards that could be listed explicitly in a wiki article for this purpose?

Dominion General Discussion / Improving my game
« on: September 30, 2016, 10:53:02 am »
I mostly play IRL, several times a week, practice against AI, and read the forum and wiki.

I know tons of combos and deck archetypes, and the advanced strategic considerations like being careful when to trigger a reshuffle, the importance of cycling, etc. I win a lot of IRL games against players who don't study as much, but I also feel like I lose more than I should, and I can usually look back and see where I made a mistake.

Some mistakes are obvious. In a Stables game with no +buy, a single-Province engine as quickly as possible seemed smart. Donate was on the board, and after two Silvers and four Stables, I donated down to exactly $8 (SSCCCC) and four Stables. Ten cards, 5-card hands, 8 cards worth of draw, so it overdraws the deck by 3 and should buy singles for three turns dead reliably. Except that I'm an idiot. It's not just that it MIGHT stall after 3's GUARANTEED to stall after 3 Provinces. It took until that turn where I was staring at that one Copper in the discard pile to realize that. D'oh!

But barring dumb mistakes like that, there are a few other things I'm trying in order to improve my win rate, and I'm interested in opinions about their relative importance. I may have played hundreds of games, but I know there are those who have played thousands. One other note: Even though I play IRL and often in 3- or 4-player games, we always play with 4 Provinces per player, so multi-Province-buy engine strategies are relevant, which usually isn't true when there are only 3 Provinces per player and BM or single buys has a huge advantage.

Here are some considerations:

Point counting

I'm not good at this, and it's really hard for more than two players. Also, Empires makes that miserably difficult! I know that the online game adds point counters, which is a little cheaty. And I do sometimes lose by a tiny number of points, but boy, it's hard to tell if you should buy that VP or go for the pile-out if you don't know who's winning by +/- 5-10 points.

Piling out

Draining piles deliberately is a tricky one. If it takes two turns to pile out, I'm giving everyone else two turns to catch up on VP. Am I far enough ahead? More to the point: When should I be anticipating that the game could end on piles before anyone's opening buy? Certain cards: Haggler, Peddler with +Buy available, strongly imply some piles draining quickly. But I lost a Develop game recently that I would have sworn would pile, and I was even helping it, but the third pile was elusive. Are pileouts something that you usually plan or from the beginning, or simply look for opportunities for towards the end-game, or both?

I've won a few deliberate pile-outs, but I just lost one in which I Salvaged a couple of Peddlers with some +coin into two Colonies before anyone even had a single Colony (they didn't catch on to the Salvager/Peddler thing until it was too late.) I three-piled after that, being the only player with any Colonies...and lost to Keep points in a game with two Kingdom treasures and Platinum (25 Keep points for player 2!) Have I mentioned that Empires makes things really tricky?

Singles vs. Doubles vs. megaturn

Megaturns are rare. I had one yesterday where everyone else was singling, and I happily paid $10 to buy Ball twice and get four more Highways to go with the two I already had. In a Port/Wharf game. Yeah, I know. How was everyone else singling? Like I said, not everyone I play with is super sophisticated. They saw the light when I bought a massive handful of Provinces the next turn. And yeah, I've played HoP decks and other cost-reduction decks.

But the single-Province engine vs. the double-Province engine is the trickiest, partly because they're the most common, and it's often the most important choice. First of all, I should note that with the improvements in card quality, engines are almost always the answer. BM rarely wins, though I occasionally play it, and I'm sometimes wrong. Our group also usually vetoes all cursers, so we rarely play slogs (multi-player curse slogs are the worst.)

But more to the point: Trying to figure out when other players have started buying singles and I should hold out for doubles is really, really tricky. I feel like I'm guessing wrong more than half the time.

What do you think are the best indications that a double-Province engine is going to be faster than a single-Province engine? Assuming there's a +buy (duh) my general guidelines are looking for a trash-two vs. a trash-one, +3 cards vs. +2 cards, and quality of attacks. Trash-twos get you very thin, very fast, and you can get the draw-your-deck, exponential-growth thing going fast. +2 cards just don't get there, except if you can load up on LOTS of non-terminal ones.

Really good sifters usually lean in the direction of singling, but they can also eliminate the need to overdraw by a lot of cards before greening.

You might say that double-Provincing is rarely the right call in a 4P game because there aren't enough actions. But I've lost to it many times because many actions are just that good and you don't need 7 of them. Plus if there's duplicate villages and draw cards, there may be plenty to go around. But I also hate deciding on doubles, getting two double-buys in a row and then having the Provinces go empty and losing to the guy who bought 5 singles.

So how do you decide between singles and doubles? Do you do it on the fly or when planning? What are the best indicators it's going to work?

Rules Questions / Split piles and tokens
« on: September 21, 2016, 11:08:30 am »
If you put the +1 Card token on Patrician/Emporium, then BOTH cards get +1 Card, since they're both from the same supply pile.

But what about Encampment/Plunder?

Pathfinding says "Move your +1 Card token to an Action Supply pile (when you play a card from that pile, you first get +1 Card)."

Is Encampment/Plunder an action supply pile? Or is it only an action supply pile as long as Encampments are on top? And once you put your +1 Card token on it, does playing a Plunder during your treasure phase still draw a card? One the one hand, it almost feels like it needs Errata. On the other hand, it happens to be worded exactly right to make the coolest possible thing happen without being broken.

Dominion General Discussion / Remake question
« on: August 30, 2016, 09:44:04 am »
I'm asking this because I was just bitten twice recently in exactly the same way. I need to check what is, on the average, the better play.

On a Remake board with a clear engine strategy, where you want at least some power $5-$6 cards, should you open Remake/Silver, or Remake/Village, Remake/Warehouse, Remake/Oasis, etc.

I ask because it seems to me that Remake happily changes Estates into Silvers, giving you a lot of economy that you don't have to buy, allowing you to use buys on engine parts.

This doesn't work as well when you draw Remake with no Estates after your first two shuffles!! Not only do you not get the economy, but it's a lot harder to buy things on $2 turns when you're trashing two coppers. It's like T5CS. It can actually make Chapel look bad, and that's hard to do.

I know that it's possible to open Remake/Silver, then remake the Estates into engine parts, but I'm wondering if that's less optimal, in that non-terminal engine parts usually draw and/or cycle, and buying a Silver you won't ultimately need is one more card you'll have to trash later to get thin. Then again, if you draw Silver with Remake after the shuffle, I guess you still get to trash two and buy a $3.

I know there's edge cases and "depends on the kingdom" and all that. I'm just wondering if Remake/Silver should be the default on an engine board.

Game Reports / YMYOSL
« on: August 11, 2016, 03:10:51 pm »
Had a miserably bad shuffle luck game last night...until I thought about it some more.

Border Village, Forum, Capital, Smithy, Ranger, Mining Village, Quarry, Chapel, Miser, Overlord.

4P, IRL. The obvious play in my estimation was opening Quarry, Chapel and using QCCC to buy Border Village/Smithy pairs (or even a Border Village/Forum once or twice.)

My first post-shuffle hand was EEEQC. Argh! I couldn't even get a Forum! I mean, I'm a disciplined enough player to trash four coppers with the following hand of Chapel/CCCC, but still. Infuriating. Unfortunately, I made another blunder. Since I knew the plan, as above, I knew I would have some extra terminal space and purchased a Smithy with my QC.

I drew Smithy/Chapel together in the next three shuffles, never once hitting the QCCC I needed to have the deck start doing anything even remotely useful. In a four-player game, I ended up with ONE BV.

I kept cursing my shuffle luck, but on reflection, perhaps I should have bought Mining Village on QC, because it couldn't possibly hurt. Playing that Terminal Smithy and drawing Estates I couldn't trash (and not the QCCC) just murdered my game.

I'm beginning to think that in Chapel games, you should be carefully considering buys by thinking about both the best thing and worst thing that can possibly happen on the next shuffle.

I don't know if this has occurred to anyone else, but after playing with it a bit and discussing some of the cards, a secondary theme seems to be emerging.

Empires is the expansion that desperately tries to give you things you really don't want.

Seriously, almost every card gives you something that is actively bad.

Many card-shaped things give you debt.

Many card-shaped things give you (or encourage you to keep) copper (Banquet, Settlers), silver (Delve, Conquest, Rocks), Estates (Wild Hunt) or even curses (Ritual).

There's a $5 silver that does nothing to make your deck perform better (Plunder)

There's a $5 do-nothing cantrip (Groundskeeper).

There's a $5 Peddler-variant (Emporium) that's worse than all previous ones (Market, Treasury, Artificer, etc.)

There's an event that tries to seduce you into sabotaging your own beautiful deck-drawing engine by cramming it with Gold (Windfall. It's exactly the kind of card that a semi-experienced player says "Wow!" about and an expert says, "Hey, wait a minute...")

Of course, other than the debt and treasure-gaining, it's mostly about the VP.

One of the most elegant and clever design decisions in Dominion, present from the very beginning with just the base set, is that victory cards are bad. Fundamentally, when players buy victory cards, they damage their deck, which slows them down so that the opponent(s) can catch up. Too many games neglect putting in a balancing mechanism like that, so when a player starts winning, they accelerate (I'm looking at you, Catan.) It takes careful and deliberate planning to get around that mechanism in Dominion, which is part of what makes engine-building so rewarding.

So after years of expert players figuring out how to optimize engines to mitigate the damage done to decks by the basic process of trying to win, what does Donald do? He gives us a huge number of additional ways to damage our decks by providing unskippable alt+VP generation. Nicely done.

Not that this makes engines less viable. In many cases, it's just the opposite. Historically, I've frequently looked at a board with a beautiful drawing engine on it, but with absolutely no payload! How many times have you seen fantastic draw, trashing and coin, but no +buy, and no attacks and realized that the best-case engine is a boring Province-a-turn which might not even outrace BM? Empires changes that by providing a whole ton of payload cards that offer far more interesting choices and opportunities, but very little actual help drawing deck.

Donald could have succumbed to the power-creep temptation and just given us a bunch of cards that were wildly more powerful than previous cards (and he sure as heck threw us that bone with Donate and Fortune) but instead, he reminded us what the basic mechanism of the game was and said, "Hey! You kids quit running all over the house flinging cards everywhere. Sit down and eat your vegetables."

Empires is greener than a Kale and Spinach salad.

It's a great design decision, and really improves the game dramatically.

(Edited to list a few actual cards.)

Dominion General Discussion / Economy
« on: June 28, 2016, 12:59:49 pm »
It occurs to me that "Economy" is a concept in Dominion that gets mentioned frequently in the context of many discussions and articles on the wiki, but it doesn't have its own wiki page.

I don't think I have the expertise to write such an article, but I thought I might throw the idea out there for discussion, partly because there are so many different ways to build your economy, and especially for beginner/intermediate players, it might be interesting to point out some things about economy that are worth thinking about. I'm going to pose these in the form of questions rather than authoritative statements, because, again, I'm not necessarily an expert; I just suspect that these are issues worth discussing:

-- Economy vs. Mechanics?

When building an engine (or even a BM deck) you're doing two different things. Buying parts that create coin, or parts that do things that are NOT creating coin (drawing, cycling, sifting, upgrading, trashing, etc.)

The timing of exactly when to buy one or the other is surprisingly tricky. Buy too many actions without economy, and you end up with a lot of cycling or drawing and routinely getting $4. Buy too much money without actions, and now you're building a BM deck that makes $10 with one buy when what you really want is to stock up on power-$5s. That said, when is a +buy card worth overbuying worth opening with? I was scolded in another thread for suggesting opening with Herbalist if it was the only +buy rather than paying $10 for it later. I didn't think about the implications of what it would mean to draw it in the next three shuffles for single-buys with $3 and $4 and $5 when it could have been a Silver buying $4 and $5 and $6. One half-wasted turn later is better than three half-wasted turns now. This is a general economy principle that can be applied to many cards (Herbalist, Candlestick Maker, Squire, etc.) and belongs somewhere other than the discussion on these individual cards. I don't think the "opportunity cost" page is quite sufficient.

Multi-trashers introduce even more complexity. You should trash aggressively with Chapel; when do you buy the Silver you'll need to build back up? When do you open Chapel/Silver vs. Chapel/Action? I know it "depends on the kingdom" but some statistical economy guidelines that can give people an idea of what to expect on their next shuffle would be good. For example, it might be nice to have some probability charts of opening buys, or post-chapel second shuffles with a buy, that show the odds of making $4 vs. $5, of getting terminal collision, etc. Probability charts for dice and hits make visualizing Backgammon strategies easier; I see the charts when I'm pondering what to do with a roll. Something similar could be helpful here. I know the cards are all different, but odds for deck size vs. terminal collision and coin/draw samples for economy analysis would be handy.

Are there some solid numbers/simulations that can give some ballpark "feel" for whether it's better to buy Silver, or terminal +coin, or a terminal +buy/+coin, and on what shuffles?

-- Types of economy?

The canonical engine building strategy article on the wiki states that if your engine payload is treasure, then you might as well have just been buying money all along. I assume that even one small wrinkle, such as the availability of +buy, can make the difference between an engine board and a BM board. $16 and +buy, even without an attack or +victory token, may be worth building an engine for if you can do it fast enough.

But there are a huge number of ways to get coin, all of which have very different implications and statistical analysis possibilities. I'll list a few different economy approaches and invite further insight and discussion.

Big Money: Buying the largest treasure you can afford. Coppers buy Silvers, Silvers buy Golds, Golds buy Platinums. Even when engine-building this is sometimes the best way to build economy (maybe it's the only way!) But sometimes it's not the best way, especially when engine-building. Not every player thinks about this.

Special treasures: Most special treasures add economy in unusual ways. The value of a Venture is variable, but could be outstanding in the right deck. Treasure Trove increases economy, and I keep underestimating it, but it would take a deck-drawing engine with Goons-engine-like copper trashing reliability to be worth playing in anything other than BM/Slog. The special treasures all have their own articles, but they're usually for economy-building, which makes me wonder if there are some economy meta-principles worth enumerating.

Silver flooding: It's not just for Feodums anymore! Somewhere along the line, the experienced players and number crunchers figured out that flooding your deck with silver and a few key terminal actions can buy a whole bunch of Provinces AND be resistant to greening. Gold, Shmold. When is a silver economy better than Gold? Certain cards/events make it attractive (Jack, Trader, Delve) but this might need its own article, or at least something on the wiki pointing out that it's a thing.

Disappearing Money: There's an article about this on the wiki, which is good. Most players get the village/smithy draw engine idea right away. The disappearing money/draw-to-x engine, on the other hand, takes longer to sink in. Minion helps by demonstrating a one-card way to do it. But I've seen too many players buy up Festivals on boards with no draw and literally never use them for anything other than expensive Silver. A comparison of a deck-drawing engine with/without Festivals and showing how much treasure you can do without might be a good visual to explain when and why it's a good card, and perhaps that could be extended further into more general-case deck builds.

Cantrip Money: Sometimes it's amazing. Sometimes it isn't. It all depends on the likelihood that the one card you're going to draw is going to help. Peddler-BM isn't a thing. Getting a stack of free Peddlers with a bunch of +buy actions is awesome, but even then, it wants trashing and/or draw. How do you calculate the value of cantrip-money and what it means to a build in terms of the amount of Treasure you don't have to buy? Calculating average coin per card density with just money is easy. With cantrips, how do you calculate that? Maybe it becomes a draw-reliability calculation?

Terminal Money: The Tale of the Sad Conspirator. When is it worth buying multiple +$2 terminals instead of Silver, for example, when you have actions to burn (City chains, etc.) My guess is that it's worth it only when they do something else helpful, like attacking or trashing (or, in the case of Happy Conspirator, drawing.) How does that add to the economy discussion, particularly when deciding how many Silvers to buy early on when engine-building? How often do you want to buy Silvers early just to trash them later, or is that usually an indication that you didn't plan well enough?

-- How much?

Big Money aims to buy a Province a turn. Engines usually aim to buy at least two, though sometimes the point of an engine is to achieve greater reliability, particularly in the face of an attack card like Militia, and still get only one Province a turn. Slogs and rushes usually aim to achieve a reliable $5 or $4 a turn, depending on the Alt+VP available.

So what do you buy, and what does a build look like that gets the right amount of coin? In a reliable deck-drawing engine, counting to $16 is pretty straightforward, but building for a slog or rush is different, and BM buys far more money just to get the density up since it's not deck drawing. When do you stop building economy and start greening?

Maybe this is too broad a subject, but when players are evaluating a card and talking about how it helps or hurts economy, that's a very simple word with a lot of complex implications, and maybe it would be possible to take a look at that word on its own for a moment and offer some clarification and solid playing principles.

Rules Questions / Duplicate pronunciation
« on: June 18, 2016, 03:41:34 pm »
Here's an Adventures ruling question:

How do you pronounce "Duplicate?"

The majority of kingdom cards appear to be nouns. Some of these nouns can also be used as verbs, such as "Feast" or even "Count," but the clear implication is that most of the time the word is being used in the noun form. With most of these noun/verbs, the pronunciation is the same whether it's a noun or a verb, but "to duplicate" and "a duplicate" are pronounced differently. Is there an official ruling? Not that it makes any difference, but when playing IRL, you have to say the card name.

Then again, when describing your actions, it's not at all uncommon to use card names that are clearly nouns in place of verbs in a sentence. "I'm going to Throne Room a Smithy" is grammatically senseless outside of Dominion, but I'm guessing it's fairly common form.

P.S. Interestingly, while most kingdom cards are nouns, most events are verbs. Some of them are also noun/verbs, but most of those are probably intended to be verbs; I always think of "Ferry" as an action that I am taking, such as "I am going to Ferry Goons." This seems true for most events. Well...other than "Ball." Saying "I'm going to invite a couple of Duchesses to the Ball" just seems more polite than the alternative.

Dominion General Discussion / Multiplayer house rules?
« on: April 15, 2016, 12:27:52 am »
Does anyone out there play with any special 3P/4P/5P house rules?

In particular, curses. I know that the pile increases so that it will pile out after exactly 10 plays of Witch/etc. However, there's a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that it should increase so that, like the 2P game, each player should be entitled to 5 curses if they split evenly, meaning 4P should be a 20-curse pile, not 30. 5P would be a 25-curse pile, not 40(!) Anyone tried that?

In fact, my playgroup simply doesn't play with cursers at all. They're blacklisted from the randomizer. (Note: Engine still beats BM most of the time! And Feodum/Gardens/Silk Road rushes are definitely still a thing.) But I feel like we're missing an important component of the game. In fact, trashing attacks are also blacklisted, though I keep trying to convince them that Thief isn't good just because they watched KC-Thief completely deplete a couple of players of all their cash that one time. And yeah, trashing attacks can be a little swingy. It's a card game, after all.

Piling out a shorter curse pile is an issue, of course, but absent crazy gaining/gifting like Haggler or Border Village or Messenger, our games rarely pile out; even when a player can do so deliberately, knowing who's ahead is trickier in 4P.

I know a lot of players scoff at 4P. It's a whole different animal. Hermit/Market Square isn't happening. Also, you're probably not going to get 6 Peddlers. And yet, viable engines are still a thing, even if their only point is one reliable Province a turn or Province/Duchy. Sometimes all you need are two or three copies of a few cards and decent trashing. But the curse thing still bugs me.

I do like that the 5P rules specify a 4-pile ending, and more Provinces. Shouldn't they also specify more Colonies? (I've drawn colonies on some of the extra blanks to try it.) And some people play 12 supply piles, which we have also tried and seems to work well.

Some users complain about long downtimes in multiplayer, but everyone in my group plays pretty fast, so even with 4P and 5P and everyone playing engines, the turns are pretty quick. These are all experienced gamers.

Any other suggestions for multiplayer with/without house rules? I'd like to cut down the blacklist, though Possession may just have to stay on it.

Game Reports / Tactician Rube Goldberg
« on: February 17, 2016, 12:35:51 pm »
IRL 4P game. Kingdom: (Colony/Platinum)

Forge, Border Village, Goons, Tactician, Outpost, Herald, Scheme, Storeroom, Coin of the Realm, Pearl Diver

I have no idea what the optimal strategy would have been, but the cards supported this crazy machine. I had to try it. Once it set up, it did this:

(Tactician second turn, Coins of the Realm already on the Tavern mat)

Scheme, call CRs as necessary, Goons, Goons, Goons, Goons, Forge away junk, Outpost. Play CRs for later. Profit.

On cleanup, Scheme the Tactician back on the deck. On the Outpost turn, play Tactician, discarding two cards. Rinse and repeat.

Maybe double-Tac would also have worked, (maybe with Outpost allowing play of a 10-card hand followed by an 8-card hand?) but the importance of the Coin of the Realm to generate the actions needed to play all those terminals made that questionable. Border Villages are expensive (sharing a price point with Goons!) and tend to pile out 4P games, and getting the Goons going was top priority. It set up surprisingly quickly and ended on piles, naturally.

What a nutty game Dominion can be.

Dominion Articles / Combo: Transmogrify + Ambassador
« on: January 20, 2016, 01:26:06 pm »
This combo appeared in a multi-player game recently. I couldn't find any discussion about it, so I thought I'd post it here to see if it's worth thinking about. It certainly won the multi-player slog in this game.

I know ambassador is already fantastic and Transmogrify is "meh." I also know that every now and then an Ambassador player will buy a curse just so that the Ambassador can hand them out, provided you have a way to line them up, which can be difficult.

However, Transmogrify is "gain a card up to 1 more than the trashed card" and is also "put that card into your hand." And it just sits there waiting for you to draw Ambassador (with at least one copper.)

Sure, it's two cards, but how great is any turn which starts "Trash a copper" followed by "Everybody else gets a curse?"

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