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Weekly Design Contest / Weekly Design Contest #156: When Gain
« on: June 26, 2022, 04:51:21 pm »
Hey everybody! We're on the eve of Hinterlands 2E reveals this week, but to prevent the weirdness of doing a 2E-themed contest the same week as the official reveals (like with Prosperity), I'm going to keep this week's contest a bit more general while still paying homage to one of Hinterlands' major themes.

Design a card or landscape that features a when-gain effect.

Acceptable submissions include:
  • Cards that have a when-gain effect when players gain them (usually using a below-line clause) such as Mint, Border Village, Inn, Ill-Gotten Gains, Embassy, Lost City, Emporium, Villa, Cemetery, Blessed Village, Skulk, Ducat, Experiment, Silk Merchant, Lackeys, Spices, Camel Train, Cavalry, or any of the Night cards that gain themselves to your hand.
  • Cards with effects that can trigger when another card is gained, such as Sailor, Pirate, Watchtower, Collection, Tiara, Duchess, Trader, Duplicate, Groundskeeper, Tracker, Changeling, Black Cat, Sheepdog, Falconer, Livery, Guildmaster, or Skirmisher.
  • Landscapes that grant an effect when a card is gained, such as Travelling Fair, Battlefield, Guildhall, Innovation, or Architect's Guild.

Other rules and suggestions:
  • Your entry must feature a when-gain effect that can trigger the moment a card is gained.
  • Cards and landscapes that check gains later in a turn but don't grant immediate "when gain" effects (like Triumph, Conquest, Monastery, or the errata'd version of Merchant Guild) will not be accepted.
  • Cards whose gain effects are tied to if clauses and handled separately from the gaining event (like Ironworks or Dominate) will not be accepted.
  • As of today it looks like, Overpay cards are now technically "when gain" thanks to the new errata, so they are acceptable.
  • Take into account the recent shift we've seen away from when-buy triggers, and try to stick to when gain language, adding clauses like "When you gain this, if you bought it" or "When you gain this during your Buy phase" when necessary.
  • I will accept split piles or non-Supply cards as part of your submission, just try to keep things to no more than two cards if you can.
  • Don't make me squint. Eliminate unnecessary words and complexity where possible.

Judgement Details:
  • Entries and revisions must be submitted by 5:00 PM CDT (10:00 PM UTC) on Sunday, July 3. I'll have results posted on Tuesday, July 5.
  • Entries will be judged on ingenuity, balance, simplicity, and creative/appropriate use of the when-gain mechanic.

Have fun! As I was pulling examples of official cards with when-gain effects, I was shocked at how many there are (and I eventually stopped including them all). Thus, there are a wide variety of directions people can go this week, it seems Hinterlands really started a trend here!

I'm excited to see your designs!


Healer by Gubump
Junk by kru5h
Gardener by Joxeft
Pawn Shop by Builder_Roberts' brother
Barrows by MochaMoka 
Incredible Workshop by fika monster
Hound by X-tra
Trust by spineflu
County by mandicoa15
Silverbug by Augie279
Flea Market by NoMoreFun
Seamstress by Xen3k
Books by Dubdubdubdub
Lumberjack by emtzalex
Training Grounds by xyz123
Christmas Tree by CaptainReklaw
Bribe by jorikke
Burough by Jonasssss
Footman by AJL828

Weekly Design Contest / Weekly Design Contest #149: The Resurrection
« on: April 14, 2022, 11:32:58 pm »
With Good Friday and Easter right around the corner, I've got Resurrection on my mind. So here's this week's challenge:

Design a card or landscape that can retrieve another card (or itself) out of the Trash.

Acceptable submissions include:
  • Cards that can gain other cards from the Trash, such as Lurker, Graverobber, Rogue, or Treasurer
  • Cards with when-trash clauses that pull themselves back out of the Trash, such as Fortress or Lich.
  • Trashing Attacks that trash and then "steal" from trashed cards, such as Noble Brigand or the now removed Thief.
  • Any other creative idea you can come up with that can "resurrect" trashed cards.

Other rules and suggestions:
  • Your entry must somehow facilitate moving a previously trashed card out of the Trash.
  • It doesn't necessarily have to be gained, or even return to a player. Returning trashed cards to the Supply or somewhere else is acceptable.
  • Cards that can gain copies of themselves when trashed (like Acolyte) or otherwise trash themselves into other cards (like Urchin or Hermit) will not be accepted.
  • Cards that only play other cards from the Trash but do not cause them to leave the Trash, such as Necromancer, will not be accepted.
  • Be sure to consider how cards might get into the Trash as not every Kingdom has a trasher. Notice that Lurker, Graverobber, Rogue, and Treasurer all have the ability to trash other cards. Fortress and Lich do not, though they still have utility apart from their when-trash clauses.
  • I will accept split piles or non-Supply cards as part of your submission, just try to keep things to no more than two cards if possible.
  • Also think about card interactions, particularly trash-for-benefit cards. Obviously these tend to play quite nicely with these sorts of cards, but be wary of making something that's too busted. (Although I guess there's plenty of crazy official stuff down this road already, ahem looking at you, Lurker + Hunting Grounds).
  • Don't make me squint. Eliminate unnecessary words and complexity where possible.

Judgement Details:
  • Entries and revisions must be submitted by 5:00 PM CDT (10:00 PM UTC) on Friday, April 22. I'll have results posted on Sunday, April 24.
  • Entries will be judged on ingenuity, balance, simplicity, and creative/appropriate use of the "resurrection" mechanic.

Have fun! With trashing historically always feeling like a very permanent act in Dominion, things like Fortress, Graverobber, and Lurker broke my brain when they were released, and I love the way they change up the game. There's a variety of directions people can go this week and I'm excited to see your designs!


Pawn Shop by Gubump
Gravedigger by Carline
Reclaim by xyz123
Debt Collector by NoMoreFun
Copycat by Timinou
Crucifixion and Boulder by Ultimate Geek
Reforge by AJL828
Locator by jakav
Buried Treasure by Commodore Chuckles
Family Grave by Xen3k
Iron Mine by spineflu
Undead Horse by LibraryAdventurer
Ranch by Joxeft
Phoenix by emtzalex
Ship Captain by faust
Recycled Goods by X-tra
Mass Resurrection by lompeluiten
Tenant by infangthief
Enchanter by JW

Weekly Design Contest / Weekly Design Contest #141: Seaside Revisited
« on: January 28, 2022, 04:40:04 pm »
WDC #141: Seaside Revisited

Hello everybody! In light of the recent news of a 2nd Edition for Dominion: Seaside, here's this week's challenge:

Design a new card that fits the theme of Seaside (and optionally, replaces a current card from Seaside)

Other rules and suggestions:
  • You may NOT use unique mechanics from other official expansions. Your card should be one that could reasonably fit in an actual Seaside Second Edition without requiring additional mechanic explanation in the Seaside expansion rulebook. So no landscapes, reserves, travellers, split piles, VP tokens, Coffers/Villagers, Debt, Exile, Horses, Night cards, etc.
  • Your card does not have to be a direct replacement for another official Seaside card, but you are welcome to design one that is (and maybe let us know what card yours is intended to replace).
  • Try to think about how your card would fit in Seaside as a whole. Does Seaside need another village or trasher or non-attack player interaction card, etc. How will replacing an old card with yours affect the expansion generally?
  • If you want to be extra fancy, consider component decisions too. Seaside already comes with some tokens and mats (each of which are utilized by only one card). Do you want to design a card that creatively eliminates the need for a certain component, or perhaps makes another use for one?
  • To that end, I will allow a unique new mechanic that creatively reuses some of the current Seaside components (such as the coin tokens for Pirate Ship), so long as your card is not introducing a "later" mechanic from another official expansion (e.g. Coffers from Guilds and Renaissance).
  • As always with my contests: Don't make me squint. Eliminate unnecessary words and complexity where possible.

Judgment Details:
  • Entries and revisions must be submitted by 5:00 PM CST (11:00 PM UTC) on Friday, February 4. I'll have results posted on Sunday, February 6.
  • Entries will be judged on ingenuity, balance, simplicity, and appropriate overall fit within a Seaside Second Edition.

I know there was a similar contest to this when the 2E Base Set and Intrigue sets were announced, but that was three years ago now, and it feels good to revisit the idea, this time with the focus strictly on Seaside.

Have fun! I'm excited to see your designs!


Buccaneer by X-tra
Sirens by JW
Bounty by xyz123
Hatchway by NoMoreFun
Vacation Spot by Augie279
Secret Harbor by silverspawn
Harbor by AJL828
Admiral by jakav
Fortune Seekers by Erick648
Treasure Ship by Xen3k
Buried Treasure by Lackar
Skipper by Joxeft
Architeuthis by LibraryAdventurer
Transport Ship by Captain Reklaw
Whirlpool by exfret
Pearl by grep
Corsair by spineflu
Reconstruct by Gubump
Deck Officer by anordinaryman
Harbor by Timinou
Kraken by nyxfulloftricks
Layaway by arrowdok

Weekly Design Contest / Weekly Design Contest #134: This is Worthless
« on: November 12, 2021, 12:18:57 am »
WDC #134: This is Worthless

Hello everybody! Here's this week's challenge:

Design a card or card shaped thing that costs $0.

Acceptable submissions include:
  • Non-Supply cards costing $0, such as Prizes, Madman, Mercenary, Spoils, Will-o-the-Wisps, or Wishes.
  • Basic and Special Basic Supply cards costing $0, such as Copper, Curse, and Ruins.
  • Starting cards costing $0, such as Heirlooms or Shelters.
  • A Kingdom pile costing $0, though tread lightly here, as there is no official Kingdom card costing $0 (perhaps for good reason).
  • An Event (or Project I suppose) costing $0, such as Advance, Alms, Borrow, Delay, Desperation, or Quest.

Other rules and suggestions:
  • Your entry must cost exactly $0.
  • Debt cost cards (or other alternative costs) do not cost $0 and will not be accepted.
  • Cards with variable costs (which sometimes cost $0) such as Peddler will not be accepted.
  • Overpay cards costing $0 are permitted.
  • Many official $0 cost cards are only gained only via other cards. You may include the card that gains or distributes your $0 cost card (and that one need not cost $0).
  • Your entry should have a compelling and non-arbitrary reason to cost $0 and not something else. Most official $0-costs exemplify this with one or more of the following: 1) being weak or undesirable, 2) meant to be played and not Remodeled, etc., 3) trying to dodge the common $3-$6 trashing attacks, or 4) designed to be always available, but with a drawback or restriction (especially in the case of Events).
  • Don't make me squint. Eliminate unnecessary words and complexity where possible. This is not the challenge for a Traveller line or an eight-card Castles-style mixed pile.

Judgement Details:
  • Entries and revisions must be submitted by 5:00 PM CST (11:00 PM UTC) on Friday, November 19. I'll have results posted on Sunday, November 21.
  • Entries will be judged on ingenuity, balance, simplicity, and creative/appropriate use of the $0 cost price point.

Have fun! This is a pretty open ended challenge with a variety of different directions people can go. I'm excited to see your designs!


Parade by JW
Copper Rush by majiponi
Bequest by mandioca15
Fairy by Timinou
Reconfigure by AJL828
Waterwheel by spineflu
Snow by Erick648
Spinning Mule by Aquila
Disease by xyz123
Reposition by NoMoreFun
Rubble by LastFootnote
Bin by arowdok
Purifying Spirit by Xen3k
Census Office by Library Adventurer
Luck by emtzalex
Smog by The Alchemist

WDC #114: Two (or more) for the Price of One

Hello everybody! Here's this week's challenge:

Design a card that can gain one or more copies of itself

Acceptable submissions include:
  • Traditional gainers which are able to gain other copies of themselves like Workshop, Ironworks, Horn of Plenty, Hermit, Armory, Artificer, Inventor, or Groom.
  • Cards like Rats or Magpie which can only gain copies of themselves.
  • Cards that come with additional copies on gain/on buy/etc. like Port or Experiment.
  • Remodelers which are able to gain a copy of themselves such as Remodel, Replace, or Butcher.
  • I will accept less traditional gainers that can gain copies of themselves only under certain conditions, such as Lurker, Smugglers, Transmute, Stonemason, or Messenger, however I will not accept entries which require you to buy/gain another card while it's in play (e.g. Talisman, Haggler, Duplicate, Charm) or ones which are only able to gain a copy of themselves when cost reduction is present (e.g. Artisan, Altar, Cobbler, Sculptor).

Other rules and suggestions:
  • The gained copy must be gained by the player, though the card may distribute copies to opponents as well (e.g. Messenger).
  • The card may or may not be in the supply.
  • Be careful with loops or auto-pileouts. It's okay if these are possible under the right conditions, but they shouldn't be super easy to pull off.
  • Don't make me squint. Eliminate unnecessary words and complexity where possible. This is not the challenge for a Traveller line or an eight-card Castles-style mixed pile.

Judgement Details:
  • Entries and revisions must be submitted by 7:00 PM CDT (12:00 AM UTC) on Saturday, May 15. I'll have results posted the next day, Sunday, May 16.
  • Entries will be judged on ingenuity, balance, simplicity, and creative/appropriate use of the gaining mechanic.

Have fun! This is a pretty open ended challenge with a lot of different directions people can go. I'm excited to see your designs!


Idiot’s Village by NoMoreFun
Foundry by mandioca15
Mousetrap by venusambassador
Worker by The Alchemist
Floating City by emtzalex
Foundry by Gubump
Investor by majiponi
Tin by grep
Suburb by artless
Riot by naitchman
Parish by xyz123
Rabbit by mxdata
Consulate by spineflu
Village of Secrets by Aquila
Locket by faust
Tools by Shael
Hydra by X-tra
Jewelry by fika monster
Irregulars by Xen3k
Pier by LastFootnote
Scriptorium by gambit05
Scaffolding by Timinou

Dominion Articles / Archive: Learning to Work with What You’ve Got
« on: January 30, 2018, 02:17:19 pm »
Here’s my article on Archive, which doesn’t have much written on it yet.  It’s not as concise as I’d like currently, so I’m looking for good ways to trim it down.  Also, as with my articles on Sentry and Secret Passage, I try to conclude with a general lesson we can take from the card and apply to playing Dominion as a whole.  The transition here is always a bit tricky, but I believe it’s valuable especially with card-specific articles to provide a nugget of wisdom that applies in all games, not just those with the specific card.  Is this helpful/relevant, and how could this be done better?  I would appreciate feedback and edits! 

Archive is an odd card. 

As a sort of mash up of Caravan, Haven, and Gear, Archive can provide duration draw, deck thinning, and next-turn set up all in one package, however it does each of these things very differently compared to other cards that provide these benefits individually.  This often means that on boards with better draw or thinning, Archive will be passed over in favor of more reliable and more typical options (especially given its high price which competes with other powerful $5s).  But under the right circumstances when draw or thinning are lacking, Archive can humbly step in as a quiet yet versatile hero.  By learning how to recognize boards where Archive is useful and where it’s less so, we can get better at noticing when key deck components are missing, and capitalize on “unconventional” solutions.   

What does it do?

As mentioned above, Archive provides three essential benefits: duration draw, deck thinning, and next-turn set up.  We’ll briefly examine each piece and discuss how Archive is different from other cards that fulfill similar roles. 

Similar to Caravan, Archive only increases your handsize on its duration plays.  When you take into account the ability to decide what you draw when, Archive plays as a strong cantrip the turn you play it, a strong Laboratory the second turn, and a weaker Laboratory on the third.  As a nonterminal action, Archive’s draw requires no village support; thus multiple Archives stack very easily (also similar to Caravan) giving you greater control and flexibility of what exactly your larger starting hand looks like.  However, Archive gets tricky in decks which want to draw themselves, since you’ll be required to leave some of your cards set aside.  This can hurt especially in conjunction with heavy trashing and powerful payload cards—it’s sad to see Archive turn over three great cards that you’d love to play all of, but be forced to set two aside for later (e.g. King’s Court, Platinum, Goons).  Thus, in slim and powerful deck-drawing engines, Archive is often passed over in favor of more typical draw cards. 

Archive is obviously not a trasher.  And as mentioned earlier, Archive can be a liability when used in decks that trash most or all of the starting cards.  However, in kingdoms where trashing is weak or unavailable, Archive’s ability to set aside cards can function as a sort of cycling/pseudo-trash ability, keeping Coppers and Victory cards out of your deck for a few turns.  With multiple Archives, you can very quickly get a large percentage of your cards set aside, literally making your deck thinner, and providing surprising control even in an untrimmed deck.  Archive can work well as both an early game cycler, and a late game Province stasher, keeping your deck reliable while managing the green.
Next-Turn Set Up
This component is not quite as important as Archive’s draw and thinning, but the ability to seed your next turn and help prevent duds is quite powerful.  This often occurs unintentionally—your Archive turns over two Villages so you take one and leave the other for next turn—but with careful deck tracking, you can use Archives to set up a big plays later.  Archive also works well in money-ish decks by smoothing your price points, very similarly to Gear—if Archive turns over Gold, Copper, and Estate, with $7 in hand, you can take a Copper, buy Province, and leave the Gold for hitting $8 again next turn.  Finally, this effect can be used for connecting cards like Tournament + Province, Crossroads + Victory cards, etc.

When is it most useful?

Archive is a situational card and not always a must-buy.  First, it has stiff competition at the $5 price point—many $5 attacks, draw, and trashers are of much higher priority.  Second, what Archive actually does is sometimes outclassed by more conventional draw and trashing cards when they’re available—on a board with Laboratory and Chapel, it’s possible you won’t really need Archive.  With this in mind, Archive is actually least useful in kingdoms with heavy trashing and strong draw

Where Archive shines is when crucial engine components are missing.  On boards with no +Actions, Archive’s ability to nonterminally increase hand-size looks pretty attractive.  On boards with no Copper trashing, Archive is excellent at sifting through those Coppers and keeping them out of your deck to get to your payload faster.  When Archive is in the kingdom, always look to see how it compares to other draw or thinning cards on the table—if they’re present, Archive may be of less use, but if they’re lacking, take care to consider Archive more highly in your deckbuilding process, as it might be the best patch for those missing pieces. 

Finally, this isn’t to say that Archive is useless if there’s other draw or trashing available.  To the contrary, Archive fits very well into the support card role, to supplement other draw and trashing as a sort of sifter/cycler, not unlike something like Forum or Cartographer.  It’s not a powerhouse card here, but it certainly can keep your deck more reliable and reduce the chances of stalling.  If there’s time, it’s definitely worth adding, but may be a bit lower on your priority list of other deck components. 

Playing with Archive

How you play with Archive largely depends on what you’re using it for—using it as your primary draw or deck thinner will look different than if you’re using it as a supplemental cycler or sifter.  Based on this, let’s touch on a few general play principles to be aware of with Archive.

First, how many Archives do you need?  With most Duration cards, you end up playing them less frequently than normal actions since they stay in play multiple turns and will often miss shuffles. This is exacerbated further with Archive since it stays out a full turn longer than typical Duration cards.  When it’s your primary draw and/or deck thinner, you’ll usually want several Archives, ideally played on staggered turns to maximize their effect and keep things consistent.  When Archive is functioning more as a support card and is supplementing other draw or thinning (e.g. as an early game cycler or late game Province sifter), usually just one is enough to get the job done—with too many, there’s the risk of having key cards stuck outside your deck. 

Next, how do you decide which cards to take after playing Archive?  Usually, this is intuitive—if you need +Actions right now, take the Village; if you need just $2 more to hit Province, take the Silver.  But more importantly than what you take now, pay attention to what you leave for later turns.  Do you know you still have two terminals left in your deck?  Maybe leave that Village for next turn.  Did you reveal two Estates and a Copper?  Great, they’ll miss some shuffles!  And what about when you reveal another Archive?  If you’re digging for a key card this turn or need to set up a big next turn, go ahead and take the Archive—but if you really need the consistency, stash it away for next turn so your Archives can alternate. 

Learning to Work with What You’ve Got

Archive is a unique and versatile card that fits in a variety of decks and plays different roles, depending heavily on what else is available.  The key with Archive is learning to recognize which role it can play in your deck, given each kingdom.  When Archive is out, look over the other actions to see if there are stronger ways to draw or thin your deck—if there are, Archive is more likely just a support card.  If not, then Archive might just be your best bet for building a winning deck.  Ideally, this is a skill that all players should be doing to begin with in any Dominion game: start by scanning the kingdom for the key deck components (draw, trashing, +actions, payload), and identify which cards will play which roles.  If you aren’t starting each game by doing this, try to make it a habit before jumping into your turn one buy.

So much of Dominion is learning how to work with what you’ve got.  Archive isn’t the best draw or the best deck thinner, but in some games, it’s your best option.  And that’s the funny thing about analyzing cards in a vacuum—we can compare and contrast and rank, but at the end of the day, the only cards that matter are the ones in the game you’re playing, which means sometimes an “unconventional” solution is the way to go.  Sometimes Summon is your only +Actions.  Sometimes Spice Merchant is your only +Buy.  (And sometimes a "boring" Big Money strategy is faster than that fancy Summon engine).  In Dominion, a little bit of adaptability goes a long way. 

Dominion Articles / Secret Passage: Cute Tricks and Creativity in Dominion
« on: September 22, 2017, 11:15:00 am »
Here's my article on Secret Passage, another card without much written on it yet.  My audience is still primarily newer players, though this article also occasionally references cards from other expansions, so it can be useful for veterans as well.  I would appreciate any feedback and edits! 

Secret Passage is a nifty, yet subtle card.  At first glance, it can seem mediocre, but then you start realizing all the creative “tricks” you can do with it—“Oh, Secret Passage would be nice with ________!”  It’s by no means a power card and is often a bit weak in isolation, but Secret Passage is unique in that the “cute” synergies are often what make it worth getting. 

Secret Passage is not Laboratory

First, things first: despite the “+2 Cards, +1 Action” smiling innocently at you, Secret Passage is NOT Laboratory.  It does NOT increase your handsize. 

It seems obvious, but sometimes players forget this simple point and overbuy Secret Passage, without realizing that a stack of them doesn’t really do much for you.  Since you always have to put a card back into your deck, you’re just going to have to draw through that card again later.  Secret Passage alone will never draw your deck, and too many of them can leave you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

Secret Passage as a Sifter

The primary purpose of sifters in general is to cycle through your deck, to get to the cards you want more quickly.  However, unlike most sifters which discard cards you don’t want, Secret Passage puts them back in your deck, which is usually worse with Estates or Coppers that you’d rather not have to draw again (for this reason, it’s usually not a great card to open with).  The best case scenario here is to use Secret Passage to put junk at the bottom of your deck where it will likely miss the shuffle.  With all this in mind, Secret Passage is actually very bad at cycling through your deck, and gets worse when there’s little or no trashing, or if you’re getting junked.  In these cases, more traditional sifters such as Cellar or Warehouse are superior.

The other main use for sifters in general is to try and connect certain cards together.  Some examples might include using Warehouse to connect: a Smithy with a Village, Tournament with a Province, 2 Treasure Maps, or 2 Lurkers.  While Secret Passage’s reach of 2 cards is smaller than other sifters, it has the unique ability to help facilitate connections on later hands (e.g. putting the single Lurker back in your deck and hope to draw two together next turn).  In this respect, Secret Passage can function sort of like Courtyard or Haven, smoothing out your turns by stashing away a colliding terminal for use next turn, or saving an extra Gold for later if you can already hit $8 this turn. 

Even better, Secret Passage is excellent for setting up your next turn.  In many engines, the most common time that your deck can stall is at the very beginning of your turn (e.g. you draw a hand with three Smithies and no Village).  With Secret Passage, you can drop extra Villages and/or draw cards back onto your deck to guarantee that you can kick off your next turn.  Especially, in deck-drawing engines, Secret Passage can provide powerful deck control and minimize stall turns. 

Cute Little Tricks

While Secret Passage is good for bottom-decking junk or smoothing/setting up turns, where it really shines is in all the little synergies its unique sifting ability enables.  Wishing Well is the most well-known: if you play Secret Passage first and put a card below the top card of your deck, you’ll know exactly what to wish for with Wishing Well.  Similarly, Secret Passage works nicely with all sorts of cards that care about where certain cards are in your deck.  Here are just a handful of them:

  • Wish well with Wishing Well and Mystic
  • Set up an action to play with Vassal or Herald
  • Place junk for Sentry or Lookout to trash (or Native Village to stash away)
  • Put Estates back to sift past with Farming Village, Ironmonger, or Sage
  • Toss a Copper or Estate a few cards down to pick up again with Apothecary or Patrol
  • Put Victory cards or $5-cost cards below the top of your deck to activate Vagrant or Patrician
  • Defend against your opponent’s Swindler by putting an Estate sixth from the top
  • Increase the chances of getting VP from Chariot Race by topdecking an expensive card

This is not an exhaustive list—players are constantly discovering new ways to use Secret Passage to interact beneficially with other cards. 

It’s important to note that these synergies, while neat, will not usually win you games on their own—however, when incorporated into a good strategy, they can be a great asset.  Using Secret Passage to draw an extra card with Wishing Well a few times isn’t a victory by itself, though it can certainly help get you there.  With all of the above tricks, Secret Passage grants the other card a boost which can give you a powerful edge in close games.  In some cases (e.g. pseudotrashing with Native Village on a board with no trashing), using these interactions might even allow for decks that would normally never be reliable without it.  Secret Passage is at its best when it can maximize other cards by eliminating randomness, put things exactly where you need them to be, or turn sometimes-Laboratories into always-Laboratories.

All this to say: don’t take this section to mean that Secret Passage isn’t worth going for if there’s not a “cute trick” available—to the contrary, it’s still a fine utility card that can fit nicely in most engines for its sifting and smoothing abilities discusses earlier, as well as its use for setting up your next turn.  And if ever you play it and aren’t sure what to do, putting your worst card on the bottom of your deck is usually a safe bet. 

Secret Passage and Creativity in Dominion

This is true of many cards, but Secret Passage especially is a card that often rewards creativity.  You can play it mindlessly, always just dumping a bad card on the bottom, but it usually gives you a little more if you can notice ways to make the ability work with other cards or techniques.  When playing with Secret Passage, always to scan the board for any unique interactions, and don’t be afraid to try something new (just be aware that some “creative” interactions are more helpful than others).

Just as Secret Passage emphasizes creativity, I’ll end with this: Dominion is an incredibly creative game, and I don’t just mean in its design.  With every single kingdom comes a new set of cards and potential decks, complete with unique synergies, obstacles, interactions, and traps.  By its very nature, Dominion requires its players to be creative as they construct a deck that has likely never been built before and will probably never be built again.  Every game is a new puzzle, and Dominion is all about figuring out what will work together here, and what won’t—and then trying it and making adjustments as you go.  No amount of card articles, power rankings, or strategy discussion will ever prepare you perfectly for your next game—at the end of the day, it’s up to you to look over the new kingdom and start creating.

**Revised: 9/23/2017

I thought I'd try my hand at writing a Dominion article that's especially written with a newer player audience in mind.  This is my first stab at writing a full article so feedback and edits would be greatly appreciated!  I chose Sentry since it has very few articles written on it, yet it's a somewhat complex card new players encounter often in Base only games.

When we first saw Sentry, here is how many of us reacted (myself included):
  • First reads it: “Whoa, what a powerful trasher!”
  • Actually plays with it: “Well, that was a bit disappointing…”
As it turns out, Sentry isn’t the most powerful trasher ever (see Donate).  But it is very powerful nonetheless, and is usually the first $5 you should buy on many boards, especially on 5-2 openings. 

What does it do and how do I use it?

Sentry does two things: it trashes and it sifts.
In case you haven’t heard, trashing is very, very good.  And Sentry has the ability to nonterminally trash two cards, without reducing your handsize or buying power the turn you play it.  Unlike other trashers such as Masquerade, Upgrade, or Junk Dealer which trash cards from your hand, Sentry trashes cards from the top of your deck (similar to Lookout).  Sentry’s main advantage over cards like Lookout, Upgrade, and Junk Dealer is its potential to trash two cards instead of one.  In the first few shuffles, your deck is mostly bad cards, giving Sentry’s narrow window of two targets a much greater chance of hitting two Coppers or Estates.  But as you add more good cards to your deck and move into midgame, Sentry tends to struggle to hit cards you want to trash.  For these reasons, it’s critical to start trashing with Sentry quickly. 

While Sentry’s trashing is by far the most important aspect of the card in the early game, its sifting ability shouldn’t be forgotten.  In the endgame especially, Sentry helps you sift through Victory cards to keep your deck reliable.  Sentry is perhaps weakest in the midgame, when it slows down trashing (outside of the occasional Copper or Curse), but doesn’t have much green to discard either.  That said, it can still be useful for controlling which cards you draw next; especially once you’ve started adding draw or other power cards like Kings Court to your deck, it’s usually better to discard treasures like Silver or Gold instead of leaving them on top, to give yourself a better chance of keeping your turn going.   

Deck Inspection Interactions
It’s also good to keep in mind that Sentry’s function as a deck inspector can be very helpful with a few cards like Vassal, Wishing Well, Mystic, and Herald. 

When should I get it?

Short answer: ASAP

Since Sentry trashes most efficiently in the early game, you’ll want to hit $5 as quickly as you can.  If you’re lucky enough to open 5-2, do not hesitate to pick up a Sentry, even over powerful junkers like Witch or Cultist (by prioritizing trashing first, you’ll be able to play your junker more frequently later).  If you open 4-3, then you want to make sure that your opening buys maximize your chances of hitting $5 on your next shuffle, so consider getting at least one Silver or an Action which can produce economy like Militia, Poacher, or Mill. 

After getting your first Sentry, it is often worth aiming to get a second one as well to speed up your trashing in the early game, though on some boards it’s more important to pick up other powerful $5s first.  Unlike some mandatory trashers like Junk Dealer which can become dead cards later, Sentry will never harm your deck and it’s usually good to have several.  When available, it’s sometimes better to pick up a different trasher instead of a second Sentry since Sentry struggles to hit the last few junk cards in your deck..   

It’s very rare that you skip Sentry altogether—if you do, it’s either because stronger trashing is available (such as Donate) or it’s an extremely weak board without any engine potential or with much faster rush or money enablers.  But most often, Sentry is a must buy. 

How does it compare to Upgrade and Junk Dealer?

Many have noticed Sentry's similarities to Upgrade and Junk Dealer.  All three are $5-cost cantrips which are powerful early game trashers, and have different pros and cons.  Upgrade of course can turn Estates into $3s and function as a gainer, while Junk Dealer provides economy while trashing.  Both trash from hand and can provide greater chances of hitting trash targets than Sentry’s two-card range.  However, Sentry’s potential to trash two cards, sifting flexibility, and non-mandatory trashing are major advantages.  Additionally, the fact that Sentry doesn’t reduce your handsize or buying power the turn you play it is a huge plus.  On boards with Sentry and Junk Dealer/Upgrade, Sentry should usually be your first priority, while still aiming to get the other trasher for support. 

What does Sentry teach us about playing Dominion?

Perhaps more than any other trasher besides Chapel, Sentry vividly demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing early, since it’s easiest to line up your trashers with targets when your deck is mostly bad cards.  The difference in trashing effectiveness between opening Sentry vs. getting Sentry after the first shuffle can be significant, and even more so if you miss getting Sentry until after the second shuffle.  The same is true of many trashers—the earlier you get them, the sooner you’ll clean out your starting cards, get control over your deck, and start making more use of your better cards and playing them more often.

In general, when building an engine, trashing your starting cards should be your first priority—before adding draw or payload.  It’s painful to watch newer players open Lab or Festival instead of Sentry on a 5-2, or draw a lucky $6 on turn 3 and get Gold instead of Sentry.  By not trashing first, your Lab will draw mostly junk and you will see your Gold and Festival less frequently amid the sea of Coppers.  And then if you get your trasher afterwards, you’ll have a harder time lining it up with junk, than if you had gotten it first.
On a grander scale, Sentry teaches us the importance of gaining control over your deck.  If you’ve ever watched a good player build an engine, you’ll notice that they not only know exactly what’s in their deck, but often where things are in their deck.  They are meticulous in what order they buy and play cards, and their deck seems to flow so smoothly, rarely getting stuck or disordered.  Sentry’s early trashing will quickly reduce the chances of your deck stalling, and its sifting keeps things reliable, so you know that your next Village will draw a Smithy and not a Province or a Gold.  Dominion is a game that rewards control and precision and learning to use Sentry effectively will help grow these skills, even on boards without Sentry. 

Recommended Resources

If you want to see how powerful Sentry can be when played well, check out Burning Skull’s How to Base Dominion videos (especially videos #1, 5, 11, 15, and 17). 

**Revised 9/14/2017

Variants and Fan Cards / Where to buy blank cards?
« on: March 05, 2017, 08:15:03 pm »
Hello friends,

Quick question: where do you all buy additional blank cards?  I remember seeing sets of ten (with a randomizer) on BGG's store for a few dollars a set, but I can't seem to find them there anymore...did BGG stop selling them?  Any other good places to buy sets of blank cards?  I do have some that came with several of the expansions I already, but would love to get some more.  I'm in the US, in case it matters. 


Dominion Online at Shuffle iT / Leaving the Table vs. Formally Resigning
« on: February 14, 2017, 03:02:14 pm »
Hello friends!

First, thanks Stef and SCSN for all the hard work on making Dominion Online run smoothly--it's a fantastic implementation and I've been impressed with how quickly you all have been releasing updates for various fixes, etc.  Keep up the great work!

Not sure if others have experienced this, but I've had multiple games recently where my opponent stops responding and I see that they've left the table, then I have to wait until the client gives me the option to force them to resign. 

Now I know it's possible for people to have connectivity problems and drop off momentarily, then reconnect to the game shortly after (which is a really cool feature for instances of actual connectivity issues), but I've also noticed many times where it appears that someone leaves the table when they were intending to resign and abandon the game, and drops the game into this state where I'm the only one in the table, my opponent hasn't actually resigned, and I have to wait five minutes until I can force them to resign.  It could of course just be connectivity issues like I mentioned earlier, but it seems suspicious for people "have connectivity problems" right during the middle of my long engine turn when they're behind ("weird, they're taking a long time to discard for my fourth Envoy--oh wait, they left the table").  My guess is that people are somehow able to abandon the game (probably by closing the tab or browser) without giving a formal resignation to end the game, thus leaving their opponent hanging in a frozen game-state. 

Have others noticed this sort of thing?  I personally do not make a habit of resigning games with other players (vs. bots), unless it's a particularly demoralizing game and even in those cases, I always try to wait until it's my own turn to resign respectfully.  This might be a long-shot, but would it be possible to somehow enable the client to recognize when a player is voluntarily trying to abandon the game without formally resigning and prompt them to actually resign before they leave?  Alternatively, perhaps the resign button could be made slightly more visible or another visual cue added to encourage players to actually click "resign" when they're trying to leave a game instead of just exiting the application.

Just some ideas!

Variants and Fan Cards / 4est's Cards
« on: January 29, 2017, 06:40:21 pm »
Hello friends!

I’ve been playing Dominion online and IRL for a few years now and only in the last few months have I started getting more involved with f.ds discussions and tournaments and such.  It’s an awesome community (one of the most friendly and respectful I’ve seen on the internet) and I’ve been learning a ton by reading and posting and playing.  And now, I’m trying my hand at a small fan expansion!

Currently, it’s 17 cards, that loosely revolve around the theme of discarding for benefit and cycling cards that either like or can create small hand-sizes.  I kept them simple—no durations, tokens, reserves, debt, potions, travellers and such.  All have gone through some playtesting, but I'm continuing to playtest and modify as I go. 

I’d love to get feedback from the community—do certain cards seem too strong or too weak, does wording need to be more clear, do certain mechanics need reworking, etc.  I appreciate your help!  Please post comments below.



Kingdom Cards:

Individual Cards:

I’ve discovered a new planet—I mean, card-shaped thing!  I wanted a cheap Vagrant/Patrician that prefers variety.  The first version of Astronomer was effectively a mini-Hunting Party, but that immediately proved to be too strong in play testing—way too easy for them to just be $2 Labs.  This revised version checks another player's hand instead.

Unlike most of my cards which started with a card idea or mechanic, and got names and images later, Brewery started with the name and image.  Emulating the drunk monk, I wanted a weird hand-discarder like Minion that works out for you in the end.  You can keep your best 2 cards, or if your cards suck, discard them all and draw 3 more, to go with your extra actions and coins.

Carnival’s “travel between players” mechanic is inspired by Last Footnote’s Wanderer and Asper’s Pilgrim, but instead of a draw card, Carnival provides some nice payload.  It’s great for hitting $5 and $6 in the early game, and higher price points later, and players are never sad to have one passed to them.  Another key difference is that taking the coins and passing to your opponent is optional—you can always play it just for the non-terminal buy and cash out at another time (or try to amass a few Carnivals for a big turn later).

My Butcher variant that uses discarding instead of Coin tokens for Remodeling.  Early on, it also drew a card, but this made it just a bit too easy to gain cards costing $4 more, so the +1 Card was removed. 

It’s a giant Workshop!  Gainers that can gain that many cards per play are always risky designs, but the differently named clause prevents it from piledriving, and on many boards, you end up taking stuff you don’t necessarily need.  Also, for each card you gain, you can discard something else to topdeck it, a handy little bonus. 

Falconer is a cheap Band of Misfits variant that offers you a choice when you play it: a simple cantrip, or play it as the worst Action card in your opponent's hand.  Sometimes what they reveal just doesn’t work, but hey that’s okay, Falconer can never hurt you.  But sometimes, their worst card is still a winner.  Late game, it can become a tactical puzzle for your opponent on which of their good actions to reveal that will help you the least. 

Market is a nice card, but sometimes it feels sad to pay $5 and not use all the +Buys or Coin.  Introducing Fish Market, where you can build your own Market!  Need a Village?  Just discard a card.  Need +Buy?  Just discard a card.  Need Coin?  You know what to do.  Don’t need any of those?  Then just draw a card.  Need an actual Market?  Well you probably should have just bought one of those then.  It’s the flexibility you’re paying for in Fish Market. 

It's a Smithy with a neat discard effect.  It does suffer from the Harbinger effect—you’re sad when your discard is empty, but when it’s not, trading out the worst card in your hand for the best card in your discard pile is a sweet deal.   

My attempt at a fast Big Money enabler.  Also a lesson in basic personal finance: I can spend all my money now, invest a little in a short term return next turn, or invest a lot in a long term return next shuffle.  If only it was this simple in real life..

Marshal is a cantrip discard attack like Urchin, but multiples can bring your opponent down to 3 cards in hand (like Soldier).  Sometimes you don't mind getting hit by two Marshals though, since it sort of counters other Marshals by giving you a nice bonus with a small handsize. 

A cheap village that gives you a choice of what to do with the top card of your deck.  It can offer +Buy with a little sifting, light trashing, or a draw and discard--all useful things, but the randomness makes the card play a little bit differently each time. 

Another Draw-to-X style card, this time in Peddler form.  The fewer cards you have in hand, the better Poet gets.  With five or more, it’s a nonterminal Copper: okay, not so great.  But it has the potential to draw two, three, even four cards.  Good thing you’ve been playing all those discard for benefit cards!

The curser for this set, Rebellion provides a nice chunk of terminal coin for each set of duplicate cards in your hand.  The attack gives a Torturer-like Curse or discard choice for hands with duplicate cards, but can be countered by hands with no duplicates.  Rebellions need like-minded people working together in order to succeed.   

I wanted both a trasher and gainer in the expansion, and then I had the idea: why not make a card that does both?  Smelter is flexible, trashing like Steward or gaining like Workshop, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can do both, but then your opponents get to trash too.  Better make it worth it!

Playing Treasures from your hand is so old school.  Nowadays we just discard them instead!  Introducing Trinket, the Treasure you can’t wait to discard!  On play, it’s just a nonterminal Herbalist, but you can also play it on your next Buy phase by discarding it.  Anything Tunnel likes, Trinket likes too.

Similar to Watchtower in its versatility, Undertaker has lots of neat reaction tricks up its sleeve.  It can turn sifters into trashers (including other Undertakers), it can defend against trashing attacks and make discard attacks actually helpful, it can turn trash-for-benefits like Apprentice into crazy discard-for-benefits instead, etc.  I’ve tried a bunch of different things for the top, and settled on a terminal Forum for now, but I’m still testing other options as well.   

The first version of Water Wheel had 2VP and could be discarded from your hand at the start of your turn for a bonus but it proved to be confusing, overpowered, and could lead to weird discarding loops.  So it was scrapped and replaced with this version, still with 2VP but now a Scheme-like on-buy effect.  Basically, you can discard whatever cards you have left in your hand to Scheme that many cards you have in play (including Treasures) to use next turn.  With just a few discards, you can set up an ideal next hand.  It’s pricey though, and only worth it if you actually have some cards left in your hand when you buy it, otherwise you just spent $6 for 2VP.  And of course, once it’s in your deck, Water Wheel is a dead card—and another prime target for discarding when you buy another one.



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