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Innovation General Discussion / Rule Change Proposal: Drawing Beyond 10
« on: November 22, 2013, 12:01:08 pm »
I've noticed that Measurement and Almanac allow for for some quick games *especially* with No Place. It just seems like a silly way for the game to end. That said I would like to propose the following:

If you would draw a card beyond 10, draw a 10 instead. If you cannot, the game ends...

Dominion General Discussion / Re: What can be tracked for advantage?
« on: July 07, 2012, 04:37:00 pm »
I would say that the biggest thing to track which separates good players from expert players are the potential cards in the opponent's hand to determine the opponent's likely hood in purchasing the last Province/Colony.

There are many games where the opponent should KNOW what is in my hand (because my deck is low) but decides to buy the second-to-last province anyways only to loose when I purchase the last one.

On the flip side, players can counter act this by not playing all of their cards in a single turn. For example, if have $11 to by a single Province, you can elect not to play a Gold in order to make the opponent's believe you still have a Gold to draw for that shuffle.

I've just gotten back into Isotropic, and this is something that I was curious about.

(It is possible to draw from more than one Tactician in one turn. However, I will leave it as an exercise to the readers to determine how it is done.)

A general rule of thumb for Sea Hag is...

Don't play it if players are still developing.
Play it is players are buying victory points.

The reasoning is quite simple. If you play Sea Hag as players are still buying new valuable cards, then you are shuffling those cards into their deck ever so sooner. So you shouldn't play it if those cards are helpful and inversely, if those cards aren't helpful, you should play Sea Hag to shuffle then in sooner.


Dominion Isotropic / Re: Decline of civility on isotropic?
« on: November 10, 2011, 09:10:45 am »
I just want to confess that I've certainly thrown my mouth at players who start to berate me for playing too slow when I am able to draw my whole deck (and in general they are not).

Anyone else lost it in this case?

The funny thing is that I tell them I am one of the fastest players around, and they laugh at me.

Dominion Isotropic / Re: Fan Cards on Isotropic?
« on: November 10, 2011, 08:56:45 am »
I will politely point out that Agricola (whose online component is ran by my colleague) has an entire interface that allows players to create, submit, rate/comment, and test fan-created cards for use in upcoming, real, authentic expansions.

A link can be found here

The resulting release can be found here:

Dominion World Masters / Dominion WM Kingdom Sets
« on: November 09, 2011, 05:06:01 am »
This may already be posted somewhere, but I can't seem to find it. Does anyone know where they are?


Level 10- Oscar [The Grouch] Is Your Friend

Hopefully, you have figured out that in this article I am going to talk about the Trash and how effective it really is. This is an important concept in Dominion, and to a newer player it can very counter intuitive. “Why would I want to get rid of my own precious cards?” It is a tricky question to answer. So let us see if we can answer that question.

The simplest explanation is that it gives you more effectiveness for each of the cards you buy. Suppose your deck is twice as slim as your opponent's. Then, that means that every card you buy is going to be used roughly twice as often, and hence all the improved cards you buy will be twice as effective.

In the last article, I pointed out the in order to buy a province or a colony, in essence, you need an average of $1.6 or $2.1 per card. Now, the obvious way to increase this average is to buy cards- most notably treasures that provide more $ than your average. However, conversely, one can increase this average by getting rid of (i.e., trashing) cards that provide less than your average. In fact it often gives you more of an advantage.

Let me give you a mathematical example. Suppose you have a set of 5 numbers which add up to 10. In order to increase the average, which would be better, to increase total by 1 to 11 or to decrease the quantity of numbers from 5 to 4?  Of course, it is simple arithmetic exercise to see that, in fact, it is better to decrease the denominator (11/5 = 2.1 versus 10/4 = 2.5). Moreover, in most any similar situation, it correct to decrease the denominator if the current average is significantly larger than 1. To translate into Dominion terms: trashing can be more effective buying!

Now, let us give a specific Dominion example.  It is the early game and suppose your deck currently contains 7 coppers, 3 estates and a Silver, and a Steward. You have A Steward, a Silver, an Estate and a 2 Coppers in hand. Consider two choices: Buy a Gold (using the +$2 function on the Steward) or trashing the Estate and a Copper and buying a Silver. For the first choice you are buying the all precious Gold; however, your average becomes: ($1*7 + $2*2 +$3*1) / 13 cards = $1.076 (here we count the Steward as a $2). Whereas for the second choice, you do not get the all precious Gold, but your average becomes: ($1*6 +$2*3)/ 11 cards = $1.091. The difference is small, but important. But further, imagine gaining an advantage of $0.015 each turn. That adds up! In the end it means you are going to be in province or colony territory (e.g. when your average breaks $1.6 or $2.1) a turn or two faster, that equates to buying one or two big point cards more than your opponent- which is often more than enough to win the game!

On the flip side of things. While it is helpful to decrease the number of cards in your deck, it is also equally helpful (or more appropriately hurtful) to clog your opponent's deck. Clearly, the best (that is, most hurtful) way to clog the opponent's deck is with curses. However, there are a few other attack cards that can “clog” you opponent's deck. Including Ambassador, Swindler, and Ghost Ship.

Before I continue, I should point out a very helpful and resourceful website:
Thanks to Larry and rreneud, there are many many compiled statistics about various Dominion cards.
In particular, click here,, and click the “Win rate with column.” twice (this is will assort it in desending order). Loosely speaking, this will sort all Dominion cards in the average “score” each cards yields when it is bought or willfully gained. Let us look at the top 10 cards on the list (without the “always present” treasures or victory cards or prizes) in order:

Grand Market
Hunting Party
Ghost Ship
Sea Hag

I should make one remark about this list (actually I'm just reiterating what the same remarks on Council Room): It does not take into account causation. In particular, one cannot conclude that buying these cards will cause you to win the game. One might buy a particular card because he or she is winning in order to preserve his or her lead; or conversely, one might buy a card not on this list because he is losing. For the most part, I feel vary confident that the cards above cause a player to win instead of the other way around, but you should be wary of this as you browse Council Room further.

One observation to make about the list is that a majority of them either trash (or return to the supply) or and/or adds cards to the opponent's deck (mostly the later). THAT'S how vital controlling the quantity of cards in your deck is.

Some key points:

1. Trashing is often underrated by new players.
2. If Chapel is on the board, BUY IT! While it is not as imperative, the same things go for Steward, Lookout,  Loan, Montebank, and Witch.

One additional remark I should make about the list from Council Room is that it considers the results of all players. Most particularly, if both players buy a card, then the average “win rate” for that game will be 1 regardless of who wins and who loses. Hence, the list above is a list of cards that are far better to have when playing against players who choose to pass on them. Specifically, the list is a list of underrated, yet effective cards. Chapel, Steward, Lookout and Loan do not make the list because most players buy them, and you should too!

3. In the early game, when in doubt, trash your cards.

Trashing cards is only effective when your deck is small. As the game continues and you grow your deck, trashing cards will become less worthwhile. If you are going to feed Oscar, do it early, or he will be grumpy.

4. Curses are much bigger of a deal than -1 VP

Newer players get view things in terms of points. After all, that is the point of the game. And in relative terms losing a point here and there is not that big of a deal. However, the key thing about the curse is not the loss of a victory point, but rather the fact that a curse clogs the opponent's deck. For a practical example, when you are Tortured, you are almost always better off discarding two cards than gaining a curse (unless you have a way to trash or otherwise use the Curse). For if you were to take the curse, you would would effectively be discarding (rather, forfeiting) one card every time you drew the curse. If you gain a curse in the early to middle game, you will still see it 4-5 times over the course of the game and that is 4-5 cards lost compared to the 2 cards you could have discarded up front.


In this article, I have presented some good points and advice I would like to pose an alternative variant to players (at least of the players of the physical game):

“When a player 'gains a curse,' the card is placed in front of that player face-up along with his or her victory point chips (instead of wherever it might normally go), and are applied to that player's score at the end of the game as normal. In this variant, Curses cannot be trashed or discarded (say for Montebank)”.

The idea here is that Curses act like -1 victory point chips instead of clogging the deck.

Feel free to try this variant and post your feedback.

Read my article that I just posted...

Simulation / Re: Simulating Challenge - Harem
« on: August 25, 2011, 02:16:16 am »
WW, I don't want to disappoint you, but I have been sort of stuck.

What the analysis says, pretty much, is that Harems versus Golds yield the same result. However, this is caused by a few nonsensical assumptions:

1) You always draw an "average" hand.
2) Cards you buy mix instantaneously
3) The game is continuous (specifically, you can use "half-a-turn" to buy "half-a-province", etc.)
4) The PPP does not apply.

2 is a unharmful assumption since no strategy benefits from it. However, clearly 1, 3, and 4 are assumptions that greatly hurt the Harem strategy for three reasons:

1) You never draw a "random" hand. Buying extra Harems for a slightly longer period of time induces less variance in the deck whereas buying Golds for a shorter amount of time induces more variance.
3) The continuousness of the game allows a Gold player to use "one-third-of-a-turn" to buy "one-third-of-a-province" which would make up one Harem. Specifically, the all or nothing affair makes catching up harder
4) The Harem player has an advantage if going into the PPP phase of the game by the nature that he or she "starts" with more points.

Things that I will consider, but they will take me a lot of time:

1) How to model the variance of a hand (or shuffle) and how that affects what one can buy. Specifically, having an average above $1.6 does not guarantee the ability to buy a province, and nor does $1.8 or $2.0. However, the higher, the more likely you are able to buy a province... based upon the variance of your deck.

3) Using a differential equation (e.g., continuous model), makes things easier. Using a discrete recurrence relation might be better, but they are often much more painful to solve and manipulate.

4) I don't know. I think the next simulation challenge should be encoding a successful PPP. The PPP ultimately decides many games, that will ultimately be the key for a good simulator.

Simulation / Re: Simulating Challenge - Harem
« on: August 22, 2011, 04:28:07 am »
Case A has a more exponential-shaped buying power curve and VP curve.
Case C has a more linear buying power curve, and VP point curve.
Case B is in the middle.

If you actually model Dominion with a differential equation and solve said differential equation, buying curves (meaning the amount of $ you have, on average to spend that turn) are, at best t^{2/3}- which is not only not exponential and sublinear, but concave down.

The winner in these games will be determined by the length of the game.

This is, with no doubt, the key to unlocking Harem's power.

What I'm trying to articulate here is that without a doubt, trading buying power for current VP is what is going on here, and if you graphed these two curves, the linear curve starts out ahead, but the exponential curve surpasses it. When? I'm not sure. It may pass it too late, and thus never win (in province games).

So maybe for province games, there may not exist paper-rock scissors, maybe it does. But, if paper rock scissors doesn't exist for Province games, simply due to the length of the game being short enough that perhaps Case C always wins. But I'm fairly certain that Paper/Rock/Scissors will exist for Colony games.

I believe that one of the fundamental flaws in many player's analysis is that they are assuming that the optimal Harem/Gold buying ratio exists. And I am not so sure one does. As superdad points out the power of a Harem strategy will depend upon the length of the game, but a large part of that "length" is determined by the parody of the piles.

In my longer analysis, which I will post once I fix all the mathematical errors (which, as mentioned above includes differential equations), it turns out that, on an average basis Harem performs equally with Gold. Specifically, given a fixed amount of time, if you were to draw an "average" hand every turn, then the Gold and Harem strategies can yield the same number of points in that period of time. The key, however, is that Dominion is not a fixed time game, and that a player buying a Harem (instead of a Gold, say), is lengthing the game. A Gold player can then lengthen the game buy buying a Gold (instead of a first Province). In turn, this gives the Gold player more power buy more provinces later in the game. If the Gold player buys 5 provinces, with high likely hood, that would be enough to overcome the Harem player's bonus. In particular, lengthening the game by buying treasures over Provinces may not benefit either player in general, and may be determined by the exact situation- including the "oddness" and "evenness" of each pile. Specifically, I think Harem is way too chaotic than it seems- especially if both players may have strategies regarding the Harem.

Simulation / Re: Dominion Simulator available for download!
« on: August 22, 2011, 12:16:07 am »
I should my problems with Mac OS X are not strictly fixed by downloading and installing java. Mac OS X actually comes with several versions of Java, so one must specify which one(s) to use. Apparently, it preferred 1.5 over 1.6.

Other Games / Re: 7 Wonders??
« on: August 21, 2011, 12:15:05 pm »
..I found 7 Wonders to be enormously fun for 8-10 plays and then oppressively boring after that...

Same. That being said, if you haven't played it, you should play it, just don't expect to get into it that much.

Simulation / Re: Dominion Simulator new version released!!!
« on: August 21, 2011, 02:04:44 am »

Tournaments and Events / Re: Any GenCon or WBC news?
« on: August 09, 2011, 05:01:45 pm »
This is sad.

With hundreds of entrants, the organizers should have expected players to drop, and even if players "are not allowed" to drop. It is not unreasonable to assume, for example, that player to may get ill or simply leaving inappropriately, and the organizer should plan for that.

I must say Rio Grande dropped the ball here. They must cater to their customers; most notably, they must understand that most people that play Dominion also play other games, and if they are going to hold a tournament at a convention with thousands of other things their customers might want to do, they should expect and prepare that players are going to leave and they should not take it personally.

Sounds like we have a ways to go before Dominion tournaments get really going.
Any suggestions?

Tournaments and Events / Re: Any GenCon or WBC news?
« on: August 07, 2011, 10:17:00 pm »
I think this might, at the very least, demonstrate that dominionstrategy ought to include strategies for games with more than two people. Just as how the kingdom cards can vary in a set, so too can the number of opponents.

Perhaps more of us should auto-match at 3-players instead of 2.

Just a couple of comments.

1. 3-player games on isotropic, I find incredibly slow. I am under the impression many other do too.

2. I am very surprised there was no effort to coordinate practice before the WBC

Tournaments and Events / Any GenCon or WBC news?
« on: August 07, 2011, 12:20:43 am »

I think it's a week.

In any case, we will find out. I am off for a week.

Puzzles and Challenges / Re: Cost This Card #1- Jack's Court
« on: July 29, 2011, 08:00:00 pm »
... $7 is silly for obvious reasons.

Is it obvious? One mice thing about Dominion is that not all the cards are available all the time. Hence, making (almost) strictly worse cards (i.e. by costing Jack's Court at $7) is not unreasonable.

Puzzles and Challenges / Cost This Card #1- Jack's Court
« on: July 28, 2011, 01:34:40 pm »
[Jack's Court]

Choose an action card from your hand. Play it thrice. Trash this card

Is this "player bashing" really necessary?

How do we know Larry was playing fake opponents? How do you know tat is intentionally playing weaker players in order to inflate his or her rating? We don't!

Maybe players are gaming the system. But who cares? It is only a silly leaderboard, and a simple fact about ranking systems (i.e. leaderboards) is that they are never perfect. There is always going to be a way to game them; there is always going to be glitches. That is just how it works.

EVEN IF players are gaming the system in shady ways, we shouldn't be "bashing" players of things we "think" or "suspect" they might be doing. They might log on here (or might already be) and feel very unwelcome very quickly.

Heck, they might just be doing it to see if they can do it.

If anything, we should be suggesting ways to fix the system as opposed to berating players that might appear to gaming it.

Speaking of the leaderboard, where is theory?

Thanks for the post. 

In the post, you mention that if you were to draw $6 on turn 3, you should go for the gold rather than the Rabble.  Would you go for gold over a curse giving attack? If you've drawn $6 on that turn, chances are you won't crack $5 on the next two as  you either have [silver (or equivalent) and 3 coppers] or [5 coppers] left in your deck.

I used Rabble as the "mediocre $5 card" as an example. But you are right, for Witch and Montebank are typically worth passing over the Gold. Some possible exceptions to the exception include:

1) Heavy Defense (Chapel and Lighthouse)
2) Turbo Fast Game (e.g., Ironworks with Gardens and Great Hall, etc.)

To put things into perspective for a Province game, your average card must offer $1.6 and a Gold offers roughly twice that. However, in a Colony game, your average card must offer $2.1

So I understand the whole average value of 1.6$ for a Province game, because 1.6x5 = 8. But why 2.1$ for a Colony game? 2.1x5 = 10.5, was this a typo or am I missing something here?

That's a typo. Fixed.

In the Dominion world, there is a phrase: “Village Idiot”. It refers to a player who has played the game only a few times before, and in those games, he or she bought too many action cards to play. He soon realizes that “villages” are, sometimes, key, and as a result, he buys them all up only to take long turns consisting of “Village, draw, Village, draw, …, …, 4 coppers, buy Village”. The Village Idiot is a common phenomenon, and it is a hard habit to break. In this article, I want to give players some pointers to help them break this habit.

Today's lesson is: “Money makes your deck go Round.”

It is very easy (even as an experienced player) to get caught up with all the cool cards on the board and forget to buy the cards they actually need!

Why you need money.

A typical Dominion game is going to determined by Provinces or Colonies. And in short, in most cases, if you can not buy Provinces or Colonies, you cannot win! To buy a province you need $8 in your hand which is an average of $1.6 per card in your 5 card hand, and for a Colony it is $2.2 per card. Now observe that when you start the card you have on average $0.7 per card. That means in order to win the game, most often, you need to more than double or triple the purchasing power in each of your hands!

6 Important Rules About Money

1. In general, money is more important than action cards; they do not cost you actions!

First, I should emphasize, “in general.” This is not a hard and fast rule. And the essence of becoming a better player relies heavily an determining when an action card which offers a better alternative to money (say, for example when to buy a Witch or not). However, the ultimate goal of the game is to buy point cards. Buying a bunch of cool cards which do not provide money, no matter how cool that are, is generally not going to help you buy Provinces or Colonies any faster.

2. When in doubt, buy Treasures.

Many times, a player will draw $6 on the third turn and buy a $5 card because they really want the “cool” action card. However, the truth of the matter is that the Gold in the early game is more likely to propel your middle game that that $5 action card. (Of course, there can be exceptions). If you draw $6 on your third turn, more often than not you should buy the Gold. You can often buy that Rabble later. Having $6 or $7 in the early game is probably not a chance you will again soon. Take advantage of it!

3. For your first two buys, look for what will get you the money you need to by more expensive cards.

A dominion game can be viewed as a complicated ladder. The main question you should ask yourself is “How will what I buy now help me buy something more expensive later?” If you keep that question in mind when deciding your buys, you will improve your game. For example, while a Workshop is very efficient in terms of money, it does not let you climb the ladder!

4. Buy “Villages” only if you need them.

A good rule of thumb is that you only need “Villages” (that is + 2 Action cards) only if you plan on exceeding 1 “terminating” action card per 5 or 6 cards in your deck. Here “terminating” means an action card that does not give +Actions in itself. If you only have 2-3 non-terminating actions in your 20 card deck, then you really do not need any “Villages”. The odds that you will draw more than one is minimal, and so, you should spend your buys on more useful cards (e.g., Gold).

5. Conversely, avoid terminating actions if you do not have “Villages”.

The previous concept works in reverse as well. If you do not have any “Villages,” then your deck should be limited to 1 terminating action card per 5 or 6 cards. Since a typical deck well end with between 25 and 30 cards, this means you should stick to between 4 and 5 terminating actions. Further, you should pick and choose those 4 to 5 terminating actions cards extremely carefully, as when you buy  such a card, you will likely be stuck with it for the duration of the game, and it will take up a valuable spot as one of your few action cards.

6. In Colony games, Platinum are key!

The $5 a Platinum offers is a huge advantage. Many colony games can be characterized as the one who gets the first Platinum wins. To put things into perspective for a Province game, your average card must offer $1.6 and a Gold offers roughly twice that. However, in a Colony game, your average card must offer $2.2 and a Platinum offers roughly two-and-half times the average. That is, Platinums are more essential in a Colony than Golds are in a Province game.

Let me give you a real  example- the game long can be found here: It was a late night, and I went over to my friends' apartment (handle: Pat) and happened to see him playing on Isotropic. He was playing a game where he happened to miss the Alchemist with a hand of 3 Estates, 2 Coppers, and a Potion after playing a Watchtower on the third turn. This is ordinarily catastrophic, however, the board featured alternatives to the Alchemist in the form of Watchtower and Hamlet. In any case, as the game went, the opponent was claiming all the Alchemists and was able to draw most of his whole deck each turn. In order to win this game, we needed to focus upon money We realized that one can have all the smart people in the world, but if you have no money, they are just going to stand there.  On turn 11, Pat  bought a Gold, and two subsequent turns later he was able to buy a Platinum. As the game progressed, Pat had more money that the opponent. So while the opponent was able to draw more cards, Pat was able to buy bigger and better things. Pat was able to grab the first Colony, and with a 3 to 1 advantage on Platinums, he was able to leapfrog the opponent upon buying the last Colony.

The point here is that, for the most part, at some point in the game you need money. Buying cool cards can help too, buy many times those cool cards (especially cards that draw cards) will not help you unless you have money to support them.

Next time we will make friends with Oscar the Grouch on our way to Level 10.

Until Next Time,
Spin your world with $,

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