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4601
Rules Questions / Re: Visible discard pile?
« on: June 22, 2011, 01:08:32 pm »
Seeing what the top card is after they discard at end of turn would be zero information in almost all cases. If it's the tiniest amount of trouble it's not worth it.

Seeing what they discard when they discard to an action might interest you. I could see isotropic indicating what's discarded when a single card is discarded, e.g. Cellar-for-one, since you would always know that card irl and there's no extra decision required to show it.

4602
Rules Questions / Re: Contraband+Tournament Prizes
« on: June 22, 2011, 12:53:32 pm »
Contraband: When you play this, the player to your left names a card. You can't buy that card this turn.

During tournament games Isotropic brings up extra options to prevent Tournament Prizes from being bought.

Tournament: Each player may reveal a Province from his hand. If you do, discard it and gain a Prize (from the Prize pile) or a Duchy.

Since the prize is gained and not bought, surely this option to name a tournament prize is unecessary or am I missing something?
It seems likely that there's simply one name-a-card algorithm in the program, and Doug used it everywhere. You can meaningfully Wish for a Princess, for example.

The rules do not specify if "name a card" lets you pick the 3 of Clubs or not, and I don't see a situation yet where they have to. In practice I expect most people infer that you must name a Dominion card. Naming a homemade card that says "if you name this you win" doesn't get you anywhere, outside of house ruled games, because Dominion has no such rule.

4603
Dominion Isotropic / Re: Isotropic
« on: June 21, 2011, 01:46:10 pm »
Actually, that's not a totally unreasonable question -- are you looking for serious playtesters, Donald?
There's just so little testing left to do on the upcoming expansions. I might need playtesters for other games, but they won't have handy isotropics.


4604
Feedback / Re: The Bible of Donald X.
« on: June 20, 2011, 06:00:48 pm »
One note: In the Intrigue preview, you mention that when throning a minion, you probably want to get +2 first and then have a choice of what to do second. But if you're going to get the new hand for your second, it's strictly better to do that first, in case you want to redraw twice. Not that this is really a big deal from the design end, but it's general strategy for peeps to know.
I corrected this in a post immediately replying to the article when it went live, now sadly lost. Obv. you take the hand first, I was not thinking when I wrote that.

4605
The Bible of Donald X. / Dominion: Intrigue Preview
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:45:29 pm »
When W. Eric Martin asked me to write a Dominion: Intrigue preview, it seemed like a daunting task, since I'd already written a "Secret History of the Intrigue Cards" thing for posting at BoardGameGeek around the time the set came out. I didn't want to just repeat myself, so what did that leave? Then someone spoiled all of the Intrigue cards. A preview became impossible; at best I could write a view. Then I waited and waited and now the set is out some places and the only option left is a postview.

And I've written one! I'm just assuming that as I type this, but you in the future reading this know it to be true, because why would W. Eric Martin just post these two paragraphs? No, there must be a postview coming.

You might as well go look at the spoiler. I've got the links handy and everything. The first three show eight cards each, with the 25th card by itself in French in the last one. Someone has handily translated it back into English; just scroll down.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/496637?size=original
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/496638?size=original
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/496639?size=original
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/494269

So there are the cards, and now I will say some stuff about them, that isn't just stuff about how they changed over the years, since that's covered in that other article, which I would link to only I haven't posted it yet. I see this postview as falling into say four sections. I can talk about What You Get in the expansion - an overview of the set, for people who haven't run any statistics on those images yet. Then there's Anatomy of an Expansion, explaining the way in which different kinds of cards contribute to making a Dominion expansion work. And then, naturally, The Throne Room Variations. But wait, first:

Do You Even Know What Dominion Is?

You probably do, to be reading this, but I might as well make sure. Dominion is uh this game I made. You build a deck while playing it. It being the deck. Dominion's been previewed already on this site, so let's just have that link:

http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comments/game_preview_review_dominion/

Dominion: Intrigue is just like that only with different cards. If you haven't played Dominion before, I recommend starting with the main set. It's simpler and not in a bad way. If you've played Dominion with friends but don't own it, you can start with Intrigue, because hey, you can play it by itself, and when you get together with those friends you can mix the two sets. Or you can still start with the main set. I don't mind. If you already own the main set then at this point I recommend getting Intrigue. Two copies of the main set, that's just silly.

What You Get

Physically, Dominion: Intrigue is the same as Dominion except that the 25 kingdom cards have been replaced with 25 new ones (at 10-12 copies each, as with the main set). Intrigue includes Copper, Estate, Curse, etc., just as Dominion does. This means it stands alone; you can play Dominion with just Intrigue, or you can combine the main set and Intrigue. Of course the rulebook is also different, since it needs to explain the new cards instead of the old ones. Also the placeholder cards for Copper etc. are gone, because people didn't tend to use them, and you can use blanks there anyway. There are still placeholder cards for the kingdom cards, although now we refer to them as randomizers, since that's what they are really.

Because Intrigue comes with Copper etc., you have enough components for playing with 5-6 players, and we provide rules for doing so. Alternatively, if you have both the main set and Intrigue, you can split into two groups of up to 4 each and still have everything you need to play with both sets in both games. You won't be able to have the same kingdom card in both games at once, but that will be fine.

Anyway: 25 new cards. What that means is variety. The number of card interactions shoots up; it should take way longer to feel like you've seen everything than with just the main set.

The main set doesn't really have a functional theme. It had the game itself to offer up; it didn't need to go further. The closest thing the main set has to a functional theme is "simplicity." For example the main set has six cards that just have some +'s on them - no additional text. Intrigue only has two. With Intrigue we are assuming you've played already and are ready for some more complex cards. Not that they get too complex. They are a good amount of complex. Man, these articles are tricky.

Intrigue has two main functional themes: 1) victory cards that do something, and 2) decision-making.

In the main set, victory cards are useless until it's time to score. That is still mostly true with Intrigue; you still have those starting Estates and those eventual Provinces. However Intrigue adds three new victory cards that actually do something useful. Great Hall just replaces itself, but that means it effectively doesn't take up space in your deck. Harem doubles as a Silver. And then Nobles is a card-drawing engine by itself.

The main set was purposely low on decision-making on cards, in order to keep the game faster for new players. There's plenty of decision-making just in picking what to buy. The main set does have decision-making cards, but you know, not a ton of them. Intrigue has a ton of them. More than half of the cards in the set involve a decision. Sometimes you make the decision, and sometimes your opponents do. Decisions all around! You might be thinking, uh-oh, that means it will play slowly. It doesn't play slowly. Okay there's one slow card, Pawn, but that's it. The main set plays really fast with experienced players; there's room to slow it down a little with Intrigue and still be shuffling when your turn comes around.

The victory-cards-that-do-something theme is supported by a pair of cards that care what types a card is (Ironworks and Tribute), and another card that specifically looks for victory cards (Scout). And it's joined by two cards that get more use out of the base victory cards - Baron likes Estates and Duke likes Duchies.

Another thing of note is the ways to trash opposing things. The main set provided just one way to trash cards from an opponent's deck - Thief. Intrigue contains three cards in that vein, and they don't stop at Treasures. Saboteur can trash anything costing three coins or more; Swindler can replace anything with something else with the same cost (not too effective on Provinces, but pretty good vs. Coppers); Masquerade makes players pass a card left, which early on just makes Estates dance around, but later on can be painful.

The cards have a variety of costs, to ensure that dealing out ten at random probably gives you a good mix. Of particular note here is that the set has two cards that cost six coins, further reducing the number of situations in which you might automatically reach for Gold with six.

Flavorwise the expansion is, well, Intrigue themed. This came about due to the functional themes, including one that isn't in the set. Originally, the set also had a one-shot theme. Cards that do something just once and then are trashed, like Feast. It turns out this isn't a good theme. One-shots are a sometimes food. Some people just don't like the idea - if you build a Feast deck, in the end it has no Feasts, and that bugs them. Other people don't like penalties, and only getting to use a card once sounds like a penalty. Anyway it didn't work as a theme and it's gone. There is only one one-shot left in the set, Mining Village, and even that one's optional.

But once, there were many one-shots, and what is a one-shot flavorwise? It's an event; a one-time occurrence. Like a Feast, which was originally in this set.

At the same time the set had a lot of "choose one" cards, and those often got named after underlings. People who might scurry about doing different tasks for you. Put underlings and events together and there it is: Intrigue. Then the events left but well what can you do. That was what I had for a theme so I stuck with it.

One final thing about "what you get." What you get, really, is more Dominion. Intrigue doesn't try to veer things off in an unusual direction. It doesn't try to change the game. It's true to the main set, with new mechanics that any expansion might dabble in, rather than exotic things. I felt this was important for the first expansion. Suppose instead that the first expansion took the game off in a radical new direction. Well for a while all there is is the main set and the first expansion. So half the cards would be the radical new thing. It seems much better to me to have a solid base of game before veering off. So that's what we've done!

Anatomy of an Expansion

From the start, I knew the expansions had to work by themselves (I mean once you add Coppers and Estates and so forth; they don't all need to include those). There are two reasons for this. First, I knew that many people would want to play sets by themselves, when they first bought them. Let's see nothing but new cards! Second, if you have multiple expansions, you aren't necessarily playing all of them; and whatever combination you have, that combination has to work. If a set needs 2-3 ways to get +2 Actions to work by itself, then every set needs that in order for the game to still work when you combine sets. Making expansions work by themselves is necessary for making expansions work when you mix all the ones you have together.

So what makes an expansion work by itself? The big thing is, when you deal out 10 random kingdom cards, there should be a variety of strategies possible. The more basic to the game a particular type of strategy is, the more cards that have to support it.

One way to categorize strategies is, how do you deal with the one-action-per-turn rule? It looms large over how you build your deck. There are four main ways to address it, plus a way not to:

- Only play with 2-3 actions. Then you probably don't draw them together too often. To do this you need "end" actions with big effects; those 2-3 actions have to count. Saboteur, Torturer, Trading Post, Tribute, and Nobles can fill this role, and to a lesser degree some cheaper cards - Baron, Bridge, Coppersmith.
- Play with "free" actions - actions that give you +1 Card and +1 Action. You can play as many of these as you draw. Intrigue has a lot of these. Wishing Well, Mining Village, and Upgrade are all straight free actions. Pawn and Great Hall are free but don't do anything when they are. Scout and Minion are basically free. Shanty Town and Nobles are free in combinations. Conspirator and Tribute are sometimes free. Those of you that like to play a line of cards will get a lot of ways to do it.
- Play with ways to discard or trash actions usefully - things like Cellar and Remodel. If you draw an action you can't play, there's still something you can do with it. Intrigue provides Secret Chamber in the Cellar role and Upgrade in the Remodel role. Also Courtyard and Secret Chamber can hold an extra action for next turn.
- Play with cards that give you +2 Actions, like Village. These directly let you play more actions. Intrigue has Shanty Town, Mining Village, and one of the functions of Nobles.
- You can just live with drawing actions you can't play. This usually isn't the move, but certain strategies make this okay. I don't specifically feel the need to support drawing too many actions and just living with it, but Ironworks can let you build that kind of deck.

Another way to look at your strategy is, how do you score points?

- Estate. For people who want the cheapest of Victory cards, Intrigue offers up Baron explicitly and Bridge less so.
- Duchy. Duke provides a reason for Duchies to be your thing.
- Province. The most common strategy, needing no specific support.
- Curse. Torturer and Swindler provide new ways to dole out Curses.
- Special victory cards. The main set just has Gardens; Intrigue has Duke, Great Hall, Harem, and Nobles. Great Hall provides another way to go for fast victory points; Harem and Nobles are stepping stones to Provinces that give you victory points on the way.

And finally: How do you make your deck/turns better, relative to those of your opponents?

- Add good cards. Gaining more than the usual one card per turn helps you drown out your weaker cards. Intrigue has three +1 Buy cards - Bridge, Baron, and one of the tricks Pawn does - plus Ironworks as a Workshop variant.
- Take out bad cards. Those initial Coppers and Estates aren't so hot, and it's usually great to get rid of them. Steward and Masquerade both let you trash cards.
- Improve your cards. Taking out a bad one and adding a good one at the same time. Trading Post and Upgrade do this.
- Draw more cards. You can make do with weaker cards if you draw lots of them. Minion can put you up as many as +4 Cards; Torturer and Nobles give you +3 Cards; Masquerade and Steward give +2 Cards; Courtyard effectively gives +2 Cards; Shanty Town sometimes gives +2 Cards; Wishing Well is sometimes a Laboratory; and Scout and Tribute, who knows.
- Muck with your draw. Skip past the weaker cards to the better ones. Scout can be one way to do this. Courtyard and Secret Chamber let you improve how your cards show up between this turn and next turn.
- Attack! Attacks slow down your opponents. Intrigue has Swindler, Minion, Saboteur, and Torturer, letting you trash opposing cards, put bad cards into opposing decks, and make the other players discard. Masquerade can also sometimes hurt.
- Defend! Avoiding being slowed down is almost like speeding up. There are lots of ways to defend from attacks, but Secret Chamber is a blatant one.
- End the game. At the end of the game, only victory cards matter. While your opponents are building up spiffy engines, you can scrounge up some points and then try to cut the game short. Baron and Coppersmith are examples of cards that let you quickly get some victory cards, while Ironworks, Bridge, and Upgrade are examples of ways to quickly empty stacks.

At this point you might be thinking, what cards in Intrigue don't fall into any of these categories? And the answer is: none of them! Everything is doing its part to make different strategies possible.

The Throne Room Variations

Finally, some Throne Room combos. I wanted to actually talk about some of the specific fun to be had with the cards. At the same time I didn't really want to spoil anything. It's fun to find the combos for yourself. I've compromised by only looking at combos with the card Throne Room. Throne Room gives you some of the most obvious combos, and in some cases some of the most confusing combos. So let's just see what you can get.

Baron: With two Estates in hand, that's $8 right there. Baron can offer you the chance to buy Provinces at earlier points in the game than you're used to - as soon as turn three, off of a Baron / Silver start. Do you actually want a turn three Province? Well, sometimes...

Bridge: This is one of the ones you really want to Throne Room. One of my playtesters had a turn that went, Throne Throne, first Throning Bridge, then Throning Bridge... buy 5 Minions. Minion costs $5. Maybe it's a better story if you know what all these cards do. Anyway Throne Room / Bridge, that's one people really go for.

Conspirator: Throne gets you all the way there. You played Throne Room, that's one action; you play Conspirator, that's a 2nd action; Throne makes you play Conspirator a 2nd time, that's your 3rd action, so you get your +1 Card +1 Action from Conspirator.

Coppersmith: Coppers worth $3 each! Not shabby.

Great Hall: The beauty of this combo is just that it's insurance. You don't want to draw Throne and have nothing to Throne with it. Great Hall helps you reduce the risk of drawing a dead Throne.

Masquerade: The second time Masquerade goes off, everyone just passes the card they got passed the first time. It's certainly fine to be drawing four cards and trashing two things and passing two things, but it doesn't hurt the other players any extra the second time.

Mining Village: This is a confusing one. Mining Village says, you may trash Mining Village, "if you do..." If you Throne a Mining Village, and trash it the first time you play it, you won't manage to trash it the second time. It's trashed already. The "if you do" test fails; you did not. You can Throne it and trash it once, but you can't get $4 from one Mining Village this way.

Minion: Probably you take +$2 for the first one, then get a new hand with the second one and take it from there. There are other options though. Minion is a combo with itself, so Throne / Minion is a fine path to be on. [I corrected this in a reply to the BGN article; obv. you take the new hand first.]

Nobles: This is a strong one. Typically you take +3 Cards the first time, then pick Actions or Cards based on whether or not you have more actions to play.

Pawn: Throning Pawn lets you pick one of everything, and get Market the hard way. I don't really recommend that. Throne the most expensive card you can, that's my advice. Still, you work with what you've got.

Saboteur: Expensive attacks are usually some of the more exciting things to Throne Room. If you can get enough Saboteurs played, you can stop the other players from getting anywhere. Of course that doesn't just happen easily, because, well what fun would that be.

Torturer: No-one wants to get Tortured twice, but when it happens, at least you can gain a Curse the first time, then discard the Curse with something else the second time.

Tribute: This could get you anything from nothing (hitting four Curses), to +8 Cards +4 Coins +4 Actions (Nobles / Harem twice). You may get unlucky and hit duplicates, or hit actions when you can't use them, but this turn is probably going to be pretty impressive.

Throne Room is certainly fine with Courtyard, Ironworks, Shanty Town, Steward, Swindler, Upgrade, and Wishing Well; it's not so hot with Secret Chamber or Trading Post, and can't be used at all on Duke or Harem. It's sometimes good with Scout but often not. That's everything!

So there you go: there's a Dominion expansion out, it has 25 new kingdom cards, they support a variety of strategies, and hey you can Throne Room most of them. I hope this has been informative!

4606
The Bible of Donald X. / Dominion: Seaside Preview
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:41:11 pm »
It's time once again for me to tell you about a Dominion expansion. I totally wrote this in time for it to be a preview, but Jay wanted to wait on articles about the game until it actually came out at Essen, so what we have here is just a view. It has three prominent features.

First, there's What You Get. Probably images of all of the cards will have appeared at BGG by the time you can read this, but still, I will go over what-all is in the box, pointing out some stuff and showing off some cards.

Second, I offer you Anatomy of an Attack. It's just an essay about making Dominion attack cards. I dunno, I felt like an essay about a random Dominion-related game design issue would be a way to fill up space. And it was! I nailed that one.

Third, there's The Throne Room Variations. As usual most of the questions people have are about Throne Room. I have no regrets. I do have answers though. Where there's no confusion, I will just marvel at what you get out of Throning the different cards.

What You Get

Dominion: Seaside has 300 cards, divided into 26 new kingdom cards times 10 or so copies each, their 26 randomizer cards, and some blanks. It does not have Copper, Estate, Curse, etc.; you will need either Dominion or Dominion: Intrigue in order to play with these cards. It also includes playmats used by three of the cards, and counters used by two of the cards. I do not actually know how many counters it is. It's enough counters.

That's 26 cards, where Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue only had 25. There was space, so the set got an extra card. There was actually space to go to 27, but we included a set of blanks instead, so you can make your own card. There had been one extra card that hadn't quite made the set but was well-liked, so it all worked out. There wasn't space for 28, phew.

Seaside has one large functional theme: your next turn. It's the set of the future! A watery future.

The most blatant way the theme occurs is with Duration cards. These are orange-framed cards that do something on your next turn. They sit out in front of you until the end of the last turn they do something. It's not too hard. Most of them, like Wharf, do something on both your current turn and your next turn. Tactician is one that only does something on your next turn. Lighthouse does something over the time interval between the two turns (as well as on both of those turns). Here are some pretty pictures!

[Wharf] [Tactician] [Lighthouse]

There are other ways to break out of the bounds of a single turn. The top of someone's deck is often what they'll draw on their next turn, so several cards involve deck tops, including Treasure Map. Treasury is a card you can replay turn after turn, until you finally need some points. Smugglers reaches into another player's turn and pulls out something tasty.

[Treasure Map] [Treasury] [Smugglers]

Some cards have an effect over time using those tokens and playmats I mentioned. Island sends a card to the far future - the very end of the game! Pirate Ship accumulates its own pile of treasure over multiple uses. Native Village repeatedly builds up piles of cards for you. The three cards have playmats that go together, as you can somewhat tell from the card art.

[Island] [Pirate Ship] [Native Village]

The next-turn theme looms large in the set, but there are cards that don't have anything to do with it. Here are examples of those.

[Salvager] [Cutpurse] [Explorer]

So Seaside has cards, and there are some of them! It has other cards too.

Seaside requires Copper etc., like I said, but if you do have those things, you can play it by itself. I mean you can play with just kingdom cards from Seaside. There are 26, so there's plenty of variety. And the cards take care of all of the basic game functions that you need to make things run smoothly. Of course you can also mix it in with Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue. It's up to you. We won't judge you.

Anatomy of an Attack

There are basically six kinds of attacks in Dominion. And I've only done four of them! Mostly there are four.

The way to see the kinds of attacks is to look at, well, what there is to attack. What is there? There are decks. You can attack those three ways. There are hands. There's really just one way to hurt them. There's what you can do on your turn. And there are scores, separate from cards. So:

1. Give them a card they don't want.
2. Make them lose a card they do want.
3. Put their deck in an order they will not be fond of.
4. Make them discard.
5. Make their turn worse.
6. Lower their score.

All of the attacks so far fall into one or more of the first four categories. Witch is #1, Bureaucrat is #3 and #4, and so on. You can also do things to other players that they do want to happen, but man, that's not attacking.

Let's look at these in more detail.

1. Give them a card they don't want.

For example, Witch and Swindler.

The beauty of Cursing is its simplicity. It takes very little space to say "each other player gains a Curse," leaving lots of room for more stuff that the card can do. You can also potentially give players other cards they don't want, such as Coppers or even Estates, often just as simply.

2. Make them lose a card they do want.

For example, Thief and Saboteur.

This is the hardest kind of attack to make. It has to be that there isn't too much variance in how it hits the other players - no making one player lose a Province while another loses a Copper. It has to be good enough to play - trashing Coppers and Estates is usually not what you're after. It can't generate a ridiculous game state too easily - some of the early cards in this category would by themselves lead to a game where everyone had just 5 cards and could not get ahead. And finally it has to be that the text actually fits on the card. With all of those other conditions to meet, it's tricky.

Ultimately, there usually isn't much room to define these attacks by the extra stuff they do; they often end up defined by how they handle the problems above. And then some people don't like them. My stuff, my precious stuff! So I do these less often than the other attacks.

3. Put their deck in an order they will not be fond of.

For example, Spy and Bureaucrat.

This is kind of like making them discard in advance. It ends up hurting them either next turn or this turn, depending on whether or not they draw some extra cards this turn. As you can see, there are two main ways to do it: either look at what's on top and muck with it, or put something specifically on top.

Spy-type cards tend to be wordy, and reminiscent of Spy. There is more flexibility to the Bureaucrat style of hurtful deck ordering, but still not a lot.

4. Make them discard.

For example, Militia and Bureaucrat.

Just making another player discard a card doesn't work. Discard one card and you don't even feel it. You tend to feel it at two. At discard three cards, so much for your turn. But you can get up to "discard three" if you ever do "discard one" - by playing it three times (or having three people play it once). So the simplest kind of discarding just doesn't work.

Which is why Militia says "discard down to 3." That keeps it right around the magical "feel it" level of pain. Bureaucrat manages a different approach; you can only discard (or in this case, put on your deck) so many victory cards. Sometimes it misses. Bureaucrat would still be scary if it didn't also gain you Silver; that Silver helps keep you from just building a deck that plays Bureaucrat three times every turn, so that the other players are stuck drawing their Estates constantly.

Discard-based attacks don't take much text, so there is a fair amount of variety possible with them, with the non-discarding part. The discarding part itself can't vary so much, but there are a few things you can do there.

5. Make their turn worse.

How can you even do this? The answer lies in Duration cards. Duration cards can do stuff like "until your next turn, each other player can't..." and so forth.

Seaside originally had some attacks like that. In the end it didn't get any. They make Duration cards in general a little harder to understand. Those attacks were turned into similar things that didn't require this trick. I could still do this kind of thing someday, but I wouldn't expect it for a while.

6. Lower their score.

Making each other player lose one point is just like gaining one point yourself. Score-lowering only makes sense if it keys off of something specific to your opponents - for example, each other player loses one point per action card in their deck. That one would be a mess to add up at the end.

Cards like this may be possible, but all of the ones I've tried out so far have died. They fluctuated between being too weak, too strong, and too much work to deal with.

There you have it! Six kinds of attacks, you heard it here. Seaside has the first four:

Ambassador - #1 - Cursing
Cutpurse - #4 - Discarding
Ghost Ship - #3 and #4 - Deck ordering and discarding
Pirate Ship - #2 - Trashing
Sea Hag - #1 and #3 - Cursing and deck ordering

Deck ordering made it into two attacks, as this is after all the next turn expansion.

Embargo is an honorary attack, falling into the fabled category #5, but it punishes you too, at least if you didn't pick carefully.

The Throne Room Variations

Ah, Throne Room. King of cards, or card of kings? It's a card of kings. That was an easy one. Here's what happens when you Throne Room these cards.

Ambassador: You don't have to reveal the same card both times, but why wouldn't you. You also don't need to give up the card you reveal the first (or either) time, which comes up. Reveal the one Curse in your hand. Decline to put it back in the supply, but each other player takes one. Then put it back, and each other player takes one.

Cutpurse: This can be nasty. You get $4 and everyone else discards two Coppers. Anyone who actually has two Coppers is hurting.

Embargo: You can only trash Embargo once, but you get $4 and place two tokens. They don't have to go on the same pile. Throning this can mean you run out of tokens. Just use something else as tokens if that happens. You get your token, that's a guarantee.

Explorer: You can reveal the same Province both times. Surely no-one was going to ask that. Throning Explorer revealing Province, that is getting some groans.

Ghost Ship: The second time, they already have 3 cards in hand (or less), so you just draw 2 more cards.

Island: You set aside the Island and a card from your hand, then set aside another card from your hand. You don't set aside the Throne Room. And you don't want to. So, hooray!

Lighthouse: The defensive part of this can't be doubled, but wouldn't mean anything if it could be. Throning this gets you +2 Actions, +$2 this turn and next, and one round free of attacks.

Outpost: Throning this explicitly doesn't work! It's right on the card. I played a game without that clause and got infinite turns immediately. The clause is there to stop infinite turns, not specifically to stop Throne, but the best way to stop the infinite turns also happened to stop Throne. What can you do.

Native Village: You do the card twice in sequence. Remember you can look at the cards on the mat at any time. So you might first draw the cards, then put another on it; or put another one on it, and after seeing it, either draw them all or put yet another on it. Or you might pick draw them all twice, even though the second time you get nothing. Maybe the first time too, if that's your game.

Navigator: If you liked the cards the first time, they'll still be there the second time. If you didn't though, you get another chance to reject a hand.

Pearl Diver: If you put the bottom card on top the first time, then you draw it the second time, before making a new choice. If you didn't, then it's still there the second time, taunting you.

Pirate Ship: You can mix and match your choices, and don't pick the second time until resolving the first time. So you could steal the first time, then get money; steal both times; well you can work out the rest of the possibilities for yourself.

Sea Hag: This doesn't have an anti-Throne clause, so much as an anti-abuse clause. The first thing they do is, they each discard the top card of their deck. That may seem like part of the attack, but really it's there so that they don't end up with three Curses on top if three people in a row play Sea Hags. So anyway, if you Throne it, they toss the top card, put Curse on top, toss that Curse, and put another Curse on top. They may still end up with more than one Curse on top, but that won't be this turn's Sea Hag's fault.

Smugglers: This is just cool because you get more of it than they did. They buy Gold, you Throne Smugglers and get two Golds!

Tactician: This is another one that you just can't (usefully) Throne. In this case it was specifically to stop you from Throning it! Throning Tactician was just ridiculous. That had to go away to keep the card, which is good times otherwise.

Treasure Map: Throning this does not work like you want. If you have another Treasure Map in hand, you trash them both and get the money (like you would have if you didn't play the Throne). Then if you have yet another Treasure Map in hand, you trash that one but get nothing. You never trash the Throne. It's not a Treasure Map. If you just have one Treasure Map and Throne it, you trash that Treasure Map and get nothing whatsoever. It's a two-piece map, there's no getting around it.

Treasury: Throning this gets you +2 of each of those things. The put-it-on-your-deck part isn't doubled; it's not something the card does when played. Throne doesn't go on your deck either.

There is really nothing to be said about Throning Bazaar. If you Throne a Haven, Lookout, Salvager, or Warehouse, you just do the card, then do it again. It's not tricky. If you Throne a Duration card, leave out the Throne with the Duration card; it's tracking the fact that you doubled the Duration card. Other than that, there's nothing much to say about Throning Caravan, Fishing Village, Merchant Ship, or Wharf. They're certainly fine to Throne.

That's all we have time for! Join me next expansion, when I will say a bunch of stuff and then have to figure out an ending paragraph.

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The Bible of Donald X. / Seaside Flavor Paragraph in Progress
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:37:26 pm »
[For no good reason, here are my notes as I wrote the flavor paragraph for Seaside.]

You finally got some of those rivers you'd wanted, and they led to the sea. These are dangerous, pirate-infested waters, and you cautiously send rat-infested ships across them, to establish lucrative trade at far-off merchant-infested ports. Then you will conquer those ports, and have their rivers too, for that is your way. The sea is a harsh mistress, but a good cook, at least if you like lots of salt.

You finally got some of those rivers you'd wanted, and they led to the sea. The sea is a harsh mistress, but a good cook, at least if you like everything really salty. These are dangerous, pirate-infested waters, and you cautiously send rat-infested ships across them, to establish lucrative trade at far-off merchant-infested ports. Then you will conquer those ports, and have their rivers too, for that is your way. There will be the usual competition of course - other monarchs who have followed rivers of their own, probably the wrong direction. Why can't they go conquer some tundras or something - why do they always want the good stuff? Well you will be ready for them.

You can probably buy out some of these pirates, not to mention the merchants. And your food? You like it extra salty.

something something you will conquer them all hooray

usual enemies, why can't they be bothering another expansion

All you ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by. And someone who knows how to steer ships using stars. Probably a whole crew, come to think of it. You've got room for them, vertically anyway.

Salty, like the salty tears of your enemies.

You will stay in these waters until your skin is wrinkled, like the wrinkled skin of your enemies.

You've got your sea-legs, and are working on your sea-arms. When you have them, you will sea-conquer the region, and build a sea-palace on a conquering-infested island.

No man is an island (they're women).

The sea is your friend. It will carry you until you drown. Islands start out friendly, but eventually turn on you, especially atolls.

There are cannibals on these islands - or there will be, after they find out how delicious your homemade brain pie is.

You've rounded up some old salty dogs, plus a sourpuss and a bitter goldfish.

They say a haunted ship prowls these waters - and sometimes it lands, and there's a haunted beach party.

There's treasure on these islands. You're sure of it. You already have an old treasure map, which is bound to be worth something to a treasure map collector.

The natives seem friendly enough, crying their peace cries, and giving you spears and poison darts before you are even close enough to accept them properly.

All you ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by. And someone who knows how to steer ships using stars. For you finally got some of those rivers you'd wanted, and they led to the sea. The sea is a harsh mistress, but a good cook, at least if you like everything really salty. These are dangerous, pirate-infested waters, and you cautiously send rat-infested ships across them, to establish lucrative trade at far-off merchant-infested ports. Then you will conquer those ports, and have their rivers too, for that is your way. There will be the usual competition, of course - other monarchs who have followed rivers of their own, probably the wrong direction. Well, you will be ready for them. You've got your sea-legs, and are working on your sea-arms. When you have them, you will sea-conquer the region, and build a sea-palace on a conquering-infested island.

All you ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by. And someone who knows how to steer ships using stars. You finally got some of those rivers you'd wanted, and they led to the sea. The sea is a harsh mistress, but a good cook, at least if you like everything really salty. These are dangerous, pirate-infested waters, and you cautiously send rat-infested ships across them, to establish lucrative trade at far-off merchant-infested ports. First you will take over some islands, as a foothold. The natives seem friendly enough, crying their peace cries, and giving you spears and poison darts before you are even close enough to accept them properly. Then you will conquer those ports, and from there you will look for more rivers. For that is your way.

There will be the usual competition, of course - other monarchs who have followed rivers of their own, probably the wrong direction. Well, you will be ready for them. You've got your sea-legs, and are working on your sea-arms. When you have them, you will sea-conquer the region, and build a sea-palace on a conquering-infested island.

for what is the sea, but a really wide river?

All you ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by. And someone who knows how to steer ships using stars. You finally got some of those rivers you'd wanted, and they led to the sea. These are dangerous, pirate-infested waters, and you cautiously send rat-infested ships across them, to establish lucrative trade at far-off merchant-infested ports. First you will take over some islands, as a foothold. The natives seem friendly enough, crying their peace cries, and giving you spears and poison darts before you are even close enough to accept them properly. Then you will conquer those ports, and from there you will look for more rivers. For that is your way.

4608
The Bible of Donald X. / Re: Dominion: Prosperity Preview
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:25:27 pm »
Combo Corner

Well that was a bunch of words that weren't really about Prosperity. Better get back to Prosperity for the finale here. I'm going to talk about some random specific cool card interactions. To avoid spoiling too much, I will only talk about the kingdom cards that cost $6 or more. That can't be too many, right?

Bank: The first thing to do with Bank is just buy it. It will usually be worth at least $3, and when it isn't you weren't getting anything good anyway. The second thing to do is to draw cards. More cards means more treasures means a richer Bank. The third thing is to specifically seek out additional treasures. Venture plays another treasure from your deck, so it's two treasures in one; Counting House gives you a big pile of Coppers all at once. The fourth thing is to have a +Buy to go with your ridiculous mound of treasure.

Expand: Okay. Chapel your deck down to just 5 cards - King's Court, Expand, the Chapel, and two cards that don't matter. Every turn, King's Court the Expand, pushing the other three cards up the ladder of success. When they're all Colonies, just turn Colonies into Colonies until the pile runs out. Of course if there are only 1-2 Colonies left, you have to just Expand one, since King's Court would make you lose a Colony. Well you aren't building that deck too often. Normally Expand is just a sweet way to replace garbage with effective cards, or to get Provinces and Colonies later in the game. It's sad when you Expand a treasure to a treasure, since Mine would have done the same thing only put the new treasure in your hand. Mine doesn't turn Province into Colony though, so there you go.

Forge: You can tell when someone draws Forge. They start staring intently at their cards and moving their lips. Figuring out what to trash is an NP-complete problem - all you can do is consider every possibility. Forge is good if you get it early, since you can use it as a Chapel that gains you stuff. Later on you will be trying to get up to Platinum or Colony with it somehow. It pays to pay attention to the costs of the cards you're buying. To get a Forge early, use a Quarry; then Forge it away later.

Goons: Since any card you buy gives you +1 VP, you will want more ways to buy cards. Worker's Village is handy, since it doesn't use up an action, and can let you play multiple Goons. Multiple Goons is the dream - with two Goons in play, each card you buy gets you +2 VP, and you've got at least +2 Buys. Since you only have so much money, you will end up buying Coppers. You can trash them immediately with Watchtower to keep your deck sleek and effective (this also lets you buy Curses, which everyone loves to do). You can also make use of the Coppers, such as with Counting House or Gardens. A couple cards in Prosperity let the other players do useful things with their cards - Bishop lets them trash a card, Vault lets them discard two cards to draw a card. It's harder to do those useful things if you've discarded down to 3 first. This isn't so much a combo you put in your own deck - since you need a Village to get both cards played in the same turn - but it's a fine thing to go for when someone else buys the other piece. Then everyone can complain about the seating order. What can I say, some people like complaining, and Goons is there for them.

Grand Market: This card presents you with a puzzle: how do you get it? Sure you can trash all of your Coppers. That's not always possible though. Vault provides a direct route - play Vault, discard everything, you've got $6 and no Coppers in play. You can also use cards like Expand and Forge to get one. Of course the first one helps you get more. Once you've got some, you want a small deck, so you see them more often.

Hoard: The big question with Hoard is, when is it okay to buy weaker VP cards in order to get the Gold? Like, your deck gains an Estate and a Gold. Is that good? Well this is Combo Corner and that's just one card, so you'll have to figure that out for yourself. It's definitely worth it if you have multiple Hoards out though. You will eventually see someone play a Worker's Village and two Hoards and buy two Estates, gaining four Golds. Victory cards that do something (Great Hall etc.) are especially nice. Add a Royal Seal or Watchtower and you can put the Gold right on your deck for next turn.

King's Court: There are actually cards that aren't ridiculous combos with King's Court. Counting House for example - you can only get all of the Coppers from your discard pile so many times. Mostly, King's Court something and you're on top of the world. King's Court + Mountebank means +$6 and everyone else gains six cards they don't want. That's a good one to start with. King's Court + Possession is good if you've got a 5-hour game coming up after this and want to make sure your opponent will be a good sport and stay in for the duration, no matter how badly things go for them.

Peddler: The ideal price for Peddler is $0. You just need to play four chaining actions and you're there. You will probably have some money though - maybe you can even buy a better card. What you want is +buys, since every +buy is another free Peddler. Worker's Village is perfect for this, being a chaining action that gives you a +buy. Grand Market is not shabby either. Once you have a mound of Peddlers, besides just playing them over and over, you can Remodel or Upgrade or Expand or Bishop or Apprentice or what have you them and get Provinces and Platinums and Colonies and VP tokens and cards and what have you.

And That's That

Prosperity will be in stores soon, and then all that will be left will be playing it. For now though, I give you these pages of text! I will be back with more pages of text the next time we find ourselves in this situation.

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The Bible of Donald X. / Dominion: Prosperity Preview
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:25:09 pm »
Well some people have the set from GenCon but not everyone can get it yet, so it's time once again for a Dominion expansion preview.

What You Get

Dominion: Prosperity has 300 cards: 12 Colonies and 12 Platinum, 10 copies each of 25 Kingdom cards, 25 randomizers, and one blank. It also has some VP tokens and Coin tokens, with corresponding mats. There are several prominent themes. Let's see now...

Colony and Platinum are new basic cards. You use them at the same rate you use Prosperity cards - if half of your cards are from Prosperity, you use Colony and Platinum in half of your games. They don't take up any of the 10 Kingdom cards slots - they are additional piles sitting next to Province and Gold. They change the end condition - the game also ends if the Colonies run out (plus if Provinces run out or 3 piles are empty, as normal).

[Colony, Platinum]

Backing up Colony and Platinum are some expensive actions. There are three $6's and four $7's in the set (plus an $8, but that's a trick, you usually will pay less for it). So you don't just build up your money past Gold, you also build up your actions past their normal level.

[Expand, Forge]
[King's Court, Peddler]

There are eight special treasures in the set (not counting Platinum). Eight! Some of them do something when you play them; others do something while they're in play.

[Quarry, Royal Seal]
[Hoard, Bank]

Three cards involve VP tokens. These give you ways to score points without victory cards. Well you will still buy victory cards. But you know. Monument is a vanilla card that gives you +$2 and a VP token; Bishop lets you trash cards for VP tokens; Goons gives you a VP token with each card you buy.

[Bishop, Goons]

The game needs interactive cards to uh keep it interactive. Attacks slow the game down though, and make it harder to get Colonies. There are still attacks in the set, but only three; they are supplemented by five cards that create interaction without attacking (plus one reaction, but I don't count those). Bishop and Vault let the other players do something; Trade Route and City care about which piles have been bought from or are empty, which is something everyone contributes to; Contraband gives a decision to another player.

[Trade Route, City]
[Contraband, Vault]

Some cards in the set care about treasures, special or not. Counting House makes you want Copper, Grand Market makes you not want it, and Mountebank hands out Copper. Hoard gets you Gold with your victory cards. Mint copies a treasure; Venture digs for one to play, while Loan digs for one to trash.

[Counting House, Grand Market]
[Mint, Venture]

Your Guide to Beating Attacks

Now as usual I have an essay on a random Dominion-related topic. This one is about how to beat attacks. It's a strategy essay! There are probably more design issues to write essays about, but someone at BGG was just asking how to fight Saboteur, and man, sounds like an easy way to fill some space. So here goes.

Some people play with Moat in every game. Gotta have some defense! Is what they're thinking. Otherwise, what do you do about attacks? Well there's a ton you can do. Moat usually isn't even the best option. It's an option though. I better mention it. You can Moat attacks! And Lighthouse them. And sometimes Secret Chamber them or Watchtower them.

Now let's consider every attack.

1. Attacks that make you discard

Militia, Goons, Cutpurse, and Minion all put you down cards in hand. Your turn ends up not playing out as well as you thought it was going to.

The first thing is, a few cards draw you up to a particular hand size - Library to seven, Watchtower to six. These can make you actually happy that the attack was played against you - you tossed your worst cards and got well perhaps better ones.

These attacks make you need to have good hands consisting of not many cards. One approach is to have good cards and weak cards but not cards that are in-between. A hand of five silvers turns into a hand of three silvers when they play Militia, but a hand of two Golds a Silver and two Duchies keeps the cash and still buys Province. Well it's easier said than done to get those Golds in the face of Militias beating down on you, but it's a plan.

Getting the good cards may be work, but it's easy getting the bad ones. Strategies that involve having lots of junk in your deck, i.e. Gardens, are fine vs. Militias.

Another thing is, sometimes playing a single action can be enough to have a decent turn. Workshop a Gardens, buy a Copper, that's good enough. Expand is another good example, for the late game at least.

Minion is a special case in that it's essentially a random discard. You're just as likely to toss good cards as bad ones. Secret Chamber can send cards down the line for you, though you have to guess which way they'll use the Minion. Cutpurse is also special, since it only hits Copper. You can fight it by trashing your Coppers.

What you don't want vs. these attacks is well cards that get worse with a smaller hand. You probably just discard that Cellar when they Militia you; it's not doing much. Cards that require a combo, like Remodel, are worse early on - a turn of "Remodel an Estate, buy Silver" becomes "Remodel Estate, done." Even Chapel gets weaker vs. Militia.

2. Attacks that trash your cards

Thief, Pirate Ship, and Saboteur all trash your cards. Your precious cards!

The first thing you can do is, you can gain cards - Ironworks, Talisman, etc. You break even vs. just one other player; with multiple people trashing your cards, it may not be enough. When multiple people are trashing cards though, they are sometimes trashing the cards that trash cards, so gaining extra cards can still be good. +Buys are another way to gain extra cards, but since you also have to have that extra money, they don't typically work fast enough.

Thief and Pirate Ship only trash treasures, so the easy out there is to do without 'em. There will often be an action out that makes money, and that will do. If Thief isn't being played too often, you can sometimes just ignore it. It will steal some good cards from you eventually; oh well, they are down money in hand the turn they play Thief and you have no such burden. It's not so bad. If lots of Thieves are being played though, you can just run out of cash. In the unusual situations where you can't make up the difference in actions, you'll want to fall back on gaining extra cards, even with +Buys. Also, end the game before they can get the upper hand this way.

Now when Thief hits Copper, you're glad and they aren't and that's that. When Pirate Ship hits Copper though, everyone's happy. You don't want the Copper and they want the token. You don't want them to get the token. In a two player game, trashing your Coppers first can help here. With more players, you probably can't get everyone to slow down the Pirate Ship enough. Instead, just coast to victory by building your own efficient Copper-free deck, courtesy of them stealing those Coppers for you. Pirate Ship can cause some groups problems, I think because it's an answer to itself - Pirate Ship makes you want an action that makes money, and hey Pirate Ship is one of those. So everyone plays Pirate Ships and Pirate Ship seems unbeatable. It is so beatable though. Trashing your Coppers is normally something you give up several turns to do; having it done for you leaves you in fine shape. And you don't even have to do without money - eventually the Pirate Ships will stop attacking. You can even feed Pirate Ships by gaining Silver - say, with Explorer - and it can all work out.

Saboteur is the anti-Remodel - it turns a card into a worse one. One general approach to fighting it is to spend all of your money each turn. Normally when you have $6, it may be a decision as to whether to buy Gold or some strong action for $5. Get the Gold! And when you have $8, get that Province, don't wait. You want the more expensive cards because they devolve into better cards. It takes multiple hits to wipe expensive cards clean out of your deck, so it's no trouble staying ahead with card-gainers. You can even fight it with Remodel. When they do trash a Province late in the game, take a Duchy, you'll be sorry if you don't. Peddler provides a unique defense against Saboteur; you probably paid from $0-$4 for it, but you get something for $6 when it gets hit. Cards that are mostly just good in the early game, like Moneylender, are nice in that Saboteur will clear them away for you.

Deck-thinning cards get worse when your stuff is being trashed. You only have so much stuff. How much you care really depends on how much attacking is going on though. Deck-thinning is of course fine vs. Saboteur, since it was just skipping past those Coppers and Estates anyway.

3. Attacks that give you junk

Witch, Ambassador, Familiar, and Mountebank all directly give you Curses or other junk. Your turns become bad and you sit there trying to claw your way up to Duchies.

The first thing you think is, how about trashing those Curses? This is almost a sucker bet. It can be okay, depending on what it's costing you on those turns. Ambassador is a great way to get rid of a Curse. Steward, for example, not so great. You spend your turn just trashing junk, and they spend their turn giving you more junk and also buying something. I mean if you bought Steward for some other reason and then draw it with two Curses, man, why not trash them. Just don't make it your game plan.

Some cards let you just deal with having a bad deck. Vault lets you toss those Curses for $1 each; in fact a hand with Vault and four random cards will get you at least $6.

A few cards reward you for having junk. A Gardens deck wants as much junk as it can get, and is already expecting lots of cash-poor hands; it's not like you want to buy Curses for it, but it's not so bad getting handed them. Counting House puts any Coppers you got from Mountebank or Ambassador to good use.

And of course you want to set your sights lower. You may simply not be able to get to Province this game (let alone Colony). And hey that Witch is already running out the Curse pile; run out the Duchies and there's just one more empty pile needed to end the game.

Since Curses are limited, you can fight fire with fire. Every Curse I give you is a Curse you aren't giving me. This is more relevant when fewer people buy the Witches.

And finally, Witches are the attacks that most reward you for actually going for Moats. The attack is pretty significant in how much it hurts you, and if you are actually leaving the Curse in the pile (rather than trashing it with Watchtower), that's a Curse someone else may end up getting.

Card-drawing gets a lot worse in the land of Witches. Except for things that skip past those Curses, like Adventurer. Villages also get worse, since you don't draw your actions and Villages together as often. What, all combos get worse.

4. Attacks that muck with your deck order

Man these don't sound too scary. Spy, Scrying Pool, Rabble, and Bureaucrat do this.

The main effect of a Spy is to make your top card weak. It also may make your good cards go by. That's annoying but people tend to overrate how much that hurts them. Anyway there's not much you can do about that. You can get through your deck faster, such as with Chancellor.

The basic defense is to change the top of your deck yourself, without drawing that top card. Spy doesn't fight Spy, because you draw that weak card they left for you. Well you might see their Spy and make them discard it. But you know. However there are ways to just get rid of that top card. Venture, Loan, and Adventurer dig for treasures, meaning any victory card left on top just goes by. Chancellor flips your deck, getting rid of even a multiple-card pile-up, such as from Rabble or multiple Bureaucrats. Golem digs for actions. Scrying Pool has you Spy before drawing, so it does actually fight itself and Spy. Lookout trashes cards directly from the top of your deck, or flips them over. Scout draws the victory cards from the top four, although you need another piece to that combo to make that worthwhile.

Spies prey on the tendency of decks to have both weak cards and strong cards. If your deck is more medium, that's a defense of sorts. You are going to have victory cards in the long run, but in the short run you can trash your junk in order to weaken Spies, especially Rabble and Bureaucrat. You can also play one of those Gardens decks you hear so much about; they leave a Gardens on top and well whatever, your hand wasn't going to be good anyway.

Sometimes you will be able to draw your whole deck on most of your turns. In those cases you are not too hurt by the top card being a victory card, or by seeing your good cards get flipped over. You're drawing them anyway.

I included Bureaucrat in this category even though it's also discard-based. The discard part just isn't that relevant normally. Sure it makes Cellars worse. You can fight it with Library or Watchtower, although it's not like you're so thrilled to draw those victory cards again.

These attacks are on the weak side (the attack part I mean), so you won't always feel obligated to put up much of a fight. You'll just do whatever you were doing. Still, every little bit counts. Maybe you were eyeing that Venture already; now you definitely get it.

Chaining actions are especially hurt by Spies. That Village that was at least getting you the next card down, now gets you an Estate they left for you. You would have been better off with Silver.

5. Combination attacks

Fighting one attack is usually straightforward. Fighting multiple attacks is a lot harder. What if they're playing both Thief and Witch? Man. It's a tough spot. So naturally some attacks are packages of two different kinds of attacks. Let's see you get out of this one.

Swindler is a trasher and a junker. It turns a card into a worse one at the same cost. Some games there's only one card at a particular cost - especially, only Gold at $6 or only Province at $8 - so those cards become more desirable. Cards from Alchemy with potion in the cost often fall into this category. The junk you are getting isn't all cheap, so cards in the Remodel / Salvager families are good defenses. They turn your $5 into a Duchy; you Bishop it away. Peddler is a ridiculous defense if the Peddler pile sells out; they have to give you a Province.

Sea Hag is a junker and a mucker. That Curse goes on your deck, ready to be drawn. Lookout is a special-case solution; otherwise, just use a mix of anti-Witch and anti-Spy tactics, heavy on the anti-Witch.

Torturer either makes you discard or gives you a Curse in hand. The fact that the Curse goes to your hand makes it easier than usual to fight with ways to trash Curses. With Trading Post in hand, you could actually be happy to get that Curse to trash. The big thing though is, since the choice is yours, you can fight the side of Torturer you'd rather fight. If Torturer gets played a lot then okay, you can't just discard to nothing, you're gonna have to fight the Curses. But you know, sometimes there's just one here and there.

Ghost Ship is a discard mucker. So was Bureaucrat, but again, that only made you discard stuff that's usually dead anyway. Ghost Ship gets rid of whatever. The fun way to fight Ghost Ship is with combos. Cards like Throne Room and Treasure Map are no good without a partner, but if you get Ghost Ship'd and don't have the combo, just save the combo card for next turn. If you do have the combo, keep it. Since you'll be putting bad cards on top a lot, anti-Spy cards are good here.

6. Attacks, any attacks at all

However you're getting attacked, you want to fight it from turn one. Sometimes there's that guy in your group who always attacks if it's at all possible; sometimes you just know, you are dealing with some Goons fans, or whatever it is. Sometimes you don't really know of course. But as soon as you can, get to beating that deck.

Attacks slow the game down, while also making 3-pile endings more common. Don't be the last one to sigh and go for Duchies. Get in there.

Attacks can fight attacks. Muckers like Spy can flip over attacks, stopping you from getting hit by them as often. Card trashers like Saboteur and Swindler will sometimes get to trash attacks. Junkers like Mountebank slow down the pace of opposing attacks, as they have to wade through the Curses and Coppers to draw their attacks. And discard-based attacks can slow down the attacks that don't produce immediate resources - such as Sea Hag, Thief, and Saboteur - since if they hold onto the attack, they now only have two cards left to actually buy stuff with.

Sometimes, the guy with the attacks is just not going to beat you. You know. He went heavy into Thieves and it's a bad board for it; so much for him. If it's a two player game, that's that; if it isn't, there are still those other guys. Fighting the attacks better than they do may make all the difference.

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The Bible of Donald X. / Dominion: Alchemy Preview
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:12:11 pm »
The Inevitable Dominion: Alchemy Preview

The new Dominion expansion, Alchemy, has been out for a few days now, which means it's high time for another one of my "previews." What's in Alchemy, anyway? What do the cards look like? What can you do with them? Are these rhetorical questions? All this and more, coming up!

What You Get

Alchemy has 150 cards. It's half the size of a "normal" Dominion expansion. Those 150 cards break down into 12 kingdom cards and one "basic" card.

The "basic" card is Potion! It's part of the supply in games using Alchemy cards. It's a new resource. It's a treasure, but instead of making money, it makes a potion symbol. Ten cards in the set have that symbol in their costs, and to buy one of them, you need a Potion, plus whatever money they cost. The rulebook covers cases like, how does Remodel work with these cards, etc. It all works pretty much like you'd expect. A Potion is like money, but doesn't combine with other money. It's worth a Potion.

[Potion]

Some cards in the set care about Potions. Alchemist comes back next turn if you have a Potion; Apothecary draws Potions (and Coppers) for you. Other cards don't mention Potions, but do useful things with them. Herbalist lets you reuse one of this turn's treasures next turn; Apprentice lets you trash a card to draw cards based on its cost, which is handy with a Potion you no longer want.

[Alchemist, Apothecary, Apprentice]

The set has a sub-theme of "cards that care about Action cards." Vineyard is a victory card that counts Action cards in your deck. Golem plays the next two Actions from your deck (other than Golems). University gains you an Action, and provides +2 Actions for playing all the Actions you end up with. Scrying Pool draws you all of the Actions from the top of your deck

[Vineyard, Golem, University]

If there's just one card out with Potion in the cost, is it worth buying a Potion in order to get that card? It oughta be. So, the cards with Potion in the cost are almost all useful in multiples. Apothecary, Scrying Pool, University, Alchemist, and Familiar all provide +1 Action or more. Golem plays other Actions from your deck, which can end up giving you +1 Action. Vineyard is a victory card, and Philosopher's Stone is a treasure - both useful in multiples. That just leaves Transmute, which can at least turn unplayable Action cards into Duchies, and Possession, which costs so much that you won't typically be able to buy more copies than you want.

[Scrying Pool, Familiar, Possession]

How to Play With this Expansion

As usual, the choice of kingdom cards to use is yours. You can use whatever method to pick out 10 cards, and whatever method to pick out that method. It's methods all the way down! And they're all yours.

However, since multiple cards in Alchemy cost this new resource, Potion, some people prefer to see more than one Alchemy card on the table at once. So that you have a choice of what to buy when you draw your Potion. And some of those people are used to just dealing out 10 random cards to play with.

For those people, here's a method you can use. Deal out 8 cards at random. Then, if any of those cards are from Alchemy, dig through the randomizer deck for two more cards from Alchemy. If none of those 8 are from Alchemy, dig for two cards that aren't from Alchemy. Either way, put the cards you went past back on top of the randomizer deck. This way, in the long run, you will see each card just as often as you would have otherwise. The Alchemy cards will just end up clumped together.

There are other ways to achieve this. Or you can just always deal out 3 cards from Alchemy when you're using it, and 7 from your normal randomizer. Or you can just deal out 10 random cards, and live with sometimes having just one card with a Potion in the cost. It's not so bad. But if you wanted a method for using a randomizer deck, there's one.

Your Guide to Costs in Dominion

To pad this sucker out some, here is a short essay about a random Dominion-related topic. I have chosen the cost system, since Alchemy mucks with it.

People sometimes try to make a tidy formula for calculating how much the +'s in Dominion are worth. They assign values to +1 Card etc., to try to get them to add up correctly for the existing cards. It doesn't work. The costs in Dominion aren't linear. The abilities aren't linear either! +1 Action is better if it comes with +1 Card; +2 Buys isn't twice as good as +1 Buy. And so on.

A big thing is, you start out with 7 Coppers and 3 Estates. That seriously distorts the low costs. Your deck can make $3 consistently right out of the gates, and it makes $4 plenty. Then, as you buy more cards for your deck, each card has less and less of an effect on your draws - since your deck is larger! At the same time you are buying better cards, but it isn't quite enough; building up from $7 to $8 is generally harder than building up from $4 to $5.

Here is a general guide to the base costs:

$2: Since your deck starts out already making more than $2, these cards struggle to be good enough. Often they really have to be worth $3. Otherwise you're just so rarely buying them. Mainly you buy a $2 when 1) you get $2 on turn one or two and the $2 at least isn't going to hurt your deck, 2) you get a victory-card heavy draw late in the game and the $2 is useful then, 3) you're choking on Curses, 4) you have an extra buy and can get the $2 with something else, and 5) the $2 is really worth $3. Often the main thing I go after with a $2 is, I at least want you to be able to buy it with a 5/2 opening without regretting it.

$3: These cards are squarely up against Silver. Silver is a good buy, and not a "terminal action" either. A terminal action is one that doesn't give you +1 Action. The problem with a terminal action for $3 is, you could be using up your action on something costing more instead, which would be more powerful. Sometimes your strategy doesn't involve an expensive terminal action, so you can go ahead and take a few cheap terminal actions. Other times you can live with having extra terminal actions, and other times you are just not buying a lot of $3's. Unless of course they aren't terminal! If they give you +1 Action then it's a whole different story. You may just snatch up some of those.

$4: These cards are also squarely up against Silver! $4 is just not that much more than $3. You most often start the game with either 3/4 or 4/3 hands; you are buying a $4 right away. A main distinction for $4's is, you can't buy two of them on turns 1 & 2. Some cards are too strong if you can buy two immediately, so those may end up at $4 rather than $3. Some simple cards are at $3 so that I can make variations at $4; if Village cost $4, Village-with-a-bonus would have to cost $5, and that's a lot more. But with Village at $3, I can make Village-with-a-bonus at $4 and it all works out.

$5: These tend to drive your strategy. They make the biggest difference between actions and treasure; you can get Silver at $3 and Gold at $6, and you can only afford to have so many terminal actions, so you probably buy Silver at $4 some too. At $5 then you have actions that really do stuff for you, with very little competition from Silver. $5's get to be a lot more powerful than $4's. And if you have a game that's missing a particular cost, this is the one you really don't want to be missing. Ideally there are multiple choices at $5.

$6: It's hard to compete with Gold, and you don't just get $6 immediately too often. People will snatch up a $6 if it's a good one, but still, I don't do that many cards at this cost. The main set had one, Intrigue had two, Seaside didn't have any. They don't do as much to promote different strategies as the other costs, and they get played in fewer games. The cost isn't a complete dud - it can be cool to have something at $6 sometimes. It's just not a significant factor in the game.

I haven't done cards costing less than $2, except for Copper and Curse. Originally this was because of things like Bridge - I didn't want it to be too easy to empty a pile. And if a card costs $0, you can just take it with any +Buy, so probably it's going to be pretty weak. But really, $2 itself is already pretty low-end. There's no point to having cheaper cards. Often a card costing $1 would actually be worse than the same card costing $2 - you wouldn't be paying $1 for it, and it's worse with Remodels. Anyway a card costing $0-$1 isn't out of the question, especially when you consider weird additional costs. It's not really on the menu though.

Some people think I should never do a card costing $7. They think that hole is doing so much for the game. When actually, if there's a card costing $7, then in almost all games there still is no card costing $7. Whatever that hole is doing for the game, it's still doing, almost always. And then whatever you get from having a $7, you get to have that too, in those games where that card is out. Anyway a $7 here and there is just not causing a hole-filling problem. Instead the problem with $7 is that this is an engine-building game, and that engine normally tops out at buying Provinces. Province costs $8. If you aren't building a deck designed to buy multiple Provinces in one turn, a $7 is going to usually be overkill. You would buy one if you got $7 early enough, but later on you'll look sadly at the expensive action and then buy your Duchy. Hence, no $7's. And no $8's either. To compete with Province - as Possession does - you have to offer up a Province plus extra.

Alchemy mucks with this arrangement by adding in Potions. It's tempting, like with those people trying to figure out what +1 Action is worth, to try to assign a $ value to having a Potion in a card's cost. You can't though. It's not linear! And this is especially obvious with Potions. Transmute and Apothecary are pretty close in cost, barring +Buys; Apothecary and Golem aren't. Gardens was originally in Alchemy, way back when, with Vineyard in the main set. When they were switched, Gardens cost a Potion - no $ - and Vineyard cost $4. But that doesn't mean that Golem is roughly worth $8. Potion doesn't really have a $ equivalent, but is worth more on cheaper cards.

Fun With Potions

Normally at this point I'd be talking about what Throne Room does with all of these cards. Man, everyone has figured Throne Room out by now, right? You do the thing twice. So instead I'm just going to say whatever nonsense pops into my head about some of the cards.

Alchemist: The obvious combo is Herbalist. Put your Alchemists on your deck via having a Potion; then put the Potion on your deck via Herbalist. Nothing puts the Herbalist on your deck though. I don't know what to tell you there. There are other ways to try to make sure you've got a Potion handy of course. You can look around in your Cellars for a Potion. You can trash things with an Apprentice, madly looking for Potions. And of course you can just buy a bunch of Potions.

Apothecary: There are a bunch of cute tricks you can do with Apothecaries, but one of the simplest combos is just another Apothecary. The first Apothecary gets some Coppers and maybe a Potion into your hand, and lets you reorder the other cards you looked at. Then the second Apothecary draws you the card you wanted that you put back (and who knows, maybe more Coppers).

Apprentice: I know what you're thinking. Not now, in a second. You're thinking, someday, I will trash a Province with that, and draw eight cards. You will, too. And if trashing a Province with it can be good, trashing anything can be good. They especially like to feed on each other.

Familiar: It's free (it gives you back the card and action it cost you), it hands out Curses, what's not to like. When the Curses run out, it essentially vanishes from your deck; move along, Familiar, your work here is done. Free attacks can be scary things and well it does cost a Potion.

Golem: Golem is insane. Fortunately it's expensive and you have to set it up. You worry more about what exactly is in your deck when any of it may leap out at you when you play a Golem. The fun thing of course is to have to play a card-trasher you may not want to, such as an Apprentice. Something's going down. Another thing about Golems is, you can get combos. Sometimes there's some combo between two action cards that you'd like to see. Only you need to draw a Village and both cards together and well it doesn't just happen. With Golem, it just happens.

Herbalist: To some eyes, this is the only card in the set having nothing to do with Potions. Ten cards have the potion symbol in the cost; Apprentice cares about potion symbols in costs; and Potion is potion. What's up with Herbalist? As it happens Herbalist is in the set specifically for how it interacts with Potions! A cheap +buy is a handy thing when you're trying to buy cards with the potion symbol in the cost. And then it puts a treasure back on your deck. A treasure like... Potion? That's right. Of course you already knew that from the bit about Alchemist.

Philosopher's Stone: This one is tricky. You want to draw through your deck in order to play it more often. But when you play out that line of Villages and Smithies, suddenly your cards aren't in your deck anymore, and Philosopher's Stone doesn't make you any money. You want ways to draw it more often that don't actually put cards into play or your hand. That sends you into the realm of underappreciated cards like Chancellor and Navigator. Or hey, Herbalist.

Possession: The most common question is, if you Possess someone and make them play Possession, who controls that turn? They do. Possession isn't an attack, but can feel like one, and sometimes you'll try to defend against it. One obvious thing to do is to buy attacks. Not attacks that gain you cards - hurty attacks. If you Possess me and I've got Witch in my hand, do you play it? Either way, that hand was better for me (had I gotten to play it) than it was for you. You are not getting full value from that Possession. Another trick is to go for special victory cards like Gardens. In a typical Gardens deck, my hand is full of Coppers and victory cards. I'm just trying to get to $4. If you Possess me and I do have $4 this turn, the best you can do is take a Gardens away from me. You built a deck that can make $6 plus a potion; you're going for Provinces. Once again my hands are better for me than for you.

Scrying Pool: Here's another way to draw 8 cards. The massive card-drawing this can do for you does not just happen by itself. There are actions to acquire, Coppers to trash. If you look closely, you will see that the vision in the pool is of a Village.

Transmute: Yes, if you Transmute a Great Hall, you get both a Duchy and a Gold. And a Curse doesn't turn into anything. At least you get rid of it.

University: When your University is gaining you Markets, it's a business school! When it gets you Festivals, it's clown college! When it's getting you Torturers, that's one badass university. If you have other Alchemy cards out then it will often teach new Apprentices. Yes all I really have to comment on here is the flavor. Gain actions, then play them, what's not to like. It's important that University can't gain itself, or you would see piles empty so fast.

Vineyard: The obvious card to compare this to is Gardens. There are a lot of differences though. The cards that make each one good are completely different. Gardens wants Coppers, Estates, and other copies of Gardens. Vineyard doesn't like any of those, or even other Vineyards. It wants cheap actions and lots of them. This makes playing a Vineyard deck a lot different than playing a Gardens deck. Another thing is, when you're going for Gardens, other players will buy a few to stop you from going too nuts. They can't buy Vineyards without Potions though. Did they get Potions? They didn't always get them.

And That's That

They were rhetorical questions! In retrospect it was obvious.

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The Bible of Donald X. / Complexity in Rules on Cards
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:03:01 pm »
[This is an essay I wrote for the Alchemy preview, then decided to save for a later set. Now that BGN is part of BGG I've talked myself out of doing that kind of preview, so here it is.]

Somehow I have fallen into the trap of writing essays about random Dominion-related topics and including them in these previews. And this preview was especially short, what with the set being a small one. Here then is a lengthy bunch of thoughts on the topic of card complexity.

Alchemy's cards are more complex than those in Dominion's main set. Dominion has six "vanilla" cards - just combinations of pluses. Alchemy has zero. Alchemy does have a couple fairly simple cards - Vineyard is a straightforward victory card; Familiar is a very simple attack; University is pretty simple. But it also has a couple very wordy cards - Scrying Pool and Possession are both thick with text. And then, the cards in-between are more involved than Dominion's non-vanilla cards. As you can see from the images!

So how did that happen? Weren't there more simple cards left that were worth doing?

The short answer is, not really! There were only so many simple cards worth making. I spread them out among the main set and six expansions that I had before the game was published. The main set got the lion's share, because simplicity was its theme. Some expansions managed to get new simple cards from their themes, such as the simpler Duration cards in Seaside. Alchemy didn't have anything like that; I could have had a card with "+1 potion symbol," but it would have been a dud when there were no other Alchemy cards out.

So, what's the deal? Why are there only so many simple cards worth doing? In fact there are several factors pushing cards to be more complex.

1. The Card Complexity Axiom

At the root of it all is this:

The number of cards you can make for a game is proportional to the product of the complexity of the game and the amount of space you allow yourself for card text.

That's pretty basic and obvious but still seems worth going on about for a paragraph. There are only so many possibilities within a certain amount of space. To get more possibilities you have to add more space. You can add that space in the rulebook, or on the cards themselves, but it has to be somewhere. Dominion has very few rules, so by default the burden is on the cards.

2. Little Computer Programs

Cards are little computer programs. They refer to data, and have operations and "program flow." There are only so many elements to combine, and getting more cards at some point requires combining more elements (or creating new elements).

Each game has its "atoms." These are the simplest ways that data in the game can change. In Dominion you can move cards between the places that they hang out, and can muck with the amount of actions/buys/coins/vp you have. Those are the atoms. There are also a few more exotic things, i.e. the turn sequence. I am probably never making "The turn order switches direction," but it would be simple.

The simplest cards just do the atomic things. +3 Cards! Simple. Courtyard from Intrigue is "+3 Cards, put a card from your hand on top of your deck." That's just two atoms, even though the second one doesn't have a shorthand for it.

You can spice these up with qualifiers. University doesn't just gain you cards; it only gains you Action cards, and only ones costing $5 or less. Adding qualifiers like that is a good next step towards getting fairly simple cards.

Then there are formulas. In general you can only do the simplest things. We can access data directly, with no math beyond counting; how many cards are in play? I also let myself divide by N; Philosopher's Stone and Vineyard both make you divide. Multiplication, I don't know if I will ever go that far. I don't know why division seems simpler. Anyway this can never account for very many cards.

Finally there's "program flow." This is the stuff in computer programs that determines what happens next. "If X then Y else Z." "Repeat X until Y." And also simple stuff like "Do X, then do Y." This is stuff you can do on cards to get more variety, and it's the bulk of what there is to do. There are only so many ways to use qualifiers on a basic concept that will be interesting enough. You can't do very many things with formulas at once. And there are only so many atoms.

So in the end it's all about using program flow to combine atoms involving qualified data. There are only so many atoms, so once you've made all of those cards, you're going to have to make more complex cards.

For Dominion specifically, we can go further. Some of the atoms have parameters, but not all simple combinations of atoms with parameters are worth doing. Most of them are either utter duds ("+1 Card"), too strong to cost low enough to get to buy them before the game's over ("+6 Cards"), or too close to an existing card ("+2 Actions +2 Buys +$2" is too close to Festival). A bunch are randomly different in a really uninteresting way ("+2 Cards +$1"). At one point I made a chart of all of the combinations of pluses to possibly consider, and figured out which ones I thought were good enough to actually do. There weren't many.

3. The Vanilla Card Problem

In some games, one card can just be better than another one. Medici has a 3 of spices and a 4 of spices and no-one is like "omg the 4 of spices is broken." You bid on those cards, that's what makes them fair. In other games, including Dominion, there's a cost system balancing the cards, and at a given cost the cards are expected to be about as good. Obviously there will always be cards better than other cards. Each game the cards vary in value based on what other cards are out, so hopefully every card gets its day in the sun. But still. In general, one card will be better than another at the same cost. And that's fine, and anyway unavoidable.

It's a problem though if two cards are very similar and one is clearly better. In particular, if one card does everything another card does plus a little more, for the same cost, that's bad. It makes some people unhappy. If both are in the same game, we don't buy the one until the other sells out. That's still not a complete loss, but it's not as good as having some other card there.

With only so many atoms, like I was saying above, there are inevitably going to be similar cards - a new Village, a new Remodel. And these cards help make the game work - you need some Villages here and there. I just need to try to keep them enough different that this issue doesn't come up.

Enter vanilla cards. Vanilla cards in Dominion are ones that just have pluses. More broadly it's all of the simplest versions of concepts; the vanilla card problem applies to some cards that aren't strictly vanilla. But it especially applies to vanilla cards. Whatever it is.

Okay the vanilla card problem is this: vanilla cards limit what other cards you can make, without having two similar cards such that one is too obviously better than the other.

For example, Dominion has Village: "+1 Card +2 Actions." It costs $3. Village means I can never make a card that's Village-with-a-bonus, without charging $4 or more for it. I make Village-with-a-bonus sometimes - Mining Village in Intrigue is one. And when I do it has to cost $4.

It's not so bad charging $4 for Village-with-a-bonus. In Dominion, $3 is secretly pretty close to $4. By putting Village at $3, I gave myself some room to make variations on it at $4.

I can do Village-with-a-bonus cards at $4 forever. As long as each bonus is different, the cards don't end up too close. Sure they're both Villages, but is the one bonus always better than the other?

Now consider Throne Room. It's not a vanilla card, but it's the simplest version of its concept. Suppose I wanted to make Throne Room with a bonus. That would have to cost $5. At $4 it would just be better than Throne Room. But in Dominion, $5 is a lot more than $4. That bonus would have to be pretty significant in order for that card to be worth buying. And in fact that came up. Originally Throne Room cost $3, and I had a variation for $4 in an expansion that was "Choose one: +1 Card +1 Action, or Throne Room." Once Throne Room went to $4, the variation had to go to $5, and it wasn't worth $5. So it died.

The solution to the vanilla card problem is not to do vanilla cards. If your basic version of a concept includes a bonus, you can vary the bonus and keep the cost the same. Only when you do the bonus-less version are you stuck with increasing the cost. But you can't just not do vanilla cards. You need them for how simple they are. So in the end you pick and choose. For example Dominion does not have a card that just says "+1 Card +1 Action +$1." If I made that card, it would limit what other cards I could make. So instead I just do variations on it.

I should note that the vanilla card problem only exists in games with a lot of granularity to their costs. Generally you want to keep numbers in games as low as possible. Dominion has small cost numbers and that's good. But it means that a difference of +$1 is sometimes very significant. With larger costs, you would have more room to tweak costs for similar cards.

4. Complexity: The Panacea

You've just playtested a card. It's too weak / too strong. How do you fix it? By making it more complex. If it's too weak, you add a bonus; if it's too strong, you add a penalty. Or, if it's too strong, you weaken it too much, then add a bonus, and if it's too weak, you power it up, then add a penalty. In fact normally you add bonuses, not penalties, one way or another. Bonuses are more fun.

Adding complexity isn't the only option. But there is a lot of pull in that direction. The granularity of the system is again the issue.

Let's say Militia is too weak. It's "+$2. Each other player discards down to 3 cards in hand." It's not too weak. But let's say it is.

I can't just change it to +$3 - that's vastly more powerful. I can't just make it "discards down to 2 cards in hand" - that's crippling. I can't just lower it to costing $3 - that's not going to make the difference, and then maybe it's too good at $2. I could try a mix of things - up it to costing $6, make it +$3. In general though, the granularity of the system is fighting me. There may simply be no fair version of the card that just tweaks the numbers.

But I can always tack on another ability. And if that other ability is too weak or strong, I can replace it with a different one. I can also just replace Militia, but that's not nearly as good of an option. Militia may be doing something I need, and may be the best version of it in some other way. It may be totally worth doing except for power level. It may be a card people adore.

So the normal progression is, a card starts out simple, and if it isn't perfect, it desperately tries to get more complex, as I struggle to rein it in.

This also happens when power level is fine. A card is filling an important role but is too boring. What could spice it up? How about another line of text?

5. Ideas vs. Text

In these many paragraphs on this exciting card complexity topic, I have really been talking about complexity of ideas. A card can also just have a lot of words. But that's not as bad.

Suppose the rulebook defined "dig" appropriately. Then Golem could have read, "Dig for two Action cards other than Golems. Play them in either order."

That's pretty simple. Golem doesn't do anything complex really. Once you have that definition of "dig." And digging is straightforward too. But there aren't enough cards that dig, so digging is always spelled out on the cards, and well it takes a bunch of words.

Contrast this with Scrying Pool. Scrying Pool does two things: first it lets you toss or keep each player's top card, and then it draws you all of the actions from the top of your deck, plus a card. That's how many words it took me to tell you what it does, as a non-precise summary. It's not just wordy, it's complex idea-wise.

In general it's the multiple-idea complexity that's really complex. And sometimes even those cards can be simplified by having a strong connection of some kind between the ideas. Having a bunch of words can be intimidating when you first see a card, but you learn it quickly if those words just add up to one idea.

6. Complexity Solved

So there it is. Rules end up in the rulebook or on the cards, but they're somewhere. There are only so many game elements to combine, so you end up combining multiple elements to get more cards. You can't even do all of the vanilla cards that are possible. And in any case you're pushed towards complexity just by trying to make the game work.

4612
Feedback / Re: The Bible of Donald X.
« on: June 20, 2011, 03:39:09 pm »
I do.  I'll add them in later today.  Though I am not sure where the Designer's Diaries are.  If someone had a link (even a broken one) that would be helpful, since archive.org seems to preserve most of them.
I'll send you the versions I have, i.e. prior to whatever editing by W. Eric Martin.
.
Edit: Oh, or just post them.


4613
Feedback / Re: The Bible of Donald X.
« on: June 20, 2011, 03:33:59 pm »
IMO, at least if they are all BGG links, I think he can further comment on BGG. 
Or in this thread!
.
I never got around to posting about point counters, and then Doug added one so there was a lot less to say, but obv. keeping open points or what have you is a rules variant, not cheating, and I give everyone permission to play any rules variants they want for any games they want. If you are using a rules variant against an opponent's wishes though, that's obv. cheating, why is that even a question.
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I don't know why those threads are read-only, but if you want to discuss a topic, aside from contentious ones that have had threads closed, like the one I snuck in a comment for above, just start a thread and talk about the topic. I bet no-one will mind.


4614
Dominion Isotropic / Re: Isotropic
« on: June 20, 2011, 02:48:19 pm »
Yes it is legal. Donald X does his official card-testing on it, so he is absolutely fine with it.

What's this now? I don't think there have ever been cards on Isotropic that aren't published yet. This sounds like a mutated version of the fact (from the Isotropic FAQ) that Donald X helpfully provided the set of prototype artwork that he used for the Kingdom cards. (They all seem to be free images anyway, from places like Wikipedia, but it's nice that Donald himself picked them out.)

There is in fact a nonpublic version of isotropic with unpublished cards.


4615
Possession is weak, really?
...
The other big surprise for me is your unreserved love for Tournament.
Well there are arguments as to why Possession might not be so incredible given its cost, but I'm not really here to discuss strategy. I'm not scared of Possession, and I haven't been in any messed-up games with it, except for ones involving other cards that no longer exist.
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I thought Tournament would be such a hit because it was such a hit! That was my line of reasoning there. There was no-one saying, what is this nonsense. There were arguments about the specifics and the prizes and well that's all covered in the Secret History.
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I checked the last 10 logged playtest games with Tournament. There were two where no-one bought it, and four where everyone bought it. In the four games with a mix, two games had someone with Tournament and a prize win; one had someone with Tournament but no prizes win; and one had someone without Tournament win (over someone with a prize and someone without one, and this was not a Colony game). The cards get way more testing by the public than by the playtesters, and the playtesters aren't necessarily the best players ever, but still, you can obv. have a group of decent players that do not have a problem with Tournament.


4616
added in more to appeal to the typical board game players (which, to be fair, is probably the anticipated audience) than strongly incorporated into the mechanics themselves.
No, some people like to think that RGG made a marketing-based decision on the flavor, but really, I didn't have any medieval-themed games at the time, had been meaning to do a kingdom-building game, and thought this was a reasonable fit. In the main set, Circus was renamed to Festival, Militia and Bureaucrat switched at one point (see Secret History), and everything else has the original playtest name.
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Dominion is a simple game. That means the game isn't adding rules just for the flavor. The cards themselves do support flavor to varying degrees, but the best flavor requires the most text. Thief was easy, but nothing was ever going to be great flavor for "+3 Cards."
 
At the micro level, there are the cards.  There are some themes that are obvious/easy to perceive (villages being the obvious...but then there's University and Festival).  Here are some cards that I just don't get:
The idea is that +2 Actions is a group of people doing things for you. Most of them are Villages, but this is how University and Nobles fit in.
 
Baron: Nobles is a victory card; Duke is a victory card; why not Baron?
It's not like that. Why aren't Nobles and Duke tracts of land, that's the question. And the answer is, well Duke is named that because it involves Duchies, and Nobles uh well maybe they're attracted by the tracts.
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Baron involves Estates, that's how it got that name. He's a real Estate Baron.
 
Library:  Library lets you set aside action cards, which often leaves you with a handful of victory cards and coins.  Why does a library get you those?  Shouldn't it get you actions?  My guess with this particular card is that it originally did get you only actions, but was probably overpowered in that version.
No, it didn't change except for the precise wording. Library was the kind of name I wanted in Alchemy, where the card started, and well I guess I've been influenced all these years by MtG equating card-drawing with knowledge. There is no such equating in Dominion; I decided early on that "+Cards" would have no flavor, because a card like Torturer wants to be named for the relevant new part of the card, not for the +3 Cards.
 
Chapel:  What does trashing cards have to do with chapels?  Is there a theme with religious figures/buildings/rooms and trashing (e.g., bishop)?  Why? 
Well this one is easy. When you trash Coppers and Estates, you're giving them to charity, and when you trash Curses, that's an exorcism.
 
Those a few off the top of my head, but I know there are others that come up (are all attacks themed as people?  What is the mechanical difference between a card representing a person and one representing a building?  Why only use verbs on the trash for a new card effects (remodel, upgrade, etc.)
There's no specific reason for person vs. building, just whichever sounds better on the card, except yes, attacks are usually people. Remodel was a verb and then the rest just imitated it. One-shots were events, back when there were more of them.

moat's defensive ability fits its flavor perfectly, but why does it draw cards?
Because it would be too awful if it didn't! And really that sums it up. You are not gonna do better on naming Moat; you really have to just ignore the +2 Cards when naming, except when that's all the card does. And then, do you drop the +2 Cards so the card has better flavor? No, you do not do that, it doesn't matter how good the flavor is on a card no-one is ever buying.


4617
Dominion Isotropic / Re: Decline of civility on isotropic?
« on: June 19, 2011, 07:06:13 pm »
I am totally sympathetic towards the guy who wanted to see just how well his deck could perform, and totally unsympathetic towards the guy who made the other guy wait for the timeout.

Them being a jerk doesn't justify you being a jerk. The only time you being jerk is justified is when it's hilarious. And that takes an audience so it really can't apply here.

Timeouts may be honest, but I think the obvious trick is just, track the timeouts by player, and if a player tends to only timeout on later turns in losing positions, drop them from the leaderboard. The leaderboard is the only prize here, so that's as much as you can do. It's the internet; you will always be up against twelve-year-olds some of the time, and the system just has to deal with it as best it can.

Edit: Also I hate how this forum software adds blank lines.

4618
Once in a while someone will mention to me, "you know, I don't like Dominion," and man I am fine with that. I am not too insecure on that front. It didn't win Austrian game of the year, that's how I put it. Anyway here you all are probably relatively fond of it, but feel free to hate whatever cards. I don't mind. There are certainly some love/hate cards.

Here then is what I think of these hated Dominion cards.

Possession: Possession has two possible problems in my book. First it has that gigantic FAQ. The FAQ might have killed it if there had been more time to work on the set. It's crazy long, even if mostly it just says, "yes really, they take a turn but you make the decisions." Second it's a love/hate card in a small set. You could argue that love/hate cards should be in large sets, where the hate matters less, because, you know, it's a smaller percentage of your cards. Whereas I don't think that diminishes love so much. Somehow. Anyway it was the first small set and I did not think about such things. Other than those things I like the card. I find it to be on the weak side; it kind of has a "fun tax" - cards that give you extra turns have to be weak in general so that players don't bore you too much with them. Not that Possession is boring. Anyway it was gonna be a love/hate card, no question, but there are people who love it and they couldn't play it if it didn't exist, and man it's easy enough to fight against. Don't build a deck that buys two Provinces a turn vs. Possession; that's a good place to start.

Saboteur: This has four strikes against it. First it's a way to trash people's precious cards. It is totally worth making some of those cards, for the people that adore them, but they need to be especially fun for those people, which Saboteur is not. Second it's an attack with no resource production. You know, it just attacks. That sounded fine to me, but it turns out some people don't like that. This isn't a love/hate thing though; no-one loves it. It's not important to the game to have such cards and I already did a couple, so I wouldn't be expecting too many more. Third it's weak. In fact it's the weakest card in the game, relative to its cost. Something had to be and well that something is Saboteur. Fourth it has lots of tiny text. That's something I like to reserve for really adored cards. Overall Saboteur is the Dominion card least justified in existing.

Smugglers: I like Smugglers a lot. Flavorwise it should probably be "non-vp card" rather than "card costing up to $6," but of course functionally it's significant that it isn't necessarily dead late in the game. I think Smugglers went over well in general and it looks out of place on this list to me. Sure your opponent might Throne Smugglers after you buy Gold or Duchy. Man, they're your opponent, they've gotta do something to bother you.

Treasure Map: In playtesting the struggle was making sure this was good enough to sometimes go for. Once it made 3 Golds and they didn't go on top. Some people do single this out as a high-variance card they don't like. I think the hate is similar to Pirate Ship's; in some groups everybody buys it, thus whoever bought it and got luckiest wins, and then the card looks broken when really it requires good card interactions to be exciting. King's Court has higher variance and gets fewer complaints, though some people do hate it (especially, players who are really focused on skill winning out); I think there it's just, playing something three times is something a lot of people can appreciate, and the card isn't as blatant about its variance. And then Platinum, I bet a lot of people don't even think of Platinum as high-variance. Certainly no-one complains about it. So anyway yeah, Treasure Map, not the swingiest card, but very in your face about its swinginess.

Familiar: Some people just don't like the Potion concept. I knew this, thought the set was still worth doing, but put it last. Then it jumped up to 3rd after they decided they wanted small sets. The cards in Alchemy have to be good enough when they're the only Alchemy card out, and if they are then you may draw your Potion without quite enough money. The general solution is not to do this kind of thing in Dominion expansions, but in spin-offs instead, where you can ensure that there's always plenty of whatever, and then balance the cards for that situation.

Swindler: I like Swindler a lot, now you know. It's everything I want out of a trashing attack. Let's compare it to Saboteur. Swindler trashes people's precious cards. It can't usually get rid of a Province though (yes it can on the last turn, and there's Peddler sometimes, or combos). And sometimes other cards are safe from it, e.g. Gold with no other $6. It does produce resources, a generous +$2. It's not weak. And it doesn't have lots of tiny text! It's a fine length. Also it adds a decision that's sometimes interesting, and puts cards in your deck that you didn't want but which might be useful anyway. It does add luck, and especially hurts when they hit your $5 early, say while hitting someone else's Estate, but it also adds skill. You see people blow it on that decision so often; the funniest case is where they hit Silver and cannot bear to give you a Swindler for it.

Black Market: For the prototype I don't have separate different-backed randomizer cards - I use one card from each pile for the randomizer, add it to the pile to play, then return one to the randomizer pile afterwards. You can do this with real cards too, and if you do, then you don't actually ever need to build a Black Market deck. Those of you who just don't like the setup, there you go. I have played with Black Market a lot, but have never actually endured the setup it proposes. Those of you who don't like that only one person ends up with a particular card, well that was the premise, some people like that a lot, and hey it's a promo.

Tournament: Aside from being so complex that it has a 2x2 payoff grid and then requires you to read five other cards to know the whole story, I think of Tournament as a slam dunk, the kind of card every set is desperate to have. I did not expect any complaints about the rich-get-richer aspect of it; there is so much rich-get-richer in Dominion.

Goons: I am pleased with this card. It was a late addition with several restrictions - it had to be an attack that was suitable for Prosperity and didn't give out Curses; it had to give out VP tokens; it had to be justifiable with that art (leftover from Pawn). The attack part feels tacked on, but the other part is cool. It's nice that while the VP tokens part is cumulative, the attack part isn't. It's a good $6 but not an automatic purchase. Some people never get tired of raking in the VP tokens, and there are cute combos like Watchtower.

Ambassador: The attacks in Dominion fall into four categories, and it's easy for the attack part of an attack to feel like nothing new, leaving the resource part to try to make the card unique. So I am very pleased with Ambassador, which feels very different from other attacks in its family. It's cool that people sometimes buy Curses to give them away with it, and it's fun when you end up giving someone a random action you don't want anymore. I can see experienced players getting sick of it, since it's powerful, but I think at first glance it doesn't look scary; there's some play value in gradually learning what kind of monster you're dealing with.

For me, the worst cards to see in a set of 10 are Spy variants. The reason is, they mess up testing. I'm testing a new card, Sheep. I buy it. You hit it with Spy and make me discard it. Next pass through my deck, same thing. Well I am not learning anything about Sheep this game.

I like seeing high variance cards on the table - it takes the pressure off. I can just relax and play. It wasn't my fault I lost, officer, the King's Court did it. I like fighting against attacks. Some of the most hated cards, like Possession and Saboteur, I usually don't even buy, because I'm trying to win. I don't mind Chapel in games where there's no good alternative; we all buy Chapel, it's a fast game, and there are still other decisions. I don't have trouble counting for Philosopher's Stone, although if I had it to do again I would put it (back) into Prosperity (with Bank, formerly from Alchemy, in Alchemy), to reduce the overall sense of the set being slow.

Well it's no surprise that I like the cards, I mean anything I hated did not have much of a chance of making it into a set.

4619
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Keeping track of turns...
« on: June 18, 2011, 11:14:44 pm »
I snuck the rule for Outpost into the Possession FAQ, so it is actually a rulebook rule, just not one that comes with Seaside.

4620
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Pirate Ship in 3+ player games.
« on: June 18, 2011, 06:02:08 pm »
My heart made a little jump when I read your name. It's great to have you here.
thx guys. Just try not to be intimidated into not saying how much you hate Pirate Ship or whatever. I can take it, honest. And here's a little more on the Pirate Ship front.

Pirate Ship originally was an action-victory card worth points based on the stolen treasures. That card wasn't attractive enough and one day I replaced it with essentially the card you know.

We tried it for the first time in a 3-player game. We all bought it. One of us won. Afterwards someone said, well that was obv. broken.

I argued with them for a bit, then we played again with the same 10 cards. This time I didn't buy Pirate Ship and I won.

This has been the story of Pirate Ship from the beginning. Most of the time you can beat it handily, regardless of the number of players or how many go for it. They trash your Coppers for you! That's a significant penalty. You don't need to go treasureless to beat it either. Nevertheless some groups think it's unbeatable, everyone buys it, someone who bought it wins. It lends itself to this behavior by being an action that makes money that makes you want an action that makes money.

Arguably balancing cards for experts isn't the be-all end-all. A card that's too powerful for beginners may be worth changing just for that reason. I try to pay attention to this, and to avoid cards that defend too well vs. themselves, but some get out, and there's Pirate Ship. If it's bumming you out, try beating it, that's my advice.

4621
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Pirate Ship in 3+ player games.
« on: June 17, 2011, 04:02:37 am »
I've slowly become more and more convinced that the various card powers in Dominion are actually best balanced for a 3-player game,
I can't say if this is true, but it's definitely the intention. Ideally any card is balanced regardless of the number of players. When a card varies in power level noticeably with the number of players (but is still worth making), it typically either gets better with more players or gets worse with more players. So the way to make it as balanced as possible is to balance it for 3 players (yes we supported 5-6 but those games aren't typical).

That said, Pirate Ship would not be my example. I do not think there is a number of players that makes it overpowered.

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