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Messages - Donald X.

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But I have seen so many examples of incompetent online game development, and this thread hasn't sounded very optimistic so far.
Dude, like, what if the programmers are cannibals, and write the program in Logo? Why aren't we discussing this horrific possibility.

That's about what I'd expect, except I'd think you'd want to make money off it. I would. It seems natural. But man, if that's not a big deal for you, that's cool.
It's not that I want to do work and go unpaid, or that I want to pass up on a cash bonanza if one somehow appears.

It's that "the point" to this, from my perspective, isn't making money. Frank Zappa wasn't "in it for the money" when he made We're Only In It For The Money, but that doesn't mean he turned down his royalty, that somehow he thought he shouldn't get paid or wasn't deserving.

RGG owns Dominion, and it's their exclusive right to sanction or prohibit free alternatives for playing their game.
Actually I own Dominion; RGG is licensing it. All of the game company contracts I've seen have been like that.

Now let's try this again guys.

Q: Why has there been no commercial version all this time?
A: I can only guess here, but I think I have a good guess. RGG just wasn't that interested. RGG is one couple and there's a lot of work to do. "I also wash the windows," as Jay says. How important was computer Dominion? It was not that important. There were board games to be made.

Q: Why do a commercial version now?
A: For me personally, there are three reasons. First, people want one. People out there, who may or may not play on isotropic or read these words, want a pretty computer version, for whatever device. Why not let them have it? Two, because there are rip-offs, and that pisses me off. And they can especially prosper if there's no real version. Three, because it seems like the thing to do; there should be a computer version of Dominion, of course, why isn't there already. Note that none of these reasons is "omg money." I will for sure be paid my cut for a computer version, and that's important, for multiple reasons. But the point isn't to make money, and for all I know there isn't even much money to be had.

Q: Why not just charge for isotropic?
A: Because the point isn't to make money. You already have isotropic for free; would you be happier paying for it? Man that's not as clear as you would think, some people would be happier paying. But still. Somebody just made isotropic for fun, no-one had to get paid. And what; RGG actually pays BSW to host Dominion.

Q: If the point isn't money, why charge money at all?
A: There are multiple reasons, but a significant one is, whoever makes the commercial version has to be paid. And it's a gamble for them; we don't know if it will be a hit or what, if they will rake in cash or lose money. But for them it's a job; it's how they make money at all. It pays the rent. And of course, if somehow the game is a monster hit, we will be glad to rake in that cash.

Q: Why isn't the guy who made isotropic making the commercial version?
A: He didn't want the job and in any case wasn't going to be doing versions for more platforms.

Q: Won't the computer version suck though? At least, compared to isotropic.
A: You are either crazy or young or both. I mean wtf. I had a friend in the 80s who thought there would never be another good movie. Many of my favorite movies are from the 90s. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that change necessarily sucks, that the future necessarily sucks, that whatever you've got is as good as it gets. Experience does not bear these things out though.

Q: Why not leave isotropic up when there's a computer version?
A: Man, did I mention the guys paying rent? That was not a metaphor. I spoke with one of the companies considered for the job. It was important to them that isotropic go down. They, those guys, said, right out, to me, in person, we would have to get isotropic taken down. This is not speculation! They were a small company and had to keep making money to keep existing. There is no guarantee that the Dominion product will be a hit. So I mean, man, I don't need to know if it's the right move, if it makes sense from whatever perspective. I don't need to argue those points at all. It was what that company wanted, and if they were doing the game, then they would be our pals and we would try to make them happy.

Q: Tell us more!
A: Anything I say, there's the question of, how good is releasing this information for the other industry people involved. Who would I rather be on good terms with: whining people on the internet, or RGG? Think think.

It's popular to think of companies as giant faceless entities with computer banks churning out optimal marketing strategies and so on. They're all just people, and RGG is just two people, and mostly just one guy. The motivations are not always straightforward or min-maxing.

In my defense, I have spent a couple hundred $$$ to get all the cards.  I might be playing online for free, but I certainly have paid for the game.  (And am happy to have done so, it's the best card game in existence IMO)
You know, I am not complaining about anyone who's enjoying free games of Dominion on isotropic, whether they bought the cards or not. Have fun guys, there it is. This Doug guy made it, it's pretty sweet.

I am only complaining about people complaining! The world doesn't owe you isotropic.

I answered this in a PM but will tell you other guys here: if you were a programming company looking at whether or not you should take on the Dominion project for RGG, deciding, is this investment of your man-hours really going to pay the rent, would you be thinking, cool, there will also be a free version people can have instead of ours?

I guess a better way of phrasing things is:  Why is RGG re-inventing the wheel?
Well. Doug didn't want the job, and independently Jay wanted one entity to handle everything. So even if we never cared about having an iphone version or whatever, it wasn't happening. Man, would you believe, I thought of Doug first (when it turned out that there was not actually a commercial version on the way).

blah blah blah copyright
Q: What people discuss the precise degree to which I can be ripped off without being able to sue?
A: My enemies!

Seriously, cut it out. I would be sending you to RSP but this isn't BGG. Go to BGG's RSP forum okay. We are all friends here.

Now, I know the situation is different here; no one is paying to play on isotropic, RGG isn't making any money from it, and if they weren't friendly with DougZ they could easily have it C&D'd.  I guess what I'm saying is, I'd rather pay to play on the current software than play inferior software for free.  I certainly wouldn't purchase inferior software; I'll simply go back to playing F2F more often, and reconsider buying future expansions.  RGG would be much better off waiting a couple extra months to have their program fully-functional than to risk alienating fans buy releasing an inferior product.
If you give people free pizza for a while, they start to feel like they're owed it, and then when you say "now we are selling pizza only we don't have olives yet," they want to punish you.

The lesson of course is never to give people free pizza. Make them pay from day one, and they'll gladly buy straight pepperoni, because hey, it's pizza! What were we thinking! The best move obv. would be to take isotropic down now, give people time to miss it.

Puzzles and Challenges / Re: 10 Grand markets by turn 5.
« on: June 28, 2011, 08:46:48 pm »
I am just going to mention this because why hasn't someone else, but you can obv. try the basic puzzle of "how fast can you get 8 provinces in a solo game," limited by set. Using only cards from the main set, using only cards from Seaside, etc.

Sounds like RGG is planning to put out a commercial online Dominion version at some point, they've already told Doug, and he's agreed to take down isotropic once it's released.

Obv. the commercial version will support all of the expansions as soon as it can. And it will be for multiple platforms.

But this brings up a kind of important point: we maybe should have some posting guidelines.
There are in fact posting guidelines, you clicked on a thing that said you read it and everything. For example we don't get to be profane. So all you people who don't believe in Kali, keep it to yourselves.

I think a key point in any discussion of potential new/modified isotropic features is that isotropic is a lame duck program and Doug is keenly aware of this. If there are problems with the commercial program then who knows, maybe the next set will come out on isotropic, but you know, one day, the lights will go out, and any feature Doug programmed for you will be gone for good. And the closer that day seems, the less exciting it is to program features that people will just argue over anyway.

General Discussion / Re: Math Nerds...
« on: June 26, 2011, 03:42:48 pm »
I used to give mathematical dance lessons. The square dance, the rhumbus, the cotango... And I know fifty digits of pi, although, not the fifty right after the three.

Got me thinking about the other set symbols for the promos. I picked them up recently, so any connection like this one has to Carcassone is not clear to me. Black Market has was looks like a spider web, and Envoy has a ferris wheel looking thing.
Any back history on what these mean?

The Envoy symbol is a Ferris wheel in Vienna, the city where the con was held where the card was given out.

The Black Market symbol is something the magazine that gave out that card uses.

Dominion General Discussion / Re: Why is Remake worded that way?
« on: June 24, 2011, 06:46:55 pm »
Though to be fair, Donald doesn't really seem to design cards around edge cases like this, and if he thought the other wording was better I imagine he wouldn't care that this case behaved differently.
That's correct.

I used the best wording I had for Remake and was happy with it. Do this twice! So straightforward.

I just played a game where I was able to scroll back through all of the previous turns of the game.
I have seen this too; Doug knows about it and did not see why it was happening. If you get more data, send it in.

The Bible of Donald X. / The Secret History of the Dominion Promos
« on: June 23, 2011, 03:18:36 am »
Sometimes, the publishers want promos. A magazine wants one, or a convention does, or something, and so the word comes down to me, could we have one please. And I like to be friendly. They have been given away various ways, depending on the language, but the BGG store has had them all (in English) in the long run.

Here is what I have to say about the promos so far. There may be more!

Envoy: This started in Intrigue. It fit with the decisions theme; you give your opponent a decision. Often that amounts to just "discard the best card," and having your opponent pick just keeps you honest. Sometimes it's a real decision though. The mechanic seemed fine, but what the card did was, it was a terminal action that drew you cards. There was enough of that already between the main set and Intrigue. And the new part to Envoy was interesting, but didn't like give you a new deck to build or anything. In your deck, it was like a Smithy. So I took Envoy out, to perhaps try in a later expansion.

Then one day Jay said, he needed a promo, could I have it say by tomorrow. I didn't want to steal a card from a future set, and also, I wanted something with as much playtesting as possible. That basically meant an outtake from the main set or Intrigue. Envoy was easily the best option.

Black Market: This started in Seaside. Seaside involves your next turn; Black Market reaches into the next game. It was adored by some players - a star of the set - and seemed harmless to everyone else. It left the set though, due to the combination of rules wackiness, and the cumbersome set-up. I have never had to do that set-up - I don't have separate randomizer cards, because why print 11 cards each time I change something when 10 will do. I use one card from each pile for the randomizer, putting it into the pile to play and returning one to the randomizer after the game. So Black Market had no set-up at all for me - I already had a pile of unused cards with the proper back right there. But we included a separate randomizer deck in the main set. So there was this set-up. So, wackiness, set-up, it left the set.

Then we needed a promo, Dale said why not Black Market, and I was eager to have it exist after all. Ultimately it's not a great choice for a promo. It still has the set-up and still has the wackiness, only now you don't have a rulebook telling you how it works, you have a slip of paper you lose and then the internet. I'm still glad it exists though, it's a fun card.

Stash: This is a Seaside outtake, though it started in a later small set that dissolved, from when I rearranged everything into 16-card expansions. It seemed like a good fit for Seaside's next-turn theme. There was a victory card with a similar mechanic, which did not seem worth preserving. Obv. you put that one on the bottom.

Stash had two issues. First, I didn't have the different-back mechanic yet. So like you set them aside, or dug through your discard pile for them. It was not going to be pretty rules-wise, since by default you can't look through your discard pile. And second, it was not that interesting. There are some cute interactions, but on the whole, it didn't seem necessarily worth a slot in the set. So it left.

Later I realized I could have a different card back, solving the rules issues. I immediately put it on a list of potential promos, with an eye towards putting it in an expansion if it wasn't needed as a promo. It was though, and there it is. To me this is the ideal promo: exotic-looking, but not actually complex; interesting when you read about it, but not something I'm sad didn't make an expansion.

Walled Village: This is an outtake from the 7th expansion. I replaced it with an on-theme card. A few people were sad to see it go, but all of the Village slots in the other sets were full, so it was dead.

Then Jay wanted a Carcassonne-related promo card. First I looked at designing a card specifically to fit with Carcassonne, and well Carcassonne does not have a lot of ground in common with Dominion. Then I remembered this card, and it seemed plausible to call it Walled Village. Jay went for it and there it is. These stories can't all be interesting.

Rules Questions / Re: Visible discard pile?
« on: June 22, 2011, 01:45:54 pm »
I have to strongly disagree with you here. Any time their hand is two important terminals and 3 treasure, (or KC and 4 treasure, etc) I'm going to be *very* interested in knowing the last card that they didn't play, especially in the mid to late game when decks are large and knowing how much of their power they have coming up this shuffle is vitally important.
You will never get to know it though - they will choose to put the cards from play on top when they discard everything.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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!

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.

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.

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.

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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