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Donald X.

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Dominion: Seaside Preview
« on: June 20, 2011, 04:41:11 pm »
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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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