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Author Topic: Dominion: Intrigue Preview  (Read 5793 times)

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Donald X.

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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!
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 06:02:06 pm by Donald X. »
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