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trivialknot

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Dominion clones
« on: February 07, 2018, 06:11:46 pm »
+3

Have you played any deck builders besides Dominion?  Did you like them?  Why weren't they as good as Dominion?

I'll start.

Ascension and Star Realms are very similar deck builders, where instead of having supply piles, there's a tableau of randomized cards.  This leads to a much more tactical game than Dominion, which I think is less fun.  Between these two, Star Realms is much better, because it's faster and more balanced.  The card design in Ascension suggests that the creators didn't realize trashing was so powerful.

Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips is so close to Dominion I would call it an outright ripoff.  Also I heard that the chips and chip artwork was shamelessly stolen from a Dominion fan.  That said, we had some fun with it, and the theme is neat (it's based on a fictional puzzle arcade game).  As for the balance, it kinda seems like the creator thinks the village idiot strategy is OP, so every kingdom is over-terminaled.

Rune Age is a game by Fantasy Flight, in the Rune Wars universe.  It's kinda like Dominion, except that each player chooses one of four factions, and has supply piles that are only available to them.  Also, there are three resource types--money, military, and influence.  And there are several different game modes, including one coop mode.  I liked it, although after playing it a while I started to think some factions were better than others.

Eminent Domain is easily my favorite non-Dominion deck builder, because it's so different.  A major part of the game is about laterally shifting your deck instead of building upwards.  There are five basic card types which comprise most of your deck, and throughout the game you want to shift the relative densities.  Also, there's unlimited saving cards between turns, which adds a whole level of strategic depth.  My one regret is that there's hardly any variable setup, so it tends to be similar from game to game.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 06:14:33 pm by trivialknot »
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Accatitippi

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2018, 06:21:05 pm »
0

A thread like this must definitely mention Japanese French maids.

I have played a number of deckbuilders, but the only ones I'd consider Dominion clones are ascension and star realms (I've never played tanto cuore).

It felt like both missed the point by a mile, but at least star realms was playable.
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GendoIkari

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2018, 06:42:21 pm »
+1

This is all deck-builders; several of them are probably not properly called Dominion clones.

I see Eminent Domain as being 80% Race for the Galaxy and only 20% Dominion. Yeah, it's fun but not one of my favorites.

Clank! (In Space) - Recently learned this. I had fun, but still; the lack of a defined order to your turn and way you use your resources felt really awkward. You play all your cards, generally at once, and then look at see how much of the different things you have. I guess the rules technically say you play them one at a time; but no one did that. Also, rotating supply means random luck who gets the good cards. But there are interesting decisions to make other than how to build your deck.

Ascension - Ugh. The ability to play any number of cards and buy and number of cards removes what's great about Dominion. The 2 separate resource types is ok. Actually Clank feels more like a clone of Ascension than of Dominion. But also, rotating supply. At least it has several cards with abilities that let you mess with the supply; to remove some luck.

Puzzle Strike! - Don't remember too much about this one, but the idea of a deck builder where your deck is a bag of chips is neat. Of course, the design is an actual direct rip-off of a fan-mane Dominion set. The multiple types of action points is good. Fun game; but terrible production with the way they kept coming out with new editions to rebalance things and make the old ones obsolete.

Trains - Tries to add some area control to Dominion. Fails, because whenever I play, I win by just playing Dominion and ignoring the board.

Legendary Encounters - I played the Aliens one. I like the idea of a co-op deck builder. But again the way your turn actually plays out is super fiddly. Play all your cards; then figure out which ones do which things; remembering which you've used or not. The faction icons just add to that mess. Dominion has neat combos like King's Court + Bridge or Tournament + Province without needing to have both cards say right on them "this card gets better if you manage to get this other cad in the same hand".

Quarriors - Again, having a bag of dice as your deck is cool. The supply is actually Dominion-like, which is good. But the main mechanics aren't great. Too much luck involved, and has a huge runaway leader problem.

Thunderstone - I liked this when I first played it, but never play it anymore. Probably the best of the clones. There's a version / variant with a rotating supply like Ascension, so that's bad. And it still has the "play your whole hand" issue.

Concordia - I liked this a lot, but I've only played it once. It feels like it actually is a different type of game completely; with deck building only being one mechanic used.

So anyway... with only a couple exceptions, there's 3 major problems I see with most non-Dominion deck-builders:

1) Rotating supply. One of the reasons Dominion is so good is because of the equal access... all players can choose to do the same strategies and such. Ascension, while not good, is the least bad version of this because some cards are built around this notion. Clank had almost no way to remove a card from the supply other than buying it, and when I finally saw an ability that would let you do this, it still didn't refill until the end of your turn, meaning that using it to get rid of a bad card only helps your opponents.

2) Playing your whole hand. The limited actions is such a brilliant part of Dominion. The decision to buy a terminal card is more interesting than simply "is it better than my starting junk".

3) Lack of a clearly defined turn order. Action then buy makes Dominion so easy to track things. In so many other games, you can play 3 cards, use the resources they gave to buy or kill something, then play another 2 cards and buy another thing. Or, more often, you just lay your whole hand down to start, then try to figure out how many resource you have to do what with. Dominion sort of has this same problem with the buy phase, when players can just play all their treasures. But the fact that those are only showing one type of resource (usually) eliminates most of those issues.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 06:45:36 pm by GendoIkari »
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Holunder9

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2018, 06:52:48 pm »
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I see Eminent Domain as being 80% Race for the Galaxy and only 20% Dominion. Yeah, it's fun but not one of my favorites.
Yeah, it is tableau-building as well as deck-building. The idea sounded neat on paper but the actual game is not good.

Nightfall is a cool deckbuilder with direct battle, a neat chaining mechanism and a constant trade-off between offense and defense. It sometimes feels a bit random though and is sadly out of print.
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werothegreat

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2018, 07:22:16 pm »
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Ugh. The ability to play any number of cards and buy and number of cards removes what's great about Dominion.

So I think this comes down to where you want your complexity, and it's an issue I ran into when I tried designing my own deckbuilder.  I think having restricted Actions works with Dominion, because it has a) 1 resource (most of the time) b) most of the time you're going to play with 10 different Actions c) many Actions have ways around the "1 Action per turn rule".

When you start adding more resources, or adding more types of cards (outside of a basic set in every game), these limitations just stop being feasible or fun.  Limiting yourself to one buy goes from being interesting tactically to frustrating when you have multiple resources to spend.  Limiting yourself to one action becomes silly when your card pool becomes more diverse.

For a while in my deckbuilder I added a "+2 Actions" card to the basic cards, just to guarantee you could play more than one card, since I had two distinct sets of "Action" cards, and removing the "1 Action per turn" rule (and thus the +2 Actions basic card) made things a lot simpler, and gave me a bit more creative freedom with making card effects.  Also card text ended up taking up less space when you don't have to write "+1 Action" on half the cards.
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trivialknot

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2018, 07:37:10 pm »
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LOL I didn't realize that Puzzle Strike was on its third edition.  I suspect that they still have not solved all the balance issues; I see that they still price Necropolis at $4.

I've also played a few of the games that GendoIkari mentioned.

I played Clank! In Space a couple times.  My impression is that you're really at the whims of the rotating supply.  Often you'll want a particular resource (particularly movement) and there just won't be anything for you.

I thought Quarriors was neat when I played it a very long time ago, but the usual randomness of your draw order was compounded by the randomness of the fact that each "card" is a die.

Also now that I think about it, I also played Hyperborea once.  It's more like a territory control game that has a deck building mechanic in it.  The deckbuilding seems to borrow more from Eminent Domain, in that it's all about manipulating ratios of basic cards (in this case colored cubes).  One interesting wrinkle is that there are no midturn shuffles, you just can't draw more cubes until the next turn.  I mean, I'm not sure that's actually a good wrinkle.

Ascension - Ugh. The ability to play any number of cards and buy and number of cards removes what's great about Dominion. The 2 separate resource types is ok. Actually Clank feels more like a clone of Ascension than of Dominion. But also, rotating supply. At least it has several cards with abilities that let you mess with the supply; to remove some luck.
One of the things I don't like about Ascension is that the 2 resource types are not handled very well.  There are important price points to hit with each resource type (runes and power), and sometimes you just draw cards in the wrong order and manage to hit neither price point.  This feels more frustrating than Dominion, where there are important price points but only in one resource type.  In every other deck builder with multiple resource types that I've played, there are either fewer important price points to hit, or there's a way to save resources/cards between turns.

Of course, in Dominion, I guess you could see +Actions as the second resource type.
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pacovf

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2018, 08:41:30 pm »
0

Mage Knight? It's more of a Chvatil game than a deckbuilding game though, but still.
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2018, 09:38:28 pm »
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Played Trains and Thunderstone (Advance). Trains is relatively weak and has a lot of cards ripped directly from Dominion, whereas Thunderstone feels very slow in the beginning. The Advance version solves a lot of that and I actually like it quite a bit, to be honest. It's obviously a game that wouldn't exist without Dominion, but it has some own things to offer. I don't mind the "play your hand" thing at all, to be honest. The game is complex enough as is.

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2018, 11:16:37 pm »
+1

I came to Dominion from Puzzle Strike.  I like lots of things about Puzzle Strike.  I think it's a dick move not to put the name of the person who realized that how well the Scrabble bag works for deckbuilders onto the instruction manual or box.  I also think Sirlin is a dick for the way he monetized his game digitally.  I think he's a bad game designer almost all of the time, he is very preoccupied with a very specific interpretation of how hidden information can benefit a game, and I don't think it works well. 

I think it's argument ad hominem to put his game at the top of the list for "rippest offesest" because of these things, though.  He kept 1 action per turn, and copied more than others in that way.  Ok, but everyone is saying that that's a really good choice for a deckbuilder.  It uses a supply.  Again.. the alternative to that is the Black Market games, and those are so definitely worse. 

It is definitely more unique than Star Realms, because the attack ships in Star Realms all function pretty much like nonterminal Monuments with no $.  And nonterminal Monuments with no $ are a lot like Duchies.  Battlefield Duchies, if the timing is a little different, but mostly Duchies.  Puzzle strike has the whole, offensive or defense use of the military cards thing going on, and how you want a different mixture of them if you want to be more defensive or more offensive, but you can still pick the most aggressive or most defensive mode on them if you want to.  The card design is way less vanilla.  I could probably publish a game and never need to make a second edition if my set was nothing but silvers with faction labels that say "if you have another card with this faction label in play, draw a card" or "+1$" or "+1 card" or "+1 VP"

The ability to choose a character paired with the inability to swap the character out is what made me leave the game.  It reclaims the issue with the Black Market deck in a way that could totally be avoided.  That flaw is unique, too, there's plenty unique. 

Like really guys, the game can't be worse than Dominion in eleventeen ways, and also a carbon copy of Dominion.  Pick one.  I'm pretty sure it's worse than Dominion in eleventeen ways.  That's the one.
The two things I like about Puzzle Strike are saving cards for a later turn (Mage Knights does this too) and that it has a unique "victory condition" zone that interacts with an economic deckbuilder mostly in the way you would want it to, and is in and of itself complex.  Mage Knights also adds some complexity to the way you get victory points, but its biggest flaw is that the victory point cards are all like 5$ Nobles, which creates snowballing.  Mage Knights is pretty fun.  It has sooo many pieces though.  It's a chore to play it physically, yet at the same time seems like it deserves four beer mugs around it.

Clank is a fun game that seems like it might have limited plays to it.  I've enjoyed it the couple times I've played it so far.  Last time I killed everyone with the dragon, but it was pretty random whether that could even work at all, its game-length to RNG ratio make me think I couldn't ever play it very competitively.

I've played some deckbuilder where you bid on the cards you gain, and you are all survivors trying to not starve in the ice.  It was cool that they were trying to do something unique but it had snowballing issues.  But those snowballing issues might have been me crying wolf, I only got to play it once.  It was definitely trying to do something different.

War of Omens is definitely my favorite non-Dominion deckbuilder.  It's a flash game on Kongregate that stopped getting new content like 4 years ago and refuses to die on the basis of its gameplay quality alone.  Each player has their own supply they deckbuild from randomly.  Not getting the best card from your supply is pretty unlucky, but the game length is so short that that's very fine.  It has some cards that generate benefit unless your opponent uses damage to remove them, the one other unique bit to Star Realms I should mention to be fair, I guess.  You collect the cards for your supply like a CCG, but I play the draft mode where you don't do that instead since CCGs suck.

I'm dreaming of the day someone makes a game as well balanced as Dominion, but with a more versatile victory mechanic at the core.  I think there's a space there, and I think it'd be sweet.  It might not really be there, but, I want it to be.
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ipofanes

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2018, 03:40:37 am »
0

Clank is nice for the way the deck is thematic. Early greening is like stuffing your pockets with shiny things until you look like a Napoleon soldier in Moscow, unable to run or fight with that longcase clock on your back.

A Few Acres of Snow has also a nice incorporation of theme, in that the acquired cards come into effect later in the game, like military orders arriving from Europe in the New World within a matter of months.

Great Western Trail has deckbuilding with a strong hand building mechanic. I like how trashing is really expensive and cycling is much more accessible. Also, the way to get stop cards out of your deck by committing to fulfil a contract.

In Rococo, the deck-building element is smaller than in GWT, decks are very small, there is no luck of the draw, so incorporating even one trasher (I call them the guys from Human Resources) is a rather strong commitment to trashing.

Orléans has a bag building mechanic with strong incentive to trash because the initial chips you have are not that junky. You will need chips of any kind during the length of the game.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2018, 03:43:10 am by ipofanes »
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2018, 03:54:53 am »
+3

I wouldn't consider Concordia a deckbuilder. You are technically building a deck, but the fact that you draw it all at once and you can trigger your "reshuffles" with an action makes it work completely differently than pretty much any other game mentioned here.
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ipofanes

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2018, 04:05:25 am »
+1

Indeed, if you always draw your whole deck, you have a hand builder like Rummy or (one of my favourites) Monad. I sometimes wonder how Monad would work as a deck builder but I fear that it would take away too much control.
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Holunder9

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2018, 06:16:11 am »
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I think he's a bad game designer almost all of the time, he is very preoccupied with a very specific interpretation of how hidden information can benefit a game, and I don't think it works well. 
I totally disagree. Codex is one of the most brilliant designs of the last years, flawlessly merging the best of Dominion and Magic.
Unlike in Magic you build your deck during the game (except for some starting cards) and unlike in Dominion you don't buy the new cards from a Supply but draft them non-randomly and secretly from your private set, kinda like in Mage Wars. In Mage Wars you pay immediately when you play cards from the binder which makes it a CCG without deck-draw randomness whereas in Codex you only draft from your binder and still have deck-draw randomness. But both games are far less random than an ordinary CCG (Dominion keeps randomness relatively low due to the law of large numbers: you draw far more cards in a game of Dominion than in a CCG).
When you draw cards you have to pay for them with economy being out-of-deck and being correlated with trashing. Game itself is then some normal tactial stuff, familiar from other CCGs or LCGs.
The cool stuff is the secret deck-building, that you don't know what your opponent is going for until you see the card for the first time.

As it is Magic and Dominion inspired it also feels like something that DXV could have come up with instead of Dominion in an alternate universe.
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2018, 07:06:05 am »
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Sirlin is a hack when it comes to game design, but he wrote some pretty decent stuff, most notably the Playing to Win articles.
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2018, 08:08:37 am »
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I wouldn't consider Concordia a deckbuilder. You are technically building a deck, but the fact that you draw it all at once and you can trigger your "reshuffles" with an action makes it work completely differently than pretty much any other game mentioned here.

Agreed - this and Century: Spice Road fall into a category which I've seen called "Hand-builders".  Definitely they owe a debt to Dominion, but it's probably unfair to call them clones.

Edit: sorry, I missed ipofanes' comment.

I recently played Don't Turn Your Back which was definitely a deck-builder, but it felt different to Dominion, and I'd happily play it again.  It certainly didn't have the thing that Legendary has where the other players get annoyed at me for calling things Coppers and Silvers.
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2018, 08:45:35 am »
+1

I'm surprised there's no mention of the DC Superheroes deck-building game, or maybe it's just my brother-in-law that really enjoys it. I've had fun with it. It's got a few mechanics that differentiate it (you randomly draw superheroes at the beginning of the game that give you unique abilities throughout the game), but seems a bit imbalanced.

I believe there's a Marvel deckbuilder also, but I haven't played it. 
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2018, 10:23:22 am »
0

I played The Quest for El Dorado (by Reiner Knizia) a few times after it came out last year, and while no other deckbuilder holds a candle to Dominion, I have to say El Dorado is the "Dominion clone" I've enjoyed the most (I've also played Clank, Ascension, and Star Realms). 

It takes a lot of the typical deckbuilder mechanics described in many of these clones: play actions, play resources, buy cards which go in your discard, draw a new hand, shuffle when needed, etc.  Instead of buying victory cards or earning points, players "race" across a variable hexagonal game board (which is randomized each game), passing obstacles and different types of terrain to be the first to reach "El Dorado."  There's a nearly infinite number of different routes to victory, so every player will likely take different routes depending on how they build their deck.  Taking the resource generation of a deckbuilder and applying it to the movement of your piece across a physical board is reminiscent of Clank, though different terrains use different card resources, and the randomization adds to replayability, unlike Clank's few set gameboards. 

There are a total of 18 piles of purchasable different cards besides your starting cards with only 3 copies each.  The market starts with just six of these piles which are the only ones you can buy from until a pile is depleted, and then the next player can buy any card, and thus choose which of the other piles gets added to the market, which adds some tactics of when to empty a pile.  Unlike Ascension and Clank's rotating supply, this mechanic is pretty neat and seems unique among the deckbuilders I've played.  With only 18 cards, it sounds like it might get boring quickly, but the limited numbers of each card and restricted purchase times, means every deck you build will be different and involves some healthy player interaction of when to empty a pile and when not to. 

A few other differences, you only draw 4 cards per hand instead of five.  Another neat thing, you can use excess cards in your hand to help buy cards (each 2 cards=one coin).  Finally, at the end of your turn, you are allowed to put any excess cards onto your deck instead of discarding them, which is poses interesting choices for setting up your next turn (e.g. a have an oar I cant use this turn but next turn I'm probably going over water, so I'll save it).  It's a neat puzzle to try and figure out the best route to the end, which cards to purchase, and how to set up your next hand.  If you haven't played El Dorado, it's definitely worth a try. 

What I really love about Dominion are the equal starting positions and that all cards are (usually) available to all players--rotating supplies add a bit too much randomness to me, and I never like seeing certain options suddenly closed off from other players just because it wasn't their turn when a specific card became available.  I've yet to play another deck-builder that emulates these principles of always available cards, yet also infinite replayability, as simply and as elegantly as Dominion. 
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Witherweaver

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2018, 10:39:18 am »
+2

Magic clones:

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2018, 10:42:14 am »
+1

I've been enjoying Slay the spire video game.
Is a deck building dungeon run.
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2018, 11:38:11 am »
0

I think he's a bad game designer almost all of the time, he is very preoccupied with a very specific interpretation of how hidden information can benefit a game, and I don't think it works well. 
I totally disagree. Codex is one of the most brilliant designs of the last years, flawlessly merging the best of Dominion and Magic.
Unlike in Magic you build your deck during the game (except for some starting cards) and unlike in Dominion you don't buy the new cards from a Supply but draft them non-randomly and secretly from your private set, kinda like in Mage Wars. In Mage Wars you pay immediately when you play cards from the binder which makes it a CCG without deck-draw randomness whereas in Codex you only draft from your binder and still have deck-draw randomness. But both games are far less random than an ordinary CCG (Dominion keeps randomness relatively low due to the law of large numbers: you draw far more cards in a game of Dominion than in a CCG).
When you draw cards you have to pay for them with economy being out-of-deck and being correlated with trashing. Game itself is then some normal tactial stuff, familiar from other CCGs or LCGs.
The cool stuff is the secret deck-building, that you don't know what your opponent is going for until you see the card for the first time.

As it is Magic and Dominion inspired it also feels like something that DXV could have come up with instead of Dominion in an alternate universe.
Well, I said almost all of the time.  If I know about that one, I know about Chess 2, Puzzle Strike, Yomi, and that shitty Magic card he got to guest design too.

I doubt I'll get another warm body for trying Codex, but good to hear and all.
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2018, 11:42:09 am »
0

I either enjoy deck building as part of a bigger game as in Mage Knight or in a total different way like in Kashgar. Both excellent games.

The only "Dominion clone" that I quite enjoyed is Friday a solitaire deck builder filler game.

I also quite enjoyed Automobiles which is a Bag Building game.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2018, 11:47:49 am by Qvist »
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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2018, 11:50:17 am »
0

I think he's a bad game designer almost all of the time, he is very preoccupied with a very specific interpretation of how hidden information can benefit a game, and I don't think it works well. 
I totally disagree. Codex is one of the most brilliant designs of the last years, flawlessly merging the best of Dominion and Magic.
Unlike in Magic you build your deck during the game (except for some starting cards) and unlike in Dominion you don't buy the new cards from a Supply but draft them non-randomly and secretly from your private set, kinda like in Mage Wars. In Mage Wars you pay immediately when you play cards from the binder which makes it a CCG without deck-draw randomness whereas in Codex you only draft from your binder and still have deck-draw randomness. But both games are far less random than an ordinary CCG (Dominion keeps randomness relatively low due to the law of large numbers: you draw far more cards in a game of Dominion than in a CCG).
When you draw cards you have to pay for them with economy being out-of-deck and being correlated with trashing. Game itself is then some normal tactial stuff, familiar from other CCGs or LCGs.
The cool stuff is the secret deck-building, that you don't know what your opponent is going for until you see the card for the first time.

As it is Magic and Dominion inspired it also feels like something that DXV could have come up with instead of Dominion in an alternate universe.
Well, I said almost all of the time.  If I know about that one, I know about Chess 2, Puzzle Strike, Yomi, and that shitty Magic card he got to guest design too.

I doubt I'll get another warm body for trying Codex, but good to hear and all.
The net is full of pretty rude stuff about Sirlin so I take it with a grain of salt.

Perhaps the guys is a jerk (who cares, I am in it for the design, not the designer), perhaps he "ripped off" (a dubious notion in the first place given that boardgames constantly inspire each other; deckbuilders are not per se Dominion clone just like worker placement games are not per se Caylus clones) some games and ideas, perhaps he has designed some stinkers (even the greatest designers have) but the only game of him I know is utterly brilliant.
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Mic Qsenoch

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2018, 11:50:45 am »
+3

For me, the appeal of Dominion is to look out at the Kingdom and have a dream of a radically different deck from the one I currently hold in my hand. Then I get to try and make that dream a reality. Usually it works! Sometimes it doesn't, and that's fun too. But if I can't "radically" change my deck, it's just a boring exercise in shuffling cards and getting slightly better ones, something like BMU.

The games where there's some small deckbuilding tacked onto something else are just the worst, well, at least the deckbuilding part makes me miserable.
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trivialknot

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2018, 12:47:18 pm »
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When I said Puzzle Strike was a ripoff of Dominion, I didn't mean it like it was an unforgivably bad thing.  Honestly, Star Realms is even more of a ripoff of Ascension, and I like Star Realms.

The more problematic aspect of Puzzle Strike was the other part I mentioned, lifting the art design from a Dominion fan.  If you've never seen it before, behold. We liked Puzzle Strike early on, even though we thought of it as a Dominion knock-off with balance issues (we played 1st ed).  But learning about how Sirlin stole the art design made it less enjoyable for me.
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Kuildeous

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Re: Dominion clones
« Reply #24 on: February 08, 2018, 12:56:36 pm »
+1

I do like Dominion for its set kingdoms. I have some players who prefer Ascension because of its chaotic pool of cards. I'm not overly fond of those, but I deal with them. I find myself annoyed more with Ascension than I do with Clank. Probably because Clank's prices seem about okay. And if there is nothing you want to buy or fight in the middle of Clank, the "Silvers" are pretty good. It's easy to screw yourself in that game and ignore boots, which is how you move around on the board.

I still have a soft spot for Thunderstone. It's slow and clunky, but that theme works so well. It has a lot of values to track (light, strength, cost, attack), so it's not accessible to nongamers, but it tickles the puzzle-solving part of my brain. It's very Dominion-like in that you have set cards in your kingdom. You have randomness in what monsters come out, and that can be unfortunate. If the first three monsters are all just super tough, then you're all spending your turns buying cards with no fighting.

Trains is pretty good, but that's because it really is Dominion. There are some neat kingdom cards, and the province is worth fewer points, but the base is almost letter by letter the same as Dominion. The board is a neat idea, and I wish it was done a bit better. In order to build on the board, you usually have to take some debris into your deck. They just clog your hand, so it better be worth it pointswise to take them. I feel that Trains doesn't put enough emphasis on the board points to justify clogging your hand. IIRC, there is a rule where you can skip your turn and trash all the debris from your hand. Thunderstone has something similar, but I can't remember it very well. I think you discard your hand but top-deck the ones you want to keep so that you strengthen your next hand. Honestly, I think all deckbuilders could benefit from a rule like this.

My latest fun has been with Mystic Vale. It's technically not a deckbuilder in that you start with 20 cards and end with 20 cards. Instead, you build up the cards. All your cards are sleeved, and you can improve your card with clear inserts. They are clear like in Gloom. The main currency is mana, which is spent much like Dominion. There is also another commodity that lets you buy cards that don't go in your deck but will give you special abilities or victory points. One complaint I hear about Mystic Vale is that it gets stale with the same cards. I can's disagree with that. I have all expansions so far, and they've eliminated the staleness. It's a pool of cards like Ascension, which should annoy me, but it doesn't.

Adding leaders to Mystic Vale is fun. You add the leader to one of your cards, and you have a unique ability no one else has. Imagine playing Dominion where one Copper is replaced by a guy that gives you $1 and +1 Buy. Another player may have one that gives him +2 Cards. You could even upgrade that card so that you now get $1, +1 Buy, and +3 Actions. Such cards could be unbalanced, but they give each leader different victory points at the end and varying costs to upgrade. I can't say for certain if they hit a good balance or not.

Anyway, I love Mystic Vale, though I can't say if it's for the novelty or the game. Since I see a lot of naysayers of the game, maybe it's the former, but whatever. I'm having fun with it.
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