The Secret History of Dominion
I'm there for you guys with the tough answers.Main set:The big thing is to add more replayability. There are six vanilla cards and probably five would have been fine; the obvious one to replace is Woodcutter. Woodcutter is a fine card for the main set but the other vanilla cards are all better. That means all of the +buy cards would cost $5 but I can live with that. After that, Feast adds very little. Chancellor doesn't add much and would have been better in Intrigue (where it came from); the fact that it's a puzzler is way better in an expansion than in the main set. And finally there's Spy. Spy is slow to resolve, that's the big thing. Over the years I have learned that ideally Spy-type attacks don't have +1 action, or don't involve a decision, or both. Rabble is exactly what I want. Spy has +1 action and involves a decision, so you potentially make tons of decisions per turn. I like decisions but man Spy is not where to get them. It initially got to interact with two attacks that trashed cards from the top of your deck, and that's cool, but now it only interacts with Thief (in the main set that is), and that combo just isn't worth the slot.The way to think of these things is, imagine the replacement cards. Let's say I just take out Woodcutter and Feast and put in Wishing Well and Coppersmith. Those are not top-of-the-line adored-by-all go-in-every-deck cards. But they still give you more to do than Woodcutter and Feast do.It would be nice if Thief were stronger, but it already scares new players, and once everyone was new. There are some wording tweaks; Throne Room and Moneylender should of course say "you may." I would try coloring the coins on the treasures. The Trash card should be a mat instead.There are people who complain about various other cards, but I am happy with those, so there.Intrigue:Saboteur is the biggest mistake here. Some people hate it because it can trash Provinces, some because it's an attack that doesn't make resources (which was a surprise but there it is), some just don't like it because it's weak. Some people like it, but the kind of person who wants an attack like this deserves one that has fewer strikes against it - like, Swindler, there you go.Moats have to be on the weak side, but I would probably still try to improve Secret Chamber. It also has the issue of making reactions confusing - the whole business of, reveal Secret Chamber, resolve it, reveal a Moat I drew off of it. It would be better to avoid that issue, even if it meant just not doing Secret Chamber's reaction.I would look at ways to buff Scout. I would consider changing Mining Village to avoid invoking the enigmatic "lose track" rule. I would consider whether I like Bridge and Coppersmith as is, in their Throne-able glory, or if I would rather phrase them the way I think such stuff in general should be phrased, like Highway etc. Masquerade originally triggered gain/trash things; I would look at that again, but honestly I would be unlikely to just reword it to address the King's Court / Masquerade / Goons combo. Masquerade has a clear simple wording and I would rather kill the card than make the wording awful, an awful that you dear reader may be mystified as to the awfulness of, I have come to terms with that. But I'm not sure I need to kill the combo and Masquerade is a pretty cool card.Seaside:The biggest thing here is, the set has two cards that hand out junk that cost less than $5. Cards like that tend to dominate games, since people buy them turns 1-2 and start playing them fast, so it's bad to have two of them in one set, even though when they're in the same game the one defends against the other. I just don't want heavy-Seaside games to always have one of those cards. So either Ambassador or Sea Hag should be a more powerful card for $5. Ambassador looks more innocent so probably I would change Sea Hag.Lookout is the dud of the set. The problem is, some people are terrified of trashing a good card with it. At the same time trashing bad cards looks less exciting to some players. And as a trasher it's not exceptional. So the overall package is a card that a lot of players don't want, but that some experienced players realize is okay but not special. I could instead have some other card more people liked.Originally the set did not have tokens. Embargo put itself on a pile; Pirate Ship kept one treasure per attack and counted them; Pirate Ship and Native Village did have mats, but they were card-sized (when that changed I got to add Haven back in). If I had known the set would have counters, I would have tried to get more use out of them, just as I made two more VP token cards to go with Monument.Outpost could be simpler. Ideally it would have you discard 2 at the start of your next turn, rather than having the wonky Clean-up-modifying effect it has. There was not enough time between when I realized that and when the card had to be finalized. Again some people complain about various other cards but I am having none of it. Pirate Ship is weak but I don't think it should be stronger. I like Treasure Map as is. Fishing Village and Wharf are strong engine-enablers and well we are talking good times there. Pearl Diver and Navigator are not prized, but they look reasonable to me, and as I have said many times, if I made all cards better by making them maximally complex, the game would have no players. Explorer is fine, why do people even complain about Explorer. They can't all be the best $5 ever.Alchemy:The first big thing is that, I knew some people wouldn't appreciate the potion resource concept, so I put the expansion last. Then it was bumped up as the only thing I could get out quickly as a small set. I would put it last. This would simplify all of those threads where people ask what order to buy the expansions.The next big thing is that, I knew some people wouldn't appreciate the potion concept, but did not realize that some people would find the set to be too slow. It has an action-chaining sub-theme, in order to make individual potion-costing cards good in games where there's only one card to buy with potions, and well this leads to longer games. I could potentially have put in two victory cards or treasures or both though, as those are cards you can buy multiples of (another solution to the problem that action-chaining was solving), and tweaked the card mix other ways to reduce either slowness or the perception of slowness.Two things stand out here. First I could have swapped Philosopher's Stone with Bank. Bank was originally in this set, and the only reason I took it out was because Alchemy got pushed ahead of Prosperity, and Prosperity introduced treasures where the order of played treasures mattered. Philosopher's Stone did not quite require all of the rules that Bank did. But I could have sucked it up and had Bank anyway. It's a good fit for the set otherwise. And Philosopher's Stone, it is not such a slow card, but people sure think it is.Second I could have dropped the attack from Scrying Pool. Scrying Pool did not originally have an attack. It got one because I felt the set should have two attacks, and the names were already in - it was a tight schedule and art was being made while I worked on the cards. "Scrying Pool" was the name that felt like it could attack, paired with a card that felt like it could attack (yes I could have replaced Golem with an attack, but that was not on the table, Golem was too awesome). Now did I really need two attacks? Not enough to muck up Scrying Pool. This change made the card slower, more wordy, and less special-seeming. Before it was this cool draw-lots-of-cards thing; now it's Spy, something something, some kind of Spy variant I think, I'll read the rest later. I would rather have the faster simpler cooler card. Again Spy itself is bad, it's too slow for what you get, and Scrying Pool's Spy is worse, because you've got card-drawing built-in to get you more of them.Probably I would drop the potion clause from Apprentice. It got that because 1) it meant every card in the set interacted in some way with potions, and 2) it answers the question "what if I trash a card with potion in the cost" right on the card. But really, whatever, the simpler version is better.Those are really the changes. Possession has way too long of a FAQ and would be better in a large expansion, which Alchemy originally was. It's a card some people adore though, and reasonable except for the FAQ issue. I don't know what can be done about the FAQ but I do not look at Possession and think, oh I shouldn't have made that one. Maybe Familiar should be cheaper, that's plausible.Prosperity:Prosperity got more testing than any other set, due to being pushed back for Alchemy. It did not need even more testing; whatever cards could be improved, it would not be worth spending time improving them. That's time that could be spent improving other expansions or working on other games. That's how I see it.That said, Loan is easily the dud for me. I knew this during that extra testing period but decided to keep it. Looking at it in the set, it's okay. It has basically the same issues as Lookout, only not as bad; less experienced players are terrified of flipping over a Platinum that they now don't get to draw on this pass, while experienced players know that Loan is fine but not the best trasher ever; sometimes it's exciting because you are not buying any other treasures this game. I buy it more than Lookout, but whatever, in general this flipping over of cards thing has to come paired with something like "and get the good ones" in order to not bum people out too much. I don't think Venture makes people not buy it because maybe they'll flip over their good actions, although they will sometimes. But Loan, not a star. Anyway I kept it in knowing this.Talisman would be a lot more exciting if it could get VP cards somehow, but some people do like it as is. There might have been a good tweak there, dunno. Counting House is narrow but a set can have a narrow card, some people love winning with narrow cards in the games where they are good enough. I just beat FTL's turn-two Mountebank with it so there you go.Cornucopia:Well I am pretty pleased with this one, but can probably still find something to poke at.I guess my top thing is, it would be nice to have another card that really makes you want a variety of cards. Just to push the theme a little more. Probably Farming Village would go to have room for it. People like Farming Village but it's the off-theme card I need the least here.Harvest does the flip over cards thing, and I would try to fix that up, see if I could make a version that did not make your good cards go by. I would like Bag of Gold to be better relative to the other prizes.Sweet set, no lie.Hinterlands:Odds are I wasn't going to be so unhappy with this one either, given how recent it is. The one thing I can say is, I thought the set was simpler than people think it is, and I would be strongly tempted to simplify it a little given that I know people think it's complex. Basically make it a little more like the standalone it didn't end up being. To that end the obv. changes are to drop the reactions from Fool's Gold and Trader, to drop the above-line text on Duchess (just leave it +$2), and make a version of IGG that just has $1 or $2 on the top. Possibly either Inn or Mandarin could change, I like them both as-is but they would be some of the wordiest cards left at that point. Noble Brigand is wordy but it needs those words. Probably all of these changes sound awful to you, dear reader, but that's the way of the world. It's hard to see the value in the simplicity I'd gain, but there really is value there. Anyway I went with the more complex versions and it's not so bad that I did.Promos:Black Market could be a lot simpler. You make it gain cards directly, to get rid of the buying-during-action-phase thing, and then make a special dedicated deck for it, to simplify set-up. And hey I made that card, it's Tournament. Envoy and Walled Village are too lackluster to be promos. I am pleased with Governor and Stash. Stash is the perfect promo: it's wacky in a way that isn't actually tricky, it has a little subtlety to it, and yet it really isn't depriving some expansion of a cool card. Promos are bad; you either depvire the game of something in order to have it as a promo, or you do something wacky in the situation where people have the least access to the rules for it, or you do something not worth doing in the game and then why is it worth doing as a promo? But people love promos so what can you do.
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