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theory

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On the "most hated" Dominion cards
« on: November 20, 2012, 10:14:33 am »
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Once in a while someone will mention to me, "you know, I don't like Dominion," and man I am fine with that. I am not too insecure on that front. It didn't win Austrian game of the year, that's how I put it. Anyway here you all are probably relatively fond of it, but feel free to hate whatever cards. I don't mind. There are certainly some love/hate cards.

Here then is what I think of these hated Dominion cards.

Possession: Possession has two possible problems in my book. First it has that gigantic FAQ. The FAQ might have killed it if there had been more time to work on the set. It's crazy long, even if mostly it just says, "yes really, they take a turn but you make the decisions." Second it's a love/hate card in a small set. You could argue that love/hate cards should be in large sets, where the hate matters less, because, you know, it's a smaller percentage of your cards. Whereas I don't think that diminishes love so much. Somehow. Anyway it was the first small set and I did not think about such things. Other than those things I like the card. I find it to be on the weak side; it kind of has a "fun tax" - cards that give you extra turns have to be weak in general so that players don't bore you too much with them. Not that Possession is boring. Anyway it was gonna be a love/hate card, no question, but there are people who love it and they couldn't play it if it didn't exist, and man it's easy enough to fight against. Don't build a deck that buys two Provinces a turn vs. Possession; that's a good place to start.

Saboteur: This has four strikes against it. First it's a way to trash people's precious cards. It is totally worth making some of those cards, for the people that adore them, but they need to be especially fun for those people, which Saboteur is not. Second it's an attack with no resource production. You know, it just attacks. That sounded fine to me, but it turns out some people don't like that. This isn't a love/hate thing though; no-one loves it. It's not important to the game to have such cards and I already did a couple, so I wouldn't be expecting too many more. Third it's weak. In fact it's the weakest card in the game, relative to its cost. Something had to be and well that something is Saboteur. Fourth it has lots of tiny text. That's something I like to reserve for really adored cards. Overall Saboteur is the Dominion card least justified in existing.

Smugglers: I like Smugglers a lot. Flavorwise it should probably be "non-vp card" rather than "card costing up to $6," but of course functionally it's significant that it isn't necessarily dead late in the game. I think Smugglers went over well in general and it looks out of place on this list to me. Sure your opponent might Throne Smugglers after you buy Gold or Duchy. Man, they're your opponent, they've gotta do something to bother you.

Treasure Map: In playtesting the struggle was making sure this was good enough to sometimes go for. Once it made 3 Golds and they didn't go on top. Some people do single this out as a high-variance card they don't like. I think the hate is similar to Pirate Ship's; in some groups everybody buys it, thus whoever bought it and got luckiest wins, and then the card looks broken when really it requires good card interactions to be exciting. King's Court has higher variance and gets fewer complaints, though some people do hate it (especially, players who are really focused on skill winning out); I think there it's just, playing something three times is something a lot of people can appreciate, and the card isn't as blatant about its variance. And then Platinum, I bet a lot of people don't even think of Platinum as high-variance. Certainly no-one complains about it. So anyway yeah, Treasure Map, not the swingiest card, but very in your face about its swinginess.

Familiar: Some people just don't like the Potion concept. I knew this, thought the set was still worth doing, but put it last. Then it jumped up to 3rd after they decided they wanted small sets. The cards in Alchemy have to be good enough when they're the only Alchemy card out, and if they are then you may draw your Potion without quite enough money. The general solution is not to do this kind of thing in Dominion expansions, but in spin-offs instead, where you can ensure that there's always plenty of whatever, and then balance the cards for that situation.

Swindler: I like Swindler a lot, now you know. It's everything I want out of a trashing attack. Let's compare it to Saboteur. Swindler trashes people's precious cards. It can't usually get rid of a Province though (yes it can on the last turn, and there's Peddler sometimes, or combos). And sometimes other cards are safe from it, e.g. Gold with no other $6. It does produce resources, a generous +$2. It's not weak. And it doesn't have lots of tiny text! It's a fine length. Also it adds a decision that's sometimes interesting, and puts cards in your deck that you didn't want but which might be useful anyway. It does add luck, and especially hurts when they hit your $5 early, say while hitting someone else's Estate, but it also adds skill. You see people blow it on that decision so often; the funniest case is where they hit Silver and cannot bear to give you a Swindler for it.

Black Market: For the prototype I don't have separate different-backed randomizer cards - I use one card from each pile for the randomizer, add it to the pile to play, then return one to the randomizer pile afterwards. You can do this with real cards too, and if you do, then you don't actually ever need to build a Black Market deck. Those of you who just don't like the setup, there you go. I have played with Black Market a lot, but have never actually endured the setup it proposes. Those of you who don't like that only one person ends up with a particular card, well that was the premise, some people like that a lot, and hey it's a promo.

Tournament: Aside from being so complex that it has a 2x2 payoff grid and then requires you to read five other cards to know the whole story, I think of Tournament as a slam dunk, the kind of card every set is desperate to have. I did not expect any complaints about the rich-get-richer aspect of it; there is so much rich-get-richer in Dominion.

Goons: I am pleased with this card. It was a late addition with several restrictions - it had to be an attack that was suitable for Prosperity and didn't give out Curses; it had to give out VP tokens; it had to be justifiable with that art (leftover from Pawn). The attack part feels tacked on, but the other part is cool. It's nice that while the VP tokens part is cumulative, the attack part isn't. It's a good $6 but not an automatic purchase. Some people never get tired of raking in the VP tokens, and there are cute combos like Watchtower.

Ambassador: The attacks in Dominion fall into four categories, and it's easy for the attack part of an attack to feel like nothing new, leaving the resource part to try to make the card unique. So I am very pleased with Ambassador, which feels very different from other attacks in its family. It's cool that people sometimes buy Curses to give them away with it, and it's fun when you end up giving someone a random action you don't want anymore. I can see experienced players getting sick of it, since it's powerful, but I think at first glance it doesn't look scary; there's some play value in gradually learning what kind of monster you're dealing with.

For me, the worst cards to see in a set of 10 are Spy variants. The reason is, they mess up testing. I'm testing a new card, Sheep. I buy it. You hit it with Spy and make me discard it. Next pass through my deck, same thing. Well I am not learning anything about Sheep this game.

I like seeing high variance cards on the table - it takes the pressure off. I can just relax and play. It wasn't my fault I lost, officer, the King's Court did it. I like fighting against attacks. Some of the most hated cards, like Possession and Saboteur, I usually don't even buy, because I'm trying to win. I don't mind Chapel in games where there's no good alternative; we all buy Chapel, it's a fast game, and there are still other decisions. I don't have trouble counting for Philosopher's Stone, although if I had it to do again I would put it (back) into Prosperity (with Bank, formerly from Alchemy, in Alchemy), to reduce the overall sense of the set being slow.

Well it's no surprise that I like the cards, I mean anything I hated did not have much of a chance of making it into a set.
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