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Author Topic: Dominion's supposed lack of depth  (Read 3171 times)

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Dominion's supposed lack of depth
« on: June 17, 2011, 04:59:16 pm »


Quote from: Donald X.
Here are some comments on some of the stuff in this thread.

- Actions have to be better than money, or you would just buy money. So they are! At the same time you have to deal with the rule that limits you to one action per turn. There are four basic ways of doing this: 1) only play a few actions; 2) play actions that give you +1 action, like Laboratory; 3) play with ways to play extra actions, like Village; 4) play with ways to usefully discard or trash unplayable actions, like Remodel. You can mix 'n' match - for example a deck with a Mine, a Militia, and 4 Laboratories is a mix of #1 and #2. If you are going for #1 then you are going to be buying a bunch of money. That's your approach to not drawing dead actions. There are three other approaches though. They vary in merit depending on the table. [There is a less common 5th approach, which is to not do anything to avoid drawing dead actions; for example with Workshop / Gardens, you might acquire so many Workshops that you are likely to draw two together, but that's okay.]

- It's true that there are some simple strategies that will crush new players. That's kind of interesting, but not unique to Dominion. Looking at it in terms of computer AI's is really misleading - there are trivial computer AI's that play perfectly for tons of games. I mean you can just consider each move and each response recursively. It may not be practical for playing against, due to how long it will take making its moves, but it's a trivial algorithm. Anyway I think it's fine that those simple strategies exist. The experienced players will do better things, and the new players will learn and play those simple strategies and have a shot at winning.

- The idea that there is somehow a flaw in the game based on "you should only buy a card if it's better than Silver" seems pretty silly to me. I mean, it's trivially true and tells you nothing. Consider: 1) at any given point, you should buy the card that's best for your deck at that point; 2) a card is best by virtue of being better than all of the other choices; 3) when you have $3, one of those other choices is Silver; 4) therefore you should only buy cards that are better than Silver (or Silver, or cheaper cards when you only have $2). Yeah sure. Similarly you should only buy a card if it's better than Estate. The "Estate Test." When Woodcutter is on the table, you should only buy a card if it's better than Woodcutter. The "Woodcutter Test." Now it is useful information that people tend to undervalue Silver at first. That doesn't magically reduce the actual decision-making in the game though.

- Similarly the other steps of the Silver Test algorithm are misleading. People often buy Gold for $6, because it's usually the only card that costs that much, and usually a more valuable card is more powerful; but most games you will find someone buying something else for $6 at some point. Once the game isn't going to last long enough to draw what you buy, the only sensible purchase is a Victory card, so people naturally buy Duchy for $6 all the time - might want to add that step! But any of the $5's can be a good purchase for $6. In fact one of the big steps for new players is to realize that just because you have $N doesn't mean you should buy a card for $N. So... sure, you can decide "If I have $6-$7 I will always buy Gold" and still do well enough to beat a new player. That doesn't mean that purchasing decision doesn't exist.

- The action cards aren't all equally useful, and card values vary from game to game. But surely all of the cards see at least some play in most play groups. I play all of them.

- "Depth" can mean different things to different people. Where it's talking about the 3+ million combinations, that's not depth to me, that's "space" (also it's not advertised). I think there are three ways people experience the space generated by the cards. First there is just the cards themselves - the experience each card offers on its own. You quickly see all of that space - it's linear. Second there are pairs of cards that interact, positively or negatively. I think this is the main one for most people - just because you've played Library before doesn't mean you've had the experience of Festival / Library or Militia / Library. Third there are the "tables" - sets of 10 cards. It's different to have all three of Festival / Militia / Library out at once, and throwing in another card that's good with Library will affect the value of Festival, even if those two cards themselves don't interact at all. Playing Festival / Library against Witch is different from playing it against Thief. And so on. But for most people I think the pairs is a closer measure of how much they feel like they're really experiencing new things. I don't know how many plays the game is good for with just the pairwise variety provided by the main set, but it's a bunch, and it explodes when you add expansions.

- For me a good measure of actual depth for many games is: after a game is over, how often do you think you should have played differently? How long does it take before you stop making mistakes? I can't really evaluate this for myself for Dominion, as I am always playing with expansions we're testing; but in those games with expansions, I frequently feel like I blew it at least somewhat. I evaluate the table and what's happened so far, I pursue a strategy, and then afterwards I think, man, why did I buy that.

- As of this writing, 2 people have played over 2000 games of Dominion on BSW, and 25 people have played over 1000. So, if it turns out to be broken in some really basic way, that isn't spoiling it for everyone.
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