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Author Topic: Donald X.'s Guide to 15 Dominion Expansions  (Read 14612 times)

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Donald X.

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Donald X.'s Guide to 15 Dominion Expansions
« on: December 28, 2022, 12:59:46 pm »

Lots of people ask: what Dominion expansion should I get next? They have different criteria in mind and well this guide will try to answer that question for a variety of criteria. This is the second version of this guide, adding the 3 latest expansions and some notes on second editions.

It can be helpful to look at the cards, see what's in the expansions. The wiki has images of all of them:


Mainly there's the main set and 15 expansions. You technically don't need the main set - you could know the game and get Base Cards plus any expansions. So I have to consider it too.

Small - 150 cards: Alchemy, Cornucopia, Guilds
Regular - 300 cards: Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Hinterlands, Empires, Renaissance
Large - 400 cards: Adventures, Menagerie, Allies
Extra large - 500 cards: Dominion (due to base cards), Dark Ages, Nocturne, Plunder

Dominion: The main set - includes base cards needed to play. The focus is on simplicity.
Intrigue: Cards that give you a choice, and victory cards that do something.
Seaside: Duration cards - they do something this turn and next turn.
Alchemy: Potions - a new resource that most of the cards in the set require to buy them.
Prosperity: Adds Platinum and Colony as a step above Gold and Province; Treasures that do things, VP tokens (worth 1 VP at end of game).
Cornucopia: Variety theme.
Hinterlands: "When you gain this" theme; Reactions and filtering subthemes.
Dark Ages: Trash theme; Shelters to replace starting Estates; Ruins which are similar to Curses; Spoils which is a one-use Gold.
Guilds: Coffers tokens ($ you can save), overpay (pay extra for a card to get an effect when buying it).
Adventures: Duration cards return; Reserve cards you can save until you want to use them; Events, effects you can buy that aren't cards.
Empires: VP tokens return; more Events; Landmarks, things you don't buy that modify scores; Debt that lets you pay for a card later; Split piles with two or more cards in them.
Nocturne: Night - a new phase after the Buy phase with cards usable then; Boons/Hexes - small random good/bad effects that cards generate; non-supply Spirits; cards with Heirlooms that replace starting Coppers.
Renaissance: Coffers tokens return; Villager tokens (+1 Action you can save); Projects, abilities you can buy that aren't cards; Artifacts, abilities only one player can have at a time.
Menagerie: Horses, one-use draw; the Exile mat, a place to have cards that are yours but not in your deck; Ways, alternate uses for Action cards; more Events; weird costs subtheme.
Allies: Split piles with 4 unique cards each; Favor tokens, that vary in meaning based on an Ally card; choice and recursion subthemes.
Plunder: Duration and Treasure themes, including Treasure-Durations; Loot, a pile of random Treasures; next-time Durations; Traits that modify a pile; more Events.

But wait, there are other products you might find. I'll ignore these elsewhere in this guide, but let's see what they are.

Dominion and Intrigue were changed, with 6 cards dropped and 7 cards added. Update packs for each set provided just the new cards (but have not stayed in print). The other expansions through Adventures got new versions with improved layout, but no new cards. Then in 2022 there were three more second editions: Seaside, Prosperity, and Hinterlands. Meaning three more update packs too. The earlier update packs had each had 7 new cards, for an 80-card update pack with a few blanks; the later ones have 9 new cards and are 100-card packs with one blank.

The first editions are the only way to get the dropped cards. They were dropped with good reason though! You don't need them, that's what I think. And we haven't kept the first editions in print, though there are lots of copies of each of these sets. Additional notes:

Dominion: 6 cards dropped, 7 added. The changes are most important here, as it's the main set. The second edition gives you more things to do with just the main set.
Intrigue: 6 cards dropped, 7 added. Also the first edition was a standalone - it had Copper etc. - and the second edition is not.
Seaside: 8 cards and a set of blanks dropped, 9 cards added. The Duration theme was pushed harder, with 16 Duration cards instead of 8.
Prosperity: 9 cards dropped, 9 cards added. Prosperity had a Treasures theme, but several of the special Treasures were weaker cards. So the new cards include a bunch of snazzy new Treasures.
Hinterlands: 9 cards dropped, 9 cards added. Hinterlands had less identity than other sets; the when-gain theme can be invisible. So I added more Reaction cards to it, so that now it has a Reactions subtheme. Note that the first printing of Hinterlands 2E accidentally doesn't say "second edition" on the cover. But the artwork is new, and the back cover explains that it's the second edition.

There's more:

Base Cards: Just the basic cards needed to play - Copper Silver Gold Estate Duchy Province Curse - plus a few similar things that have appeared in expansions - Platinum Colony Potion. Once they were prettier than the main set / expansion versions; now everything is even prettier. You could want this in order to avoid buying Dominion itself (though it's a fine product), or if you want to go to 5-6 players.
Promos: Over the years some promos have come out. They're a mixed bag, with some being too weak or too strong. Some of them are fun though. You can buy them (in English) at BoardGameGeek and support the site at the same time.
Mixed Box: It's Cornucopia plus Guilds in one box; we no longer sell them separately (in English). I couldn't quite bring myself to combine them in this guide though.
Big Box: The current one is Dominion plus Intrigue plus extra base cards so you can play with 5-6 players. The old out of print one was Dominion plus Prosperity plus Alchemy, for some reason.

Non-English-language versions include different Big Boxes and different Mixed Boxes and random assortment products; I don't have all the information on those. Hobby Japan also makes rethemes - mixes of cards from multiple expansions, with different flavor. You can look those things up on BoardGameGeek if you want. 999 Games makes an intro product in Dutch that's smaller than the normal main game.


If you just want a few sentences more on each set, I'm there for you.

Dominion: Some of the simplest cards in the game, covering all the most common kinds of abilities. Most of you have this already. If you don't, I recommend getting it; while it's possible to get base cards elsewhere, these cards are great to add to your games.

Intrigue: This expands on the main game in the simplest way possible, without much to send you to the rulebook. There is a theme of cards that give you a choice - something like "choose one..." or "name a card." There are also Victory cards with abilities, including Action - Victory cards and a Treasure - Victory card, plus a few cards that like those cards.

Seaside: Introduces Duration cards - orange cards that set up something to happen in the future. Many of them simply do something this turn, and that thing or another thing on your next turn. Duration cards were much admired on their debut. They finally came back in Adventures, and the later sets each have a few Duration cards, and Plunder heavily revisits the theme again. But they started out here.

Alchemy: Adds a new basic pile, Potions, which produce a new resource. To buy cards with the potion symbol in the cost, you need to play a Potion. The set also has an action-chaining theme, which it got to make sure that most of the cards were worth buying a Potion for even if no other cards in the game required a Potion. Some people adore Alchemy, but it tends to be people's least favorite set.

Prosperity: The overall theme is "spendy." There are Platinum and Colony, new base cards above Gold and Province; there are Treasures that do things when you play them or while they're in play; and there are at last cards that cost $7. There are also four cards that use VP tokens - a way to have VP without it being a card in your deck.

Cornucopia: There are no new rulebook mechanics in this small expansion. The theme of the set is variety, with cards that care about the variety of cards you have in your deck, or in your hand, or in play, and some cards that can get you more variety.

Hinterlands: This is a simpler set. The main theme is cards that do something (extra) when you gain them. There are also 6 Reaction cards, with 3 that trigger on discarding cards. And there's a filtering subtheme - cards that both draw and discard.

Dark Ages: This is a sprawling set full of crazy combos. There is a trash theme, cards that do something when you trash them, lots of ways to trash things, and a few things that care what's in the trash or can take cards out of it. The Ruins pile is like Curses but more interesting, with 3 cards handing them out. The Spoils pile is an unbuyable one-use Gold that 3 cards give out. Starting Estates can be replaced with Shelters, which have little abilities to spice up those games.

Guilds: A small set with two themes: Coffers tokens, which you can cash in in your Buy phase for +$1, and overpay, which is cards that let you pay extra for them in order to generate an effect when you buy the card.

Adventures: Duration cards return, including Duration attacks and Duration cards that just hang around in play all game. The Tavern mat gives you a place to put Reserve cards, which go to your mat when played and can be "called" off later to do what they do. For the first time a new kind of card is shuffled in with the randomizers (or kept separate if you prefer): Events. A game can have 0-2 Events; they give you an effect you can buy in your Buy phase, but aren't a card in anyone's deck. There are two Travellers, cards that upgrade themselves four times each.

Empires: VP tokens return, with lots of uses for them, including cards that they pile up on. In addition to more Events, there are Landmarks, more randomizer-deck cards that can be added to a game. They provide a way to score VP, sometimes with tokens or sometimes just calculated at the end of the game. You use 0-2 Events/Landmarks total. Some cards cost Debt, which means you don't have to pay for the card now, but can't buy other things until you finish paying off the Debt. There are 5 Split piles that have two different cards in them - five copies of each - plus the Castles pile with 8 different Victory cards.

Nocturne: This expansion adds a new phase, Night, which occurs after the Buy phase and before Clean-up. The only thing it means is, there are Night cards that you only play then. This lets them care about what happened during the turn, and many of them do; others go right into your hand when gained, so you can buy one and then immediately play it at Night. There are two small decks of random good/bad effects, the Boons and Hexes, and cards that cause you to turn over one of those cards and see what happens. Seven cards have Heirlooms, which are special Treasures that replace a starting Copper in games using that card. Several cards use new non-Supply cards, the Spirits. Overall it's the most flavorful set.

Renaissance: This set is much simpler than the last few, but still has four mechanics. Coffers tokens return, paired with Villagers, which are tokens you can cash in in your Action phase for +1 Action. Projects are randomizer-deck things like Events, but instead of getting a one-time effect, you get a permanent ability. You use 0-2 Events/Landmarks/Project per game. Artifacts are non-deck cards that only one player can have at a time; the cards that produce them will let you take them from other players.

Menagerie: This set gets more complex again, but tries to avoid going as far as Nocturne there. It has Horses, which are simply one-use Labs that various cards can gain. It also has the Exile mat, a place cards can go that are yours but not in your deck; when you gain a card, you can take copies of it off of your mat, to have them back in your deck. Menagerie also has Ways, which are landscapes that change the rules for all Actions - you can play an Action for what it normally does, or to do what the Way says. Events return. There is a minor subtheme of cards with weird costs.

Allies: This set leans on the Intrigue theme of decisions. There are split piles with 4 different cards; the first card in the pile will "rotate" the pile, giving you access to the next card. Some cards produce favor tokens; Ally cards are landscapes that provide rules for what favor tokens do this game. There's also a minor subtheme of recursion - cards you can reuse somehow.

Plunder: This set combines the Seaside Duration theme with the Prosperity Treasures theme; it has tons of both kinds of cards, plus lots of Treasure - Durations. Some cards can gain random Loots, which are expensive Treasures. The Duration cards have a sub-theme of "next time": cards that sit out waiting for a certain thing to happen. Traits are new landscapes that change something about one random kingdom card pile (chosen in setup). Events return again. This is another flavorful set.


The main set is especially simple; start there! Intrigue is next simplest, adding just "Victory cards can do things" as a concept, and never really sending you to the rulebook. Hinterlands is pretty simple, and then, simple but with more new stuff, we have Seaside, Prosperity, and Renaissance.


You get better with experience; I think the later sets - from Adventures on - are all more polished than the original earlier sets, with fewer duds, and lots of exciting content. However, I went back and made second editions to fix up most of the earlier sets, so they are all pretty great now too. For me, personal favorites from the revamped early sets are Hinterlands and Prosperity; personal favorites from the later always-good sets are Menagerie, Empires, and Plunder.


Adventures, Empires, Renaissance, Menagerie, Allies, and Plunder add not just kingdom cards but also Events / Landmarks / Projects / Ways / Allies / Traits, which add lots of variety to the game. From those, the absolute top amount of content comes from Plunder and Menagerie. After those, some expansions mess with the starting decks or basic cards: Prosperity adds Platinum / Colony; Dark Ages has Shelters; Nocturne has Heirlooms.


Empires has the most interaction overall: it has attacks, split piles, and Gathering piles (they accumulate tokens one player will get), plus many of the Landmarks are interactive. The later sets, starting with Adventures, in general have more player interaction than the earlier sets did.


Renaissance only has two, getting much of its interaction from the Artifacts that players can compete for. Prosperity and Empires only have three. All three sets make up for that reduced interaction by having more non-attack interaction.


Intrigue has some especially vicious attacks, attacks that make the game be about that card. Dark Ages attacks include the ones that give out Ruins cards, plus the Knights pile; if you like attacks, you will want to see the Knights. Nocturne has attacks that give out Hexes, which are random bad effects.


Any new expansion you get will favor the best player. Allies and Intrigue push decision-making. Empires helps the better player via VP tokens, with so many ways to catch up to a lead in Provinces. Renaissance and Guilds help the player better at knowing when to use up Coffers and Villagers, which can loom large.


Nocturne has the most randomness, with completely random Boons and Hexes. Plunder offers up random Loot. Dark Ages and Plunder are especially rich in card interactions. Menagerie and Plunder change what cards do with Ways and Traits, and this can lead to craziness.


Prosperity has a "big" theme, with Platinum and Colony as the next step from Gold and Province, and cards costing $7. Empires picks up from there, with a treasure that doubles your $, an Event that makes 15 VP total, and cards that cost 8 debt. Plunder has some bigness in its Loots and some expensive cards.


Nocturne, Plunder, and Adventures stand out as having more thematic cards than other expansions. Nocturne ends up especially complex as a result. Dominion's theme gets singled out some for ridicule, but well, whether that's your stance or not, these expansions are heavier on theme.


Empires has VP tokens and Debt tokens; Prosperity has VP tokens; Guilds and Renaissance have coin tokens, used as Coffers in both and Villagers in Renaissance; Allies has coin tokens used as Favors. In terms of actually using the tokens, Empires and Renaissance get the most out of their metal.


Dominion, Intrigue, and Hinterlands have no extra bits and no extra piles. Seaside just has mats for two cards.


These were a theme of Prosperity and Plunder, and a lesser theme of Empires.


They debuted in Seaside, returned with a vengeance in Adventures, and returned with a double vengeance in Plunder. All sets after Adventures have at least a few.


They debuted in Adventures, then appeared in Empires, Menagerie, and Plunder. Renaissance has Projects, which are a relative.


Dominion: Intrigue for being the most basic, then Hinterlands.
Intrigue: Allies for the choice theme, then Renaissance; Empires for the VP theme.
Seaside: Plunder and Adventures for the Duration theme.
Alchemy: If you liked the action-chaining, try Dark Ages. If you like the idea of an alternate resource, try Debt in Empires.
Prosperity: Plunder for the Treasures theme; Empires for some of that and more "spendy" theme.
Cornucopia: There isn't much that cares about variety outside of Cornucopia, but some sets help you get variety: Plunder, Allies, Nocturne, Dark Ages.
Hinterlands: Renaissance and Guilds for more when-gain; Menagerie for more Reactions.
Dark Ages: Renaissance for more when-trash and combo-y cards. Nocturne for more non-Supply piles and starting-deck cards.
Guilds: Renaissance for more Coffers. Hinterlands for more when-gain.
Adventures: Plunder for Durations, Events, next-time cards (which are like Reserve cards), and flavor.
Empires: This is kind of a sequel to Prosperity. Allies also especially favors the better player.
Nocturne: Plunder for flavor and surprises; Dark Ages for more non-Supply piles and starting-deck cards. Adventures for more fantasy.
Renaissance: Guilds for more Coffers; Menagerie for Horses, which are like +Card tokens. Dark Ages for more trash-combo stuff.
Menagerie: Renaissance for the tokens, which Horses are reminiscent of; Plunder for changing what cards do with its Traits, reminiscent of Ways.
Allies: Intrigue also pushes decisions; Empires also has split piles, and especially favors better play.
Plunder: Adventures for Durations, Events, and flavor; Seaside for Durations; Prosperity and Empires for Treasures.


Seaside and Prosperity! When they came out they were the best sets. People have a lot of nostalgia for them. Duration cards from Seaside were popular; some people never want to play without Platinum and Colony from Prosperity. Then, I made both sets even better with the second editions.


None of the above categories recommend these expansions. In the case of Alchemy, well, it's most people's least favorite expansion; I'd get it last. I like Cornucopia, but it doesn't fall into any of those categories. The variety theme is a unique thing that people like but don't specifically ask for.


There you have it. When people say, what expansion should I get next, here is a thing you can link them to.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 12:09:58 pm by Donald X. »
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