Monday, 25 June 2012

Dominion: Winning your first game.


A bit about Dominion 

Amongst all the card draft games on the market, i think it's safe to say that the popularity of Dominion is second to none.

Well designed, beautifully executed and, with a wide range of ways to play it manages to offer both the depth that experienced gamers often desire without excluding newcomers to the scene.

Chances are though that if you're reading this you're no stranger to the game but, you may be having one or two problems bringing home your first win. That's okay though. By the end of this post you'll be on the fast track to victory, no matter the card set nor the scenario.

What makes a good card?

Whilst luck and timing play their parts in Dominion, most games will be won by building a superior deck (unsurprisingly). But what makes a good card? This will vary slightly from game-to-game but generally there are a few golden rules that won't steer you far wrong.

1: Card draw.

Any card that allows you to draw more cards is generally going to be a good thing. Firstly this will give you a greater chance of pulling the coinage out of your deck, thus giving you more freedom over the cards that you can purchase. Card drawing also has the secondary effect of pulling victory cards into your hand.. Which means you won't be drawing them next turn. This becomes particularly important towards the end of a game when drawing a handful of victory cards may leave you unable to do a lot on your turn.

2: Extra actions.

What's better than playing one card that allows you to draw more cards on your turn? Playing two or three of them!

Extra actions are effectively extra turns and, there is nothing to stop you chaining enough of these together to cycle through your entire deck every turn if you've got the cards. The Village in the "First Game" setup is a prime example of this effect, replacing itself by allowing you to draw another card whilst allowing you to take two further actions, one of which could be another Village.

3: Multi-buy.

Last of the golden rules is that any card that gives you an extra buy is generally a good thing (provided that you don't use those buys to fill your deck with junk).  A common problem that arises when playing Dominion (at least from personal experience) is that of generating 7 coinage on a turn when a Province costs 8.

An extra buy however will let you pick up an Estate and a Duchy for 7, only falling one short of a Province in victory points. It's probably not a good idea to do this too often however as you'll soon find that picking up all of those extra Estate's will begin to clog up your deck.

Turning the golden rules into a strategy.

Following the golden rules above will help you weigh up the value of a card with relative ease but, for those that have been playing for a while, i've probably not really told you anything that you didn't already know.

Well all being well that'll change in the next few sentences when i introduce the concept with which i approach all games, the buy list.

Coming from a background in CCG's deck construction is virtually second nature, with one of the lessons that i learned early on being that a fancy card here or there rarely does the trick. A good deck needs to be consistent and focus on whatever it has been designed to do.

Now whilst the obvious goal in Dominion is to accumulate the most victory points by the end of play, the strategy you employ to get there can be as varied as the cards at your disposal. The good thing is though that no matter the strategy, you can always use a buy list!

So what is a buy list?

All cards in play have a cost and a buy list allows you plan your whole game out from the word go.

The first thing to do is to take the time to sit down, read each card and, then decide how you will play your game. For each value (say all the cards that cost 3 coinage), choose the card that best suits your strategy, whatever it may be.

If you need the extra coinage, it may be a piece of silver, if you need the extra actions and some card draw, it may be the Village. At any rate and however you'll play, choose one card in each value. This is your buy list and, it really is that simple.

Stick to this strategy (and indeed your strategy) and you won't go far wrong. Once you manage you've claimed your first few Province's you may want to switch your "5 buy" to Duchy's but, only if you're opponent has pulled a couple of Province's themselves. This is probably the only judgment call you'll have to make and, once you get that one down you'll be winning games left, right and, center.

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