Classic Callback: Dominion

Welcome to Classic Callback, where Marti, @fluffymeeple, checks out some of the great games of the past so that new gamers can get a fresh look at what we think of them! This month, we’re going to check out the medieval based deck building game, Dominion!

Note from the Editor: Sorry that it’s late. Marti has a bad cold and has slept most of the last 2 days. 

Game: Dominion
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Main Game Mechanisms: Deck Building, Drafting
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Game Time: 20 to 45 minutes (depending on what you include)

The Game: Dominion is a deck building game where you start with a deck of 10 cards. There are also 10 piles of cards on the table that you are able to buy when you can afford them on your turn. On your turn you have one action and one buy – until you start buying cards that tell you that you can do more than that! Continue to build your deck as you go and accumulate victory points until the end of game triggers occur.

Want to see more about the game? Tom Vasel’s review of Dominion (which is several years old) is still a fantastic overview of the game.

Why It’s Worth a Classic Callback: 

It’s Almost Always Cited as a “Modern Classic.” While Catan was definitely the game that started the modern board gaming Renaissance, Dominion was one of them that came right behind it. The biggest thing that Dominion did was bridge that gap for those who were playing CCG’s like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon. This gave them a taste of their game, while at the same time beckoning them into the world of modern board games.

Strategy Variability. There are a lot of people who complain that all you can do is “Buy Gold, then Buy Provinces, then win.” Sure, you could do that – but the fun in Dominion isn’t in winning! It’s seeing if you can win using crazy strategies based on the cards that are in the center. What sorts of combos can you put together. Can you draw out your whole deck in one turn? Are you able to buy two Provinces and still have change? Can you build your whole deck around the Black Market promo? These are the sorts of things that you may be looking at.

They Won’t Stop Making Expansions.  Speaking of expansions – holy cow! At the time of publishing this article, there are 11 expansions available for the game, including the base game. The base game, and several expansions, are in their second editions. Here at our house, we have the 1st edition of the base game, the update pack for the base game (which adds the 2nd edition cards), the 2nd edition of Intrigue, Prosperity, Empires, Guilds, and Cornucopia. I don’t know if I’ll eventually get them all, it depends on prices and how crazy I feel.

That being said, the expansions all add something different. Intrigue introduced the first multiple category cards (treasure/victory; action/victory); Seaside added Duration cards, Prosperity added Platinum and Colony cards (which are higher coins and higher victory points), and so on and so forth. Nocturne, the newest expansion, actually adds a whole new phase, the Night phase, to the game – so I will definitely be trying before I buy it.

Who Won’t Like Dominion? 

  • If you are someone that craves theme, you are not going to like Dominion. The theme is pasted on. The art is all over the place too – if there’s anything that I don’t like about it, it’s the lack of consistency in the art styles.
  • If you have already moved on to meatier deckbuilding games (Ascension, Legendary, Star Realms, Clank!, etc), you may not really enjoy Dominion too much. It’s a deckbuilding game, through and through, but that’s really all that it is. This isn’t a nail in the coffin though – Clank! is my number 2 game of all time, and Dominion is still in my top 20. So, your mileage may vary.
  • People who focus too much on winning the game – as mentioned above, Dominion isn’t all about the winning, it’s about how you make it happen.

Who Will Like Dominion? 

  • If you enjoy CCG’s of any sort, Dominion is a nice first step into the world of deck builders, and you are very likely to enjoy it.
  • Surprisingly, most people that I know that enjoy Ticket to Ride also like Dominion. It may be because they are around the same weight in complexity, but otherwise, they have nothing in common in my mind.
  • People who enjoy “piecing out the puzzle” in order to put together some major scoring opportunities. If you feel as if there is something satisfying to looking at the board and seeing what combos that you could put together, then Dominion is totally an option for you.

Have you ever played Dominion? For many people, this was the game that really got them into the hobby, mainly because of its unique style and fun interaction. Let us know in the comments, or via Twitter, if you’ve played the game and what expansions you enjoy the best!

Game On!

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