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A… B… C is for clear up

June 20, 2012

After spending quite a while trying to come up with some clever way to introduce Miss B to Dominion, I finally decided that I was over-analysing, so decided to just cut the game back a bit and give it a go. If it all went horribly wrong, we could give up and try something else later.

If in doubt, buy gold.

In case you don’t know Dominion, it is a game that spawned an entire new style: deck building games. It has a lot in common with some collectable card games in that there are relatively simple rules and cards with effects that can interact in exotic ways. What happens here, though, is that players begin with a small, skeleton deck which allows them to buy other cards from a selection on the table, and these make the decks grow during play, adding more options as you go along. Dominion has a selection of 25 stacks of ten “kingdom cards” in the basic set (several expansions are available) of which ten are selected for each game. If you do the sums that means that there are over three million ways to set up a game, which means that the game offers enormous variety, especially when you start buying those expansion sets.

I thought that one major cause of problems could be having too many options available, so we used just five kingdom cards, selected by me picking cards that I figured wouldn’t cause too much confusion and from that set, Miss B chose cards she liked the look of: Cellar, Woodcutter, Smithy, Feast and Mine.  Plus in order to shorten the game, we only had five cards in each pile, including victory cards, with the game ending after running out of cards in any two piles or just the Province pile.  Aside from that we played the standard rules, though I played gently without trying too hard.

Another likely issue was with shuffling. A feature of Dominion is that there is a lot of deck shuffling, and Miss B only has little hands. Sometimes she went through a simple “deal to a few different piles” shuffling routine, which is pretty effective, if slow. Other times I did the shuffling for her. We even tried using an electric card shuffling machine a few times which, though fun, was not particularly quick when Miss B had to first split the cards into two even halves, and isn’t really designed to be shuffling a 20 to 30 card deck. Now Miss B has tried it, though, she wants to use it at every opportunity.

Overall the game went really well and we both had fun. I think that one of the trickiest parts of Dominion is in figuring out when to start buying victory cards, and this is still a problem in our cut back version, so it may be worth coming up with some tweak to help with that. Or maybe I’m over thinking things again and we can just leave things as they are.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 5½): “It was good.  I liked the shuffler and getting gold.”  So, swayed by gadgets and bling!

The game: Dominion (Rio Grande), 2 to 4 players aged 13+.

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  1. June 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I was thinking of buying this game. I was not too sure because I don’t want to play it once and put it in the closet. What do you think? Should I get it?

  2. June 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Hi Yubin. I think Dominion is a game that’s best if you can play it quite regularly, so you can explore a lot of the options (your first couple of games may even be a bit dull). I think the game is good value, but if $40-$50 on a game is enough to make you think twice, it’s probably best to check that a couple of your friends would be interested in playing it a few times at least.

    • June 27, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Is it okay to just play with one friend? Do I need more than one to have fun?

  3. June 27, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I’ve mostly played it 2 player so far, and it works great. There are cards that are better in multiplayer, and strategies may be different, but the game seems to work well either way.

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