I had heard a lot of hype about Dominion, so when I saw it in the Rio Grande room at Gen Con 2009, I decided it was time to delve in and see what it is all about. What I found was a game with a very unique mechanic that I absolutely fell in love with.
Deck building. That’s the key behind Dominion, “How well can you build a deck”. It had all the same excitement for me as playing in a Magic: The Gathering draft tournament. Carefully constructing my deck, one card at a time, trying to get the balance right, in order to wallop on my opponent in the most effective way possible.
The game is also alluringly quick paced. Each person’s turn takes only a few seconds, allowing for just enough time to think about your turn before it’s back around to you again. I never sat there bored, waiting endlessly for my turn.
So how does the game actually work?
There are ten piles of cards, each with varying costs and abilities, in the playing draw piles. There are also piles of money, and victory points. You start a turn with five cards in your hand from your deck. You then perform the ABC’s of Dominion:
A- Action, play 1 action card, if you have it. Action cards have the potential to give you more actions.
B- Buy. Use the money in your hand to buy any card you can afford that you would like in your deck. The card you buy immediately goes into your discard pile.
C- Cleanup. Discard all of the cards that you didn’t use.
D- Draw. Draw five new cards and begin plotting your next turn. If you can’t draw five, draw what you can and shuffle your discard pile. That’s how those new cards that you bought get into your hand and used.
Very simple concept, very elegant, and yet full of possibilities and complications. Some of those action cards can hurt your opponents, or help you cycle faster through your deck, or theirs. Others allow you to trade cheaper cards for more expensive ones. And then there are victory points, you have to get them to win, but they do nothing in your deck but take up space. So when do you pick those up? Can you afford to pick those up?
This game is light on player interaction, although not to the same degree that Race for the Galaxy was. But the quickness of play and interesting mechanic had me so enamored that I hardly noticed the minimal interactions. Although different sets of cards did offer varying degrees of interaction.
You may notice that the image on this blog is not Dominion, but instead Dominion: Intrigue this version of Dom was new for this year and we liked it even better than the original. It plays exactly the same way, however the cards that come with the game are a bit more advanced. You can combine the two games for even more possible combinations for game play.
If you haven’t figured out already, Dominion is getting a big ol’ thumbs up from me. It might quite possibly be my new favorite game of the year, and given how many con goers I saw carrying it around, it seems likely to be a lot of other peoples new favorite as well.
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