Game Review: Dominion

DominionDominion
Rio Grande Games, 2008

So, we got asked to teach Dominion at a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) tonight. Even though this game has been around for over 6 years and winning many awards, there are still lots of people who don’t know it. We had 4 of us who were “old hands” at the game, and had an equal number of newbies. What was really interesting is the one Magic player, who at first said he didn’t want to play because “I don’t play board games.” We countered with “It’s not a board game, it’s a card game. So he came over to give it a look, and reluctantly agreed to play. By the end of the night, he had won a couple of games, and said “You know, the other Magic players would really like this game.” He’s hooked, as were most of the other players.

So what makes Dominion such a good game? Several things: First, replay. There are tons of possibilities to play. Each game uses base victory and treasure cards, and a selection of 10 kingdom cards. The base set comes with the victory and treasure cards as well as a couple other optional base cards (curses, for example). The base set comes with 24 kingdom cards, giving you a ton of combinations right from the start. An additional 8 expansion sets, multiple promo cards and even some fan expansions, make this game almost limitless in different playing fields.

Secondly, it’s an easy game to learn, but not as easy to master. Different card combinations create the need for different winning strategies. But the basic gameplay doesn’t change, so once you get the basic, easy to learn, rules down, you’re good to go. By the second to third round of the game, you’ll have basic gameplay mastered. It is as simple as this. Draw five cards, play everything you can using 1 action and 1 buy, plus whatever your cards let you do. Buy everything you can with the money you have acquired, discard everything and draw five new cards. The object? Be the one with the most victory points at the end of the game. Simple.

Third: It’s well play tested. I just can’t say enough about this. The cards work together nicely. Not every card is going to suit your play style, but every card (even Saboteur) is playable.  It’s well balanced and the cards are easy to understand. Side note: I HATE playing with Saboteur. In fact, I usually refuse a game that includes it. Not because it is a bad card for gameplay, it just makes the game a style that I don’t like to play, so I don’t play with it. And having bought all the sets, I never need to use it.

Fourth: It has a great thematic feel. It is a Renaissanc-y quest for power. Pesants, nobles, villages, Barons, Duchys. Nothing seems out of place to the theme. Expansions include Alchemy, Pirates, Dark Ages, and more, and the cards really fit the themes giving a great thematic experience as well as great gameplay.

In short, this is a great game. Play it often. It plays two to four players  all equally well, but is especially fun with four. It plays quickly (can play in 30 minutes to an hour). This game will remain a classic and should be in every gamers’ library.

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