Dominion

Check out this solo review from Tim Griffin. Today he talks about a deck building game that is loved by many. Check out his video review and his written review.

Author: Donald X. Vaccarino
Development: Valerie Putman & Dale Yu
Illustration & Layout: Matthias Catrein
Contents: 500 Cards, Storage tray, rule booklet
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Players: 2-4
Playtime: 30 mins
Ages: 13+

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From the Box:

You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion!
In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.

But wait! It mjust be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, on your mother’s side, would be delighted.

Thoughts on the game

I admit that I am more into games with tactics, grand strategy, and/or visceral combat in them. But my wife doesn’t like games with killing/combat in them so that limits my choices. So along comes this game that gives you the same feeling you get playing MTG or Lord of the Rings (LCG) card games but without any violence (technically there is but it’s not spelled out, so don’t tell my wife). Though we did have to remove the Witch and the curse cards from play because with two players it does feel like you are being targeted, because you are… you’re the only other person playing (Note: the Witch card does not target one specific player, it targets all OTHER players).

The basic game mechanic for this is called Deck-Building. Basically, you start the game with a set (small) amount of cards and try to grow your deck as large as you can for the end result of having the most victory points (these are on the cards Estate, Gardens, Duchy, and Provinces). This mechanic was used in Legendary (a Marvel game) with just a few differences, so if you’ve played that game you know how this one works (Note: I believe Dominion came first). This mechanic is actually really fun but it does tend to make the game lose any theme and story while you are playing it. I never found myself thinking about how I was a monarch and I wanted to grow my Dominion. I was mostly thinking about what each card does and how that could either get me more money or more victory points. So don’t expect to be pulled in by the theme of the game. Also, the game mechanics will make for fast game play after the first few turns. Players will “get the hang of it” and won’t need to read the cards every turn. This also tends to destroy any immersion in the theme of the game.

So the basics of the game consist of your deck or Dominion, your hand, your discard and the supply area. The Dominion holds all the cards you draw (you draw 5 every turn). Your hand holds the cards that you can play on your turn (default is 1 action and 1 buy, meaning you can play one action card and you can buy one card from the supply area). The discard is where you put all the cards from your hand and that you have either played or purchased, at the end of your turn. The supply area is where everything that you buy is located (3 types of money, the different types of victory points, the curses, the ten kingdom decks (action cards) and the trash pile (some actions require a card to be “trashed” or removed from the game).

Pros

+Easy setup
+Easy to learn
+Nice box organization
+Good artwork for the theme
+Good variety of cards
+Quick game-play
+Will actually play in 30 mins
+Family friendly
+No combat

Cons

-Loses its theme quickly during play
-Might get repetitive without expansions
-No meta-game
-No Combat!

Final Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed the game and my wife and I have played it several times, each time being different thanks to the different decks you can add to the supply area. I can see that after several (many) more games this game could get repetitive but there are plenty of expansions available for when that happens.
I’d give this game a GREEN die.