Dominion

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Readers are advised that this review is based on the “Cosmic Poker” criteria, which appear elsewhere in this blog. I will put in green the characteristics which are favorable for Cosmic Poker, Red for those unfavorable, and yellow for those that are mixed.

  • Luck and Uncertainty: High: Players are drawing cards from a deck they construct during the course of the game, and typically there is a large uncertainty in this. Expert players with the right mix can reduce this a lot but typically it is quite high.
  • Politics: Low: There is very little “picking on someone”
  • Variety: Very High: Every game is played with a different combination of 10 special cards that players are purchasing. The variety this gives is extremely large.
  • Hidden Information: Little: Despite the fact there are cards, the hidden information is low – since it won’t in general change your play if you know what is in your opponent’s hands. It does certainly happen, but often I play with open hands for beginners and the game isn’t that different.
  • Downtime: Low: The game moves typically moves so fast that it has very little downtime.

This is my favorite game from recent years. If it has a fault it is that it can be a bit like several simultaneous solitaire games, but that in itself isn’t bad, and it more often than not I pay a lot of attention to what my opponents are doing. The new expansion “Intrigue” can be played as a stand alone game or as an expansion to the original, and I look forward to a lot more of them.

Comments

7 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Mellowcow,

    I think the reason why hidden information doesn’t matter much is because there’s very little interactivity in this game. I own it and played some games but after a few rounds it kinda lost its appeal because we realized that it’s more like two single-player games running alongside with a few cards that can affect your opponent but otherwise it’s a run for who can get there faster.

  2. TWilloughby,

    The addition of Intrigue goes some way towards addressing the lack of interactivity in Dominion. With cards that produce decisions about what will end up in opponents decks the game feels less solitaire like. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of slightly longer periods of downtime, as turns become a touch more convoluted. Hidden information is still low with Intrigue in the mix, but interactivity has been ramped up, which is nice.

  3. Mark,

    The main hidden information in the first set of Dominion is what people have in their hands. This comes up only occasionally, such as when you are deciding whether to play a Militia or a Library for your last action. If the other players have hands that could be wrecked by Militia, that’s what you want to play. It helps to count cards and guess what they had left in their deck before they drew.

    This isn’t a very common situation, though.
    Absolutely, that is why I give it “little” rather than “none”. Poker is all about the other players hand. Cosmic it is not as important, but is still paramount. Dominion it is occasionally of importance but you are not going to suffer too much if you ignore it or even play open handed. Dominion is actually an interesting game in this regard, I would have thought a game where everyone had a minideck and their own hand of random cards that it would almost automatically score high here.

    Richard

  4. I’m late discovering this fine blog, but I thought to mention my article for The Escapist from a few weeks ago about Dominion:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_213/6338-Dominion-Over-All

    It’s essentially an extended love letter to the game, not a design analysis.

  5. Chris Proctor,

    There’s one additional thing to love about Dominion, which I think is a good criterion to consider for Cosmic Poker:

    Expansions swap elements out of the base game, and so do not add to the complexity of the game.

    Citadels also does this. The Small World expansion probably will too. What others exist?

  6. That is a nice observation, I never really considered breaking down game expansions based on whether they add rules or just variety to the existing rules. Race for the Galaxy falls into that camp at least for the first expanion. Actually – most trading card games do as well – they are regarded (correctly) as generally being very complex but the only reason they can keep going so long is that they introduce few new rules, but leverage the old ones.

  7. Chris Proctor,

    Ahha. I’ve played Race for the Galaxy, but only with the base game so far. I’ll have to try with the expansion and see how that works.

    I agree, trading card games fit as well, especially for casual play. I’ve made decks to play casually with friends that span 10 expansions and that’s fine. On the other hand, in competitive play you do have to know all of the cards you’re likely to face, and be in touch with the metagame, which raises the barrier to entry somewhat.

    On a related note, I recently played HeroClix again. I finally realised that while having all of the stats in the ring on the base of the figure is a neat idea, it’s actually harder to play with than having the stats on a card – because a figure’s stats change based on how much damage it’s taken, each player really has to know what its stats are at each click of damage. That slows down play a HUGE amount, much moreso than coming up against unfamiliar Magic cards. In theory expansions and variations to Heroclix just add variety, but in practice they slow down play an awful lot.

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