Dominion is the award-winning deck building game that has received a ton of rave reviews all over the world. While perhaps not as good as the hype, it‘s certainly a lot of fun with good strategic depth, chained actions and quick, quick gameplay. Dominion comes with 500 cards in the base game and another 500 cards in its expansion, making sure that this is a game that has immense replay value.
Appearance: Dominion’s appearance is mediocre – it’s functional, the artwork is good but not exceptional and the information and the way it is presented is clear and concise. Perhaps the biggest plus for Dominion in its appearance is the well thought out and useful box insert, where each set of cards has a specific slot. This makes keeping and setting up the game very fast, whether you store the game vertically or horizontally.
Rules / Ease of Play: Dominion is a deck-building game where all the players receive a similar starting hand. They must then use the starting hand on their turn to purchase additional cards for their deck, shuffling the used and newly bought cards when they are out-of-cards.
The cards in Dominion can be split into three type of cards – Estate cards (victory points); Gold cards (used to pay for the purchase of other cards) and Kingdom cards (which allow you to do everything else in the game including drawing more cards, buying cards, discarding cards and affecting other players). These Kingdom cards are where the main gameplay occurs, with cards providing additional draw, buy and discard actions each time they are used.
It should be noted that only 10 sets of the over 20 ‘Kingdom’ cards are in play in any one game. This provides Dominion it’s vaunted replay value, as players can switch out one or two sets each game to keep the game ‘fresh’. And as any player can tell you, even switching out a couple of cards from the base game will alter the game flow completely.
A game ends in Dominion when all the ‘5’ point Estate cards are purchased.
Gameplay: Dominion fits its billing in many ways – the speed of each turn and each game is quite high, the rules are simple enough to teach most gamers in 10 minutes at most and each game has a tendency to leave players wanting more. There is also a lot of strategic depth and replay value, as players get a better understanding of the most appropriate cards to purchase each game and which actions to take each turn, along with how the combination of cards will affect their deck.
The challenge in Dominion is the card purchase decisions, with the necessity to ‘optimise’ your deck on the fly from the cards available. Deciding whether to ’junk’ cards, which card to purchase and when to switch over to purchasing ‘Estate’ cards (which are, in the end, the victory points after all) is the most difficult and thrilling aspect of the game.
Luck from shuffling and the draw is actually less of an issue than you would expect as it is possible to chain actions together to draw even more cards and your ability to optimise your entire deck to allow for bad draws. As such, while luck could decide a fight between two highly competitive players, over the course of the game, the overall effects are generally quite low.
What are the negatives of the game? Depending on the cards that are put into play, interaction between players can be quite low. When there is interaction, many of the cards in the base game make it almost a secondary affect on other players. This can frustrate certain players since an experienced player could get his ‘deck‘ really going without a problem. In addition, as always, the theme is rather low. It’s just not that engrossing and the cards, while okay, aren‘t written in that ‘tight‘.
Lastly, because of the way Dominion works, there is a decided advantage that more experienced players have. This translates into experienced players burning through their turns at an amazing pace generally, putting undue pressure on new players as well as allowing them to truly ‘chain’ their actions and rounds to purchase a large number of cards.
Conclusion: Overall Dominion is a great card game that combines some of the deck building elements of a CCG but makes it unique in its own right. With the ability to create your deck on the fly and adjust it to your opponents actions, the amount of reply value available in Dominion is very high. Dominion is certainly worth the game price and the awards it has been winning.