Dominion is a pure, static market, deck building game that has you build your kingdom to become the best in the land.
Designer(s): Donald X. Vaccarino
Artist(s): Matthias Catrein, Julien Delval, Tomasz Jedruszek, Ryan Laukat, et. al
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Dominion is one of my favorite deck building games. Probably because I feel like I’m good at it. Maybe too good because no one will play with me anymore. And yes, I know that sounds cocky.
One of the biggest draws to Dominion is that it is a pure deck builder. There is no board. No extra pieces. Just your deck and the market to feed it. This also can be drawback for some because there are no other avenues to advance. In dominion, you have to make a good deck because that’s all there is to the game.
I love that dominion works on the ABC principle (maybe because it was my first time encountering it) which is actions, buy, and the clean-up. It seems simple but it’s a great help to keep me from playing in the wrong order. And it’s important to follow this order because your action step can majorly impact your buy step!
This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Dominion can support two to four people with the base game. I am unsure if the expansions can increase the player count, but I am assuming that it is possible.
The general game flow is that each person takes their full turn (action, buy from market, clean up, draw new hand) and then passes the turn to the next player. This continues to pass clockwise around the table until the game ends.
Set up for Dominion is relatively easy and can dictate how the game will go. Each player will get a matching starter deck of seven copper and 3 estates. This is the same every game.
Then it’s time to make the market – which can make or break the game! The market is made up of ten stacks of unique cards, money, and the core victory cards. The money cards and core victory cards include copper, silver, gold, estates, duchy, and provinces respectively. This is the same each game although some expansions do add cards to the core market.
The ten stacks of unique market cards are the most important part of the game. It’s the only options for enhancing a deck. While there are ten stacks of cards in the market, there are twenty-six different stacks of cards in the box. So how do you decide which ten to use?
Each rulebook offers some example groupings for the market, or a randomized game can be played (at your own risk). Playing a randomized game can be tricky because while most cards can work together, some pairings aren’t so great while others can be extremely powerful.
A players turn will be great impacted by the hand that they have. A hand full of action cards will be exciting because there will be many possibilities. Dominion is interesting because a player can only play 1 action and take 1 buy on their turn.
Action cards can augment the number of cards played or buys allowed but planning a turn right can affect everything. And I sometime find it a little difficult to keep track of the exploding economy that can come out of one hand.
A hand of all money may feel less interesting but can be extremely powerful. The more powerful the card, the more expensive it tends to be. And a hand of all money allows a player to get more and more powerful cards.
The last potential hand is a hand of all victory cards. While victory cards are great at the end of the game, they are basically pretty trash during the game. Definitely not something that you want in the early game. Having an engine of actions and coins is much better during the game than having victory points. Although, you do need victory points in order to win.
Dominion can end in one of two ways. The first is that three piles of cards completely empty. This includes the piles of card that make up the core market in addition to the piles of cards that make up the unique market. I always joke about running out the game by getting rid of the pile of copper, but I have yet to make it happen.
The second way to end a game of Dominion is to purchase all of the provinces. If the province pile is empty, then the game ends. In both cases, the game will end immediately. Which mean that there is an uneven number of turns between all the players.
Who Will Like it?
Dominion is a great game for anyone who loves to play deck builders. It cuts out a lot of background noise and narrows it down to the core of just building a deck. However, if you want to get fancier, each expansion has a gimmick that adds more spice to the game.
What I Think
I am going to be bias here because I love Dominion. I have been playing Dominion since I was a child (I even have the first edition! Which actually has different cards than second edition so that’s interesting).
What did I like?
I love the simple elegance of Dominion. There is something so satisfying about stripping a game down to its core mechanic and just indulging in that mechanic and that mechanic alone. And even though Dominion is so simple, there is still a lot of different variations of play that can make each game unique.
What didn’t I like?
I will grant that some people might find Dominion to be a little boring because it is on the simpler side. Aside from a few attack cards, there really isn’t a way to interact with your opponents. Your kind of playing a solitary game alongside other people.
Dominion is one of my favorite games from my childhood. There are so many great memories held in that box. There are many interesting choices in such a simple game but that is what makes it such a classic for me. I do find the differences between first edition and second edition to be fascinating though! I only know the first edition cards and I was surprised to see them changed.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
The rulebook for Dominion is fairly straightforward and easy to read. I love how there are example markets that you can work from to get comfortable with the game before diving into the full randomizer.
Yea, I don’t remember my first play of this game because it happened when I was in my early teenage years if not sooner. But I do remember feeling great about the mechanics and figuring out the main internal puzzle.
The more I played, the better I got. But it was a game where the main strategy needed to be adjusted based on the cards in the market. There was always something new in every game because how market changed and shifted.
Dominion is truly one of the earliest staples of my board game collection. There are very evident signs of wear on the box and the cards. It is a much loved and played game of my collection that I would love to play more.
*See my rating scale Here