PCB Game Night: Dominion

Eliot HochbergBoard Games, GamesLeave a Comment

Looking for a strategy challenge that involves a bunch of cards? Dominion is your game. Well, maybe.

The King is dead! Long live the King!
Of cards…

Dominion was I believe the first in now a bursting at the seams genre of strategy deck building games. The essential mechanic of these games is as follows: start with a few cards in your own deck, usually money, then draw these cards to buy additional cards to add to your deck. Use your deck up, reshuffle including your purchases, then draw from the new deck. Purchased cards can do any number of things – get you more money, get you points, get you other cards. Sometimes they might allow you to take cards from an opponent or force them to lose cards.

An example of a card. That
“+2 Actions” bit may seem small,
but it’s actually a key component.

Dominion is set in a kingdom where you and your friends all compete to become the leader. You do so by using the above mechanic. In this case, you start by choosing ten different types of cards that you’ll have the opportunity to buy. Note that the game comes with 25 different types of cards to select from (and there are many, many expansions that increase that number), so every game has different challenges. The card types give you potential powers if you draw them into your hand. The goal is then to use these cards to obtain the most victory points before the game ends. Timing is a very important skill here – no matter what your strategy, if you make your play too early, you end up playing catch up, and if you’re too late, well… you’re too late.

In a way, Dominion is also a game of programming. Each card represents an instruction, and when you draw them into your hand, you must decide on the order to play them to get the maximum return. Fail to do that, and all the timing in the world won’t save you.

Yep, loads of cards in a pretty
well designed box.

Dominion has been a sales success, and for good reason; the art is excellent, and they make a valiant effort to help you, the buyer, keep all of your cards neat and organized by providing an effective, if somewhat flimsy, plastic organizer for all of them.

This is what passes
for money.

But it’s not for everyone. First, it takes a while to play – an hour for certain, and perhaps 3-4 hours or more, depending on the number of players and how much they consider their plays. Also, this is a game for people who like to keep track of rules (which is probably why I like it). Cards interact with each other in different ways depending on the order in which they’re played. If fiddly rules aren’t your thing, there’s a good chance you won’t enjoy this game.

Ah, but if you do… the satisfaction of trying out and succeeding with a strategy that’s been hard won – this game gives plenty of opportunities for that, and plenty of room for different strategies. It’s nerdy to the nth degree, and ideal for a gaggle (briefcase?) of rules lawyers to debate with each other for hours as to the legitimacy of that play or another.

You’ll learn to love collecting
these green fellas.

If you aren’t sure, take the plunge and play when invited. No one rule is hard to grasp. It’s when they are combined that things get challenging. But be warned: if you do like this game, you will be hard pressed not to buy the 8 and counting expansions. At $45 SRP each, that can add up to some serious coin.


2-4 players, Rio Grande Games

6 victory points out of 10 (for challenging gameplay)

(have a look at our review of the card game Bohnanza!)

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Eliot HochbergPCB Game Night: Dominion