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Tabletop Game / Dominion

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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!
From the instruction manual

A 2008 Card Game designed by Donald X. Vaccarino. It is part of the Euro Game genre (focusing on competition for resources rather than direct player conflict), and is extremely popular. In its wake, the subgenre of Deckbuilding Games was formed.


The game has a (loose) premise: You are a freshly-crowned monarch, leader of a tiny kingdom with a handful of resources. Your parents never made much fuss about expansion, but we wouldn't have a proper game if you felt the same way, or if you were the only upstart monarch.

Dominion is entirely card-based. Compared often to a CCG, each player has a private deck of cards that represent their dominion— the resources, income, and employees that they have access to. Players expand this dominion by purchasing cards from stacks at the center of the table. But each of these cards is in limited supply, and players with more buying power will obviously get them first.

Every player starts with 7 Copper cards (worth 1 coin each) and 3 Estate cards (worth 1 victory point each at the end of the game, but provide no benefit during the game). A turn has three stepsnote :


1. Play an Action card.

2. Buy a card from a stack by playing coin cards

3. Clean-up: discard all the cards you've played and draw 5 cards for your next turn.

Some Action cards give extra actions, extra buys, and/or extra coins, allowing the player to play additional Action cards (which might give even more actions) during the Action phase, buy more than one card during the Buy phase, and/or buy cards that he otherwise couldn't afford. A good combination will allow a player to accomplish quite a bit during one turn; setting up such opportunities is a major element of card-buying strategy.

When you can't draw any more cards, you shuffle your discard pile to make a new deck. When 3 of the stacks of cards run dry, the game ends, and players count up all the victory point cards they've bought. The game can also end if all of the province cards (the highest-ranking victory cards) have been taken.


The meat of the game, however, is in the cards available to you. Every game contains the basic treasure cards (1, 2, and 3 coins) and victory cards (1, 3, and 6 points), but the other 10 purchasable cards (kingdom cards) can be chosen randomly or by player vote. They can range from giving extra buys or draws, to attacking opponents, to manipulating your deck and more.

The base game comes with 26 cards note , and the game already has 13 expansions note .

The game is so popular because, despite the simple turn flow, there are numerous things to consider and many card effects to take into account. The most basic considerations are straightforward: victory points are useful at the end of the game, but during play they clog up your hand and deck, reducing your options. Action cards are helpful, but buying power must be purchased too, in the form of coins, and victory points are expensive, so where do you focus your money in each phase of the game?

Another element of this game praised often is the heavy playtesting that has gone into it— every card cost and effect is well thought out and tested, so the game is very finely balanced. And there are well over 200 different cards.

There is an online version available.

Not to be confused with Dominions.

This Board Game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambadassador: The Ambassador card, if you're the one using it. If you're on the receiving end of its attack, it's more "Ass" in Ambassador.
  • Art Evolution: As the game's expansions have gone on, the artists hired to work on it have gotten progressively better and more detailed. Comparing the art of Intrigue to Prosperity and Cornucopia is a large leap.
  • Art Shift: While most of the cards have an art style reminiscent of paintings, a few cards (Shanty Town, Navigator, and Harem in particular) use a cartoonish art style.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Prize cards are five unique cards with a very difficult condition for gaining them. Without proper planning, the game can be nearing its end by the time you manage to get one.
    • The same applies to very expensive action or treasure cards: If buying them is not part of a bigger strategy, they might very well be wasted buys that could have been used buying victory points. The promo card Prince is an extreme example, since it has a very impressive effect but costs the same as a Province (normally the most valuable victory card in the game).
    • Cards with a potion cost (one potion plus a certain amount of money, from the Alchemy expansion) can fall into this. Every potion represents passing up, at the very least, a silver, meaning that you are overspecializing your treasure pool towards buying a few specific cards instead of accumulating normal treasures to buy more and more expensive normal cards.
    • Traveller cards have extremely powerful effects once you reach the end of their chains. However, this requires playing previous cards in the sequence four times in order to upgrade them (and the incremental upgrades may have effects you don't want), meaning it will usually be 6 reshuffles before you can play your Teacher or Champion. If you build your deck in a way that lets you draw and play your Traveller cards frequently, though, they'll beef up your deck's power significantly.
  • Brainwashed: The power of the Possession card.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Averted by the way the game is set up— everyone has access to identical resources from the beginning. There are some cards that invoke this with their effects, however.
    • The current online version uses a subscription model, costing around $4/month for full access to every expansion.
      • The previous online implementation, however, did this for everything from buying expansions to changing your starting hand in Adventure Mode.
  • Boring, but Practical: Cards from the base game tend to be much simpler than those from the expansions, but have more direct effects.
    • For a more specific example, the basic treasures. +Coins with no additional effect sounds boring, but you can't do much without them.
    • 'Big Money' strategies are based around buying just silver, gold, and provinces whenever possible, with maybe an action card or two early and a couple of duchies late if you're feeling fancy. Usually dull to play, but since treasure cards are never dead draws, very consistent, and often difficult for new players to beat.
    • 'Rush' strategies tend to be very monotonous but effective, aiming for a quick three-pile ending before anyone can build up their deck. The Ur-Example is Workshop-Gardens. Buy or gain a bunch of Workshops, and use them to drain the piles of Gardens, Workshops, and then a third $4-or-less pile (oftentimes Estates). The Workshop and Gardens are interchangeable with other gainers (Ironworks note  and especially Groom note  are actually much better) and cheap Victory cards, respectively.
  • Curse: Each Curse card in your deck at the end of the game costs you 1 victory point. Technically, every game has Curse cards available, but they generally don't come into play unless some other card lets players inflict them on their opponents.
  • Defend Command: The Moat, which lets the player protect themselves from attacks. It's not useless if the player doesn't get attacked, either— it has a weak secondary effect of allowing the player to draw two cards.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: 'Engine' decks are the strongest deck archetype, but they also take the most skill to play. They involve making a carefully balanced deck that ideally draws and plays every card in the deck. Engines start off slowly, but in the late game, they will usually gain multiple Victory cards per turn. In extreme cases, a "Megaturn" engine will gain all its victory points in a single, game-ending turn note . It is however, easy to mess up when constructing an Engine, and a badly constructed one will easily be beaten by a Big Money deck.
  • Discard and Draw: Cellar. Warehouse is "Draw then Discard." Some cards such as Hunting Lodge and Scholar will (optionally) have the player discard their entire hand in order to draw a large number of cards. Collectively, cards of this trope are known as "sifters" in Dominion.
  • Evolving Attack: Certain cards replace themselves with a better card when certain conditions are met.
  • Expansion Pack: Each with a different theme.
  • Extra Turn: Several variations— Tactician, Possession, Outpost, and Mission each give you one in different ways. See the trope page.
  • Flavor Text: The rulebook for each expansion begins with a brief drily humorous description of the realm's current situation, fitting the expansion's theme. For example, the "Intrigue" rulebook begins:
    Something's afoot. The steward smiles at you like he has a secret, or like he thinks you have a secret, or like you think he thinks you have a secret.
  • Genre Launch: Of "Deckbuilding Games"— certainly there are many elements of other games in its mechanics, but the specific way Dominion turned the act of deckbuilding into a gameplay focus quickly popularized the genre.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: The Jack of all Trades card, of course— a mid-cost card that gives you numerous small benefits when played.
  • Magikarp Power: The Traveler cards from Adventures; initially, they are cheap cards with lackluster effects. Each time you use them, they can become a different, better card at the end of the turn. If you manage to do this four times, they become very powerful.
  • Manipulating the Opponent's Deck: Most attacks do this, by (for example) making other players gain a Curse, discard cards from their hands, put cards back on top of their decks, or even trash cards.
  • Master of None: The Market card. It gives the player +1 to everything— an extra card, an extra coin, an extra action, and an extra buy. Making full use of all of these is difficult, but at the same time the card is never fully useless.
  • Meta Game: Debatable. Because a large point is that the cards vary for each game, strategies tend to fall into general categories, rather than specific moves.
    • This article argues that there are five such broad categories, although it does admit that there is a lot of overlap between them.
  • Money Multiplier: The Fortune cardnote  from Empires will double the current amount of money a player has, the first time it is played in a turn.
    • To a lesser extent, the now-defunct Coppersmith card makes Coppers worth an extra $1 apiecenote .
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • At first glance, cards such as Chapel that can trash other cards (removing them from the game entirely) look like they were made for getting rid of Curses, but players soon realize that trashing can be used to prune their decks of their rather weak starting cards.
    • A meta example is the blank cards the game comes with. They literally had no intended use, they were just included since they get printed anyway. Fans realized they could be used to mark blank piles well, and could be used to work custom cards into the game.
    • The promo card Black Market lets the player buy cards that are not part of the current game's 10-card kingdom. However, it also has the side effect of letting the player play treasure cards during the Action phase— something they're normally not allowed to do. This makes certain other cards very powerful, and arguably turns the card Tacticiannote 
    • Deliberately buying or gaining Curses to trigger a three-pile ending when a player has enough of a lead to incur the point penalty and still end up ahead.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Bureaucrat card which forces other players to put a card useless for play on the top of their deck, ensuring it will quickly return to their hand.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: The Second Edition releases of the Base Set and Intrigue replaced cards that were of inferior quality with better versions of the same card, e.g. Mill replacing Great Hall, Bandit replacing Thief.
  • Sadistic Choice: The Torturer card makes you choose whether to discard cards or take a Curse.
  • Sequel Escalation: Several expansions escalate existing mechanics or introduce new ones.
    • Intrigue introduces the Harem card: the first card that provides both money and victory points. It also has the Nobles, which is not only a victory/action card, but gives you two different actions to choose from when you play it.
    • Seaside introduces "Duration" cards which do something when played and also do something (perhaps the same thing again, perhaps not) on the player's next turn.
    • Alchemy introduces potions, a new standard treasure card. Certain Alchemy cards have costs of X coins + Potion, and several of them have interactions specific to cards with this type of cost.
    • Prosperity introduces new money and victory cards worth 5 coins and 10 points, respectively, whereas the base game only goes as high as 3 coins or 6 points.
    • Cornucopia primarily focuses on engine building and deck variety; it also adds the Tournament card, with which you can win five unique Prize cards that are extremely powerful.
    • Hinterlands introduces cards that have effects only when they are gained or bought, rather than when they are played during one's turn.
    • Dark Ages introduces Shelters, cards replacing your starting estates which have different effects and cost 1 coin. It also introduces Ruins, crappy Action cards that are handed out by Looter-type cards, usually as an attack.
    • Guilds introduces "Coffers" which are coin tokens that can be used at any time as actual currency, and cards that you can overpay for, granting you certain effects when you do.
    • Adventures introduces "Event" cards which stay on the table and may be used by any player.
    • Empires introduces "Landmark" cards which have a persistent effect on the game, and "Debt" that lets you buy cards and pay off the cost later (which you must do before you can buy anything else). It also includes an Event called Dominate, which effectively functions as a 15-point Victory card above even the Colony from the Prosperity expansion.
    • Nocturne introduces a lot of new features: "Night" cards which operate under different rules compared to other cards and are played in between the Buy and Clean-Up phase, Boons which reward you with positive effects through certain actions that are played, Hexes which cause negative effects, States which are status effects that are given through Hexes, Spirits which are cards that can only be gained through certain means, Heirlooms which replace your starting coppers when a certain Action card is used, and Zombies which are Action cards that start the game in the trash.
    • Renaissance reintroduced Coffers and introduced a few new concepts: Villagers which allow you to use free actions when you need them most, Artifacts which operate like States but have more positive effects, and Projects which are upgrades that you can purchase which provide a permanent effect throughout the game.
    • Menagerie introduces the Exile mat and Ways. Cards in Exile still belong to you and are considered part of your deck when scoring, but are kept on their own mat during normal gameplay unless removed. Ways give you an extra option when playing any Action card; instead of following the card's instructions, you may instead follow the instructions on any Way in the kingdom.
  • Status Effects: Some of the Hexes from Nocturne function as these— Deluded prevents a player from buying any Action cards for one turn. Envious makes Silvers and Golds worth only $1 each for one turn.
  • Swarm of Rats: The Rats card. It can trash your bad cards, but unless you're careful, they'll overrun your deck. This is because when you play one, you must take another Rats, and Rats cannot trash themselves. There are also twice as many of these as normal in the supply.
  • Taking You with Me: The Knights from Dark Ages. If a Knight attacks another Knight, both Knights get trashed.
  • Theme Naming: The Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker are all cards from the Guilds expansion that involve Coffers in some way.
    • Cards that give +2 or more Actions will typically have some variant of "Village" or "City" in the name, following from the vanilla Village [[note]]+1 Card, +2 Actions from the Base Set.
  • Three Wishes: The Magic Lamp card is a Treasure that, when trashed note , naturally gives three Wish cardsnote .
  • Uncanceled: Originally, Guilds was going to be the last expansion. When the designer's next game flopped, however, they ended up making a new expansion (Adventures).