Game Length: 30 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2 to 4 players new to boardgaming who want to try a modern classic
Dominion is one of the most important games to come out in the past decade of boardgaming. Released in 2008, it won the 2009 Spiel des Jahres, the German board game prize. Since then it has had 8 expansions, with at least one more on the way.
Dominion introduced the concept of deckbuilding to the boardgaming world, and despite dozens of imitators, none have truly surpassed it. In a typical deckbuilding game, players each start with a basic small deck of cards, and draw a set number of them each turn. These cards are used to acquire additional cards from the game board, which are shuffled into the player’s deck and serve to gradually improve each player’s capabilities.
Dominion is easy to learn, but it helps to have an experienced player set up the first game.and explain the rules. To win the game, players must have the most victory points at the end of the game. Cards that grant victory points may be purchased, but these cards have no other purpose, and each one that is bought will weaken the player’s deck and make it harder to buy more cards.
The driving force behind Dominion‘s popularity and appeal is its variable nature. Each game, a different set of cards are available for purchase, and players will need to pay heed to what the other players are purchasing so that they don’t fall victim to a nasty ‘attack’ card, or miss out on purchasing one of the more powerful cards as their supply runs out.
If you have a mind for mathematics and optimisation, you will find the ever-changing puzzle of working out which cards to purchase very satisfying. You’ll need to strike a balance between buying cards that improve your deck’s economic power and the dead-weight victory cards. If you start buying victory cards too early, you can cripple your deck’s buying power, but if you spend too much time building up your economy the other players may end the game before you have a chance to buy enough cards to attain victory.
Dominion is not without its negative points. The game’s theme is very dry – players are essentially buying cards so they can buy more cards and hopefully have bought the most victory points at the end of the game. Furthermore, if there are no ‘attack’ cards available in the game, it becomes a form of multiplayer solitaire, with players having little influence on each others’ strategy and actions. However, the huge range of expansions all serve to add new play experiences and change the strategies, keeping the game fresh, and players are encouraged to find the cards they most enjoy playing with and customise the selection of available cards each game.
Dominion‘s short play time allows multiple games to be played in the same session, and at the end of the game, comparing each player’s final decks allows players to see what the others did and how it worked for them. It works well with 2, 3 or 4 players and makes an excellent gateway game, as it is very easy to learn yet is extremely variable and complex to master. Learning Dominion and its strategies is an great way to learn the kinds of skills that will serve anyone new to the boardgaming hobby well.