Plenty of games involve using resources to win, but there is a card game that makes a very unique use of drawing, discarding, and shuffling cards for victory: Dominion. This intriguing game also makes the cards needed to win fairly detrimental during the game.

Each player starts with seven one-Copper cards (used to buy other cards) and three one-point Estate cards (used to determine the winner at the game's end). During a player's turn they can take one action (to play an Action card), perform one buy (purchasing a card), then discard their hand (and, with few exceptions, any cards bought) and draw five more cards. Then the next player goes.

This sounds simple -- and it starts off so -- but there's a lot of strategy involved. There are ten stacks of Kingdom cards (each stack has multiple copies of the same card) all players buy from. These cards can give you more actions, more buys, more actions and buys, or hurt the other players. Players can also buy higher-value Treasure cards or Estate cards. When all the six-point Estate cards are gone, or three other stacks are gone, the game ends and whoever has the move victory points from Estate cards wins.

So why not just keep buying Estate cards? They are both expensive (so you'll need to get a lot of Treasure cards in a single turn to buy them) and useless before the endgame (as they take up space in your hand). Higher-value Treasure cards can be useful -- but Action cards that let you more cards can often put more Treasure in your hands in a turn. Many cards can "stack," giving a player multiple actions, buys, or both during a single turn. And of course, if someone is ahead in points and working to exhaust stacks, you may have to skip buying cards you want for fear of ending the game too quickly.

Gameplay is very easy to learn, but it may take new players a few games to get use to not only all the discarding and drawing, but also how some card combinations work together. Once that's done, though, Dominion is a really fun, challenging and thoughtful game of strategy and chance.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch


Chad Cloman said...

Great game--it's all about deck building but without the expense of CCGs like Magic. And it’s fairly short time-wise (about 30 minutes), so you can play a bunch of times or play while waiting for others to arrive.

Note that BoardGameGeek has a couple expansion cards ("Envoy" and "Black Market") for the game.

James Lynch said...

Yup, it's deckbuilding -- but with all players building from the same pool of cards!

There's going to be an official expansion out soon -- I think June or July.