One of the joys that many Magic the Gathering players find in that game is in building their deck. Dominion took that idea and made what was once an activity that took place outside of play into the primary mechanism of an award winning and innovative card game. Years later, deckbuilding is putting on its leather jacket in preparation to jump the shark, but back in 2008, this was groundbreaking stuff.
I have to admit that Dominion did not initially impress me. When this game was first published, it created a kind of swirling gamer madness that has yet to be matched in my experience. Granted, my experience is somewhat limited, but I haven’t seen any kind of hype that can compare in the last seven years.
I thought that my tepid reaction was due to the huge hype and expectation, but my initial feelings on the matter are still valid. This is a good game. I don’t think it’s a fantastic game, but it’s certainly a very good one. I own a copy of the base game, and my wife and I play it every so often.
Dominion was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, who later designed Kingdom Builder. Both games were nominated and won the Spiel des Jahres, so Dominion wasn’t just hype. It was a toned and sweaty prizefighter of a game that KO’d the competition back in 2009. The game plays from two to four players, ages 8 and up. I cannot verify how successful it might be played with an 8-year-old. This is not a game I’ve played with my kids. You can play a game of Dominion in less than an hour, usually quite a bit less.
Dominion comes with 500 cards and nice tray in which to arrange them. The tray is really helpful, because you don’t use all of the cards in every game, and it’s nice to be able to take just the sets you need each time you play. Don’t get too bent out of shape if you’ve never spent this much money on a card game. That’s 500 cards for goodness sake, and I’m not talking cards like the two of clubs. I’m talking about text heavy cards that feature some very nice illustrations.
A player starts the game with a ten card hand of low value treasure cards and a few low value victory point cards. The basic idea of the game is to build up your deck’s ability to acquire victory points so that when the game end conditions are met, you have the most points. Players may buy cards from a central common pool of various card types that are determined at the start of each game. This pool of cards can change each game, and I believe that this variability is one of the reasons for Dominion’s popularity and high replay value. The real trick is how to manage your hand of cards, because the victory point cards don’t really do anything for you other than allow you to eventually win. Timing is critical. For additional information on how to play, please consult the learned sages at boardgamegeek.com.
I don’t mean to sound down on this game. Dominion is a very good game, folks. This is just one of those games that everyone else seems to like a lot more than I do. I own the base game, but I have no interest in any of the bazillion expansions. It’s a good game, and I will happily sit down and play it with you. However, if I ever had to get my game collection down to 100 of my favorites, I doubt that Dominion would make the cut.
This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2009 winner, Dominion, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.