I enjoy deck builders, and this is the purest of them all. It’s uncluttered by extra rules and game mechanisms that often blight the genre these days. Maybe because of this it does show its age, at least to regular gamers, but for me, this is the one I always turn to give someone the basic understanding of what a deckbuilder is all about.
It’s a great game for introducing people to the hobby, as the game’s mechanism is really simple. After a few turns new players start to realise how it works, and that just buying more and more cards will only result in a clogged-up deck. Come the second game they’ll have clicked that there comes a point when you need to concentrate solely on buying up the Victory Point cards, and by the third they’ll be working out strategies for card combinations – it really is a joy to watch how new players adapt with each game they play.
Dominion is all about the synergy between the cards, finding those that work together and those that don’t, and working out just how many to include in your deck. Watching a relatively new player playing card after card from their hand is an interesting experience, as you can see from the look on their face that they’re clearly enjoying the moment, but all too often they’ll have played a dozen or so cards and the end result is 10 buys and no money to buy anything with, or loads of money and only 1 buy!
Getting the balance right is all part of the learning curve, but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with, especially if you’re playing with similar cards in the supply every game.
Okay, the theme is pretty much non-existent, but it really doesn’t matter as the game whips along at a fare rate of knots, you also have to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing, so there’s little time to contemplate how the Scholar or the Witch fits into the scheme of things.
There are close to a dozen expansions to be had (all expansions are compatible with the second edition base game), and if you’re a regular player you may well need them to spice things up a little. Knowing what works can make the game predictable, as experienced players will be using similar tactics, and the games can often be short and frantic, without much thought into what you’re actually doing – a bit like the opening moves between two grandmasters in a chess competition.
For those like me, though, who maybe play once every couple of months or so, the base game is enough, especially with the randomiser.
Knowing what I know now, would I have still bought it? Definitely.
Will it remain in my collection? Certainly. It’s one of the few competitive games that my wife enjoys playing and that alone makes it worthy of staying on the shelf. Not only that, though, it’s a game I regularly pull out for people with little gaming experience, or those that have never played a deckbuilder before. it’s quick to set up, It’s very easy to teach, and the best thing is that you can actually see the game mechanism working, and it makes the player feel good when they get to play lots of cards, irrespective of whether it actually nets them anything in the end!
One Year On – Dominion is a little dated when compared to what other games have been doing with the deckbuilding mechanism, but don’t let that fool you. Here is the deckbuilder in its purest form, no bells, no whistles, and it’s still a joy to play. A regular player will need to add an expansion or two, just to keep things from becoming stale and all too familiar, but for someone like me, who doesn’t get it to the table that often, the base game is more than enough.