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Dominion: The Deck Building Game


Dominion was created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande Games. It was the first game of its kind and won the 2009 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year). It’s a 2-4 player game meant for anyone aged 13 and up.


Dominion is one of the best board games you will ever come across. While I may use the term “board game,” ultimately it is a deck building game. Once players learn the basics, games last from 30 -60 minutes. With multiple sets of cards to play with, this game is one that keeps on…well, playing!

Each player is a lowly monarch in search of more land to create a great kingdom. More land means more points at the end of the game.

The goal is to have the most points when the game ends. Points are counted by the type (estate, duchy, province) and quantity of land you purchased through the game. In order to do so, each player will buy cards (actions, treasures, or victories) that will assist in buying bigger property (victory cards) late in the game. When all of the Provinces or 3 of any other card supply pile are empty, the game ends.

Each player begins the game with three estates and seven copper cards. Those cards should be shuffled and laying face down as a draw pile with your hand containing the top 5 cards.

A turn can be effectively reduced to 3 steps. Let’s use the guideline of “ABC” to understand. Your first step on your turn is “A” for Actions. This is the step where you can play one action for free (if you have any) in order to gain some benefit to the rest of your turn. If a card you play allows you to have more actions, this would be the time to use them. Once you’ve exhausted all allotted actions, you move on to step B. This is your “Buy” phase. You are allowed to purchase one card from the supply piles to add to your deck. However, if you played an action that gives you an extra buy, you now have the ability to separate the treasure in your hand between 2 purchases if you so choose. Once you’ve made your purchase, you then move on to step C. In this step you will “clean up” your turn by discarding all remaining cards into your discard pile, putting all played cards this turn into your discard pile, and placing all purchases into the discard pile. Then as you end your turn you draw a new hand (5 cards). If you have no more cards in your draw pile, take your discard pile, shuffle it and place it facedown as your new draw pile.

What makes this game so much fun?

Simply put, the action cards is where the mayhem occurs!

Each player has the ability to purchase “action cards” that allow them to have special effects when played on their turn. There are 10 different action cards to pick from per game. Some allow you to draw and play more cards. Others allow you to purchase more than one card a turn. And there are even special cards called “action attack” that cause other players to receive some sort of negative effect.

Consider the action card “Militia.” This card allows you to temporarily have 2 extra coins to use for purchasing cards. However, it’s also an attack card! Each other player has to discard from their hand enough cards to leave them with only 3 left in hand. This can be detrimental late in the game when each player is dependent on have a hand full of treasure to purchase the most expensive land in the game–the Province.

Let’s also look at another attack card! The “Witch” allows you to draw 2 cards and gives a “curse” card to each opponent. These curses count as a -1 victory point at the end of the game if you still have them in your deck. Curses are not easy to get rid of, so if you keep getting walloped with curses, a good strategy would be to purchase a witch or two of your own to start dealing curses to other players as well.

Some of my other favorite cards are Council Room, Throne Room, and Moat!

There are a total of 24 different available actions to have in a game. With each game being limited to using only 10 of those piles, it’s easy to see how different combinations of cards can create different types of gameplay.

Dominion is sure to entertain the family! Its medieval themes help bring to life the idea of success in those times through the use of treasure, types of lands, and other symbols associated with that era. What will your dominion look like?

If you’ve played Dominion and want to share your experience or add to this information, feel free to comment below or send me an email about it! Dominion (both the 1st and 2nd editions) can be found in nearly any gaming store (though 1st edition is technically out of print).

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