It is very rare in the gaming industry for something to come along that introduces a totally new gaming experience. Dominion has done just that. Since its release in 2008, we have seen a steady stream of games that uses the new mechanic introduced in Dominion, but none of these others have been as successful – and with good reason. Dominion stands as the King of the Deck-Building Games.
For those who haven’t experienced a deck-building game yet, the basic idea is simple. Each player starts with a small hand of cards, and cards get added to that hand in an attempt to make your deck into a better “victory engine” than your opponents’. In Dominion, victory is won by having the highest total value of Victory cards in your deck at the end of the game. Victory cards don’t usually do anything except earn you points at the end of the game, so having them in your deck will naturally cause it to be less efficient. This puts a built-in brake on players who get an early lead in the game. The trick is to start adding Victory cards at the right time so that you get ahead of the other players but do not sabotage your own deck prematurely.
Victory cards, along with Treasure cards and Kingdom cards, are quickly added to your deck by purchasing them with other Treasure cards (it takes money to make money!) The Kingdom cards, however, are the meat of the game. These add different kinds of functions to your deck and you have to decide which ones will combine well and make your deck work better than your opponents’. There are 25 different stacks of Kingdom cards included in the Dominion base set, but when you play a game you randomly select just ten of those. It should be plain to see that this makes for a huge number of possible combinations in each game. Every time you come back to play another game you will get a slightly different experience because of different Kingdom card combinations. I love that moment before the game has started when all the selected Kingdom cards are on the table and the players scan them over as they start to build a plan on how to make the best deck.
If that weren’t enough, Dominion doesn’t stop at one set. There are now five expansion boxes in addition to the original set that have been released. Each expansion has a theme and tends to change the game in a certain way. This has given rise to a total of 126 Kingdom cards if you have all the sets. You could play Dominion every night for a year and never see the same set of ten Kingdom cards within a single game. Quite simply, the replayability of Dominion makes it truly in a class by itself.
In 2009, Dominion won the Golden Geek Best Card Game award, the Golden Geek Board Game of the Year award, and the coveted Spiel des Jahres award. But the biggest indication of its power is that it created a new genre of game. Deck-building games have been popping up ever since Dominion opened the door.
Dominion has a wide appeal and an even wider influence. Whether you are a long time, experienced gamer or a casual, occasional gamer, this one deserves your attention.
If you like: Magic: the Gathering, Thunderstone, Ascension
You’d definitely enjoy: Dominion
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Produced by: Rio Grande Games