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Flashback Friday - Dominion

U Updated
Dominion card game

Game Information

Game Name
There Will Be Games

Love it or hate it? Do you still play it?

Dominion, winner of the 'Spiel des Jahres in 2009, is the game that launched a thousand ... other games sort of just like it, but different.  

Ken B. declared that Dominion was "Good shit!"

However, other members of our site soon declared it boring. Before too long our reviewers where telling us that one of the many deck builders that quickly followed, such as Ascension and Artic Scavengers, were better than Dominion.

So what do you think? Do you still play Dominion? Do you play other deck builders? Do you have a favorite?


There Will Be Games Dominion card game

Dominion card game
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie


Dominion card game
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie


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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #277962 20 Jul 2018 12:17
Personally, I never played Dominion much.

Now we play a lot of Legendary, and Hogwarts Battle.
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #277963 20 Jul 2018 12:21
This is the only deck builder that I play. Thunderstone was lame and the mechanism itself has been used as a component in other games, but for pure deckbuilding I usually just come back to the classic. I hear good things about Aeon's End but this just isn't a genre that compels me to fill more space on my shelf with it.
Jexik's Avatar
Jexik replied the topic: #277964 20 Jul 2018 12:42
I like Dominion quite a bit, and I play it at least once every few months. Taught it to the wife not too long ago and she really dug it, so I don't anticipate replacing it.

For 2 player with a lot of confrontation, I like Puzzle Strike a lot too, it's the most worthy successor to Dominion, since it sticks so closely to the way the cards are acquired and the focus on building a deck that has an engine.
quozl's Avatar
quozl replied the topic: #277965 20 Jul 2018 12:47
I've only played Dominion a couple of times and never played the expansions. I didn't think much of it. I do like the 2-player starter kit for Ascension as a nice "comfort food" game. But when I want deck-building, I get out Puzzle Strike.
DarthJoJo's Avatar
DarthJoJo replied the topic: #277966 20 Jul 2018 12:56
Even though I haven’t played in a few years Dominion remains my number one of all time. I’ve kept up on the expansions and look forward to my next play. I’ve tried a few other pure deck builders and always ask myself “Why am I not playing Dominion instead?”

The mistake that the others make is not limiting your card play with +Action. While a kingdom without Villages can limit strategies, controlled card play makes the game more strategic as you need to consider your buys more and not just hope to always draw your best cards.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #277967 20 Jul 2018 13:04
I've never played Dominion, but I've tried other deckbuilders, and it feels like a mechanic in search of a game. Then again, I played a lot of CCGs in the '90s, and deckbuilding was my least favorite part of CCGs. Oddly enough, I like deckbuilding in sports games. Slapshot was a deckbuilder that was at least 20 years ahead of its time. And I really liked Blood Bowl Team Manager. I think my issue is that most deckbuilders have weak theme attachment, but the idea of players on the injury list in a rough sport totally makes sense.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #277969 20 Jul 2018 13:09
My wife and I have played Dominion face-to-face over a hundred times, typically with one of the two bases and one (and only one) expansion, of which we have them all. We have more Dominion than we need, but not as much as we want, as they say.

But then again deckbuilding is among our favorite mechanisms. We've played a fair bit of Thunderstone Advance and Quest over the years (and my wife is consistently better at it than me; at Dominion, we're roughly equal). We also play Trains sometimes and Legendary at times, and a few others I'm forgetting.

I've played games with deckbuilding as a good or OK component to a larger array of mechanisms, but Dominion is the ur-deckbuilder and retains a classic status with me similar to the similarly "pure" El Grande.
boothwah's Avatar
boothwah replied the topic: #277973 20 Jul 2018 13:38
I love deck builders. Dominion is great, but the tweaks make it's step children so much better. Ascension is on every mobile device we own, but if I could only own one it'd probably be that cheap $15 copy of Star Realms and the expac.

I'm not a fan of Legendary (only played Marvel, is the Aliens game better?) - I dislike the competitive co-op and even though I'm a fan of the tableau, It just takes too long to build any sort of engine. Generally the game is almost over before you've assembled your pile of sort of synergistic hero powers.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #277980 20 Jul 2018 14:16
It’s the most overused, badly copied mechanic of all time.

Dominion is a dry fucking death rattle of a game, but the mechanic is extraordinarily smart. Only a handful of games seem to be able to take it and make it really fun. Star Realms, in my humble opinion, is the one that took the mechanic and made it into an interesting game after Ascension, the true heir to Dominion, usurped it’s forefather as the pinnacle of achievement when it came to the mechanic.

And Star Realms is legitimately a knockoff of Ascension in every meaningful way except in how it creates easy to use combinations based on a color scheme.

Marvel Legendary did novel things with it and kind of turned the whole mechanic on its head, and I think it’s a really good way to implement the mechanic. I could never play it again and be fine, but I admire how they took the overused mechanic and made it into something really unique and interesting.

If I had to point out the one thing which came of Dominion that changed my view of how games could be made, it’s the next evolution of the mechanic, the dice-building game. Quarriors isn’t an objectively good game, but without it there would be no Destiny et al, and I anxiously await a dungeon crawl game whose “loot” comes in the form of dice to add to various pools for task accomplishment.

Instead of having a sword card that adds +1 to your die roll, you get a card which lets you reach into a bag and pull a red die which adds to your total dice. Get a toolkit card and you pull a yellow utility die which can be used for lock picking, trying to pass a “trap” test, etc.

This makes loot no determenistic. If you kill that Goblin, the loot card you pull tells you only that you got a sword, but it doesn’t tell you WHICH sword. Putting your hand in the bag is when you learn what it is as the dice are all different. This also cuts down on card bloat where you have to have 10 piles for varying types of loot.

That is the ultimate, logical conclusion for me.
Legomancer's Avatar
Legomancer replied the topic: #277983 20 Jul 2018 14:25
I was wowed by the idea of deck-building, but never really excited by Dominion. It felt to me like I was just playing a mechanism, not actually doing anything. I gravitated towards Thunderstone as an alternative, which I really enjoyed, but which doesn't hit the table anymore. My copy is probably headed for the discard pile.

I've tried a number of deck builders, but a lot of them didn't stick. I really enjoyed Nightfall and still like it, but didn't keep it around. Star Realms I found boring and obvious. Ascension I've played the hell out of online, but I wouldn't buy a physical copy.

The ones I've really stuck with are:
Core Worlds - With the Galactic Orders expansion, it's pretty much everything I want from a thematic, narrative deckbuilder. Whenever I think I need to pull Thunderstone out again, I instead think I should pull out Core Worlds. (Plus I like SF more than fantasy.)

Valley of the Kings - I have the original one and I've played Afterlife and either is good. It does interesting things with the concept, plays quickly, and has some cool choices.

Zeppelin Attack! - Criminally overlooked, this one is an extremely good time. You're pulp-style factions piloting zeppelins and trying to blast the crap out of each other. It's a lot of fun and deserves more attention than it's gotten.
ecargo's Avatar
ecargo replied the topic: #277989 20 Jul 2018 14:46
I love Dominion (and deckbuilders)! It was one of the first games that I played when entering the hobby and it blew my mind. One of the biggest hindrances to getting it played more often is other games, of course, but also its unwieldy storage. I do have everything in one box with dividers ( everything except Nocturne here ), but it's not easy to just grab and set up. It's too bad all of the digital implementations have been horrible.

I also love Ascension and Thunderstone. Those are my other most-played deckbuilders, though anything with that mechanic will instantly grab my attention. I do find Star Realms overrated and think Shards of Infinity does the PVP deckbuilding way better.

As for deckbuilders with a board, Trains is okay (though I got rid of my copy because I found the victory point cards divorced the board from the deck), Clank! is good, and Tyrants of the Underdark is great.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #277990 20 Jul 2018 14:55
My wife and I still play Dominion and I will continue to pick up the expansions. I have been playing more Ascension and Star realms on my phone lately since my friends at work can kill a half dozen games in no time.

I would buy Ascension in physical form to play with my regular group, but don't see the point with the fine phone implementation.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #277993 20 Jul 2018 15:40
I *love* deckbuilders, but I haven’t played Dominion since the first expansion.

For pure deckbuilders, Aeon’s End is the best. Love that one, despite it being a co-op, and the lack of shuffling is a godsend.

Other than that, I really like stuff that’s embraced a board element. Clank!, Tyrants is the Underdark, and Quest For El Dorado are all some of my favorite games at the moment.
Jexik's Avatar
Jexik replied the topic: #277995 20 Jul 2018 15:45
Clank! is fun and has been very popular at the shop. I do still sell quite a bit of DC deckbuilder, Legendary, and a few Dominion expansions now and then.
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #277998 20 Jul 2018 16:31
A game store in my hometown was selling Tyrants of The Underdark at a deep discount. Only played once, since we’re traveling, but I think it may be one of the better implementations of the mechanism.

Still like Dominion, always did.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #277999 20 Jul 2018 16:35
Haha. Nope. Noteworthy for the brilliant novelty of its mechanic but once that wore off it's tiresome and repetitive in the extreme.

There are so many much, much better places deck building has gone in the intervening years. Almost always with a board tagging along for the ride.

If you like deckbuilders watch out for Ruthless. Played a demo version and while I feel the world - and I- has moved on from pure deck builders, it's the best I've played without a board.
Menat's Avatar
Menat replied the topic: #278011 20 Jul 2018 18:38
Does Mage Knight count? Because that's probably my favorite deck builder if we count it. Star Realms was the direct face-bash deck builder I feel like I waited way too long for someone to finally make. Probably my favorite pure deck builder if Mage Knight's deck building is too marginal.

Mystic Vale is a really interesting twist on deck building, but ultimately I'm not too crazy about it since the core mechanic of risk/bust really makes the game feel frustratingly luck based in the early turns.

Eminent Domain is also an noteworthy design that is pretty much completely forgotten except at my house, I think.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #278013 20 Jul 2018 19:14
I generally like DBs, and I generally agree that Dominion is better viewed as kind of a template or Rosetta Stone for the mechanic than as a complete game. Oddly, I like Dominion LESS with expansions, and even weirder I think that the setting (“build a medieval city”) is part of what makes the game feel perfunctory.

It’s hard to say what the “best” in the genre is. There have actually been a fair few very good to great deck builders. I do tend to like the ones with boards more.

Quest for El Dorado is the best deck building game to date. It’s brilliant, fun, and focused. And it’s a race, not an efficiency progression.

A Study in Emerald is really good. On that one, I’ve never played the first edition.

A Few Acres of Snow is a snooze. Bleh.

Ascension remains, I think, the best “pure” deck builder. Maybe because I’ve played it the most by a long shot. Back when it was peaking on IOS, I would have like 10 games going at a time. The expansions get a little crazy and stretch the limits of the game.

Arctic Scavengers was really the first “Clone”- I liked it but I’ve actually not played the 2nd edition.

Legendary: Alien Encounters is by far the best of that lot.

Hogwarts Battle is kind of bad but...Harry Potter. The later years are MARKEDLY better than the first few.

Nightfall was interesting, but also a mess.

Star Realms is pretty good but it gets pretty repetitive.

I’ve liked some of the smaller, weirder ones. Apex Theropid was neat, strange, and a total mess. Fantastiqa was played by no one but it was cool. Venom Assault (the fake GI Joe one) was cute. The Resident Evil one was pretty fun, but not a great design.

I didn’t like Tyrants of the Underdark when I reviewed it, but I’d give it another shot.

I really want to try Clank.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #278014 20 Jul 2018 19:25
Shellhead is right about deckbuilding. Its a mechanism in search of a game. I do like Dominion, but I hate the attempt at, and utter failing of attaching a theme to it. I havent played in years and dont see myself breaking that trend.

I think Legendary does a good job of making a go of it. (it has some serious issues in the card layout department though)
I haven't tried many deckbuilders, but I enjoy Aliens brand of Legendary, and I think Mystic Vale is admirable as well.
Whoshim's Avatar
Whoshim replied the topic: #278015 20 Jul 2018 20:12
I enjoy Dominion, though I think I wouldn't enjoy it if we played it regularly. I grew up playing CCGs, and I love drawing and shuffling cards. I usually lose at Dominion because I enjoy making decks that let me draw my whole deck each turn, which is not really the way to win with most setups (other methods are more efficient). It is funny to me, because I play other games very competitively, but, with Dominion, I just enjoy the ride. Throne-Rooming a Throne Room is just pure, simple fun for me.

I think, when my boys are older, that MtG cube will see more play than Dominion, but for now, Dominion gives the deck-building fix for me. I never bothered getting another deck builder, because I like keeping my collection of games small, with few overlaps among types of games, and I don't really want to bother with selling off games to replace them with a similar game.
Erik Twice's Avatar
Erik Twice replied the topic: #278016 20 Jul 2018 20:18
I'm actually coming back and reassessing the way I view of Dominion a bit. I think I've taken it by granted and the more deckbuilders I play, the more I realize it's a plain better design than all others. Dominion has a few features that I've grown to realize are very important and well-thought out and that weren't chosen by chance:

1) Static market
2) VPs bog your deck down
3) Purcharses and Actions are limited
4) Cards are mostly of an economic nature and very varied inside those parameters

The static market requires setup but it's otherwise better than random markets. It allows for long-term planning, it takes away focus from drawing the "best card" and more into your actual choices. It reduces luck and prevents games in which a player gets worse or mismatched cards and loses because his opponent didn't.


VPs going into your deck has a wide array of small benefits that aren't aparent at first but that work. First, it helps create a timing element that forces you to change your deck as you play. In most deckbuilders, you don't change how your deck plays, you only add more and more powerful cards into it until you win. In Domnion this doesn't work so well because the engine-building cards don't give VPs and VPs don't build your engine. This keeps the game within a reasonable range instead of snowballing out of control.

It also allows for a wider range of strategies. Consider Star Realms. In Star Realms drip damage is meaningless because by the time it would become meaningful someone will have played his whole deck and won. And once you have a bunch of strong cards, well, you draw your whole deck and win. In Dominion this is not true, you can win with both a steady pace, a quick deck or a by buying several provinces a turn.


Limiting purcharses and actions makes Dominion a game of efficiency. You cannot just get the "best" card, because you may not have the actions to play it or be able to put its income to use. The vast majority of other deckbuilders can be won simply by following a few basic princes and then getting the best (or more expensive)cards. For example I've noticed you could make a flowchart to decide what to buy in Star Realms and barely come out worse than if you thought about your actions:

1) Shuffles 1-5: Buy economic cards, then deck-thinning, then 4+ damage card in that priority order.
2) Rest of the game: Get the cards that draw you more cards (with one exception) or the most expensive card


Dominion is a pure eurogame not dissimilar to Splendor or Sid Sackson's Bazaar. It's trickier and more interesting but it works the same way, down to the way different cards are designed. What is better? More draw and purcharses or more money? Bogging down the oppponent players or improving your cards? The main difference between cards in Dominion is not quality, it's kind.


So yeah, so far I think I was wrong and the more deckbuilders I play the more I realize that Dominion did the same thing, but better. And Dominion has flaws, mind, I dislike the way you can set on a strategy early on and then the rest of the game is going through the motions. But they are flaws that are found in all other games in the genre, often alongisde worse ones.

I do want to play both Core Worlds and Puzzle Strike and see how they compare.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #278018 20 Jul 2018 21:19
If deckbuilding is a mechanism in search of a game, I think it found it in Carthage (Head to Head review landing soon at Clank in Space was good in my limited plays and I'm interested in picking up Hero Realms.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #278022 20 Jul 2018 21:38
Never liked Dominion and not a big fan of the deck-building mechanic in general. I do like the solo game Coffee Roaster which is a bag-builder where you spend rounds manipulating the tokens in the bag then basically draw your score from it at the end.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #278023 20 Jul 2018 23:45
I think Eric has an excellent point, and it’s one that explains why Dominion is the timeless, evergreen classic (for better or worse) and the rest- even the best of them- are runners-up.

It goes back to what I am always on about regarding Sid Sackson or Knizia designs. They do one thing REALLY well and in that focus is a sense of refinement and a space where player skill, choice, luck, and fixed elements commingle.

There is no padding around that core- no board, for example. The game is strictly about building the most -successful- deck, measured by its ability to generate points. Yes, it’s an efficiency puzzle. But it also makes sense given the design goal and concept.

I’m kind of wanting to play it again, it’s been a long time. I think it is a very important design, and it is one of the generational, milemarker designs that do not come along often. I remember when it came out, it was maybe a little too easy to dismiss because at the time I think most of us, at this site at least, were more interested in Starcraft or BSG or whatever FFG had our at the time. But it was also completely singular, fresh, and almost out of nowhere. Regardless of what you think about it, it was completely genius to take a part of the CCG -metagame- and turn into a game itself.
DarthJoJo's Avatar
DarthJoJo replied the topic: #278024 20 Jul 2018 23:50
Thank you, Eric, for writing what I wanted to on the importance of limitations but wouldn’t write on a phone.

I just wanted to add, too, that I love how once I bring the game out, it’s not hard to bang out two or three games in 90 minutes. Even if it’s a rum strategy you set upon and can’t dig out of, the game isn’t going to drag long.