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Flashback Friday - Dominion - Does anyone play this anymore? What deck builders are you playing?

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20 Jul 2018 16:31 #277998 by GorillaGrody
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.

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20 Jul 2018 16:35 #277999 by Matt Thrower
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.
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20 Jul 2018 18:38 - 20 Jul 2018 18:38 #278011 by Menat
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.
Last edit: 20 Jul 2018 18:38 by Menat.

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20 Jul 2018 19:14 #278013 by Michael Barnes
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.
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20 Jul 2018 19:25 - 20 Jul 2018 19:26 #278014 by Colorcrayons
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.
Last edit: 20 Jul 2018 19:26 by Colorcrayons.

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20 Jul 2018 20:12 #278015 by Whoshim
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.
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20 Jul 2018 20:18 #278016 by Erik Twice
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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.
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20 Jul 2018 21:19 #278018 by WadeMonnig
If deckbuilding is a mechanism in search of a game, I think it found it in Carthage (Head to Head review landing soon at Therewillbe.games). Clank in Space was good in my limited plays and I'm interested in picking up Hero Realms.

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20 Jul 2018 21:38 #278022 by ChristopherMD
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.
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20 Jul 2018 23:45 #278023 by Michael Barnes
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.
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20 Jul 2018 23:50 #278024 by DarthJoJo
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.

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21 Jul 2018 00:32 #278026 by san il defanso
I played so much Dominion for about two years, mostly with my wife. I had every set up to Prosperity, and I really enjoyed it. I did get tired of how little the expansions actually changed. They kept adding further variety, but I think I wanted the experience to change a little. That might be kind of unfair in hindsight but it's what I felt at the time.

My wife was my main opponent because I never much liked playing with anyone else. It's a tedious game to learn, and an even more tedious game to teach. Once we had our first son our mutual interest withered.

I have revisited it a couple times, thinking I'm ready to give it another try. I always walk away thinking that I'm done with it. The truth is that it just too stripped down for me. It feels mostly like a feedback loop, where you are buying cards to buy more cards.

But it meant a lot to me for a couple of years, and I certainly don't begrudge other people their enjoyment. I still don't think deck building has been improved on in other games. Other games would put it in a more interesting context, but they all lacked the polish and focus of the original.

I would like to revisit Thunderstone though. I liked that one a lot, and traded it away too early. I never even played the Advance version.

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21 Jul 2018 07:58 #278035 by mads b.
The best game with deck building is of course Statcraft, but that mechanism is a fairly small part of it.

Dominion is dry and boring. It does not engage in any ways.

But I can't believe nobody has mentioned Rune Age. It's a rock solid game with multiple variants build in. I've mostly played the really good coop/solo variant, but the multi player war game variant is great fun also. It's not only a good deck builder with lots of variety in even just the base game, it's also a game where the mechanism makes sense. You buy cards from your barracks (offer) and add them to your army (deck), but what troops you actually have available for a given battle (hand) varies.

But honestly I'm not a huge fan of deck builders. Seems like the effort needed to learn a game - the number of cards you have to read - is often quite high. It's a great mechanism, but it doesnt, I think, carry an entire game on its own that well.
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21 Jul 2018 19:24 #278081 by Ancient_of_MuMu
Still play it every few months. Erik summed up why.

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21 Jul 2018 20:45 #278094 by Jackwraith
Dominion never caught me. There just wasn't enough meat on the bones, either in mechanics or theme, for me to get into it. Like mads, I'm still a huge fan of Rune Age, simply for the variety of ways in which the game can be played right out of the box, and for the simple mechanic which creates the strategy of hand management, deck management, and action choice each round.

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