Dominion - In-Depth Review
- Fast play
- Strategic depth
- Great for Zoom
- I will be buying Dominion expansions until the day I die
- Don't let toddlers mix up all your cards! It takes a long time to sort them back out into the organizer slots (ask us how we know).
Dominion is an amazing game. If you aren’t sure what a deck builder is, just buy it (or read about this game type here). If you’ve played other deck builders and wonder if Dominion is worth the hype, just buy it. I didn’t buy Dominion when I first went searching for new games, because I can rarely play competitive games without starting fights. I had also played a few other deck building games, and didn’t think that a deck builder that came out so long ago (2009) was going to be worth it. But it is!
Dominion has a short play time and easy to understand rules, which makes it my favorite weeknight game. We were able to start playing about 15 minutes after opening it for the first time. Part of the delay was caused by my disbelief that it could be so simple - I assumed we did something wrong! (Editor's note: it might take you a little longer to get familiar with the card organizer if you aren't a professional Guest Geek! Plan for 30 minutes of setup in your first game to unpack all the cards (DON'T SHUFFLE THEM!) and sort them into their slots in the box organizer. If you can't find the sorting label insert, check the instruction manual! Ours was slipped inside the booklet.)
Setup for any game after your first game takes less than 5 minutes (unless a toddler has mixed up all your cards, in which case it takes a long time to sort them back out). The only decision you have to make at the beginning of the game is which kingdom cards to use for the game.
Dominion has a modular setup. Currency and victory cards are the same in every game, while the kingdom cards can be switched out. You can use any combination of 10 kingdom cards you want during setup, and the game comes with some pre-made suggested combinations of kingdom cards. This means you can limit the cutthroat cards like the witch if you play with aggressively competitive people who like to flip over tables and accuse you of cheating. Or you can put in a few cards that work well together and make for strong combos. There is enough variety with kingdom card combos that each game can feel different. The modular setup also means you can seamlessly integrate the expansions. There are a lot of expansions, 13 in all. You can combine the core game and expansions in a lot of different ways.
Each game lasts about 30 minutes. 30 minutes is an excellent play time because I don’t get invested in the game enough to light the house on fire if I lose. The base game supports 2-4 players, and the game works well at all of these player counts. Thanks to the lockdowns, we play 2 players at home and 3-4 players over Zoom.
Dominion has some very clever mechanics that I wish more deck-building games used. All the buyable cards are face up and always available for purchase until they run out. I like this over most of the deck builders I have played, because a changing pool of cards to buy is heavily based on luck. In other games, I buy a card, then reveal the super magical Ragnarok card that deals 20 damage, renders you invincible, gives you 15 victory points, and makes you a sandwich. Inevitably, my husband scrapes up just enough points to buy it in the next round. In Dominion, all the cards are always available. All players have an equal opportunity to buy the same cards and build the perfect deck. The only randomness comes from the five cards out of your deck that you draw into your hand each round.
Kingdom cards allow you to take actions like draw more cards, buy cheap cards for free, or make opponents discard their cards. You can only play one action card per turn, unless your action card grants you more actions, so this makes deck building tricky if you draw 5 cards but can only play 1. Normally my action cards get grouped together in the same hand, which is exactly what you don't want. This means I don’t get to play most of them and have to discard some of my best cards. Be luckier than me!
Victory cards that have properties on them (like Provinces and Duchys) are the only cards that grant victory points. Properties are completely useless during gameplay and end up cluttering your hand. This mechanic limits the amount of victory points I push for at the beginning of the game. Sometimes I wait too long while my opponent aggressively buys up properties, and I can never catch up. (If this sounds like Monopoly, it's not.)
What About Remote Play?
This game works great over Zoom. Everyone needs a copy of the game. (This should not be a problem, since you'll love it so much you want to buy Dominion for everyone you know.) There are two different editions of the game, and the kingdom cards change between editions, so check out our cheat sheet here if you're coordinating a Zoom game for owners of the First Edition and Second Edition. (We sell the Second Edition at Board's Edge Games.)
Coordinating the game setup across Zoom households is easy, unlike many deck building games. There is no need to match a changing pool turn after turn - all the kingdom cards available for purchase are set on the table at the beginning of the game. As players purchase cards, each household pulls that card out of the respective stack and sets it to the side. That is the only coordination required. There should be very little fuss.
Remote play score: 4 out of 4
What our remote score means: Works well over Zoom or your remote video conferencing system of choice.