Dominion: General Philosophy

This article is about finding the right mindset and attitude to improve your Dominion game, but then I wrote it and I realized that most of it doesn’t just apply to Dominion, it applies to most things in life. So not only are you getting Dominion advice, but you’re getting life advice as well! Such value!

In any case, the fact that you’re reading an article about Dominion suggests that you want to get better at the game. Excellent choice! Over the past six years I’ve gotten much better at Dominion, so I want to share the things I’ve done that I believe have helped me, and hopefully they help you too.

1. Play a lot

Reading articles is pretty good sometimes, but reading articles without a focus on actually playing games of Dominion will rarely help you in actual games of Dominion that you’re playing. It’s very rare that I come across someone who is able to really internalize Dominion concepts without learning what it “feels” like by applying them in a game.

This “feel” is something that really only happens when you play the game a lot — it allows you to strengthen your mental model of how good cards and interactions are, and it allows you to be more comfortable with building your deck efficiently.

I’m not suggesting that you should quit school or your job and play Dominion for 18 hours a day, but it makes sense that the more you play a game, the better you get at it.

Some people benefit from watching high-level players, you can find a couple of relevant YouTube channels here, here, and here.

2. Never stop being critical of your plays (YMYOSL)

You Make Your Own Shuffle Luck: it means that you shouldn’t blame luck for your losses, but rather you should look for what you could have done better. Even if you win, you should never stop looking for flaws in your play.

Maybe you will decide that you made the right play and it didn’t work out for you, this is entirely possible; but the idea is that if you are always critical of everything you do, you give yourself more opportunites to find ways to improve your gameplay.

Always be skeptical of any advice you are given. Always be skeptical of everything you believe about Dominion. Dominion is not a “solved” game and it probably never will be; many people out there will speak like they have everything figured out — they don’t. Except for me. Just kidding. But not really. But yes. Working to keep a skeptical mindset will never stop being a useful resource.

3. You can never get better if you always play what you think is best

Don’t be afraid to try something that you aren’t sure will work, it’s how you get better at Dominion. This piece of advice is something that it’s very important to remember no matter what skill level you are (or think you are). The moment you think you have it figured out, the moment you lose that humility, that’s the moment you stop getting better at the game. Expansions are still coming out, the overall level of play gets higher and higher as time goes on, so if you aren’t improving, you’re effectively getting worse — you can’t let this happen to you.

This is a trap I see so many people fall into once they are comfortable with Big Money: there’s now a thing they can do that is not going to be awful; buy a Silver, buy a Gold, buy a Province. They “commit” to building a more ambitious deck that they believe can work, that they’ve seen people play and crush them with, but when it comes time to really deviate from Big Money, they can’t pull the trigger, they have to do what is comfortable.

It might not feel good, but losing a game because you tried something that didn’t work is by far the best way to get better at Dominion. You have a chance to diagnose exactly what happened and learn why. You got the experience of playing a different deck and “feeling” what it was like. You have the recent loss to keep you motivated instead of a win to reward the (incorrect) assumption that you must have played perfectly if you won the game.

Dominion wouldn’t be the game it is if a simple Big Money strategy was best most of the time, and fortunately, people who play engines win a lot more: those amazing Dominion combos really are out there and the only way to get good at doing them is to just do them. Yes, they require more skill to play, but staying in your comfort zone is not how you get the skill to play those decks, you have to be adventurous.

Just because you tried something that didn’t work, it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to play Dominion anymore. Commit completely to your grand dreams of glory and you will find yourself winning more often than you would expect; but more importantly, doing this will give you more chances to get better at the game.

I’ve been playing Dominion “seriously” for six years and my focus has never been on a leaderboard or on tournament performance. Every game I play has had the main objective of finishing the game higher in skill than what I started. I am the World Champion of Dominion but that is not an excuse to shift my focus or rest on my laurels, it just helps make me feel better about the six years I put into getting better at the game. Don’t be afraid of losing a game, be afraid of getting comfortable and halting your improvement.

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