A “village” is any card that allows you to play multiple terminal actions per turn.
(A terminal action is just an action card that doesn’t give you any +Actions when you play it)
Most villages give you +2 Actions or more when you play them; most villages have “village” in the name, but that is not always the case. Some people call these cards by other names like “splitter” or other stuff. Some people have slightly different definitions of this term, or will use different words to talk about different categories of villages.
Why is this definition better than other definitions? The short answer is that having a cap on the number of terminal actions you can play in a turn is a significant limiting factor in the potential of decks you’re able to build.
Other distinctions such as requiring +2 Actions impose unnecessary restrictions on decks people will consider; this concept is at the heart of what can enable better decks, so this is the best benchmark — this is my opinion, yes, but I’ve had a lot of success with it and worked really hard to make this definition precise.
If there are no villages, a natural thing to ask yourself before the game starts is “I can only play one terminal per turn, what is it and how many points can I score on a turn because of that limitation?” Another natural thing to ask is “what can I do with only the available non-terminals, plus the X terminals I can play in a turn?”
Using this definition of village, we can divide games of Dominion into two categories which play very differently — games where villages are present and games where they are not. This helps a lot when analyzing a board and forming your strategy.
This article is a deep-dive into the villages of Dominion. I will list all of the villages in Dominion and discuss the trickier ones briefly — you can stop reading after this paragraph if you are not interested in that. The goal is not to have everyone adopt this exact thinking when it comes to villages, but rather to serve as a starting point for your own personal mental model of how Dominion works. Understanding why this “village” distinction is important and how you can apply it to actual games of Dominion is the important thing here, not the minutiæ of the definition.
I’ve divided the villages into some categories, there are people that will benefit from thinking of these villages in the different categories, and there are others who will just lump them all together. Choose whatever makes the most sense to you!
The “easy” villages
These cards will always be able to give you the village effect. Some are better than others, but they can all get the job done. For most of these it’s very straight-forward in how the village effect is given because the card just gives you +2 Actions.
Bandit Camp, Bazaar, Blessed Village, Border Village, Bustling Village, Champion, City, City Quarter, Coin of the Realm, Conclave, Crown, Cursed Village, Encampment, Farming Village, Festival, Fishing Village, Fortress, Ghost Town, Hamlet, Inn, King’s Court, Lost Arts, Lost City, Mining Village, Native Village, Nobles, Plaza, Port, Royal Carriage, Shanty Town, Squire, Teacher, Throne Room, University, Villa, Village, Walled Village, Wandering Minstrel, Worker’s Village
- Throne Room and its variants (Crown, Royal Carriage, King’s Court) are definitely villages, even though it may not be obvious at first. The effects of these cards will enable the same types of decks that other villages do, so it is definitely useful to put them in this category.
- Lost Arts and Teacher can give the +1 Action token, which gives the same effect, just with a different flavor.
Villages that need a little support
These cards are definitely villages, but you have to jump through some hoops to get the effect.
For some people it may be useful to think of these cards separately than the above list because you have to go through an explicit check to make sure it actually works on a given kingdom, other people don’t see it that way. Some people might even bring Royal Carriage, Lost Arts, or Peasant/Teacher down to this list because they make more sense here; that’s OK too.
Really, as long as you think through your village effects on each kingdom you see and make sure you can do what you want, you’ll be OK.
- With Prince and Summon, there has to be an action that you can make cost $4 or less, or else their effect doesn’t work.
- With Diplomat, you need a way to have 5 or less cards in hand after playing it, or else the effect doesn’t work.
- With Golem, there needs to be some other non-terminal on the board for the effect to work past the first play of your Golem.
- For Herald and Ironmonger you need to have a high enough action density to reveal an Action card often enough to get your effect a useful amount of times.
- With Tribute* the player on your left needs to have that same kind of Action density.
Villages with some restrictions
These cards are definitely villages, but they have some limiting factor that should probably be taken into account when considering the decks you can build with them.
When given a kingdom with only these villages, it can be useful to go through the line of reasoning you have for when there are no villages, but modify it with the limiting factor — “What can I do when I can only play 2 terminals per turn?” instead of just one per turn, for example.
- Crossroads will only allow you to play two additional terminals per turn.
- Necropolis and Trusty Steed will only give you one additional terminal per turn.
- Dame Molly has the same issue, only on top of that she can sometimes be lower in the pile or your opponents could get her instead; plus, she dies to other Knights.
- Tactician only gives you one extra action, and it requires you to play a Tactician on the previous turn to get it.
- Procession and Sacrifice can require you to trash cards you might prefer to keep in order to get the village effect.
- Sauna/Avanto, as a split pile, is difficult to get a lot of, so the number of terminals you’ll realistically be able to play is limited by that and the fact that sometimes you may not line them up properly to get maximum value.
- Disciple and Ghost can be hard to get in multiples and there is a limited supply of them.
- Madman works great when you play it, but it’s a one-shot and in order to get more of them, you have to not buy any cards on a turn, which is a very high cost.
- Pixie is also a one-shot and only gives you a 1/12 chance of actually getting your village effect each time you play one.
Conspirator, Cultist, Ruined Village, Vassal
If you read my definitions too rigidly, you can find a way to justify calling these cards villages. They are not villages. These cards don’t actually give you the same effect as other villages; they don’t enable the same types of turns. Without something else present that is actually a village, you are subject to the same limitations as a kingdom with no villages.
The logic is that “Hey, Cultist is a terminal, and Cultist allows me to play multiple Cultists in a turn, so it’s a village!” The argument is similar for Conspirator and Vassal.
The flaw in this logic is that in this case, most of those Cultists you played weren’t really terminal. It makes more sense to think of these cards as “sometimes non-terminal” or as having a “non-terminal mode” to them. This categorization is more appropriate to the way these cards actually work in actual games of Dominion with decks that you will actually build.
Obviously Ruined Village isn’t actually a village, even though it says “village” in the title. Sorry 🙁
Anyone who tries to push the idea on you that these cards are villages is being pedantic at best, but really this idea is confusing, misleading, and can sometimes lead to conclusions that cause less understanding about Dominion, which is harmful. These cards are not villages, don’t treat them that way.
*Tribute was removed when the second edition of Dominion and Intrigue were published