Dominion: What does it mean?

As a content creator, specifically as someone whose content revolves around talking about Dominion at this point, it’s important to me to be able to speak clearly and be understood. It’s also important for me to follow what all communities I have access to are saying about the game, even if I don’t choose to directly engage. I want to make sure I’m giving the best commentary possible, but also make it accessible to anyone who could be listening or reading.

A while ago I did a survey on the community’s use of the word “engine” as it applies to Dominion. What sparked this was the fact that I wasn’t ever able to communicate what I meant when I used the word to someone who didn’t already know what it meant, and I wanted to see if there was some kind of clarity, or more accepted definition or focus that I could latch onto.

So I posted about the results and over the last year or so I’ve been trying to figure out how to reconcile the fact that I don’t think the term “engine” is useful for me in spite of the fact that many people still choose to use it. I think I’ve arrived at the idea that the word is OK to use in the context of describing a certain deck, as long as the deck is adequately described in other ways, and then labeled as an “engine” for ease of discussion. Talking about “engines” as a class or archetype of deck isn’t useful because it’s not clear what that means, and the best analog I have found for discussion is the distinction between drawing your deck and not drawing your deck.

During that time, I’ve tried to pay close attention to the language I use and that other people use and find other words that may or may not have accepted meanings and try to adjust the way I talk about Dominion to be clearer. I made a second poll asking about three terms, and the results are in.

Let me be clear, this is not an attempt to shape the way that others talk about the game, but rather an exercise for me to hone my ability to be understood by everyone who reads or listens to my content. If that’s not a priority for other people, it’s certainly not my place to tell them not to use certain words. The only reasons I’m publishing my findings in this article are:

  1. I feel like I owe it to the people who kindly filled out the survey to show them that it wasn’t for nothing.
  2. There has been some interest in the results.

If you don’t like the data, well sorry, it’s just data. If you don’t like my conclusions or interpretations of the data, you’re entitled to disagree. In fact I’ve had many constructive conversations in the past about the “engine” survey from people who disagreed, and that has shaped the way I now talk about the game. I’m hoping the same thing happens here, and I believe the process has already started.

So let’s get to the results and see what we can learn.

This survey asked three questions:

  1. What does “swingy” mean in Dominion?
  2. What does “cycling” mean in Dominion?
  3. What makes a card/event/project/etc. “good” or “strong” in Dominion?

I’ll address each question separately, but I’ll start by linking the raw data spreadsheet and posting the composite image of the results before going into more detail. The survey had about 40 responses for each question, and every response that appeared more than once got a category that can be seen in the image below.


This is a word that has been used in many different contexts throughout a few different games. I had an idea of a few different ways it could apply to Dominion and I had heard a few different things, but I wanted to see what people really meant by “swingy” when they were talking about Dominion. The results were actually more unified than I thought they would be, and there is a narrative to how a few terms fit together here that seems to be clear enough and somewhat educational.

A majority of the responses referenced two main concepts. First, that swingy cards had a component of luck, or some factor outside of the player’s control; and second, that the difference in outcomes between the best result and the worst result, based on this luck component, was large. So a swingy card could be great or awful for you (or anywhere in between), and you won’t know which it is until you’ve invested some resources into buying and playing the card.

There are two other responses on the list. “Powerful” may have originally referenced other games where swingy cards could provide turns where a player who was behind could “swing” the game into their favor, but in Dominion it stands to reason that any card that doesn’t at least have the potential upside of being very powerful for its best outcomes won’t be such a large force on the game, even if it is swingy as referenced by the other definitions above.

It also stands to reason that if powerful cards have large random effects, that it could result in luck determining more of the outcome of the game than normal, as opposed to skill. While this is a logical consequence of the rest of these categories, the fact that it isn’t well-represented in this poll is probably because I see this more commonly referred to as “high luck” or “low skill” cards rather than “swingy” cards.

In fact, there are metrics that can be used to measure the skill component of card over a large set of games — you simply see how well the leaderboard could predict the winner of a given game of Dominion, and see which cards are involved more often when the game result doesn’t match what the leaderboard predicts. Current data from online games has been used to calculate this, but unfortunately due to a technical limitation of the online client, only games including players from the very top of the leaderboard (a small fraction of the total games played online) have their games included in this data, and the bias in this data calls the accuracy of these statistics into question.

But as far as “swingy” goes, it seems we at least have a narrative here and some language that can be understood by just about everyone without too much confusion. Hooray!


Going into this I had my own way of looking at cycling — we had done a podcast episode where we labeled “cycling” as something specific — anything that helps you play your best cards more often — but of course it wasn’t a universally accepted term. I wanted to get some hard data on what people think of when they think of cycling, even though I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the results.

My expectation was that in most peoples’ minds, cycling was tied to the effect of moving cards from your deck to your discard, which is equivalent to shuffling more often, and indeed the data supports this with 3 out of every 4 answers specifically mentioning this effect. It’s not that I’m terribly surprised to see this, but it does mean a few things to me personally, in that it will probably affect the way I speak about these ideas moving forward.

The reason I wanted to use “cycling” to mean what I had was because I found it more educational to focus more on the “why” rather than the “what” of the matter. There have been discussions around what constitutes “good cycling” and “bad cycling” and I’ve seen these concepts cause confusion in people who can easily lose focus on the overall goal. It’s similar to my issues with the way “PPR” is presented. Memorizing effects and lists of situations/exceptions where those effects can be good or bad is not a good way to internalize a concept; explaining the goal and inviting the listener/reader to take in the situation and figure out the answer for themselves is not only a more approachable concept, but it’s more directly relevant to real games of Dominion, so it’s not surprising how much success I’ve had using this method.

Given this data, though, it seems that I can do better in clarifying my message by using a word other than “cycling” to get my point across. It seems that within the Dominion community, the definition of “cycling” is standardized to the point where trying to assign a different viewpoint or definition to the conversation around that word can potentially be more difficult than it has to be. On top of that, other card games use “cycle” or similar things as keywords, which have a somewhat easy analog to this concept in Dominion of shuffling more often, so I think it’s best to try not to step on that.

The solution for me is to find another term to use for this concept. While I haven’t figured out exactly what it should be yet, once I find that term it should be clearer what I’m talking about, which is the real goal here.

“Good” or “Strong”

I’ve been doing card ratings for a while, and after all this time it’s been pretty clear to me that I haven’t seen a universally accepted way people have for determining if Dominion cards are “good” or “strong” — I haven’t even come across anything that’s even internally consistent unless it doesn’t have much bearing on real games of Dominion. This is pretty similar to the way I felt about using the word “engine” in the past, but I was hoping that the poll for this term would either show a few things that are more prominent, or at least spark some discussion on some things that work or won’t work.

The data doesn’t show anything that’s very clear. There are a few metrics that can potentially be helpful in a card’s effect on win rate or gain rate, and these can at least theoretically be calculated without bias; but unfortunately due to current technical limitations, it’s not possible to get enough data to get good numbers here and I don’t think it ever will be.

It’s also clear that this isn’t the full picture and that the problem is much bigger. There are subjective ways of looking at what cards do, and there are many different ways of weighting different statistics that could lead to different results. I’m not sure that the data by itself is enlightening of anything (other than that it reaffirms my belief that conclusions based on card ratings should be viewed extremely skeptically) but hopefully something more educational can come from discussing these results.

For example, discussions after the “engine” poll revealed to me that the main relevant distinction to be found is whether or not a player is drawing their deck. This helped to put many things in perspective, including separate concepts that were at least clearer to me. Hopefully something similar can be done with the results of this poll too.

Dominion: Renaissance Cards Revisited

It’s been a few months since release and I conducted another poll on the Renaissance cards to see how opinions have changed after some time playing with the cards.

For those who are interested, here’s a link to a Google Sheet where I’ve compiled the results from all of the card rating polls I’ve ever done, except for first impressions. It includes all of the cards, but for this post I’ll just focus on the Renaissance cards, comparing them to the first impressions poll. Sample size for these polls was about the same as for Nocturne, with around 40 entries for the first impressions and about 20 entries for the revisited poll.

If you’d like to hear the opinions of Jake and myself, you can check out these two podcast episodes where we give our first impressions, and then our revisited takes.

All right, now that we’ve defined the scope of this discussion, let’s show the data and start talking about it. The “Mean” is the average of all of the revisited scores, the “1I mean” is the average of the first-impressions scores, and the “diff” shows the change between the two — the list below is sorted by the absolute value of this “diff” column, with the top of the list representing the cards whose valuation has changed the most since the first impressions.


Card Name	Mean	1I mean	diff
Lackeys		7.47	4.81	+2.66
Silk Merchant	8.26	5.62	+2.64
Cathedral	8.61	6.62	+1.99
Road Network	3.44	5.22	-1.78
Capitalism	6.5	8.18	-1.68
Sinister Plot	7.89	6.24	+1.65
Star Chart	8.22	6.58	+1.64
Seer		8.37	6.83	+1.54
Scepter		5.11	6.55	-1.44
Treasurer	7.74	6.47	+1.27
Recruiter	9.05	7.8	+1.25
Spices		6.53	5.35	+1.18
Sculptor	6.37	5.19	+1.18
Barracks	5.83	6.93	-1.1
Scholar		4.53	5.57	-1.04
Acting Troupe	4.42	5.43	-1.01
Improve		6.05	5.06	+0.99
Guildhall	6.39	5.4	+0.99
Swashbuckler	6.42	5.66	+0.76
Priest		7.63	6.89	+0.74
Research	5.37	6.11	-0.74
Innovation	7.5	6.77	+0.73
Academy		6.78	6.11	+0.67
Inventor	7.79	7.15	+0.64
Sewers		7.39	6.82	+0.57
Cargo Ship	6.11	5.55	+0.56
Old Witch	7.79	7.28	+0.51
Patron		5.74	5.24	+0.5
Fleet		7.11	7.58	-0.47
Citadel		6.89	7.33	-0.44
Border Guard	5.53	5.13	+0.4
Ducat		4.11	4.51	-0.4
City Gate	4.67	5.04	-0.37
Exploration	3.44	3.8	-0.36
Piazza		5.56	5.89	-0.33
Experiment	6.05	6.34	-0.29
Mountain Village6.74	6.45	+0.29
Fair		5.33	5.6	-0.27
Canal		6.5	6.73	-0.23
Crop Rotation	5.17	5.36	-0.19
Silos		5.78	5.62	+0.16
Pageant		5.72	5.62	+0.1
Villain		4.21	4.15	+0.06
Flag Bearer	5.26	5.28	-0.02
Hideout		6.53	6.51	+0.02


So the two biggest differences are Lackeys and Silk Merchant, both very underestimated cards, and both with the distinction of giving Villagers on-gain. Silk Merchant’s ability to give Coffers on-gain was probably underestimated as well, with the other card capable of doing this (Spices) getting a significant increase.

With a bit less of a bump, but still a significant increase in perceived power level, we see Cathedral; then to a lesser extent, Sinister Plot, Star Chart, and Seer. I’m guessing that Cathedral’s required trash spooked many people into rating it lower (it still has a very high variance so this hasn’t completely gone away).

Some overestimated cards seemed to be Road Network and Capitalism. To be quite honest, I’m not sure how Road Network was originally rated so high. As for Capitalism, it seems that in spite of the huge effect it gives, the fact that it isn’t relevant in a reasonable portion of games where it appears caused opinions of it to drop.

So these are the cards that had opinions on them change the most. As for the most powerful cards in the set, it looks like that distinction goes to Cathedral, Recruiter, Seer, Silk Merchant, and Star Chart.

The Ratings main page will be updated with the complete list of all cards and their ratings, and the poll will stay open so people can submit their ratings if they want. I’ll periodically update the numbers on that page and if there’s another expansion in the future I’ll be sure to capture the opinions of the community on that as well. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Winter 2019 Cincinnati Dominion tournament

Game Swap Mason, OH

1065 Reading Rd, Ste E, Mason, Ohio 45040

Facebook event

Join us for my tenth Dominion tournament at 1PM on Saturday, January 12, 2019 in Mason, OH (near Cincinnati). RSVP is not required — you can just show up, but it helps me plan if I know who is coming in advance, and if you’re traveling in from far away I can make sure you don’t get left out if you get stuck in traffic or weather or something.

This tournament will consist of two-player games, and have a $5 entry fee. I’m not able to give out promo cards or qualify the winner for GenCon, but I will have sandwiches for everyone who enters. Portions of the prize pool (80% of the entry fees) will be given to the top finishers. This time, prizes will be given out in cash (as opposed to past tournaments where prizes were given in store credit).

The winner of the tournament will have the opportunity to play a “trophy match” against me. You may pick any kingdom you like and you may go first; if you win, you get to hold on to the Scout trophy (pictured in the Facebook event) until the next tournament. If you lose, you still get the standard first-place prize for winning this tournament.

All expansions (including Renaissance!) and promo cards may be used, I won’t be using any of the removed cards from Base or Intrigue, though. All kingdoms used in the playoffs will be designed and playtested by me and some helpers who will not be playing in the tournament.

I anticipate we’ll be done by 8PM, and if you are eliminated early on in the tournament you could be done earlier — everyone who enters is guaranteed at least four games in the tournament. During and after the tournament, there will be the regular Saturday board gaming event.

You can RSVP on the Facebook event or send me an E-mail at if you plan to come, or just show up. Hope to see you there!

Dominion: Michigan Tournament Summary

This past weekend I traveled to Ypsilanti, MI to attend U-Con, a tabletop gaming convention, and participate in the Dominion tournament there. I’ve been to this tournament many times before, winning it in 2015 and helping to organize it the last two years. This year I played in the tournament and was part of a field of 12 people; I won the tournament this year.

I had originally intended to do an interview with the winner but I thought that would be kind of awkward, so what I’ll do in this post is share the kingdoms I played that day and give my commentary on them.

The format of the tournament goes like this: there were 4 preliminary games of Dominion — 3 players in each game. Tournament points are given for placement in each game, 5/3/1 for 1st/2nd/3rd place and the 9 players with the highest tournament point scores after the preliminary games move on to the semifinals.

From there, the scores are discarded and 3 more games are played with the same scoring. The top 3 from the semifinals move on to a single finals game, which solely determines the placement for the top 3 players.

Players were allowed to stack their decks at the beginning of each game so they can have whatever opening they want. Past that, they must shuffle their decks normally; I use this rule in the tournaments I run as well and it was inspired by this tournament.

Let’s get to the kingdoms.

Set 2018-1: Wolf Den, Scouting Party, Squire, Castles, Hermit, Cemetery, Feodum, Necromancer, Rats, Shepherd/Pasture, Rogue, Knights

The Knightmare never ends here with Necromancer and Rogue, and I don’t think it’s possible to build a completely Knight-proof deck here, so whatever you do has to revolve around not only defending yourself well against Knights attacks at all time, but keeping close track of your opponents and make sure they aren’t getting away with too much. In the game I played, I felt like the Knight attack was important every single turn of the game.

I decided to open with a Hermit of course, and a Necromancer too. One opponent opened with a Knight so I prioritized getting a Feodum and started loading up on Squires and trying to “buy” Madmen while keeping a Hermit or two in the deck.

By the third shuffle I was the only one without a Knight, but one of my opponents played Knight, hitting the other Knight and my Feodum. This was a huge stroke of luck for me because now I was functionally the only one with a Knight (I was the only one with a Necromancer) and I had economy that I desperately needed. At this point I started hitting the Knights hard by buying a few of them and also getting more Necromancers.

I had the initiative on Knights at this point so I pressed it pretty hard. I think I was the only one who got any Madmen which also helped a lot. Soon enough there was plenty of juicy stuff in the trash so I picked up some Rogues to gain it: I went for Feodum at this point and ended up with 10 Feoda worth 5 points each to win it cleanly.

I could see this one playing very differently depending on what happens — I thought I would get a Cemetery at some point to thin some Coppers but that never ended up happening, I always felt like I had better things to do and I was making enough money that I could usually afford Scouting Parties — the Coppers didn’t feel like they hurt all that much.

Set 2018-2: Bandit Fort, Conquest, Beggar, Druid(Moon/Sea/Wind), Changeling, Tunnel, Jack, Scout, Noble Brigand, Embassy, Pooka, King’s Court

This one did not go well. I didn’t have any faith in a King’s Court deck here because there would always be too many stop cards (plus you have to line up two King’s Court, a Pooka, and a treasure to trash with basically no support (yes I know Druid/Moon’s Gift is there but I didn’t have any faith in it) and the slowest thinning ever), and I thought just going for Beggars and Duchies would be too good. I opened Jack/Beggar, hoping to turn the Silvers from Jack into Changelings and then Beggars.

Both opponents went for heavy Beggars along with me, so the game ended on Coppers, Beggars, and Changelings. One opponent found time for a King’s Court and managed to line up a Changeling with it to get a second — he Kings Courted two Beggars and won off of those two Provinces.

I want to say I had the worst possible draws imaginable. Perhaps the Jack was just a mistake and I should have gone straight for Beggar? Maybe just playing money would have been good and I should eat the negative points? Normally when things go this badly for me I have to question what I did, but this board was designed to have nothing be good on it.

I ended up with second place in this game and a lot of confusion.

Set 2018-3: Colony/Platinum, Mountain Pass, Dominate, Guardian, Market Square, Dungeon, Ghost Town, Messenger, Taxman, Cobbler, Journeyman, Legionary, Replace

Well you can do all of the things here. The trashing is a little slow but with both Colony and Dominate there should be plenty of time to make a really good deck. In a 3P game with only one stack of villages (Ghost Town) I knew the split would be important so I opened Replace and started spamming them on T2 (an opponent had Messengered a Guardian so I had $3 on turn 2). I ended up with 8 of the Ghost Towns and from that point I felt like I couldn’t lose the game.

Another player got an early Colony or two while I was building and so I had to be very careful about piles with Messenger around, but when he got a Province to trigger Mountain pass he was tempted by some cheap VP tokens, which was great for me. I had more time and I was never losing a longer game here. I dominated 3 times or so until I was comfortable ending the game on piles and that was it.

Taxman was great here, since it was the best way to trash Coppers and it also had utility with Gold->Platinum. I was the only player to get Taxman in my game.

Set 2018-4: Orchard, Lost Arts, Embargo, Vagrant, Diplomat, Cultist, Wine Merchant, Mint, Distant Lands, Fairgrounds, Hireling, Secret Cave

This is a perfectly fine kingdom, except that there’s Cultist in it. I was allowed to open with a Cultist so of course that’s what I did; one of my opponents did the same and the other decided to ignore Cultist. On turn 3 I got the luckiest draw ever, playing my Cultist and having 6 Coppers. I slapped Lost Arts on Cultist and never looked back, just shoving all sorts of different cards in the deck until I got my Magic Lamp off and had several sets of Orchard points. Nobody ever Embargoed Cultist which would have been really annoying for me, but I probably would have taken Curses with them to at least end up with 3 Cultists in the deck.

Eventually I found myself with enough draw to get a decent Mint and after that I just started getting Fairgrounds. The game ended on time and I had quite a lot of points. Of note is that I ended up with 3 Abandoned Mines, but no Ruined Villages, so I had 19 unique cards for my Fairgrounds. I also thought I had 3 Secret Caves but I only had two because I’m bad at counting.

Set 2018-A: Colony/Platinum, Wall, Triumph, Monastery, Settlers/Bustling Village, Chariot Race, Storeroom, Secret Passage, Artificer, Bandit, Counting House, Pillage, Goons

There was some talk of a Counting House/Storeroom deck being good here. I think that’s complete madness — for that deck to work you need to have a huge deck and so many copies of a lot of key cards, as well as a billion Secret Passages, and then the payload is what, a couple of Colonies?

I had faith in a different deck. One that spams Chariot Races for VP tokens, using Secret Passages to support by topdecking the same expensive card to reveal over and over. This deck also likes to have some villages and Goons too, since Monastery can somewhat effectively keep you thin, so I went with that build. I was not shy about putting a lot of Settlers, Chariot Races, and Secret Passages in the deck, but I only managed to get one Bustling village so the Goons presence was less than I had originally expected.

I ended the game with almost 50 VP tokens and only losing 10 points to my Wall.

Set 2018-B: Colony/Platinum, Triumphal Arch, Bonfire, Gladiator/Fortune, Cemetery, Conclave, Gardens, Jack, Militia, Horn of Plenty, Mandarin, Tragic Hero, Raider

So there’s a Mandarin/Horn trick you can do here, and you may even be able to turn it up higher by using Fortune, but it’s hard-countered by Militia so I didn’t go for it.

Without Colony I would be very tempted by a slower deck that involves Jacks, Horns, and Gardens, but I figured that Colonies would just be too many points so I went for a different build.

I went for Jack and Bonfire to get pretty thin, then I wanted to set up a big turn with a Ghost out where I transition from a few Silvers to a some bigger treasures and a few Tragic Heroes in the deck. This build was pretty fast (none of my opponents opened with a Jack which seemed very strange to me) and I ended up with 6 Colonies for a somewhat clean win here.

Set 2018-C: Labyrinth, Ritual, Poorhouse, Changeling, Enchantress, Scheme, Transmogrify, Devil’s Workshop, Pillage, Farmland, Prince, Peddler

This is a cool board with a lot of tricks that I like. With two wins in the semifinals before this I was going last this game, so after my T1 Transmogrify opening I saw some Enchantress buys from my opponents and I just couldn’t stomach putting another action card into my deck that wasn’t going to do anything for me, so I got a Silver.

That “worked out” for me because one opponent drew both Transmogrify and Enchantress on T3 and managed to get an Enchantress in play every turn for a very very long time. It was a huge setback for me since I just had to pick up more copies of the actions I wanted to play before I could do anything at all while he was building a better deck.

It felt bad and I was behind a few turns, but I managed to pull out a close second place here. I Ritualed a few Golds and Transmogrified a few Peddlers into Provinces and I’d like to think that it would have been a much different game if I was either not last player or my opponent hadn’t gotten that amazing T3 draw. But I had my fair share of luck in the tournament too so I don’t complain too much.

Set 2018-F: Colony/Platinum, Shelters, Ritual, Summon, Raze(BANE), Watchtower, Dismantle, Exorcist, Necromancer, Procession, Young Witch, Band of Misfits, Cobbler, Artisan, Prince

Procession madness for anyone who can get control of their deck here. I had earned the right to go first in this game and man, if you let me Summon a Young Witch as first player I’m not gonna turn that down. I feel like a junking advantage early is such a huge deal because it makes it much harder for your opponents to get good coverage, even though there are great defensive tools here in Watchtower and Raze. I spammed Razes and trashed them aggressively just so I could play my Young Witch as much as possible. I ended up taking zero Curses until the last turn of the game (I bought a Curse to end the game on piles).

From this point I couldn’t really lose — both opponents were going to have good decks but they had several turns of cleanup to do before they could do all that much, meanwhile I was going through Procession chains and gaining ALL of the cards while continuing to pummel them with Curses. Eventually when the Curses were low I was able to use my deck to 3-pile and grab a few Duchies for the win.

There was a huge first player advantage that I capitalized on to win this game, but hey I earned it by having the best score in the semifinals so I don’t feel that bad. I imagine I would feel differently if I was one of my opponents.

The best play of this game, though, was made by one of my opponents. At one point there were a few Bands of Misfits and Necromancers in the trash. He played a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Band of Misfits as a Necromancer as a Necromancer as a Necromancer as, umm, I don’t remember after that but does it really matter? Epic.

So that’s it for the kingdoms. Obviously it felt good to win the tournament and it was also nice to visit people in the area I knew from the local Dominion scene. I qualified for the finals of the GenCon tournament next year with this win, and hopefully I’ll be able to make it. I’d consider playing in that tournament again next year but with the baby I’m not positive that will happen.

Well that’s all I’ve got for now.

Dominion: Renaissance first impressions

A week ago the Renaissance expansion for Dominion was released. I opened up a poll asking people to rate each card-shaped object in the expansion from 0 to 10, based on how powerful they thought it was after initially seeing it and without having much time to play with it.

There were 47 responses, which is a great sample size. If you’d like a link to the raw data and the output of my script that computes the basic stats from that data, you can find that here.

A couple of quick notes before I get to presenting the data.

First, I did not submit my ratings for this poll and I asked other people who playtested the expansion who I talked to to do the same. The game designer has asked that we withhold our opinions on this for a couple of months.

I’ll be doing another poll around that time to see how opinions have changed after having some time to play with the cards, and I’ll be submitting my ratings to that poll. When I do the write-up for that poll I’ll provide my own commentary on where I agreed or disagreed with the community’s ratings, etc.

Second, I’ve been doing some thinking about the way this data should be presented, and I’m going to present the data differently from now on. Here’s why: these ratings are subjective in nature and it’s based largely on the fact that there is no “best” definition for what it means for a card to be strong/powerful or weak. If I ask you which of two cards is more powerful, what does that actually mean?

I’ve often said that minor differences in ranking or power level shouldn’t be taken that seriously, and I’ve made it clear that I don’t think this list functions well as a way to directly compare two cards, but then I just go ahead and present the data as a ranked list even though that’s not supposed to be the main takeaway. Why do I do that? That’s just silly. So I’m not going to do that anymore (and maybe if I get time to do it I’ll re-format the results from previous posts). I’ll present the data here as I think it’s most appropriate, and if you really want to see a ranking of the cards you can take the raw data and do it yourself. Just know that I don’t think there’s any value at all in doing that.

OK enough of that rant. Let’s see some data!

First, I’ll present the list of all ratings with relevant stats. It’s sorted not by mean this time, but we have the cards first (then the projects) and then they’re sorted in alphabetical order. Here it goes:

Keep in mind that if something has a high variance, the median score is often a better metric than the mean score for getting a more accurate representation of the data. Also, keep in mind that there is even less of a clear idea of what makes a Project powerful than there is for making a card powerful, so as expected we see slightly higher variance for those.

Hopefully you can take a look at this list and see for any given card what the approximate opinion is about that card.

I’d also like to point out that the mean scores have a range of 3.8 through 8.18, which is less than 4.5. I think that this means the first impressions of the Renaissance cards are fairly uncertain at this point — if a card is particularly strong or bad, many people haven’t figured that out by just looking at it (and for the record I gave out scores as low as 3 and as high as 10 for my own personal first impressions — I believe the power is there).

Here’s a second way to look at the data, in chart form:

The data here is the same, but the way it’s displayed is designed to give a better idea of how the variance plays into things. The horizontal tick for each card represents the mean score, and the bar going up or down represents the 95% confidence interval for that rating. Statistically, this means we should be 95% confident that the “real” rating of the card lies within the range of that vertical bar.

So cards with less agreement have bigger vertical bars, and cards with more agreement have a smaller range.

So here’s the data, I hope this is enlightening for you in some way. If there’s a big disagreement between your rating and the consensus, it should be an interesting discussion to hash out where that comes from. In a few months I’ll be making another poll and comparing those results to this post, so stay tuned!

Dominion: Combined Card Power Levels

This post is just meant to combine data that I’ve presented in the past: I plan to update this in-place as more card power level polls are completed in the future. I’d just like one place to have a ranking of all card-shaped objects in Dominion because this data can be useful if it’s not misused.

Please keep in mind that the concept of card power level is subjective by nature, and this data was based on user input. While I think it’s reasonably accurate, it’s not precise by any stretch. What this means is that even though King’s Court appears above Donate at the top of the list, that’s not nearly as important as the fact that both of them are at the top of the list so they’re probably very strong (whatever that means).

I’ll link to all of the posts I’ve made of previous versions of the card power level lists for reference or in case you want more data. The next time I plan to capture data on this is immediately after the release of Renaissance (so probably the beginning of November 2018).

First Post – everything through Empires
Second post – Nocturne first impressions
Third post – Nocturne cards revisited

Without any more fuss, here’s the list:

1 King’s Court
2 Donate
3 Mountebank
4 Chapel
5 Goons
6 Page
7 Cultist
8 Wharf
9 Ambassador
10 Peasant
11 Fortune
12 Tournament
13 Governor
14 Rebuild
15 Scrying Pool
16 Witch
17 Avanto
18 Ferry
19 Lost Arts
20 Grand Market
21 Torturer
22 Border Village
23 Inheritance
24 Minion
25 City Quarter
26 Pathfinding
27 Masquerade
28 Dominate
29 Margrave
30 Sauna
31 Overlord
32 Familiar
33 Highway
34 Vampire
35 Wandering Minstrel
36 Steward
37 Fishing Village
38 Wild Hunt
39 Junk Dealer
40 Lost City
41 Den of Sin
42 Remake
43 Villa
44 Royal Carriage
45 Ghost Ship
46 Ironmonger
47 Sentry
48 Counterfeit
49 Hunting Party
50 Cursed Village
51 Upgrade
52 Keep
53 Black Market
54 Urchin
55 Crown
56 Bridge
57 Encampment
58 Groundskeeper
59 Save
60 Tomb
61 Shepherd
62 Bridge Troll
63 Plunder
64 Werewolf
65 Laboratory
66 Monastery
67 Butcher
68 Alms
69 Museum
70 Rabble
71 Hireling
72 Swindler
73 Alchemist
74 Haggler
75 Amulet
76 Throne Room
77 Wall
78 Fortress
79 Knights
80 Count
81 Stables
82 Plaza
83 Peddler
84 Magpie
85 Gear
86 Port
87 Tactician
88 Vineyard
89 Swamp Hag
90 Jack of All Trades
91 Worker’s Village
92 Soothsayer
93 Herald
94 Wolf Den
95 Hunting Grounds
96 Bonfire
97 Legionary
98 Forager
99 Young Witch
100 Borrow
101 Bandit Camp
102 City
103 Smithy
104 Menagerie
105 Horn of Plenty
106 Lurker
107 Raze
108 Altar
109 Sacrifice
110 Training
111 Bandit Fort
112 Possession
113 Militia
114 Apprentice
115 Sea Hag
116 Spice Merchant
117 Blessed Village
118 Bazaar
119 Nobles
120 Envoy
121 Coin of the Realm
122 Summon
123 Caravan
124 Haunted Woods
125 Tower
126 Orchard
127 Patrol
128 University
129 Village
130 Ratcatcher
131 Travelling Fair
132 Bustling Village
133 Council Room
134 Conclave
135 Replace
136 Journeyman
137 Artisan
138 Hamlet
139 Marauder
140 Scheme
141 Storyteller
142 Devil’s Workshop
143 Catacombs
144 Baker
145 Moneylender
146 Hermit
147 Enchantress
148 Stonemason
149 Archive
150 Exorcist
151 Jester
152 Plan
153 Ghost Town
154 Bishop
155 Trade
156 Apothecary
157 Embassy
158 Prince
159 Mining Village
160 Market Square
161 Distant Lands
162 Conspirator
163 Quarry
164 Delve
165 Forum
166 Procession
167 Dungeon
168 Ill-Gotten Gains
169 Idol
170 Farming Village
171 Advisor
172 Castles
173 Royal Blacksmith
174 Temple
175 Monument
176 Chariot Race
177 Salvager
178 Relic
179 Triumph
180 Festival
181 Fool’s Gold
182 Triumphal Arch
183 Outpost
184 Watchtower
185 Band of Misfits
186 Merchant Guild
187 Artificer
188 Golem
189 Seaway
190 Bank
191 Transmogrify
192 Salt The Earth
193 Remodel
194 Mountain Pass
195 Cemetery
196 Lighthouse
197 Tragic Hero
198 Catapult
199 Ironworks
200 Charm
201 Advance
202 Ranger
203 Walled Village
204 Market
205 Trading Post
206 Vault
207 Forge
208 Inn
209 Expedition
210 Engineer
211 Warehouse
212 Obelisk
213 Pixie
214 Defiled Shrine
215 Mill
216 Treasury
217 Courtier
218 Wine Merchant
219 Lookout
220 Fairgrounds
221 Capital
222 Colonnade
223 Fountain
224 Emporium
225 Battlefield
226 Bandit
227 Courtyard
228 Duplicate
229 Cartographer
230 Guide
231 Tormentor
232 Squire
233 Library
234 Duke
235 Crossroads
236 Expand
237 Labyrinth
238 Treasure Trove
239 Ball
240 Changeling
241 Palace
242 Native Village
243 Giant
244 Diplomat
245 Crypt
246 Pooka
247 Arena
248 Farmers’ Market
249 Mission
250 Hoard
251 Doctor
252 Night Watchman
253 Skulk
254 Basilica
255 Wedding
256 Gladiator
257 Mystic
258 Smugglers
259 Guardian
260 Shanty Town
261 Poacher
262 Loan
263 Graverobber
264 Gardens
265 Sacred Grove
266 Horse Traders
267 Island
268 Pilgrimage
269 Necromancer
270 Merchant
271 Rogue
272 Cutpurse
273 Cobbler
274 Scouting Party
275 Secret Cave
276 Scavenger
277 Trader
278 Windfall
279 Mint
280 Candlestick Maker
281 Caravan Guard
282 Aqueduct
283 Leprechaun
284 Armory
285 Storeroom
286 Conquest
287 Patrician
288 Settlers
289 Wishing Well
290 Tunnel
291 Develop
292 Druid
293 Pawn
294 Oasis
295 Baron
296 Venture
297 Oracle
298 Sage
299 Tracker
300 Miser
301 Workshop
302 Messenger
303 Secret Passage
304 Merchant Ship
305 Farmland
306 Silk Road
307 Tax
308 Ritual
309 Haven
310 Feodum
311 Vassal
312 Rats
313 Harbinger
314 Vagrant
315 Taxman
316 Royal Seal
317 Cellar
318 Death Cart
319 Harem
320 Nomad Camp
321 Pillage
322 Rocks
323 Trade Route
324 Fool
325 Faithful Hound
326 Moat
327 Talisman
328 Explorer
329 Mine
330 Tribute
331 Quest
332 Banquet
333 Feast
334 Raider
335 Baths
336 Contraband
337 Woodcutter
338 Bard
339 Embargo
340 Spy
341 Coppersmith
342 Poor House
343 Noble Brigand
344 Mandarin
345 Treasure Map
346 Stash
347 Fortune Teller
348 Raid
349 Masterpiece
350 Annex
351 Saboteur
352 Great Hall
353 Pirate Ship
354 Navigator
355 Beggar
356 Pearl Diver
357 Herbalist
358 Counting House
359 Philosopher’s Stone
360 Cache
361 Chancellor
362 Bureaucrat
363 Harvest
364 Thief
365 Adventurer
366 Secret Chamber
367 Duchess
368 Scout
369 Transmute


Dominion: World Championship summary

Earlier this month at GenCon in Indianapolis, Rio Grande Games held another world championship tournament for Dominion. This was the tournament I won last year, and even though I didn’t compete this year I attended the final round for 9 players this year. I watched the finals unfold and eventually the winner was crowned.

The Dominion world champion for 2018 was the Mexican champion, Marlon.

I don’t have all of the details for the tournament, but the round of nine came down to a tiebreaker game between two people. The two of them agreed to split the prize money after the tournament was over (which happened successfully) but had to play for the title of world champion.

The kingdoms used for the tournament were all recommended sets. The kingdom used for the finals used cards from the Intrigue and Prosperity expansions:

Lurker, Swindler, Wishing Well, Bridge, Vault, Patrol, Forge, King’s Court, Bank, Expand

I was able to get a couple of interviews with the participants. The first one was after the first game had finished with the three people who played in the game. The second interview was with Ryan, the one who made the final tiebreaker game but lost.

Dominion: What is an engine?

It’s been no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the term “engine” when it comes to Dominion. I used to use the term quite a bit, but when I talk to people about building those types of decks in Dominion, I find that it’s not a very “instructive” term to use. What does that mean? Mostly that it’s hard to tell someone who doesn’t already understand the concept and have them understand, and I can’t find any sort of definition that gives insight into real games of Dominion like I can with villages or draw. On top of that, the term “engine” is overloaded, meaning that in lots of different types of games it can mean various things. All of this adds up to “engine” being intimidating to some players who are trying to get comfortable with building more complex decks.

But enough about why I don’t like the term, what I really want is to bridge the gap between someone who doesn’t know what an “engine” is, and someone who is very good at the game and able to effectively communicate using the E-word. I want to dig in and figure out all of the things that people can mean when they say “engine”, and figure out some way to make that information accessible to the people who can use it. I’ve taken enough time to whine about people using the word identify the problems with the word and it’s time for me to do what I can to actually suggest better ways to communicate.

So I made a Google form and had some help putting links to it in lots of places online. The form just asked people to write down what they meant when they said “engine,” and hopefully we can get some insight from these responses. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for going into this, and I certainly wasn’t thinking that a coherent definition of the term could come out of it, but maybe there’s something in the data that can teach me and others something they didn’t already know. Without any more intro, here’s a link to the spreadsheet containing all of the results.

With a little bit of help, I tried to come up with key points that were found a lot among the answers to try and find the most common ideas. There were 67 (serious) responses to the question, and as expected, there doesn’t appear to be a consensus — the most common key point wasn’t even mentioned by half of the people who responded. I’ll show a chart of the results of this, explain what each of the key points means, and give a few brief comments for now.


Now it’s time to explain what these categories mean, but first I’ll mention that the light blue bars represent responses that addressed the key points, but they used some softening language like “typically” or “sometimes.”

Key point definitions:

Draws/”cycles” a lot: Describes decks that either draw all of their cards, draw most of their cards, and/or are able to play their most important cards each turn.

Consistency: This key point mostly just checked for the word “consistent” or similar words or phrases like “each turn.”

Plays a lot of stuff (actions): Describes decks that play a lot of cards on a typical turn, specifically action cards.

Buying power/payload: Describes answers that refer to building a bigger-than-normal payload.

Growing: Describes decks that are able to increase their abilities rapidly.

Actions (villages): Describes decks that make use of “additional actions” or the village-effect.

Good/win game: Describes decks that have a goal of winning the game, or the best deck that can be built on a given kingdom.

Synergies: Describes decks that aim to use cards that work well together.

Not Money: Describes decks that are far away from the concept of “Big Money.”

Card Value Property: Describes decks that have a very specific property mentioned in a few of the answers. I’ll quote one of them here:

“[…] A deck whose average value per turn derives from its total deck composition, rather than its average deck composition.”

If you’re interested in the data, then that’s the end of the data. Feel free to make a copy of that Google Sheet and play around with it if you’re interested in tweaking some numbers or concept definitions, or maybe you think that some of the answers aren’t categorized perfectly. At the very least, it can give you a bit of an idea for what people are talking about in general when they say “engine.”

Everything below this point will be my own personal commentary on the data. It’s just high-level stuff at this point because I kind of want to wrap my head around some of these concepts before making any real content based off of it, but I’ll at least give an idea of what kind of content I’m thinking about when it comes to this stuff.

So my goal here is to come up with instructive things to tell people who don’t know what an engine is. I’m trying to get as much value as possible out of the data here, so let’s see how we can look at this to learn stuff.

First, if you just look at what the more common answers are, you can see the general ideas people are trying to get across when they say “engine” — a deck that draws itself, plays a lot of stuff, and has big turns. After seeing multiple discussions attempting to find a “cohesive definition” for the term, I’m pretty convinced that it’s not worth doing, though. I’m not saying that the word has no value, but I’m saying that it has so many different meanings that some context is needed to help nail down what “engine” means if one wants to use that word.

Everyone has a different mental model of Dominion (well, everything actually) and I just don’t think building good decks in Dominion is simple enough to have everything captured by metrics as simple as these. The more an individual plays Dominion, the more sophisticated their mental model of the game becomes, and so it’s much more difficult to describe it simply. It’s pretty clear that any attempt to take shortcuts in talking about good decks in Dominion is going to leave out enough detail that the point just isn’t getting across — it’s not doing justice to the diverse set of mental models that make up the thousands of people who are very good at Dominion and have a relatively deep understanding of how to make good decks. The fact that there are many definitions of “engine” in this data set that make a lot of sense, but address completely different aspects of deck building, shows that without some context, a single word is just not enough to get the point across.

I could continue to gripe about why I don’t think using the E-word is all that great in lots of circumstances, but that was never the point of this poll. The point was for me to try and understand what value there is in the knowledge contained within the “conventional wisdom” of the advice “build an engine” — advice I gave for years and years to people, right before I watched their eyes glaze over.

So what can we do that’s constructive? How can we get these concepts across to people who don’t already know what everything means? Well I think it’s worth sorting through these categories to find the ones that can be talked about in detail, and I’ll start by eliminating the ones that aren’t instructive.

Let me say something about these key points that aren’t instructive. Just because they aren’t instructive doesn’t mean they are wrong. I wouldn’t disagree with any of these, but I also wouldn’t say any of these as a response to someone who asked me how to get better at the game because I don’t think they serve that specific purpose.

Good/win game: This one seems like it has the least instructive value. People already know that they want to build good decks and win the game, and I don’t think anyone out there truly believes that the best deck on every single kingdom out there involves “building an engine” in the same sense as all of these other key points describe.

Not Money: “Big Money” decks are always technically possible to build, but they suffer from some of the same problems with definitions as “engine” decks do. Many mental models of the game force all decks into the “money” category and the “engine” category, but this key point seems to me as just a symptom of the idea that “engine” is just a shortcut word that tries to leave out a lot of detail where it’s really needed. Since the whole point is to be able to talk about that detail without the shortcut, I don’t think this metric is going to be helpful there.

Plays a lot of stuff (actions): It’s easy to build a deck that does this, and it’s true, the best decks do this. This metric by itself, though, is just one measuring stick you can use to describe some decks that are able to accomplish a lot of great things. But correlation is not causation, and just telling people to buy and play lots of action cards is not going to help them succeed. Good Dominion advice has to do more than just point at things like this, it has to focus on the “why” and less on the “what.”

There are seven key points left after I take these out. Seven things that describe decks that I think everyone would agree are very good decks to build. Each of these seven key points are intertwined in a way that it’s very difficult to untangle them completely, but you can look at these and try to use them to come up with goals for a particular kingdom. More importantly, when you’re doing something good, you know why; and when you’re looking for strengths and weaknesses of “engine” decks you want to build, you can identify what they are, how they will affect you, and how you may be able to use other tools to compensate for them.

Draws/”cycles” a lot


Buying power/payload


Actions (villages)


Card Value Property

I want to work these core concepts into future content that I make — most likely podcast episodes (since that’s like, all of the content I’ve been making these days). Talking about these things without the context of a kingdom at least makes sense to me, even if I don’t quite use the exact same words as these key points of the definitions they came from. These things are hallmarks of many good decks you can build. In spite of the fact that some of these aren’t really defined that well (I’m looking at you, consistency), there’s room for discussion about these concepts, and these concepts can be referred back to when you have a kingdom in front of you and you want to identify the tools you have to address each of these things.

But let’s get back to my gripes with the E-word and what started all of this. I think what I’ve been doing is using “engine” as a scapegoat for a different problem I have: it’s when people take shortcuts when communicating about the game. Shortcuts definitely have their place in language and what that means is that I think I need to stop treating “engine” like a four-letter word. I’m going to start with a new attitude towards “engines” where it’s OK to use the word, as long as you take the extra work to describe what deck you’re talking about. So if I describe a deck by saying:

“I’m going to use Chapel to trash all ten of my starting cards, get an Artisan ASAP, and load up on Festivals and Journeymen for draw. If there’s any competition, I’ll probably prioritize the Festival split. Once I have complete control over my deck and I’m overdrawing a bit, I’ll throw in a Tunnel to start flooding with Golds until my deck can buy two Provinces per turn (or maybe three if I’m drawing enough), then focus down the Provinces while staying viable due to Journeyman’s sifting ability. I’ll call this deck the engine deck.”

Now I have an idea of what that deck does and why it’s good, and I don’t have to use so many words to compare it to this delicious Bureaucrat/Silk road deck that I might label “slog.” Establishing the shortcut before using it can make communication more effective, and could even be useful for distinguishing decks that are similar in their “engineyness” but have different build paths, payloads, methods of deck control, etc.

So that’s my two cents on what I’ve learned from this survey. I welcome comments on it, and especially ideas for how to organize content that addresses these topics in a way that can be beneficial to lots of people who want to break through to the next level of Dominion play, whatever that is for them. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this “card value property” as it represents a new way of thinking about Dominion decks that I’ve never really thought about before.

Dominion: Summer 2018 Tournament summary

This Saturday, July 21, 2018; I put on my ninth Dominion tournament with physical cards near Cincinnati, OH. This one was officially sanctioned by the publisher, meaning that I got to give some extra goodies out to the people who made it, and also it consisted of 3-player games.

Turnouts have been growing recently, my January 2018 tournament had my largest turnout yet of 23 people and I was expecting to have a couple more for this one, but we ended up with a huge pool of 31 players! As an organizer, I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience and I’m hoping the success continues and the player pools continue to get larger.

One more time I want to thank everyone who came out to play and everyone who has been talking about these tournaments. These are successful, and are starting to grow even faster mostly because of you all.

I’d like to give a summary of the four designed kingdoms we used for the finals of the tournament. What I’ll do is post them here first, then the rest of my comments, and then talk about the kingdoms at the bottom of this post. So if you want to play these kingdoms without any spoilers, just don’t read the bottom of this post after the warning.

Finals set 1: Pooka, Shepherd, Baron, Miser, Counterfeit, Border Village, Village, Gladiator, Royal Seal, Armory, Lost Arts, Inheritance

Finals set 2: Forge, Peddler, Hamlet, Moneylender, Farming Village, Candlestick Maker, Merchant, Venture, Jack of all Trades, Fortune Teller, Arena, Bandit Fort

Finals set 3: Mandarin, Capital, Legionary, Night Watchman, Crown, City Quarter, Moat, Butcher, Ironworks, Charm, Donate, Pathfinding; with Platinum/Colony

Finals set 4: Festival, Journeyman, Tunnel, Chapel, Secret Passage, Shanty Town, Artisan, Gardens, Silk Road, Bureaucrat, Bonfire, Mission

I’ll post the standings below, but first I want to give a shoutout to the winner of this tournament, Nathan. This is the second time he’s won one of my tournaments and he won this one in a pretty convincing fashion. Out of 8 games he played he won all of them except for one, setting him pretty far ahead of the rest of the field. There were four other people who cashed, taking home portions of the huge prize pool: Ryan, Jessica, plus Adam and John who split the 4th place prize.

The scores for the top 9 players represent their scores in the final round, with the scores in parenthesis being their scores in the preliminaries (which compare to the preliminary scores of all of the other players below).

Our champion, Nathan, won’t be able to attend GenCon in a couple of weekends, so Ryan will be representing this tournament at the world championship.

I’ll do my best to continue to have these every 6 months. I’ve been told that everything in my life will change once my first child is born, which should happen in about two months, but if it’s humanly possible, I’ll be having my next tournament somewhere around January of 2019, and I hope to see everyone there!


Don’t scroll past here if you wanted to play the finals sets without hearing my commentary on them.


All right, let’s talk about those designed kingdoms. I don’t do quite as much playtesting on the 3P kingdoms, just because it’s harder to do, and I also wanted to try some different things that aren’t possible to playtest using the online client. What this means is that I’m a little less confident that what I’m saying about these kingdoms is any good. Let’s get into it:

Finals set 1: Pooka, Shepherd, Baron, Miser, Counterfeit, Border Village, Village, Gladiator, Royal Seal, Armory, Lost Arts, Inheritance

I know it’s a popular direction to go — you get to stack your deck at the start of the game for my IRL tournaments, so people naturally want to do some crazy-powerful openings. I normally don’t go for those sort of puzzley-type openings in my designed kingdoms, mostly because I question how much that tests Dominion skill, but I thought I’d give it a shot here with at least something else thrown into the opening to make it tough.

The only thing I can really say about this board with confidence is that you want to start with Cursed Gold and 4 Coppers on turn one, and buy Inheritance. There are a lot of options for what you could Inherit here, and I wanted to put everything that looked like a good Inheritance target in, but with nothing that stood out as the best play. Inheriting Shepherd, Baron, or Miser all seem very sexy, but right now I’m leaning towards Village as the best thing to Inherit on T1, with Miser coming in a close second.

Let me be real with you here, I’ve built a lot of terrible decks here, and it’s really easy to get caught up in things that aren’t very good: Shepherd is in my opinion a vastly overrated card, and Pooka seems like it could work out here but I’m just not all that convinced. Given that all of the sources of draw are dicey at best, I’m not convinced that building a huge deck is the way to go here. Maybe just blitzing Misers until you can make them worth $8 is the best thing to do here.

The other crunchy parts of this kingdom are the fact that the only way to trash your Cursed Gold is to Counterfeit it, which gives you two Curses. There is no way to trash Curses either.

Finals set 2: Forge, Peddler, Hamlet, Moneylender, Farming Village, Candlestick Maker, Merchant, Venture, Jack of all Trades, Fortune Teller, Arena, Bandit Fort

I love Bandit Fort, and I especially love janky boards where Bandit Fort really steps on everything you want to do. There’s no draw here except for Jack of All Trades (which is not really draw) so what you can do is limited here, but there are a couple of paths I could see being good.

The first idea is to thin with Moneylender and try to get as many Peddlers as possible, then Forge them into Provinces. The second idea is to get Farming Villages and Fortune Tellers. The third idea is to have your economy come from Candlestick Makers, but I’m pretty sure this is the worst option available. I also think that Jack of All Trades could possibly fit into any of these decks, but you’d have to be very careful about it.

If it was me, I’d open Moneylender/Candlestick Maker. I’d spam Hamlets and try to drain Peddlers, picking up a Forge at the first chance. My money is on the Forge/Peddler strategy here, but I can see the attack on Fortune Teller being really disruptive.

Finals set 3: Mandarin, Capital, Legionary, Night Watchman, Crown, City Quarter, Moat, Butcher, Ironworks, Charm, Donate, Pathfinding; with Platinum/Colony

This is another one of those sets that I based around a combo deck. In this case, the elephant in the room is Mandarin/Capital, but it’s countered hard by Legionary.

So what do you do here? Well you need to draw a lot of cards, and you need to have a lot of action cards in order to draw that much in the fact of Legionary. City Quarter is hard to get, so I imagine Moat is pretty good here as well.

In the end, Capital shenanigans are probably the best payload you can ask for. Crown and Mandarin will probably still work, but Mandarin doesn’t play all that nicely with the bigger decks you can build here, unless you can build in something with Crown, maybe Night Watchman, etc. I was kind of hoping that Crown would be a better enabler for Capital than Mandarin would…

How would I open here? That’s actually really tough. I can see arguments for opening with Charm or Butcher along with a Moat, and even throwing an Ironworks or a Mandarin in there before Donating. From there, how I build depends on how fast I want to get Legionary online and what I see my opponents doing.

Finals set 4: Festival, Journeyman, Tunnel, Chapel, Secret Passage, Shanty Town, Artisan, Gardens, Silk Road, Bureaucrat, Bonfire, Mission

There’s a strong sloggy option here with Bureaucrat, Silk Road, Gardens, and Tunnel with Festival to support. There’s also a higher-payload deck you can build here with Festival and Journeyman for draw, Artisan and Chapel to support, and can even work in Shanty Town and Tunnel with the help of Secret Passage. This deck also can make some good use of Mission as well.

Two decks, and I imagine that the Journeyman deck is probably best if nobody is contesting those components, and it’s closer if two people go for that and a third player goes for Bureaucrat. Adapting to what you see from your opponents is probably key here, which is tougher if you want to not open with a Chapel, but still potentially doable.

How would I open? Well I’d stack a 5/2 and get Festival on turn one, and probably a Chapel on turn 2. My insight here is that Festival is a good card for every deck, so aiming to get a lot of those is my priority. I’d hope to hit $6 ASAP for an Artisan, and probably build the draw deck unless I felt like that was going to be a losing proposition (not enough Festivals) in which case I might pivot towards a deck that focuses more on Silk Roads than Gardens.

Summer 2018 Cincinnati Dominion Tournament

Facebook event

Saturday, July 21, 2018: 1PM-8PM
Game Swap
1065 Reading Rd, Ste E
Mason, Ohio 45040

RSVP is not required — you can just show up, but it helps me plan if I know who is coming in advance. You can just send E-mail to if you would like to RSVP.

I’ll have promo cards to give out to all players — they’re sending me Dismantle! The winner of this tournament will be qualified for the World National tournament at GenCon 2018 along with the top finishers splitting the prize pool (80% of the entry fees).

This tournament will consist of Three-player games, and have a $5 entry fee. All expansions and promo cards may be used, I won’t be using any of the removed cards from Base or Intrigue, though. All kingdoms used in the finals will be designed and playtested by me.

The winner of the tournament will have the opportunity to play a “trophy match” against me, the Dominion world champion for 2017. You may pick any kingdom you like and you may go first; if you win, you get to hold on to the Scout trophy (pictured) until the next tournament. If you lose, you still get the standard first-place prize for winning this tournament.

I anticipate we’ll be done by 8PM, and if you are eliminated early on in the tournament you could be done earlier — everyone who enters is guaranteed at least four games in the tournament. After the tournament, there will be the regular board gaming.