You may also be interested in two podcast episodes where our first impressions of the Plunder stuff was discussed: OneTwo. I’ll highlight a couple of things that I think were interesting about these results in this post.
First, I’d like to talk about the places where my ratings differed the most from the community’s ratings:
Silver Mine is getting a very low score, among the lowest in the set, while I gave it an above-average score; I also rated Gondola quite a bit higher than the community. After viewing lots of discussion on the topic, I think this is a difference in the value of Silver. It’s very popular to dunk on Silver and Gold as being extremely bad and it’s my opinion that this is pretty overblown. The difference in ratings certainly reflects that.
Shaman has quite a bit of things happening to it, so the difference between my rating and the community’s rating is just not telling the whole story. I’d like to share a graphic showing the cards with the highest variance stat, meaning that there is the most disagreement among the community.
Shaman (as well as Cage) are two cards that have a significantly higher variance than everything else in the set. In Shaman’s case, where I personally believe that should receive a high rating, but I believe the card is also unpopular, the variance is likely to be pulling Shaman’s overall rating closer to the middle than it should be. It’s also possible that people are rating only the on-play effect of Shaman, as opposed to considering the effect it has in all games. This is a perfectly valid way to rate the card and could also be pulling its rating towards the middle.
As for Swamp Shacks, after some discussion it appears that there is some real disagreement there: I think that Swamp Shacks is much less powerful than everyone else does. Time will tell what the story is…
Next I’ll talk about what the community rated as the most and least powerful cards in the set:
These are the highest and lowest card ratings — I agree for the most part with all of these except for Silver Mine, which I’ve already talked about… and Rope.
As I played more with Rope I lowered my rating on it from 8 to 6. My belief is that Rope is a card that looks great and feels great at first, probably because it does so many different things; but I think the community will calm down by the time the time my next Card Power Levels poll comes out. Rope is fine, but I just don’t think it’s one of the best cards in the set.
The Dominion Galactic Championship was held this past weekend at Gen Con in Indianapolis, IN. The tournament and the whole experience was unlike any of the other tournaments I’ve run in the past, and I’m glad I put this tournament on and went through the process of running a tournament at a convention. We had 48 entries in the tournament and had a deserving winner, Eugene Lee AKA ceviri.
I’ve attended Dominion tournaments at conventions before, but all of the tournaments I’ve run up to this point were standalone events. I’ve had people ask me what it’s like to run a Dominion tournament at a convention and I’ve also wondered myself what it would be like, and this was the time to find out. I’ll be making a separate post about what I’ve learned from this experience as a tournament organizer, to add to those resources, but I’d like to list a few of the big takeaways here that were more relevant to this specific tournament.
– It’s hard to promote your tournament when you’re running it at a convention. Thankfully, the fact that you’re part of the convention is its own promotion in a way. People are usually coming there for the convention and your event will be seen by a huge amount of people who don’t have to make a huge commitment to play in your tournament. There’s not much doubt that you will probably get more people to attend your tournament with less promotion work if you’re part of a convention. This is the largest tournament I’ve ever hosted by a significant margin — larger than I would be able to do without a convention setting.
– If you’re having trouble finding a venue for a standalone event, a convention will solve your problem. You’ll have the table space you need to have a tournament as large as you want, in a space suitable for gaming.
– You’ll end up doing more work jumping through the hoops you need to work with the convention regarding scheduling, entry fees, and whatever other rules the convention places on you. You’ll also usually have to buy a convention badge in order to run a game there, so you’ll be paying money to run your tournament as opposed to most venues which will be happy to just have a cut out of your prize pool.
– You’re more likely to have players who are much newer to the game in attendance, so you may want to take some steps to make your tournament more beginner-friendly.
For me personally, after this experience, I think I’ll be focusing again on standalone events in the future — I’m lucky enough to have multiple good venue options near me and I’ve already established a legitimate network to help promote my events, and I appreciate the extra flexibility I have to work directly with a venue.
It’s possible that I’ll run another tournament at a convention some day, but if I end up doing that, it will be at a different convention (not Gen Con). If that happens, I’ll be changing the name of the tournament, so I can confidently say that our first and only Dominion champion OF THE GALAXY was crowned this weekend!
All right, enough of that, let’s talk more specifically about the tournament. This one was a bit different in format because I wanted to be able to have a lot more people be able to play if they wanted to. There were four qualifier rounds throughout the convention, and players who survived their qualifier were invited to the finals at the end. It’s a bigger time investment for me but it allows for up to 128 entries and for people to enter multiple qualifiers if they want to.
The format was a giant double elimination tournament — last as long as you can before you lose twice. The longer you last, the higher your placement, and the more money you’ll win from the prize pool (if you make it far enough). The last one standing is called the champion. All games were two-player games, so it’s possible for a player to have a bye round, where they are either matched with an opponent who has already been eliminated, or just given a win if no such opponent can be found.
Here’s a link to the spreadsheet containing all of the kingdoms used for this tournament.
I’ll take a moment now to talk about the four kingdoms I designed for the later stages of this tournament.
The intent here was to have awful decks with so much junk in them, that Rats as the only trashing plus Tomb improves your deck to the point where the pile control you get (especially if you Seaway them) plus the immediate VP from Tomb and the synergy with trashing Cultists is strong enough that it’s game-decisive, even if you have more junk than your opponent. A lot of playtesting went into this kingdom which has so many cards from the banned list present, and I had the experience I wanted a few times during playtesting.
Unfortunately, the version of this kingdom where I tested the direct Seaway/Rats deck (aiming to 3-pile Coppers, Curses, and Rats) was done before Ruins were in the supply, and while that “degenerate” deck wasn’t fast enough to beat a Miser-focused deck that uses Hunting Lodge, the Ruins allow the Seaway/Rats deck to end the game too fast and with enough points for anything else to get going.
One of the games played in the tournament ended up being a Seaway/Rats mirror, which fortunately was interesting enough, but it wasn’t what I was going for. I’m not quite sure how to fix that problem other than to replace Seaway with something else, but this is the board that was played in the tournament.
The intent with this kingdom was to build a deck where you put Pathfinding on Tactician, then call Royal Carriage on Tactician to activate multiple Duration Tacticians in a turn. Nothing else you can do here will increase the number of cards in hand, and the explosive payload of Priest gives enough reason to justify jumping through these hoops.
This game was played one time during the tournament, and neither player saw the multiple-duration-Tactician deck, opting to play a more “standard” double-Tactician deck with Pathfinding+Candlestick Maker as payload.
Bandit Fort stifles most money decks you can build here, with the possible exception of using lots of Vaults and few Golds. There is a powerful megaturn deck here, though, that uses Gamble and Bridge at its core. The deck thins with Chapel aggressively, gets a single Altar, a Villain or two, a few Vaults, and then aims to add Bridges quickly using Stonemason (aided by the cost reduction from Bridges) and Altar. Your turns should look like this: play a Vault, discarding everything in your hand, and start Gambling. You can use stored Coffers from previous turns to make sure you can play all the cards in your deck using Gamble. Without being attacked, this deck can consistently empty Provinces on turn 12 or 13 while Playing Villain at least once on most turns after the first 6-7.
This kingdom was played twice at the tournament, both times with one player going for the Gamble/Bridge deck and the other playing a simpler money density deck. Each deck won one of the games, but the Gamble/Bridge deck that won used Bandit to gain Golds, which served as the deck’s draw instead of Villain. This is an interesting variant on the deck I intended, with a few differences:
The Bandit deck doesn’t rely so much on starting each turn with a Vault, so it doesn’t have to be as thin and pick up extra Vaults for consistency.
Action cards drawn in the starting hand can’t be played unless the opponent plays a Vault consistently on their turn — there are enough Golds in the deck that a single Vault play usually does the job. That was the case in this game, but I question if this deck would be viable against an opponent who stopped playing Vaults and pivoted to a Gold flood to combat this strategy. The Bandit attack probably hurts a Vault-based money density deck about as much as Villain’s attack does, but potentially does less against the gold-flood pivot.
Having a large number of Golds is a significant amount of negative points from Bandit Camp, which is a liability if this deck allows the opponent to get enough Provinces before the megaturn. However, it can potentially enable some better turns in the midgame because you don’t have to try and save your Coffers for a megaturn.
Are these tradeoffs worth it? I’m not sure, I’d have to playtest it more. My gut says that Villain out-performs Bandit in the megaturn deck but I can’t be sure.
Finals Kingdom 4: Bank, Coin of the Realm, Astrolabe, Market Square, Transmogrify, Catapult/Rocks, Secret Passage, Throne Room, Haven, Crystal Ball; Canal
I actually had a different version of this kingdom finished before Seaside and Prosperity’s second editions were released, but then Astrolabe and Crystal Ball fit so much better into this kingdom than Scepter, I was really happy with the way this kingdom came alive and featured two of the newest Dominion cards.
Bank is great here with tons of enablers, but the only thing here resembling draw is Haven and there’s also Catapult, so you’re looking for ways to squeeze as much value out of your deck as possible to put into your Banks. You have Transmogrify and Market Square to help you gain Banks easily, you have Crystal Ball which helps you get thin quickly, then turns into effectively a cantrip with lots of money on it in your Buy phase, you have Secret Passage to help ensure that your Banks are the last treasures you play, Astrolabe and Coin of the Realm (easily gainable with Canal/Transmogrify if you have extra Coppers or Curses around), and Haven can help you bring cards from previous turns to give you bigger turns.
This kingdom was used for the tournament finals, which were recorded on video. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
I’ve been running Dominion tournaments since 8 years ago, this is my thirteenth tournament. I’ve put a lot of work into each one, and a lot of work into constantly improving the way things are run, both for the benefit of the players and for my own benefit. I’ve also put a lot of work into promoting my tournaments and establishing a network where people can find tournaments like mine not only in the Midwest, but reaching out to people who are willing to travel even farther just for an event like this. My beginnings were humble, and no part of getting to where I am today has been easy, especially given the last two years.
Both tournaments I’ve run this year have had people there who heard about them through my promotion and networking — people who love the game are able to find a place to play the game they love, face-to-face, with other people who feel the same way. Every time I give this experience to another people or group, I’m reminded of when I had that experience for the first time, and also of the friendships I’ve made with people because they showed up to my tournaments in the past. It’s so validating to see more and more people show up to this because of the other people in the past that have had positive experiences. It’s not often that you get to directly see the results of your hard work.
On top of this, there was a sizeable group from the online community that travelled to Gen Con because the tournament was happening, and got to meet up in person. Many of them travelled from across the country for this, and I was specifically told that it wouldn’t have happened without the tournament. It’s another instance of that validation I was just talking about, but this one went a few levels deeper.
My relationship with the online community informally ended many years ago, and it was not on good terms. There is still bad blood between myself and the other people involved, and it is for that reason that I didn’t have any expectations of interacting with the online group, beyond knowing to watch them closely because I expected them to play well and make it far in the tournament.
The tournament finals came, and this is when that online group planned to all be at the tournament to hang out and hopefully also be playing in the tournament. They had come together to somehow find a Hinterlands 2E Update Pack (which I had not been able to find in time for the tournament) and gift it to me as a thank-you for organizing the tournament, which was such a nice gesture by itself, but they were nice and welcoming to me as a part of their group whenever I had downtime during and after the tournament. It was such a positive experience for me and it meant a lot that they would be as welcoming and thoughtful as they were.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I had entered with such low expectations of how that interaction might go (which was not justified, by the way — none of these people had anything to do with any of the stuff that caused me to leave that community), or the fact that most people, especially me, have been so starved for real, in-person human connection over the last two years. But I really enjoyed this group of people and I was really happy them came to the tournament, it was way beyond what I thought could happen. It’s making me rethink my position of not wanting to be “a member of the online Dominion community” after many years of being glad I wasn’t.
It’s official! I’ll be hosting a MASSIVE Dominion tournament at GenCon this year! GenCon goes from Wednesday, August 3 through Sunday, August 7, 2022 and it’s in Indianapolis, IN. My tournament will be taking place on Thursday the 4th and Saturday the 6th. ALL games will be 2-player games. Here’s a link to the GenCon events page that will help you find it, you’ll be able to sign up for events starting Sunday, May 15, 2022.
The tournament has four qualifier rounds — you only need to sign up for one of them. Three qualifiers are on Thursday at 10AM, 1PM, and 4PM; and there’s a fourth qualifier on Saturday at 10AM. If you survive your qualifier then you’ll be able to show up for the tournament finals, which will be held at 1PM on Saturday, where we’ll play until we have a winner! Qualifiers are 3 hours and the finals will be up to 6 hours. Each qualifier can have up to 32 people, which means the tournament can have up to 128 entrants!
The tournament is a modified double elimination tournament; once you lose two games you’re out. Matchmaking will be more of a Swiss-style, and there are some rules to handle tie games gracefully, but the objective is to survive as long as possible in the tournament. The ten players who survive the longest will get cash prizes! Here’s a link to a Google doc with more detail on the tournament format.
Entry fee is $8, though you must also be registered for the convention to sign up. $6 of every entry fee goes to the prize pool, where first prize will be just above $300 (if the tournament fills up). Normally, players who make the finals and survive for three games will cash.
All expansions and promo cards may be used. Kingdoms will be randomly generated, but then tweaked and filtered by me for maximum fun and rules clarity. The last few kingdoms will be designed by me.
I’ve had ambitions of hosting a large tournament at a convention for quite some time now, I’m super excited that this is actually happening! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions about the tournament. My contact information is in the event descriptions and also under the Contact tab on this blog.
I will mention that there is another Dominion tournament at GenCon this year that I’m not affiliated with. The games in that tournament are 4P games, which I have some opinions about. But if 4P Dominion is your cup of tea, there is another option for you this year at GenCon.
On April 9, 2022 I hosted my 12th in-person Dominion tournament. It’s been a really long time since the last one I hosted, between the pandemic and my own health issues. I was personally very excited to just leave the house and do anything at all that I enjoy, and that’s what happened. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of attendance this time, but we had 17 people show up, including two groups that drove for about 12 hours just for the tournament.
Overall, it was just really nice to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a very long time, plus I got to meet some Dominion enthusiasts that I hadn’t met before. It’s such a change from the way life has been for the past few years, and I imagine that most of the people who played felt a similar way.
The spreadsheet which contains all of the info about the tournament, which is all of the kingdoms that were used and could have been used, is here. It also contains the four designed kingdoms that were used for the elimination bracket. I’ll talk about those designed kingdoms here as well later on in this post.
Our winner this time was Dale Montgomery, who has a story with my tournaments that I love to tell — at one of my earliest tournaments, Dale and his wife showed up and were still learning the game. After being eliminated early on, Dale left the game store with a huge stack of Dominion expansions. Every time he comes back he shows more skill and gets further in the tournament, until this tournament where he finally took away first prize. It’s nice to see not only someone who became hooked on the game in large part due to my tournaments, but also to see someone work hard at getting better at the game and then have that shown as the winner of this tournament. On top of that, the Montgomerys have been such a huge help to my family the past couple of years; it’s hard to imagine the win going to someone more deserving.
My next tournament will be in 4-6 months or so. I’ve submitted a 128-person tournament to GenCon 2022, which is still in the approval process but that looks like it’s going well. If that goes through, that will probably serve as my big Fall 2022 tournament. If not, I’ll have another Cincinnati tournament, aiming for September or so. If you want to stay up-to-date on all of the IRL Dominion events I plan to host, as well as the ones other people in the Midwest are hosting, you can keep your eyes on this blog, and also check out this Facebook group.
Now let’s talk a bit about the designed kingdoms. The first two were kingdoms I intended to use for the Winter 2019 tournament, but the finals were snowed out. I quietly published the spreadsheet containing these kingdoms, but they didn’t get much discussion because I didn’t specifically talk about them in that post. I liked these kingdoms a lot and I don’t think anyone out there was practicing them, so I put them in this tournament along with two other freshly designed kingdoms (that actually contained some Menagerie cards 😉
Finals Kingdom 1: Urchin, Fortress, Scheme, Throne Room, Gladiator, Familiar, Cobbler, Market, Horse Traders, Fool’s Gold; Barracks, Save — This kingdom started just to see what would happen when Mercenary/Fortress was the only source of draw. It turns out you have to jump through a lot of hoops to make a kingdom that can possibly be fun to play with Urchin in it. First, the only thing in all of Dominion up to Renaissance that can prevent most games being over by turn 4 because of Urchin collision is Save. Second, Mercenary/Fortress isn’t that good for draw and there’s a brutal discard attack around with Mercenary, so I had to build in a ton of reliability into the kingdom on top of Save, because Save by itself still gets hit pretty hard by Mercenary’s attack, so we have Horse Traders, Barracks, Cobbler, and Scheme to help out here. Finally, we have very efficient payload cards in Fool’s Gold, Market, and Fortune. That accounts for most of these cards…
It turns out that the Mercenary split is pretty important here (yes I just said that unironically) so I put in Throne Room to take some of the pressure off of that, and finally I added in Familiar as a trap card, but I guess it can be good if your opponent doesn’t really try to thin their deck (or forgets the Save exists) as a win-more card. In any case, it took a lot of playtesting and stuff to make this into something that can only snowball if a player doesn’t take advantage of the right resource at the right time. Even with everything I put into the kingdom, this one is a brutal slugfest.
Finals Kingdom 2: Pirate Ship, King’s Court, Sacrifice, Bandit Camp, Trading Post, Ducat, Beggar, Mining Village, Storyteller; Trade, Keep — This was loosely inspired by a ladder game I played years ago, where Pirate Ship was actually good. It doesn’t take too much to do it, you just have to be able to play enough Pirate Ships to destroy all treasures, plus Pirate Ship has to be the only source of virtual money. So that’s what I designed this kingdom around.
There are many things that look like virtual money here: Sacrifice, Beggar, Mining Village and Bandit Camp. They are very temporary, though, and won’t work as sustainable solutions for any deck that wants to, well, do anything at all under lots of Pirate Ship attacks.
If both players go for Pirate Ships, it’s an interesting dynamic. The person that gets more Pirate Ship tokens is usually at a huge advantage, so you want to start playing Ships ASAP and also trash all of your treasures as quickly as you can if you see your opponent getting Ships. I’ve never had a game go to a stalemate before but it could theoretically happen, which would be so cool I wouldn’t even be mad that it would be a problem for a single-elimination tournament bracket.
Finals Kingdom 3: Mint, Rabble, Fairgrounds, Haven, Crown, Animal Fair, Improve, Sheepdog, Leprechaun, Merchant; Way of the Rat, Exploration — I wanted to make a kingdom around a few cool Menagerie synergies: Crown and Mint were already around, but throw in Way of the Rat and Sheepdog and you really take it to another level. I chose Animal Fair and Improve for payload here. You really do have to build a lot because of Rabbles, and Crown being the only village, it’s important to use all of the tools at your disposal to get as many of them as possible.
When the eventual tournament champion played this kingdom, it was against a previous two-time champion who was undefeated that day. Dale tried a Mint opening, planning to turn the Haven into an Animal Fair, which worked out but IMO left him a bit behind. I had intended to have Havens be the way to set up a Mint a bit later on (and the Havens are still useful later because there is no Estate trashing). With a crazy last shuffle, Dale was able to pull out a win with two consecutive explosive turns, though.
Finals Kingdom 4: Develop, Snowy Village, Black Cat, Treasurer, Magpie, Laboratory, Bank, Vagrant, Monument, Band of Misfits; Way of the Turtle, Gamble — I started making this kingdom wanting to just have some fun with Gamble. Make it so that you want to spend all your money every turn just Gambling, and then making jokes about having a Gambling problem. And I believe that did happen here, but I wasn’t content to just have the Gamble/Monument deck, I wanted more, so I made the big draw focus on Develop, Gamble, and Way of the Turtle. Now you’re happy to hit basically any type of card with Gamble.
What I didn’t expect to have, though, is the experience we have actually playing this kingdom. There are just so many possibilities with what you can do at so many points in the game, the decision tree just explodes so quickly and it makes your brain hurt so much. It’s not clear to me what kind of deck you actually want to try and make, it’s not clear to me that you actually want to have a concrete plan. So many things are good and your deck composition can change so drastically in just one turn because of Develop, I’ve tested this kingdom over 30 times and I still don’t really know what is best to do here. All I know is that you can do so many things and they are all really good.
Over the last week and a half or so, I collected the general first impressions of the new Allies cards, asking people to rate them on a scale of 0 through 10. This post is meant only to present the results of that poll, but this time I’m able to give a bit of commentary on cards where I maybe have very different ratings than the average.
Here’s a link to a spreadsheet with the raw data for this poll, as well as the results I’ll be referring to here.
The highest rated cards are: Island Folk, Peaceful Cult, Specialist, Clashes, and Royal Galley.
The lowest rated cards are: Sycophant, Gang of Pickpockets, Merchant Camp, Mountain Folk, and Forts.
The cards with the highest variance tend to be Allies, which makes sense because it’s not entirely clear what it means to “rate an Ally,” as for actual kingdom cards with high variance, we’re looking at: Forts, Swap, and Sentinel.
Now for the fun part, where I disagree most with everyone else:
Townsfolk: I gave this a 9 and the community gave it a 5, it’s the biggest difference. 5 seems way too low for this pile, and while I could see giving this an 8 instead of a 9, I feel like this is one that people will grow on for sure.
Forts: I gave this an 8 and the community gave it a 4.5; I wonder if the community rated this pile so low because Tent is on top — I think Tent is a fantastic opener and 4.5 seems crazy for this pile.
Carpenter: I gave this a 9 and the community gave it a 6. I realize I’m quite a bit warmer on Carpenter than most other people and my rating may go down in the future, but for right now I think it’s one of the strongest cards in the set, it’s hard for me to imagine a game where I don’t get at least one of them.
Merchant Camp: I gave this a 7 and the community gave it a 4.5 (but notably a lower 4.5 than Forts, I’m rounding a bit here for this post). Sure, there’s a downside in that this doesn’t draw a card but I think people are putting way too much into that downside and not seeing the benefits of having a much more consistent deck.
Contract: I gave this an 8 and the community gave it a 6. Did you know Silver is a good card?
Galleria: I gave this a 7 and the community gave it a 5. I could definitely see where I’m a bit optimistic on this card, I could definitely see where everyone else is a bit pessimistic on the “terminal gold” aspect of it. Time will tell who’s right about this (or if we just end up somewhere in the middle)
Modify: I gave this a 9 and the community gave it a 7. Modify is fantastic and I’m confident this rating will go up in the next few months.
Royal Galley: I gave this a 6 and the community gave it an 8. Finally, something where I’m less optimistic than everyone else! Giving an 8 to Royal Galley seems pretty optimistic to me. I’ll be honest, I considered a 7 rating but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, I just don’t think this card is that strong and there seems to be some real disagreement here.
Past this point, the rating differences get small enough that I’m not really sure there’s much disagreement at all. It will be exciting to see where these ratings go in a few months when we revisit card ratings, and how these ratings differences might change!
A new Dominion expansion was just released and it’s time to get everyone’s scorching hot takes on the cards in this new set! Here’s a link to a poll where you can give a 0-10 power level rating on all of the card-shaped objects in Allies. The poll will be open for a little more than a week (until March 23-24ish, 2022) and at that time, I’ll collect the data and present it here on this blog post. A few months later we’ll do the poll again and see how perceptions have changed.
When this expansion’s cards were made public, I conducted a poll to measure the community’s first impressions on how powerful the cards were. You can read about that poll in this post. Last week I did another poll to see how those impressions changed, and this post will present the most notable results of that poll.
Before talking about it though, I’d like to link to a few things. First, the raw data for these ratings, which includes all of the data ever collected in any of my card ratings polls and will be updated as new ratings are collected. If you want to see the data for yourself and look for something specific, that’s where to go.
Second, there are two podcast episodes where Wandering Winder gives his first impressions of the cards, and then I give my first impressions of the cards. You can also listen to our revisiting episode where we both talk about our own updated ratings as well as how they differ from the community’s ratings and each other’s ratings.
Now that we’re done with that, I’ll present the data that I want to talk about in this post, focusing on how impressions of card power levels have changed in the months since Menagerie was released.
This table shows the cards whose ratings changed the most since the last time data was collected on them. It’s no coincidence that even though all cards were eligible to be re-rated, the ones we’re seeing here are all Menagerie and Renaissance cards. Those are the newest cards and they were at the top of the poll because I wanted the most new data on them.
The only comment I’d really like to make here is that I’m not putting too much stock into the ratings for Ways, much like for Landmarks — it’s not clear to me what it means for those things to be “powerful” in a more severe way than with just cards or events or other things in Dominion.
It’s that time again, a new expansion! That means it’s time to collect the hot takes of everyone out there. I opened up a poll, inviting anyone to rate all of the card-shaped objects in Menagerie on a scale of 0 through 10. This post is meant only to present the results of that poll, in a couple of months I’ll make another poll to see how things have changed and at that time I’ll be sharing my own ratings and where I may disagree.
Here’s a link to a spreadsheet with the raw data for this poll, as well as the results I’ll be referring to here.
I’ll just give a couple of highlights of the data here. The highest rated cards are:
Seize the Day, Bounty Hunter, Mastermind, Way of the Chameleon, and Wayfarer. Bounty Hunter and Mastermind had particularly low variance, which is a good sign for both of them.
The lowest rated cards are:
Ride, Sleigh, Black Cat, and Way of the Mule
The cards with the most disagreement are below, but it’s worth noting that all of the Ways have a lot of high variance — this makes sense because they are a new concept, so they’re a lot harder to rate.
Way of the Pig, Cavalry, Populate, and Gamble
That’s all for now, check out the spreadsheet if you want more details, and stay tuned for the post in a few months where I’ll revisit these ratings and give a bit more commentary!
Over a year ago I wrote an article, where the point was to use data to try and figure out the value in the term “engine” when it comes to Dominion. This is meant to follow up on that article, and also provide some personal commentary based on my experience with this topic.
What is the instructive value in a word like “engine” in Dominion? That may seem like a simple question, but it’s actually two separate questions, both of which are not exactly easy to answer. The two questions are:
1. What do people mean when they say “engine” in the context of Dominion?
2. How can someone use the strategic distinction that the word “engine” provides to improve their Dominion play or understand the game better?
The previous article really only aimed to answer the first question, and between the data and my commentary, there wasn’t exactly any clarity. I had shown a graph and narrowed the responses down to seven categories that probably have some part in what people mean when they say “engine”, but that’s where the discussion ended. There was no consensus on which, if any, of these terms were even the most commonly accepted, so when I see the word “engine” used in a conversation, I’m usually left guessing what the person is actually trying to say unless more context is given.
So what that means is that there are enough widely different things that people mean when they use the E-word that it’s not worth it to try and nail one down and stick to it. That’s OK, it still has a place in conversations between people who have an understanding, but there are other places where “engine” is just not the right thing to say if you want other people to understand what you’re saying. Here are a couple of examples:
“Engine decks tend to be better than big money decks.”
“X tends to be better for engine decks than it is for other decks.”
“On this kingdom I want to build the engine.”
At face value these look like innocent enough statements, but if you’re trying to understand what strategic or instructive value is actually there and you try to dig into them, you’ll find that without a definition of “engine” that is explicit and shared by the speaker and the listener, these statements don’t actually say anything useful. It’s not enough to assume that the listener already understands enough to know what you mean by “engine” via some more abstract or implicit definition of “engine,” because those type of people don’t stand to benefit from statements like that anyways.
Either I’m just trying to exchange ideas with someone, or I’m trying to teach them something new. Statements like these don’t serve either purpose, and in practice they just tend to obfuscate any real insight for the purposes of trying to make the speaker look smart. Look at how smart I am because I can say things that you don’t understand! It may seem like I’m saying something that only really applies to people who write articles or make instructive Dominion content, but anyone who is serious about improving their Dominion skill should aim to fully understand why what they believe is true so they can more rigorously question what they can’t adequately explain, even to themselves or other players of similar skill.
And this is why my goal has always been to be able to speak in a way that will actually be instructive, to help people get better at the game because of what I told them — because I get the benefit of that as well. I used the concept of an “engine” to help get to where I am in the game, so if there’s any strategic insight left in there, I want to make sure it isn’t lost — I continue to see people afraid to commit to decks that aim to have bigger payloads and the materials I’ve already made haven’t been enough to get past this issue. So the second question aims to dig deep into the data with my own critical mind and try to find what’s in there that can actually help people. Once I find it, maybe I can come up with a more effective way of communicating it to people. This is where I take a good hard look at the seven categories I left off with before:
Draws/”cycles” a lot Consistency Buying power/payload Growing Actions (villages) Synergies Card Value Property
If I’m looking at this, just trying to find new insights I haven’t explored before, I can start by eliminating the things I’ve already fleshed out: Buying power/payload is a concept I’ve explored in-depth with success when I talk about payload and deck control. Actions/villages and draware other well-defined concepts I’ve talked about a lot, and even the concept of “cycling” (playing your best cards more often) is something I have material on and have had success with teaching, and this covers “Consistency” about as well as I could expect (I personally believe that word is a bit of a rabbit hole, it’s so hard to nail down what that word actually means in a general sense when it comes to Dominion). So what does that leave us after the first pass?
Growing, Synergies, and the Card Value Property: “A deck whose average value per turn derives from its total deck composition, rather than its average deck composition.”
These are all similar in concept and are actually results of one concept in Dominion that it turns out, I haven’t been talking about enough: drawing your deck. A deck that draws itself every turn is fundamentally different enough, and this exact property is what causes it to be fundamentally different. Drawing your whole deck causes these three remaining items, with the Card Value Property being the most precise way of describing exactly how to get there.
After well over a year of observation and looking for this specific thing, it’s clear to me that a lot of the time, people really want to talk about decks that draw themselves when they talk about “engines.” But given the confusion that the E-word brings, I definitely prefer to just say “drawing your deck;” or to talk about deck paradigms where one of them is the “whole deck” paradigm. There’s a lot of value in knowing exactly what it takes to enter this paradigm, while keeping in mind that the paradigm is temporary — your deck isn’t always one that draws itself every turn of the game, you have to work to get it there and you have to work to keep it there: once you stop doing that, you aren’t drawing your deck anymore.
I’m not going to say that whenever anyone says “engine” they mean “drawing your deck,” there are some people that use the E-word to talk about only the concept of draw: “A Village/Smithy engine”. Check out the previous article to see ALL of the possible things people can mean! I will say that I think I’ve become better at communicating about Dominion when I stopped using the E-word and kept myself accountable for actually explaining what I mean when I talk; and between the concept of drawing your deck (the “whole deck paradigm”) and the other concepts I’ve l inked above, I’m confident that this is enough to give a complete strategic picture of the game without missing any of the broad strokes.
I want to be clear that I’m not trying to tell people they shouldn’t use a certain word. I believe that there are certain situations where using “engine” in strategic Dominion discussion can be constructive (you NEED to provide specific context, in the form of a specific deck you’re talking about on a specific kingdom), but I also believe that if I want to change the way other people talk about the game, telling them that what they’re doing is bad is not going to make it happen.
I have to come up with a better way of communicating than what they currently have, and people will hopefully see that it’s better and start using it. My previous post showed that the E-word had issues, but it didn’t present any coherent alternative, and more importantly, I still didn’t know what to tell people when it came to whatever strategic advice was behind the concept. Drawing your deck is the last piece of the puzzle. We did it, reddit.
I know my content has shaped the say people already talk about Dominion (as much as some people don’t want to admit it). I’ve “coined” various terms that are used somewhat commonly now like “terminal space”, “deck control”, and the now widely-accepted definitions of “village” and “draw.” I believe these have caught on because they’re just good terms — accessible but they hold up to intense scrutiny. I have no delusions that people will stop using the E-word completely, but I hope that by providing better tools for communicating about Dominion and effectively using them myself, eventually the quality of Dominion discussion out there can change for the better in the long term.
Note: this was originally posted in January 2019, but was lost because of some server upgrades, combined with my own incompetence. It’s being re-posted now for posterity.
This Saturday, January 12, 2019; I put on my tenth Dominion tournament with physical cards near Cincinnati, OH; it consisted of 2-player games.
Coming into the tournament I had projections of 24 people coming — for reference, the last tournament I had projected 21 and eventually had 31 people — so things were looking good until a few days before the tournament when Winter Storm Gia showed up. Cincinnati and a lot of the surrounding area ended up getting over six inches of snow over that weekend and understandably many people decided not to risk driving significant distances to play a Dominion tournament. We ended up with 13 people brave enough to take on the challenge of a Dominion tournament through the snow, which still included five people who travelled from outside the tri-state area.
The game store that allows me to host these tournaments decided to close early the day so people could get home before the roads got even worse, and so this tournament had to be cut short. After the four rounds of Swiss play I would have normally taken the top four players and had them play in a single-elimination bracket to decide placement, but instead the tournament just ended there and I used the Swiss rankings to award prizes to the top finishers and crown a winner.
Luckily, there was a clear winner after 4 games, as exactly one person had won all four of the games they played, so congratulations to Ryan Echternacht for his first tournament win! He placed second in my previous tournament, ended up qualifying for the world championship based on that performance where he finished second again. Congratulations also to the other three people who cashed: Joe Griffith, John Prather, and Nick Galauxy.
I made a total of 24 kingdoms for this tournament, 8 of which were designed. The spreadsheet containing those kingdoms along with other tournament information can be found here. Tables 1 through 7 saw play at the tournament, of which tables 1 through 4 were designed kingdoms (which I’ll talk about below). The other four kingdoms I designed for the finals did not see play, but they’re still in the spreadsheet if you want to try them out. I may make some content highlighting these kingdoms in the future but for this post I’ll only talk about the ones that were played at the tournament.
It was a bit disappointing to have a lower turnout and not get to finish the tournament, but there were a lot of positive things about the way it turned out as well, which I’m trying to focus on. I’m considering a few updates to the way I run future tournaments based on what I learned from this, including adding Cartographer to my ban list due to it taking a while to resolve IRL, sticking more rigidly to a time schedule than before, and moving my tournaments to a Spring/Fall cycle rather than a Winter/Summer cycle to avoid situations like this in the future. I also still hold out hope that the next tournament I host can be done at Origins in Columbus this summer, but a lot still has to go right for that to work out so I won’t promise anything just yet.
Now, let’s look into the four designed kingdoms that saw play in the tournament:
Table 1: Embargo, University, Castles, Shanty Town, Cutpurse, Treasure Map, Tragic Hero, Horn of Plenty, Swashbuckler, Bank; Sewers, Mission, Shelters
The concept here was to have weak draw and Sewers as the only thinning, and have the jankiest ways possible to enable it. You can trash a Hovel for Humble Castle, buy an Embargo or Treasure Map to trash them on-play, or potentially use Tragic Hero or Horn of Plenty’s self-trash abilities to thin your deck here. I also put in a combination of University and Horn of Plenty to allow someone who uses this trashing to bypass the likely Embargo spam. Eventually you can build to a big turn centered around trashing Tragic Heroes for Horns of Plenty, which give you a bunch of Provinces. Marlene, who finished fifth in the tournament and was one win away from winning it all, managed to build this core of the deck, though I think she started going for points early enough that she only got two or three Provinces in a single turn. It was still a crushing victory for her.
Bandit Fort with no really good way to get Provinces without Silvers and Golds. Many people bit the bullet and went for Silvers and Golds anyways, and some people even won the game doing that. On the other hand, there are ways to enable big Triumph turns here despite the lack of any decent draw. It’s possible to save up some Villager tokens from Sculptor plays on previous turns and spend them on Courtyards on a turn where you have a Ghost in play to gain a lot of cards on that turn and get one or two big Triumphs. A few people built this deck and had success with it as well.
It’s a tough deck to pilot, though, because there are a lot of things that need to stay in balance in order to keep a deck that functions at all. You’re gaining a lot of cards, so having the right number of Hideouts is important to keep the deck from getting too bloated and to make sure you can clean up the Silvers you need in the deck before the game is over. On your bigger turns you really want to be gaining as many cards as possible, so that means having a lot of Market Squares around for extra Copper buys, having some Estates or Cemeteries available to trash with Hideout and gain Curses, and enough Sculptors to keep gaining Silvers so that you can potentially get multiple Triumphs on those big turns.
It’s not crazy to put together a deck that can get two 7-8-point Triumphs every two or three turns and stay viable here.
There were a few things I was designing around here. First, I wanted to make it good to open with Exploration. Second, I wanted more of a “puzzley” board. Third, I wanted to have a dynamic where you saved up and carefully managed Villager tokens. And fourth, I wanted it to have a Renaissance-heavy kick without feeling like a lot of other Renaissance-heavy games where you just rush for Inventors. What ended up happening was a board where there are a lot of possibilities for what to do, and after a lot of tweaking and playtesting, I think the best build looks like this:
Open Steward/Exploration. Get a single Patron while trashing with Steward, and pick up 3 Inventors and 3-4 Engineers. You’ll want to be using your gainers for these things and give up your buys on a lot of turns to stockpile Villagers and Coffers so you can get a Canal (which still gives you the Exploration bonuses!) and ideally one Catacombs on top of that. Once you have all of this, you’ll want to take one turn to shove as many Lackeys as possible into the deck so you have 15 or so Villagers, and then on the next turn spend them all on Lackeys and Catacombs to draw everything (and potentially overdraw so you can gain-and-play some stuff from your earlier Inventors), play your three Inventors so that Provinces only cost $4, then blow up your Engineers so they gain you two Provinces each. I was able to consistently empty the Provinces by turn 12 using this strategy.
I put in a few distractions here: Courtier/Patron is really nice because it lets your use Patron’s reveal-ability along with giving you two of Courtier’s bonuses, but it doesn’t really help you build to this megaturn as fast so I don’t think Courtier is worth getting. Fairgrounds is there mostly as a distraction, Haven usually isn’t worth a buy, and originally I thought Remodel would be great in the deck but it turns out that Exploration is just a better opener and skipping over Remodel was part of the most efficient build I could come up with.
Ryan, the champion, is the only person I saw building this deck (though he made some variations on the build); he was able to get six Provinces in one turn with it.
Table 4: Fortune Teller, Tunnel, Warehouse, Conspirator, Scepter, Scholar, Legionary, Laboratory, Artisan, Grand Market; Capitalism, Star Chart
I’ve been holding on to the concept of this kingdom since early in the playtesting days for Renaissance: the core of the deck was to have a very short action phase where you just play a Scholar, and then in your buy phase, play all of your treasures, then play a Scepter as Scholar to reload and repeat. The deck needs quite a lot of help to function well, so I put it in here.
Star Chart ensures that you draw your Scholar every turn, which is really important. Capitalism can give you options for payload beyond just the basic treasures, and Legionary can give you an option against the other distractions I put in here: Laboratory, Warehouse and Tunnel, and Grand Market/Conspirator can build a decent deck, but it still has reliability issues because of Legionary (Fortune Teller then Legionary, then Fortune Teller again is brutal for this deck) and the complete lack of trashing. The Scholar deck just doesn’t care at all about getting hit by Legionary and has extra flexibility options because Scepter can be payload or more draw, whichever you need at the time. The Scholar deck can use Tunnel pretty well if it needs to, and there are still some crunchy decisions about whether or not you want to play your Coppers on a given turn, since you need at least a few Grand Markets in the deck for your Scepters to copy as it’s the only +Buy.
I saw a lot of people going for the distractions I put in, and a few people go for some of the Capitalism tricks I described, but nobody fully committed to the Scholar-for-draw plan during the tournament.
I want to thank everyone who was brave enough to come out for the tournament, especially whose who travelled in. It means a lot that there are this many people enthusiastic enough about the game and these tournaments that they’ll brave the elements for one of these. I’m looking forward to putting more of these on in the future!
This episode of Making Luck has an interview with Ryan, the winner of this tournament, starting at 13:40.