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.