On April 15, 2023 I hosted my 14th in-person Dominion tournament near Cincinnati, OH. The turnout was 21 people with a larger-than-normal showing from people travelling out of town to come to the tournament. With the exception of the last tournament I hosted at Gen Con, this is the first local tournament I’ve hosted at a new venue, and based on how this went went, I think I want to host the rest of my in-person tournaments at the new venue.
The new venue was Victory Pints, which is a board game store kept in business by having a bar built-in instead of by Magic the Gathering. This was great for a few reasons: first, people could have food and drinks during the tournament and not have to have it delivered or go pick it up in between games; second, I didn’t have to schedule the tournament around MtG events, which meant I could reach out to my travellers with a bunch of options and pick a weekend that worked for a lot of people; third, the venue was excited to have us and help promote the event; and fourth, when the tournament was over, the store has a HUGE library of playable board games and stayed open late, so everyone who wanted to was able to stick around and have a good time playing board games without worrying about bringing their own games or getting kicked out of the store soon. I think that for both myself and everyone playing in the tournament, it was a much better experience and I’m excited to keep having my tournaments there.
Let’s talk about the tournament itself: we had 21 people show up, including a lot of travellers, and a fair number of people who were new to my tournaments. It’s so nice to be able to meet new people because of this game we’re both obsessed with, it’s the most rewarding part of running these tournaments for me. With such a good turnout, the competition was pretty fierce, and while only four people finished in the money, they could take home a nice chunk of cash and know that they beat out a lot of talented people to get it.
The champion this time was Robert (holding the trophy in the picture above) who is a first-time champion but has come to a few of my tournaments so far. He only lost one game the whole day (which was in the Swiss rounds, to our second-place finisher AHoppy). The trophy match was not played on-site due to time constraints.
Below is a table showing the overall standings from the tournament. Also, here’s a link to the spreadsheet which contains every kingdom used for the tournament (even the ones that weren’t played).
1. Robert 2. AHoppy 3. Charlotte 4. Michael S T5. Jonathan H T5. Jake T5. Sarah T5. Ryan T9. Shaila T9. Mike B T11. Scott T11. John P T11. Behram T11. Nathan T15. Bella M T15. Brian T17. Isaac T17. Jonathan B T17. Nick 20. Jim 21. Kim
All right, the next thing I want to do is talk about the designed kingdoms used for this tournament. I had four kingdoms designed for the bracket, with a backup kingdom if necessary, and all five were used. So let’s get to it!
Finals Kingdom 1: Settlers, Gardens, Guildmaster, Baron, Artisan, Throne Room, Capital, Market, Grotto, Storeroom, Order of Masons, Inheritance
The idea I built this kingdom around was inspired by a randomly-generated board I played once, where there is no trashing, but Order of Masons can function as effective trashing. I added in Inheritance and Settlers to give you the benefit of effectively drawing your Coppers “for free,” along with the potential Storeroom synergy. I also added in some early-game tactical stuff, giving you a few ways to hit an early Inheritance, but not all of them are created equal, and then what you Inherit can be a bit unclear as well.
After playtesting this one a lot, I really like a Baron/Grotto opening. It nearly guarantees that you hit $7 by turn 5 at the latest, and gives you a pretty clear path towards Inheriting Settlers. When a rough draw hits you, sometimes I think Inheriting Throne Room is pretty good, but most of the time I prefer Settlers. You can also open with a Capital, which will get you there, but I find that you end up with a worse deck when you get there, which can be a bit rough. From that point, the objective is to just get as many Favors as possible, because that functions as your trashing for a while. Once you’re able to have a turn with all of your Coppers in the discard pile, you just don’t draw bad cards anymore, so you’re able to build pretty quickly and add payload to your deck rapidly with Throne Room/Artisan tricks. This deck is also very resilient to greening, so Gardens is an option for catching up to an opponent with a Province lead, because there isn’t a great way for them to close out the game by draining Provinces.
Overall, I think this one played very well. It was played twice overall and I think the person with the better strategy came out on top both times.
Finals Kingdom 2: Sailor, Fawning (Hermit), Bridge Troll, Wizards, Laboratory, Merchant, Groom, Bauble, Caravan, Sheepdog, City-State
The inspiration for this kingdom came from two separate ideas that I merged together. The first idea was based around Sailor being the main village for playing Bridge Trolls. The second idea was the endgame trick where you reduce the cost of Province to $3 using Bridge Trolls (with the awkward villages available), get a pile of Favors ready, then buy a Province. This triggers a crazy sequence where you gain a Hermit because of the Fawning trait, play it immediately with City-State, and gain another Province. You can repeat this as long as you have Favors and until the Provinces are gone. After that, you can just buy Duchies with all of your buys because they cost $0.
It feels a lot like assembling the pieces of Exodia, which is a rare feeling in Dominion — get your Favors, grab a bunch of Sailors and some gainers in the mean time, and over the course of two turns, gain some Bridge Trolls and play them with Sailor. Once you get all of these things done, you just win the game. With a big enough stack of Favors, you can cut Sailor out of the equation, but Sailor is a good card for the deck anyways and definitely speeds you up.
This kingdom was only played once, but the player who won the game went for a lot of Bridge Trolls and ended up winning the game from it.
Finals Kingdom 3: Seer, Spice Merchant, Band of Misfits, Bandit, Astrolabe, Weaver, Marquis, Cardinal, Supplies, Importer, Family of Inventors, Barracks
This kingdom was all about using Family of Inventors to mess with the costs of everything, and lots of cards that care about those costs, especially Seer. Eventually I settled on the idea of using Importer as a hard cap on the number of Favors you have access to, which I wanted to make significant. In some playtesting games, I tried the tactic of reducing a card down to $1 so that Seer couldn’t draw it anymore, which was pretty effective as a tactic if you’ve lost the Seer split hard, and I was happy to see that come up in one of the two times this kingdom was played in the finals. More than anything, this one was meant to just be fun to play, because it offers a different “feel” to a Dominion game.
After playing this kingdom a lot in playtesting, I like a Seer/Spice Merchant opening (reducing the cost of both of them with Favors), grabbing a Weaver and then focusing down the Seers until they’re gone. From there, you can get lots of payload very quickly using Weaver to gain Silvers, Bandit to gain Golds, and depending on your draw situation you can add a Barracks/Marquis to help you draw your payload faster (either discard Weavers for payload or play a Bandit and use Seers to draw your payload). Sometimes you want to reduce the cost of Gold so your Seers can draw it, but you have to think about if that’s better for your opponent than you. There’s also the idea of keeping two Favors around to threaten to reduce the cost of Silver to $1 so Seer can’t draw it to limit your opponent’s options which can come up in some games.
Finals Kingdom 4: Priest, Witch’s Hut, Jewelled Egg, Worker’s Village, Sycophant, Siren, Beggar, Secluded Shrine, Village, Mining Road, March, Coastal Haven; Colony and Platinum
The idea behind this kingdom is to make you feel the effects of Beggar and March as draw. They are not good at being draw, but in this kingdom you’re desperate enough for draw because of Priest shenanigans (and you don’t mind the junk from Beggar) that they are definitely worth going for. Sure, you can draw with Siren and Witch’s Hut but you will find yourself getting a lot stronger if you can use March and Beggar in addition.
This kingdom received a lot of playtesting and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Actions and Buys are in abundance, so the more Priests you can play on your turns, the faster you can get control of your deck and the more payload you’ll have. There’s also a cool trick you can do if you have two or more Priests in play, you can buy a Siren and have the Siren trash itself for $4 or more, effectively converting your extra buys into more money while running out a pile.
After playtesting this one a lot, I’ve settled on a pretty good opening for the deck: open Priest/March (don’t Coastal Haven a card yet) and then on the next shuffle get a Worker’s Village and a Sycophant (don’t be tempted by your beautiful $5 hand, you need that Worker’s Village) and if possible, Haven a card on turn 4. From here you really want to get a Siren and March it on your next few turns, get a second Sycophant-> Siren, and pick up more Villages and Priests. You’ll want to use your Favors liberally to get things to line up so you can do this because once you’re getting a Siren out every turn, your Favors are pretty useless. If you’re getting junked heavily you’ll want to March Priests or Sirens pretty often to keep on top of your deck control. Sure, you can eventually get rid of your junks with Priest but playing Beggar to gain junks to hand is just so much better so you want to get the point where you’re doing that quickly.
“Backup” Finals Kingdom: Peddler, Highway, Devil’s Workshop, Silk Merchant, Flag Bearer, Search, Relic, Marauder, Tide Pools, Courier, Way of the Horse
I had seven kingdoms designed for this tournament, when I only needed four (maybe five), so if this one wasn’t needed I would just use it for the next tournament, but here we are. Sometimes the bracket works out in a way where the finalists have played all four kingdoms between them so we need a backup kingdom. This one was loosely inspired by a Highway/Silk Merchant megaturn that came up in a random kingdom, but I wanted to poke at it with Silk Merchant being the only village and Way of the Horse to keep your deck from being over-terminaled. There is definitely a megaturn here with Highway which is possible, but it’s very tricky to set up because there’s no trashing at all, so you’re relying on Way of the Horse and Imp for draw.
The trick is to bank Villagers by gaining Silk Merchants and returning them with Horse, while contesting Highways along with that. Once you have 3-5 Villagers and the Highways are gone, you can have one “setup” turn where you buy 3-4 Silk Merchants, which should let you pop off on the following turn and grab whatever Provinces (or pile cards) are left. Grabbing some Searches along the way and seeing which Loots you pick up definitely affects the math, but you’ll know what you need to do when the Highways run out and you see which Loots you get.
There are a few other tactical things going on here: The Flag is super important in my mind, because the draw is so tight and you can just Horse the Flag Bearer. Tide Pools is a trap as always, and finding time for Searches and terminal space to play them is a crunchy decision to make as it’s something that can help you a lot in the late game.
The other interesting thing is that the player who won the game with this kingdom (the tournament champion, since this was the final game) used a strategy that I want to playtest a bit more: Search Spam. He did contest the Highways, but for the most part his strategy revolved around buying Search every turn until they were gone and getting a ton of Loots (then Horsing a Search so he could re-buy it and get more Loots, which was a cute trick) and just greening right away. This strategy seems pretty bad when you just talk about it but I’ve heard enough stories of this being good (it won the tournament finals here, for instance) that I want to do a bit more digging.
In any case, that’s my write-up for this tournament. I had a really good time hosting and I think this new venue is a great thing for everyone involved. I’ll see everyone (and hopefully more people!) for the Fall tournament this year; I’m thinking Late September, and thanks to everyone who came for this one!