Dominion (card game)
The box cover of Dominion
|Designer(s)||Donald X. Vaccarino|
|Publisher(s)||Rio Grande Games|
|Players||2 to 4 (up to 6 with the Intrigue expansion)|
|Age range||10 and up|
|Setup time||5–10 minutes|
|Playing time||~30 minutes|
|Skill(s) required||Resource management, Planning|
Dominion is a designer card game created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande Games. Each player uses a separate deck of cards that only they generally have access to; players draw their hands from their own decks, not others'. At the end of the game, the player with the highest number of victory points wins. The game has a light medieval theme, with card names that reference pre-industrial, monarchical, and feudal social structures.
Gameplay is influenced by mechanics of collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering, with the distinction that players build their decks ad hoc as the game proceeds. Dominion is the first game of its kind, and has spawned several similar card-based games, dubbed "deck-builders". Vaccarino developed Dominion with expansion sets in mind that introduced new mechanics atop the existing base set, opening the game to numerous variations of play.
The game was released at Spiel 2008 in multiple languages and voted best game of the fair by the Fairplay polls with a rating of 1.75 from 147 votes. In 2009, it won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis awards. It was one of five winning games in American Mensa's 2009 MindGame competition. By the end of 2010, more than one million copies of it and its expansions had been sold worldwide.
Dominion is a deck-building card game in which two or more players compete to gather the most valuable deck of cards. There are four main classes of cards:
- Victory cards, which have a Victory Point value that is tallied at the end of the game to determine the winner, but generally have no value during the game.
- Curse cards, which are like Victory cards, but have a negative Victory Point value that counts against the player at the end of the game.
- Treasure cards, played during the Buy Phase, which generate Coins (and sometimes have other effects).
- Action cards generate effects during a player's turn, allowing that player to draw more cards to his hand; generate Coins, Buys, or Actions; gain or get rid of cards; or they may affect other players in the game.
There are other modifying card types. Attack cards generally adversely affect other players, such as forcing them to discard cards from their hand or gain Curse cards. Reaction cards can be triggered out of turn in response to a certain event, such as other players' Attacks.
Some cards are hybrids of the above classes, such as an Action-Victory card which can be used during a player's turn but also counts as some number of Victory Points at the end of the game.
The game is always set up with the same seven stacks of basic cards; there are three stacks of Victory cards, one stack of Curse cards, and three stacks of Treasure cards. In addition, ten stacks of Kingdom cards (typically Action cards) are added to the table. The Kingdom cards can be either selected by the players or chosen randomly. Certain Kingdom cards from the game's expansions may require additional stacks to be added, such as the Potion card (a Treasure card) from the "Alchemy" expansion. These piles represent the finite Supply of cards. Finally, each player receives the same starting deck of ten cards, consisting of seven basic Treasure cards and three basic Victory cards. Each player shuffles his deck, and randomly draws five cards to start the game.
Each turn, the player performs the following phases (abbreviated as "ABC" to help new players remember the order):
- Action phase: The player can play one Action card from his hand, following its instructions. Some Action cards generate additional Actions, which means that the player can play more Action cards.
- Buy phase: The player can play any Treasure cards he wants from his hand, generating Coins. Then he can buy a card from the Supply, using the Coins he has generated in his Action phase and Buy phase. If he has generated additional Buys, he can buy more than one card. All cards have the price in Coins printed on them. Bought cards are added to the player's discard pile (from which they will later be shuffled into his deck).
- Clean-up phase: The player collects his hand and all played cards and places those into his discard pile. He then draws five new cards from his deck.
If at any time the player must draw a card from his deck, but his deck is empty, he shuffles his existing discard pile and uses it as his new deck. Some Action cards can trash cards, removing them from the game permanently.
The game ends under two conditions: when the stack of Province cards (the highest-value Victory card in the base game) has been exhausted, or when any three other stacks in the Supply have been exhausted. At that time, the players count the number of Victory Points in their complete decks, and the player with the highest score is the winner.
The game has been compared to the "draft" gameplay style of collectible card games where players vie for the best deck from a common pool of cards. Usually, the game's main strategy is to strive to build a deck that maximizes the player's ability to draw hands that provide 8 coins, which then allows the player to purchase a Province card, the highest value Victory card in the base game. Players must balance effective deck building to reach this coin goal with the acquisition of Victory cards to win the game; most Victory cards have no value during most of the game, and dilute a player's deck of Treasure and Action cards, clogging up his draws.
Vaccarino was a video game programmer and developer in San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s, during which he spent time playing German-style board games that were coming out, prior to the release of Magic: The Gathering in 1993. His interest in Magic sparked his own development of a 90-card fan-made extension for the game, Edge of the World, and he would become an informal contributor towards additional Magic works, including being credited in the official Magic rulebook. He developed several game ideas in the intervening years and discussed them with Magic's creator, Richard Garfield.
In 2006, Vaccarino came upon the idea of a deck-building card game where the player, acting as an adventurer, would acquire cards during play to boost his adventurer's abilities. He struggled with the mechanics of the game before a deadline of showing the game to his local gaming group, and spent one weekend to strip down the game to its core elements; specifically, having problems with the concept of introducing cards that could be acquired over time, Vaccarino instead opted to simply have all such cards available at the start of the game. Vaccarino introduced the game to his local gaming group at a gaming store; the game immediately became popular, overshadowing the usual staples including Magic over the next two years.
With the success of the game with his local group, Vaccarino began looking to refine and publish the game. During the 2007 Origins Game Fair, Vaccarino demonstrated the game, and got the interest of Rio Grande Games. Shortly after being signed on with Rio Grande, Board Game Geek's columnists Valerie Putman and Dale Yu requested Rio Grande to allow them to develop the game. During development, Dominion was originally called "Castle Builder", due to its theme of building rooms in a castle, and then, later, "Game X"; Yu is credited with the final name of Dominion. Vaccarino had planned early on for the game to grow through expansions, though focused these on maintaining the core functionality of the game instead of immediately adding "exotic things"; this was to ensure that, if the game did take off, that early expansions would not create two disparate sets of cards, one focused on the normal Dominion play, and a second with a strange new mechanic. In a post to Board Game Geek, Vaccarino suggested that he had originally planned out seven different expansions from the start, and in fact, in tuning the core game for release, took cards originally planned for later expansions into the base game.
Dominion has been translated into 18 languages (Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish), comprising 6 different alphabets.
"Standalone" means that the set comes with the basic cards required for every play: Estates, Duchies, Provinces, Coppers, Silvers, Golds, Curses, and a Trash card.
|Dominion (Base game)||October 2008||Standalone||500||The original game. Includes 25 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Intrigue||July 2009||Standalone||500||Decisions among multiple possible effects; Victory cards with an in-game effect. Includes 25 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Seaside||October 2009||Expansion||300||Effects that persist to the player's next turn. Includes 26 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Alchemy||May 2010||Small Expansion||150||Introduces the Potion Treasure, an alternate card cost; emphasizes the creation of decks with large numbers of Action cards. Includes 12 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Prosperity||October 2010||Expansion||300||With a focus on wealth, it introduces high value Treasure and Victory cards as well as victory point tokens, and expensive cards. Includes 25 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Cornucopia||June 2011||Small Expansion||150||Emphasizes variety in player decks; introduced a "Prize" stack, which are non-Supply cards that can be won only under certain conditions. Includes 13 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Hinterlands||October 2011||Expansion||300||Cards that have an additional effect when bought or otherwise gained. Includes 26 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Dark Ages||August 2012||Large Expansion||500||Cards that do something when trashed, cards that care about the Trash, cards that upgrade themselves, and ways to upgrade other cards. Includes 35 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Guilds||Spring (perhaps June) 2013||Small Expansion||150||Coin tokens that you can save to spend later, and cards you can get more out of by paying extra for them. Includes 13 types of Kingdom cards.|
|Base Cards||June 2012||Replacement Cards||250||A set of all basic cards (Treasures, Victory, and Curse cards) from the standalones and expansions with new design and different art. No Kingdom Cards come within this set.|
Vaccarino plans to stop expanding the game after Guilds, though he concedes:
Still, it’s likely that at some point the publishers will want another expansion and, well, I like to be friendly. So I can’t guarantee that Guilds is the end of the line, but you can at least think of it as a dividing point between regular expansions and occasional expansions.
Promotional Cards 
Mini-expansions consisting of a set of a single card type have been released as promotional items.
- Dominion: Envoy (Nov. 2008)
- Dominion: Black Market (March 2009)
- Dominion: Stash (Feb. 2010)
- Dominion: Walled Village (June 2011)
- Dominion: Governor (Oct. 2011)
Online Play 
A licensed browser-based online implementation of Dominion, hosted by Goko, went live in early March 2013. It was originally intended to be released to the public on August 16, 2012, but because of bugs and server overload, it was withdrawn from public release and returned to beta testing. The official app provides the base Dominion game free to play, and cards from the expansions are available for a fee.
Several unofficial online implementations of Dominion existed prior to the official implementation's launch; Rio Grande Games has requested that these unofficial Dominion implementations be discontinued now that the official online implementation is released. One of these unofficial implementations, located at dominion.isotropic.org, was used by Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino to play-test the development of new cards.
- 2008 Meeples Choice Awards
- 2009 Spiel des Jahres
- 2009 Deutscher Spiele Preis
- 2009 Mensa Select
- 2009 Golden Geek Award (Game of the Year & Card Game of the Year)
- 2009 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming
- 2009 Origins Award, best card game of the year
- 2009 BoardGamer.ru (Russia), Best Card Game of the Year
- 2009 Boughtalot.ru, best game of the year
- Varley, Allen (2009-08-09). "Dominion Over All". Escapist. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- Eingestellt von Harald (Sunday, 26 October 2008). "Die beliebtesten Spiele der Spiel ’08 – die Top Ten der Scouts". Fairplay online (in German). Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Herny, David (18 February 2009). "Review of Dominion". RPGnet. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Martin, W. Eric (2008-10-17). "Game Preview/Review: Dominion". Board Game Geek. Archived from the original on 2008-10-20. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- Valerie Putman: Game X = Dominion
- Vaccarino, Donald X. (2008-11-13). "The Secret History of the Dominion Cards". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- "So, um How Long Before We Learn Something". Board Game Geek.
- "BoardGameGeek". BoardGameGeek News.
- Andrea "Liga", Ligabue. "The Art of Design: interviews to game designers #19—Donald X. Vaccarino". OpinionatedGamers.com. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Dominion: Envoy Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Spielefest Wien 28.-30.11.2008" (in German). Spieletest. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Black Market Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Stash Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Walled Village Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Governor Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- Duryee, Tricia (21 August 2012). "Goko’s HTML5 Game Portal Goes Back to Beta After Failed Launch". All Things D. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- Squires, Jim (16 August 2012). "HTML5 games get their own Dominion: Goko.com". GameZebo. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- "Online Dominion Closure FAQ". Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- Rio Grande Games' Dominion homepage
- Dominion at BoardGameGeek
- Strategy Wiki
- Dominion Online powered by Goko