Dominion (card game)

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Dominion game.jpg
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
Random chance Medium
Skill(s) required Resource management, Planning

Dominion is a deck-building game created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande Games. Each player uses a separate deck of cards to which only they have access; players draw their hands from their own decks, not others'. During turns, players use their cards to perform various actions and purchase cards from a common pool of card stacks available to all players, including those that give them more actions, coins to purchase cards, and victory cards that are otherwise valueless during the game. At the end of the game, defined when certain common stacks are exhausted, 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.

Some have drawn parallels with collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering,[1] with the distinction that players build their decks ad hoc as the game proceeds. (Vaccarino, however, denies that Magic was the inspiration.[2]) Dominion is the first game of its kind, and has spawned a genre of similar card-based games, dubbed "deck-builders".[1] 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.[3] 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.[4]


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 their hand; generate Coins, Buys, or Actions; gain or get rid of cards; or 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.

A game of Dominion in progress at the 2011 PAX East exposition

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 usually three basic Victory cards. Each player shuffles their deck, and draws the top five cards to form their hand 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 their 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 they want from their hand, generating Coins. Then they can buy a card from the Supply, using the Coins they have generated in their Action phase and Buy phase. If they have generated additional Buys, they 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 their deck).
  • Clean-up phase: The player collects their hand and all played cards and places those into their discard pile. They then draw five new cards from their deck.

If at any time the player must draw a card from their deck, but their deck is empty, they shuffle their existing discard pile and use it as their 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. Other end-game conditions have been introduced in the game's expansions.

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 their draws.[5]


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.[1] 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.[1]

In 2006, Vaccarino invented the deck-building mechanic while working on a fantasy adventure card game called "Spirit Warriors II".[6] 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.[7] 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.[1]

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.[8] 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 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.[8][9] 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, 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.[1] In a post to Board Game Geek, Vaccarino suggested that he had originally planned out seven different expansions from the start,[1] and in fact, in tuning the core game for release, took cards originally planned for later expansions into the base game.[10]

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.

Name Re­lease Date Type Cards Kinds of King­dom card Theme
Dom­in­ion (Base game) Oc­to­ber 2008 Stand­a­lone 500 25 The ori­gin­al game.
In­trigue July 2009 Stand­a­lone 500 25 Decisions among multiple possible effects. Hybrid cards that are both Victory cards and another type.
Sea­side Oc­to­ber 2009 Ex­pan­sion 300 26 Cards with effects that happen on the player's next turn.
Al­che­my May 2010 Ex­pan­sion 150 12 The Potion Treasure as an alternate card cost, with cards that require a Potion as well as Coin to be bought. Decks with large numbers of Action cards.
Pros­per­i­ty Oc­to­ber 2010 Ex­pan­sion 300 25 Expensive cards and Treasures that do something when played in the Buy phase. Higher-value basic Treasure and Victory cards. VP tokens.
Cor­nu­co­pi­a June 2011 Ex­pan­sion 150 13 Cards that are more useful when there is variety in the player's deck.
Hin­ter­lands Oc­to­ber 2011 Ex­pan­sion 300 26 Cards that have an additional effect when bought or otherwise gained.
Dark Ages August 2012 Ex­pan­sion 500 35 Cards that have an additional effect when trashed. Cards that care about the Trash. Cards that upgrade themselves. Ways to upgrade other cards.
Guilds June 2013 Ex­pan­sion 150 13 Coin tokens that can be saved to spend later. Cards you can get more out of by paying extra for them.
Adventures[11] April 2015 Ex­pan­sion 400[12] 30 Cards that can be saved for the right moment. Events, which give you something to buy besides cards. Tokens that can modify cards.
Base Cards[13] June 2012 Re­place­ment Cards 250 0 (A set of all the basic cards—Treasures, Victory, and Curse cards—from the standalones and expansions with new design and different art. No Kingdom Cards.)

Vaccarino originally planned to stop expanding the game after Guilds, though he conceded:[14]

"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."

Now, Adventures is the next set, being released sometime in 2015.

Promotional Cards[edit]

Mini-expansions, consisting each of a set of a single kind of Kingdom card, have been released as promotional items.

  • Dominion: Envoy (Nov. 2008)[15][16]
  • Dominion: Black Market (March 2009)[17]
  • Dominion: Stash (Feb. 2010)[18]
  • Dominion: Walled Village (June 2011)[19]
  • Dominion: Governor (Oct. 2011)[20]
  • Dominion: Prince (June 2014)[21]

Online Play[edit]

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.[22] The official app provides the base Dominion game free to play, and cards from the expansions are available for a fee.[23]

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.[24] One of these unofficial implementations, located at, was used by Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino to play-test the development of new cards.

Storage Solutions[edit]

With over 3000 cards available with Dominion and all of its expansions, Rio Grande Games has licensed out to certain manufacturers to create storage containers to combine all of the cards into one or two boxes to facilitate storage and transportation issues with owners of multiple expansions.[25]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Varley, Allen (2009-08-09). "Dominion Over All". Escapist. p. 1. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  2. ^ Derek Thompson (2012-02-29). "Game Designer Interview: Donald X. Vaccarino… Again!". MeepleTown. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  3. ^ Eingestellt von Harald (26 October 2008). "Die beliebtesten Spiele der Spiel ’08 – die Top Ten der Scouts". Fairplay online (in German). Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Herny, David (18 February 2009). "Review of Dominion". RPGnet. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Secret History of Dominion". BoardGameGeek. 2013-06-24. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  7. ^ Varley, p. 2
  8. ^ a b 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. 
  9. ^ Valerie Putman: Game X = Dominion
  10. ^ Vaccarino, Donald X. (2008-11-13). "The Secret History of the Dominion Cards". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  11. ^ "Rio Grande Games". 
  12. ^ "BoardGameGeek". BoardGameGeek. 
  13. ^ "BoardGameGeek". BoardGameGeek News. 
  14. ^ Andrea "Liga", Ligabue. "The Art of Design: interviews to game designers #19—Donald X. Vaccarino". Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "Dominion: Envoy Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  16. ^ "Spielefest Wien 28.-30.11.2008" (in German). Spieletest. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Dominion: Black Market Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  18. ^ "Dominion: Stash Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  19. ^ "Dominion: Walled Village Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "Dominion: Governor Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  21. ^ "Dominion: Prince Promo Card". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  22. ^ Duryee, Tricia (21 August 2012). "Goko’s HTML5 Game Portal Goes Back to Beta After Failed Launch". All Things D. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Squires, Jim (16 August 2012). "HTML5 games get their own Dominion:". GameZebo. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  24. ^ "Online Dominion Closure FAQ". Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  25. ^ "Origins Summer Preview: Dominion". 18 June 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 

External links[edit]