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)
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; players draw their hands from their own decks, not others'. Players use their cards to perform actions and buy cards from a common pool of card stacks, including Action, Treasure, and Victory cards. The player with the most victory points wins. The game has a light medieval theme, with card names that reference pre-industrial, monarchical, and feudal social structures.

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

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 2016, more than 2.5 million copies of it and its expansions had been sold worldwide.


Dominion is a deck-building card game in which two to four players compete to gather the most valuable deck of cards. Cards are classified into several "types", including:

  • Victory cards have a Victory Point value but usually have no use during the game.
  • Curse cards are like Victory cards but have a negative Victory Point value.
  • Treasure cards generate Coins which can be used to buy other cards during the Buy phase.
  • Action cards generate effects during a player's Action phase. Some of these effects might include drawing more cards; generating Coins, Buys, or Actions; gaining or getting rid of cards; or affecting other players.

Some cards feature additional type designations. For example, Attack cards hurt 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.

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; 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 might require additional stacks, 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.

Each turn, the player performs the following phases in order (abbreviated as "ABC"):

  • 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 the player must draw a card from their deck, but their deck is empty, they shuffle their discard pile to create a new deck. Some Action cards can trash cards, removing them from players' decks and into the "trash", where they are out of the game unless certain actions from the Dark Ages expansion are used to recover them.

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. Players then count the number of Victory Points in their decks, and the player with the highest score wins. 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 build a deck that maximizes the player's ability to draw hands with 8 coins. This allows the player to buy 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.[4]


Vaccarino was a video game programmer and developer in San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s. He spent time playing new German-style board games, prior to the release of Magic: The Gathering in 1993.[5] His interest in Magic sparked his own development of a 90-card fan-made extension for the game, Edge of the World, and he became an informal contributor towards additional Magic works. He is 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.[5] 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.[5]

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 gained the interest of Rio Grande Games.[7] Shortly after being signed on with Rio Grande, BoardGameGeek'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.[7][8] 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.[9] In a post to BoardGameGeek, Vaccarino suggested that he had originally planned 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]

In 2016, Rio Grande Games announced a Second Edition for the base set of Dominion and its first expansion, Intrigue, featuring the removal of 6 cards from each set, replaced by 7 new cards each, as well as updating the layout and wording of all cards.

Dominion has been translated into 18 languages (Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, bokmål Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish), comprising 6 different alphabets.


"Standalone" means that the set comes with the basic cards required to play: Estates, Duchies, Provinces, Coppers, Silvers, Golds, Curses, and a Trash card.

Name Re­lease Date Type Cards King­dom Card Piles Theme
Dominion (Base game) October 2008 (1st ed) / October 2016 (2nd ed) Standalone 500 25 (1st ed) / 26 (2nd ed) The original game. Relatively simple cards.
Intrigue July 2009 (1st ed)/October 2016 (2nd ed) Standalone (1st ed) / Expansion (2nd ed) 500 (1st ed) / 300 (2nd ed) 25 (1st ed) / 26 (2nd ed) Decisions among multiple possible effects. Hybrid cards that are both Victory cards and another type.
Seaside October 2009 Expansion 300 26 Duration cards (cards with effects that happen longer than one 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. Victory Point 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.
Base Cards[11] 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.
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. Shelters (initial three cards), Ruins (bad cards), Spoils (one-use golds), Looters (cards that give Ruins).
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[12] April 2015 Expansion 400 30 Reserve cards (cards that are set aside when played and can be used when the right moment comes), Events (immediate effects that players can buy), Traveller cards (cards that can be exchanged for other cards), player-owned tokens that modify cards, Duration cards.
Empires[13] June 2016 Expansion 300 24 Cards you can buy now and pay for later, piles with multiple different cards, and Landmarks which add new ways to score. Duration cards, VP tokens, and Events return from previous sets.

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."

Since then, the sets Adventures and Empires were released, as well as the promotional cards Prince, Summon and Sauna+Avanto, as well as 14 new cards for the second edition of Dominion and Intrigue.

Promotional cards[edit]

Mini-expansions, most consisting 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]
  • Event: Summon (autumn 2015)
  • Split pile: Sauna + Avanto (September 2016)

Big Box Compilations[edit]

  • Dominion Big Box (2010) - Contains Dominion (2008), Alchemy (2010), Prosperity (2010), and 2 promotional cards: Envoy and Black Market. Later editions included alternate promotional cards: Walled Village and Governor.
  • Dominion Big Box II (2016) - Contains Dominion Second Edition (2016) and Dominion: Intrigue Second Edition (2016) and additional base cards for 5 and 6 player games.

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 provided the base Dominion game free to play, and cards from the expansions available for a fee.[23]

Several unofficial online implementations of Dominion existed prior to the official launch of Goko's implementation; Rio Grande Games requested that these unofficial Dominion implementations be discontinued once the official online implementation was released.[24] One of these unofficial implementations, however, located at, was used by Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino and his playtesters during the development of new cards, even long after the site was closed to the public.[citation needed]

As of October 2015, the official Goko online implementation of Dominion had transitioned to a new official 2.0 online implementation developed by Making Fun.[25] Making Fun honored all purchases made by customers from the original Goko implementation.

In February 2016, John Welch, CEO of Making Fun announced[26] that the license granted to Making Fun by Rio Grande Games to develop the official online Dominion game would expire at the end of 2016, and would not be renewed with Making Fun.

From January 1st, 2017, development of the official online Dominion game is licensed to Shuffle iT and is available here.

Outsourcing storage[edit]

Since the game and its expansions feature over 3000 cards, Rio Grande Games has licensed manufacturers' creation of containers to store all the cards into one or two boxes.[27]



  1. ^ a b c d 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. ^ Herny, David (18 February 2009). "Review of Dominion". RPGnet. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Varley, Allen (2009-08-09). "Dominion Over All". Escapist. p. 2. Retrieved 2015-08-15. 
  6. ^ "The Secret History of Dominion". BoardGameGeek. 2013-06-24. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  7. ^ a b Martin, W. Eric (2008-10-17). "Game Preview/Review: Dominion". BoardGameGeek. Archived from the original on 2008-10-20. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  8. ^ Valerie Putman: Game X = Dominion Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Varley, Allen (2009-08-09). "Dominion Over All". Escapist. p. 3. Retrieved 2015-08-15. 
  10. ^ Vaccarino, Donald X. (2008-11-13). "The Secret History of the Dominion Cards". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  11. ^ "BoardGameGeek". BoardGameGeek News. 
  12. ^ "Rio Grande Games". 
  13. ^ "Rio Grande Games". 
  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". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  16. ^ "Spielefest Wien 28.-30.11.2008" (in German). Spieletest. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Dominion: Black Market Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  18. ^ "Dominion: Stash Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  19. ^ "Dominion: Walled Village Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "Dominion: Governor Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  21. ^ "Dominion: Prince Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. 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 21 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "Transitioning to 2.0". 7 October 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  26. ^ "2016 Plan + Future". 2 February 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  27. ^ "Origins Summer Preview: Dominion". 18 June 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 

External links[edit]