Dominion (card game)
Box cover art
|Designer(s)||Donald X. Vaccarino|
|Publisher(s)||Rio Grande Games|
|Players||2 to 4 (up to 6 with additional base cards)|
|Setup time||5–10 minutes|
|Playing time||~30 minutes|
|Skill(s) required||Resource management, Planning|
Dominion is a deck-building card game created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande Games. Each player uses a separate deck of cards and draw their hands from their own decks, not those of others. Players use the cards in their hands to either perform actions or buy select cards from a common pool of card stacks. The player with the most victory points at the end wins. The game has a "light" medieval theme, with card names that reference pre-industrial, monarchical, and feudal social structures.
Regarding the feel of the game, parallels are often drawn with collectible card games such as the popular Magic: The Gathering. Vaccarino, however, denies that Magic was the inspiration. Unlike that game, players of Dominion build their decks ad hoc as the game proceeds, rather than coming to the table with a pre-made deck. Dominion was the first game of its kind, but has spawned a whole genre of similar card-based games dubbed "deck-building games" (and retroactively applied as a descriptor to this game).
When the game was publicly released at Spiel 2008 in Essen, Germany, in multiple languages, it was voted "best game of the fair" by the Fairplay polls. The next year, 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.
The success of the game has led to a plethora of expansions. By 2016, more than 2.5 million copies of Dominion and its many expansions had been sold worldwide. As of March 2020, expansions were still being published, thus also contributing to its Magic-like feel, since Magic also regularly releases expansion sets. Unlike Magic, Dominion is not a TCG; each player starts with the same card pool, instead of their own decks, with cards they own. Other notable differences exist between Dominion and other similar card games.
Dominion is a deck-building card game in which two to four players compete to gather the most valuable deck of cards. 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.
Cards are classified into several "types", including:
- Victory cards have a Victory Point value at the end of the game but usually have no use while the game is actually in progress.
- 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.
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. Kingdom Card piles, in addition to the base card piles, represent the finite Supply of cards. Certain Kingdom cards from the game's expansions might require additional stacks of cards to be added to the Supply, or accessories such as tokens to be available to players.
Each player receives the same starting deck of ten cards, consisting usually of seven Copper cards (low-value Treasure) and three Estate cards (low-value Victory). Each player shuffles their deck and draws the top five cards to form their hand.
Each turn, the player gains one Action and one Buy, and performs the following phases in order (abbreviated as "ABC" as a mnemonic for newer players):
- Action phase: The player can play one Action card from their hand, following the card's printed instructions. By default only one Action card may be played, but some Action cards have instructions that give the player permission to play additional Action cards that same turn. Action cards may also generate additional Buys and Coins for subsequent phases in the turn, or have the player draw additional cards, or have a variety of other effects.
- Buy phase: The player can play any Treasure cards they want from their hand, generating Coins. Then they may use the Coins they have generated in their Action phase and Buy phase to buy a card from the Supply; if the player has no Coins, they may still buy a card with a zero Coin cost. By default only one card may be bought, but if a player has generated additional Buys earlier in the turn, they may divide their Coins among multiple purchases. 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. Unused Actions, Buys, and Coins do not carry over to future turns.
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 (though a few Actions from expansions can recover them).
The game ends under one of two conditions: when the stack of Province cards (the highest-value Victory card in the base game) has been exhausted, or when any three 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.
Since possessing Victory cards is necessary to win the game, but they usually have no value during gameplay itself, players must balance the acquisition of Victory cards with useful Action and Treasure cards that maintain the player's ability to play effective turns. Usually, the game's main strategy is to build a deck that maximizes the player's ability to draw hands that can buy the Province card (worth 6 points and costing 8 coins).
Vaccarino was a software developer in the 1980s and 1990s. He spent time playing hobbyist board games 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 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.
In 2006, Vaccarino invented the deck-building mechanic while working on a fantasy adventure card game called "Spirit Warriors II". He struggled with the mechanics of the game before a deadline of showing the game to his local gaming group, and spent one weekend stripping 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 then 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 gained the interest of Rio Grande Games. Shortly after being signed on with Rio Grande, BoardGameGeek's columnists Valerie Putman and Dale Yu requested permission from Rio Grande to develop the game. During development, Dominion was called "Castle Builder", owing 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, early on, planned 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 incompatible sets of cards: one focused on the normal Dominion play, and others with a strange new mechanic. In a post to BoardGameGeek, Vaccarino suggested that he had originally planned seven different expansions from the start, and in fact, in tuning the core game for release, brought cards into the base game that were originally planned for later expansions.
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.
Numerous expansions have been released for "Dominion", which include standalone sets that do not require the core game, and expansions that require the core game or one of the standalone sets. "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). Mats where cards are set aside and re-added to the deck at the end of the game.|
|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.|
|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||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 (Coffers). Cards you can get more out of by paying extra for them.|
|Adventures||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. More Duration cards, with some that stay in play indefinitely.|
|Empires||June 2016||Expansion||300||24||Debt tokens. Cards you can buy now and pay for later. Split piles where the supply of one card must be exhausted before the other half of the pile can be bought or gained. Landmarks, which add new ways to score. Duration cards, VP tokens, and Events return from previous sets.|
|Nocturne||November 2017||Expansion||500||33||A new type of cards, called Night cards, which are played in the Night Phase (which comes after the Buy Phase and before the Clean-Up Phase) during a player's turn. Also adds in more non-supply cards that cannot be "bought" in the normal manner. Hexes and Boons, which aren't "Cards" or "Events" per se but have effects similar to events.|
|Renaissance||November 2018||Expansion||300||25||Tokens that let you save coins and actions for later, Projects that grant abilities, and Artifacts to fight over.|
|Menagerie||March 2020||Expansion||400||30||Horses which can only be gained with certain cards, Exile mats which temporarily remove cards from your deck, Ways which give another option for you action cards, and Events return.|
Vaccarino originally planned to stop expanding the game after Guilds, though he conceded:
"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, 5 sets plus 21 new cards have been released. After the release of Menagerie, Dominion has now 585 differently named cards. One of the major appeals of Dominion is its endless variety. No two games are the same. There are 366 different Kingdom Card piles (including the 6 each in the 1st Edition Base and Intrigue releases that were later replaced). Since each game uses 10 Kingdom Card piles, there are now over 1.0E+19 (10 quintillion) possible unique game combinations.
Mini-expansions, most consisting of a set of a single kind of Kingdom card, 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)
- Dominion: Prince (June 2014)
- Event: Summon (autumn 2015)
- Split pile: Sauna + Avanto (September 2016)
- Dismantle (December 2017)
- Captain (July 2019)
- Church (July 2019)
Big Box Compilations
- 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.
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 provided the base Dominion game free to play, and cards from the expansions available for a fee.
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. One of these unofficial implementations, however, located at dominion.isotropic.org, 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.
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. Making Fun honored all purchases made by customers from the original Goko implementation.
In February 2016, John Welch, CEO of Making Fun announced 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 1, 2017, development of the official online Dominion game, located at dominion.games, is licensed to Shuffle iT.
Since the game and its expansions feature over 4,000 cards, Rio Grande Games has licensed manufacturers' creation of containers to store all the cards into one or two boxes.
- 2008 Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game
- 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
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- "Dominion: Envoy Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Spielefest Wien 28.-30.11.2008" (in German). Spieletest. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Black Market Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Stash Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Walled Village Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Governor Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Dominion: Prince Promo Card". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- "Dominion: Event Summon Promo Card". Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- "Dominion: Sauna / Avanto Promo Card". Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- Duryee, Tricia (21 August 2012). "Goko's HTML5 Game Portal Goes Back to Beta After Failed Launch". All Things D. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
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- "Online Dominion Closure FAQ". Retrieved 21 May 2015.
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- "35th Origins Awards". GAMA. 2009. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
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