The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘Dominion

Gathering of Friends ’21 recap

I already mentioned Nemesis and Who Goes There, but here are some brief thoughts on the other games I played last week. Unless otherwise mentioned, I played each game once. Surprisingly, I liked a fair number of the games.

City of the Big Shoulders: My second play. I think this is a fine Euro intro to 18xx, but the resource track just doesn’t work. It’s too easy for someone to block a company by buying all but one resource from each box. Maybe that means you should focus on getting the improvements that get you cubes but this game really just needs a Power Grid style market. But if you play with a gentleman’s agreement to not mess with that, it kind of works. (Arguably companies that start in later turns should also get some prestige bump). And the fact that there is no train rusting makes this a bit ‘loose’ but the worker placement game feels OK. I think this is solidly indifferent, but worth a play now and again.

Dice Realms: Played a near-production copy. I mean, this is a Tom Lehmann game, so it’s an automatic buy (even at $120). This is “Dominion with dice” (where you pop off and replace die faces). My main worry is that most of the time will be spent trying to remember which die face is where and fiddling with it (although it was relatively easy to do, I still think that this will be an X-minute game where X/2 of your time is strictly mechanical …. find face to upgrade, pop off, replace … and then a few minutes to re-set the game). Still, I expect I’ll get at least a few dozen games and fifty is always a possibility, even if it is too late. Assuming it makes it to the stores in time for winter break, this will likely be the game I play with the TaoLing when he is back from college. Cautiously enthusiastic.

Finito: This is a fast little dice game. You put a numbered marker (1-12) on the space on a number line that was rolled on a d20 (OK, a bingo card). If the number is covered, you move to the next higher/lower space. Once all the numbers are placed, you move a number to the number rolled. Each player does this simultaneously (ala Take it Easy) and the first to get their numbers in order wins. Cute little filler. Indifferent.

High Frontier for All: I liked HF3, and I like the improvements to HF4. The contracts are a good jump start. Making a contract auction also tied to a political action means the politics system matters (although I don’t particularly care for it, as I think for a game this long sudden claim jumping is just annoying). But I certainly don’t care enough to buy a new version for a few changes. I think High Frontier is now in the “This is a decent once every year or two game.” Indifferent.

Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile: Oath is a fun experience, and I’m not at all sure it’s a good game. Great art. Great ideas. I played twice (and the set we used played a few different games between). It was fun seeing the world slowly change from game to game, but that means that a random set could be grossly imbalanced in such a way that if you played the last game on the set and other’s didn’t, it would be unfair. (“Those who do not know their history are doomed to discover that there really aren’t any nomads in the game, so maybe they shouldn’t have drafted the nomad king.” Or some such). My first concern in my two games is that I really need a flowchart to explain the victory conditions, which don’t seem that hard, but appear to be have been poorly translated from some heathen mashup of Aramaic, Esperanto and Klingon.

And I also didn’t care for the fact that I won my first game only because the game ended on the only turn I could have possibly won it (and nearly won my second game that way). I’m not particularly attached to the “games must be fair” school and Cole Wehrle certainly doesn’t seem to be, either. But it still makes me suspect that most of the fun comes from before and after the game, not during it. This might still be a total blast with a group that played a game a week (or month, etc). And it spins off stories like nobodies business. If you play 7 games of this and could write well, you might easily have the next bestselling fantasy series. I’m going to say Suggest, even though I’m not sure. Also, because of some conversations around this (and other games), I’m listening to the Revolutions podcast.

Obsession: aka Building Downton Abbey (etc). You try to build up your mansion and social status which requires various types of workers, entertaining high ranking guests, etc. There wasn’t anything wrong with this; I can’t even say that the point salad bothered me. But neither was there anything that captured my attention. Indifferent.

Scout: A cute little climbing card game. Cards are 1-10 but you can flip your hand over (each card is like a domino, two numbers, no two cards the same). But you can’t re-order it. If you can’t beat the prior meld (single card, two card runs, pairs, three card runs, trips, etc) they get a point and you steal one card from the end of the prior meld and add it to your hand. (Once a round you can steal and add). If you can beat a meld, you get one point per card you take. When someone goes out, cards in hand are negative points. I actually liked this. Suggest.

Sheep & Garden: A Japanese game in the vein of Carcassonne. The quirk is that each player has a secret goal and each neighbor around the table share a goal (so with 4 players, there are 8 goals in play, and you earn points for only three of them). Even though I don’t think I’ve played Carcassonne since the year it came out, I’d suggest this.

Sorcerer City : A deck-building game with tiles? A real time tile-laying game with purchasing? Both? I thought this was clever, but I am too slow to enjoy it. Indifferent.

War Chest: An chess-like abstract, but you pull tiles from a bag to tell you which pieces you can activate. But before that you draft to see which four out of the eight pieces you have (and there are sixteen types in the base game, so good variety). I’m not a big abstract fan (or rather, I like my abstracts to be classics like Go), but I enjoyed this. Suggest.

It’s a Wonderful World : This should really be called “It’s a Seven Wonders-ful world.” (I’m assuming the Lawyers nixed that). This is a case where one small change has huge implications — You draft all seven cards and then decide which to keep (and build) and which to discard for building material. But you can build your cards incrementally. No need to get that massive VP card built now, end of game will suffice. There are four rounds (unlike 7 Wonders 3) but all the cards are just slammed together and there are lots of extras, so my suspicion is that this is much more random than it’s predecessor (the fact that I came in second despite not really understanding the building rules until after the first round of play is some evidence in my favor). I think Oath was the hit of the Gathering (but not a run-away hit like Settlers, Puerto Rico, Caylus, etc) …. but this also seemed to get a good amount of play. I’m indifferent but intrigued.

Yellow and Yangtzee: Knizia’s re-do of Euphrat und Tigris on a hex map with a bunch of tweaks. They all work. I think this is a fine variant to a great game, so this is also Suggest.

Where do I turn in my curmudgeon card? In my defense, I’m probably not going to rush out and buy any of these games (Dice Realms excepted) although with Oath that’s mainly because I don’t think I’ll have a group play it enough.

Bonus Post — Asking again, How many kingdoms are there?

If my math is right, there are now 260 kingdom cards (per the Dominion Wikipedia Page). So a (low) estimate is 260 choose 10. But let’s consider Black Market!

There are 259 choose 9 kingdoms with black market. But each of them has 250 choose 15 possible black market decks. So we need to multiple those numbers together. That gives us almost 5.8e+39.

(We also have the 259 choose 10 kingdoms without black market, but that’s just a rounding error compared to BM options).

For each of those Black Market kingdoms (and the trivially few — roughly 313 quintillion — that don’t have black market) we have to include events! There are 34, and if we limit ourselves to either having none or choosing two, then we have 562 options, so that’s up to 3.24e+42. Discounting the (trivial) number of sets that are all prosperity or dark ages, any kingdom with 1-9 of those cards have two options (with Platinum or without / with estates or with the new dark ages version). So some number of kingdoms are doubled, and some quadrupled.

It may well be that this universe is basically just an elegant kingdom randomizer for Dominion, and once we get the fundamental level of physics, the math will translate to. “Select an atom at random from the universe — it has been shaken well, albeit several billion years ago — and read the instructions on which kingdom layout it represents. Use other atoms to make the components….”

Written by taogaming

September 2, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Misc

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Dominion Adventures

Playing Dominion Online for a while whet my appetite, so I picked up Adventures.

First of all, the blurb is — like all DXV blurbs — hilarious. And there’s a lot to like in the game play. Sick of only making some unreasonably high number of possible kingdom layouts (and that’s too low), Adventures adds events which you can shuffle up and deal out a few (they recommend two) for any kingdom. These cards don’t get added to your deck when bought, they give you some bonus. Like taking another turn (but one where you can’t buy anything!) or  setting aside a card for next turn (that doesn’t count against your hand) or drawing more cards, or … well, I assume lots of other things.

Since there are 20 event cards, you now have 190 times the number of possible kingdom layous (191, that is, since “no event cards” are possible. (I think Empires adds more events, so that number is growing fast).

Adventures also adds a playmat (the tavern) and a new concept called “Reserve” cards. When played the go to your tavern and you can then ‘call’ them back into play later on. While at the tavern they aren’t in your deck or hand. Just sitting there. A nice new card is a guide that gives +1 card and +1 action and sits in the tavern. Call him at the start of your turn to discard your hand and draw a new one. Cute.

There are also tokens, some of them you add to piles and when you play a card from that pile, you get the bonus for your token (maybe draw an extra card, or +1$, or an extra action, etc). A few other tokens flip by card actions, these let you keep some state information now. A few others indicate you’ve been attacked, and draw a card less, get a dollar less, but since you only have one token, they aren’t cumulative.

Adventures also has upgrade cards. When you add those piles (Peasant or Page) you get a few small mini piles. Play a page, she can upgrade to a treasure hunter, who can upgrade to a monster hunter, then warrior, then champion (or some such). You can’t ever buy or gain the advances, only get them by playing and discarding the prior one (which goes back to its stack).

Coupled with events, the ’10’ kingdom stacks become something like 16 stacks. The example in the rulebook has a ton going on, also because Adventure has a lot more duration cards, and now they aren’t necessarily “one extra turn.” At least two have a duration of “forever.”

I think I now officially need a better storage solution. My single binder of 3×3 card sleeves was already straining, and I never added Dark Ages to it. I need a sorted box. I’ll have to look into that.

Written by taogaming

September 2, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Posted in Reviews

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Play Dominion

Not in general (well, not just just in general). I’m referring to the website

Man I miss the old isotrope server, but this isn’t bad.

I’m not paying any money, but even the free ‘base set’ campaign setups often have an expansion card or two in them. The AI isn’t great by any stretch, but there are some sets were it can win fairly easily and I have several losses in a row.

Written by taogaming

August 28, 2016 at 11:19 am

A bit more Space Empire, and a game day

I played a few more games of Space Empires solitaire, and I enjoy it. I’ve tweaked the system to feel slightly more intelligent and smooth out the bumps, the APs get less resources, but also tend to waste less (by fighting hopeless battles) and their growth is ‘on board’ which means it can be trimmed down. While TaoLing was at camp I left the board setup and managed to get in a half-dozen games … most of which were full evening affairs.

Now that TaoLing is back I took a day off to run back-to-school errands in the morning and we had a game day in the afternoon. A fair number of Puzzle Strike games (getting close to 50!), a few games of Dominion, some Mottainai, some Splendor, and even a bit of Pandante. (I think I’m going to take Pandante to my poker night this weekend and play a few hands — not for money — to see if there’s any interest).

In other news, I’ve realized that I’m not playing most of my collection, even though I’ve trimmed it down fairly aggressively this decade. So, more games are marked ‘for trade’. I may hold a geeklist auction later this year, but I’m open to trades/sales whenever. I did just break down and  buy the Brittania expansion of Sansa at Channukah.  So I knocked that off my “want in trade list.”

I suspect game days with the Taoling are going to slowly drift into memory — they may never end entirely, but the teenage years wait for no parent. I’ve been watching the Solitaire Games on Your Table threads for ideas as to which games I may try next…at least, until the Mage Knight urge rises.

Written by taogaming

August 18, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Dominion’s Back, Baby

I have some old HS friends back in town, and Dominion is a big hit. And, you know, now that our long-lamented isotropic server has been down a few years, I have the itch to play some more Dominion. But I realize:

  1. I don’t care for Alchemy too much (no surprise)
  2. I don’t care for Dark Ages much

Both make the game overstay it’s welcome. I have no idea if I’d like Guilds. (Was there a set between Dark Ages and Guilds?)


Written by taogaming

June 13, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Session Reports

Tagged with

On the new games front —


I haven’t been actively avoiding new games, but I haven’t been jumping into them either. I’ve been revisiting old games. I suppose I should try Seasons, at least.

  • I got a copy of expansion #2 to Smarty Party, which I didn’t know existed. It’s still infuriating.
  • I (finally) printed out the 2nd edition rules for No Retreat! I need to get that back to the table. This is one of the few games I’m planning on bringing to the Gathering to play. I was inspired by the latest P500 geeklist, which had a number of interesting sounding games. I preordered four (including the new No Retreat! for North Africa, which should be out in a 3-4 months).  I may wake up and undo the other three, as they are all long games.
  • Best Who Would Win Debate I’ve ever heard — Conan vs Darth Vader at Science Fair. Not a great game, but amusing.
  • Now that Isotropic is dead, played a few games of Dominion (Dark Ages) face to face. Still good.
  • Also played a few games of Ticket to Ride (1910), Wiz War, Alhambra and a few older games got a play as well over the last month.
  • Coup is still the go-to filler de jour. I’ll probably have fifty plays within 48 hours. Netrunner broke 150 plays recently.

(FYI — My P500s — No Retreat! The North African Front, Churchill, Unconditional Surrender and The Supreme Commander).

Written by taogaming

April 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

The wonderful world of … well, wherever Dominion is.

Just got the new Dominion Expansion (Dark Ages, but it would be better as Draco Noir Ages, so henceforth it is that). Anyway, having only played two games with the ‘recommended’ setup.l

  • I like the new starting cards, but I dislike the random shuffled piles (ruins & knights). In general, the random purchases are one of my pet peeves in deck builders. However, these aren’t too bad (they are all roughly similar, if not identical, which is far better than shuffle up and deal).
  • I’m (of course) sad these won’t be on isotropic … but paying $10 (plus) for each expansion on the maybe forthcoming iOS strikes me as nuts. I suspect going forward the way to handle this will be a discount (or even just free coupon) included in each copy of the game (probably a one-time code, like videogames).
  • Is that what that bonus card in there was? Honestly, I have no idea and I’m too lazy to look it up on the forums.
  • Trashing is fine, although a weird little theme.
  • I imagine Band of  Misfits will inevitably have a number of rules questions that Throne Room would envy.

And because man does not live by games alone:

I’m finally caught up on Breaking Bad (and I’ll be watching the half season ending episode in a bit). Good stuff.

I’m enjoying Black Dynamite, which has rather surprisingly kept up the special guest of the week most weeks.

Thanks to TNT’s “Let’s Marathon the Hell out of whatever show we’re promoting” I have roughly 60 episodes of the mentalist on DVR. Sure it’s yet another Sherlock Holmes ripoff, but it’s amusing and only slightly nuts.

I think I like this season of Wilfred, but it’s  swinging wildly around (as compared to the relatively steady, darkly amusing first season).

Doctor Who starts up next weekend. I think.

My teenager (aaiee!) watched “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” I was in the same room and did not spontaneously combust. I’m no Brony, but I’ll admit I did glance up when the Yakkity Sax music started.

Written by taogaming

August 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Tagged with

Puzzle Strike

Given that the majority of my offline games of Dominion are against the TaoLing, I figured I’d take a shot on Puzzle Strike and it’s now arrived. The rules clearly acknowledge Donald X., and while not a Dominion Clone, it’s so similar that the TaoLing was instantly referring to cards by their Dominion equivalents. (“I’ll buy a silver.”)

The obvious novelty is that you use chips instead of cards, and just dump them into your bag to reshuffle. As someone who can’t stand certain textures (velvet and corduroy in particular), the provided bags instantly rubbed me the wrong way. That’s why I stocked up on Crown Royale bags. But I will say that did make it easier for TaoLing to shuffle, and I like the aesthetic (the backs look like poker chips).

The true novelty is in how you win. Puzzle Strike is firmly in the “Player Elimination” mode … each turn you ante (get) a 1-value chip into your gem area. (Distinct from your hand, discards, bag). At the end of your turn you refill to 5 chips, but get a bonus chip for every 3rd point of gem you have … except that you lose if you end with 10 or more.  The main (‘available every game’) actions let you combine two gems into one larger one  (“Combine”) or send a single gem (of any value) to another player’s area (“Crash”). Crashing a gem breaks it back into 1-gems. So if you crash a 3, your opponent gets three 1-value gems. You can counter a crash with a crash, except that four value gems are unblockable.

The other big difference is that each player has a character, which have 3 unique chips. In the games I played, one character a big finisher (trash a chip from hand or discard to play it twice) and some cantrips, while the other had a crash-counter,  a versatile utility (money or draw or hold a chip until next turn), and a remodel.

So, unlike Dominion, each player differs from the get go. This means that (for a 2 player game), the base game has 45 different starting setups for each standard dominion setup (25 choose 10).

Many of the effects are straight out of Dominion, but there are some twists. You can automatically split up your purchase into as many buys (and you are forced to buy each turn, taking a wound chip for free if you have no money). Actions come in flavors (red for attack, blue for reaction, purple for combine and crash and biege for everything else) and many of the “+ X actions” will restrict them (such as “+ 1 Red action”). The “You may set aside one chip for your next hand” symbol (a piggy bank) is a clever addition, and interesting decision.

I haven’t tried four player, but the big news is that when you crash you crash the player next in line. So there may be multiplayer weirdness (“I could crash the next guy, but I think he can take out player C and my setup can’t…”).

Ignoring those potential issues (which are theoretical, as of now)Puzzle Strike produces a nice ebb and flow. Gems enter the play area (via Anteing) and tend to bounce around, although counter-crashing removes them You don’t mind (and may prefer) having a mid-range number of gems, and you might even want to end a turn at 9, for the 3 chip bonus, but it’s risky. In our second game,  I managed to set Aidan to 11 (you have until the end of your action phase to drop back below 10), but he had an 8 chip hand and could barely clear out, back to 9. I did a bunch of combining (so I could send several chips across) and ended at 6, only to discover that a) Aidan’s 8 chip hand had “+2 Actions” and a crash (and double crash) and b) I had no defense in my next hand.

Having played probably 750+ games of Dominion (mostly online, but nearly 200 FTF, mostly against Aidan), I’m still finding new things here and there in a Dominion setup, but having a new game to explore is a breath of fresh air, and I suspect Puzzle Strike’s base set will be much more difficult to master than Domnions. (A good thing, as I don’t expect an expansion).

Written by taogaming

August 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with ,

Eminent Domain

Fundamental changes produce butterfly effects. All the same rules but one could produce an identical game, or have implications that drastically alter gameplay. Take Feudal. It’s chess where each piece can move each turn (basically). That destroys the game. You can’t have a pin, or a skewer, or a forking attack, because if one move attacks two pieces (in whatever way) then both pieces move away. Simple change, profound (and horrible) effect.

Eminent Domain combines Dominion and Glory to Rome (and Race), but I’ve no idea if it works. For the first time in a while, I need to delve into mechanics. Like Dominion, Eminent Domain starts with 10 cards, and you add and remove cards to your deck, and reshuffle constantly.  When it’s your turn, you (optionally) play one action, then play one role. That’s like Glory to Rome, except that you don’t have to have the role in hand… you pick it up from the center of the table (and add it to your deck). When you play a role you can meld additional cards that match it to enhance the effect … and other players can either follow (melding 1+ cards that match your role from hand to get some effect) or dissent (aka “Think” in G2R) to draw a card. Like Race, you have a tableau of cards (and maybe technologies) you can add to, which are worth points. You can also produce and consume for VP.

You can get developments (called technologies) by using the research role. Each technology requires some number of research cards and 1-3 face up planets. Technology cards usually go into your deck, but some go to the tableau. Planets start face down, and have to be colonized or conquered (via the colonize and warfare action, respectively). You survey to get more worlds. You also start with a politics card, which you can convert to another card once.

Sidebar — Why are Eminent Domain’s inspirations great? Well, Dominion has a simple idea, but since you vary the 10 kingdom cards (across one hundred and change) you get lots of different combinations. After hundreds of games, I see patterns, but I’m still surprised every now and then. Each game is a mini-experiment to discover the best path for the current layout. Race has the concept of inconvienent plenty. You have some cards in your hand, and a few of them will go into your tableau. The rest are used to pay. And in a single game you’ll only see a fraction of the cards. Glory to Rome has the follow/think decision, more difficult building and role management (in that you can’t just pick the role you want) and trying to arrange implicit coalitions (via the Clientele mechanism).

Emiment Domain, while following the form, misses in each case — E.D. lacks Dominions vast combinations … apart from starting worlds the setup is the same each time. You can play 1 card plus one meld from your hand each turn, so there’s no inconvenient plenty. (Just play the best meld). You do only see a fraction of the world cards, but these are all minor variants. A/B/C types, slightly different cost/VP, and a few minor abilities. All the technologies are open buys, available each game.

Finally, the Glory to Rome aspects. Here’s where Eminent Domain comes closest to capturing the feel. If another player leads a role, you’ve got the follow/think distinction. In G2R, the decision is tough because it often involves using a wild card … if you follow, you may not be able to lead the role you want on your turn.  In ED, you can always do the role you want, since you take it from the supply. In G2R, thinking gives you a new hand (or a wild), so it greatly increases your options. In ED, you only get one card …. but melding multiple cards can be important, so it sometimes matters.

The problem is that most cards have a single function. If Player A colonizes, I can play all my colonize cards to help take over a world. If I think, I get another card. If I colonize on my turn, then I probably could have gotten the exact same effect by following, although if the extra card I drew is a colonize then I get some benefit. (You also get the extra colonize when you call the role, like a leader privilege).

But suppose I’m going to select Warfare as my role. Now if I dissent (“think”)I get one more card, then I play Warfare on my turn. At the end of my turn, I can dump my colonize cards (and the card I drew), but if I followed the colonize, I got some use out of my cards, at the cost of cycling one less card.

Which means, to me, that the real issue of Eminent Domain is How to best work at the periphery of what others are doing. Suppose my will play some Role often, say Warfare.  If I have a handful of Warfare cards, I can follow, but then my hand will be depleted … when I start my turn I get no action and my role (since I won’t meld) will have a minor effect. (To be fair, some of the role privileges do not depend on number of cards played, a fact I’m glossing over). So there’s a difference between following and dumping my hand, and leading the same hand, but it’s timing and tempo.

But if I have just a little bit of Warfare in my deck, then when others follow I can drop a few cards, then lead my main role on my turn. Now I get little Warfare, Big Whatever.  Timing and Tempo, but also an interesting twist on collusion. It may be the case that the best way to react to your opponent’s plans is to do the same thing, moderately.

That’s interesting and, if true, a somewhat surprising state of affairs. I’m not at all convinced that it’s true, but implicit collusion (via clientele) is a big part of Glory to Rome and I suspect it applies in this novel form.

In my one (and only) game everyone quickly trashed their produce/trade cards. Both my opponents went colonize heavy, but I decided to switch back to production. This meant when they colonized, I’d think or maybe drop a card or two, and when I produced they had no choice but to think.  And the result? I lost.  But I think the problem was in my switching tacks … if I’d skipped the trash and rebuild my first few productions would have been much better (because of card melding).

So, what does it mean?

I don’t think Eminent Domain is great. It’s basic gameplay has some interesting ideas but I suspect once you get past the first few games it will be too repetitive. Having said that, I suspect the 3-4 player game contains interesting second order effects because of the follow/dissent mechanism. It may be that the dynamic is too chaotic to do any real planning. That will need more plays.

I don’t think I’ll give Eminent Domain hundreds of hours, but I could see giving it a few more plays. It hasn’t hooked me enough to guarantee it, and I may just be imagining this dynamic, but it warrants investigation.

Written by taogaming

August 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm