Dominion is a revolutionary card game that sparked the interest of fans for a new genre for card-based games called “deck building.” Instead of collecting cards from various expansions and packs to build a deck, players of Dominion can build a complete deck during the course of the game. In Dominion, the goal of each player is to get as many points as possible by collecting victory cards and building a deck with special cards that enable them to deduct points from opponents or to get more cards on the table’s pile.
Explaining the mechanics of Dominion can be quite difficult, that is why we are providing a guide for you to have a better grasp on how to play the game. But first, we must need to tackle the origins of Dominion for you to better appreciate how such a fun and complex game was conceptualized.
The idea for Dominion first came to be in 2006, when its inventor, Donald X. Vaccarino, was working on another card game named “Spirit Warriors II.” Vaccarino said that he was having a difficult time figuring out the mechanics for the game, and he was also pressured into following a deadline to show the card game to a local gaming group where he is a member.
When he was employed as a software developer from the 1980s to the 1990s, his interest in fantasy-based games grew as the genre became quite popular during those times. He also gained interest in Magic: The Gathering, which was released in 1993, and the game inspired him to develop his own card games. One of his first projects was a 90-card fan game expansion for Magic called “Edge of the World,” and because of the expansion’s popularity, he was often contacted by Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, to contribute ideas and concepts for the game. His contributions led to him being cited in the official rulebook of Magic: The Gathering.
Fast forward to 2006, and he finally had the opportunity to create his own card game that may become a hit in the future. He once thought about making the game similar to Magic, wherein players will have to collect cards in packs in order to build stronger decks, but he opted to have all the necessary cards already available in the game without the need to buy more cards.
After spending at least two days making the prototype for Dominion, Vaccarino brought it to a hobby shop where his local gaming group usually hangs out. His friends played the game, and it became an instant hit, and Dominion continued to become the most played card game at the store for one year, surpassing the total number of plays for Magic: The Gathering in that store.
Vaccarino then showcased the game at the 2007 Origins Game Fair, where it was noticed by Rio Grande Games, who will eventually publish the card game. After Vaccarino signed an agreement with Rio Grande Games, the card game was first named “Castle Builder,” then it became “Game X.” The name “Dominion” came about when Dale Yu, a columnist for BoardGameGeek, suggested the title.
A second edition for the core game was released in 2016, and Dominion is now available in more than ten languages.
The objective of Dominion is for players to build a kingdom buy buying assets, properties, treasures, and Victory points. The kingdom for each player is represented by the cards that they have in their hand, and at the start of the game, these cards are only comprised of a few Victory cards and Treasure cards.
Before the game begins, players must first set up the Supply pile in the middle of the table. Here are the cards that must be present at the Supply pile.
These cards are the ones that will be used to buy other cards in the game. In the core game, there are three kinds of treasure cards, and these are Copper, Silver, and Gold. Copper cards have a value of 1 coin, the Silver cards have 2 coins, and the Gold cards have 3 coins. These three types should be placed separately on the pile.
These green cards are required to be collected for each player’s deck, as they are the indicators of how many points the players have for their kingdom. For the base Dominion game, there are three types of Victory cards, the first one is Estate (1 point), the second is Duchy (3 points), and the last one is Province (six cards).
If there are only two players in the game, only eight of each type should be played, but if there are more than two players, then 12 should be the total number for one kind of Victory card.
Also called Action cards, these cards have special abilities that allow players to make extra moves, buy more cards, or draw extra cards on the deck during their turn. There are many kinds of Kingdom cards to choose from, but for only one game, there should only be ten kinds present at the Supply Pile.
The rulebook has many recommendations as to what Kingdom cards should be placed at the pile, but for beginners, the most suitable combination is:
Each kind of Kingdom card should have ten cards each on the pile, but for cards that can give you Victory points, there should be twelve for each of them.
Curse cards have the opposite effect of Victory cards, as these can deduct points from players if it is found in their decks. Some Action/Kingdom cards may have an effect where an opponent will receive a Curse card from the Supply pile.
Once the Supply pile is set up, each player must then collect seven Copper Treasure Cards and three Estate Victory cards. Take note that these should be collected on the pile of cards that were not used in the Supply pile. The players must then shuffle their deck and place it to their left on the table.
After shuffling, all players must then draw five cards from their deck. If you take a better look at the cards on your hand, there are several numbers and texts printed in them.
- If it is a Treasure card, the numbers at the upper corners and in the middle of the cards represent its value or number of coins.
- If it is a Kingdom card, the text in the middle indicates its abilities or effects once it is placed on the table.
- If it is a Victory card, the number at the middle shows the points that the player will get if it remains in his or her deck.
- All of these cards have a number at the lower left, and this number represents how much coins they have to spend to buy the cards from the Supply pile.
In order to use the effects or the value of your cards, you must follow the three phases of the game. These phases are Action, Buy, and Cleanup. Let’s take an in-depth look at each phase.
During the Action phase, you will be given an opportunity to use your action cards and their effects. However, you won’t have any Action cards in your hand if it is just the beginning of the game, so you would have to buy them from the Supply pile first.
If ever there is already an Action card on your hand, then you may play it during the Action phase. There are different terminologies found on the texts printed on the Action cards:
- +1 Card – draw one card from your deck
- +1 Action – allows you to use another Action card
- +1 Buy – enables you to buy another card from the Supply pile
- +1 Coin – adds one or more coins to the total amount of coins you have for the turn
- Reaction – can be played during another player’s turn
The buy phase lets you collect cards from the supply pile by buying them using your Treasure cards. During this phase, you can buy a Victory card, a Kingdom card, or another Treasure Card.
You must put all the Treasure cards you’ve used to your discard pile, which should be located to your right at the table. Keep in mind that the cards you’ve bought during this phase should not be on your hand; instead, they should also be placed at the discard pile.
After buying cards and placing them on the discard pile along with the used Treasure cards, then you must draw five cards again on your deck. However, if the deck has less than five cards left, then you need to put all the discarded cards back to your deck, shuffle it, draw five cards, and end your turn.
The Cleanup phase gives you the chance to use the cards you’ve bought in the previous turns, and it also allows you to utilize the Treasure cards on your deck again.
As the game progresses, the total number of cards in each player’s deck will continue to rise as players buy cards from the Supply pile. The game will end in two ways:
- If there are no more Province Victory cards on the Supply pile
- If three stacks of any kind of card are exhausted from the Supply pile
Once one of these conditions is met, all players must count all of their points, which are found in Victory cards, Curse cards, and some Kingdom cards. The player who collected the most points in his or her deck wins the game.
In addition to the core game, Dominion also has several expansions that can enhance the gameplay experience by adding new cards and mechanics to the game. Here are some of the most popular Dominion expansions that you can buy. Take note that all expansions should be accompanied with the base game, as they cannot be played on their own.
The first expansion for the game, Dominion: Intrigue contains 26 new Kingdom cards, with some of them having special effects not found on the base game, such as having the ability to interact with Victory cards or adding more points in your deck. You can buy this expansion, along with the core game, by purchasing the Dominion Big Box edition.
Like the first expansion, Dominion: Seaside has 26 new Kingdom cards, which feature artwork depicting docks, seas, ferries, and ships in the middle of the cards. These Seaside cards have new abilities that are exclusive to the expansion, like the Duration mechanic that allows the cards to remain at the center of the player’s side of the table until his or her next turn.
The main theme of Dominion: Prosperity is wealth, and as such, players will be able to get more money in the game than in the core version by adding 25 Kingdom cards exclusive to this expansion. In Dominion: Prosperity, there are now Treasure cards that have abilities, and there are also special cards that are expensive but have powerful effects.
Dominion: Menagerie is the newest expansion for the game in 2020, and it features 400 cards, with 30 Kingdom cards that have interesting effects. All of the cards included in this expansion are animal-themed, and the objective of the expansion is for players to create the best menagerie in their kingdom.
There are plenty more expansions that you can buy for Dominion, and you can play all of them together to build the best version of Dominion that you, your friends, and your loved ones can enjoy during parties or game nights. While the base version of Dominion is already enjoyable on its own, the expansion will make the game longer and more exciting because of the interesting mechanics that they add to the deck-building game.