Dominion, the Spiel des Jahres Game of 2009, is a strategy card/board game that is becoming increasingly popular. As the back of the box suggests, Dominion is themed around the players gathering people, places, and objects to assist in acquiring new land for his or her kingdom. Correctly combining action and treasure cards to buy enough victory cards to win without polluting your deck can be challenging, and new comers to the game may not know which cards are the best. This article intends to give broad advice when playing with the base box of Dominion, not the Intrigue, Seaside, Alchemy, or any future expansions. However, some strategies may still work with other Dominion expansions. The article also assumes you already know how to play and are familiar with how a few of the cards work.
The way Dominion is set up, the easiest strategy is to play action cards that allow you to fill your hand with as many cards as possible. The hope is to add enough treasure cards to buy the most expensive card: the Province card. A game of Dominion, because it is based on victory points, can easily be won with the Province card. As such, it should always be the aspiration of a turn.
Duchy cards are also valuable, but buying them can usually wait until after other action cards of the same price are bought. Buying too many victory cards can pollute the deck, ruining full hands. Another reason to buy Duchy cards earlier than planned may be to balance against Curse cards, the bane of all Dominion players. At the end, Duchy cards may give you the added boost to overcome the Curses, but the potential of a wasted hand becomes higher.
Every game of Dominion starts with three Estate cards in all players’ decks. Comparing it to the Province shames the Estate. A common strategy for Dominion players may be to trash the starting Estates. If this is done early enough in the game, then hands may be free to aid in buying Provinces. However, games have been won by a single point, and lost Estates may prove fatal. Nonetheless, Province cards are more crucial in a Dominion game.
By the very nature of the game, Dominion requires the player to shuffle, a lot! If you draw the last cards of your deck, but already have a full hand and do not need more cards, it may be to your best interest to wait on shuffling. Although some other Dominion players will see shuffling your deck prior to your turn as a nicety to your opponents, it is certainly not required, especially if your hand does not give you the option to draw. The reason for holding out is to allow the hand and the card you just bought to join your other cards when it circulates into your deck. This little strategy works best when you buy a good card, such as a Gold card. However, if you know that you will need to draw cards, then be polite and reshuffle your deck for the other Dominion players.
A game of Dominion is completed when either the Province cards or three stacks of any other cards are gone. Because the action cards are random every time, making each game of Dominion unique, some cards might not complement each other. That means no player may have the upper hand and the game may continue with no end in sight. A good sign of a prolonged game is a large deck. With so many cards to go through before shuffling again, a card may not contribute anything to the overall game. This big deck means Estates and other victory cards no longer clog Dominion hands, freeing the players to buy more victory cards in hopes of gaining an advantage in small points.
True Dominion players will be able to keep track of not only his or her own deck, but also the opponents’. When a game draws out, usually players can estimate who is winning. If you find yourself low on victory points, especially in comparison to another player, it may be wise to buy victory cards. As already mentioned, plenty of victory cards have less of a threat in large Dominion decks. Warning: this strategy is a last resort and will not guarantee a victory, but only a possibility of second or third place instead of last.
Good luck, and have fun playing Dominion!