Dominion Intrigue: Wish We’d Played This Earlier

So, a while ago, we sat down at an open gaming session with another fellow who brought out a game neither of us was familiar with (Trains, for those keeping track at home). He said “Don’t worry, it’s a lot like dominion.” Deuce then replied with something along the lines of “Got it” and I kept my mouth shut, because I had never heard of Dominion or any other deck builders. Turns out, no experience was necessary to enjoy the game and I had a great time. We’d previously focused mostly on casual games or hardcore strategy games, with not much in that middle ground where deck builders seem to fit so nicely.

Weeks later, I asked Deuce how Trains differed from Dominion, but he had no idea. He’d been bluffing just like me. We decided to rectify the situation with a trip to JP Comics & Games (one of our FLGSs) and purchased Dominion: Intrigue. Now, playing Dominion after playing a few different successors is going to color our review somewhat. I’ll try to compensate for that by imagining what it would be like had I played Dominion first.


It’s important to have a coherent theme, since it ties the art and the text and the overall gameplay together. The theme here, of trying to rule and expand your kingdom, is coherent, but it’s not much more than that. The cards all had appropriate names and art, which helped distinguish them from each other and naturally guided you towards the type of game you want to play. For example, picking up lots of saboteur and torturer cards would imply that you’re focusing on hurting your opponents. There was nothing in the theme, though, that really stood out as memorable. There isn’t a relevant back story and the deck building mechanic itself isn’t strongly tied to running a kingdom.


Obviously, the novel (at the time) deck building mechanic is what draws most people to Dominion. It’s most commonly referred to as the founding deck builder, and for that Vaccarino deserves a lot of credit. It is just the right blend of determinism and randomness that you want for a strategic game to be accessible and not always dominated by the more experienced players. There is a high replay factor from both the selection of which cards are available in each game and the diverse strategies players can pursue.


Dominion is a solid experience, but I can’t say that it was exciting. There are a few restrictions (like only buying one card per turn) that didn’t seem necessary for a good game. We couldn’t quite agree on how we felt about purchasing victory point cards separately from other cards. More recent deck builders usually have victory points integrated into the other card types, sometimes with the option to purchase special victory point only cards, sometimes not. Only earning victory points through special purchase makes it a bit easier to keep track of who’s leading and it also makes an explicit trade-off between victory points and utility of your current hand (since victory point cards don’t do anything else for you). On the downside, this gives you less flexibility in how you’d like to win the game. Regardless of how you choose to build up the purchasing power in your deck, eventually everyone just has to switch to buying victory points in order to stay competitive.

The Beer Rating

Dominion: Intrigue is an American Pale Ale. You’ve got the foundation down and can take it a number of different ways, but the true fan of the style will quickly move beyond the basics and into the derivative works. And if you’re already a fan of more complicated styles, and those which have built off of this base, you’ll feel it’s lacking something.

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