Dominion fever is sweeping the land. The unique blend of cunning, analysis, and strategic implementation that goes into each game of Dominion has created a legion of enamored fans. Both real-world and virtual communities have formed around the game. Websites (like this one!) dedicated to spreading the news of the merits of the game and the passion it engenders are beginning to succeed in getting the word out to the masses. And, therefore, the number of Dominion players continues to increase.
If you have been introduced to Dominion by a family member or friend, you have likely been impressed. I know I was the first time I sat down at a table covered with unfamiliar Dominion cards. After that first night’s games concluded, I rushed home to buy Dominion myself. When I first bought Dominion, all the newer games and expansions weren’t available. Nowadays, there are multiple choices. If you already know exactly which games you wish to buy, you can do so by clicking the appropriate following links: Dominion (Base Game), Dominion Intrigue, Dominion Seaside, Dominion Alchemy, Dominion Prosperity, Dominion Cornucopia, Dominion Hinterlands, Dominion Dark Ages, Dominion Guilds, [Dominion Big Box]. If you aren’t sure which to buy, I can help! Just Keep reading.
Buy Dominion First
I highly recommend anyone just learning the nuances of Dominion to start with the Dominion base game. The other stand-alone game is Dominion Intrigue, but the learning curve is simplified by beginning with the base game because of the nature of the original set of cards. Donald X. Vaccarino, the creative genius behind the masterpiece, designed the game so that it has core concepts around which the game revolves and expands. The core concepts are all present in the base game, and they are also represented in their simplest forms. For example:
Card upgrading: Remodel
Cursing attack: Witch
Deck-inspection attack: Spy
Hand-decreasing attack: Militia
Large deck strategy: Gardens
Consequently, first buying and playing Dominion with the base game is the quickest way to develop proficiency and understand of Dominion game concepts. Buy Dominion first, and your learning process is quickened, your understanding clearer, and your foundational understanding more firm. Obtaining this strong foundation is imperative if you want to win consistently.
Now, for the other options…
Buy Dominion Big Box
If you are like me, you know you are going to be a life-long Dominion player soon after your first gaming session. Each Dominion game or expansion brings new nuances and adds a fuller robustness to an already magnificent game; and, simply put, you know you’ll eventually own them all. With that being the case, before pulling the trigger on the Dominion base game alone, consider buying the Dominion Big Box.
The Dominion Big Box is simply an exclusive offer containing three Dominion offerings: the base game, Dominion Alchemy, and Dominion Prosperity. The Big Box is a great idea for a number of reasons, but the easiest to see is the monetary one. You get all three at a significant discount compared to purchasing each individually.
Buying the Dominion Big Box also means you will have the entire range of the game (at present). Victory card options are expanded to 10 victory points (VP) per card with Colony, and the Platinum treasure expands the treasure range to 5 per card. Toss in the Potion treasure concept from Dominion Alchemy, and the current options are all represented by this one discounted purchase.
Buy Dominion Intrigue
You can buy Dominion Intrigue as a stand-alone game, unlike the rest of the current expansions. So, if you are late to buy your own base game but have played a significant number of Dominion games with family or friends, buying Dominion Intrigue may be a good move for you.
With each addition to the Dominion universe thus far, new themes have been added to expand game play and further add complexity, strategic options, and power to the overall experience. The primary theme that was introduced by the addition of Dominion Intrigue is the opportunity to decide between multiple possible effects from a single card (Baron, Minion, Nobles, Pawn, Steward). Also, the concept of hybrid cards was introduced with three victory card hybrids that carry functionality during the game (Great Hall, Harem, Nobles). Another benefit of owning this game in addition to the base game is the expanded game capacity. More of your friends will be able to play with you in the same game by owning both. Beware, however, as this Dominion iteration includes one of the all-time most-hated cards: Saboteur!
Buy Dominion Seaside
Dominion Seaside was the first expansion-only release in this game line. Of course, because of that fact, a first-time Dominion buyer would not buy Dominion Seaside alone. This expansion is a large expansion, adding 26 Kingdom Cards to the game. The major theme introduced by Dominion Seaside is cards that, once played, have an effect that carries forward into the player’s next turn. This theme dramatically increases the strategic possibilities and makes turn planning more exciting.
Consequently, it should not come as a surprise to hear that this Dominion expansion includes one of the most-loved cards created to date: Fishing Village!
Buy Dominion Alchemy
You can buy Dominion Alchemy to really liven things up. This is a small expansion that introduces an alternative cost system for certain Kingdom Cards that includes both the standard treasure cards and an additive treasure cost, the Potion. The secondary theme of this expansion is an emphasis on accumulating action cards within the Kingdom Deck.
10 of the 12 cards in this expansion require the Potion as part of the cost. One of the drawbacks of this pricing system is that treasure is often accumulated in excess of that amount required to purchase Dominion Alchemy expansion cards. This adds additional budgetary and strategic quandaries that must be mitigated by excellent planning and deck management in order to excel and win efficiently. The Dominion Alchemy expansion also brings with it another of the truly hated Dominion cards: Possession!
Buy Dominion Prosperity
Dominion Prosperity makes significant additions to the overall Dominion game. Among the 25 Kingdom Cards that are added with this complimentary, non-stand-alone expansion are some of the most powerful cards created to date. The release of Dominion Prosperity introduced three new significant concepts. First, treasure cards that carry monetary functions (other than simply buying with them) were introduced (Bank, Contraband, Hoard, Loan, Quarry, Royal Seal, Talisman, Venture). Secondly, for the first time, expensive cards were introduced with a significant increase in Kingdom Cards costing 6 or more (with Colony being the most expensive at 11). Thirdly, victory point tokens were introduced which allow actions or buys to be executed that accumulate victory points that do not bog down deck rotation or diminish hand functionality.
Several of the Kingdom Cards contained within this large expansion are the most coveted and exciting cards across the entire game. Because of the popularity and added functionality this game brings, many would do well to buy Dominion Prosperity in the Dominion Big Box initially, which is described above. Or, if you already have the others…
Buy Dominion Cornucopia
Dominion Cornucopia is the second small expansion to be released. Like the rest of the expansions, it requires either the Dominion base game or Dominion Intrigue in order to be fully functional. This expansion emphasizes deck variety and introduces the concept of prizes for reaching certain criteria/milestones during game play (Tournament).
The addition of powerful prize cards/prizes creates a “game within a game” aspect that builds into each turn a frenetic excitement, a sort of race within a race. Often, however, the winner of the first race can catapult to a sure victory in the overall race using the advantage gained from winning the prize cards. This can be demoralizing for the loser of the first race, especially if that player doesn’t shortly thereafter obtain benefit from the prizes as well. Oh ye who are psychologically weak, consider yourself forewarned!
Buy Dominion Hinterlands
The main new theme you will introduce into your game experience when you buy Dominion Hinterlands is cards that carry an effect or provide additional value when purchased or otherwise gained. This large expansion brings 26 new Kingdom Cards into the mix.
Due to the fact that the additional value or effect that occurs often involves gaining additional cards, buying Dominion Hinterlands increases strategic endgame opportunities. By causing more cards to be gained, card piles are diminished more rapidly when Dominion Hinterlands cards are in play. The result of such pile diminishing is that games more often end by the depletion of three card stacks instead of the purchase of all the Provinces. This nuance allows for the cunning Dominion player to effectively shift strategies mid-game to take advantage of subtle mistakes made by his opponent…if he realizes it, that is!
Buy the Dominion Base Cards Only
After the first two games were released (the base game and Intrigue), subsequent expansions released only kingdom cards or cards that added on to the base cards. This meant owning one of the first two games was a must in order to play a game. Since some folks wanted to play the expansions themselves without purchasing one of the first two games, a base-cards-only pack was released in June of 2012. The new base cards can replace the originals (and have new art and designs) or can be used with expansions that do not have base cards and would otherwise require owning the original Dominion or the Intrigue expansion.
Buy Dominion Dark Ages
Dark Ages is a huge expansion (500 total cards) that introduces a whopping 37 new individual cards into the game. It has 35 new Kingdom Cards and 2 other base-type cards (Ruins and Shelters). Ruins are new detrimental cards (like Curses) that you give to other players, and Shelters are new cards that replace Estates. With so many additions, this expansion again makes significant developments to the overall Dominion game, its complexity, and the strategic options available.
With such a large addition to the “Dominionverse,” several new themes come with this expansion. The central themes center around upgrading and the trash. There are cards that perform various functions when they are trashed, cards that “care” about the trash, cards that upgrade themselves, and even new ways to upgrade other cards. Another theme filled out by this expansion is the ability to acquire certain cards only through specific other cards.
Buy Dominion Guilds
Dominion Guilds is the ninth release in the Dominion game series, and it is also the final planned expansion release from Rio Grande Games and designer Donald X. Vaccarino (of course, with the immense popularity of the Dominion series, don’t be surprised to see another few releases at some point in the distant future). Guilds is a small expansion (150 total cards), but brings even more dimensions of play like the previous two small expansions have done (Alchemy, Cornucopia). Its release introduces cards that give further benefit when you overpay for them, coin tokens that can be used throughout the game, and a few other minor themes. Because of the new themes, this expansion is the most skill-dependent of all, and beginners should probably start with the others and end up buying this one after they have gained at least the basic skills needed to do well playing the game.
Conclusion: Buy Them All
Donald X. Vaccarino and Rio Grande Games have done a fantastic job of releasing only games and expansions that truly improve the Dominion experience. Each release has added something significant to the overall game. So, enjoy it all with your friends and family by working toward owning the entire Dominion universe. Then, you can experience the full breadth of the game and eagerly await the next addition to be released with the rest of us. Happy Dominioning!