Dominion Dark Ages was released in August of 2012 at one of the Meccas for gamers, Gen Con. It is the eighth overall release in the line of Dominion games and is by far the biggest release. It is a very large expansion but, like most of the expansions before it, it requires either the original base game or the Intrigue expansion to play a full game. So, it is required that one either purchase one of the first two games, the Big Box, or get the later-released base cards only set (see below) to use in conjunction with it.
The entire series of Dominion games has been designed so that each expansion game adds themes or additional game play concepts to the core principles introduced in the original game and around which it revolves and expands. This expansion is no exception. Dominion Dark Ages’ central theme is the trash and upgrading. There are cards that do something when trashed, cards that care about the trash, cards that upgrade themselves, and ways to upgrade other cards. Plus, new bad cards are introduced into the game, and the quantity of new Kingdom cards dramatically expands the overall Dominion world. As always, the the original Dominion game is probably the best one to get if you aren’t already very familiar with the game, but Dark Ages can be a starting point as well. See the Buy Dominion page for more on what themes and play concepts are introduced by each expansion set.
Dominion Dark Ages Narrative
Oftentimes, game publishers will set the context for their games by releasing a narrative that introduces the thematic “environment” for game play. Each Dominion game or expansion has such a narrative. The original Dominion Dark Ages storyline from RioGrandeGames.com reads as follows:
Times have been hard. To save on money, you’ve moved out of your old castle, and into a luxurious ravine. You didn’t like that castle anyway; it was always getting looted, and never at a reasonable hour. And if it wasn’t barbarians it was the plague, or sometimes both would come at once, and there wouldn’t be enough chairs. The ravine is great; you get lots of sun, and you can just drop garbage wherever you want. In your free time you’ve taken up begging. Begging is brilliant conceptually, but tricky in practice, since no-one has any money. You beg twigs from the villagers, and they beg them back, but no-one really seems to come out ahead. That’s just how life is sometimes. You’re quietly conquering people, minding your own business, when suddenly there’s a plague, or barbarians, or everyone’s illiterate, and it’s all you can do to cling to some wreckage as the storm passes through. Still, you are sure that, as always, you will triumph over this adversity, or at least do slightly better than everyone else.
Dominion Dark Ages Card List
The Dominion Dark Ages expansion comes with 500 cards, but all the cards you need to play the game are NOT included. To play with it, you need the base Dominion game or a standalone expansion to Dominion (Dominion Intrigue, for example). Those provide the basic cards you need to play (Treasure, Victory, and Curse cards), as well as the full rules for setup and game play (or, you can purchase the later-released Base Cards pack – see below). Dominion Dark Ages can be combined with any other expansions you have. This expansion consists of 352 Kingdom cards, 50 Ruins cards, 35 Randomizers, 20 cards you upgrade into (Madman & Mercenary), 18 Shelters, 15 Spoils, and 10 extra Rats cards.
In alphabetical order, the Kingdom cards included in the Dominion Dark Ages game are: Altar, Armory, Band of Misfits, Bandit Camp, Beggar, Catacombs, Count, Counterfeit, Cultist, Death Cart, Feodum, Forager, Fortress, Graverobber, Hermit, Hunting Grounds, Ironmonger, Junk Dealer, Knight (which consists of 10 different Knights; 5 Dames and 5 Sirs), Marauder, Market Square, Mystic, Pillage, Poor House, Procession, Rebuild, Rogue, Rats, Sage, Scavenger, Squire, Storeroom, Urchin, Vagrant, and Wandering Minstrel.
Additionally, 3 Shelters replace the starting Estates: Hovel, Necropolis, and Overgrown Estate. And, there are 5 Ruins: Abandoned Mine, Ruined Library, Ruined Market, Ruined Village, and Survivors. Plus three other cards: Madman, Mercenary, and Spoils.
For card images, how each card functions, and a more detailed Dominion Dark Ages card list, go here: Dominion Dark Ages Cards List
Recommended Dominion Dark Ages Kingdom Sets
Each game that is played centers around building your deck from the (usually) 10 stacks of Kingdom cards, and games played with this expansion will have more stacks (although several are not considered “in the Supply”). Prior to a new expansion being released, all the cards go through an extensive play-testing trial. This culls out cards that are deemed too powerful, useless for much of anything, too “swingy” (meaning that their presence or use causes the game to swing inordinately for or against a player), or that prove to be detrimental to the game in some way. Also, this play testing is vital in determining the best price point for each of the cards.
With each of the releases, a rules booklet is released to clarify exactly how the cards may be used and played (download Dominion Dark Ages rules below). Also included in the rules are recommended Kingdom sets. The sets are recommended to highlight specific card interactions, themes, and strategies. The recommended sets involving Dominion Dark Ages are as follows:
Recommended Sets, Dominion Dark Ages Only
Grim Parade: Armory, Band of Misfits, Catacombs, Cultist, Forager, Fortress, Knights, Market Square, Procession, Hunting
Playing Chess With Death: Bandit Camp, Graverobber, Junk Dealer, Mystic, Pillage, Rats, Sage, Scavenger, Storeroom, Vagrant
Recommended Sets, Original Dominion & Dominion Dark Ages
High and Low: Hermit, Hunting Grounds, Mystic, Poor House, Wandering Minstrel / Cellar, Moneylender, Throne Room,
Chivalry and Revelry: Altar, Knights, Rats, Scavenger, Squire / Festival, Gardens, Laboratory, Library, Remodel
Recommended Sets, Dominion Dark Ages & Dominion Intrigue
Prophecy: Armory, Ironmonger, Mystic, Rebuild, Vagrant / Baron, Conspirator, Great Hall, Nobles, Wishing Well
Invasion: Beggar, Marauder, Rogue, Squire, Urchin / Harem, Mining Village, Swindler, Torturer, Upgrade
Recommended Sets, Dominion Dark Ages & Dominion Seaside
Watery Graves: Count, Graverobber, Hermit, Scavenger, Urchin / Native Village, Pirate Ship, Salvager, Treasure Map, Treasury
Peasants: Death Cart, Feodum, Poor House, Urchin, Vagrant / Fishing Village, Haven, Island, Lookout, Warehouse
Recommended Sets, Dominion Alchemy & Dominion Dark Ages
Infestations: Armory, Cultist, Feodum, Market Square, Rats, Wandering Minstrel / Apprentice, Scrying Pool, Transmute,
Lamentations: Beggar, Catacombs, Counterfeit, Forager, Ironmonger, Pillage / Apothecary, Golem, Herbalist, University
Recommended Sets, Dominion Dark Ages & Dominion Prosperity
One Man’s Trash: Counterfeit, Forager, Graverobber, Market Square, Rogue / City, Grand Market, Monument, Talisman,
Honor Among Thieves: Bandit Camp, Procession, Rebuild, Rogue, Squire / Forge, Hoard, Peddler, Quarry, Watchtower
Recommended Sets, Dominion Dark Ages & Dominion Cornucopia
Dark Carnival: Band of Misfits, Cultist, Fortress, Hermit, Junk Dealer, Knights / Fairgrounds, Hamlet, Horn of Plenty,
To the Victor: Bandit Camp, Counterfeit, Death Cart, Marauder, Pillage, Sage / Harvest, Hunting Party, Remake, Tournament
Recommended Sets, Dominion Dark Ages & Dominion Hinterlands
Far From Home: Beggar, Count, Feodum, Marauder, Wandering Minstrel / Cartographer, Develop, Embassy, Fool’s Gold,
Expeditions: Altar, Catacombs, Ironmonger, Poor House, Storeroom / Crossroads, Farmland, Highway, Spice Merchant,
Dominion Dark Ages Rules
You can download all of the rules to the Dominion Dark Ages game here: Dominion Dark Ages Rules. This rules set provides instructions for properly playing each card.
Buy Dominion Dark Ages
When Dominion was first released, there were no options. You could buy the game or not. There were no expansions. There was no confusion. Now, however, there are many options available. It is generally considered best to buy and learn the first released game prior to moving on to subsequent ones. You can do that directly here: Dominion Base Game. If you aren’t sure, or if you just want more information prior to deciding on which boxed sets you want to get, this page will help walk you through the process and give you a better grasp of what you get with each one: Buy Dominion.
Also, with the release of the expansion-only boxed sets, a new artistic rendering has been applied to the common cards that are present in every Dominion game. They are also available on the above-linked page for those familiar with Dominion already and who wish to buy an expansion set to play as a stand-alone game.
Dominion Dark Ages: Conclusion
The Dominion Dark Ages expansion game is a great addition to an already all-around fantastic game. In fact, it is probably the most eagerly anticipated release yet. The additional 35 Kingdom cards increase the possible card combinations to a mind-numbing degree and further ensure that the game is virtually always different. The new card types also introduce great variability and opportunity to demonstrate mental prowess against one or multiple foes. With all the expansions, there are millions upon millions of possible game combinations. Since every card is different, every card interacts with the others in varying ways. The initial analysis strategic component is important! But, the game is interactive, and how you play is affected by what your opponent(s) does(do), so your ability to adjust and implement mid-game tactics is equally important!
The bottom line is that Dominion Dark Ages adds great new thematic and strategic elements to the overall game. It makes the game an even better choice for families, friends, and the über-competitive alike. Because of the variability, every game presents a unique challenge, an opportunity to improve and learn something new, and a guarantee of a good time.