Dominion: The Fourth Pillar of Boardgaming
Since the turn of the century, the board game industry has been booming. The boom began with the rising popularity of 1995’s The Settlers of Catan, and 2000’s Carcassonne picked up where it left off, introducing gamer’s to a whole new style of board games. A few years later in 2004, Ticket to Ride hit massive popularity as well. Ever since, many games have come and gone but these three remain at the top. No longer are the “big games” Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble and Risk (at least not for gamers), but instead these innovative game-changers became the “Big Three”.
So with those three gateway games taking up the foundation of the newly revived board gaming hobby, what is the fourth cornerstone, the fourth pillar of this foundation? 2008 brought the answer with the highly unique and inventive Dominion (I suppose technically it’s a card game, but I’m not gonna go there). Dominion spread like wildfire across board game tables all over the world. It literally invented its own genre of games and remains as one of the most popular go-to games out there today.
The deck building genre of games was born with Dominion and continues to thrive. The reason for this is because it’s such a clever, organic game mechanism. Dominion laid that groundwork and many games like Thunderstone and Core Worlds have continued with it. However, Dominion is still remains, and always will remain, king. Its impact upon the board gaming world is rare to come across.
Because Dominion is so wide spread and well-known, I’m not going to go into too much detail on how it’s played. But for those who don’t know it, just the basics. In Dominion you are building a “kingdom” of different cards which go into a deck. You can buy action cards using money cards, and eventually you want to buy victory cards which gain you points. Every card you buy gets added into your deck. Every turn you use a hand of five cards drawn from this deck, and when you get to the end you shuffle.
And shuffle. And shuffle. And shuffle some more. Make sure you flex your fingers before you play.
The brilliance with this deck building idea is that there is this constant struggle with trying to make your deck useful so that you always have good 5-card hands, but also buying up the victory cards, which are useless during play, before everyone else does. It makes for a wonderfully balanced game. It also makes for a very quick game; sometimes too quick. Player turns are rapid-fire quick as well, which makes this an attractive game to those who hate waiting.
Another big plus for Dominion is variety. Every game is played with ten possible action cards that you can buy. However, the game comes with 25 different action cards, which gives a total of 3,268,760 possible combinations of action cards. So needless to say, each game is never the same.
Dominion is made up of a whole lotta cards. The cards are well designed with cost values easy to notice and instructions laid out succinctly yet comprehensively. One thing I love about the cards is that different types of cards have different coloured borders around them: victory cards are green, treasure cards are yellow/gold, action cards are white, reaction cards are blue. It adds a lot of visual flare.
For the artwork on the cards, a variety of artists were hired. This offers a mixed bag of styles and quality. Cards like the Village and Adventurer look great, while others like Festival and Militia are a little too cartoony. However, overall I think the different artists idea is a neat touch, even if there are some hits and misses.
Dominion has sent ripples through the board game world, and for good reason. It is a highly innovative game which is easily accessible to players of all types. It is quick to play, easy to learn, and contains a massive amount in variety from one game to the next. These are all qualities that the other massive game changers like Catan and Carcassonne possess as well.
Even though I am giving Dominion my highest recommendation, I feel the need to include this caveat. Be careful of who you play with. Dominion is a game which can lend itself to people who over-analyze the game and can develop strategies which can absolutely destroy you. This of course sucks all the fun out of the game, so avoid these people when you play. This allowance of enjoyment-sapping engine-obsessed players could be seen as perhaps the games only flaw.
Catan, Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, and now Dominion: the four pillars of board gaming. Dominion is certainly a great addition to this group, worthy of its company. The deck building is both interesting and addictive, and the variety of cards keeps you wanting to play again and again. Dominion truly is a force to be reckoned with.