# Dominion Mechanics

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SiddGames
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Joined: 08/02/2008

Preface: if you haven't played Dominion yet, and (like me) you enjoy exploring a new game without reading discussion/strategies beforehand, you may want to skip this post until you play it (and I highly recommend you play it, it is a ton of fun).

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I learned Dominion at BGGcon -- I and my whole group love it. I'll skip the praise in this venue, though, to get to the core mechanic.

For those unfamiliar with it, let me summarize. Each player starts with an identical deck of 10 cards (money and VP). Each turn, a player may play 1 action card and then buy 1 new card, which is added to his discard pile, then he discards the remainder of his hand and redraws to 5 cards. Any time a player's deck is exhausted, he shuffles his discards to make a new draw pile.

Each card has a coin cost that is paid from a player's hand (the coins will then be recycled the next time his deck is shuffled, of course). A player starts with no action cards, but many of the purchasable cards are action cards. They do things like let you play more than 1 action that turn, buy more than 1 card that turn, draw additional cards (effectively increasing your hand size, and thus the amount of money you hold in hand), gain cards for your deck for free, attack other players (by forcing discards from hand or deck, for example), upgrade cards, etc. The other cards available are more money (and in higher denominations) and VP cards (also in three sizes/costs). The game ends when the 6VP pile is exhausted, or any 3 other piles.

Here's the kicker: VP cards do NOTHING during the game, but at the end of the game, the winner is the player with the most total VP in his deck.

For anyone who has played a CCG, the concept of deck efficiency and card density should be familiar. The more VP cards you buy, the more "watered down" your deck becomes with useless cards; yet, those are the only thing that matter when the game ends. Similar to the way a Puerto Rico player would build an income base first, and then start building a VP engine, a Dominion player will first build his deck's buying power by gaining more money cards (and higher value money cards), and adding actions that will support the faster and faster accumulation of cards, until he is ready to starting snatching up VP as fast as possible and then bringing the game to an end.

For an interesting discussion of some of these principles, I recommend this review on BGG: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/357857 .

Anyway, finally to the point of this post. As the reviewer above notes:

To be more explicit, in most setups the only real decision is made at the start of the game. You scan the initial setup, and based on that determine what's the best deck to build (there is usually only one), and spend the rest of the game on auto-pilot building that deck.

... and ...

It's not terribly deep or strategical, and interaction is limited. But it's still fun (and compulsively playable) because it's fun to, well, build your little deck and see it play out, in a feel-good kind of way.

Now if someone can use the Dominion concept, and make a game where not only the deck building part is challenging, but also the actual card playing, that may be a real winner for me.

I (and my family and play group) are still enjoying the hell out of Dominion, but you know, those gears are always turning. I was wondering if anyone else has started working on designs using the Dominion mechanic.

truekid games
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Joined: 10/29/2008
it is an interesting review,

it is an interesting review, but i wouldn't put too much stock in it...

if you auto-pilot your build, and don't pay attention to what other people are doing, you're playing badly- for example, someone else grabs one or two 6 victory point cards, and is now depleting the thinner stacks with some double or triple buys.
your build isn't really supposed to be picking up VP's for another 5 turns or so- but you just "auto-pilot" your deck and let the other person end the game early, because you choose not to interact?

Willi B
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Joined: 07/28/2008
I don't know if I would reuse

I don't know if I would reuse the specific mechanic in the same way. I really know many people that do not find shuffling all that fun. Where I have no problems with shuffling, I don't know how much it will hurt the games overall success.

I do like the mechanic, I would just hope to be able to incorporate the build concept without the shuffling.

SiddGames
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Joined: 08/02/2008
Only Endgame

Sure, you should pay attention to what's going on, but the reviewer's examples and your example are both just about timing the end of the game. In general, if you look at your hand of five cards, you're not going to change how you play THOSE five cards based on what the person before you did or what you think the person after you will do; you're going to play those five cards in whatever way will best continue to execute your deck strategy.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing -- I'm still hooked on the game. I'm just wondering if it's possible to inject "meaningful" decisions into that "here are my 5 cards for the turn" part of the game, especially decisions that ARE influenced by what the other players just did or may be about to do (this turn - not just adapting to their general deck strategies), throughout the duration of the game.

Hm, put that way, am I saying Dominion is full of strategy but very limited tactics, largely confined to the endgame?

SiddGames
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Shuffling is Core

I don't know if there's a way around the shuffling. I mean, mechanically, some people have made tile/chip versions of Dominion, using an opaque bag to "shuffle" their deck and just draw from it. However you do it physically, though, the core mechanic is about building your stock of available actions and resources, from which you have access to a subset each turn.

kungfugeek
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Joined: 09/10/2008

I've only played the game once, but I was wondering how the game would change if you weren't required to discard your hand at the end of every turn? I think that would add another point of tension, being whether to play a certain card now or wait for a more opportune time. I might hold on to Remodeling if I know I'm likely to draw a Curse the next turn, for example.

One downside I can think of is that it could really hamper your deck throughput, but I still just see that as another factor in your decision-making.

It would probably slow the game down, too, and I really like the pace of it so far.

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
The in game deck building is

The in game deck building is a good mechanic and I don’t find the shuffling to be a major issue from playability standpoint. Most of the game you are shuffling very few cards so it’s quick and easy. Durability is an issue as the frequent shuffling will tend to wear the cards out much faster than in other games. Everyone I know that plays this has sleeved their cards.

There is meaningful decision making in that adding certain cards makes options potentially available. Like Poker you can know the odds and plan or react accordingly. The downside of this game for me is the low level of player interaction. If I had more ability to influence the game as a whole I might like it better.

mistre
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Dominion

I have played Dominion once and my opinion is pretty much the same as everyone else. The game is fun no doubt, but the player interaction is lacking. Certain cards in the deck can provide more interaction, but maybe what the game is actually missing is a feeling of scarcity. Because you can buy any action that you can afford and there are more than enough to go around (not a scarcity issue), there is no indirect interaction like in other games. Most games have an element of taking an action so that another player can't take it or has to modify his strategy. In Dominion, there is very little of this. This gives the game a feel that what you do does not really effect the other players. I keep thinking that part of the game at least should involve limiting decisions based on scarcity and not just cost.

Has anyone attempted to use less cards in each action deck (say 5 each) and having the game end when there were 6 piles depleted instead of 3? Also there could be some kind of graduated release of action card types. You could start the game with only five different actions to choose from and some event (the depletion of one deck?) would trigger the release of another action deck to choose from. This would add more randomness, but also add an element of surprise.

kungfugeek
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Scarcity

Became an issue in the last game I played. It was a 4-player game and I think that made a difference. Several Bureaucrat cards were bought early on so everyone started going for Moats, which were depleted about mid-game. After them the 3VP cards went next, because 3 of us had good combos for those. Once the 3VP cards were gone everyone started buying the Estates and the game ended with 3 empty piles. So yeah, I'd say scarcity played a role. I don't see that happening with fewer than 4 players, though.

InvisibleJon
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Joined: 07/27/2008

SiddGames wrote:
I learned Dominion at BGGcon -- I and my whole group love it.
Ditto. I only bought one game at BGGcon. Dominion was it.
SiddGames wrote:
I (and my family and play group) are still enjoying the hell out of Dominion, but you know, those gears are always turning. I was wondering if anyone else has started working on designs using the Dominion mechanic.
It was kicking around the back of my head, but I've been putting it off and working on other things. This is as good an excuse as any to write the ideas down:

1) Use chits instead of cards. Cheaper, more durable, easier to shuffle, takes less table spaces. Less space for rules, but labeled chit bins can deal with this, I think.

2) Game theme is PvP: Mad Monster Combat. I actually like the relative lack of interaction in Dominion, but so many people have asked for more interaction that I'm going full-bore PvP. Each monster (deck) has a number of life points. If your monster runs out of life points, the victorious monster eats you (the mad scientist) and are out of the game.

3) Every player starts with a basic monster and lab (10 chits, just like Dominion) and 10 life points. On your turn, you get one action and one Science! (buy) action. Your deck starts with seven one-point energy chits (coins) a one-point attack, a one-point defense, and one a one-point heal chit.

4) There are several common pools of chits available to all players. The common pools are 10 "customizing" chit pools, a one-point energy chit pool, a two-point energy chit pool, and a three-point energy chit pool. Purchase costs of chits are in units of energy. Customizing chit pools contain the following types of cards:
* Attacks: Play this as an action against a monster. That monster loses health, as indicated by the card.
* Defenses: Play this card when attacked to prevent damage up to the limit indicated on the card.
* Health-gainers: Play this as an action to gain health, as indicated on the card.
* Card transformers: Turn a card in hand into a different type of card.
* Extra Actions
* Extra Science! (actions)
... Heck. Listing all the card types is pointless. It's just a re-hash of Domionion anyway.

I think it'd be easy to make a game that's very similar to Dominion, but with the goal of knocking the life totals of your opponents down. It loses a bit of the nice symmetry of VP cards being worthless in play, but you gain the back-and forth that some players seem to be looking for. I have a few ideas for chits.
* Special attacks that damage all opponents simultaneously.
* Chits that are prerequisites for other chits; you can use them when you draw them or trade them in with an amount of energy to upgrade to the next level of power.
* Chits that directly attack an opponent's card library, removing one or more chits.
* Cards that remove a player's next Science! or action phase.
* Combo Attack/Defense chits and Counterattack chits.
* Fire or poison attacks that deal continuing damage.
* Defenses against specific damage types that don't get discarded after being used on that damage type.
* Regeneration: You don't discard it after using it, but can keep it in your hand. The disadvantage is that it functionally decreases your hand size.
* Invention chits that let you get access to chits that aren't in the game.

Where Dominion shifts from "make money" to "buy victory points" or "buy out the piles", Mad Monster Combat shifts from "build up my monster" to "launch attacks on other monsters". This can be triggered by a player building up big attacks, building up many actions coupled with chit-drawing and small attacks, or a player building up a massive life-gain engine. I don't see a need for a game-dictated endgame (when three pools run out of chits), although you could say that when three pools run out of chits, no more chits may be purchased.

Lots more ideas, but now it's time to go help Ian put stickers on discs for his self-published game, Taktika.

SiddGames
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Themes

I have 2.5 directions to go so far, one of which is similar to your Mad Monster idea, which is players building a gladiator school. Most "action" cards would be people (gladiators, trainers, entertainers, doctors, etc.), but the "new" mechanic would be some sort of arena fight each round. This would slow the game down a bit, but could be a satisfying tradeoff. The point-five idea is just coming up with other themes in which you are recruiting personalities.

The other was retheming it to a setting very like Race for the Galaxy, but adding new wrinkle in the acquisition of planets and/or something like an abstracted tech/resource tree. Again, this would slow down the game compared to Dominion but may be worthwhile (in the way RftG is a beefier San Juan).

Interestingly, Truekid's review on BGG notes the similarity of Dom to St. Petersburg (which is ostensibly about recruiting personalities and buying buildings), and the superficial relationship to Race.

lindyhopfan
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Joined: 03/19/2010
Dominion and Star Wars: Epic Duels

It would be fun to play a game similar to Epic Duels, but with deck building instead of pre-constructed decks. What I want to know is whether you think any of the other mechanics of Epic Duels could be adapted to work with a Dominion/Mad Monster Combat type game.

I would love to see a way to merge Dominion style deck-builing with the "tech tree" concept whether or not it could also be blended with Epic Duels/Mad Monster Combat style PvP combat. Getting some of all three would be the ultimate as far as I'm concerned.

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008

Here's an early description of the idea from back in November 2009 about a card game version of TI3 using a 'Dominion engine' (read: deckbuilding mechanism):
You have some number of actions (5, maybe 6 different actions) in the game, and everyone starts with a little deck of like 2 cards in it relating to each of the actions. When you take an action, you always get the base action, and you reveal the top X cards (at the start maybe it's just 2 cards or something). Any card matching the action you took boosts your action. So if you want to gather wood, you reveal 2 cards, and you get 1 wood plus 1 wood per Wood card that comes up.

One of the actions you can take is to "train one of those actions" (i.e. get better at it). So for example, let's say there's an action in which you gather wood, and an action in which you attack. Maybe you could spend your turn 'training' attack, thus you add a card showing an attack icon (like the basic ones in your deck). That way, more often when you flip a couple cards, more of them will be 'attack' - and therefore more often your attack action will be boosted.

In addition to possibly boosting your action, each card has a coin value on it (probably just 1 coin, but maybe some could be worth 2 or something). There would be a common set of cards like Dominion's Kingdom cards which you could buy into your deck. For example, you could buy an Axe card which shows both an Attack icon and a Wood icon - the Axe helps you gather wood AND it helps you attack. The Axe goes into your deck to be flipped later.

So that would be the Dominion engine. You add to your deck in order to customize your reasonable abilities. So if you start doing a lot of attacking for example, you'll want Attack icons, and that will make you better at attacking, encouraging you to attack more. Ditto Explore or Gather Wood or whatever.

For a TI3 theme, maybe you don't "Gather Wood" though. I started thinking about how it might work, and this is what I'm thinking so far:

Imagine there's a deck of Planets. On the back of the card you see the type of planet, but not the specifics. The type or category of planet tells you what type of effect or ability it will give you. When you take an EXPLORE action, you take 1 card (plus 1 per Explore icon revealed) and look at them (backs only!) - choosing one to put face down in front of you. Since everyone can see the back of the top card, it's like you went to check out that system - maybe you found some others along the way, and you chose one of them to explore. You have now explored, but not settled the planet. Another action is Settle. Maybe the planets all have some number on them which you have to hit on a Settle action - that is to say you Settle for 1+X (revealed) "points" worth, and you need to meet or exceed the number on the card. When you Settle the planet you get to flip it over and gain it's benefits. Maybe one category is likely to have money, one category is good for one or more of the Actions (adding a symbol to the number you reveal when you take that action), etc. One should probably boost the number of cards you reveal when you take an action.

That's about as far as I got. I suppose the Settled planets could be worth points.

Another thought I had, but didn't get anywhere with (yet) is that maybe there's a community deck as well, and whenever you add a card to your deck, you also add 1 to the community deck. Not sure how that would be useful. Maybe for some actions (or all actions) you reveal one or some cards from the community deck as well as your personal deck.

Since then I have been working on the game, which if you're interested you can read all about in my Game Design Blog. It's called Eminent Domain and it's coming along swimmingly :)

In addition to that deckbuilding game, I've been discussing a card game version of Ground Floor with that game's designer David Short, and what we're discussing uses a little bit of deckbuilding as well.

I think there's a lot of room for deck building in games that aren't just about the deck itself. Thunderstone is an interesting re-theme of Dominion, but playing Thunderstone is really just more playing Dominion (only it's a lot more work). It's great for people who liked Dominion but thought it lacked theme, and it's lame for people who were fie with Dominion's theme (like me). It would not surprise me in the least to see a rash of deckbuilding games surface in the upcoming couple of years.

metzgerism
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Joined: 06/19/2009
My idea

I haven't worked on it in a little while, but I have a work in progress called "Pidgin" that is basically a deck-building word game.

It's still going through playtesting, and I get derailed occasionally, but it's an interesting challenge to try and make a decent spelling game of Dominion.

tomi71
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Joined: 07/28/2008
There is been some comparison

There is been some comparison between Dominion and Evolution Earth: Cataclysm since they both are games in where you buy cards into your deck. The similarities however end there and this is where the true playing begins: building your world and inhabiting it with evolving species.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/63216/evolution-earth-cataclysm

Dominion has been said to lack an interaction between players. Well, Evolution Earth: Cataclysm has a lot of it by cataclysmic attacks! I also want to emphasize the fact that Evolution Earth: Cataclysm is a more world building game than the deck building game. Since it is not always about building your deck. Sometimes you have to "unbuild" it in order to make it more controllable, fast and efficient.

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Eminent Domain print and play

If anyone would like to print and play Eminent Domain and give it a shot, please PM me and I'll hook you up with some PDF files and rules. I'd love to hear how it goes!

kodarr
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Joined: 08/04/2008
Thunderstone is a fantasy

Thunderstone is a fantasy based dominion clone where you have gold and attack. You buy items with gold and VP with attack essentially. There's a little more to it than that but that's the jist.

Pastor_Mora
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Joined: 01/05/2010
Lacking Interaction

Even accounting the minimum influence of other players in your overall strategy, Dominion remains a "multiplayer solo" game. Everyone buildsup and buildsup and buildsup until the game just "ends". I'm not surprised that all players in the scarcity post played the same strategies one after another. The only replayability bonus comes from the deck shuffling, so the order in which the cards come out is different. That's about it. You can't be too innovative without loosing miserably to someone playing "conservately" (is this english?). Anyway, if someone can design more than a "multiplayer solo" game with this mechanic, it would be interesting to try it out.

Keep thinking!

tomi71
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Evolution Earth: Cataclysm is

Evolution Earth: Cataclysm is a very interactive game - that´s what it is all about.

It is a deckbuilding game but more importantly it is a WORLD BUILDING GAME.

If a players want to play a game with a 100% pure strategy and tactics then I suggest to play EE:C with ADVANCED rules. This means that the deck is never shuffled and it is really important in which order you put your cards into your deck.

Also controlling the thinness/fatness of your deck is truly important but enough with my rambling here.... and sorry for hyping my game again, but as Pastor Mora asked I think he ought to be answered.

All info including print and play, rules and strategy and tactics tips, learn to play videos etc. etc. with links are
here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/63216/evolution-earth-cataclysm

No offence.

NativeTexan
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Joined: 03/04/2009
Arctic Scavengers

When I designed Arctic Scavengers, I was going for the following:
- A Dominion-style mechanic
- A rich theme that influences the game play
- Player interaction
- Meaningful decisions throughout the game
- Bluffing
- Hidden information
- Increased tension

The game has been well received and Rio Grande is publishing a professional release of it later this year.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/41933/arctic-scavengers

scifiantihero
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Joined: 07/08/2009
Clone?

kodarr wrote:
Thunderstone is a fantasy based dominion clone where you have gold and attack. You buy items with gold and VP with attack essentially. There's a little more to it than that but that's the jist.

It's not actually a clone is it?

Willi B
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Not really.

All cards have monetary value (some zero, however) and you can do 1 of 3 things:

1) Purchase something in the village (heroes, lights, weapons, spells) and/or level up a character. This is the Dominion part.

2) Battle a creature.

3) Rest - a) remove one card in your hand from the game or b) discard your hand.

That's all.

I don't see the game as more thematic than Dominion though others disagree... they both suffer from the unrealistic vision that the things you have (coins or swords) can earn you money turn after turn without losing them. So... not realistic in any sense.

OPM
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Joined: 12/16/2009
Quote:Now if someone can use

Quote:
Now if someone can use the Dominion concept, and make a game where not only the deck building part is challenging, but also the actual card playing, that may be a real winner for me.

I have managed to to this with a game that I created. If is far more interactive then Dominion, but then apart from the deckbuilding mechanic it is totally different too. I approached Rio Grande about it but no luck. I was surprised to hear the other poster mention their interest in his Dominion clone frankly.

Dominion is a pretty cool game, but I found it lacked certain diplomatic and historical connotations that were not what I wanted to achieve. I gather from Donalds posts on BGG that the next release will have some military elements in it, but fairly lite ones. The lite nature of Dominion though clearly appeals to a wider audience then something with deeper strategic paths.

The big key to refining a system mechanic related to Dominion is playtesting it to death to eliminate all aspects of clown play, and still keep a good balance. When players have to be paying attention constantly to sense opportunity then you have much more of the "grand planning" then Dominion presents. We have been spending the past three months removing all of those flaws, because as you know all it takes is one exploit to destroy a games reputation. In a game that has 220 cards in it you have a lot of tactical testing to do beyond the core strategies.

What I found was that you must have multiple paths to victory, unlike Dominion where the paths are closely related to 1) maxing out VPs through either the money route, or 2) denying the VPs to your opponents (read - curses), or 3) by maximizing the perfect 3 card buy combo that works for the current 10 card kingdom in front of you so you get the Province cards before your opponents or 4) the quiet approach (Garden/Islands) mixed with daisy chaining.

Dominion relies a lot on the variation in random 10 card Kingdom decks to keep the game interesting. It does work and prevents stagnation in play I think. The only people I know who find Dominion "boring" are the folks that oddly enough prefer predictable starting positions. That won't typically happen until you know the cards inside and out and what 3 card combos work best.

The rules I came up with would actually let you use existing Dominion cards in a different way to play an Advanced version of the same game, but I am keep tight lipped on that for now. It also has a mechanic to prevent stagnation or predictable play. Personally I think that lack of starting stagnation principle is the winning goal in Dominion, Carcassoine, and a few others. Despite the variation however the deck building strategies are comfortably the same for a lot of folks. Kind of brilliant combo when you think about it.

My game combines Politics, Military, Economics, Environment and History in one and provides 7 key paths to victory for up to six players, along with 7 sub paths to prevent total goal blockage. The latter is important as you don't want a game that completely capitalizes on achieving one of the primary paths with no ability to prevent the leading player from being stopped from a clear road to using that one winning strategy with no way of catching up with them.

I have another more CCG oriented game that is Modern day politics and economics oriented that also works along the same lines. I figure when I can get the playtesters to break a sweat or get all nail biting over what strategic choices to make -- thats a success.

Not easy to pull off but it does work.

Will there be other more advanced versions of games using Dominion style mechanics? Most certainly. I do not think Thunderstone achieves that, but who knows what games companies have on the secret shelf.

:-)

Pastor_Mora
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Joined: 01/05/2010
What can I say?...

You placed me in quite a predicament here. I may acknowledge your game is better than the hottest deck-building game on Earth, hmm... or say the opposite, and give a critic I wasn't asked for, hmm...

Anyway, not taken.

SiddGames
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Joined: 08/02/2008
Dominion Building Blocks

Pastor_Mora wrote:
You can't be too innovative without loosing miserably to someone playing "conservately" (is this english?).

Close -- the word you want is "conservatively" (to play in a conservative fashion).

I've thought about Dominion mechanics since I first started this thread. Dominion is the barest framework/mechanic of a game; other games will certainly evolve from that system, but must necessarily be more complex. That is, Dominion is so simple, you can only add to it, and this will most likely make the game less appealing to a wide audience (e.g., a Dominion-like game will probably never win a Spiel des Jahres or sell hundreds of thousands of copies, though it may win other awards like an IGA and be a successful game on a non-SdJ level).

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Wow! Sounds awesome.

If your game plays as advertised, then it sounds like it COULD be awesome. I look forward to seeing more about it.

Edit: This was in reply to OPM's post about his awesome Dominion-engine game with 7 paths to victory and 7 sub-paths as well.

tomi71
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Joined: 07/28/2008
The game can have a lot of

The game can have a lot of complexity and yet retain it´s elegance. I think that that´s power of not making the game too complex, but allowing players to find out different kind of strategies themselves. I think that for example chess has it´s own elegance by not making too complex of a rules and yet having a very deep ways to accomplish things on it. So I wouldn´t add artificially complex things into a game if they are found in a simple system once players begin to find them.

So there is a elegance and simplicity in both Evolution Earth Cataclysm and Dominion, which both are quite simple systems yet they give a deep strategy for those who wish to find them.

If the game system itself tries to be complex then an elegancy may be lost and players might never find the deeper strategy in game itself.

Some of you may know what I mean. Some of you may not.

OPM
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Joined: 12/16/2009
I understand

Quote:
If the game system itself tries to be complex then an elegancy may be lost and players might never find the deeper strategy in game itself.

I understand exactly what you mean. It is why I am publishing my game with the basic rules, and advanced rules for those who like the challenge of strategic depth.

You either use all the advanced rules or none. To do otherwise is to muddle with balance and end up with a diverse camp of who likes what mods like what you had with some older wargames.

My long term goal is to create a series of stand alone games that teaches teens about history as well as let them have fun by immersing themselves into that historical era to better understand the realities of that age.

I hope to have it published in the next few months, if life would stop interfering. I will put up more about in time to get some input from those educated minds that I know hang around this forum.