One evening, a friend brought over a card game that I had never played before. I have had experience with many different card games but this brought me so much joy I wanted to share it all with you.

Dominion is a game of chance, strategy and conquer published by Rio Grande Games. Dominion is a deck building card game where you create your own deck as you play. In Magic the Gathering, you begin the game with a deck that you have already created, while in a game like Munchkin you create your spread from a deck that everyone chooses from. In Dominion, each person starts with ten cards, and purchases from the decks that are available to others.

Confused? Actually it’s quite simple once you understand the mechanics of the game.

In the magical box, there are five main classes of cards:

Victory Card

VICTORY cards – These are signified by green embellishment and generally have no value during the game, but the point of the game is to end up with the largest amount of land.

Treasure Card

TREASURE cards – These are signified by gold embellishment and are used during the buy phase of your turn. They typically generate coins to spend on other cards (and sometimes they have other effects).

Action Card

ACTION cards – These are often signified by parchment white embellishment. These generate effects during a player’s turn offering them bonuses. Some also issue negative effects for the other players.

Curse Card

CURSE cards – These are signified by purple embellishment. A curse card during play is much like a Victory card, but it has a negative point value that counts against your final tally.

Reaction Card

REACTION cards – These are often signified by blue embellishment and can be used outside of your turn in response to a certain event, like an attack.


So , Ali… How do you play the game?

Thank you for asking, internet stranger!

Before the game begins, there is a setup phase. In the base game, there are 25 of them. The card titles are Adventurer, Bureaucrat, Cellar, Chancellor, Chapel, Council Room, Feast, Festival, Gardens, Laboratory, Library, Market, Militia, Mine, Moat, Moneylender, Remodel, Smithy, Spy, Thief, Throne Room, Village, Witch, Woodcutter, and Workshop. You have ten of most cards and they are the cards you can purchase throughout the game to create your deck.

Only TEN of the Kingdom Cards are used during each game, so game can vary greatly on the cards chosen. Some people play where someone will select the cards, but we do it this way. There is a deck consisting of an extra “Kingdom Card”. We randomly select ten of those cards and they are placed on the table in addition to stacks of Victory cards and stacks of Treasure cards (of varying values/costs). These are the stacks that you will use to build your deck.

Each player starts with 3 Estates and 7 Copper. This is your starting “deck”. You shuffle the cards and draw five cards. The first player then gets to participate in the following steps for their turn:
1. ACTION: If you have an action card in your hand you choose to play it. It can give you a bonus or screw an opponent.
2. BUY: You start with one buy for your turn. If your ACTION gives you a bonus buy, you can buy two things. You use whatever Treasure cards you have in your hand (gold embellishments) to purchase a single card from any of the decks that you can afford. The purchase price of the card is located on the bottom left of each card. You don’t need to use all of your coins, nor do you need to use multiple buys if you are granted them.
3. CLEAN-UP: At the end of your turn, all cards in your hand (and purchased card) is placed into your face-up discard pile. You then draw five new cards from your deck.

The player on your left’s turn then begins. They have their action, buy, and clean-up rounds and then it continues to you.

When your deck is all facing upwards, you shuffle it and that becomes your deck. The first few turns consist of a lot of shuffling, but once you amass a sizeable deck each time you draw you get a hand that is customized to your own strategy.

The game is over two ways:
When the stack of the highest Victory card has been depleted (in the base game that is the Province card)
When a certain amount of stacks on the table have been depleted (it varies on the amount of players).

When gameplay ends, it is each players responsibility to separate the cards of their deck (to file away for another game) and count the Victory cards they have collected. The person with the highest score is the winner.

It comes organized and separated. It makes the OCD in me sooooooooo happy!

I understand that this seems like an extremely confusing game, but I have found it to be SO much easier to deal with than Munchkin. In Munchkin there is such a variety of cards it tends to be overwhelming. In Dominion it keeps the actual action cards to a minimum and allows you a better understanding/utilization of what is available.
The best part is that with 25 different cards available, there are so many permutations of what you could actually play. It keeps the game fresh and the cards work differently together so your strategy alters during the time you spend. Also, it’s easier to keep some of the more devious* players in check. When there are three hundred different cards, it’s hard to keep some people honest.


After you’ve gotten the hang of the base system of Dominion, you may even consider adding in the expansion sets.

Intrigue pulls in the seedier side of things with the addition of Baron, Bridge, Conspirator, Coppersmith, Courtyard, Duke, Great Hall, Harem, Ironworks, Masquerade, Mining Village, Minion, Nobles, Pawn, Saboteur, Scout, Secret Chamber, Shanty Town, Steward, Swindler, Torturer, Trading Post, Tribute, Upgrade, and Wishing Well.
Seaside lets you gets you waterlogged with the addition of Ambassador, Bazaar, Caravan, Cutpurse, Embargo, Explorer, Fishing Village, Ghost Ship, Haven, Island, Lighthouse, Lookout, Merchant Ship, Native Village, Navigator, Outpost, Pearl Diver, Pirate Ship, Salvager, Sea Hag, Smugglers, Tactician, Treasure Map, Treasury, Warehouse, and Wharf.
Alchemy lets you dabble in mixology with the addition of Alchemist, Apothecary, Apprentice, Familiar, Golem, Herbalist, Philosopher’s Stone, Possession, Scrying Pool, Transmute, University, and Vineyard.
Prosperity lets you get your greed on with the addition of Bank, Bishop, City, Contraband, Counting House, Expand, Forge, Goons, Grand Market, Hoard, King’s Court, Loan, Mint, Monument, Mountebank, Peddler, Quarry, Rabble, Royal Seal, Talisman, Trade Route, Vault, Venture, Watchtower, and Worker’s Village.
Cornucopia adds more variety with the addition of Fairgrounds, Farming Village, Fortune Teller, Hamlet, Harvest, Horn of Plenty, Horse Traders, Hunting Party, Jester, Menagerie, Remake, Tournament, and Young Witch
Hinterlands encourages your wanderlust with the addition of Border Village, Cache, Cartographer, Crossroads, Develop, Duchess, Embassy, Farmland, Fool’s Gold, Haggler, Highway, Ill-Gotten Gains, Inn, Jack of All Trades, Mandarin, Margrave, Noble Brigand, Nomad Camp, Oasis, Oracle, Scheme, Silk Road, Spice Merchant, Stables, Trader, and Tunnel.

Rio Grande Games will also be releasing a replacement pack (for when your regularly used cards get oogey) in March 2012, an expansion called Dark Ages in August 2012, and an expansion called The Guilds in Spring 2013. Visit their website here.




*Devious players aren’t bad people. Some people really take gaming seriously and always want to win so they operate differently.