Dominion League Championship Match Livestream – with Donald X. commentating!

This Saturday at 16:00 UTC / 11:00 AM EST, the Dominion League’s Championship match will be livestreamed, featuring Donald X., creator of Dominion, as a commentator.

The contestants for the twelfth Champion match are Stef and Mic Qsenoch, the only two people who ever won a Championship match so far. Due to the regular League standings, Mic Qsenoch needs to win five out of the six played matches, whereas Stef has to win only 1.5 games to claim the title.

Regardless of the results, we’ll be seeing the complete six games. Donald X. will be accompanied by SCSN, the third place finisher in the League, as co-commentator. You will find the broadcast here (February 13, 2016 at 16:00 UTC / 11:00 AM EST):

www.twitch.tv/dominionstreams

You can also find the broadcast recorded using the same link if you can not catch the action live.

If you have further questions, you can ask them here or post in this thread.

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The month of Alt-VP : Feodum

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match. 

Week 5 : Feodum

Feodum

Most of the Alt-VP cards are worth going for if you can get them up to 4 VP. This means you’re going to need at least 12 Silver in your deck which is a lot of junk, especially for an engine. It’s perfect for a Slog with some kind of Silver gainer (Jack of All Trades or Amulet). Today we’re going to use the ultimate enabler, Masterpiece. Here are the buy rules for the Masterpiece/Feodum bot (evaluated from top to bottom for each buy):

  • buy Feodum when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Province when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Duchy when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Estate when you have 21 or more Silver
  • buy Masterpiece with $5 or more
  • buy Silver

Here’s how it fares vs a Smithy Big Money strategy (which buys 1 Smithy, Treasures and Provinces)

feodum

It’s a hopeless battle for the poor Smithy. It spends $8 to get 6VP while the Feodum player only needs to spend $4 to get 7VP. Masterpiece/Feodum wins very close to 100% of games. This strategy is so strong that it even beats strong engines. Its only rivals are probably mega turn engines with Goons. As an example let’s let it fight against a Fishing Village/Wharf mega turn engine:

feodum2

Feodum wins a whopping 80% of matches vs the engine.

When a strategy is so dominant the game often turns into a mirror match. It’s pretty obvious that winning the Feodum split is going to be important. Here are the buy rules for the best mirror bot:

  • buy Feodum when there are 8 or less Silver in the supply
  • Masterpiece with $5 or more (if there are still Silver left in the supply)
  • buy Province if you already have Feodum
  • buy Duchy if you already have Feodum
  • buy Estate if you already have Feodum
  • buy Silver

feodum 3

The mirror bot wins 60% of games versus the original bot. It surprised me that winning the Feodum split gives only a small advantage, but getting lots of Silver first will allow easier access to Province which are going to be worth as much VP as Feodum in a mirror match (40 Silver split in 2 means 6VP Feodum).

Conclusions

This combo is going to dominate on the majority of boards, but losing the Feodum split in the mirror is not the end of the world.

I will be taking requests for future articles, so feel free to send me a message (Geronimoo on the forum).

(these bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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The month of Alt-VP : Silk Road

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match. 

Week 4 : Silk Road

375px-Silk_Road

Silk Road doesn’t need much support to be awesome. Any green card in the kingdom will enable it. Even the lowly Great Hall. Today I’ll examine Island as an enabler. We won’t be using any other kingdom cards to keep things simple. Let’s let it fight against Smithy Big Money (which buys 1 Smithy, Treasures and Provinces)

silk

Island/Silk Road wins 69% of games! Here are the buy rules for the optimal bot (evaluated from top to bottom for each buy):

  • buy Silk Road when you have 5 more Islands than Silk Road
  • buy Island
  • buy Silk Road
  • buy Duchy
  • buy Estate if there are 4 or less Silk Roads left in the supply
  • buy Silver

Notice that this bot starts greening from the first turn and hardly builds economy. I expected this kind of strategy wants to buy Copper, but the simulations suggest otherwise. Also this bot shouldn’t buy Province because emptying the Province pile fast enough wins the game for the Smithy deck. You want the game to drag on to maximize Silk Roads.

Now we look at the mirror match where both players go for Silk Roads.

silk 2

After a few iterations I came to this optimal and very simple bot for the mirror:

  • Open Island/Silver
  • buy Silk Road
  • buy Duchy
  • buy Island
  • buy Estate if there are 4 or less Silk Roads left in the supply
  • buy Silver
  • buy Copper

As was expected you want to rush the Silk Roads as soon as possible and turn 3 is really soon. Contrary to the previous deck, this one wants Copper. It wins 75% vs the original non-rushing bot.

Lessons learned: don’t help your opponent by buying cards he wants to pile out as fast as possible; and you don’t want a lot of economy building if your goal cards cost $4 or less.

Join me next week when I build a Masterpiece.

(these bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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The month of Alt-VP : Vineyard

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match. 

Week 3 : Vineyard

Vineyard

This is probably the most complex of the alt-vp cards. First the threshold to get these is dependant on action cards and not treasures and second you need to determine when to get Potion and how many you need.

The deck I will analyze today is completely focused on maximizing Vineyard. It uses Workshop, Worker’s Village and Smithy. The game plan is to get a bunch of action cards in the deck and then get all the Vineyards. I will let it battle against a simple Smithy Big Money deck (which buys 1 Smithy, Golds and Provinces)

After a lot of tweaking here’s the best bot:

  • Open Workshop/Workshop
  • Get some Worker’s Villages
  • Get Smithy whenever you have more Villages than terminal actions in your deck
  • Get Workshop whenever you have more Villages than terminal actions in your deck
  • when you have acquired 8 action cards, get 2 Potions
  • Continue collecting action cards and Vineyards
  • Empty 3 piles: Vineyard, Worker’s Village and Smithy/Workshop

You probably end up with 7-point Vineyards (56 VP) in 20 turns.

Vineyard

This deck wins 91% of games versus Smithy Big Money. It beats most Big Money decks and only loses to the stronger engines.

Let’s examine the mirror match where both players go for Vineyards. After some tweaks this is the optimal bot:

  • Open Workshop/Workshop
  • Get some Worker’s Villages
  • Get Smithy whenever you have more Villages than terminal actions in your deck
  • Get Workshop whenever you have more Villages than terminal actions in your deck
  • when you have acquired 5 action cards, get 3 Potions
  • Continue collecting action cards and Vineyards
  • Empty 3 piles: Vineyard, Worker’s Village and Smithy/Workshop

vineyard2

So this bot wins 57% of games versus the original bot. It’s pretty obvious that winning the Vineyard split is crucial. Buying/gaining up to 3 (!) Potions after the second reshuffle seems to be the way to do that. This game is also over a lot faster averaging 14 turns.

The lesson here is that if Vineyard is part of your strategy you probably want to get Potions fast and more than one.

Join me next week when I walk the Silk Road.

(these bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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The month of Alt-VP – Duke

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match. 

Week 2 : Duke

For beginning players Duke is often the elephant in the room. They know it should be incorporated into their strategy, but haven’t a clue how. It’s easy to see that it can be a strong cards if you manage to get the majority of the Duchies, but most players find it hard to spend $8 on a Duchy, while it’s often the best move. Today I’ll be looking at a Duke-slog with Cache as an enabler.

Duke

Dominion: Intrigue

cache

The simulator proves that Gold is worse than Cache in the Duke slog. This is caused by the “padding” effect of Cache. You see, in the mid to end game a deck with a lot of green cards will cause many hands to contain three or more victory cards leaving you with $4 (eg a Gold and a Copper) and unable to buy anything meaningful. Adding a bunch of Copper into this deck will cause hands to contain relatively fewer green cards (eg 2 Duchies, Cache and 2 Copper), hence the padding effect. Here’s how this simple deck (buy a few Caches, then Duchies, then Dukes) fares against simple Big Money Smithy (buy 1 Smithy, treasure and Provinces).

duke

The Duke slog wins 64% of games. So it’s not a dominating strong combo and can easily beaten by a strong engine. Simulations suggest you want to build up some economy first. Three Caches seem to be the sweet spot before greening. You want to get at least 7 Duchies before attacking the Duke pile.

Now let’s look at the mirror match.

duke 2

In the mirror match it’s crucial to try to win the Duchy split. But you need a little bit of money first. It appears you want at least $18 worth of treasure in your deck before greening (so probably 3 Silver and 1 Cache or 2 Silver and 2 Cache). Once the Duchies are gone you need to keep buying green cards (Duke and Province). Switching back to building economy doesn’t work out well according to the simulator. Estates should be bought when there are 4 or less Dukes left on the board. This strategy wins 57% against the player who builds more economy first.

Join me next week when I tackle Vineyard.

(These bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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The month of Alt-VP – Gardens

In this article series I will explore the so called Alt-VP or Alternate Victory Point cards. I will analyze simple decks that use Alt-VP as their win condition and how well they fare against baseline strategies. I will also try to find (near) optimal strategies for the mirror match.

Week one: Gardens

We’re going to start with the forefather of Alt-VP: Gardens. I fondly remember one of my first games of Dominion where I went for Gardens by buying a lot of Markets bloating my deck as much as possible. I ended up the winner with a 60 card deck and Gardens worth as much as Provinces. I felt great and to this day when I see Gardens appear in a kingdom I try to incorporate it into my deck. At the time I just saw Gardens as a good card to buy in stretched out games. It never even occurred to me that it could be used in a rush strategy.

Ironworks

Gardens

Dominion

Today I’m going to explore one of the classic combos: Ironworks/Gardens. This deck will get a bunch of Ironworks (gaining them with … Ironworks) and when it has enough of them it will start to gain Gardens and Estates (and more Ironworks if you’re holding multiple Ironworks). So it rushes 3 piles before the other player can buy enough Provinces. Typically you will end up with a deck of 40 cards meaning 43 points in 16 turns. You need a very strong engine to beat that kind of speed.

Let’s see how the deck does against a baseline strategy. I’ll take the Smithy Big Money deck which buys one Smithy, money and Provinces.

Gardens 1

The Gardens player will win 97% of games vs the poor Smithy player. The simulator shows that you want 6 Ironworks before making the switch to gaining Gardens. The spikes in the graph show where the Gardens player reaches the next threshold (every 10 cards).

This is a very strong combo and can only be beaten by the strongest engines. So what will happen most of the time is that each player will go for the same combo. The mirror match is all about winning the Gardens split. To achieve this you want to start greening after getting two Ironworks. It will also try to get Duchy because the game is over so fast that Gardens are never worth more than 3VP. We’ll call this deck Ironworks/Gardens (Paper) and the original rush is Ironworks/Gardens (Rock).

Gardens 4

Paper will win 87% of games vs a mindless Gardens rusher. Now this is not the end of the story. There is another way to tackle Alt VP boards and that is turning your game into a slog. You’re no longer rushing to empty 3 piles, but trying to get the most victory points in a drawn out game. The plan for this deck, which we’ll call Ironworks/Gardens (Scissors) is to get two Ironworks and using them as a source of economy, gaining several Silvers. This economy will allow the deck to get more Duchies. This will often result in losing the Gardens split, but winning the Duchy split by a lot.

Gardens 5

Ths slog wins 63% of games.

And now it gets interesting. We match up the slog (Scissors) with the original rush (Rock).

Gardens 6

Rock wins 57% of games!

So this illustrates that being flexible is important and on some boards you need to adjust to your opponent’s strategy.

Join me next week when I’ll talk about Duke.

(these bots have been incorporated in the latest version of the simulator)

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2015 DominionStrategy.com Championships

This year, the DominionStrategy Championship is back with its third edition. Want to become the new DominionStrategy Champion? Just want to play some competitive Dominion? Then sign up on the forums to compete with some of the best Dominion players in the world!  Signups close September 24.

Everybody is welcome to participate in the tournament which will begin on September 28; we’ll play in weekly rounds of single elimination until we are able to crown the winner. The tournament will be using either the Goko website or the new Making Fun client as a platform, depending on availability (further information will be given when the situation is foreseeable).

There is nothing required to join besides having an account to play Dominion online.

Good luck!

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Leveling up

“I’ve been playing for a while now but I’m stuck on level X on the leaderboard. How do I get to level Y?”

This is a common question on the Dominion strategy forum and I’m sure all players have struggled with it some time in their playing career. There are a lot of tips flying around: play more games, analyze games you lost for mistakes, watch top players play on twitch, read strategy articles,…

Today, I’m going to use an interesting Kingdom to illustrate some of the common mistakes made by (in)experienced players and the impact of those mistakes on your win rate.

HeraldQuarryMarketGoonsNoblesAmuletSquireGreat HallTrade RouteFeodum

SeawayRaid

This board featured as Kingdom of the Week on reddit. The discussion that followed revolved around the matchup of the Feodum/Raid combo vs the Goons mega-engine? Most posters thought the Goons/Herald engine was stronger than the Feodum/Raid combo, but couldn’t quantify how much stronger it was. Then top player Mic Qsenoch chimed in:

“Only thing here is Goons engine, Feodum is a joke.”

A good player will be able to see the possible decks that can be built, how good a target deck is at aquiring points, the path to constructing the desired deck and how fast it can be set up. To Mic Qsenoch it’s clear a big Goons engine can be constructed which will easily score +100 points and do that in a reasonable number of turns. The support for this archetype is pretty good; there’s Quarry to pick up multiple actions easily, strong trashing (Amulet) to make the deck consistent, card draw to draw the entire deck (Nobles + Herald) and Villages (Squire, Herald, Nobles) to allow multiple Goons per turn plays while drawing the deck.

The other target deck is the Feodum/Raid combo. Raid and Amulet will allow Feodums to reach Colony status (10 VP). Since the deck is going to get flooded with Silver there’s no way to incorporate this into an engine approach. This means we’re probably going to buy only 1 Feodum each turn which means 8 turns of greening + X turns to flood the deck with Silvers. X is probably going to be around 10. 18 turns means you’re giving the engine player a LOT of time to set up. The -1 Card Token from Raid will slow it down, but probably not enough.

Let’s simulate

It’s time to fire up the old simulator. I first had to code the new Adventures cards/Events which was easy enough. My first attempt at the Goons bot beat the Feodum bot 65% to 35%. Then I tweaked a lot of knobs and eventually ended up with following (close to optimal) bots:

Goons engine bot (uncontested):
Open Quarry/Amulet (trash agressively)
Get 2 Goons asap
then focus on Nobles and Heralds (don't get a second Quarry)
when you start to draw your entire deck get more Goons
don't buy Silvers, instead get Great Halls with spare buys
don't overbuy Squires, just enough to support the terminal actions
buy Copper when you have 3 or more Goons in play

This will result in a few big Goons turns eventually three piling Heralds, Nobles and Great Halls for the win with an average of 150 points in 19 turns.

Feodum/Raid bot (uncontested):

Open Amulet/Amulet
Buy Raid and Silver exclusively
Once you have 24 Silvers start emptying the Feodums

This deck can achieve 67 points in 19 turns.

FirstGraph

So the Goons engine crushes the Feodum collector 94% to 5%. The games won by the Feodum player only happen when the Goons player gets awful draws and the Feodum player can 3-pile Feodum, Herald and Nobles/Great Hall. To combat this I adjusted the Goons engine so it protects itself from getting 3-piled and instead goes for Provinces in its big turns. This approach leads to a 99% win rate for the engine.

The less experienced player might be tempted by the Feodum/Raid combo while the seasoned pro will always go for the engine because he realizes the huge potential of the Goons engine. So choosing the wrong strategy here is a fatal mistake.

Engine mirror

Now what happens when two good players face off on this board? They’ll both go for the engine of course. Then it becomes a question of who sets up the deck the fastest, knows which piles to fight over and plays the inevitable endgame point dance the best. Let’s try to see what happens if players building the engine stray from optimal play.

An inexperienced player might open Quarry/Squire instead of Quarry/Amulet, then copy his superior opponent for the rest of the game:

FourthGraph

As expected this is a big mistake with win rates 80% – 19%. A card that trashes is almost always part of a good opening.

Here’s what happens when a player gets a second Quarry:

SecondGraph

A second Quarry results in probably losing the Herald split and means having one more non-action card in the deck and this lessens the ability for big turns. The win rates are 57% – 42% so a second Quarry is a small but significant mistake.

The key card in this kingdom is Herald. It’s going to be important to try to win the split. Now let’s examine what happens when a player doesn’t fight over the Heralds and will buy Nobles over them:

ThirdGraph

Losing the Herald split isn’t that bad if you win the Nobles split. So it’s only a tiny mistake with win rates 51% – 49%.

In my experience choosing the right opening buys is the most important aspect of the game for learning players. Mistakes made later in the game are less crucial. This is due to the snowball effect in building Dominion decks: a mistake made in the first turns of the game will have an impact on each following turn.

Buy ALL the cards

A mistake I often see even advanced players make is overbuying. They seem to do everything right: identify the engine and its components, choose the correct opening buys, fight for the important splits, but carelessly overbuy. The trap in this kingdom is overbuying Squires early on. With Quarry in play, a Squire is essentially free, so a lot of players just use up their buys and flood their deck with cards that don’t draw (ie stop cards). The sim proves overbuying Squires early on is a mistake with win rates 45% – 54%.

Eleventhgraph

Tactics

Now let’s examine tactical play. Strategy is all about having a plan, while tactics is about executing the plan. I consider the way you play your cards as tactics. Some examples of tactical decisions are returning 2 Coppers over 1 Estate with Ambassador, not playing a Smithy to avoid a bad reshuffle, choosing which card to Haven to the next turn, etc. This kingdom features Amulet which has a lot of modes to play (6 total) so a lot of room for tactical mistakes. To illustrate this, I kept the Goons engine bot that uses the Amulet very agressively and trashes every chance it gets. Then I made another bot that will prefer to use the +$1 mode if it means it can buy a better card (higher on the buy priority list). This last bot will still often trash Estates, but not Copper. Here’s the result:

TwelvethGraph

The agressive trasher comes out as the clear winner with win rates 73% – 26%. Bad tactical play in this kingdom is a big mistake.

Deck strength

Another skill in the game is estimating deck strength. Let’s illustrate this with our Kingdom. Suppose we remove the trashing cards from the kingdom (Amulet and Trade Route). So we open Quarry/Squire. Is the engine still strong enough to beat the Feodum player?

FifthGraph

Turns out no trashing hurts the engine a lot. It still wins, but the Feodum player will get lucky 1 in 5 times. Win rates 79% – 19%

Let’s remove the big drawing card Nobles. Now what happens to the engine? Can it still draw itself while playing enough Goons?

SixthGraph

Not being able to draw itself consistently is a big issue, but it still beats the Raider. Win rates 71%-28%

What if there’s no Goons? Does the engine still have enough payload?

SeventhGraph

This required a little refactoring because we need a different payload. Turns out we now do want a second quarry and focus more on Markets instead of Heralds. The win rates are 78% – 21%.

Finally we remove both the Nobles and the trashing. That should do the trick, no?

Eighthgraph

Yup, this kills the engine big time. Win rates are 11% – 86%. So choosing the engine  strategy in this case is a fatal mistake. (note that this engine will still beat a normal deck like Smithy Big Money 99% of the time so it’s still very strong, just not Feodum/Raid level).

You might wonder how strong the Feodum/Raid combo is. Here’s how it fares vs Big Money Smithy:

NinthGraph

Feodum/Raid (no Amulet) wins 94% of games, so it’s a very strong combo.

It’s hard to imagine stronger decks than the Goons engine, but let’s replace Trade Route and Feodum by Ironworks and Island. Does the Ironworks/Island/Great Hall rush have the speed to beat the Goons?

TenthGraph

The uber-rush dominates the Goons engine with win rates 62% – 36%. Turns out 11 turns is just not enough time to set up an engine.

Having a good feel for deck strength is a very important but hard skill to master. Because of the big variance in Dominion a very strong deck can have bad draws while a weak deck can have great draws and win. So it’s hard to draw meaningful conclusions from the outcome of a single game. You either need to play the same kingdom repeatedly to be sure or trust an experienced player’s opinion with thousands of games under his belt.

Wrapping up

As should be clear by now, not all mistakes are equally bad. In this kingdom choosing the wrong strategy proved fatal, while not fighting over a split was only a minor mistake. In other kingdoms this might be the other way around. If you want to win more often, you should try to identify and quantify these mistakes. Or you could just post your game log on the strategy forum and ask for advice.

Until next time and may your plays always be optimal!

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Kingdom Design Challenge for Dominion League

The Dominion League is now in its seventh season and will be hosting a Kingdom Design Challenge for the Champion Match.

At the end of each season, the top two players in the A division of the league play six games to decide the League Champion, who is the person with the highest combined score between the Champion Match and the regular season. This season, the Champion Match will be composed of kingdoms designed and submitted by forum members, so if you have any kingdoms you feel are especially devious, check it out! This thread has more details.

The Champion Match will be streamed live on Twitch — we’ll be able to see the perspective of at least one of the contestants and live commentary will also be provided, including strategic insight on the kingdoms chosen for the match. What better chance to see your favorite boards played by the best players in the world with top-level commentary?

Submissions will be open until Monday, April 27 and can be submitted via Forum PM (see the thread for details). Good luck!

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Adventures Bonus Preview #5: Giant

This is the last of several previews by playtesters of Dominion: Adventures, introducing the next Dominion expansion.  This post is by DG.  The community is discussing these new cards in the Adventures Preview subforum

Giant

Dominion: Adventures

Wow a big card! +5 coins and attack is very impressive even if you don’t get it every time. This guy is certainly going to bring triumph and disaster. It will feel like a disaster if you play your giant for +1 coin, flip your journey token, but it gets trashed from your deck before you can play it again. You’ll have to buy another one won’t you, or maybe you should have bought a second giant already?

How bad is the attack? It would be trouble except that the giant is so slow. Unless your opponents can play a lot of giants you might be able to ignore it. When you have more than one opponent you might get more attacks on your deck and then you might need to worry.

Traders, beggars, and silver in general look like good defenses against a giant. The defender will generally have some control of what the attack will do since it is the defender that puts most of the cards into the deck. If you buy a lot of fool’s gold then the giant will be giving you curses. Even so the giant attack will probably be quite random since, like a jester, it only looks at one card. We’ll see streaks of luck where the same sort of card is turned over again and again.

How good is the coin income? If you can use those +5 coins to buy key cards like platinum then it is excellent. Of course, having to get +1 coin first is very bad but perhaps you can use those early turns to gain some cards with +buy, ready for when the giant gives you the real money. Maybe if you can play your giants very often you can forget the bad start and look towards a healthy income of +6 coins from two plays.

I suspect there will be some interesting end game decisions on whether or not to play the giant and flip the journey token, especially if there’s another action that could be played instead. I also suspect that these decisions will feel bad every time as you’ll be weighing up income in the current hand against a gamble on what you need in a future hand. Triumph or disaster will be waiting.

 

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