2014 Kingdom Design Challenge

One of our most popular contests is back!  The full rules and entry form is here.

Submit a Kingdom set of 10 Dominion cards, and we will personally select the best seven of these to be played in the Grand Final of GokoDom III. After the Grand Final, voters will determine the best of the seven Kingdoms, and the creator of that Kingdom will receive a free copy of any Dominion expansion.

Previous winners of the Kingdom Design Challenge can be found here and here.

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GokoDom Tournaments

In lieu of the DominionStrategy Championships, Kirian is organizing GokoDom III, a series of periodic online Dominion tournaments held on Goko.  The tournament will be played online at Goko, and feature some of the best old Isotropic players and new Goko players.  You can see a first-person view of the GokoDom II final here.

Signups close February 7.

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Dominion Team World Cup!

If you are interested in representing your country in an international Dominion tournament, you should visit our Tournaments & Events subforum, where Qvist is organizing the 2013 International Dominion Team World Cup! The tournament will be played online at Goko, and feature some of the best players from across the globe.

Signups close November 10th.

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The Secret History of Dominion

The “Secret Histories” are a series of articles by Donald X. Vaccarino, detailing the evolution and development of a particular expansion. This one covers the entire game.  Previous “Secret Histories” can be found here; the forum discussion topic for this is here.

W. Eric Martin interviewed me for his website, BoardGameNews, some years ago. He mostly wanted to know about the game itself, so I decided to write a companion article about the cards, which is how the Secret History series got started, with The Secret History of the Dominion Cards. BoardGameNews is long dead, and, while I’ve told this story to various lengths many times, it seems like, what, let’s have it in a convenient place I can link to. Plus I can talk about everything that wasn’t out, because man, it’s out. So here goes.

Continue reading

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Dominion Outtakes

This is an article by Donald X. Vaccarino, detailing the Dominion outtakes. Forum discussion topic here.

Here at last are endless images of Dominon outtakes.

In an effort to keep this remotely entertaining, I have mostly pruned out cost changes and slight tweaks. I left in a few for some reason. This doesn’t include the actual cards in their final forms either, because hey you can already see those. It doesn’t include every outtake – some never got an image, some I didn’t save the image for, and some just didn’t seem worthy. There are a lot of outtakes here though, it is plenty for anyone. I am even including some cards that are so weak or so strong that it’s humiliating I even tested them. They are outtakes for a reason, okay. Those of you who have been following the secret histories will have heard about most of this stuff, but it’s different seeing the pretty picture, and there are some things that didn’t make the secret histories for whatever reasons.

The cards don’t appear in the order I made them; that was not possible. They are very roughly in that order within each expansion, but it jumps around some. It is interesting to look at the evolution of a particular card all at once, but you will have to do that sorting if you want to see that. For some cards it will cross expansions.

Again I have gone over this stuff in detail in the secret histories, but I will somehow say a few words about a bunch of these cards. I shrunk the images down to reduce the risk of ire from copyright holders; I just google up whatever for my prototypes. If the text is ever so small that you can’t read it, man that card was too wordy, I can see why it’s an outtake.

Continue reading

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The Secret History of the Guilds Cards

The “Secret Histories” are a series of articles by Donald X. Vaccarino, detailing the evolution and development of a particular expansion. Previous “Secret Histories” can be found here; the forum discussion topic for this is here.

Dominion: Guilds

Dominion: Guilds

Right around when Prosperity was due, the powers-that-be decided that they wanted small expansions too. Products that seemed more expansion-like than these giant game-sized expansions I was doing. The ideal time to do one would be next, and so Prosperity got pushed back, and Alchemy came out in its stead. I got Alchemy by breaking off a thematic chunk from a large set, and eventually reshaped the remains of that large set into Cornucopia.

I had two large expansions left after Prosperity, so this left me one small expansion short. I had to make one more small expansion to go in between Hinterlands and the last large expansion. Well I didn’t have to, but you know. It was expected. So I made one. Guilds is thus the only expansion with no roots in Dominion as it existed prior to the main game being published. As it happens, the Base Cards product came out instead of Guilds, and then Dark Ages came out so we’d have a large expansion that year, so now the last expansion to be made is also the last to come out.

On my list of possible future mechanical themes, “tokens” was the easiest-sounding, so I went with that. There are a bunch of things you can do with tokens. My initial idea was to use them as money you could hang onto for later. This was simple and meant that any one card that used the tokens was useful by itself; there was no reason for anyone to insist on more than one token-involving card in the game at once, thus avoiding an issue that Alchemy had. The initial idea worked out and so there it is.

To supplement the tokens, I added the overpay cards. Overpay was a natural extension of the when-gain cards in Hinterlands, and was a good match for the tokens, since you could save up tokens for a big overpay. Two sub-themes is plenty for a small expansion, but I also flirted with a “name a card” sub-theme. In the end there’s just a hint of it.

Before picking the tokens and overpay themes, I considered revisiting duration cards. I asked Jay what he thought, and he said that something new would be better than more of an old thing. Some of you are reading this and wishing I’d gone with the duration cards, but man, I have no regrets there, I am pleased with what Guilds offers up instead.

When I first made cards for this set, I hadn’t picked out flavor for the set. So I gave some cards silly names, including Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker. It turned out people really liked those names, so that ended up determining the set theme. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

On to the cards!

Advisor: Envoy was an Intrigue outtake. If it hadn’t been used as a promo, I would have eventually fixed it up. One day I decided, what’s stopping me? The key thing was to give it +1 Action, so that you didn’t just say, lol here are some actions you can’t play. I originally made Advisor for Dark Ages, but moved it here because it seemed to fit with the emphasis on decisions this set has.

Baker: Originally it didn’t have the setup part. It was just a very basic coin token card. When I thought of the setup thing, I realized that whatever card I put it on might sometimes not be bought, such that that starting coin token was all the card did. I decided that was okay though, and to just put the ability on something simple and likely to be bought.

Butcher: I wanted some other way to use coin tokens if I could get one. Butcher lets you spend them as part of a Remodel. It also gives you coin tokens, so it won’t be sad when there are no other coin tokens around. For a while I considered making a simpler version of this, but ended up going with the full-on tricky version. The wording is convuluted, and not even technically correct – it says “plus the number of coin tokens,” which never confuses anyone, but it should convert the units – “plus $1 per coin token.” It ended up with this phrasing because a phrasing that said “per coin token” got read by some people as gaining you a card per coin token spent, rather than adding them to the cost.

Candlestick Maker: For Alchemy I wanted a single $2, with a +Buy, and tried “+1 Action +1 Buy +$1.” Some people preferred this to Herbalist, but some people felt like, hey what does this have to do with Potions. And I could make that card later. So I put Herbalist in Alchemy. I next tried the card out in Hinterlands, with “when you gain this, +1 Buy.” As recounted in that secret history, some people though it was hilarious that two Highways let you just buy out the pile, but some people abhorred it. I couldn’t tell you why, I thought it was hilarious. But the card was just not sufficiently hilarious to live with the hate. I bumped the card out again. Then it seemed like a great fit for Guilds, where the +$1 could become a more exciting “take a Coin token.” And here it is.

Doctor: Again as recounted in the Hinterlands secret history, I tried several “when gain” trashers for that set, and was not happy with any of them. The main problem was that you would buy the card just for the trashing, and end up with whatever other effect in your deck randomly. The solution was to make that other effect also trashing. Doctor gives you three options per card you see on the overpay in order to make sure you’re as happy as possible with the outcome. The when-play part gets in the name-a-card thing I mentioned.

Herald: The top is an old card, a less-crazy relative of Scrying Pool that I tried out long ago. The bottom was just something else I could do with overpay that would feel different. I tried it first on Duchess’s top, then moved it to this card.

Journeyman: I took this from Dark Ages, when I thought I might push a mild “name a card” subtheme here. I didn’t end up pushing it enough to make it really visible. Journeyman and Doctor have you name a card, and then Taxman kind of does, and Advisor has you pick a card. Some playtesters called this card Bigot Parade, because you know, they don’t like some particular card. “No Estates!” they chant, marching through the streets.

Masterpiece: This was just the most basic possible overpay. Early on Ben bought one for $10 or so and said “achievement unlocked.” It turned out to be a fine play though.

Merchant Guild: This started out thinking it could cost $4, like Bridge. As it turned out, it could not.

Plaza: Originally this also let you trade a coin token for +1 Card. The card was plenty good without that, plus I wanted to cut complexity wherever I could.

Soothsayer: I had tried “gain a Gold, they gain a Curse” in Alchemy, but it was a poor fit for a card with potion in the cost. I tried it out again here with the Council Room penalty. It worked fine, but some people complained about how bad the card got when the Curses ran out. Wei-Hwa suggested having it not give them a card unless they got a Curse, and there you have it.

Stonemason: Some work went into this one. I tried the top with several Remodel-family overpay bottoms. The first one was, per $2 you overpay, Expand the top card of your deck. The most promising one was, per $2 you overpay, draw a card, then Remodel a card from your hand. In the end the crazy huge overpay turns were fun but too random. Meanwhile I tried the printed bottom with Develop on top and liked it. The bottom wanted to go on a super-cheap card, so I paired it with the printed top and moved Develop into Hinterlands.

Taxman: This started in Cornucopia, based on an idea that didn’t go far in Alchemy. For the Cornucopia version, the discarding was not limited to players with five+ cards in hand, and the treasure you gained didn’t go on your deck. It was painful and not good enough. In Hinterlands I tried a version that gained you two cards. Finally it moved here and I fixed it up. It’s a lot of words, that’s like a theme of this set. It does a fine job of feeling like a new attack though, and well that’s what that takes.


I tried overpay for coin tokens, that was pretty obvious. It was predictably crazy. Another overpay card was a VP card that was a twist on Island – shuffle all but 2 cards per $1 overpaid from discard to deck. That direction hadn’t worked out in Hinterlands and still didn’t here. I had a Village for $2 with a penalty, and per $2 you overpaid, you got another one. Foosh, a pile of Villages. It sounded good but was not exciting enough. Stonemason does a better job there.

What about granting overpay to other cards, so to speak? There was a Village with, while this is in play, when you buy an action card, you may pay $2 for another copy of that card. I liked it, but there was only so much space, and again, I had Stonemason.

I tried +$1, take a coin token per card the player to your right gained on their previous turn. Then I flipped it – take a coin token, get +$1 per card they gained. Both were too random in an unfun way. I also tried +$1, take two coin tokens, everyone else gets a coin token. As is sometimes the case with such cards, people just did not want to hand out presents to the other players. And I tried +1 buy, discard cards for coin tokens.

For the name-a-card sub-theme that I didn’t so much end up with, I had a Cellar version of Journeyman, also from Dark Ages. You named two cards, discarded two cards, and drew two you didn’t name, with +1 action. It was fine, it was totally fine. A little more memory-rewarding than some players like but whatever. But again, there’s only so much space, it did not make the cut.

There is a card with a long history that had its last stand trying to get into this set. Once, the main set had a card, look at your top four, put one in your hand, discard the rest. I dropped it from the main set for being too boring. It resurfaced in Prosperity with +1 Action, and well it was crazy powerful. It cost $4 and I thought it might work out kind of like Throne Room, but it was way better. It really wanted to cost $4, so I tried several versions of it with different tweaks before giving up on it. Then I brought it back in other sets a few times and tried to get a good one. The version in Guilds was +1 action, could only get actions, but played the action it got. Anyway I did Herald instead, hooray.

For a bit I kind of wanted a new action-victory card, and tried +1 Action, reveal a card from your hand for the corresponding Ironworks bonus, 2 VP, for $4. It was fine but I mostly just liked that it was an action-victory card.

Walled Village is an outtake from this set. As a village you can keep around until you need it, it sort of fits in with the coin tokens. I couldn’t actually give you something like action tokens because that would have been another kind of token to include. I also couldn’t put coin tokens on piles, because Trade Route ate up that space.

Two cards used Spoils, which I stole briefly from Dark Ages but then gave back to it. Wandering Minstrel got worked on some here before moving to Dark Ages.

I hope this has been informative!

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Guilds cards revealed!

A photo of the cards can be seen here.

Candlestick Maker
Types: Action
Cost: $2
+1 Action. +1 Buy. Take a Coin token.

Types: Action
Cost: $2+
Trash a card from your hand. Gain 2 cards each costing less than it.

When you buy this, you may overpay for it. If you do, gain 2 Action cards each costing the amount you overpaid.

Types: Action
Cost: $3+
Name a card. Reveal the top 3 cards of your deck. Trash the matches. Put the rest back on top in any order.

When you buy this, you may overpay for it. For each $1 you overpaid, look at the top card of your deck; trash it, discard it, or put it back.

Types: Treasure
Cost: $3+
Worth $1.

When you buy this, you may overpay for it. If you do, gain a Silver per $1 you overpaid.

Types: Action
Cost: $4
+1 Action. Reveal the top 3 cards of your deck. The player to your left chooses one of them. Discard that card. Put the other cards into your hand.

Types: Action
Cost: $4+
+1 Card. +1 Action. Reveal the top card of your deck. If it is an Action, play it.

When you buy this, you may overpay for it. For each $1 you overpaid, look through your discard pile and put a card from it on top of your deck.

Types: Action
Cost: $4
+1 Card. +2 Actions. You may discard a Treasure card. If you do, take a Coin token.

Types: Action – Attack
Cost: $4
You may trash a Treasure from your hand. Each other player with 5 or more cards in hand discards a copy of it (or reveals a hand without it). Gain a Treasure card costing up to $3 more than the trashed card, putting it on top of your deck.

Types: Action
Cost: $5
+1 Card. +1 Action. Take a Coin token.

Setup: Each player takes a Coin token.

Types: Action
Cost: $5
Take 2 Coin tokens. You may trash a card from your hand and then pay any number of Coin tokens. If you did trash a card, gain a card with a cost of up to the cost of the trashed card plus the number of Coin tokens you paid.

Types: Action
Cost: $5
Name a card. Reveal cards from the top of your deck until you reveal 3 cards that are not the named card. Put those cards into your hand and discard the rest.

Merchant Guild
Types: Action
Cost: $5
+1 Buy. +$1.

While this is in play, when you buy a card, take a Coin token.

Types: Action – Attack
Cost: $5
Gain a Gold. Each other player gains a Curse. Each player who did draws a card.

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Combo of the Day #31: Beggar/Gardens

Everyone and their mother knows about Ironworks/Gardens, but the new standard for Gardens enabling is here. Beggar! How cool is this dude!?. If you manage to collect all Gardens by the end of the game, each Beggar play will have added 2.4 VP. Comparable to Rebuild, a sick $5 card that adds 2 to 3 VP per play.

Now you don’t have to be called WanderingWinder, -Stef- or Geronimoo to figure out Beggar and Gardens form a great combo, but you might want to consult with these guys if you’re facing the tough choice between a strongish engine like Hunting Party/Baron or Beggar/Gardens. Here’s me to help you out.

How to play the combo

Beggar/Gardens isn’t a rush strategy like Workshop/Gardens but a slog. (You might want to read the articles by the great WanderingWinder first). One notable aspect of the slog is that Copper is a good card instead of a liability. Another important property of the slog is that it does better the longer the game takes (unlike rushes and engines).

Ideally you’ll want to be able to play a Beggar each turn for the entire game which means you need to get a healthy number of them before greening. The simulator suggests 6 Beggars if your opponent goes for a Combo, Big Money or Engine strategy (Beggar isn’t published yet in the sim so you can’t test it yourself). If your opponent mirrors you, then you should aim for 4 Beggars before trying to win the Gardens split. This might seem late, but remember that once the Gardens are gone the game becomes a slog where being able to reach Duchy $ is very important. The extra Beggars will ensure you have enough fuel for the rest of the game. If your opponent goes for a rush (like Workshop/Gardens) use the same advice of 4 Beggars before greening.


At game end your Gardens will often be worth 7 Victory points which means an opponent aiming for Provinces needs to end the game as soon as possible. If your rushing, engining or comboing opponent tries to fight you for Gardens the green cards will hurt him a lot more than you.

vs Big Money

A typical big money strategy is Wharf BM. Beggar/Gardens beats it 4 out of 5 games. The Wharf deck can’t prevent Gardens reaching the 7VP treshold which means game over most of the time.

vs Rush

Ironworks/Gardens will win only 1 out of 20 games because it’s not good at buying Duchies after the rush becomes a slog.

vs Attacks

Attacks often turn games into slogs and the reaction part of Beggar adds some more value. Now you can discard all your excess Beggars to gain Silvers and keep one in hand for the Coppers. Curses don’t really hurt (8 Gardens = -2 points from 10 Curses) so a Sea Hag or Mountebank centered deck doesn’t stand a chance. Discard attacks like Goons are a little stronger, but unless they’re part of a big engine they can’t really beat the Beggar/Gardens.

vs Combo

Let’s take the Golden Deck (a deck that consists of exactly 5 cards: 1 Bishop, 2 Silver, 1 Gold, 1 Province which trashes a Province each turn). This can reliably empty the province pile in 16 turns which will beat the Beggar about half the time.

vs Slog

If your opponent decides to use the Beggar for a different slog like Duchy/Duke he doesn’t stand a chance because Gardens will reach 5 VP when three piles are empty (Beggar, Copper, Gardens). The Duchy player doesn’t have time to gain enough 8VP Dukes to compensate.

vs Engine

Hunting Party/Baron is a nice simple engine which beats the Gardens player by a few percentages if the engine player builds up enough before going for the 8 Provinces.
A strong engine like Fishing Village/Wharf will win 9 out of 10 games so you really shouldn’t try to go for the Beggar when there’s a mega turn engine.

Colony games

The 10VP of Colony is better suited to fight 7VP Gardens. The stronger Big Money decks will now also be able to beat the Beggar and all the engines will perform much better (not just the mega ones).

In conclusion this is a very strong combo that only gets beaten by the strongest engines or in Colony games. Just remember to load up on Beggars before greening and you should easily coast to victory with this little gem.

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Guilds Preview #5

This is the fifth and final preview by Donald X. Vaccarino, introducing the next Dominion expansion: Guilds.  The community is discussing these new cards in the Guilds Preview subforum.


Dominion: Guilds

How about that medieval Poland? At last we come to the final day of previews. Herald is another overpay card. I could only fit so many themes into 13 cards.

Herald varies from “+1 card +1 action” to essentially “+2 cards +2 actions,” depending on your action density. Aim high, that’s my advice. When you buy Herald, you get to stack the deck for your next hand. No peeking into your discard pile first to see if you want to buy Herald or not; sorry, them’s the rules. But if you overpay by $3, you’ll get to look through your discard pile three times; that’s value for money. And you can use the overpay to put Heralds on top of your deck, and then when you play those Heralds sometimes they will announce more Heralds. It’s Heralds all the way down.

Guilds has 8 more cards, and before long you will have seen them all. It will probably be available at Origins and will come out later this month in any case. It will probably show up on Goko about when it shows up in stores; I have been playtesting it. And then once people can buy it I will post a Secret History.


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Guilds Preview #4

This is the fourth of several previews by Donald X. Vaccarino, introducing the next Dominion expansion: Guilds.  The community is discussing these new cards in the Guilds Preview subforum.


Dominion: Guilds

King Casimir only lived to be 60. Did he ever go bald? The Wikipedia article doesn’t say. If so though that would be in line with the 4th theme in Guilds: bald people. And one of those bald people is Butcher.

Butcher also fits the 5th theme of Guilds, which is, wordy cards. Take two coin tokens, you may trash a card, something something, gain a card, something something, man I’ll just buy one, I’ll figure out what it does when I play it. Butcher is a Remodel that you spend coin tokens to pump up. With enough coin tokens you can go straight from Curse to Colony. You can also just trade a card in for something at the same cost or less, while keeping the two coin tokens for later. There are a lot of ways you can go.

Butcher gives you a special use for coin tokens. That’s not a theme of the set, that’s just Butcher. It provides some coin tokens itself, so it’s not like you have to have another Guilds card with it to make it do its thing. It’s all been taken care of.


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