Overdraw part 1: Gain-and-Play

This article was originally written by Titandrake, and was later adapted for the blog. Next week we’ll have the second article in this two-part series.

 

What is overdraw?

Overdraw is the situation where you would draw a card, except your deck and discard are already empty because all of your cards are either in play or in hand. As an extreme example, consider a deck of 5 Laboratories, nothing else. Your starting hand will be 5 Labs, and none of them will draw any cards, because there are no cards left in your draw or discard. A less extreme example is a deck with 5 Labs, 3 Coppers, 1 Silver. This deck is guaranteed to play all 5 Labs. The first 2 Labs will draw cards, and the remaining 3 Labs won’t draw cards. Both of these decks are overdrawing.

You can calculate overdraw carefully if you want to, but usually you can figure it out on the fly. On a given turn, if you’ve drawn your deck and have extra draw cards left over, you’re overdrawing. You can easily see much you’re overdrawing by looking at the remaining draw you have in hand at this point.

The core principle of overdraw is simple: any time you could have drawn a card but didn’t, you’re wasting a draw. If there’s a way to avoid wasting that draw, you can use it to get more out of your turns. Gainers are the simplest way to do this, because it adds a new physical card to your deck, but there are also other ways to convert extra card draws into resources.

Examples

With the right setup, you can do some explosive things. Here’s an example from a game I played about two weeks ago. At the start of my turn, I had 2 Stonemasons, a Bandit, and tons of overdraw and actions thanks to several Lost Cities and Encampments.

  • Played Bandit, gaining a Gold.
  • Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into Bandit and Plunder.
  • Drew Bandit and Plunder with overdraw. Played Bandit to gain Gold.
  • Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into 2 Plunders.
  • Drew Plunders with overdraw.

So, to recap: in a single turn, I gained and played a Bandit and 3 Plunders, which gave me an extra $6 that turn (not to mention 3 VP). From here, I ran away with the game.

 

Plaza can convert a draw of a Treasure card into a coin token. If you draw your entire deck, you can repeatedly draw and discard a single Copper to multiple Plazas. letting you get several coin tokens.

Tournament is another big example. With overdraw, a single Province can be discarded to multiple Tournaments, to gain multiple prizes in one turn. It helps that the Prizes you gain can themselves help with triggering the reshuffle needed to get the Province back into your draw pile. I once played a game where it was clear Followers was the most important prize. My opponent got to Province first, and gained Trusty Steed first. I thought this was a mistake, right up to the point where he redrew Province and played a 2nd Tournament to gain Followers too. Gaining Steed first simply minimized the chance he would run out of actions to play the rest of his deck.

In these examples, we are not always using our overdraw on newly gained cards to our deck. Instead, we are using our extra draws to draw existing cards multiple times, and using other card effects to make this useful. This principle applies especially to Market square in games with enough draw to reveal and draw the Market Squares multiple times in one turn.

I’ve focused on the flashy examples in this article, but that doesn’t make the less flashy examples useless. Whenever you’re in a position where you’re about to waste card draw, take a moment, and see if you can gain a small edge by making use of your overdraw. Trust me: it adds up.

 

There are many other considerations related to overdraw, revolving around the consistency of your deck and when you would want to build to overdraw your deck or not. These will be addressed in next week’s article.

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Leprechaun

This article was written by vsiewnar

LeprechaunDigitalWishDigital

 

Reading into the card

Wish is a strong card that is often worth satisfying the exotic condition printed on Leprechaun: you need to play it as the 7th card to gain a Wish (and a Gold). Generally, Wish is the more preferred of the two. However, let us first look at some of the implications of this exotic condition that we divide into 3 parts:

  • Necessary (action) cards
  • Deck control
  • Surplus Actions (different from action cards)

The first implication tells us that we need to have the prerequisite action cards in your deck before even dreaming of gaining a Wish. The simplest example of this is that you need to first have at least 7 actions (one of which is Leprechaun) in your deck. As a trivial example, you need to have 6 Vagrants and a Leprechaun in your deck before you can gain a Wish.

However, there are a few action cards that allow treasures in play (e.g. Storyteller) during the Action phase which often makes Wish gaining easier. Villa also deserves mention here because of its unique ability that gives the player enormous flexibility for putting cards in play.  

The second implication suggests that you also need enough control over your deck to be able to play Leprechaun as the 7th card. Deck control here refers to the ability to both find Leprechaun and to play it as your 7th card. Trashing obviously improves your deck control by both decreasing its size (making finding Leprechaun easier) and increasing the chance that you play 6 cards (and no less or no more) prior to Leprechaun. Thinner decks gain Wishes easier; consider the case where your deck consists of only 6 Vagrants and 1 Leprechaun.

There are other contributing factors to deck control such starting with a large hand (e.g. via Tactician), saving cards for future turns (e.g. Haven, Save) and sifters (e.g. Warehouse, Forum). It is worth noting that even with trashing and having the necessary action cards in your deck, there are some decks that may not have much control over when you play Leprechaun. Examples of these can be found in Herald stacks or decks that use Golem.

The final implication with the 7 card condition is that you often want to play more than 7 cards per turn. For example, you don’t want to forgo playing Laboratories to play a Leprechaun. The way to circumvent this restriction is to create extra Actions (not action cards) prior to the Leprechaun play. The simplest example for this is to play a Village (+1 Card, +2 Actions) prior so that you can play your Leprechaun as the 7th card and continue your turn.

Satisfying all 3 of these implications often means that you will generally be able to gain Wishes and make good use of them.

 

Tips to gain Wishes

Some action cards are more useful than others when gaining Wishes. From the first implication above, we can construct an example with Storyteller. Using 2 Storytellers with 2 treasures on each one opens up the window for gaining Wish. We only needed to buy 3 action cards here (2 Storytellers and 1 Leprechaun) instead of the usual 7.

Duration cards can be helpful for gaining Wishes since they stay in play for 2 turns. However, if you have too many Duration cards in play, it can make Wish gaining tricky or even impossible. Consider 7 Hirelings in play as a purely instructive example that makes Wish gaining impossible. On the other hand, 2 Caravans both increase your opening hand and give you a head start on playing Leprechaun as the 7th card. Similarly, most Reserve cards can be used to help make Leprechaun be played as the 7th card by calling them at the right time. On the other hand, cards that disappear from play like Madman, Encampment and Wish do not contribute to the number of cards in play. This property can also be helpful in Wish gaining.

 

Gain Golds/Hexes

There are instances when you may want to use Leprechaun as a Gold gainer. One instance is that the board simply does not have a better strategy on it. Another instance that comes to mind is to quickly get out of debt on a Donate board since most Hexes do not negatively affect you soon after buying Donate. In general, Hexes do not hinder decks as badly when you have good deck control.

However, surrendering to the whims of the Hex pile will often be to your detriment more times than not and you should be prepared for the worst (Poverty, Delusion, Envy are often among the worst) if you plan to consistently play Leprechaun for only Gold.

 

Conclusions

  • You should only buy or gain Leprechaun for Wishes when you are quite sure that you can gain Wishes with it and not before. This often means satisfying at least the first 2 implications above.
  • Using Leprechaun only for Gold gaining may not be as glamorous as it sounds unless you are very well prepared for the Hexes.
  • Wish is a strong card and often worth the trouble.

Time for Wish

Time is an extremely important resource in Dominion and it is measured in turns. When we play, we try to do as much as possible in as little time (turns) as possible. Gaining Wishes often requires a few turns of setup both through buying action cards and increasing your deck control i.e. it is a time-intensive process. Consequently, fast strategies such as those involving Rebuild, Governor or Butcher may simply outpace your attempts to build a deck that gains Wishes consistently.

In games where there is enough time to gain Wishes, you will probably find yourself in either the mid-game or the endgame. During the endgame, you will probably use your Wish for cards with an immediate payoff like Duchy or Gold. During the mid-game, you will probably wish for cards that will give a greater payoff than Duchy or Gold over the remaining time left in the game. Examples of these are gainers (e.g. Artisan), attacks (e.g. Militia, Jester) or cards that help consistency (e.g. Village, Smithy).

 

Gold flood

There is also the issue of the Gold injection into your deck everytime you play Leprechaun. As you may know if you have played with decks that use Jack of all Trades (Silver injection) frequently, the treasure flood needs to be addressed. You can either build your deck with enough draw or trashing to account for the extra Gold or be prepared to deal with an increasingly inconsistent deck that will stall on treasures (ideally Golds). Dealing with an inconsistent deck isn’t necessarily bad; however, it helps if you are able to anticipate this and plan accordingly.

An additional drawback of the decrease in deck consistency is that it makes less likely to gain Wishes in subsequent turns. Even if you are able to draw all of the Gold from Leprechaun, you have to deal with a deck that is becoming increasingly large. This means that finding your Leprechaun to play as card 7 becomes more difficult. Using cards like Forager or Butcher for trashing the Gold seems to be the best way to deal with the Gold flood if you want to maintain your Wish gaining consistency.

 

Gain and play

In general, Wish is a very good card and needs the exotic condition on Leprechaun to balance its power. Wish highlights the strength of gaining and playing a card in the same turn which is regarded as a powerful ability of Dominion decks. In most cases, it is possible to gain and play the Wish in the same turn which is an even stronger effect.

Wish is powerful for a couple of reasons; the first is its flexibility. Wish can be used whenever you opt to use it mostly because it does not cost an Action to play. It can be used at the beginning of your turn to ensure that you have a full turn. It can be used midway through your turn to ensure that you make it through the rest of your deck. It can be used at the end of your turn to gain whatever you feel best (attacks, gainers, points, treasure etc.).

The second reason is that the gained card from the Wish is immediately put into your hand for use; you don’t have to draw the card from your discard pile or even from the top of your deck i.e. you don’t have to spend any additional resources to put the gained card into your hand.  

You usually gain only one Wish per turn barring Throne Room and its variants. This means that Leprechaun will usually gain at most 2 cards when thinking about ending the game on piles.

A final note on Wish is that cost reduction makes it possible to gain Provinces or even Colonies.

 

Conclusions

  • Assess whether there enough time to build a deck that gains Wishes. If you can, you may find yourself in either the mid-game or the endgame with some Wishes.
  • The Gold gain affects your deck’s consistency which includes your ability to consistently gain Wishes. Trashing the Gold is the best remedy.
  • You usually only gain one Wish per turn so it is easy to track the number of gains both you and your opponent have.
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Contraband

This article was written by Jake.

ContrabandDigital

Often ignored, Contraband is considered by many a weak card. A lot of the time it is, but that’s to the extent that Dominion has strong and weak cards.

What Dominion really has are commonly applicable and rarely applicable cards, and the best players look out for all possible advantages, all the time, on every board.

Contraband is guilty until proven innocent in terms of utility— it’s unwise to start your game plan by dreaming up uses for Contraband. Rather, one should identify their deckbuilding and endgame goals, then decide whether or not Contraband is an enabler.

 

Limitations- Why don’t you buy Contraband more often?

  • It’s rare for an opponent not to have some idea of what your goals are based on what your deck is doing, and by extension what the best card for your deck would be.This applies to every phase of the game (this is especially true for money-focused decks that don’t interact with much of the Kingdom).
  • Counting on your opponent making a mistake is a bad strategy– And relying on Contraband for payload is usually just that.
  • Playing more than one compounds the problem, making the card inherently unreliable, as you rarely want more than one.
  • At its worst in the in the endgame, as your opponent almost always knows which green card you need to buy.

A $5-cost card that doesn’t help you get control of your deck has the onus to deliver significant payload. Contraband does, but with the restriction that you’re required to do the second-best thing with your turn. If there’s one clear best thing, the opportunity cost is that thing (because a $5 buy probably could have advanced you toward it somehow).

For example, when you and your opponent are fighting over the last Avanto, Contraband probably isn’t welcome in your hand.
Whereas you’re usually content having to buy Blessed Village instead of Worker’s Village, or two Markets instead of a Grand Market.


Strengths and how to capitalize on them:

It’s cheaper than Gold, but the real strength lies in the extra buy. Non-terminal plus buy is kind of rare, and Contraband provides money to help use it, making it an efficient means of picking up two or more cards per turn so long as there isn’t one you need in particular.

 

-Situations to capitalize on these strengths

-Boards with many useful supply piles or redundancy (more than one source of plus action, draw, etc.).

-A way to profitably trash the Contraband once you’re done building.

-Events you want to buy


It’s also worth noting the advantage you have by giving your opponent as little information about your hand as possible. This means you normally play it as your first treasure, and that it’s weaker when you need to reveal cards from your hand mid-turn, like with Menagerie or Legionary.

 

Conclusion:

Contraband is terrible in big money decks and terrible on boards with one or two piles key to a dominant strategy. However, on boards with multiple build-routes/useful components, its plus buy makes it an efficient means of shoving them into your deck en masse.

The key thing to remember is that Contraband can help you build your deck, but it does NOT help you win the game with your deck.

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Multiplayer series, part 4: Gameplay Considerations

This is the fourth part in a series of four articles written by Polk5440. The series studies games of Dominion with three or more players and how they differ from games with just two players.

 

In the previous parts to this series we discussed how the number of players affects the strength of cards and how the number of players following a similar game plan can affect the success of that plan. But what factors influence the strength of a game plan in the first place? There is no easy answer, but there are several big considerations for multiplayer games.

 

Junking Attacks

In part 2 we discussed how stacked attacks are usually much stronger in multiplayer games because potentially more copies of the card can be played per turn.

There is another side to this for cards that hand out Curses or Ruins: Because copies of other players’ attacks stack and affect everyone, the amount of additional benefit from having a copy of the attack yourself is actually smaller, even in the absence of a defensive card like Moat.

Consider a two player game with Witch. If your opponent gets a Witch and you do not, you will end up with 10 Curses and your opponent will have 0 Curses. That’s ten more junk cards in your deck.

In a four player game, if all your opponents get a Witch but you do not, the Curse split is more equal, say 6-7-7-10. You may only have 3 or 4 more Curses than each of your opponents. Yes, you still got 10 Curses, but you are not as bad off relative to your opponents now that they are getting cursed, as well.

Thus, there is an incentive to go for strong attacks, but with more players, there are also strategic reasons to pass on getting a copy of the attack, as well.

 

Competition for Cards

More players means key cards will be harder to get in large quantities.  

As an example, consider the following kingdom.

kingy

Courtyard, Steward, Village, Baron, Smithy, Ironworks, Secret Passage, Trading Post, Bandit, Harem

Without Village, there is not much you can do in this kingdom on a given turn. You can cycle through cards with Secret Passage and gain a card with Ironworks, but you are really limited to playing one good terminal card a turn (e.g. Courtyard to increase your hand size or Bandit for the attack and Gold gaining).

With Village, so many more possibilities open up. A great plan would be to trash away Coppers and Estates with Steward or Trading Post, load up on copies of Village and Smithy using Ironworks to get multiple cards a turn, get a Courtyard or two, a Bandit, then go for few big turns buying multiple Victory Cards with Gold at the end.

Village is the key. Without a lot of copies of it, this great plan falls apart. Maybe you even decide that with all that potential competition doing something else might be better when there are a lot of players at the table.  

 

Substitutes

A game plan is stronger if there are good substitutes in the kingdom for key cards.

Suppose the above kingdom had Mining Village instead of Harem; things would be different! Village is the backbone of your plan, but your plan is more adaptable (and stronger) if Mining Village is also in the kingdom because Mining Village can fulfill the same function as Village (they both have +1 Card, +2 Actions).

 

Benefits of a Thin Deck

Should you trash down to a thin deck or not? Generally, “Trashing is good” is a valid maxim for any number of players for a few solid reasons.

First, the fewer junk cards that are in your deck, the easier it is to draw through your deck and see and play your good cards as often as possible.

Second, thin decks are usually more consistent and controllable. By eliminating junk, you reduce the chance of having a bad turn versus a good turn.

Finally, a thin deck is an adaptable deck, which can help you adjust as the game develops. While adaptability is a plus in two player games, it’s even a bigger plus in multiplayer games where more facets of the game are out of your control (see below). For example, if you need to switch from playing Witch to playing Tormentor after the Curses run out, it’s easier to do so if you have a thin deck than it is if you need to buy a lot of copies of Tormentor and wade through a bunch of junk. If you find yourself ahead with piles running low, thin decks that are geared toward gaining a lot of cards may be able to more easily empty piles on a win.

One last facet of adaptability is that you can usually more easily transition from a thin deck to a more bloated deck than from a stuffed deck to a thin deck. In our example kingdom above, if you thin down and notice that other players aren’t contesting the Villages enough to stop you from building a deck that way, you can reap the benefits of that Action-heavy deck; however, if Villages are contested, you can switch gears and add Bandits. The thin deck allows you to play Bandits quicker and more often, flooding your deck with Gold that may suit the situation better. However, the reverse is not true. If you start out going for Bandits, leaving your deck bloated, if you find that no one is going for those Villages, it’s practically impossible to switch gears later.

 

Disadvantages of a Thin Deck

Some cards promote bloated decks. Cards that give you lots Treasures, like Delve or Treasure Trove, or cards that benefit from bloated, junk decks, like Feodum or Gardens, are good examples. Sometimes these cards are the best things to go for in a kingdom and a thin deck can work against those cards.

Additionally, to realize the benefits of a thin deck, you need time to thin down, buy good cards, and build up to a high scoring potential. Before the scoring starts, you will probably be in last place. If you are not careful, you could be playing masterfully, pursuing the dream turn that scores you dozens of points, while the game ends with you in last place.  

 

Pile Depletion

One reason there may not be enough time to build a monster deck that plays all your cards each turn is that piles deplete quicker with more players, leading to a game ending on piles, especially if there is competition for key cards.

For example, if multiple players are going after Villages and Bridges with the goal of reducing the price of Provinces to $0 before buying them all out in one fell swoop, it’s very likely none will succeed and piles will start to run low. This pushes players to get points earlier, transition to a more money-style deck, and hang on until the end of the game.

 

Four Provinces Per Player… Or Three?

In games with four or more players there are only three Provinces per person rather than four. This is a big difference! For a given strategy, it takes fewer turns to empty piles or acquire your share of the points. (This jump also exists in Colony games.) While this feature of Victory piles is great game design to keep the length of a game (in minutes) from ballooning out of control with lots of players, it limits the number of turns and the ability to build decks before they have to score points. This is one reason why there is pressure to build simpler decks (like Council Room plus Treasures) when there are more players at the table.

 

(Lack of) Control Over the End of the Game

The more players there are the less an individual player has direct endgame control. Often in two player games one player will actively attempt to end while ahead in points. The end of the game isn’t something that happens, it’s something you make happen.

With more players, you simply have less control. If there are other players who are off doing their own thing, buying a Province every turn or so, even if they have no chance of winning, they deplete the points available disrupting the dynamic between other players building their decks. In four player games, there are fewer Provinces per person available than in a two-player game, so it does not take long to be put in a position of there not being enough points available to catch up.

Given the increased difficulty of controlling the game, multiplayer games are much more about “When do I have to green given what other players are doing?” than two player games are.

 

Conclusion

Players who are used to winning or placing well in a good fraction of their games with their friends by playing simple strategies can be surprised by how frequently they are defeated in two player games by an opponent who plays these fancy-pants strategies that score lots of points at once, and vice-versa. These strategies are just much more consistently stronger in two player games because there is usually more time to build.  

In contrast, in multiplayer games, competition for key cards, fewer Provinces per player in four player games, and a lack of endgame control means that with more players you have to build a deck that is adaptable to the game environment as it unfolds and robust to handling Victory cards late.

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Multiplayer series, part 3: Deciding on a Plan

This is the third part in a series of four articles written by Polk5440. The series studies games of Dominion with three or more players and how they differ from games with just two players.

 

Think about how you begin a game of Dominion. Before you even take your first turn, usually you spend a couple of moments perusing the kingdom, deciding on a general strategy, and what cards might be worth buying. How do you decide what your deck will look like? What’s your plan for the game?

 

2P Considerations

With one opponent in a two-player game, the decision process is usually pretty straightforward: Pick the strategy that gives you the best deck if you were able to build it uncontested. That is, strategize without thinking about how an opponent may get too many of the same cards you want.

Why is this the case? If your opponent does something different than you, then either you can think “oh, no! What have I done?!” or you can proceed with gusto toward executing your strategy and fulfilling your destiny of Dominion domination. As your armchair advisor, I say you should have confidence in yourself and do the latter.

Alternatively, suppose you both decide to do the same thing. Well, now you are competing for the same cards. If you need a lot of copies of key cards, you might not get as many as you want — even if you react to what your opponent does during the game.  

Does that mean when you see your opponent going for the same cards you are that you should give up on your initial plan and start doing something else? NO. By doing that, you let your opponent successfully implement the winning strategy, unimpeded. By trying to switch strategies, yes, the game will be over faster, but it will be over faster because you will lose.

In conclusion, with two players, you can gauge the power level of a potential deck by how well that deck-building strategy performs uncontested.

 

How it changes with more players

In games with more than two people, the dynamic is more complex and this simplistic approach won’t work anymore. In the same game, one player can contest the best uncontested strategy, but another player can do something completely different. So the best uncontested strategy can both be contested and losing.

This dynamic makes multiplayer games tougher to win; what other players decide to do can determine whether you win or lose. If you are used to two player games, this may be jarring: Two player games are much more a test of skill of those two players than a multiplayer game is a test of the relative skill of those players. In addition to luck of the draw, and more players to compete and win against (so you expect to win a lower percentage of games), what other players decide to do or strategies they pursue can influence whether you win or lose.

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Combo video: Salt the Earth/Baths

 This video was made by RTT

Salt_the_EarthDigital

BathsDigital

Without any support, the “rush” strategy of Salt the Earth doesn’t do very well — Salting a Province with $4 and buying a Silver on $3 gets easily outscored by most other strategies before the game is over, but Baths changes things quite a bit. Salting a Province now nets 3 VP tokens instead of just one, so you can end the game around turn 11-12 with about 24 VP.

If you’ve never seen this before, you might find yourself losing to this strategy before you can make anything meaningful happen. This video goes into detail about how to play this combo and how to play against it. If properly contested, most strategies with any decent support should prevail against Salt the Earth/Baths.

Counterplay options include:

– Contesting Baths points, while using Salt the Earth to trash an Estate for extra VP tokens

– $3-$4 cost cards that allow for a quick Province or two

 

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Multiplayer series, part 2: Card Strength

This is the second part in a series of articles written by Polk5440. The series studies games of Dominion with three or more players and how they differ from games with just two players.

More Players, More Chances

Some cards get better with more players because their effects have more chances to hit. For example, gaining potentially 2, 3, 4, or 5 excellent cards with Jester or multiple Treasures with Noble Brigand can accelerate your deck quickly. In the other direction, Tournament actually becomes weaker with more players because there are more opponents who may reveal a Province (blocking Tournament’s on-play effect) and more competition for Prizes.

 

Stacked Attacks

Most attack cards’ effects get better with more players because they stack and potentially more copies of the card can be played per turn. For example, with 4 players, if every player has one Witch, you could get up to 3 Curses instead of one by the end of the turn. Discard attacks like Militia don’t truly stack because once you discard down to 3 cards in hand, the damage is done; however, they are more likely to be played consistently if everyone buys a copy, which can make them feel more oppressive. Pirate Ship powers up more consistently with more players, and the increased frequency of attacking can make treasure-based decks completely infeasible. Torturer, Ambassador, Mountebank, and their relatives (while certainly powerful cards in two player Dominion) can turn a multiplayer game into a slog even if there are strong anti-junking cards in the kingdom.

There are two ways of handling that incoming junk: deal with it once it’s in your deck or prevent it from entering your deck in the first place. While trashing is an effective way of dealing with the incoming junk no matter the number of players, with more players most trashing cards are less effective at preventing your deck from being bogged down early in the game, and thus are a little weaker. Lookout can still only trash one card a turn; Trade Route can only trash one card a turn; Sentry can only trash up to two cards a turn.

This may be fast enough in a lot of two-player kingdoms where you are only getting one piece of junk a turn early on, but it can be too slow with several players dishing them out each turn. You can buy more copies of trashing cards to provide your deck with more trashing capacity, but that comes at the expense of attacking others or building your deck’s draw capacity or economy.

 

Defense

Because many attacks’ effects stack, defensive cards like Moat, Watchtower, and Guardian are much better with more players because they provide defense against any number of attacks. While the number of cards Sentry can trash per turn is capped, the reaction on Moat doesn’t wear out — its reaction prevents you from suffering the effect of any number of attacks on a given turn as long as you have it in hand.

Additionally, with more opponents you are probably going to be attacked more consistently; this also makes defensive cards better. For example, with four players, you have three opponents who might play a Witch when you have a Moat in hand instead of just one opponent who might play a Witch in a two player game.

 

Example: Moat and Witch

 

To see how cards’ relative power levels depend on the number of players, consider Moat and Witch. They both draw two cards, so that ability is a wash. The real comparison is between the ability to dole out a Curse to an ability to block incoming Curses.

In two player games, Witch is an absolute powerhouse and Moat is a weak card; often, Witch is a must-buy and Moat is ignored.

Let’s put a little evidence toward this claim with a simple simulation of the head-to-head match up of a player who only buys Witches versus a player who only buys Moats.

The strategies simulated are as follows: The Witch-only player buys two Witches; the first one as soon as possible, the second one on the next $5. The Moat-only player opens Moat-Silver, buys a second Moat on $2 or when there are 10 Treasures in the deck (otherwise buys Silver), and continues to buy Moat on $2 up to 5 total Moats in the deck.

2pgraph

Buying only Witch absolutely smokes buying only Moat. Moat’s defense is not a guarantee against infiltration; those 10 Curses will find their way into the Moat player’s deck eventually, ruining the deck’s potential to score.

Tweaking the buy rules doesn’t change the simulation very much, though you can play around with these strategies yourself“It’s OK to ignore Moat” is an early lesson learned when becoming more competitive at two-player Dominion.

This may surprise some players, though. Blocking all incoming attacks seems so powerful. How could it not be good? That intuition does not come from nothing; Moat’s defense CAN BE strong… in games with four players.

4pgraph

Using the exact same buy rules as before, but just adding two more players playing the Witch only strategy results in the Moat only player winning nearly half of the games.

The Moat player can actually improve to better than 50% win rate versus three Witch only players by opening Moat-Moat instead of Moat-Silver, and there are probably tweaks to when additional Moats are purchased that can be made to improve the Moat only strategy even more. Conversely, there is not much the Witch only players can do to improve their win rate, except give up playing a Witch only strategy and buy Moat, as well.

What is going on here? Moat is at its best when it’s able to block multiple stacking attacks at once. As mentioned in the previous section, multiplayer games with junking attacks like Witch are basically exactly this scenario.

There are a couple of other things going on, as well. Players playing only Witch are ALSO playing against players playing only Witch, so they are also being slowed down by gaining Curses. This doesn’t happen with two players. This means the Witch players are slowed down and the Moat player is not destined to get all of the Curses. While Moat may not create an impermeable defense, Curses now go to other players, too. The players playing only Witch may even get MORE Curses than if the Moat player wasn’t even in the game. (Remember, more players means more Curses are available per person.)

While this is not a recommendation to buy only Witch or only Moat in any game (just to be clear: it’s definitely not), this is an illustration of how the relative power levels of cards do depend on the number of players, and intuition built in one context (two players) may not carry over into another (four or more players).

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Reader Survey and Intro to Multiplayer Article Series

A couple of things this week for you: First, we’d like to hear from you, the readers of this blog, about what kinds of content you’d like to see. Recently we’ve tried to post a few different types of articles and content, but we want to know what your favorite things are and what are the things you would rather not see. Any type of feedback is welcome, so please let us know what you want so we can publish things that you will enjoy more!

Click here to take the survey

 

Next, we’ll give an introduction to a series written by Polk5440, about games of Dominion with more than two players. While most advise in articles you’ll see here is specific to games with two players, the articles you’ll see coming up will explore the changes you’ll make in a game with more players. As the articles in this series are still being edited at this stage, feedback on what you’d like to see in this series is welcome as well.


 

Over the course of a few weeks we’ll explore how the number of players affects not only the rules of the game, but the relative strengths of the cards, and the best deck-building strategies.

 

While Online Dominion primarily hosts two player games, Dominion is a flexible game that can handle anywhere from two to six players, though the sweet spot is two to four players. In fact, before Intrigue, Dominion was billed as two to four players only. If you have a party of 5 or 6, while you might have a better social time all participating in the same game, a better Dominion experience may be had by splitting the table up into two separate games, each playing with their own kingdom. For the second game of the night, just change seats; no new kingdom set-up is required!

Part I: The Rules

If you are reading this, you are probably the one setting up the game at home and explaining the rules, so let’s review what changes based on the number of players.

 

The Setup

The number of cards that go in each supply pile vary. Note that playing Dominion with three or more players requires two or more friends.

 

Number of Cards to Put in the Supply Pile

2 Players 3 Players 4 Players 5 Players 6 Players
Provinces 8 12 12 15 18
All Other Victory Cards 8 12 12 12 12
Curses 10 20 30 40 50
Ruins 10 20 30 40 50


When playing with 5 or 6 players, double the Copper, Silver, and Gold piles.

Interestingly, the number of cards per player is not constant. When more people play, fewer kingdom cards per person are available to gain. Most supply piles have a fixed number of cards (usually 10), but this relationship of card per player also holds true for the Victory card piles. For example, there are 4 Provinces per person for 2 and 3 player games, but only 3 Provinces per person for 4-6 player games. There is one big exception: more players equals more junk per person. There are 5 Curses and 5 Ruins per person in a two player game, but this scales up to over 8 Curses and 8 Ruins per person for a 6 player game! The changing number of cards available per person can affect both how a card plays in practice and the overall deck building strategy one undertakes.

The End

The game ends when Provinces, Colonies, or any three supply piles are empty. When there are 5 or 6 players, the game ends when Provinces, Colonies, or any four supply piles are empty.

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Knights

This article was written by Jake.

Dame_SylviaDigital

Often, the presence of Knights in a Kingdom becomes the board’s central focus. This is because the Knights attack is potentially one of the most devastating in the game. Its potency revolves around something I’m going to call Knightmare.

The threat is of Knights attacks being played on you in excess of your capability to replace what they’re trashing. Unchecked, this faces us with a fundamental truth both of Dominion, and of life– almost everything that does anything for your turn costs between $3 and $6.

The concept of a Knightmare scenario is that you lose capability to deckbuild or score points in any relevant capacity, as you’re devoid of anything at that price point. In other words, your deck gets torn down faster than you can build it back up.

It’s also worth noting that Knightmare doesn’t necessarily happen to either player. It doesn’t need to for Knights to dictate the flow of the game. More often, Knights don’t actually force your opponent into a headlock, but apply pressure, pressure backed by the threat of Knightmare.

That threat requires counterplay, and the more real the threat is, the greater the pressure applied. In fact, deciding how Knights-Focused your buys and play need to be be should hinge on how feasible it is to force a player into a Knightmare, as this determines how oppressive Knights will be, regardless of whether or not it actually happens.

Here are a few considerations to that end:

 

How many Knights is it possible to play per turn?

Getting hit by one or two Knights attacks per turn is annoying, but usually not disruptive enough to require counterplay (though that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing to your opponent). Often, it’s sufficient to buy back important cards if they get trashed, or have some redundancy in your deck in the first place (like you would against Swindler).

Any way to exceed that signals that both players should focus their play on Knights, as Knightmare is probably a viable threat. If it’s possible to play three or more Knights in a turn (or just two, but reliably play them every turn), then it’s probably possible to lose cards faster than you can gain them.

Assuming it’s possible to play three or more per turn:

The Knights war is on, and the best defense is a good offense.

Keeping your deck able to hit $5 is a priority as long as there are Knights in the pile, as you’d like to both have Knights in your deck, and play Knights on your opponent.

Studies suggest that playing Knights is the most common cause of Knight death (next to smoking), so it’s normally advisable to keep track of how many Knights each player has left.

If your opponent has more Knights than you do, your priority is to keep them “in check” with Knights in your deck to keep them from snowballing an advantage. In that situation, choosing to trash your Knight to trash an opponent’s is almost always worth it.

If you have more Knights than your opponent, then playing them to do the snowballing yourself becomes more important.

It’s rare that your behavior would be significantly different in either situation (after all, the best defense to Knights is Knights), but those are your priorities for when it would be (like buying a Royal Carriage over another Knight) and for your general reading of the game state.

If one player does ease up on buying and playing Knights (usually a mistake), the other player should look to capitalize on this, pushing their opponent closer to Knightmare. In other words, you should only stop playing around Knights when they’re gone and you’ve done all you can, or when the game nears its final shuffle.

 

Knights opportunities to look out for:

-Any way at all to play more than two or more per turn. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s normally the level of Knights pressure required to meet or exceed an opponent’s ability to repair the damage.

Doublers like Royal Carriage and Throne Room are particularly powerful in this respect because of their ability to turn a single copy of a Knight into multiple attacks.

-An opponent who has thinned aggressively. They did almost ALL the thinning! But they missed a spot! Never fear, Dame Sylvia will help them get rid of that one pesky Gold they left in their deck! Then they have to buy coppers and you can laugh at them.

-Any way to gain or play Knights from the trash. The presence of anything resembling Lurker, Graverobber or Rogue significantly extends the period of the game when both players are required to play around Knights, as Knightmare is always a threat.

Necromancer is an interesting example as, in a Knights war, as it essentially functions as a second Knights pile.

 

Reasons the Knights attack will be weaker than normal, and possibly even ignorable:

-No draw. Without the ability to increase your hand size and still be able to play actions, your only options to see your Knights often enough to have an impact usually involve aggressive thinning, which we’ve addressed can be dangerous in a Knights game.

-No Village effect. Most of the Knights are terminal. Yes, there’s a village knight, but with any degree of counterplay, no single Knight should stay alive for very long, so she alone doesn’t enable a sustained Knights assault.

-Ability to ignore them (Guardian, Moat, Lighthouse, etc.). Obviously, that’s true of any attack, but as Knights relies on quantity of plays, even a single turn of immunity is a pretty big setback for the pressure Knights want to apply.

-Access to gainers like Workshop or Amulet. This is a soft defense, but if the name of a Knights game is trashing in excess of your opponent’s gaining potential, extra gains obviously slow that down (note this makes Dame Natalie fairly valuable in the thick of a Knights war). The most effective of these is probably Market Square.

-”Knightproof” payload. Cards outside their trash range like Fool’s Gold or Platinum can keep your deck viable in the face of Knights.

-Note on Fortress: Though a good card to pick up in a Knights game, it alone isn’t sufficient protection to justify ignoring Knights. It’s simply not reliable enough that you’ll have the option to trash Fortress whenever your opponent plays a Knight. Once your payload does get trashed, you’ve got this deck full of fortresses that don’t do anything and you have to buy coppers and everyone will laugh at you.

 

Notes on the Individual Knights:

At the risk of the remainder of this article reading like a Pokédex, a few words on the unique uses for each Knight, with one caveat: Knights tend not to stick around very long, so the only time which Knights you gain and play is significant is if that unique effect is likely to provide you an advantage after just one or two plays. There’s only one Knight that’s normally true for, so we’ll start with her:

 

-Dame Anna: On a board with no other way to thin cards, a couple of plays of Dame Anna gives that player a significant advantage. If she’s still in the pile, it’s often worth not removing a Knight from the top of the pile unless you have the ability to gain or trash the one beneath it too (though if there are other thinning options, then she’s much less valuable).

-Dame Molly and Sir Bailey: Fantastic on boards with a Knightmare threat, as they, enable playing more  than one Knight a turn with no external support required (note that gaining them doesn’t single-handedly pose a Knightmare threat, as they will eventually die).

-Sir Michael: Better the earlier in the game you get him. The reason being that any discard attack costing $5 potentially robs your opponent of a hand that could gain from that pile, particularly early on.

-Sir Martin: Sir Martin is a Knight. When Knights are good cards, Sir Martin is a good card. Sir Martin costs $4 instead of $5 because he has low self-esteem.

-Dame Josephine: Dame Josephine is a Knight. When Knights are good cards, Dame Josephine is a good card. There is other text on her card, but you probably won’t still have her by the end of the game, so it’s usually irrelevant.

-Sir Vander: He wants to die, so in a vacuum, he’s usually the Knight you choose to play if you know you might reveal an opponent’s Knight.

-Dame Natalie: As noted previously, she’s quite valuable in a proper Knights war due to her ability to gain fodder to slow down your opponent’s trashing attacks (as well as the extra economy a Workshop variant inherently provides).

-Sir Destry and Dame Sylvia: I’m lumping these two together because their benefits are fairly generic and self-explanatory. You’ll know when you want them.

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Embargo-a-Go-Go

This article was written by Jake.

EmbargoDigital

Often ignored, Embargo is considered by many a weak card. A lot of the time it is, but that’s to the extent that Dominion has strong cards and weak cards.
What Dominion really has are commonly applicable and rarely applicable cards, and the best players look out for all possible advantages available to them all the time.

First, Embargo’s limitations, why don’t you buy this more often?

Opportunity Cost:

  • Embargo costs $2 and a buy, so it usually could have been a silver, and often could have been a more generally applicable $2-cost like Pawn or Raze.
  • Even when gaining it instead of nothing, it has an opportunity cost for your shuffle and the turn you draw it– It doesn’t draw cards, and it costs an action to play (see Stop Card).

Symmetric Value for Asymmetric Cost:

  • We’re operating under the assumption that Embargo isn’t the best card for your turn (it usually isn’t)–  so you make a sub-optimal play to impact a pile equally for both yourself and your opponent. The idea that you gain a crucial card then Embargo the pile for an advantage implies that you gain the card, then draw your Embargo and play it BEFORE your opponent is able to gain a single copy. That’s assuming a lot from your draws (if your plan is to get lucky, you probably need a better plan).

When is Embargo Strong?

– When you want a silver, but only for like a minute: If there is a card at the $5-$6 price point you want to gain and play as many times as possible as quickly as possible (like Mountebank or Trading Post), you probably need better than coppers to get there. Often, once that card is in your deck, you’d rather not need to draw through a silver again so you can play the power card more often, potentially making Embargo’s disappearing act a benefit over Silver.

-When your opponent broadcasts their strategy with opening buys, AND there are other, similarly strong options.

Going for Embargo in this case is only a good idea if you can do something else that is about as strong or stronger if they get curses going for it.

Otherwise, positioning yourself to use said pile yourself is probably stronger than trying to Embargo it in time.

Potion Cards, Split Piles and alt VP are the most common examples of when this is a valid tactic.

-A card is strong and you have better means than your opponent of gaining it without buying it.

Note that this implies you Embargo the gainer as well so they can’t just do what you’re doing.

Getting the most out of Embargo:

The limiting factor on most strong Embargo plays is the amount of time between when you buy the Embargo and when you get to play it, so anything shortening that window increases its tactical viability.

Window-shortening examples:
-A thin deck/lots of draw (especially if you can gain it and play it that turn).
-Topdeck gaining (Royal Seal, Tracker, Develop, etc.)
-Summon

 

Embargo and endgame play:

Two plays available in every Embargo game are worth noting as reasons it might be worth gaining one the shuffle before you or your opponent start Greening to win the game:

Embargo Provinces: A strong play when you see your opponent has built a lower-payload deck, such as one that gains one province per turn, while you’re building to do more than that. Putting the token on Provinces before your opponent gets one can give you some breathing room to build more or outscore with alt VP like Vineyard or Silk Road.

Embargo Duchies: A strong play when you have the “initiative” (a de facto lead from buying the

first one) on Provinces, and you think you and your opponent will buy them at a similar pace. Making Duchies worse makes it much harder and more punishing for an opponent to try to overcome a Province lead.

 

Example game:

 

To bring this discussion away from theory and into practice, we examine the following game in which these concepts are applied to maximize one player’s advantage:

Screwyioux versus Opponent (who will remain unnamed):

embargoboard1

The initial read on the board suggests that Familiar will be somewhat dominant, especially with Obelisk on it. There are thinning options with Dismantle and Exorcist, which also increase the quality of your deck to reward plus buy and draw. However, without Embargo, the ability to thin a single card per turn is normally too weak to pass on Familiar.

Opponent opens  3-4 and buys Silver Potion.

Screwyioux opens 2-5 and buys Embargo Exorcist, deciding that  Familiar is weaker than his other options so long as he gets fewer curses from it than normal. Screwyioux draws and plays Embargo next turn. Not having gained Potion himself, he Embargoes the Familiar pile. The opponent gains a Familiar and a curse.

embargoboard2

By the end of the game, the board looks like this (Screwyioux often picking up an Embargo instead of a Silver): Notable plays in between include Screwyioux Embargoing Shanty Town as soon as the opponent buys a Royal Blacksmith, Opponent Embargoing Farmer’s Market after Screwyioux gains one (debatable whether or not this was a good idea) and Screwyioux Embargoing Duchies once he’d established a province lead.
In the end despite having ignored Familiar, Screwyioux’s deck has fewer curses, more reliability and higher payload than the opponent’s due to Embargo restricting build options.

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