Intrigue: Harem

Harem

Dominion: Intrigue

Harem is a curiously underrated card.  Bedazzled by the allure of Gold, many players pass on them entirely until the late game, treating them as consolation prizes for missing out on Provinces.  Nothing could be further from the truth: in a Province game, the general rule for Harem is to buy it over Gold when you would buy a Province over a Gold.

There are, of course, countervailing considerations: for starters, in Colony/Platinum games, Harems become less important, since their VPs matter less and getting to $11 requires much stronger buying power than Harem can provide.  Moreover, attacks tend to hurt Harems more than Gold.  This is especially true with Militia and other handsize reduction attacks: because Harems are worth only $2, Harems alone cannot get you to Provinces if you’ve been Militia’d.  Unlike Harem, Golds are not affected by an opponent’s Bureaucrat.  And with Remodel on the board, you would probably rather purchase Golds (to help you get Provinces earlier) and Remodel them into Victory points.

But these exceptions aside, Harems generally become preferable to Gold far sooner than most players think.  The point at which you should take a Province over a Gold depends on the nature of your deck, but as a general rule, unless you find yourself at $8 unexpectedly early, or you don’t anticipate ever reaching $8 again (and would rather buy Duchies), you should almost never pass up a Province for a Gold in a non-Colony game.  Likewise, in solitaire Province games, simulations demonstrate that strictly buying Harems (and never Golds) does considerably better than strictly buying Golds (and never Harems), and the optimal transition point for Golds to Harems is extremely early on.  Of course, these simulations don’t take into account attacks or the value of $5 cards (all of which counsel in favor of Golds), but as a general rule, you should probably be buying Harems before you think you need to.

Harems become obscenely good buys when playing Hoard.  They interact well with Mine, since not only can you upgrade your Silvers into Harems, you can “downgrade” Golds into Harems in the late-game.  Late-game Mints also become meaningful with Harems in play, since you don’t have to wait for the reshuffle to experience the benefit.  And like all mixed Victory cards, a high concentration of Harems synergizes very well with Scout.

Finally, Harem makes for … rather odd (some might say distasteful) thematic interactions.  It’s amusing to imagine how, exactly, Thieves can come in and rob you of an entire Harem, or how a Mine can turn Silver into a group of women.  You’d also think that the Harem would cost you money, but apparently it provides a source of income instead …

Works with:

  • Hoard
  • Mine
  • Scout
  • Mint

Conflicts with:

  • Colony/Platinum games
  • Handsize-reduction attacks
  • Bureaucrat
  • Opponents’ Tributes
  • Opponents’ Thieves (for the same reason that Harem makes late-game Mints useful)
  • Remodel
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11 Responses to Intrigue: Harem

  1. Curses says:

    I have grown in appreciation for this card as I have played with it more. One thought is that this card keeps it’s power in board with some +card draw, especially without +buy. You can purchase a province in the same manner with gold or harems. Even on boards with +buy, if your opponent can’t buy 2 provinces a turns, harems are still a great value.

  2. Tejayes says:

    I’d say Harem also works somewhat well with Bishop, at least later into the game. You can Bishop the 2 VP Harems into 3 VPs. If you have enough money power outside of the Harems, losing the Silver power for an extra point isn’t too bad.

    • rrenaud says:

      If you bought a Gold instead of the Harem, you would have had more money each time you drew the Gold. And then once you Bishopped the gold, you’d be no worse off. Bishop (and Remodel, mentioned in the article) thus seem to discourage buying Harems over Golds.

  3. Tim says:

    I don’t like the average way of thinking as provided in the link in the article. I may be entirely wrong, but my way to look at harem is that it is just a silver with 2 VP. Notice that you need 12 VPs, i.e., 6 harems to overcome a 5-3 province deficit; therefore if getting harems (i.e., replacing your gold buys with silvers) costs you a province later it usually will not worth it.

    The transition from gold to harem, IMO, depends on when gold starts to lose value. It depends a lot on the setup, but in my personal experience usually the third and later golds start to lose some value (due to overshoot and other efficient ways to get to 8 coins maybe); at that point harem should be the better buy.

    One of the more important factors I consider about harems is who goes first. The first player is more likely to buy harem as it reduces variance. The second player, on the other hand, is behind intrinsically, and buying harem is one of the ways to lose that important province buy and the game altogether.

  4. SkittlesMcGee says:

    If Possession is on the board, Harem becomes very desirable, since your opponents can utilize the coins it provides, but not the Victory Points. Nobles and (to a lesser extent) Great Halls work similarly, but that’s not what this article is about.

  5. Chris says:

    Why is the art on some of the cards so damn terrible? I just played this today and the $2 card (2 of 1Action, 1Buy, $1, or 1Card) looked better than this. I can’t remember what it was called but the guy looked like Aragorn, which was awesome. This looks like a stupid, poorly-drawn cartoon. I understand that they didn’t want it to be too racy but this is ridiculous. They need to put out a new edition with a legitimate artist that can spiff cards like this up.

  6. Elvin says:

    > Finally, Harem makes for … rather odd (some might say distasteful) thematic interactions. It’s
    > amusing to imagine how, exactly, Thieves can come in and rob you of an entire Harem, or how a
    > Mine can turn Silver into a group of women.

    It’s still ok.
    My friend “upgraded” a Minion to Harem yesterday — that’s a REALLY odd interaction.

  7. Alex Zorach says:

    Mint+Harem is a great combo, but I find that when it’s on the board, Harems disappear fast, so the Mint is still weak in the endgame.

  8. Moocher says:

    Will not buy Harem with Chapel for religious reasons (joke)

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