The Five Worst $4 Cards

Disclaimer: Dominion does a really great job of balancing its Kingdom cards. Pretty much every card has some situations where it shines, and some situations where it doesn’t. Nevertheless, some cards just end up being flat-out better than others, either because they are more useful more often, or just ridiculously good when they are useful. Don’t expect this list to be very scientific.

Choosing the best and worst $4 cards turned out to be quite a bit more difficult than the $3’s and $2’s.  As it turns out, none of the $4’s are actually all that bad: the vast majority are just specialized (Coppersmith, Scout, Navigator), and it’s hard to fault something like Coppersmith if you’re not pursuing a Coppersmith strategy.



Honorable Mention: Thief

As a devoted 2-player gamer, I admit that I’m prejudiced against this card.  Depending on your point of view, Thief either scales very well with more players, or very poorly with fewer.  It’s nigh-useless in 2-player games, but absolutely devastating in 4-player Chapel games.  Still, even in a multiplayer game, no other attack that carries such a risk of no gain to yourself and significant gain to your opponent.




Treasure Map

Dominion: Seaside

5. Treasure Map

If you love games being decided by shuffling, then look no further than Treasure Map.  If it appears with an enabler (Steward, Loan, Chapel, Warehouse, Talisman/Watchtower, etc.), then both players are essentially locked into letting a random number generator decide their fate.  If there aren’t any enablers for the Treasure Map, passing on them is the right call, but sooner or later you will lose games you should have won due to unassisted Treasure Maps.  No other card in the game (with the possible exception of an early King’s Court) has such a dramatic dichotomy between luckiness and unluckiness.



Dominion: Intrigue

4. Ironworks

Both Workshop and Ironworks suffer from the same problem: you’re spending an Action and space in your hand to get more non-essential cards.  Ironworks is slightly better than Workshop, but not really by much; unless you’re grabbing Great Halls, even a non-terminal Ironworks takes up a valuable slot in your hand.






Dominion: Prosperity

3. Talisman

OK, so it gives you cheap cards and more cheap cards. But you rarely want that many cheap cards, even if they’re all non-terminal.  It works great with Gardens or Quarry (EDIT: and Bishop), but otherwise there’s no point to set up amazing Village/Smithy chains if you don’t have any money to go with it.  And if you draw it with $6, you’re forced to choose between either wasting a $6 buy on a Caravan, or reconciling yourself to the fact that you bought an expensive Copper.

That having been said, it is occasionally viable to build a deck concentrated on $2-$4 cards (typically including Fishing Villages, Caravans, and/or Bridges).  But remember that spending this much time on building Action combos is a risky proposition, since you might get brute-forced by Big Money before you have a chance to activate.



Dominion: Seaside

2. Cutpurse

A solid opener, and that’s about it.  Theoretically it combos with Torturer and Masquerade, but Militia and Goons are almost certainly more effective for cutting handsize at the Action-combo point of the game.  It’s not a bad opening card—I’ve even seen players successfully double up on it on Turn 3, leading to a pretty miserable game all around.  But I’ve never seen anyone pick this up past Turn 4.  The fact that it dramatically exacerbates the first-player advantage is another point against it.






1. Bureaucrat

One of the most perplexing cards.  Its attack is much tamer than Ghost Ship, and its non-attack benefit is … well, there’s a limit to how many Silvers you really want.  About its best use is if you’re making a beeline for Duchy/Duke, but even then its terminal nature makes it a really hard sell.  And other than Dukes, I can’t really think of anything that Bureaucrat “combos” with.  Venture comes closest, but Venture also happens to be the perfect counter to Bureaucrat’s attack.  It might be valuable in a multiplayer game where you know you’ll be mired in Curses and Coppers for a long time, but even then you’d probably rather be Cursing instead of playing Bureaucrat’s piddly attack.

This is usually the point where I say that it’s only worth it if there are no other worthy terminals, but honestly, I wouldn’t recommend Bureaucrat even then.  Clogging up your deck with Silvers is really a losing proposition, and playing half a Ghost Ship on your opponents doesn’t nearly make up for it.

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68 Responses to The Five Worst $4 Cards

  1. Bob dole says:

    Small note, cutpurse is listed as being intrigue when it’s seaside

    That being said, wouldn’t workshop be worse than ironworks since it doesn’t give any benefit to you aside from the card? Also how bad is ironworks in a gardens strategy?

    And the advantages that you pointed out about Talisman would seem to make it better than the third worst 4 kingdom card, especially in comparison to ironworks.

    I think the point you made about the 4s being more specialized does make it harder to say what is a legitimately bad card though.

    • theory says:

      I did mention that Workshop is worse than Ironworks, but it’s not really that much worse. The benefit you get is mostly going to be +Action, which does let you pile up on $3 and $4 Actions more so than Workshop. But that’s still a dead-end strategy on most sets.

      I think Ironworks is pretty good in Gardens games. I don’t know if it’s better than Workshop. Against each other, I think it’s a tossup; against a non-Gardens opponent, maybe Workshop is a little better? Hard to say.

      • Reyk says:

        It’s much much better in garden games (I pretend there a no colonies) than workshop imho.
        If you are going pure workshop/workshop at the beginning of a garden game without support like villages or throne it’s quite risky. Two workshops are dead end.
        With two Ironworks you simply take another Ironwork first, you want that anyway and the garden with the second. Of course you can draw a dead Ironwork this way, but overall you will deplete 3 piles much quicker.
        Without colonies I would go Ironworks/Gardens on many occasions.
        It was really sursprising for me to find Ironworks in the list. You mention Great Hall. But what about Carawan, Island (too many might be a problem, but still …), Spy and all kind of villages when card draw is available?

  2. sherwinpr says:

    Doesn’t the mass purchase of talismans synergize with bishop on some kingdom card sets?

    • theory says:

      Short answer: yes, it does. 🙂

      As a bonus, yours is the 500th comment on the blog 🙂

    • Nakamura says:

      Please explain why Talisman synergizes with Bishop. I don’t get it.

      • theory says:

        The main disadvantage of Talisman is that you can’t get to $6 and $8 as easily. But a deck built around Bishop doesn’t need to; it just needs constant fuel for the Bishops. Talisman gets you a ton of cards for the Bishop to chew up for VPs.

        • Nakamura says:


        • sherwinpr says:

          Moreover, the Talismans allow you to run out three piles quickly to end the game before your opponent(s) has (have) bought up a sizable stack of Provinces and/or colonies.

          In particular, you can spend your early buys on Talismans (and maybe one early Bishop), sometimes picking up three or more in a turn, then take all the Bishops and some other stack costing $4 or less. Villages, especially Worker’s Villages, and Ironworks are particular good, but anything, even Estates, will do.

  3. Kn1tt3r says:

    I really expected Navigator to be in this list, since in the vast majority of the cases it appears somewhat useless to me. True, there might be occasions when it’s worth a buy, but this is very rarely and even then it’s never really necessary.
    In contrary, in some games without a thief or a treasure map you just get destroyed. Other listed cards like Ironworks, Talisman or the above mentioned Coppersmith all serve certain strategies, which Navigator doesn’t. It’s in most cases just a weak supporter of random semi-strong drawing strategies and might work fine with some Prosperity treasure cards. That’s it.

  4. Ido says:

    I think that, like with the thief, your rating for bureaucrat and cutpurse is a bit biased due to the fact you play 2-players primarily. One of their advantages over militia/ghost ship is the fact that multiple hits from different players can stack. Being hit by one of those twice (while having 2 coppers/vp cards) is almost always worse than being hit by militia. In the case of bureaucrat it can be even worse than being hit by ghost ship.
    I think you should play some 3-4 players – I personally think they are more fun than 2 players and it can give you new perspectives about many cards.
    I remember reading once an article on BGG about bureaucrat as a counter for chapel. The idea was that the bureaucrat allow a fast economic buildup, allowing you to reach vp cards before your opponent finish his trashing. Than when your chapel opponent starts buying vp cards the attack part begins to be strong as your opponent is likely to draw his vp almost every turn. I didn’t try it but I find it to be quite interesting.

    • Tim says:

      Very good point on the multiplayer effects of the two cards. Actually, thinking this way, torturer is almost like a direct curse-giving card in 3p or 4p games. 😛

      But I personally feel 2p is really the meat of the game. While one main reason for me is that I only have to know what I bought to know what the other player have bought, there are two more important reasons: it’s more resistive to “group force”, so that you are not forced to join the saboteurs, pirates, or city races just because others are doing that; it is also of more fun in the end if the game is still close. With 3p or more, you usually just get as many points as you can get, as you cannot sure what other players will do if they cannot win.

    • theory says:

      That may be true. On the other hand, that, to me, is a flaw of the game, that 4th player never really gets a turn where he’s immune from being triple-attacked. And it doesn’t really make the card that much better for the attacker.

    • sherwinpr says:

      I read the same article (Bureaucrat vs Chapel) and tried it as soon as I got the chance; it worked. I think Bureaucrat is bound to be much weaker in Colony games though, which may be contributing to it going out of favor.

      • Drew Hardin says:

        Theory can correct me on this but my sense is that he much prefers the Colony game and would prefer to focus on strategies involving it.

        I think the Colony game is simply better Dominion and I hope that future expansions improve how often it shows up in random setups.

        I have a deep, deep respect for Theory’s skills. He has many strengths that I do not have. If I was his game coach (an honor I certainly do not deserve) I would simply get him to try less stable strategies.

        His articles reflect two tendencies to me:

        1. Even if the card is normally god awful (Woodcutter, Navigator) if it fits into one of his steady Action chain killer strategies he has good things to say about the card.

        2. He has a marked preference for stable and consistent approaches to ones that are designed to win ugly games.

        This works extremely well for him but it does cause some differences in opinion. The Bureaucrat is inconsistent and wins ugly.

        I am a much better strategist than tactician. In a killer combo game I would argue Theory has an 80% chance of winning any particular game against me right now (though the more I play Isotropic the less true that is). But I suspect I would be much more competitive with him in the low Action poor trashing crap games that use cards like the Bureaucrat and Chancellor to win.

        I respect his rankings but that is my sense about them.

  5. Drew Hardin says:

    Theory, though I strongly agree with your point in Beyond Silver about the issues with Silver in a Colony/Platinum game I would like to point out that under the current random draw rules most games will be played with Provinces.

    And in a Province game you can do just fine with lots and lots of Silver. I think you underrate the Bureaucrat by quite a bit. The Silver shows up on your next draw and the attack is a bit more annoying than normal because you essentially spend 2 turns instead of 1 with a dead card in your deck.

    The Thief deserves more than Honorable Mention. I honestly figured you would put it at #1 or #2. Unless the game is 4p and players are going way too heavy on the Gold the card is really, really weak.

    I am also a little surprised about the Navigator. My guess is that you are a huge fan of deck cycling cards and it has that effect.

  6. Robin says:

    Bureaucrat is a pretty good companion to Gardens if no others are available. Its effectively an extra buy and pumps your deck with silver which is usually bad but doesn’t hurt a gardens deck.

    • theory says:

      That’s true, but you can’t use it in a Gardens “rush” strategy like Workshop or Ironworks, since Bureaucrats don’t get you more Bureaucrats.

    • rrenaud says:

      The problem with Bureaucrat in a Gardens game is that it works really well for you, but it hurts a lot if other players are hitting you with the Bureaucrats. Bureaucrats counter gardens players. In a 4 player game, if 3 people go workshop/gardens, and one player goes for provinces, the province player is screwed. But if 3 players go for bureaucrat/gardens, they could all be stepping on each others feet and drastically slowing each other down, giving the province player some room for victory.

  7. theory says:

    Honestly, even I’m surprised Navigator didn’t end up making it as well. In my mind,#3-6 (with #6 being Navigator … maybe Thief) are all pretty interchangeable. Only Cutpurse and Bureaucrat really seem to stand out for me. If I had a second Honorable Mention slot, it would certainly go to Navigator.

    • Zaphod says:

      You know what’s really funny about that? We’ve already established that you hate the Chancellor. Navigator is essentially a weaker, yet more expensive, Chancellor. I believe the Chancellor is a better card to buy most of the time.

      The trick to making Treasure Maps work, if there is no enabler available is to buy three of them. Typically, two will then show up together within a couple shuffles. Oh, and you forgot to mention the best enabler of all, the Haven. I get your basic point, though; you don’t like cards that have a high luck factor. Possession drives me nuts for the same reason. But that doesn’t mean I won’t buy one.

      The thing I like about Ironworks is its flexibility. Need one more coin to buy a Province or Gold? Get a Silver with it. Need to play another action afterward? Get an action card. The card’s usefulness varies depending on what cards are available, but that’s true for most cards.

      • theory says:

        I much prefer Navigator over Chancellor. It’s quite useful in +Action/+Card chains where you have a surplus of Actions and each draw is critical.

        I don’t think Ironworks is all that flexible. After all, if you needed one more coin or to play another Action, you could have just bought a Silver for the same result …

        • Zaphod says:

          Hmm. Okay, I get the feeling you’re a better player than I am, so I’ll take your word for it, but I don’t really understand how the Navigator is a better card.

          Chancellor and Navigator both give you two coin.

          Chancellor lets you discard your entire draw pile, whereas Navigator only lets you discard five cards.

          Navigator lets you see the five cards before making your decision, whereas with Chancellor, you have to pay attention and know what cards you have played and what cards are still in your draw pile. An alert player should have no problem doing this.

          Navigator lets you place the cards back on your draw pile in any order, much like the Scout, but, unlike the Scout, doesn’t provide another action to make this useful. One would need to play a +2 action card, then the Navigator, then a second action card for this to be significant.

          I’d say that Navigator might be better when your hand is clogged with Curses, and it’s better in the endgame, when Victory cards start to clog your hand. Otherwise, I’d rather have a Chancellor. But maybe that’s just me.

          • theory says:

            Navigator is chiefly useful for previewing what cards come up next, and adjusting your play accordingly. So if you have, say, a City stack, Navigator is much more helpful than Chancellor.

            • Drew Hardin says:

              I think Theory is right about this particular situation.

              I prefer the Chancellor to the Navigator but not because of the reshuffling. The Navigator is the kind of card that fits into a specific set of cards while the Chancellor is more of a generalist.

              In his statements about the Bureaucrat and the Chancellor Theory has placed a lot of emphasis on the ‘lack of combo’ power. My disagreement is purely that ‘lack of combo’ power is not a knock on a card. It either works for your general approach or it doesn’t.

              My issue with the Navigator is you have to be working with a pretty specific strategy for it to be of much use (much like the Woodcutter). I tend to put those kinds of cards lower in ranking than Theory does. If a card is basically a ‘combo or nothing’ terminal card it gets a pretty low ranking in my book.

            • Zaphod says:

              So, the impression I get is that it’s a matter of control to you. The benefit of Chancellor is somewhat dependent on the shuffle and therefore less under your control, so you trust it less than the benefit of Navigator. That focus probably makes you a better player, but I like some of the random benefits of the game. I may lose more games as a result, but I enjoy myself more.

  8. Dekker says:

    I am a bit suprised to see Bureaucrat take the #1 spot. It’s one of the few cards which can compete with Moneylender/Chapel (of course only without Platinum/Colony).
    Its a great card with Duke and Gardens as you can buy early VP cards and still keep your buying power and mess with the opponent.
    I think Navigator should be up there instead of Bureaucrat.

  9. Frisk says:

    On treasure maps:

    Even without help, in a 4p game, if you only care about winning 1st place, you should go for treasure maps. Too lazy to find the simulation data now, but IIRC, Single smithy big money beats the maps heads up, but when you’re looking @ 4p, the higher variance of treasure map nets it more wins (because when it hits early, its tough to beat)

    Now, if you’re playing for position (as you might on isotropic with the rating system), then you probably want to follow theories advice and avoid the map.

    • rrenaud says:

      This is the closest thing I’ve found to the Smithy vs Treasure Map comparison.

      Certainly as the number of players increases, you need to take more risks to win. But you should also consider whether or not you are better than your opponents. If you are playing 3 relatively weak opponents, you should probably just go for for a more conventional strategy, you don’t really need luck to win anyway, so why gamble.

    • chesskidnate says:

      although, if people follow your advice theres a chance of 3 of the four people going TM’s (fourth being you) in which case you probably have a better chance of first if you avoid treasure maps, so if the only goal is first it might become a battle of anti-groupthink where the more treasure map players there are the better it is to take the less swingy route and more non treasure maps there are the better it is to go treasure maps. Of course if there is a cursing attack I think treasure map becomes a lot worse in this scenario, also a thief buy might give you good chances against TM’s too, and a couple of other attacks would probably also offer a good counter, so to play the swingy opening without enablers is probably often bad even in 3-4p

      • rrenaud says:

        I think you’ve got the reasoning wrong. I am not sure there is an equilibrium strategy that doesn’t involve everyone switching to the high variance treasure maps after a certain number of players. I’d be happy to be shown that I am wrong, however.

        If everyone goes for a high variance strategy, then the probability that at least one player hits the lottery increases. If someone hits the lottery and you didn’t play it, your balanced set of index funds certainly performed well, but sorry dude, it’s second place for you.

        • chesskidnate says:

          Ya, I think for some reason I thought that the treasure maps would have a 25% chance of firing where they’ll destroy you but a much more logical guess is probably closer to 40% if you can assume that it has a 40% chance of getting a winning shot and the rest would be winning for you the winning percentage would be 21.6% which isn’t terrible and if a good engine option is available that would probably be better than TM’s but these numbers are intuitive and probably inaccurate (I based it on a guess of 60-40 for a 2 player game and that multiple opponents getting their tm to hit won’t change much if you were lost anyway)

  10. rrenaud says:

    I generally dislike Talisman as well. I had an early infatuation with the card where I’d fill my deck with mediocre junk, run down piles, and then end up losing because of the lack of ability to buy provincens.

    But it can do well with Peddlers and +buys or with Remodels.

    For example, despite a pretty weak deck (a lot of Talisman/Remodels/Secret Chambers and a Tactician), I manage to get 8 Peddlers on turn 9 in this game.

  11. Lost Alpaca says:

    Only Coppersmith can give you the amazing third turn Platinum:

  12. Personman says:

    100% agree on Bureaucrat. No idea what you’re talking about with Cutpurse. Seems like a pretty good card to me. Almost always does the same as or more than Militia in the early game. Becomes bad later, but.. so does Moneylender, say. And it’s not nearly as bad late game as Coppersmith. I really can’t figure out why Coppersmith isn’t here instead.

    I used to thing Ironworks was just great, but I definitely agree that it is not terribly strong. Still, I think you’re missing an important property that it has – it empties piles incredibly quickly. I recently won a game by grabbing two provinces, then buying and Ironworksing all the Ironworks, and then Ironworksing all the Estates (and some other pile had run out).

    Lastly, Treasure Map? What? ‘Most Hated $4 Cards’, ‘Worst Designed $4 Cards’, it goes at #1 no question. But ‘Worst’? The card is, tragically, incredibly powerful, and probably belongs closer to the Best list rather than this one.

    The thing with Thief makes me wish you’d just go ahead and state that everything you say on the blog is about 2p, since everything changes so much in multiplayer that trying to mix analysis seems a bit silly to me.

    • Personman says:

      Here’s a game that I think exemplifies why Ironworks doesn’t belong here:

      It both contains the wonderful Great Hall combo AND allows me to end the game quickly when it might otherwise have dragged on and allowed for a possible comeback. I had no use for my last 7 Ironworks, but I was able to obtain them in a mere four turns, where otherwise I would have had to slog through the estates or the Secret Chambers or something disgusting like that. In this particular game I had enough of an advantage that I probably could have done so safely, but in closer games the presence of Ironworks can make a huge difference in turning an early lead into a solid win.

      • Personman says:

        derp I apparently forgot to close my link tag :/

        I wish one could edit comments…

      • rrenaud says:

        I don’t know if ironworks is a that good in that set. To me, it looks like an early game torturers with some fishing village support would work great, and then transition into goons after you have some good draw. Going for the iron works/great hall stuff just delays the FV/torturer combo.

        • Personman says:

          Ironworks gets you more Fishing Villages too… but more important that game was it’s game-endingness, which you didn’t address.

          Not that it would really prove anything, but do you want to try playing that spread sometime?

          Also, what is a good word for that? I’ve heard some people here saying ‘tableau’, which is probably the most accurate word, but it’s a little unwieldy and seems unlikely to catch on. My group has always said ‘spread’, but I’ve also heard ‘set’ and ‘board’ and probably other things. I wish the game came with a nice term…

          • rrenaud says:

            Tableau is a bad word for the 10 kingdom cards. In my mind, the closest thing to the tableau is the player’s deck. set or board is fine with me.

            In general, Iron Works + Great Hall or Islands is nice, but I am not sure that getting a few early points is worth passing up the opportunity to go Torturer here.

            I’d be happy to play it sometime if we are both online at the same time.

          • theory says:

            We’ve attempted to consistently use the word “set” throughout.

        • Drew Hardin says:

          I am discovering the power of the Ironworks more and more.

          It isn’t a great card, but I feel that Theory minimizes the one thing it does well that the Workshop doesn’t do. Unlike the Workshop is can be used to generate extra Actions in the early game. So it avoids the colliding Action problem and fits very well into the selection of games where spamming the Villages, Great Halls, Spy cards are well worth the trouble.

          These cards come with a fairly high opportunity cost that the Ironworks greatly decreases through the +1 Action. And though the Spy is not the most exciting card with enough of them purchased at no cost they start to really cause problems. Being able to pick up any of the Villages in the middle game for free is a big deal too.

          The Ironworks is much better than the Workshop. The problem is the Workshop is better for the Gardens game.

  13. Twinge says:

    I find it a little odd that you claim the $4 slot contains fewer terrible cards than the $3 slot, when the $4 slot contains the worst 2 cards in the game – neither of which make your bottom 5!

    Thief still isn’t good in a 4-player game; it’s merely less bad, and still remains the single worst card in the game by a healthy margin. Coppersmith has a specific strategy for it, but that strategy is awful and it is very difficult to make Coppersmith work smoothly since it is terminal and hard to combo with anything that’d make it work better.

    • rrenaud says:

      Coppersmith, Scout, and Counting House are my top 3 cards that suck and aren’t uber cheap.

      • Tahtweasel says:

        There are some games where everyone’s deck becomes a mess (say, no trashing, Saboteur involved, curses flying, Gardens, Ambassadors, whatever.)

        In those games, a dedicated Counting House strategy can steamroll.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Bureaucrats combo stupidly well with Chapels to outrun other chapel decks.

  15. Azamati says:

    It’s funny you mention Bureaucrat, as one of my best wins has used it. Throne Room/Bureaucrat. It was irl with base only, but I won by far. I was originally going to go for a garden deck, by using Bureaucrat and Throne and my buys to get up to 3 silvers a turn. But when I drew a five silver hand, I thought I might as well buy a province.

    It was pretty funny when I drew five silvers, a thief revealed to more silvers, then my next hand also had 5 silver xD.

  16. Mark says:

    Bureaucrats are extremely powerful in sets that contain either chapels or gardens. In fact, since they both come in the same set as Bureaucrats, odds are very high that if you’re playing a game with the Bureaucrat, you’ve also got either chapels or gardens.

    The odds of not getting the chapel, for example would be (14/24), or about 58%. The odds of having neither the chapel nor the gardens is only a measly (14/24)*(13/23), or 33%. Just going randomly, you’ll get at least on of these two cards in over 2/3 of the games you play. If you go by suggested sets, then the card is even stronger.

    In other words, unless you’re doing something like specifically mixing up all the cards from multiple dominion sets and mixing them without regard for their interactions, the Bureaucrat is on the wrong list! It’s one of the better $4 cards!

    Sure you can make bad sets for it, but same is true of potions without enough alchemy cards accompanying them, any defensive card in a set without attacks, etc…

    • Personman says:

      The definition of ‘worst’ being used here is something like “least likely to be a good buy out of 10 random Kingdom cards”. So yes, we are doing something like specifically mixing up all the cards from multiple dominion sets without regard for their interactions.

      I believe that this is in fact the most common form of play irl, and it certainly is online. Isotropic does allow you to restrict games to only cards from certain sets, but the large majority of games are played with no restrictions (other than 0 or 3-5 potion-costing cards, I believe?).

      • Mark says:

        Don’t your friends get sick of the long set-up times from randomizing and them retrieving 10 cards out of a choice of over 100 each game? Most people I know like to play, not do that chore.

        My friends and I usually let each player except the winner make one substitution or more recently just reach a consensus on what we want to change each game. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten 10 new cards randomized from ALL the sets each game in my life, though.

        • theory says:

          Hence the benefit of playing online 🙂

          When we do play in person, we have a storage solution that keeps all the cards together. I realize this gets increasingly difficult as the sets get more and more numerous, but strategy tends to get a little stale if you stick to the same set.

        • Personman says:

          No. It takes about five minutes to shuffle the 117-card shuffle stack, deal out ten, and pull the relevant piles out of the boxes. Recently my group did make our own storage solution, as so many have, to avoid having to deal with quite so many different boxes, but even with the boxes, it’s no big deal.

          I know about 40 people irl who play dominion, some in California and some in Rhode Island, and every one of them takes it for granted that a standard game of dominion is 10 random cards from all the expansions you own. That doesn’t make this the ‘right’ way to play, but it’s certainly not uncommon, or a big chore.

          Of course, I now play almost exclusively online, where setup isn’t an issue — not to mention the real chore of Dominion, shuffling!

          • Mark says:

            Hmm. I’ve played with a ton of people in the US, Taiwan and the PRC. Actually, a guy who did the Chinese regionalization of the Dominion taught it to me.

            I’m guessing the people I know aren’t as focused on Dominion as your acquaintances. At the houses of my friends who do game, there are generally a lot of games to choose from. If a bunch of people are over, it’s already dark out and we don’t feel like going out, then we might play Dominion or maybe we’d play 三国杀 (by far the biggest Chinese card game), or some kind of board game or something else.

            In other words, the main focus is the social interaction. Playing a militia on someone over the internet just wouldn’t be the same! Even if we did all have computers at the same location, we’d probably play starcraft instead.

            I guess I just haven’t met really hardcore dominion aficionados before… but it makes sense that a site like this is where I’d encounter you guys!

            • mischiefmaker says:

              I play a fair amount offline, and our group has always played with 10 random kingdom cards. There’s always someone with an iPhone or iPad around, and we just use an app for picking the cards.

              iDominion and Dominion KD are both free and support multiple rules-based randomizations; Dominion KD also supports black market decks. If you don’t have an iDevice, there are also a number of websites that will generate a set of random cards for you.

        • Lenoxuss says:

          In addition to the existence of online Dominion, there’s nothing wrong with using an online randomizer (or iPhone one, or whatever) to work out a physical game. (That said, for what it’s worth, my play group tends to just plain freely discuss the cards we want, which is a fun pre-game in itself.)

  17. Mark says:

    I really can’t agree with you about the Bureaucrat. In the presence of either the chapel or gardens, it becomes a very powerful card and both of those are in the same set as the Bureaucrat. If you play the set games, the Bureaucrat is strong in any of them. If you just grab 10 decks out of the box, odds are much better than even that if you have the Bureaucrat, you’ll also have one of those two cards. It’s about 60% to be more precise.

    Unless you regularly grab cards at random from all the dominion sets with no concern for their interactions, your critique doesn’t make much sense. If you do that, I’m sure there are a lot of cards, especially from alchemy that don’t make much sense. You also run the risk of a game full of reaction cards with no real attack cards… not to mention the risk of your friends getting bored while swapping out 10 sets of cards from over a hundred options between each game.

  18. Mark says:

    sorry for the dupe. I thought my original post hadn’t made it through my the VPN I use to access this site from China!

  19. toaster says:

    Since up until now the “worst” lists seem to have been about “least effective” rather “most disliked”, I’d have to strongly disagree with the inclusion of treasure map. Yes, it adds a high luck element in sets where it should be played, but there’s no denying that it’s a powerful card that often can’t be ignored….hence, while I can understand personal dislike of treasure maps, I think it’s inappropriate to include the card on this list.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think that cutpurse is the strangest entry here, it is a very solid opening choice and usually useful for at least half the game. With all your other top best/worst list I have pretty much agreed with everything but here I really dont get a lot of things.

  21. Anonymous says:

    In the right deck Bureaucrat is amazing! Consider a few examples

    Bureaucrat + Silver opening hand, followed by Bureaucrat or Goons (if possible) + Festivals (if possible) for 2/3 rounds, then hammer the Gardens/Duchys/Dukes

    Or – Consider a game with moneylender, thief and witch… players who go moneylender and use it to get big money leave themselves vulnerable to the thief, players who go witch will just clog up everyones decks… 3 or so Bureaucrats in your deck means you can have a stack load of silver and who cares if anyone is stealing your copper

  22. NewandForgiven says:

    Bureaucrat and Saboteur (another ‘displeasing to theory card) work well together (assuming your opponent has killed their estates). It allows you to consistently ping their Victory cards. Granted, this doesn’t help you get your own but could surely be viable? Sometimes?

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