Annotated Game #3

(Friday’s preview)

Moat, Feast, Mining Village, Tactician, Hoard,
Trade Route, Island, Talisman, Harem, Forge,
Colony, Platinum

Annotated Game #2

(Click for enlarged version at

This is a 2-player game played between me and Dekker. The log is available here (spoiler alert!). Dekker is an excellent player (as of this writing, #2 on the Isotropic leaderboard).   Prior to this game, I was 1-3 against him.Analyzing the Set

There are three primary interactions in this set:

  • Forge becomes quite useful on Tactician turns
  • Ordinarily, Hoard is pretty bad with Colony on board, since you need Colonies, which call for Platinums rather than Golds.  On the other hand, Hoard/Island/Harem is a dream combo, and the sheer number of Golds from that may be enough to get to the Colonies.
  • Trade Route is extremely powerful due to extra Victory cards (Island, Harem, and Colony) and Hoard (which incentivizes players to buy Victory cards, and works well with Trade Route’s +Buy)

So there’s a lot of different strategies to pursue.  You could go for all of them, or just some of them; in any event, Mining Village is a great enabler for all of this, since it’s an early-game one-shot Grand Market.

On the other hand, Feast, Moat, and Talisman are going to be fairly useless.  Feast because there are much better options at $4; Moat because there’s nothing to defend against; and Talisman is a decent opener, but basically only for Mining Villages.  (And Talisman/Feast/Duchy never actually works, even though it sounds amazing.)

There aren’t any elaborate Action combos here, and in any event, when Hoard is present, Action combinations are much harder to pull off, since your deck will quickly fill with combo-clogging Victory cards and Golds.  (The exception being, of course, Nobles.)

Based on these considerations, I open Mining Village/Trade Route.  I plan to get to $6 ASAP to get a Hoard, then start piling into Islands and Harems.  I get a Trade Route pre-emptively because I think an Island will get bought quickly, thus allowing me to trash for +$1.  At +$0, Trade Route’s deck-thinning isn’t really worth it; at +$1, it sort of is.  If I land on $5 or $7 without a Hoard, I’ll get a Tactician and Forge, since they’re almost always good additions to any deck.  Tactician in particular allows for some ridiculous Hoard-play, and maybe Forge can convert my Hoards (and any loose Estates gained from Hoarding) into something better in the endgame.

Dekker opens Talisman/Silver, which I sort of understand, but don’t particularly care for here.  It’s nice for extra Mining Villages, but there’s no other good $2-4 non-terminal, and you’ll probably be buying a lot of Islands, which Talisman doesn’t work on.

Game Analysis

It’s very difficult to capture in text the feeling of playing a Dominion game.  In annotating these games, I’ve decided to create a new form of notation to help parse through Isotropic logs more efficiently.  I’ve stripped out hand information and almost all the Actions played, leaving in only deck-changing cards.  This is because how each hand was played is pretty straightforward—choices in Dominion come primarily at the Buy stage, and so I’ve chosen to focus on those.  Hopefully this strikes the best compromise between readability and comprehensiveness; the full log is always available for perusal.

If you have any suggestions for the notation system, please note them in the comments; this is far from perfect, and I greatly appreciate any ideas as to how to efficiently display relevant game data (including game state).  I’ve incorporated some helpful ideas from RepGenie in composing the log below.

Dekker theory
1 $4 -> Talisman $4 -> Mining Village
2 $3 -> Silver (reshuffle) $3 -> Trade Route (reshuffle)
3 $6 -> Hoard $3 -> Silver
4 $3 (Talisman) -> Silver x2 (reshuffle) $4 -> Island (reshuffle)

OK, so Turns 3 & 4 didn’t exactly work out in my favor. But I think his 2x Silver buy was a pretty critical mistake. That many Silvers in his deck (he’s at 3 to my 1) might boost him now, but it’ll slow him down later when we’re getting the Golds from our Hoards.

5 $5 (Talisman) -> Mining Village x2 Mining Village (trash)
Trade Route (Estate,+$1)
$6 -> Hoard
6 $4 (Hoard) -> Island (Gold) Island (Estate)
$2 -> nothing (reshuffle)
7 $7 -> Forge (reshuffle) $5 -> Tactician

I’m still drawing less money than him, but I’ve mostly caught up now. I spend my $5 on a Tactician as planned. He goes for the Forge; I think he would have been better off with the Tactician and then the Forge.  Without Tactician’s big draw, Forge conflicts a little bit with Island.

Key cards 1 Talisman, 3 Silvers, 1 Hoard, 1 Gold, 1 Forge 1 Trade Route, 1 Silver, 1 Tactician, 1 Hoard
8 Forge (Estate, 3x Copper -> Moat)
$0 -> nothing
$6 (Hoard) -> Harem (Gold) (reshuffle)
9 Island (Copper)
$6 (Hoard)(Talisman) -> Harem (Gold)
Trade Route (Estate,+$2)
$5 -> Mining Village
10 $6 -> Hoard (reshuffle) Tactician (reshuffle)

I bought the Mining Village because I don’t really need another Tactician. Better to get a one-shot Grand Market.

His second Hoard buy is unsurprising, given the number of Victory cards out. I play my Tactician, as I try to always do when I draw it (unless I have an absolutely killer hand).

11 $8 (Hoard) -> Province (Gold) Trade Route (Copper,+$3)
$15 (Hoard) -> Forge, Island (Gold), Island (Gold) (reshuffle)
Current score 12 (2 Estates, 1 Island, 1 Harem, 1 Province) 9 (1 Estate, 3 Islands, 1 Harem)

With 3 Buys here, I could have gone for three Duchies. Instead, I opt for a Forge (which would complement my Tactician nicely), and get two Islands instead. I still come away with a good collection of Golds.

Key cards 1 Talisman, 3 Silvers, 2 Hoards, 3 Golds, 1 Forge 1 Trade Route, 1 Silver, 1 Tactician, 1 Hoard, 3 Golds, 1 Forge
12 $6 (Hoard) -> Harem (Gold) Forge (Harem, 2x Copper -> Harem)
$2 -> nothing
13 Forge (Silver, Talisman, Moat -> Platinum)
$0 -> nothing (reshuffle)
Trade Route (Copper,+$3)
$8 (Hoard) -> Island (Gold), Island (Gold)

This was a nice draw for both of us. He gets rid of some of his crappy cards and gets a Platinum in exchange; I get two perfect Island buys with a Hoard.  It’s superior to a single Province because Islands are still useful, and since they’ll get out of the way it’s basically as if I bought two Golds instead of 2-3 dead cards collectively worth an extra 2VP + 1 Gold.

Key cards 2 Silvers, 2 Hoards, 4 Golds, 1 Forge, 1 Platinum 1 Trade Route, 1 Silver, 1 Tactician, 1 Hoard, 1 Harem, 5 Golds, 1 Forge
14 Mining Village (trash)
$11 (Hoard) -> Colony (Gold)
Tactician (reshuffle)
15 $12 (Hoard) -> Colony (Gold) Mining Village (trash)
Forge (Silver, 3x Copper -> Trade Route)
$13 -> Colony (Gold), Estate (Gold)
16 $8 -> Forge (reshuffle) Island (Island)
$8 -> Province (reshuffle)
Current score 34 (2 Estates, 1 Island, 2 Harems, 1 Province, 2 Colonies) 30 (2 Estates, 5 Islands, 1 Harem, 1 Province, 1 Colony)

I thought his Forge buy was surprising. A second Forge is usually not a great thing, since it’s hard to find something to Forge into it (a $2 or $4). My suspicion is that he didn’t want a Province without the Hoard, and unconsciously was biased towards just the most expensive Action on the board.  Especially since the game is heading into the endgame, I would have gone for a Tactician or Island instead.  Even Province would have been solid, since there are Islands you can shunt it off to, or Silvers with which to Forge into Colonies.

I Island my Island because I have so many of them. Normally you try not to use them on each other, but here the marginal deck-thinning is not really all that helpful to me, especially since I can Trade Route for +$5. More important is getting them out of the way for the imminent endgame scramble.

Key cards 2 Silvers, 2 Hoards, 6 Golds, 2 Forges, 1 Platinum 2 Trade Routes, 1 Tactician, 1 Hoard, 7 Golds, 1 Forge
17 $3 -> Trade Route Tactician
18 Mining Village (trash)
$9 (Hoard) -> Province (Gold)
Island (Province)
Forge (Gold, Estate -> Province)
$14 -> Colony, Trade Route (reshuffle)
19 $9 (Hoard) -> Province (Gold) $11 (Hoard) -> Colony (Gold)
20 $14 -> Colony (reshuffle) Tactician
Current score 2 Estates, 1 Island, 2 Harems, 3 Provinces, 3 Colonies 1 Estate, 5 Islands, 1 Harem, 2 Provinces, 3 Colonies

If you look at the log, you’ll see that I had options for getting a Colony instead of playing my Tactician. But I decided against it: with 2 Colonies left in the supply, if I buy one and he takes the other, he’ll win thanks to his Province advantage. I need at least a Colony+Island to win, and I have the best chances for that if I Tactician instead. This follows the general principle of avoiding letting your opponent end the game.

As for the Trade Route instead of an Estate on Turn 18, I think you can go either way.  I was about to reshuffle, and a +$5 is nothing to sneer at.  At the same time, I’m increasingly unlikely to find anything worth trashing, and 1VP is still 1VP, especially with the game so close to ending.

21 $11 -> Colony (reshuffle)
Trade Route (Trade Route,+$5)
$16 -> Colony, Duchy
Final score 66 (2 Estates, 1 Island, 2 Harems, 3 Provinces, 4 Colonies) 68 (1 Estate, 5 Islands, 1 Harem, 1 Duchy, 2 Provinces, 4 Colonies)
Dekker theory

Concluding Thoughts

This game demonstrates two points.  First, my early Trade Route was critical, even though it wasn’t worth much yet.  Had I waited to buy a Trade Route, I would have ran into four problems:

  • I’ll have Hoards in hand and want to buy VPs instead;
  • It’ll be close to the end and I need to buy VPs instead;
  • I’ll likely have much more than $3;
  • The trashing won’t help nearly as much.

Second, his second Forge buy proves to be a mistake, as he doesn’t play another Forge for the rest of the game.  Had he bought a Province instead, my comeback would have been nigh-impossible.  In standard games, games are usually defined by the highest Victory card: if you’re down 3-5 in Provinces, you’re going to need an additional 4 Duchies to catch up.  So ordinarily it doesn’t make a ton of sense to be buying Duchies if you’re up two Provinces, since you’re better off trying to get to 5 Provinces, and then keeping within 4 Duchies of your opponent.  But when there are plentiful Kingdom Victory cards, tie-breaking isn’t quite as simple and lesser Victory cards become more important.  Here, he’s going to have to account for my massive Island advantage somehow: either by buying Provinces, or getting to (at least) a 5-3 Colony split.

Third, Hoard doesn’t usually lead to such an accelerated game, because your deck gets slowed by all the Duchies and Estates you’re buying for the Gold.  This is partially why Hoard doesn’t usually work for Colonies, since your average card value is only $1.5.  But here, the combination of Islands and Harems means that Hoard actually buying useful cards, with free Golds as just icing on the cake.  So plans like my Tactician/Forge never really worked out.

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31 Responses to Annotated Game #3

  1. tlloyd says:

    Good game and great read. Thanks for posting these by the way.

    Now I know that it’s not quite legit for me to play a solitaire game against your game log, since part of Dominion is reacting to what the other player is doing or has done. That said, I think my strategy fares pretty well against either of yours.

    I’ll follow your general format:

    1. $4 –> Mining Village
    2. $3 –> Silver (reshuffle)
    3. play/trash Mining Village, $5 –> Tactician
    4. $3 –> Silver (reshuffle)
    5. $7 –> Forge [a lucky draw perhaps, and I get exactly the card I want to buy]
    6. Tactician (reshuffle)
    7. Forge(4x copper, 3x estate –> Hoard), $4 –> Trade Route [earlier than I’d planned, but I’m done with Silvers. I now have 9 cards in my deck, 0 estates, 3 coppers]
    8. Tactician
    9. Forge(2x silver, 2x copper –> Hoard), Trade Route(copper), $4 (1x Hoard) –> Island (gain Gold). (reshuffle) [You both had purchased two different victory cards by this point, so I counted my Trade Route as a +$2]
    10. $7 (2x Hoard) –> Harem (gain 2x Gold) (reshuffle)
    11. Tactician [At this point I have 1 Tactician in play, and on my next turn will get the rest of my deck in my hand: 1x Forge, 1x Trade Route, 1x Island, 1x Harem, 2x Hoard, 3x Gold]
    12. Trade Route(Forge), $17 (2x Hoard) –> 1x Platinum, 2x Island (gain 4x Gold) (reshuffle) [Trade Route still worth $2]
    13. Island(Harem), $9 –> Platinum [Now my deck is about to take off…]
    14. $12 –> Colony [Trade Route will now be worth +$3]
    15. $9 (2x Hoard) –> Province (gain 2x Gold) (reshuffle) [Trade Route will now be worth +$4]
    16. $12 –> Colony
    17. Island (Colony), $6 –> Duchy [Trade Route will now be worth +$5]
    18. $18 (1x Hoard) –> Colony (gain 1x Gold) (reshuffle)
    19. Trade Route(Hoard), $11 –> Colony [I’m sure glad I bought that Duchy in turn 17]
    20. $16 (1x Hoard) –> Colony

    Since each of you had 3 Colonies by the end of turn 20, when I get my fifth, I considered this the end of the game. My VP count: 67 (5x Colony, 1x Province, 1x Duchy, 1x Harem, 3x Island] Decker at this point had 56, and you had 55.

    Now clearly the game might have played out differently if I had been sitting across the (internet?) table from you, but I think the state of our decks at turn 12 suggests that Mining Village/Silver to an early Tactician and early Forge (and then forging crap into Hoards) is the stronger strategy.

  2. lemononmars says:

    You says “I think his 2x Silver buy was a pretty critical mistake,” but this game turns out to be a close game and you would have lost if Dekker bought Province instead of Forge on Turn 16. Can you explain this ? was it not his mistake as you think ? Or did he has lucky draws ?

    • theory says:

      I think if he had gotten Trade Routes instead, he would have beaten me handily.

      • Reyk says:

        In addition: Dekker’s turn 3/4 was very good in comparison to theory. Turn 3 with 1 silver, 4 coppers. Theory drew both cards he bought in turn 1/2 only in turn 5. So he got the hoard one shuffle later although he had better chances statistically (Mining village vs. silver) to get it earlier.

  3. rrenaud says:

    I am not convinced that Mining Village is a better buy than Feast, because I think that a Tactician is more important to have early than the Hoard.

    Among the “power cards”, Hoard, Tactician, and Forge, I think the most natural progression is Tactician -> Forge -> Hoard.

    The Tactician is likely to lead to an early Forge after it’s played. And channeling other Dominion heuristics, you almost never want to pass up trashing early. Furthermore, a Forge is much, much better on a Tactician turn than not. Possibly more than 2x as good, since the chance of an early Forge turning 3 estates into a Hoard is much more likely if you have played a Tactician.

    The Hoard is great, don’t get me wrong. But I think it’s better to trim the deck first and then start churning out Gold/Island/Harem with the Hoard.

    In my first game with the set, I make the mistake of mostly ignoring Trade Route, and hit 72 VP in 21 turns with a Feast -> Tactician -> Forge strategy.

    My opponent goes Silver, Mining Village -> Turn 3 Hoard for a respectable 62/21.

    • tlloyd says:

      The reason I went with Mining Village over Feast is that I’m trying desperately to get to $7 for a Forge as soon as possible. My plan was to buy Mining Villages until I drew a hand where trashing any number of Mining Villages (if necessary) would get me the Forge. I figured it would take me a few turns, and by that time $5 for a Tactician should be no problem. Feast lets you gain a tactician while still buying something, but you can’t stack Feasts together or combine them with the money in your hand.

      As it turned out, I instinctively (read: straying from the plan already) trashed my MV on my third turn for a tactician, and used a fortunate* all-treasure draw on turn 5 to get the Forge. But as a matter of probability, Feast might be the better option.

      *It’s amazing how fortune favors he who buys treasure cards early.

  4. pendog says:

    Love this website and everyone that contributes to it.

    Theory, I was wondering what you would have done on turns 3 and 4 if you had drawn different cards? It seems to me that $3 was pretty much the worse you could have done (although $2 was possible, yuck). But what if you had drawn 2 coppers and a mining village, would you have trashed it to buy an island (I am assuming if the extra card you draw was a copper, then trashing it to get $5 and a tactician is obvious). Or if you had drawn 3 coppers with your trade route? Would you have bought the silver, or used the trade route to get rid of a copper? I am thinking the former, because the latter is just too slow.

    Maybe what I am looking for is an analysis of the best possible scenario for your turns 3+4 and what you would have done in a worse case scenario.

    I will say I was surprised at how close the game was. It would be neat to have you 2 play this game again (maybe even a best 3 out of 5) just to see what would happen.

  5. Crystal says:

    I played a few games yesterday with this set to experiment a bit, and with Hoard/Island/Harem/Gold, at least one and maybe two games (of 4) ended with 3 piles. It helped in one game that my opponent REALLY liked Mining Villages and wiped them out. 🙂

    Thanks for the writeup – always fascinating.

  6. timchen1017 says:

    I think it should be ok to plan to get the trade route in the second shuffle, ideally with the bad hand, and open with silver+mining village. Overspending is only a problem if you are using the cash that is meant for better things. With the opening trade route, that cash is just missing.

    On the other hand, what renaud said actually makes sense, but I still hesitate to open with feast. It just doesn’t feel right for me, I guess.

    Another issue for me is whether you should go double tactician at some stage of the game. Anyone here has some intelligent idea?

    • tlloyd says:

      Do you mean a second Tactician, or the double-tactician combo (where each turn begins and ends with a tactician in play). If you mean the second, I think the answer is “never.”

      • timchen1017 says:

        Did you just answer your question? 😛

        Seriously, I found tactician is card hard to play well (except in situation of the “double tactician combo” you mentioned). I found it mostly useful in games with attacks but not trashing. The problem is that it is a very swingy (luck-dependent) card, and it is really hard to judge how many of them is best.

        • tlloyd says:

          Sorry – I thought you asked “when” to go double tactician. In this game, I would say that’s a losing strategy because most of your buying power comes from your Hoard-Gold. On the other hand, with a few mining villages and a few trade routes you could potentially get enough money for a colony from your action cards. In order to do this consistently you’d also have to buy some islands to tuck away those green cards. I think in theory this engine would be great, but by the time you got it close to working the game would be over.

          As for whether a second tactician is useful other than for the double-tactician combo, I’m not sure. I didn’t really need one, as my deck was so full of treasure I was buying colonies almost every turn–tactician is ideal when it shows up with an otherwise lame hand, and for me the game ended before my deck started to slow down enough to justify a second tactician.

          Playing tactician is always a bit tricky (as you’ve said) because you have to know when to trade one turn for a massive next turn. That’s extra risky when you’re in the end-game and you’re not sure how many turns you’ve got left.

  7. Kn1tt3r says:

    What about ignoring the Hoard here and just going for multiple Trade Routes supported by Mining Village mainly used as Villages rather than for Mining. One early Tacitician and a Forge, and that’s it. Once your Trade Routes have a buying power of $5-6, Hoards might not longer be relevant.

    • tlloyd says:

      If you decline to use Hoards, you miss out on the victory cards normally purchased with Hoards (esp. Islands and Harems) as well as the Golds that such purchases generate. I found the influx of Gold in my deck to be the primary source of buying power for Colonies (building, of course, on extensive trashing with the Forge).

  8. guided says:

    I’m left shaking my head a little: How does a top-ranked player lose a game drawing $6 at turn 3 and drawing a dream Forge hand he has absolutely no right to expect at turn 8? Buying another Forge at turn 16 instead of a Province would be understandable from a novice player but is bafflingly bad judgment from somebody near the top of the leaderboard.

    Maybe he was drunk? 😉

    • guided says:

      Part of the problem is that the somewhat clever Talisman opening (“think how many Mining Villages I’ll get!”) backfired with a Talisman and 2 Copper at turn 3. Two Silvers is probably better than nothing, but you’d probably rather have 1 Silver or 1 Trade Route, and that’s not an option. In hindsight I’d probably take 2 Trade Routes there, then hope they’re split across 2 hands and that I get double Mining Villages before the next shuffle.

    • tlloyd says:

      Sorry – not trying to dominate the discussion here.

      Why is his draw on turn 8 a dream? Maybe the moat didn’t slow him down too much (I haven’t read the detailed log to see if he ever played it), and getting rid of 1 estate and three copper is always helpful, but he wasn’t really able to trash into useful cards, which is the real strength of the forge. A tactician is really helpful for that, obviously. In my psuedo-game against theory and Dekker I was able to forge three estates and four coppers into a hoard on turn 7. A real dream draw for Dekker on turn 8 would have included some of his now surplus Silver.

      • guided says:

        Here are the 2 biggest bullshit ways for a bad player to beat a good player:

        1. Blindly buy 2 Treasure Maps with no supporting cards and draw them together around turn 6.

        2. Buy a Forge. Draw it with 4 trash cards the next turn.

        Forge’s biggest strength is actually the ability to trash a lot of junk at once–the gained card is a nice kicker and can be useful for desperate comebacks. Forge is great for trashing in just about any deck if you can get it before turn 5, and usually pretty good if you can get it before turn 8. Even then (and any time after that you might want to buy it) you’d better have a plan for how to draw a bunch of cards into it if you want it to provide solid $7 value over, say, buying Gold instead. Any time you serendipitously draw Forge with 4 trash cards despite no help to draw cards into it, you almost have to apologize for your obscene good fortune.

        …oh, and next on the BS list is probably drawing $6 at turn 3/4 having made an opening that is not at all geared toward an early $6 buy.

    • Dekker says:

      I don’t think I was drunk, but I have to admit I played this game very poorly.
      I shouldn’t have opened with Talisman/Silver (MV/TR, MV/Silver or even Feast/Silver is all better) but I did and then I shouldn’t have bought 2 Silvers but 2 TR’s instead. The 2nd Forge buy was an absolute blunder; I don’t know what I was thinking there, should have been a Province of course.

      I was lucky with the draw and theory wasn’t (Turn 1 and 2 buys in Turn 5 is always a bad start) so it was closer than it should have been but I deservedly lost.

      So you see even top-ranked players can make mistakes.

      • guided says:

        You’re certain you weren’t drunk, then? 😉

        Sorry to be so hard on you. I make mistakes too, of course.

        • Dekker says:

          Well maybe I was drunk. When I saw the preview I didn’t remember it was me playing theory. Actually I played this game on Saturday with 2 friends in real life and I still didn’t remember I had played it already.

  9. ksf says:

    I had pretty good luck with tactician -> forge -> hoard strategy, buying duchies and forging the duchy and gold into a colony. Then racing the colonies w/ forge once I had a decent amount of scratch.

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