One of the most hated $3’s. Swindler is a heavily luck-driven card: there’s a very big difference between discarding an opponent’s Estate and transforming Coppers into Curses. In general, it is one of the most frustrating cards in Dominion, second only to Black Market (and maybe Treasure Map?).
Its attack is most powerful in the early game, since you have the best chance of hitting your opponent’s Coppers. Accordingly, it can be a good idea to open with two Swindlers: in exchange for the chance that they’ll be drawn together, I get to launch double the attacks early on, when the attacks are most likely to succeed and when losing Coppers hurts the most.
It works very poorly with Curse-giving attacks: when the Curses run out, a Swindler that hits a Curse or Copper ends up doing more good than harm. Really, Swindler doesn’t work well with most attacks: Ghost Ship just lets your opponent choose your Swindler target, and Bureaucrat -> Swindler can be a guaranteed way to hit a Victory card, which is ordinarily terrible (though it can sometimes be of value in the endgame — see below).
Swindler interacts with Peddler in a very odd way. If Peddlers are still available, buying Provinces is very dangerous since they can be so easily trashed into a Peddler. On the other hand, if Peddlers are emptied, then Swindler becomes a serious liability, since you can easily accidentally Swindle your opponents’ Peddlers into Provinces!
Likewise, playing Swindler is dangerous if you are trailing in the endgame. If you want the last Province and you already have $8 in your hand, don’t play the Swindler lest you swindle your opponent’s Province … into the last Province. On the other hand, if you’re leading, Swindling Victory cards can be a great way to run the pile down.
This incidentally suggests that one of the best counters to Swindler is playing for VPs quickly: both because Swindled Provinces help you, and because if Provinces are going to run dry quickly then you want to grab your early share. This is a special case of the more general counter, which is to buy cards that either have no crappy terminals at their cost (i.e., avoid $5’s, and go for $4’s when the only $4’s are Caravan and Conspirator), or buy cards that have unique costs (e.g., Gold and Alchemy cards).
- Spy/Scrying Pool
- Bad terminal Actions (I once stuffed an opponent with 9 Workshops)
- Bridge (if you somehow play it before the Swindler, it can kill higher-cost cards into Curses)
- Engines built on $5’s (e.g., City or Minion engines, since you can just Swindle into Duchies)
- Curse-giving attacks
- Engines built on $6’s
- Boards without easy Swindling targets
- Alchemy cards (or, in general, unique card costs)
- Peddler (sort of)