Annotated Game #7 Preview

Below is a 2-player game (not played by me) on Isotropic, without Colonies or Platinums.  I will post the annotated game on Monday, April 18.  You’re welcome to comment on the set (how you think players should open, what cards to go for) and try it out for yourself.

In particular, is this a set where the Alchemy cards can be ignored?  Should you open with Potion?

Transmute, University, Conspirator, Ironworks, Trading Post,
Scrying Pool, Lookout, Cutpurse, Bazaar, Wharf

Annotated Game #7

(Click for enlarged link at

If you have interesting sample games that you’d like to submit for annotation, we’d love to hear about them. Criteria for annotating games include:

  • Reasonably skilled play by both sides
  • An interesting set where the Kingdom cards are important (as opposed to Big Money Smithy games)
  • Diverging strategies taken by both players, especially in terms of openings
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47 Responses to Annotated Game #7 Preview

  1. Nakamura says:

    I see a huge action chain, powered by University -> Bazaar, Wharf and Ironworks -> Conspirator. Scrying Pool should be useful here. Not quite sure which trasher I would use.

    • Yes, I agree with that. I would open Potion/Silver, planning to pick up a Lookout on the next round — Transmute is tempting, but I want my Potion buys to go to Universities and then to Scrying Pools.

    • Saucery says:

      I mostly agree, though with the abundance of action cards pouring out I would get a transmute to gear down. An even province split you can win by transmuting into duchies.

  2. Jets says:

    I would likely go Cutpurse/Lookout. Cutpurse is a good opening attack card and Lookout provides some early trashing and deck cycling. Also the two cards cannot collide. On turns 3 or 4 I would strongly consider a Potion if I had exactly $4.

    The best strategy for this set is likely Bazaars, Wharves, and a sprinkling of Conspirators. The University can be a useful tool to help build that kind of deck. If you went with Universities you would not need as many Bazaars.

  3. tlloyd says:

    I’d open Lookout/Potion. Next time I get $4 with no Potion, buy another Potion.–other than that don’t bother buying Treasure. If you get $3 and no Potion, grab another Lookout. The first couple times you have $2 and Potion, get University. After that buy Scrying Pools. The first two times you play University gain Wharves, after that only gain Conspirators. In solitaire this got me two Provinces on turn 11 and another two on turn 12.

    This is pretty much in line with what others have suggested so far, which makes me suspicious that I’m missing something. On the other hand, I do see a potential pitfall for the general University/Wharf strategy — it would be very easy in this game to keep investing in your deck long after it’s time to start cashing out. I can see a player who goes all-out Wharves getting beat by a player who gets one or two wharves and then goes all-out Conspirator. You also don’t want to over-do it with Universities: get a couple and then go for Scrying Pools.

    • Bob dole says:

      I agree on similar lines here, lookout mainly to thin my deck faster and money isn’t necessary when +coin is vialbe form actions alone+transmute.

    • Jorbles says:

      I’d go with the same opening, but I’d be aiming to pick up a Trading Post (either through University or the first time I hit $5 whichever comes first) at first opportunity to slim my deck down. Aside from that just go with what everyone else is suggesting with a run at Wharves, Bazaars and a few minions powered by University and Silvers from the Trading Post.

  4. GenericKen says:

    This is clearly a university-wharf game.

    What’s more, there are no buys on the table other than wharf, university, and Ironworks. Add one Cutpurse after the chain starts.

    Theorycrafting, I think Ironworks and trashing will be too slow. Focus on wharfs and try to get 6. University the conspirators after the wharfs run out, but otherwise ignore actions – spend money on Golds. Don’t get a second potion- game’ll end too fast.

    On the last two turns, remember that the cards you aquire with university can be drawn with wharf on-turn to pick up a little extra treasure (could get you the winning dutchy).

  5. Personman says:

    Agree with tlloyd that there’s absolutely no reason to buy any Treasure other than a a couple Potions. The only thing I’d really add to what he said is that there’s probably room for a Bazaar — having two Universities as your only +actions seems likely to leave you with some nasty Conspirator, Conspirator, Wharf hands that could lose you the game.

    • tlloyd says:

      Yeah, I agree with you there. After some more trial runs, I have a few improvements:

      1. Two Lookouts is a mistake. If you get $3 w/o Potion, get a Silver or nothing.

      2. A Bazaar is definitely worth gaining with University, perhaps after your two Wharves but before any Conspirators. I would base this decision on two things: First, am I already behind in the Conspirator race? If so, you may regret the detour for a Bazaar (but let’s be honest, it’s only a $1 difference). Second, how many Scrying Pools have I picked up? Hopefully your second Potion has allowed you to pick up two or three Scrying Pools, which are really the difference between a decent engine and a dominant one. If you have a few, then Bazaars are less important.

      3. There’s a really interesting tension in this game: it seems perfect for a come-from-behind massive final turn strategy, but is actually quite susceptible to a three-pile ending. Wharf, Bazaar and Conspirator are likely to get drained in a hurry, and with all the Universities and +Buys floating around, a single turn can significantly deplete the piles.
      The key is to stay ahead in the VP tally, so don’t wait too long to start buying VP. If you have a turn where your deck doesn’t quite take off, but you can tell that it’s about to, start buying Victory Cards. Staying ahead in the VP count will keep your opponent from emptying the piles, which can actually help you get more of the cards you want. This also sets you up to end the game by buying just enough VP to ensure the lead and then finishing off the piles.

      4. If you have Potion and less than $2, consider a Transmute. But make sure your deck is already starting to function, or a terminal action can really slow it down.

      5. Last thing here, small but fun. Scrying Pools can help you play your Lookout with less fear, since you can get most of your action cards into your deck and leave a sad little pile of unwanted coppers or estates, which your Lookout can take care of for you.

      • tlloyd says:

        Thought of one more tip here: try to avoid playing all of your wharves (however many you get) in a single turn. Unless you really need two more cards, or you’re confident it’s your last or second-to-last turn, it’s better to leave a Wharf in your hand if all your other Wharves have been played in that same turn. Your next hand should still be great if you’ve got some Scrying Pools, and the turn after that will be much better.

    • mojosmitty says:

      I actually disagree. I played this solo about 20 times to see what the fastest build orders were. And I feel like Potion/Lookout is the best opening. Making sure to buy universities to win the wharf battle.
      The one card I found that surprisingly helped a lot, was trading post. Giving a way to trash lookout/potion later. And also giving a way to just add more money to your deck for bigger buys!
      I used my money to buy money, and universities to buy wharf/bazaars.

      People talked about how you might get caught up in building your deck too fast. And you mentioned above how you had a 2 province turn by turn 11. Well, I was able to buy all 8 provinces by turn 14 by doing the above. Having a 2 province turn on turn 9, and a 3 province turn on turn 13.

      I think the kicker in this whole thing is who buys the trading post to add that extra buying power to their deck.. No need to waste your money on buying actions when you can get a hold of a couple of universities and thin your deck with trading post/lookout.

      • tlloyd says:

        I don’t see how Trading Post actually adds that much money to your deck. Turning two coppers into one silver trims your deck but leaves you with the same buying power. And if your deck is built so you can draw it almost every turn, then consolidating coppers is unnecessary. I suppose you could turn three estates and a lookout into two silvers, but I think Transmuting those estates into Golds has to be superior.

        • Jorbles says:

          But the advantage isn’t in more money it’s in letting you pick up all your engine cards more often (Conspirators, Bazaars, Wharves and Universities) and in greater proportion so your draw engine gets running smoothly quicker than your opponents does.

          What would you rather draw? Conspirator, Bazaar, Wharf, Copper, Estate or Conspirator Bazaar, Wharf, Silver and something else. They’re both good hands, but the one from a deck slimmed by Trading Posts will let you draw better quality cards when you’re drawing lots of cards.

          • Death to Sea Hags says:

            There’s definitely tipping points in getting your draw engine to run. Even slight trashing can make a world of difference to a less efficient +1/+1 engine, like Conspirators.

          • tlloyd says:

            Clearly Trading Post helps trim your deck – no one doubts that. I just don’t see how it significantly “add[s] more money to your deck for bigger buys” or “add[s] that extra buying power to [your] deck.” If you’re looking to trim your deck, Lookout has some advantages. If you want to ramp up your buying power with treasure, I’d suggest Transmute. I just don’t see Trading Post being worth it with the available cards at $4 and $5.

            • Death to Sea Hags says:

              If you open Trading Post, you can’t buy Silver with your starting shuffle. Second shuffle (t3-5), you can get two Silver in one turn (or Silver + Lookout). That’s where the buying power comes from. Until you get a Wharf, there’s no +Buy, and TP lets you “buy” a Silver while trashing two cards.

              Compare: Open Wharf, then in s2, you get +2 cards. With best possible t3 draw – very unlikely – you get Wharf + 4 Coppers, and then draw 2 more, for $6 and 2 buy. Now you buy Gold*. Your deck is 12 cards – but with 7 Copper. Wharf will pull enough cards to trigger shuffle 3 on turn 4, so you might get the Gold, but you’re guaranteed to pull all three estates and the last copper for the first four cards. With the other three cards, you’ll get $3 or $5, for $4 or $6 total. Not bad, but this is a very low probability draw.

              More likely, even if you draw Wharf in t3, you’ll get at least one estate in the first 7 cards, for only $5. Now, the +Buy is useless, and you can’t buy Gold. Take a $4 action (12 cards total), and hope for $6 on t4 with the third shuffle. Although you’ll get three cards after the reshuffle, the Wharf misses s3, going straight to discard. Your next two turns are limited to just 5 cards each – and you’ve only got two Silver or $2 cards in your deck

              Open TP, on the other hand, and if you draw it in t3 you get Silver. That means you can spend your $4** and Buy on an action card or 2d Silver. You can’t get a t4 reshuffle, but your deck is only 12 cards, with better buying power. Assuming you trashed one estate, you’ll have $10 in 12 cards, so in t5 you’ll still have an expected draw of over $4, and you might trash again.

              ** TP guarantees a $4 buy, but prevents a $5 buy.

              • tlloyd says:

                “That’s where the buying power comes from . . . TP lets you “buy” a Silver while trashing two cards.”

                Sorry, but this is about slimming your deck, not extra buying power. If you trash two coppers, gain a silver, and buy a silver, you have the same amount of money as if you had simply bought a silver. Clearly you’re deck is better, but only because you have consolidated your buying power from two weak cards into one good card. Of course you could also turn estates into treasure, but arguably Transmute would be better for that.

                The function of the Trading Post is primarily to slim your deck, not to increase your buying power. But if you can reliably draw your whole deck using a strategy that doesn’t rely on Trading Post, then the Trading Post was a waste. You’d rather have a Bazaar, Conspirator or even a silver.

                Don’t get me wrong, the Trading Post is a great card and very useful. It’s just not as useful/important as the other cards of similar price in this setup.

      • Death to Sea Hags says:

        What if your opponent opens with Cutpurse? How much slower do you get?

        • mojosmitty says:

          I feel even if your opponent opens with cutpurse that lookout/potion is the best option. It will still be easy to get your universities, which ultimately grant you the ability to get your 5 coin actions. I’ve played the set versus myself quite a few times now.
          And so far, at least for me, lookout/potion is best opener. And gaining your actions through universities, and your money through buys is the winner. And adding the trading post in around turn 5-6 to trim your deck of your potion/lookout/leftover estates/copper. You start your trimming with lookout. You finish your trimming with Trading Post. After I figured this out, ever other strategy up against it lost. And at the end, I had no coppers/estates/potions/lookouts left. It was all wharves/universities/bazaars/conspirators/money/vp/one trading post. And in the end, it was almost impossible to not buy double province (at the very least, sometimes triple province).

          • tlloyd says:

            We agree on the Opening, but not on the mid-game. It seems to me that the key to the engine is multiple Scrying Pools and lots of Conspirators, plus a helping of Bazaars/Universities and Wharves. Because I want as many Scrying Pools as I can get, I’m not as keen to trash my Potions, and not as interested in buying Treasure Cards. If I get a Potion and less than $1 a Transmute is well worth it to turn my Estates into Golds (and my Lookout into a Duchy!). Other than that I’m counting on Conspirators (and toward the end Cutpurses) for my buying power.

      • RobF says:

        I like Lookout/Potion, but I disagree about Trading Post – sure it makes your deck a little thinner, but Scrying Pool will pick up 2-3 as your deck gets action-heavy (as well as hurting your opponent) so it essentially shrinks your deck even more. Better yet, it’s cheap, you don’t want more than just 2-3 universities, and gets better as the game goes on instead of worse.

        I won against Cutpurse on turn 14 by drawing out Bazaar/Wharf/Conspirators and probably could have ended it on piles faster (of course opp was buying these too).

  6. timchen says:

    Trashing, in this kind of game, is almost never too slow I think. The 1 card you trash in the second shuffle translates to 1/3 a Wharf you played every shuffle, even disregard the unfortunate draw dead. For Lookout, the card you discard is another 1/3. Also, what else do you want to get with the starting $3?

    The potential pitfall I see, with tlloyd’s approach, is the extreme unfortunate draw of Lookout-Potion-Estate-Estate-Copper. Also, the Cutpurse would also give rise to similar problems.

    • tlloyd says:

      Yeah, the potential for that nightmare draw is what convinced me that a second Lookout is more harmful than helpful. A Transmute is not a terrible buy when you have Potion but less than $2, but that early on would really slow down your deck development.

  7. chesskidnate says:

    lookout-cutpurse on next 4+ then on next 4 get an ironworks try to use the potion to get two universities then scrying pools use ironworks on conspirators do not buy anything on 3- use universities to gain two wharves then two bazaars then 2 more wharves(from there alternate) same thing goes for 5 buys. use ironworks/4 buys on conspirators. use $8 buys on provinces and when 4 provinces are left go all out on vps.
    p.s. Nakamura, awesome name

  8. Aeek says:

    potion –> universities –> wharves

  9. Momomoto says:

    My line of thinking is along that of tlloyd’s.

    This is one of the few games I’ve seen where you could try making a viable Conspirator deck.

    And if you trash early and trash often with Lookout, you could set up an engine that could reliably draw your whole deck with Scrying Pools.

    So I’d open Lookout/Potion, get a couple Wharves on my first University draws, and then do everything in my power to go University/Conspirator/Scrying Pool. I probably wouldn’t buy more than two Universities, two Wharves, and maybe three Scrying Pools. Everything else would be Conspirators, baby.

    Even if I lost I’d have fun doing it 😉

    • Personman says:

      “This is one of the few games I’ve seen where you could try making a viable Conspirator deck.”

      Wow, really!? I almost always want to build Conspirator combo if it’s even remotely doable, and I feel that it usually is. For a long time, I thought Conspirator was undercosted, and would have made a fairer (though somewhat lackluster) 5. I don’t think that anymore, but I still think it’s really good.

      Heh, I just looked it up in my CouncilRoom stats, and Conspirator is my very highest ‘Effect With’, at 2.7. Perhaps it is almost as criminally underrated as Wishing Well!?

  10. DG says:

    There is a possible action concept deck here using the university to fill with actions and transmute/lookout to wipe out the starting cards. Scrying pools would then draw your entire deck. Universities are a slow drawing card but the wharves should compensate for that and more. It’s a Dominion fantasy deck and you really have to play for it so a lookout/potion opening for me.

    To answer theories question – yes there is a good lookout/conspirator/ironworks deck in here but I suspect it needs to be very neatly played. Lookouts and ironworks can start the conspirator chains but they can cause problems if you have to keep using them, so the bazaars are key and you need some kind draws to get enough of them early. This deck would probably be faster than the alchemy deck and could steal a majority of conspirators however I’ve played similar games before and the university usually prevails over the ironworks.

    If you started 5/2 on this set then I suppose you’d have to go for trading post, treasure, wharf. It’s not exciting but not the worst deck either.

  11. Captain_Frisk says:

    So there’s clearly Uni->Bazaar->Wharf, and Ironworks, Conspirator…

    I would do both!

    Open Lookout -> Ironworks, with an aim of using the Ironworks to pick up a potion, thin my deck with the lookout, pick up Conspirators with the Ironworks, Bazaars and Wharves with the Uni, and scrying pool to mass draw it all. The bazzars will chain the conspirators easier than ironworks / lookout would, and Uni as your only workshop will never want to gain the conspirators, which you’ll need to ramp up your coin production.

    I wouldn’t touch cutpurse or tradingpost, and transmute only as a desperation +buy with the wharf when its Duchy Panic Time.

  12. ckd says:

    I recently played a set that overlaps this one (common cards in bold): Black Market, Bureaucrat, Caravan, Conspirator, Grand Market, Moat, Potion, Throne Room, University, Wharf, and Wishing Well.

    Due to nothing more than good v. bad early-shuffle luck, the mirrored start (Silver/Potion) still led to a quick runaway since Browncoat didn’t see the Potion until the end-of-turn-4 draw, and since that draw was also the reshuffle trigger the Potion missed the next deck pass completely. Meanwhile, mine showed up one turn earlier, and I got two University buys before Browncoat could get one since it came back right after the reshuffle.

    After that, it quickly became a situation where ending it on piles was more of a mercy killing than a glorious victory.

    For this one, I’d probably open Potion/Lookout on a 4/3 and Trading Post/Sad Trombone on a 5/2., then aim for the University stack and use it to grab Wharves and Conspirators.

    • Browncoat says:

      Hey cool! A post about one of my games on DominionStrategy!
      … and I’m the victim of a *mercy killing*. ugh.

      What ckd is too kind to mention is that I went off the reservation and bought a gold on turn 6 instead of a Wharf. He still would have won, but maybe the game wouldn’t have needed a coup-de-grace. I was surprised at how quickly the university-wharf engine ramped up: this was the first time I had seen it in action.

  13. Zaphod says:

    I know it’s a difficult card to play, but given this set, I think the Transmute deserves more consideration. Given the Bazaar/Wharf/Conspirator draw engine, you’ll have a full hand often, so Transmute will hit your Estates and turn them into Gold. Later in the game, you can gain a ton of Duchies, since your hand will be full of action cards produced by the University. I’d probably grab a Transmute after the second or third shuffle.

  14. Death to Sea Hags says:

    I’d open shuffle 1 with the numbers.

    Best $5 open here: Trading Post. Trash early and often, and you don’t need to worry about buying silver. Its by far the strongest opener on the board, with a turn 1-2 win advantage that’s 4x greater: +.28 vs. wharf’s measly +.08. Bazaar is actually negative!

    $4 is much harder. Potion is good, safe, and slow, for Uni on shuffle 2, $5 action on shuffle 3. If you open Ironworks, that slows you down a bit, with potion on s2, $4 action + Uni on s3, and $5 action on s4 and later. Potion + what? Silver. Lookout is good trashing at 1 card per shuffle, and speeds the decks too, but s2 is now $7 in 11 cards (if you trash early), for a five card draw expected value of .6363*5=3+ and that’s terrible. You’ll get a Uni, but you won’t get anything else for a long time. With Lookout, expect Uni, Silver in s2 because there’s a good chance you’ll get shut out of $4 . With Silver, your expected value is almost $4 per draw, and there’s a far larger chance of drawing $5.

    But if you get $5 in s2, you’re already ahead of the Uni curve. Open Silver, $5 action and anther +2$ card in s2, and you can grab a $4 and $5 in s3. That’s much faster than Uni and potions. You want trashing, so depending on what you draw in s2, plan on a $4 and the Lookout OR Trading Post; you could get both, and turbo-slim your deck. That $4 could be your Potion, or an Ironworks to crank out the Conspirators in s3.

    These are great ideas in a vacuum – but there’s another player. And he’ll buy Cutpurse. Why? Because it rocks. It’s as strong as wharf, for $1 less. It’s got better win% than Potion, and the Potion numbers are skewed higher by games with Familiar or Possession where one player opens Potion and the other doesn’t – that’s not the case here. Note that Ironworks and Conspirator are both net losers. To be sure, if you buy a Lookout or $3 silver, then Ironworks or Conspirator won’t collide, so they’re certainly better in this game than their aggregate stats reflect. But the same goes for Cutpurse.

    Beyond the stats, Cutpurse is great because it’s $2 for you, and -1$ for your opponent. That’s huge. I don’t know how good other poster’s opening modeling was, but I doubt they had an extra $1 every shuffle – especially with a cash-poor Potion-Lookout opening. That’ll get tight in a hurry!

    Cutpurse and what – silver or lookout? Lookout is nice and won’t collide, but you want to get to $5 fast for wharves, and Trading Post will trash for you.

    So I’d open Cutpurse/Silver in s1. In s2, $5 for Trading Post, $4 depends on what the opponent does. If she’s trashing, then take a Potion – you want the Uni’s, and trash the Cutpurse in a few shuffles. If she’s not trashing, the Cutpurse window still closes quickly as she gets any of the +cards and can alleviate the pressure. I think detouring into an early Ironworks for the Conspirators leaves you too cash poor to get the Bazaars that the Conspirators need, and trying to get Potion after ironworks is too late. If you don’t get a $5 in s2 or early s3, your pretty much screwed.

    • tlloyd says:

      I think this is a case where there are two plausible strategies, but you’ve got to commit to one and stick with it. Lookout isn’t as bad as you say, and Cutpurse isn’t as good (for your opponent), if you’re going for University and Scrying Pool. Once you’ve got University, you don’t need your Copper to get the Wharves/Bazaars/Conspirators, so again I don’t see Cutpurse slowing your deck much. I only started gaining Cutpurses toward the end of the game when I knew I could draw them into my hand the same turn and so I might as well use the extra coin.

      As for the stats, I think it’s really more important to ask how useful any particular card is given the other cards available. Cutpurse may beat Conspirator on average, but with Scrying Pools to facilitate Conspirator chains and the fact that your opponent (1) is relying much more on action cards for coin than on copppers and (2) can probably draw his whole deck into his hand anyway, I think Conspirator > Cutpurse on this board.

  15. Nathan B says:

    I’m seeing a pure action deck in this set. That probably means transmute for trashing and going heavy on universities, bazaars, and minions, but it’d only take as many scrying pools as you need to reliably get one in each (wharf expanded) hand. The ideal would be to end the game on piles by transmuting as many actions as possible into duchies and buying the rest with conspirator and festival gold.

    This is probably not viable, but it would be fun if it worked.

  16. Bob dole says:

    I went sliver/lookout as an opening and got a game end in 15 turns playing solitaire. Transmute isn’t all that useful here, trading post is only good with a 5/2 opening due to the fact lookout is a much better trasher, and the money is not an issue due to abundance of cards that give +coin. Scrying pool would be useful in a two player or if the right amount of money comes up. Here’s the log:

  17. nemryn says:

    Some thoughts, based on solitaire playtesting:
    *Conspirator chains are big
    *Use Lookout and Transmute for trashing instead of Trading Post
    *Once you get the Transmute, start using it to trash stuff instead of Lookout, and trash the Lookout. Trash some Coppers first to get another Transmute. You can Transmute away all your spare Wharves and Transmutes on the last turn for Duchies.

    Sample game:

  18. Silverback says:

    In such a setup I usually try to go for a megaturn-strategy. All the tools are there:
    You have Wharf for extra cards and (even more important) extra buys,
    then you have Conspirator for lots of money (though Bridge and Coppersmith would create much more money),
    then you have University to get all those Wharves (4 at least) and Bazaars, that you need and Ironworks to get the conspirators,
    and finally you have Scrying Pool to draw all those cards.

    So I would start with Potion and Lookout, then get an Ironworks and a University as soon as possible.
    I would use Ironworks (and 4-coin hands) to get as many Conspirators as possible and University (and 5-coin-hands) to get two wharves and then Bazaar, two more Wharves and Bazaars from that point on.
    All hands with potions would bring me a Scrying Pool.

    Play order: Always play the Scrying Pools first, then Bazaars and Conspirators, then Wharves. Don’t bother so much about trashing with Lookout. It’s really only needed like two or three times in the beginning.

    This way, I could buy at least 4 Provinces around turn 14 and win next turn.

    • Silverback says:

      After playing it a few times, I found out, that more than three Scrying Pools is overkill. I also must admit, that a Transmute helps, once you draw your entire deck.

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