Annotated Game #8 Preview

Below is a 2-player game on Isotropic, without Colonies or Platinums.  I will post the annotated game on Monday, May 30.  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, I believe this is a set that hinges quite heavily on the opening buy, and illustrates how you can take different paths to the same destination.

Haven, Wishing Well, Feast, Throne Room, Vault,
Great Hall, Coppersmith, Navigator, Laboratory, Grand Market

Annotated Game #8

(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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50 Responses to Annotated Game #8 Preview

  1. The two cards that leap out at me right away are Grand Market and Vault. A thought about Grand Market that I’ve had for a while but never posted anywhere: Grand Market is to Market as Silver is to Copper; Grand Market is to Festival as Laboratory is to Village. (The first one should be obvious; in the case of the second, +1 action instead of +2, but +1 card more.) And of course if you play a Vault you are guaranteed to be able to buy a Grand Market.

    So the opening on this one will involve getting at least one Vault ASAP. Feast is the obvious way to do that, but I think with a 4/3 here I would open Silver/Navigator, hoping to benefit from the improved early-game deck cycling that Navigator provides. (With 5/2, Vault/Haven is a no-brainer.)

    In the middle game, I’ll start collecting some Throne Rooms, hoping to be able to Throne Room my Grand Markets. Throne Roomed Laboratories, Wishing Wells, and Great Halls may also come in useful.

  2. vidicate says:

    I’ll take the low-hanging fruit and say that on a 5/2 opening I would go for Vault/Haven. Vault seems strong especially given no trashing. My novice strategy would then involve adding 1-2 more Vaults amidst 3 Golds give-or-take, at which point I would throw in Grand Markets when falling short of $8, but always “Vault-ing” to Province when able–throwing in Great Halls or Duchies with surplus buys–and likely buying another Vault as soon as we “go green”. I’m not sure if this would be quick enough to beat a strategy that deliberately builds up to double Province turns. I’ll leave it to the pros to discuss the intricacies of the 4/3 opening.

    edit(not really): I see by the above comment that this is a “no-brainer” which doesn’t surprise me.

    • vidicate says:

      I think someone else could do better with my own strategy than I can. (irony?):
      — I just tried this three times with the 5/2 opening and am still not convinced that this could compete with a more complex engine. But one of my attempts did see 5 Provinces in 13 turns with no Grand Markets, so maybe a better player than I could get similar results more consistently.

    • vidicate says:

      I tried some more and produced similar results, 5th Province on turn 13:

      Clearly I got very lucky draws. Most of my attempts (again, with 5/2 openings) would get to 4 Provinces at turn 16 or later, so I really can’t say that a Vault+Gold strategy could be quick enough, and clearly not with a 4/3 opening (I tried this a bunch of times as well).

      I see that others conjectured below about whether to go Gold first over Grand Markets. I’m glad to see that I’m not some lone whacko. 🙂 I hope my findings were informative at least to those individuals.

  3. WanderingWinder says:

    I’m surprised that you think the opening is so crucial here. The 5/2, as noted above, is painfully obvious. The 4/3 is interesting, I think not in the 4 so much as the 3. I think it’s pretty clear that you want the feast rather than the navigator (though I don’t expect it to be a big difference), just because you really need to make sure you get that vault fast, and it’s not so clear that once you do, having the navigator is better than not having it. But for the 3, I’m leaning toward Wishing Well actually. Silver seems the obvious opening, and it has the benefit of netting you a little more cash later in the game. But well will help you cycle faster earlier as well as give you a good card to Throne later. On the other hand, it might even be better to go for Great Hall. Certainly it seems that’s where I’d go with subsequent buys. But the decision here should actually be based on the long term plan, which is a little less clear.
    Obviously you want to build a big action/card/money/buy combo around the vault/GM combo, picking up TRs pretty soon (probably every 4 after the first one and with havens/great halls on 6+ with extra buys). But the big questions, to me, are:
    1)How many golds (if any) do you get before the first GM? I’d think one, which you’ll want for buying power when you’re drawing your whole deck. Maybe you don’t need it. Maybe you get it later, after several GMs.
    2)At what point do you switch from Vaults to Labs? I’d guess after the 2nd vault, but again I’m not sure
    3) When you get 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, with extra buys in the midgame, what do you buy?
    4) When do you start “going green”? I’d guess not as soon as you can, as you want to get a strong combo established, but then again, fairly quickly should be good, as the vaults will turn this into money.
    These things are the important questions, and they should shape the opening as well.

    • timchen says:

      I like this post a lot; but I see a big problem of the plan.

      There are no trashing available. Building a big draw deck on this setup may be too slow comparing to simple Vault-gold/GM combo. Early Throne Rooms are more likely to hurt than gain.

      In fact, I think it is interesting to note that without trashing, +2 actions, and Vault, the Grand Market is actually not a significant better buy than Gold. If we ask the question “given fixed number of Vaults (say 2) and fixed number of $6 buys, what is the optimum number of GMs to buy”, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

      • timchen says:

        In the second paragragh I mean without trashing, +2 actions, and WITH Vault; I hope it is clear by the context.

      • vidicate says:

        That’s pretty much the same reasoning I had in mind above for prioritizing Gold over GM, and going for straight Province “plucking”. (Except I was further restricting it to the uninteresting situation of a 5/2 opening.)

  4. Reyk says:

    Vault + Money seems incredible fast here. Not even sure about GM – like timchen already said.
    But Vault + Money sounds quite boring. Just guessing: There has to be something else.
    Wishing well/Coppersmith is one of the combos in the good old “Province-at-turn3-riddles”. Throne, Haven and very occassionally (because you generally don’t want small hand sizes) Opponent’s Vault might help. It’s cheap overall, but I’m really not sure about it’s prosepects against Vault + Money.

    • ipofanes says:

      The problem with Wishing Well/Coppersmith (as a strategy rather than an opening) is that there’s not really much to do with $5 to $7 in the buy phase. Grand Market, as the only +Buy card in the setup, is unattainable with this strategy. Would be different with Trade Routes or Worker’s Villages offered.

      Other than that, I like Wishing Wells, so much that I occasionally wish for them.

      • Reyk says:

        “is that there’s not really much to do with $5 to $7 in the buy phase”

        There are labs. As I said I’m not sure about this try. But if you can get 8 fast and often you might do well without the buy.

        • ipofanes says:

          ok, labs are Wishing Wells with spoilers 🙂

          • Reyk says:

            I’ve tried a little solitaire. Coppersmith/Wishing well is too slow after second/third Province I guess.
            So the Feast might be ogliatory.
            It’s probably already here when you have to decide between Vault + Money or an attempt for GM (with Wishing Well as Geronimoo pointed out for better chaining).
            Still not sure if the chains are fast enough. On the other hand it is always uncomfortable to have only one buy whereas your opponent might have several. But that’s difficult to simulate in solitaire games.

  5. Geronimoo says:

    $5/$2 = easy Vault/Haven
    $4/$3 I would go Feast/Wishing Well, then get a Vault with Feast and buy more Wishing Wells (certainly not Great Halls at this stage). Get a second Vault (maybe even with a second Feast) and start going for Grand Markets, Throne Rooms and Labs. Once your engine is capable of delivering $16 start going for the green cards. I don’t think you should ever buy Golds or Silvers here because they will slow down your engine. The lack of trashing cards will cause your engine to sputter from time to time, so on average this strategy is only a little better than a simple Big Money deck.

  6. Bob dole says:

    The key here seems to be getting Vault as soon as possible. so either Vault/Haven or Feast/Wishing Well as an opening. After that the question is whether to focus on money or try to go Grand Market+lab+other stuff in order to generate a monster engine. I’m not sure how fast that would be though, so at least one gold is needed. Possibly in place of feast go Navigator, but Wishing well is just too useful on getting to that vault. Which makes the question one of whether vault is being too valued in this set up in order to account for theory’s comment on value of the opening.

  7. The Zeitgeist Movement says:

    5/2: Vault/Haven (obviously)
    4/3: Feast/Wishing well

    Getting a Vault early is crucial so you can get GM’s, so Feast is the only certainty of getting one early. I prefer Ww over silver, because it keeps the engine running (cycle faster) and wil hit coppers in the beginning quite frequently. Focus on buying GM’s, Labs and TR’s, maybe get an extra Vault later on because with TR there will be actions to spare. This will do the trick.

    The other possible strategy is Coppersmith, Ww, Labs but the only extra buy is GM and you cant get to 6 without coppers.

    Pretty straightforward deck in my opinion.

  8. You stated that the opening buys will be important. I’d like to throw in a little generic analysis for the math nerds among us, and I hope it’s useful.

    As you probably know, you can expect a 3/4 opening (rather than a 5/2 opening) in 5 out of 6 games. Assuming you get a 3/4 opening, you’ll get a 3-buy and a 4-buy, then shuffle. What are the different third-turn hands, and what are their likelihoods?

    The least likely third-turn hand comprises your 3-buy, your 4-buy, and three estates, written {34eee}. This hand will occur 1 in every 792 games. There are four different hands that tie for most likely: 3 coppers (and 2 estates) {CCCee}, 4 coppers {CCCCe}, 3 coppers and the three-buy {CCC3e}, and 3 coppers and the four-buy {CCC4e}, each of which will occur 105 out of 792 games. The full list of all sixteen third-turn hands (assuming a previous 3/4 split) and their probabilities are listed below.

    {CCCee}: 105/792
    {CCCCe}: 105/792
    {CCC3e}: 105/792
    {CCC4e}: 105/792
    {CC3ee}: 63/792
    {CC4ee}: 63/792
    {CC34e}: 63/792
    {CCCC3}: 35/792
    {CCCC4}: 35/792
    {CCC34}: 35/792
    {CCeee}: 21/792
    {C34ee}: 21/792
    {CCCCC}: 21/792
    {C3eee}: 7/792
    {C4eee}: 7/792
    {34eee}: 1/792

    By crunching these numbers, you can see that, for instance, you’ll get at least 3 coppers about two thirds of the time, you’ll get both your 3-buy and your 4-buy about 15% of the time, etc. Also, one can also extrapolate that if you buy silver both for your 3-buy and your 4-buy, your third-turn hand will contain at least $5 about 53% of the time (including $6-$7 about 21%). Hope this assists in generic early-game analysis!

    • As a follow-up, in this case, buying Silver/Silver will give you enough money to buy Vault on the third turn 53% of the time (as I said above), while buying Silver/Feast will net you a Vault 61% of the time. The difference is, of course, that Silver/Silver makes it much more likely you’ll be able to buy a Gold instead (21% instead of 4%), but buying Silver/Feast means that even after you Feast for a Vault, you’ll still have at least $3 for purchases about half the time.

      • Stephen says:

        Buying Vault on turn 3 is equivalent to buying on turn 4 (won’t hit the reshuffle until after turn 4 anyway, barring Navigator shenanigans), so I’m more interested in the probability of being able to buy a Vault on either turn 3 or 4 with different openings.

  9. Fuu says:

    I wish (pun?) I could see further than Vault and Grand Market, but Vault is so good without any trashing and there’s no other +buy than Grand Market. So it seems like you need to go for at least one of these, probably with Vault being the more crucial.

    I guess, given Vault, that if you want to draw big hands you need to emphasise Laboratories, which makes the +buy from Grand Market more desirable. With higher action density you will probably do well with Throne Rooms too. Even Throne Room on Vault would be ok, but I would pass up on a Province there to get a Grand Market to help with action density.

    If you don’t go this route, but still given Vault, I suppose you have to lean mostly towards treasure. But buying Great Halls would be nice too, since they don’t take up space and if you draw them dead then you’ve used Vault, and can get money for them. I’d start on the Provinces early here.

  10. GenericKen says:

    It’s clearly a labs game.
    No buys other than grand market, and given the lack of trashing, coppers will make up the buying power of the deck to the end. Get to 5 or 6 labs, buy a gold, then get provinces.

    Throne feast is a great combo on the board, but a well throne opening seems like a stretch for me. Prob pick up throne feast throne if you wind up with three $4 turns (with unlucky turn 3-4 maybe).

    Coppersmith always seems like a trap to me, but this is an ideal board for smith well. I don’t think I’d risk it tho.

    I’m partial to silver navigator. Consistant $5 is navigator’s specialty. I think getting $5 on both turns 3 and 4 will win the game outright.

    • RobF says:

      I’m partial to silver navigator. Consistant $5 is navigator’s specialty. I think getting $5 on both turns 3 and 4 will win the game outright.
      I think the main reason to consider Navigator/Silver is that you might get either of these two good scenarios:

      Hand 3 – CCCE Nav, $5 buys a vault and ditches the next hand (unless it’s a $5 for a second vault). Your vault just got 1 turn sooner.

      Hand 3 & 4 both deliver $5 and you buy 2 vaults. The Feast/Well crowd will get one for sure, but almost never two.

      I like my chances I lot more with an extra vault even if I have to add two non-combo cards to my deck, but my feeling is that getting two vaults is not going to be likely enough to swing me away from Feast/Well.

  11. I ran some simulations for the early game. If we assume that you want a Grand Market as quick as possible, and nothing else matters, then Vault is the best way to get one (no surprise there). If you buy Silver/Silver on turns 1 & 2, you will get your first Grand Market (by playing Vault) on turn 6.21 on average. If you buy Silver/Coppersmith on turns 1 & 2, it will take until turn 6.95, much worse. Buying Silver/Feast gets you a Grand Market by turn 6.07, which is a little better. Buying Great Hall/Feast is just as good, gaining you a Grand Market by turn 6.07 as well.

    But if your goal is just to get a Grand Market ASAP, the best strategy seems to be to buy Wishing Well/Feast on turns 1 & 2, and to Wishing Well for either a copper or a Vault, depending on context. That will get you a Grand Market by turn 5.93 on average.

    Now the obvious question is, will the player who gets Grand Market first tend to win the game? That’s a tougher question, and I’ll leave that to others.

  12. Silverback says:

    Okay, I would also go for Vault into Grand Markets. Then buy a Grand Market whenever I can. This is because you need the extra buys.
    With Throne Room, Wishing Well, Laboratory and no trashing available Coppersmiths will generate a lot of money.
    The trick is to buy 2-4 Coppersmiths once you draw your entire deck and generate enough buys, then end the game next turn with Throne Roomed Coppersmiths.

    • Epoch says:

      Sounds too slow. If you just ignored the Coppersmiths and some of the labs there, and got, I don’t know, 2-3 Vaults and lots of Grand Markets, I think that you’d be well into the Provinces before that deck started getting Coppersmiths.

      I mean, compare:

      Vault/Grand Market


      Vault/Grand Market/Laboratory/Throne Room/Coppersmith

      Maybe the latter in a Colony game.

      • Silverback says:

        If you buy Grand Markets, you want Throne Room anyway, while Labs are something you pick up if you happen to have 5 Coins and they are not necessarily needed (though they help).

        So basically I would play the same game as you, but I would keep my mind open for the Coppersmith to bring it to a quick end.

        The question is: Can an Opponent who uses Vault (maybe two) simply to buy Gold and Provinces (ignoring Grand Markets) get to 5 Provinces quickly enough, before the Coppersmith-Deck is complete?

  13. rlee says:

    It’s rare that you can go treasureless on a non-trashing board, but I think this is one of them. I agree with the people who are opening Feast/WW and then gunning for Vault->TR/Lab/GM, it’s not that hard to build treasureless 2-3 province turns with this engine, using throne’d labs to draw your deck.

  14. Blooki says:

    I think isotropic should implement a feature that warns you that the game you’re about to play will be an annotated game so the players will be alerted to think outside of the box. 😉

  15. kn1tt3r says:

    I think it’s fastest to:
    – go for one Vault first asap (open Vault/Haven or Feast/dontknowwhatsbest)
    – get Grand Markets with it; Gold only if GM is not possible
    – then first fill up on Labs (like 3) to draw your Vault more often, after that get 2nd Vault
    – get some TR with extra buys or blank 4.

    Build up this engine until you can buy 2 Provinces, unless you can get a single-buy Province on the way of course.

  16. Amaranth says:

    I think that if you are going for Vault/Grand Market, that the major advantage of Navigator over Feast is that you should be able to play your early Vault more frequently by ditching turns where you aren’t going to draw Vault. OTOH, a turn 4 Navigator can force a Vaultless reshuffle, so it’s not clear cut.

  17. DG says:

    When I first looked at this I thought that it would be difficult to get excessive power from this kingdom and that many variations would give similar results. I was wrong. I’ll post my thoughts in more detail later, just to give everyone a chance to work out their own ideas. Open with Feast/Wishing well.

    • DG says:

      I’d suggest feast/wishing well. Use the feast for a vault to get a grand market or two and continue to buy labs, a couple of thrones, and wishing wells. It might not take long for grand market + vault hands to deliver enough coins for multiple buys and you can ‘overheat’ the deck with drawing cards before polluting it with provinces. Add a very late coppersmith for a final flourish, using a throne+ lab for 4 cards 2 actions, vault, then throne+coppersmith on all the copper if a perfect draw comes along.

      At first I thought a navigator would be a better opener than the feast but adding a single extra terminal to the deck seems to slow it down. Each draw will finish with 5 terminals and your deck starts with 7 copper, 3 estates, adding a quick vault (making 11) . The drawing cards only need to draw 6 more terminals to draw the whole deck, and the vault might deliver two of those. If you add a navigator it makes it 7 more terminals and the deck will feel 16% slower! If you’re planning ahead to add the late coppersmith then having fewer terminals will be an advantage as you’ll be less reliant on thrones for extra draws and actions. Adding excess thrones will just increase the risk of bad draws.

      Those are my thoughts anyway. I most certainly didn’t see all that without playing it through a few times, so congratulations to the players if they found those plays (or better) first time through.

      • Silverback says:

        @DG: You are one of the most inspiring players posting here. So it’s satisfying to see, that I thought along the same lines as I did.

  18. play2draw says:

    On 4/3 buy a Feast and a Great Hall (at 5/2 just buy a Feast). When you reach 4 buy a Throne room. (at 3 just begin smothering your opponent with more Great Halls). Throne room your Feast into two Feasts. Then buy another Throne Room (or TR a Feast to get two Throne Rooms). Continue this process until you have at least 4 Throne Rooms and at least 5 Feasts. Gain all of the Dutchies in one turn. If the opponent did not rage-quit as a result of your monster Dutchy blitz, then continue the process of acquiring Throne Rooms and Feasts until the Great Halls and Estates run out. Lean back in your chair, take a sip from your snifter of brandy, and wryly smile as you speak the modest “gg”.

  19. zenarchist says:

    I would consider trying a WV/Navigator opening, then picking up a Vault asap. After that I would go for Haven if I have 2$, WV if I have 3, TR with 4 (at least till I have 2 or 3), Lab with 5 and GM with 6 (Gold or Lab if I get 6 without the Vault). The ideal turn for this would be starting out TR->Lab, then Navigator if I have it, followed by WV if I kept the cards I saw, then other cards with +Card/+Action and hopefully ending up with a Vault.
    With just one Vault and one Navigator, they wont really conflict – if you draw them together you’ll still get 1$ for the Navigator and you’ll never draw the Vault dead with this mix. And with most of the cards being good at cycling I think having just two terminals is about right. With this plan I think both Navigator and Wishing Well will be at their best.
    Anyway, looking forward to seeing how the game went 😀

  20. painted_cow says:

    I really want to know, how many players would haven opened with Wishing Well in this setup when this would have occurred in a real Isotropic game. I Think like everyone would start with Silver with the 3 $.

    At first glance i would have opened with Silver/Feast.

  21. WanderingWinder says:

    My first thought was to go for the Well. Whether or not I would have thought of this in an actual isotropic game is dependent upon whether or not I would have thought longer than 2 seconds. Probably yes, but not necessarily.
    I rather like Well in general. Yes, silver is quite often better, but in a streamlined deck, it’s often as good as a Lab! (occasionally better).

    • Anonymous says:

      occasionally better? how is wishing well ever better than lab

      • theory says:

        Sometimes you don’t want to draw the extra card. For instance, if you wish for a Copper and find a Curse instead, you can play Lookout to trash the Curse.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s so rare it’s hardly worth mentioning, “its often as good as Lab” are you serious.

          • Personman says:

            Well I suppose I just about have to step in at this point, don’t I? 😉

            I strongly believe that Wishing Well is the most underrated Dominion card (and it’s nice to see it getting some love in this thread!). It is extremely versatile, and, yes, can be as good as or better than Lab (mostly because it’s cheaper, not because it’s effect is better, though the ability to wish for only a specific thing and not anything else is indeed relevant more often than you might think.).

            I have a nice little collection of games in which I’ve managed to do pretty amazing things with Wishing Well. Some time soonish, when I have time and a bit more material, I’ll try to do a coherent writeup of just what kinds of shenanigans Wishing Well is capable of…

            Oh and to clarify — Wishing Well is great when you are keeping meticulous track of what is in your deck, and where in your deck it is. If the kind of intensity that requires doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to keep think of it as a kinda mediocre card 🙂 It’s really pretty easy to do though!

            • It’s also great for driving your opponents insane because you are playing eight wishing wells every turn, and taking thirty seconds every time you play a wishing well to try to figure out what’s the best thing to wish for.

              • Personman says:

                Yup. For this reason, I believe fairly strongly that it shouldn’t have been printed (and to think, Donald X once justified closed-knowledge discards to me by saying that if players could look through them, it would slow the game down too much…).

                But it did get printed, and it’s powerful, so there you have it :/

        • DG says:

          Agreed, but even so using the lookout to feed a good card to the wishing well is often better. A better example could be wishing for a province, then playing the lookout once you know you have a copper and not a province on top of your deck.

      • WanderingWinder says:

        Consider the case where I have a very trimmed deck, I have Gold-silver-silver-Trading Post-Wishing Well, play the well, draw a copper, and I know that the only card left in my deck is a gold. I’m going to wish for something (anything) other than the gold, and it’s almost like having played a kind of courtyard or mini-haven, setting up my next hand. This is pretty rare, yes, but not as rare as you’d think.
        Obviously for effect I’d rather have the Lab around 995 times out of 1000. But Well is a lot cheaper, too. And worst case, it’s what I call a cantrip – it gives +1 card, +1 action. Since theory says that silver isn’t good for your deck past the first one or two, (well, at least oftentimes), then Well is a good card to go for at 3 later on.
        Ok, even with all this I’m saying, I don’t think it’s super great, and I only get one about 40% of the time it’s available. But that’s probably not often enough, and I do think it’s underrated. And I would actually have picked it for this action-heavy set.

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