Cornucopia: Tournament / Prizes


Dominion: Cornucopia

Without Provinces, Tournament is basically one of those nice cheap non-terminals that (usually) can’t hurt your deck.  Not quite as delicious as Caravan, but generally preferable to Spy or Pawn.  Works with Conspirator, lowers the price of Peddler, blah blah blah.

Of course, it’s actually worse than all of them in the sense that your Tournaments stop drawing in the late game, but hopefully then you have Provinces and can make up for it by getting Prizes or Duchies.  The problem I see is that people tend to forget that the risk of a parried Tournament is only worth however much value you can extract out of Prizes and Duchies.  Winning a Tournament doesn’t in and of itself do much for you; in the late game, I’ve seen the Prizes and Duchies all run out, and then your Tournaments are basically just empty cards.  So overinvesting in Tournaments is not such a great idea.

So how do you get Prizes?  First, get a Province, ASAP.  Then, draw it with your Tournament, ASAP.  Behind this facetious tautology lurks two actual nuggets of advice: first, the fastest way to activate a Tournament is not to open Tournament.  It’s easy to buy a Tournament later on, when you need it; it’s not so easy to vault yourself up to Province so quickly.  Cards like Moneylender, Militia, Baron, Smithy can all help you get to $8 prematurely; Tournament does not.

And second, you better have some draw set up, or at least heavy trashing, or else you might get the Province first but the Prizes last.  Draw differs from trashing in that heavy trashing tends to lead to Tournament-parrying all around; it is much more likely your opponent also has a Province in his 5-card hand if he has been trashing heavily than if he relies on a draw strategy.  With enough draw, you can actually use the same Province multiple times; this ordinarily comes in Tactician games where you can repeatedly fish for Prizes with the same Province and drain them before your opponent has a chance at one.

Incidentally, this also suggests that you should not bother when you are getting swamped with Curses.  Passing up Mountebank for the Tournament race is not a good idea; even if you get to the Province, you will never, ever get to draw them together.

You should also keep in mind the dynamic of the game.  In Province games, your first Prize isn’t going to come until you’ve probably got one or two Provinces, and your opponent probably has one or two as well.  This is the stage of the game where people stop improving their deck and start buying green cards.  With rare exceptions, do not view Prizes as components of an upcoming engine, but rather as a final helper along the way as you stagger to the finish line.  Many times I have seen a player activate his Tournament with only two Provinces left and take a Prize that does little good for him, only to lose by the Duchies his opponent has taken in lieu of Prizes.  Prizes don’t score: green does.

As far as Colony games go, in a fast-paced game I tend to just skip the Provinces and take the brunt of the Prizes.  This is especially true if my fast-paced deck is due to factors that do not contribute to Tournaments: Venture/Loan/Bank really isn’t going to benefit much from a Tournament, and nor would it be likely to trigger one any time soon.  On the other hand, in slower games, and in mega-draw games, I’m happy to pick up a Province on the way.  This is because the dynamic is totally different; in Province games, as mentioned earlier, you’re probably already in green mode by the time you get Prizes.  In Colony games, your deck is still improving, which allows for you to build your deck around Diadem, or boost your deck with multiple buys from Princess.

Works with:

  • Big draw
  • Heavy trashing (though it increases the chance that the Tournament gets parried)
  • Envoy: does your opponent make you discard the Province or not?!
  • Conspirator
  • Scout
  • Opponents’ Rabble
  • Your Militia, by forcing him to decide between discarding good cards or his Province
  • Fairgrounds/Menagerie/Harvest (for the variety, though I doubt you’ll be happy turning up Prizes in your Harvest)

Conflicts with:

  • Cursing attacks
  • Fast-paced games where Tournament becomes not much more than a Duchy top-decker
  • Colony games



Dominion: Cornucopia

The Prizes themselves are a little overrated considering how much weight people assign them.  They’re powerful, but like Shakespeare, Trusty Steed and Followers can be at the top and yet still overrated.  Their absurdly high win rate is mostly due to the fact that the player who gets to Provinces first tends to be doing well anyway.

Trusty Steed

My default first pick, unless there is some good reason to go for Followers.  Trusty Steed is the most reliable of all the Prizes: it’s good in a +Actions/+Cards chain, where it provides some good lubrication for the engine parts; it’s good in a Laboratory-type chain, for giving you a little more flexibility with respect to terminal Actions; it’s even fine in a Big Money deck, since the +4 Silvers is surprisingly helpful if you’re already set money-wise for this turn.


A pretty devastating attack, but gaining that Estate hurts more than it seems.  You’re already probably at the greening-your-deck stage of the game, and adding in an extra Estate — while helpful for your score — really kills your deck just as much as those Curses are killing his.  Needless to say, it is not that helpful when the Curses are gone, and in the presence of reaction cards it’s the first attack that you might hesitate to play out of fear of being Moated.  I tend to get this card more to deny it to my opponents than anything else.


I think this card is underrated.  It’s generally worth at least a Gold, and definitely at least a Silver.  Of course, the one situation Diadem is best in (when you have a huge surplus of +Action) is really not a situation you want to be in, ideally, but sometimes you do end up with a surplus of +Action through no real fault of your own.  Fully upgraded Cities are the obvious choice, but those are only really viable if you’re going for Colony, and detouring for Provinces might be a bit too slow.  Worker’s Village/Hamlet into Peddler is a more likely scenario: there, you have both a ton of +Action as well as sufficient +Buy to take advantage of an obscene Diadem.  Fishing Village / Wharf strategies also tend to run into a surplus of +Action sometimes, since the Fishing Villages get distributed a little unevenly and you often overinvest in them to block your opponent.  And King’s Court and non-terminals often leads to some ridiculous +Actions shenanigans.  But you generally shouldn’t be building a deck with massive surplus of +Action specifically hoping to take advantage of Diadem; after all, might as well load it up with Monument or even Saboteur if you have that many Actions to spare.

Bag of Gold

Sometimes you just absolutely need the +$3.  Bag of Gold can be the best play if you’re both really starving on coin, and certainly it works with Venture, and blind card draw, and etc. etc.  If you need this card, you’ll probably know it; and if you’re not sure, you’re probably better off with the Duchy.


It feels like Bridge, but it’s not until you start playing Princess that you realize just how much it makes you miss Bridge.  The lack of a +$1, the fact that it can’t be Throned or Kinged, its unstackability … Princess is good for a late game double VP buy.  But it seems to me that the odds that you’ll need that ability instead of a Duchy are relatively low.  It’s nice if you stack it with Bridges, since then you don’t miss the lack of money as badly, and it’s also nice if it is your only source of +Buy.  But don’t expect it to perform like a Throned Bridge.

This entry was posted in Cornucopia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Cornucopia: Tournament / Prizes

  1. Kuildeous says:

    I did take a Princess in one game with the hopes that I could Smuggle a Province. Alas, the cards did not play out that way. It probably would not have let me win, but it would have been amusing.

  2. kn1tt3r says:

    I think an interesting point is whether Tournament is better or worse in Colony games. Sure, in those games you don’t really want early Provinces, but you might benefit from gained prizes much more since the game lasts longer. In pure Province games the prizes mostly just boost your endgame, but with Colonies they might really push your deck from midgame on.

    • Kuildeous says:

      Though, if there were cards to help me weed out the Provinces, I’d seriously consider it.
      Remake or Remodel a Province into a Platinum? Tasty.
      Expand a Province into a Colony? Without question.
      Also, a Salvager or Apprentice can make that Province purchase really pay off, though I’d have to also consider weeding out the Tournaments.
      Although, I mostly play multiplayer games, so a Colony game can actually be swayed by Provinces.

    • Death to Sea Hags says:

      Tournamenting a Province In a Colony game is like Hoarding a Duchy in a regular game: it gives you a tie breaker against a 4-4 split, and a great bonus card too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Did I miss something? Why can’t you throne room or kings court a princess?

    • Richard says:

      The card only gives +1 buy as an action. Look at the card, it gives + 1 buy, and then separated off there is the text: “While this is in play, cards cost 2 less…” This means that if you throne room a princess, you get +1 buy, +1 buy again, and now because the princess is in play, a 2 coin reduction. Kind of a let down, but I imagine KC + Princess would be far too powerful. That would be the equivalent of 6 bridges or 2 KC bridges, which requires strong drawing and a source of spare actions as well. Princess is much, much simpler.

    • Matthew Ryan says:

      The short answer is, you can TR or KC a Princess, for extra Buy. What the author meant to say was, the cost-reduction power of Princess can’t be gotten multiple times, like it can with Bridge.

  4. DG says:

    One problem I find with tournament kingdoms is the division of the games pre-province and post-province. They play completely differently. I’d be quite happy with this except that you often can’t prepare well for the post-province stage, you just have to get there as fast as you can. There’s no value in a deck that would have been great with a diadem but the opponent took it first. There’s also very little time to adapt your deck in the post-province stage as the green cards exhaust so quickly. This makes both the pre-province stage and the post-province stage rather similar in most games. Clearly you should customize your deck for fast province purchasing, deck thinning and cycling, and a prize based endgame, and getting the most value from the least tournaments, but that sometimes isn’t so simple in just 8 turns. Too often all players have to dive into tournaments leaving the game settled once the first provinces and prizes are gained.

    As another example, if there is a transmute in the kingdom selection it would make great sense to buy one to deal with the curses and estates from the followers. However buying an early potion then a transmute will typically lose you the race to the first province and the followers, meaning that your transmute will be clearing away curses and you will still lose the game. A better defence to the follower is to buy a quick provinces yourself, stopping the extra draws from your opponent’s tournaments, slowing down their acquisition of prizes. Of course then since you have provinces in your deck you should buy tournaments to gain the prizes yourself, which leaves you back at square one playing a typical tournament/prize strategy.

    • Death to Sea Hags says:

      I look at it as strong strategy, but not overpowered. There’s more than a few cards that you can build a single-card- or simple combo strategy around, and Tournament is not the best of them. E.g., compare to Minion, which can play very similarly. Labs, Double Wharf, mass Caravan – all can be effective, and if you get a province with reasonable speed, you severley blunt the Tournament-player.

      Tournament is also quite vulnerable to attacks, whether curse/trash givers or handsize reducers.

      Part of Tournament, like many cards, is knowing when to ignore it. Harder still, is knowing when to ignore it when your opponent goes for it, and take advantage of them.

      For me, it’s probably most like Bishop – a card I’m always glad to see my opponent open with.

      • chwhite says:

        I will open Tournament if there aren’t any good accelerants at the $4 and below level (eg Caravan, Smithy, any decent trasher, etc.) and the only alternative is simply to open Silver/Silver-equivalent. Sure, it’s $1 less than a Silver, but it also doesn’t take up a space in your deck, and in those kinds of games a) ideally you want to be spending the next few turns buying stuff like Lab and Gold instead, and b) you’re probably not going to be able to get away with only buying one Tournament if you want them to hit anyway.

        • tlloyd says:

          Early on your tournament is likely to draw a copper, in which case it ends up being equivalent to a Silver in terms of buying power, plus it cycles faster.

      • Eagle says:

        Care to elaborate on the bishop comment? I can’t think of a game that my opponent opened with bishop, and I didn’t, where I didn’t lose because of it.

        • Death to Sea Hags says:

          My best “effect without” on council room is for Bishop, at almost 4.3 – next best is Vault and Duchy (!) at 2.9. So clearly, I’m much better when I ignore Bishop. Why?

          Because there are actually very few awesome strats that require Bishop, and most of them take a while to get rolling. More often than not, you’re better off with a standard opening and making liberal use of the free trashing. In the first two reshuffles, you opponent will trash estates and coppers, netting 1 vp each, and $1 for the estates. But they will spend one action each time – and I’d gladly trade early actions for 1vp +$1. So I’m up a silver or a $4 card, my deck is faster, and I’ve got more actions to spend.

          By the midgame, that’s a HUGE advantage, unless there’s a bishop synergy strategy that will steamroller me, and for which a midgame Bishop acquisition is too little too late. And those are uncommon.

        • Death to Sea Hags says:

          Also… works awesome with attacks. Just compare the decent $4 attacks with Bishop.

          You can almost never trash curses as fast as you get them, so cursing attacks vs. a Bishop player are great, unless there’s too many +action floating around. But, even better, if they try to curse you, you’ll just trash when they play the Bishop! On balance, say 2 Hags vs. Hag+Bishop, the double hag player comes out way ahead. Ditto for Young Witch. (Pirate Ship can suffer when the Bishop eats all the treasure, while Spy Thief and Bureaucrat all suck anyway.)

          Militia is also great, because you leave them with nothing to buy after they play the Bishop.

        • DG says:

          When I first started playing on Isotropic I really ate bishops for breakfast, I really did. I think bishop play has improved on the server a bit since then. Anyway, if you play a simple smithy and treasure deck then a careless bishop will accelerate your deck so much that you’ll be able to quickly take the provinces 5/3 and the bishop will never have scored 12 extra points to beat you. This changes for multiplayer player games where multiple bishops can change things about. Your opponent might even be using his bishop to a good plan, so you also need to keep an eye open for that.

          So how do the maths support the smithy vs bishop principle? A deck of bishop, silver, and starting cards has 10 value and takes 12 cards to cycle the deck. Remove an estate and the ratio becomes 10 value from 11 cards. A deck of smithy, silver, and starting cards has 9 value and takes 9 cards to cycle the deck (simple model). Remove an estate and the ratio becomes 9 value from 8 cards. The reduction from 9 to 8 cards is better than the reduction from 12 to 11 cards, in every way.

    • tlloyd says:

      But what about Baron as a soft counter to the side-effect of playing Followers? Baron helps you get to the Provinces quickly, and then gets stronger as you gain additional estates. Of course you need the actions to make this work (if you try to play multiple Barons, for example).

      Or how about cursing like crazy while your opponent tries to get to his first Province (I played a game like this recently where I opened Sea Hag/Warehouse). If you can get the curse pile pretty low before your opponent gains his first prize, he’ll have to think twice about gaining Followers.

      So I don’t think the presence of Tournament creates a single dominant strategy.

      • blaeu says:

        I agree that the presence of Tournament doesn’t create a single dominate strategy, however I think it is a card similar to Witch or Chapel. What I mean is, that when Tournament is a Kingdom card, the game will play very differently than if Tournament were not a part of that set.

        You take any ten cards and have one be a Pawn. You replace Pawn with Witch, totally different game. Replace it with Chapel, totally different game. You replace it with Tournament, totally different game. You don’t always have to purchase those cards, but if you ignore them, they will bite you (not in a good way).

  5. Crystal says:

    I’ve found that in a Tournament game, about 90% the person who gets the first province (even by a turn), wins the game. It feels overpowered. Even in Colony games, it seems that typically people focus on provinces, and the prizes do speed up your acquisition of provinces if you’ve built a decent deck on the way. Not a fan, although I enjoy the concept.

    • Not a Cylon says:

      Yeah, it seems like what happens is that whoever gets their first Province first is going to be rewarded for going green crazy-early, and so is able to bank those VP and suffer less from deck bloat. That, and that first turn when your uncontested Tournament gets you a Steed or Followers tends to be a pretty awesome one … often awesome enough to get a second Province immediately …

  6. tlloyd says:

    “But don’t expect [Princess] to perform like a Throned Bridge.”

    Fine, but Princess is one card, not two. Princess + Silver is the equivalent of Throned Bridge (except for it gives one less Buy). Princess and a Gold is probably better than Throne Room + Bridge. So it’s closer than you give credit for in my opinion.

    By the way, when you play a Haven it remains in play across two turns. Does the card waiting under Haven count as “in play”?

    • DG says:

      A card under a haven has not been played and is not in any sense “in play”.

      • tlloyd says:

        I agree. But how do we know? Dominion’s usually-comprehensive rules don’t seem to address this.

        • theory says:

          You didn’t play it, so it’s not “in play”. For instance, the Cornucopia rulebook states:

          “In play” – Action cards and Treasure cards played face-up to a play area are in play until they are moved somewhere else – usually until they are discarded during a Clean-up phase. Only played cards are in play; set aside cards, trashed cards, cards in the Supply, and cards in hands, decks, and discard piles are not in play.

          • tlloyd says:

            Ah, that settles it then. The “havened” card is not face up, so it’s not in play even though it’s placed in the play area under the Haven card which is in play. That’s what common sense suggests anyway, but it’s always nice when the rules are clear.

          • Kuildeous says:

            I’ve been beaten to the punch. I was going to post the same rule from the Seaside rulebook.

            Also, Reaction cards are not considered in play when they’re used as Reactions, so I would expect this to mean that a Watchtower used as a Reaction would not count as being in play for purposes of Horn of Plenty and such.

          • joel88s says:

            Moreover a Havened card is specifically ‘set aside’, as per the Haven card itself.

  7. tlloyd says:

    Re: Diadem

    The games I’ve played where I ended up with tons of extra actions usually included King’s Court. Imagine King’s Courting a few Grand Markets: plenty of buys and diadem would be worth a bundle.

  8. papahav says:

    I think its worth noting that followers itself stacks with tournament because of the militia effect =]

    Hunting party is also a stacking card with tournament because tournament/province are meaningless in the endgame unless drawn together. (although this says more about hunting party which is just butter for interacting cards…)

    There are also some interesting interactions with attacks… fortune tellers can work against you, greatly enhancing opponent cycling into that new province! Bureaucrats attack portion becomes more meaningful (although still a useless card) and a swindler lucky enough to kill the trusty steed can replace it with curse. Ouch! =[[[

  9. kn1tt3r says:

    I think it’s really worth mentioning that Swindler can crush Tournament “strategies” completely.

  10. Zaphod says:

    In most Dominion games, I want to build my treasury up a little before going for Provinces. That’s not an option with Tournament on the board, however. This card changes my buying patterns even if I’m not playing it.

    The time to play a Tournament with other draw cards is as soon as you have a Province in your hand. If your opponent shows a Province, you may need another draw card to play your new Prize. Incidentally, I find it really annoying when the other guy shows a Province and denies me that card and coin. Sometimes it’s a temptation to take it personally, as silly as that sounds. It’s also annoying when you get the first Province but don’t draw it with any of your Tournaments. Tournament requires a little luck.

    If there are no other Curse-giving cards available, an early Followers can be devastating, because only one person has it. The Estates are a nuisance, but Curses and discarding make much more of a nuisance for the other players. If there is no Witch/Mountebank/Familiar/Sea Hag on the board, I’ll take Followers first.

    In the absence of a Throne Room or King’s Court, Princess is better than Bridge for the same reason Bridge is better than Woodcutter; the lower cost affects every card you buy. I had a four Province turn once, partially because the Princess lowered the cost of them to #6 apiece.

    The key to the Trusty Steed is to use its flexibility to your advantage. I’ve noticed that some people always choose 2 cards and 2 actions, but sometimes that’s not the best move. Even the 4 Silvers can be useful sometimes.

  11. Lailoken says:

    In a Province game, if you get lucky and match a Tournament with a Province early on, I often like to get Bag of Gold. I often don’t have any (or only have 1 gold) when I match my first Tournament and Province, and Bag of Gold is a great way to get yourself extra coin. It also helps to mitigate the fact that you’ve bought a green card so early on. It’s not always the best choice, but it’s often overlooked, and has an important impact on your deck beyond the turn that you’re playing it. It’s less useful later in the game, though, unless (as mentioned in the article) you’re starved for coin; might as well get a Duchy.

    • WanderingWinder says:

      Except that getting Trusty Steed and using it for the silvers is about as good for your money situation, and it helps you out in other ways, too.
      Man, those silvers are underrated.

  12. Lailoken says:

    Yeah, that’s true—the silvers are helpful, and Trusty Steed’s flexibility is a huge plus. But the silvers go into the discard pile, rather than right on top of the deck. I personally would rather get the Bag, get a gold, and then most likely be able to buy another gold on the next turn; your deck would end up with 2 golds and one or two silvers, rather than five or six silvers and no gold.

    The silvers are definitely underrated, but so is Bag of Gold—it might have more specialized circumstances under which it’s useful, but it often gets ignored entirely, or taken as the last prize, when it’s really most useful as your first prize. If you’re going to gain Bag of Gold, gain it first, so you can play it multiple times; you probably won’t want to gain 4 silvers off of TS multiple times. Trusty Steed is most often the better card, since it’s so flexible, but Bag of Gold shouldn’t be overlooked.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s