Cornucopia: Fairgrounds


Dominion: Cornucopia

Like Gardens, there are two ways to play Fairgrounds: either as consolation prizes because you missed out on a Province, or as a strategy unto itself.

If you treat them as consolation prizes, they are almost certainly going to end up being worth 4VP.  It’s rare that you can’t get up to 10 unique cards; if you don’t have 10, you’ll probably know, because you’re running a very thin deck.

If you decide to go for them, you should realize that there’s only 17 different cards in an ordinary Province game, and 19 in a Colony game.  So they’ll max out at 6VP each, after 15 unique cards.  The way to keep track of your deck (as suggested by Blooki / Triceratops) is to glance over a Province board and pick out two cards you do not want in your deck, then focus on getting a copy of each of the rest by endgame.  (Pick out four in a Platinum/Colony game, though going hardcore for 6VP Fairgrounds is much worse in a Colony game.)

Of course, these 17 & 19 numbers change with Alchemy (Potion), Young Witch (the Bane pile), Prizes, and Black Market.  With those helper cards, you can pump Fairgrounds up to 8VP or possibly even 10VP each.  Here, singleminded pursuit of Fairgrounds is much more viable, as they will end up paying off even greater than Provinces.  But it takes much, much longer: a Fairgrounds deck’s critical weakness is how difficult it is to synthesize so many different cards together into a meaningful deck.  Throwing in random crap from a Black Market deck is quite unlikely to work unless you are drowned in a surplus of +Actions.

This suggests, moreover, that the key to making Fairgrounds work is a set of non-terminals.  In the late game, you don’t want to be passing up the last Fairgrounds because you need to get around to picking up a Moneylender.  At the same time, you don’t want to just open with Explorer / Loan / Thief / Counting House, not unless you want a deck that goes nowhere fast.  So ideally, you fit as many pieces as you can into a functioning engine (either because they are all non-terminals, or you have a ton of +Actions), and then grab the ill-fitting ones as close to the end as possible, so they don’t interfere with your Fairgrounds-buying engine.  +Buy is golden here, since it allows you to get it done in far fewer turns than you’d otherwise need.

Like all Kingdom Victory cards, Fairgrounds does well with Hoard.  Although it doesn’t do anything (like Nobles or Harem), its cost makes it a prime candidate for Remodeling, Salvaging, Apprenticing, and other trash-for-benefit Actions.

Works with:

  • +Buy
  • Non-terminals, or a lot of +Actions
  • Black Market
  • Harvest / Menagerie / other cards that reward diversity
  • Curse-givers (somewhat)
  • Hoard
  • Salvager / other trash-for-benefit cards

Conflicts with:

  • Colony
  • Heavy trashing
  • Terminals, with no +Actions
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33 Responses to Cornucopia: Fairgrounds

  1. Kuildeous says:

    Assuming that your deck has fewer than 15 different cards, this can make great Bishop bait too. If you have fewer than 10 different cards, then Bishoping away a Fairgrounds is as beneficial as Bishoping away an Estate.

    • WanderingWinder says:

      But in this case, why not have a Gold instead?

      • Kuildeous says:

        A good point. I guess that’s why it wasn’t listed as a useful trasher, like Salvager and Apprentice. Although, I guess you could use a Gold instead of a Fairgrounds in those instances too.

        The instances where it’s preferable to have Fairgrounds over Gold would probably be few (such as countering Pirate Ship). The handy thing about buying Fairgrounds is that even if you never get around to trashing them for benefit, they’re still worth points.

      • Ryan says:

        If you’re in VP-buying mode, better to buy the Fairgrounds. There’s a good chance you won’t ever draw it along with Bishop, in which case your isn’t worth VPs.

        Of course in the very endgame you might prefer to Bishop away your Action cards, cannibalizing your deck, rather than Bishop the Fairgrounds. So it might be that in practice you don’t often have occasion to Bishop your Fairgrounds?

    • theory says:

      I was specifically thinking about using Fairgrounds/Hoard in the same way that Harem/Hoard is a killer combo. FG isn’t useful like Nobles or Harem, but it gives you a little bit of points and can be easily converted into a better VP card with Remodel/Salvager/Apprentice, whereas Bishop can’t do that.

  2. tlloyd says:

    I played a long, drawn-out 3-player game recently (lots of cursing if I remember right), in which I pounded the Black Market and bought a bunch of Fairgrounds. I ended up with 29 different cards in my deck – one more and the Fairgrounds would have been worth 12 VP.

  3. danshep says:

    And when you’re playing fairgrounds… don’t do this:

    Turn 17, I expand my royal seal into a province, which isn’t a bad move normally – except that’s my only royal seal, and I just moved from 15 different cards to 14 different cards, costing myself 6 points and the game.

    • Anon says:

      Since you ended the game with 3 Fairgrounds, and a Province is worth 6VP, the move (Expanding a Royal Seal into a Province) has a net effect of zero on your final score. It’s true that in the same move, you could have done better by buying a Royal Seal instead of a Duchy in the buy phase, but the difference there (3VP) isn’t enough to bridge the gap to your opponent’s score.

      I don’t think that move was what cost you that game.

      • danshep says:

        Expanding into a province also brought the game to an earlier end. In my last draw I had a warehouse in hand and pretty much nothing but good cards in my draw deck. What I should’ve done was expand my village on that turn to a fairgrounds and bought two fairgrounds, but I played the village without thinking (that in turn would’ve moved around my subsequent draws and the bad shuffles may have cost me the game still, but it doesn’t stop what I did on that turn from being stupid).

  4. Personman says:

    You (understandably) forgot Potion. In a Colony/Alchemy game, there are exactly 20 cards, and you can get 8VP Fairgrounds. It’s of course very spread dependent whether you’d want to consider this, but the possibility is worth noting.

    • theory says:

      Gah! I keep forgetting that not everyone plays with !alchemy on Isotropic…

      • Last Footnote says:

        Dude, please take this in the kindest possible light, but as the owner of the premier Dominion strategy site on the web, don’t you think you have a responsibility to start playing with all the cards, and maybe playing some 3- and 4-player games? Your biases are really starting to show. Either man up and experience all of Dominion or start calling your blog “2-Player Dominion Strategy (Except Alchemy)”.

      • joel88s says:

        Would be curious to know what your issues with Alchemy are… whether conceptual, indifference those particular cards, pure visceral distaste, or whatever…

        On the forum I did notice you refer with particular glee to the crapifying of your opponent’s next draw as ‘one of [your] favorite possession tricks ever’, so obviously you have played with the the little beakers sometimes… 🙂

        • theory says:

          I don’t like it because it encourages drawn-out Action games (esp. Scrying Pool and Golem) and most of the cards are very chancy. Familiar is probably the most annoying of the lot, since drawing $2P on Turn 3 or 4 is basically GG.

  5. papahav says:

    In the case of black market I would not buy any provinces. Draw out the game as long as possible as every play of black market is just another nail in the coffin =]

    (just don’t wait too late to pick up the lions share of fairgrounds or they’ll get sniped!)

  6. Jeremy says:

    Yeah, I like playing with Tournament in the kingdom set quite often, and I almost exclusively play with Tournament if Fairgrounds is in play.
    On a side note, though discarding-for-benefit is similar to trash-for-benefit, I would also mention that Fairgrounds works well with Secret Chamber, Vault, Hamlet, Cellar and other such cards.

  7. papahav says:

    Gotta love tournament with fairgrounds, not only because they can very comfortably get to 6VP, but it also means princess is in play.

    In my experience most tournament users aggressively grind out pure duchies+province after steed and followers are gone, making princess usually easily available. Because fairgrounds are already quite cheap (to make up for the needed diversity) a princess compounds it’s advantage – needing only 8$ (the cost of a province) to buy 2 fairgrounds when they can easily be worth a province each (or more) when prizes are in play

  8. Saucery says:

    The presence of fairgrounds can sometimes lead you into a province trap. If you only plan to buy 4-5 provinces and grind your economy down doing so your opponent can draw the game out by going for fairgrounds while you flounder around, unable to end the game on your terms. It makes game end accelerators much more useful for the province player.

    • Stoc says:

      I’ve definitely fell into this trap a couple times after Cornucopia first came out. It was an awful feeling knowing that you’re going to lose a game I had dominated early on, but couldn’t close.

  9. Eric says:

    I just wanted to add that one of Fairgrounds’ weaknesses, IMO, is Swindler and Saboteur. Especially if you’re like me where you’re usually playing in front of the TV and not always paying attention to what your opponent is doing. Sucks when you don’t notice that you’ve lost X card to the Swindler or Saboteur.

  10. PK9 says:

    Assuming a standard Province game (no Black Market), I almost always go for Fairgrounds. My strategy is to buy one Province (two at most), since it’s a unique card that represents 6vp, and it goes into your deck rather than potentially into your opponent’s. Everything else is built around getting to 15 uniques and enough money for $6 buys, since a Fairgrounds is as good as a Province and much cheaper. All those other cards are generally useful on their own, and hitting $6 doesn’t require much of an engine. Terminals may clash, but as the game wears on and your deck gets bigger, it’s less likely to happen.

    My biggest problem is that I typically end up at 17 uniques since I let my money dictate my purchases most of the time: (I.e, I might not have had any intention of picking up an Embargo, what else would I buy with a $2 turn and no other cards at that price?)

  11. PK9 says:

    This might be the crowning glory of my Fairgrounds games:

    Opponent opted to ignore Black Market completely, allowing me to buy out almost the entire deck. He also didn’t get any Fairgrounds (understandable since it was a Colony game and his deck diversity was low (not even worth 6 VP). The result was that I ended the game with 40 unique cards for a total of eight 16-point Fairgrounds.

    • George Locke says:

      that’s crazy! I think that has to be a record or s/t. (I think your opponent could have ended the game earlier, what with wharf and KC on the board for hand size and haggler to help pile out, but still.)

  12. StrongRhino says:

    This gets better with Dark Ages. 5 different ruins, plus 3 shelters, plus madman/mercenary, and spoils, as well as 10 knights? Thank you very much.

    • WheresMyElephant says:

      Fairgrounds/Knights is a really interesting case because Knights can trash Fairgrounds (but not Provinces), and they can also severely reduce the diversity in your deck, including trashing themselves on your turn.

      Of course if your opponent doesn’t contest the Knights then none of this is an issue and the strategy becomes very strong, so this interaction probably dominates most games. But I think you have to be prepared for the scenario where the Knights leave everything in shambles, piles are running out, and your Fairgrounds aren’t that strong after all. (In the couple of games I’ve played, Fairgrounds stayed quite strong, but I’m not so sure it will always be this way.)

  13. Anonymous says:

    In a game without dark ages, properity, black market, or potions, you have 3 standard victory cards, 3 standard types of treasure, curses, and 10 kingdom cards. That’s 17 differently named cards, so in most games you’re never going to get this card worth more than 3 VP. It seems like this card would only be worth playing with if you have dark ages or black market in play. (Colonies, Platnum and potions only add 3 which would make it just possible to get it to 4 VP if you get at least one of every card in play.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Oops. I just read the card again and realized it’s worth 2 for each 5 differently named cards and not just 1. sorry just ignore me.

    • Anonymous says:

      oops just realized my mistake. I was thinking it was 1 for each 5 differently named cards. sorry, just ignore me.

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