Border Village pushes the boundaries of what you’re really willing to pay for a Village. Once you understand the principle of Big Money, it should become clear that trying to build any +Actions/+Cards engine, much less one with a $6 Village, almost always takes too long unless some compelling reason exists for cycling through your deck every turn. Smithy/Big Money beats Village/Smithy every day and twice on Sunday, and paying $6 for your Villages only makes matters worse.
The real competition Border Village faces is from Gold. The “one-good-card-beats-two-medium-cards principle” means that Border Village has to pick up a really strong $5 for the two to beat a single Gold. Sometimes the choice is obvious, where you’d buy a $5 card with the $6 anyway (i.e., if you’re pursuing Minions, then you may as well buy Border Villages with $6 and get the Minion for free), but more often than not, you’d take the Gold over either the Village or the $5 card but not necessarily the two together.
In other words, although Border Village offers immediately obvious and enticing combos with Smithy, Council Room, etc., its prohibitively high cost means that you need to have a plan to win late, since you’ve fallen slightly behind by buying engine cards instead of money and VP. One such plan might be being able to repeatedly play strong attack(s) (Torturer, Minion, Goons); sources of +Buy, combined with money-generators (Bank) or cost-reducers (Bridge) for a mega-turn is another. But simply hoping to use your Border Village to pick up Smithies to draw even more Border Villages and Smithies is going to leave you with a deck full of Actions and your opponent with a deck full of Provinces.
That being said, if you are going to be building a heavy Action engine (and there are many situations in which this should be true), then Border Village is a serious contender (along with Fishing Village) for the best Village in the game. Despite its cost, being able to grab both parts of your engine at once is a tremendous benefit: an early $6 means grabbing the Village/Torturer pair a full reshuffle ahead of your opponent, and can really catapult you ahead. It doesn’t work with Goons, but it does work with most of the other $5 attacks, and there’s enough $5 attacks that give +Cards to make Border Village a serious threat in all sorts of Kingdoms.
Even in sets without attacks, Border Village gets you around the +Buy problem that most +Actions/+Cards engines run into. You need +Buy early so you can buy both parts of your engine at once, but you can’t do it at the cost of purchasing power, but by the time you get $8 for a Village/Wharf turn you feel guilty about buying it instead of a Province. Border Village makes you pay more for the Village, but afterwards gives you the rest of the engine for free by faking the +Buy.
Outside of drawing your deck, Border Village is helpful with trash-for-benefit cards. Like Peddler, its cost considerably outstrips its contribution to your deck, and in late game it’s excellent fuel for Remodel or Bishop. Apprentice works especially well with Border Village, since buying Border Villages can supply you with both the fuel (Border Villages) and the motor (Apprentice). And Farmlands is a nice intra-Hinterlands combo, since Border Village is about as ideal a target for your Farmlands as you can find.
Finally, Border Village naturally combos with Royal Seal or Watchtower. You can exploit it to have guaranteed combos on your deck: with Royal Seal, buy Border Village / Council Room and place both on your deck for next turn. Even better, with Watchtower in hand, play Develop, trash a $5, gain a Throne Room, gain a Border Village, and gain a Torturer, placing them all on your deck …
- Torturer, Margrave, other +Cards attacks
- Quarry (so long as you intend to gain other Actions)
- Engines that focus on running out piles
- Throne Room, since it is gainable by Border Village and well-suited to a Border Village deck
- Colony games
- Fast games
- Lack of strong terminals