Guest Article: Annotated Game #9

This is a guest article written by DG.

(Monday’s preview)

Duchess, Menagerie, Nomad Camp, Remodel, Hunting Party,
Pawn, Golem, Remake, Horn of Plenty, Inn

Annotated Game #9

(Click for enlarged link at

This is a 2-player game played between DG and olneyce, two of the top players on Isotropic. The log is available here (spoiler alert!).

Assessing the board

There are no attack cards so this is going to be a race for Provinces. Remodel and Remake can trash cards, the Horn of Plenty can gain cards, the Pawn and Nomad Camp provide extra buys. The Inn provides extra actions and a Golem can play extra cards as well.

My initial thinking is how to utilise the 10 starting cards. Both the remodel and Remake can trash the rubbish and gain new cards but the Remake will do it faster and can gain Menageries from trashing Estates. Putting a Remake into the deck will however rule out the Golem as that would far be too risky. I could add a second terminal action to the deck and let the Remake trash it for something better if they are drawn together, however that’s not ideal. The Remake should be busy trashing the starting cards.

Remakes frequently leave you with a hand with 2 Copper to spend after trashing the other two cards. That is fine since I can buy a Pawn that will be useful later. Estates will be trashed to gain Menageries or Silver if necessary. The card I really want is a Hunting Party to draw the Remake more often and also increase the hand size. Extra cards in hand helps the Remake by offering more choice of cards to trash  and also leaves more than two cards in hand to spend afterwards. Opening Silver/Remake gives a reasonable chance of buying that Hunting Party.

Trashing out some of the starting cards and replacing them with Pawns, Menageries, or Hunting Parties will make the deck smaller and increase the drawing power (speed). This means the Remake is going to be played more often and trash the remaining starting cards quickly. Quite soon there will be a good chance that all my action cards will be played in the same turn making a Horn of Plenty look attractive. With just my early purchases I can have about 5 different cards in play and the horn will gain a useful 5 cost card. I will probably be able to play the Horn of Plenty every turn. The next step is to look for 8 different cards that could be played so that a horn can gain a Province at the game end: Copper, Silver, Gold, Pawn, Menagerie, Inn, Hunting Party, and Horn of Plenty. There’s not much in this list to stop the deck from drawing each turn except the treasures, so I don’t want too many treasure cards. I can’t keep the Remake in that list since I’m unlikely to have 2 spare cards to trash each turn.

Putting that together I’ve got a full game plan. Trash down with the Remake. Draw through the deck using Menageries and Hunting Parties. Buy a Horn of Plenty when the deck can draw consistently well. Use the Horns of Plenty to gather the 8 different card types. Collect enough Horns of Plenty to play out in a single winning turn claiming the majority of Provinces. It’s better to create a game winning position with the horns before cashing them for Provinces at the last minute since they are gaining more useful cards every turn.

Deck Contraction and Expansion

The deck construction presented here follows a common method for ‘engines’. Contract the deck down. Control the deck, usually by drawing most or all of the deck each turn. Expand the deck with quality while keeping the control. Strengthen the engine until it can command the end game. If you expand before you get control then the control might be permanently lost with bad draws. So for this example game we can see:

  1. Play the Remake frequently – add Menagerie/Pawn/Hunting Party to cycle deck quickly
  2. Add the Hunting Parties to give more control to the draws and reduce bad draws
  3. Once the deck was controlled, buy the Horn of Plenty to rapidly gain high quality cards
  4. Trash the Horns of Plenty at the game end to gain a decisive number of Provinces


This deck is clearly going to exploit the Cornucopia theme of variety. The Horn of Plenty entirely relies on variety. If I draw it with nothing but Copper I’m not gaining anything useful. The Hunting Parties will draw all my different cards into hand. The Menageries are likely to find different cards in hand and draw many extra cards. It’s probably worth looking a little more closely at the Menagerie here.

The Menagerie does not want duplicate cards in hand. The first enemies of the Menagerie are therefore the 7 Copper and 3 Estates in the starting deck. The plan is for the Remake to trash these anyway. The other duplicate cards in hand are likely to be Pawns, Hunting Parties, or more Menageries. These can simply be played out until there are no duplicates left and hopefully no more drawn. There is also the Inn that can draw and discard 2 cards, discarding the duplicates. The Menagerie was a good card in this kingdom but the Menagerie can be made to work in many other kingdoms too. +1 action/+3 cards is an excellent return from an action card costing only 3 coins.

The Game



1 $4 -> Remake $3 -> Silver
2 $3 -> Silver (reshuffle) $4 -> Remake (shuffle)

My opponent started along the same lines as me. He rejected the opportunity to buy a Nomad Camp on turn 1 and have it provide a 4 or 5 coin hand on turn 2. That was probably wise as the Remake needs to start trashing early.

3 $6 -> Gold Remake (2x Copper)

$2 -> Pawn

We can watch how this Gold purchase affects the deck. I used the bare minimum of treasure to buy components and then gained cards later. Olenyce used use more treasure to buy more deck components with the extra buy from the Pawn.

4 Remake (2x Estate -> Menagerie)

$2 -> Pawn (shuffle)

$3 -> Menagerie
5 Remake (Estate -> Menagerie, Copper)

$2 -> Pawn

Menagerie (+3), Pawn (+action +coin)
Remake (2x Estate -> Menagerie)

$5 -> Hunting Party (shuffle)

I felt that I desperately needed a Hunting Party so I used the Pawn for +1 coin. To buy more 5 cost cards I either needed more Silver later or the Hunting Party now. The Hunting Party fit better with the plan so I bought another Hunting Party the turn after as well.

6 2x Menagerie (+1), Pawn (+buy +coin)

$8 -> Hunting Party, Menagerie

2x Menagerie (+1), Hunting Party, Pawn (+buy +coin)

$5 -> Hunting Party (shuffle)

7 Pawn (+buy +coin)

$8 -> Hunting Party, Pawn

Menagerie (+3), Hunting Party, Menagerie (+1), Hunting Party,
Menagerie (+1), Pawn (+action +coin),
Remake (Estate/Menagerie, trash Copper)

$6 -> Horn of Plenty (shuffle)

The difference in our turns 6 and 7 came from the Gold bought by Olneyce. He was purchasing more cards and my deck had contracted faster. I felt it was time to now expand the deck using the Horn of Plenty.

8 Draw deck,
Pawn (+action +coin), Pawn (+action +buy), Remake (2x Copper)

$7 -> Horn of Plenty, Pawn (shuffle)

Draw deck,
Remake (Menagerie->Remake, trash Copper)
Horn of Plenty (gain Horn of Plenty)

$5 -> Inn (shuffle)

I remade the Menagerie into another Remake here, just to Remake it again into a Hunting Party the following turn. There was an option to gain a Remodel and then trash the Remake for Gold next turn, but I still wanted to trash more Copper with the Remake. It’s possible to make these decisions once you control your deck and can draw almost all the cards every turn. You can also start doing little tricks with your draw and discard pile but they aren’t easy to spot from this game log.

                9 Hunting Party, Menagerie (+1),
2x Pawn (+card +action),
Remake (2x Copper)
Horn of Plenty (gain Inn)

$3 -> Menagerie

Inn, Menagerie (+3), draw deck
Remake (Remake->Hunting Party, Copper)
Horn of Plenty (gain Gold)
Horn of Plenty (gain Horn of Plenty)

$3-> Menagerie (shuffle)

On my turn 9 I used the Inn to discard duplicate cards and empower the Menagerie. Olneyce also played out duplicate Pawns on his turn 10 to empower his Menagerie. We were both completing our decks with the 8 different cards and as many Horns of Plenty as we could get. I’d kept an eye on my spending and could still get 8 coins to buy a Province from a Pawn, 2 Copper, a Silver, and a Gold.

10 Pawn (+action, +coin)
2x Menagerie (+3)
Pawn (+action, +buy)
2x Pawn (+action +coin)
Horn of Plenty (gain Horn of Plenty)

$10 -> 2x Horn of Plenty (shuffle)

Draw deck,
Pawn (+coin +action)
3x Horn of Plenty (gain Province)

$8 -> Province (shuffle)

And there I go horribly wrong. I just got the wrong ideas into my mind and didn’t get rid of them. The four Provinces look nice but they are not enough. I knew that my opponent had 3 Horns of Plenty and enough purchasing for a Province and Estate. Even if he couldn’t win on turn 11 he could fortify his deck for a win on turn 12 whilst I could only realistically expect an extra Province.

11 Draw deck
3x Horn of Plenty (gaining Province)

$10-> Province, Estate

Score 25 24

This result shows that you can’t let give big engine decks or good opponents a chance to win. You need to close the door firmly on them. One advantage of having an engine deck is that you can frequently bolster your deck for a decisive finish by waiting and increasing the power of the deck. In this game I should have done exactly that and could have bought one Province on turn 10, gaining something like a Remodel, Hunting Party, and Horn of Plenty. That passes all the end game problems back over my opponent.

Something that might not be immediately apparent from the game logs is the state of the supply piles. The Menagerie pile was empty and there were four cards left in both the Horn of Plenty and Hunting Party piles. If I had been sensible and strengthened my deck on turn 10 then a three pile ending would have become a real threat. This is something else to watch for in engine games where both players are competing with the same kingdom cards. I certainly had it in mind since I’d already won another ‘engine’ game 1-0 earlier in the evening. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

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11 Responses to Guest Article: Annotated Game #9

  1. WanderingWinder says:

    And this is the kind of deck I can never seem to pull off. And 10.5 turns – lightning fast!
    I’ll have to look this over more again later to see what I can gleam from it…

  2. brokoli says:

    I tried a few solitaire games, and the general strategy was yours. But I found Hunting party less important, I had only one. Menagerie and Horn of plenty are terribly powerful here, more than I thought.

  3. chris says:

    I’m stunned that you bought your first menagerie on turn 4, reshuffled, and immediately not only drew it on turn 5, but set it off for 3 cards — you managed to draw 3 of your 4 non-starting cards with only one copper and estate at a time when copper and estates still made up two-thirds of your deck (having remade only once at that point). One reason I avoid early menagerie is that I just can’t draw like that.

    It’s interesting that you both chose to remake 2 estates into 2 menageries early — with so little money in the deck at that point I would have been tempted to go for menagerie/silver. (Assuming, of course, that I had managed to draw 2 estates with the remake, another thing I can rarely pull off in practice.) But then, I guess your strategy didn’t really care much about Gold, compared to the average board, so maybe the lower amount of money wasn’t as much of a problem.

    Turn 11 finish is pretty stunning too, although I guess a no-attack game with strong trashing pushes all the buttons for an ultra-fast game.

  4. Ryan says:

    “He rejected the opportunity to buy a Nomad Camp on turn 1 and have it provide a 4 or 5 coin hand on turn 2.”

    It’s probably worth pointing out that this is rarely wise in general. Buying a Nomad Camp on turn 1 only gives you a 33% chance of a $5 second turn. The remaining 67% of the time you get a “4/4” opening, which if you don’t use the extra buy is really only a 3/4 Woodcutter opening. (Actually it’s slightly worse than that; it’s like you also got hit with a Bureaucrat attack before turn 2!)

    If it’s a game where nothing matters except getting to $5 as soon as possible then maybe this can be a worthwhile bet. So it might be good in Ill Gotten Gains games for instance. But even in a Witch game it might not be worth the risk of a terminal collision with your Witch later down the line.

    • Ryan says:

      I don’t know what my brain was thinking here, but two mistakes:

      The correct probability of a $5 second turn isn’t 33%, but actually 40%. (The bottom 5 cards of your deck are 3 Coppers and 2 Estates, randomly distributed; you get your $5 turn if the bottom one is an Estate.)

      And the downside isn’t as bad as a Bureaucrat unless you *do* get the $5 second turn. (On a $4 turn of course it still delays your cycling a little but top-decking an extra Copper in the opening is actually beneficial for your buying power, so it might balance out somewhat.)

    • lemononmars says:

      I agree with you. Even if you draw 4/4, Nomad Camp/Remake is a great opening since if they collide you can Remake it to Hunting Party, much like Remake/Feast opening which you can’t normally do.

  5. Jeff P says:

    On your turn, knowing that you have 3 Horns in hand, and there are 4 left, you know that your opponent has only 3 Horns, and therefore cannot get more than 4 provinces. Therefore, you can get 2 more horns and a Hunting Party (two would be risky, as you’d be setting yourself up for a possible 3 pile + 1 vp card ending) and still reasonable expect to draw your deck. Then next turn, if your opponent buys 4 provinces, you can get 4 provinces and a duchy (or two if lucky), and if he doesn’t, YOU 3 pile for the win.

  6. Anonymous says:

    That’s a sad last turn for player 2. The game was completely in the bag for second player but he just “went off” too early.

    However, there is one big question: Why was player 2 so far in the lead? His turn 10 was 2 coin worse than player 1’s turn 11. That’s very nearly a full turn advantage. But why? Was it the early +3 menagerie draw? Picking up Inn a turn sooner? I think gold instead of engine parts may have been a mistake, especially when horn can get you gold later. I also believe Inn was a solid addition after 2 hunting parties and in any deck w/ 4 menageries. But I’m definitely not certain.

    • Momomoto says:

      I really enjoyed the style with which this game was annotated. It was awesome to see the thinking behind making a super-tight engine. The level of play here was fascinating.

      Kudos to DG, not only for a great annotation job but also for graciously submitting a game in which he made a single mistake and it cost him the game 🙂

  7. pulo says:

    just awesome! thx so much

  8. ycz6 says:

    Managed to put some of the principles from this article into effect for a super-fast Horn of Plenty engine:

    It felt good.

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