Annotated Game #10: Geronimoo vs WanderingWinder

The following article is written by Jeroen Aga.  Geronimoo is the author of the first Dominion simulator.

And the bane card (adding it to the board is not supported by


Dominion: Intrigue

The setup

This was a game between me (Geronimoo) and WanderingWinder. We’re both very active on the forum and I’m the guy who wrote the simulator (check it out if you haven’t yet). At the time of playing we were 1 and 2 on the leaderboard so this was going to be a tense battle.

After the exchange of pleasantries I ask for my usual minute to scan the board and determine my strategy. First and most important: is this a Colony game? No, so I’ll favor a  Big Money strategy unless there’s an engine that I know will beat it. Most good Big Money strategies can get 4 Provinces in 14 turns. If you’re building an engine it needs to be firing on all cylinders by that time to be able to catch up. I know WanderingWinder will not give me any extra turns to build an engine, so it needs to be a strong one and I need to be able to play it close to optimal.

Next thing I look for are the cursing attacks and this board has Young Witch. It’s a little underrated in my opinion because I often see people skipping it while they really only should if the bane card is very strong (like Scheme or Lighthouse). This time the bane card is a Swindler which is almost good enough to make it worth skipping the Witch. There’s also Masquerade which can work as a soft counter to the Witch.

The non-cursing attacks are next on my list and Swindler is pretty good, but if I had to choose between Swindler and Masquerade, the last one is an easy pick. Of course the fact that it’s the bane card complicates matters.

By now I was really confused what to do here: do I open Masquerade/Swindler, Young Witch/Silver, Young Witch/Masquerade, Masquerade/Masquerade, Swindler/Swindler, Masquerade/Silver. What my opponent opened would also have a huge impact: if he opens Young Witch, I’ll probably need to get a Swindler, if he opens Swindler, I probably shouldn’t open Young Witch,… After the game I played around a bit with the simulator and Masquerade/Masquerade was very good at countering the attacks but would get beaten by Masquerade/Silver, which would in turn lose to Young Witch/Silver which loses to Swindler/Swindler which loses to Masquerade/anything. So there’s a bit of Rock-Paper-Scissors going on.

Now we’ve only looked at the opening without taking into consideration the other cards on the board. I was still pondering all the intricacies of the opening when WW made his first purchase:

Opening statements

WW starts off with a Masquerade and I notice he’s paying $4. So he’s making a clear statement he’s NOT going for the Young Witch. This could have been a good time for me to go Silver/Young Witch, but I wasn’t sure at the time. Eventually I decided to simply follow his lead because he seemed to have a plan, while I didn’t and a borrowed plan is better than no plan at all. Moving on to turns 3 and 4…

Deciding a strategy

WW’s turn three clearly indicates his strategy for this game: Masquerade Big Money (with Ventures). This strategy is very strong and easy to play. And WW is sure not going to make any mistakes with it, greening very soon and not giving me any opportunities to catch up. I could follow his lead here with a Silver, but most likely I’ll lose due to 1st player advantage. Another option is to go for the Witch and hope to pile on the curses. Now I’ll need another Witch if I really want to hurt him, so I’ll have at least 3 terminals in my deck that all draw cards. I buy a Festival to manage that. I don’t buy the second Witch yet because that would very likely hurt my chances to get to $5 in the next few turns.

The mid game

As planned I buy my second Witch (unfortunately with $5) and WW continues to build his economy. By now I’ve figured out how I want to plan my future turns: I’m going to go for a Festival/Watchtower engine building to a mega turn with Highways to buy out the remaining Provinces and Duchies in one swoop. Turn 6 I think I make a mistake by buying the Crossroads as super-village instead of a Native Village. The contents of the Native Village mat would allow me to salvage turns where I draw a bunch of Festivals, but no Watchtower and vice versa while Crossroads just gives me an extra action to work with.

Province gained, Curses dealt

Both our strategies are now doing what we intended them to do: WW buys his first Province while I double Curse him. Notice I buy another Festival over a Gold (which I really don’t want). I have $4 turn 8 and I go for a Walled Village. Double Native Village might have been better here. It’s too soon for Watchtower. WW aquires another Venture which will unfortunately be skipping Curses as well as green cards so I don’t really like my chances at this point.

Business as usual

We’re deep into the mid game here and it’s time for me to add a key component to my engine: the Watchtower. This will in combination with Festivals draw huge amounts of cards. The Young Witch also helps because it reduces the hand size which is desired in this type of deck. I also get my first Native Village which is a good addition to this strategy.In the meantime WW does nothing unexpected: he buys Provinces and big treasures. He’s got a good lead, but I hope my curses will start to slow him down a little.

Cursed Pawn

My curses start to hurt and WW is stuck with $2 and buys a Pawn. This won’t help his deck much so I’m happy. One of my Witches is enjoying a little vacation in a native village, but not for long, I need her back at work to deal out 2 more Curses while I collect four more parts for my engine.

Click, Click, End Turn… Click Click Click Click Click Click Click…

My engine is warming up nicely and I’m already drawing a good portion of my deck while pumping WW full of Curses. Unfortunately his deck doesn’t seem to care and he’s already got three Provinces to my zero.

Forehead slapped

(Notice what I drew at the end of my turn 13)

WW Masqueraded and I decided I was going to give him a Silver because I didn’t need it. As soon as I did that, I cussed realizing my opponent was going to LOVE that Silver. It didn’t matter because he was always going to be able to buy a Province that turn, but I was still annoyed. This is also the turn I get my first Highway which I will need to get the mega turn in the future. With half the Provinces gone the future will need to be very close to the present or the board won’t have enough green left to catch up. I can however always go Back to the Future… You don’t have to be superinventive here to find the required 2.1 GigaWatts…

I’ll let you think about that for a while. In the meantime here’s the next turn:

Huh? What? Yup, I got a blue screen and couldn’t get my cheap-ass laptop to start up quickly enough. Yes, you’re disappointed, but imagine how I felt.

Anyway, I was probably going to get more Highways, Festivals and Watchtowers this turn and the next and go off the turn after. This means WW could potentially grab 2 more Provinces which I can still make up for by buying all the Duchies. And if my deck should stall for a turn and not enough VP left on the board, there’s always this:

(play 8 Highways first)

See you on Isotropic!

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15 Responses to Annotated Game #10: Geronimoo vs WanderingWinder

  1. nerotora says:

    Anticlimatic end but still very enjoyable to read about the thinking process of one of the top players! Thanks a lot!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Give me 5 minutes of my life back!

  3. mineshaft says:

    Very interesting. I didn’t know Highway/Bridge interacted with Swindler in this fashion.

    Since there’s no 7 in the kingdom, don’t you need only one Highway to trash Provinces for nothing in return with Swindler?

  4. Brant says:

    It would have been nice to see what you were passing back and forth to each other with masquerade

  5. GwinnR says:

    Thanks a lot! A very interesting game…with a sad end 😦
    It would have been interesting if your engine had been running, before WW would end the game…

    P.S: I like your simulator and i LOVE your analysis of games with it.
    But i prefer the game-notation of theory

  6. dondon151 says:

    Masquerade BM is very strong, but there are a lot of Watchtower combo enablers in this kingdom, with Festival, YW, Pawn, and NV reducing your handsize, and NV somewhat mitigating the effect of unlucky draws since you can put cards on your NV mat from time to time. The presence of Highway and some +buy cards also lends itself to engine-building.

  7. tlloyd says:

    “WW’s turn three clearly indicates his strategy for this game: Masquerade Big Money (with Ventures). This strategy is very strong and easy to play. And WW is sure not going to make any mistakes with it, greening very soon and not giving me any opportunities to catch up. I could follow his lead here with a Silver, but most likely I’ll lose due to 1st player advantage. ”

    Okay, so I started a big fight about this on the forum, but I think this idea is simply false. How could Masq + BM put player 1 at an advantage? Put aside Masq for a moment. First-player advantage (if there are no attacks and no possibility for gaining multiple cards on one turn) consists in P1’s chance of getting a majority of a key card (for example, a race for Fool’s Gold or Minions). P1 is expected to evenly split the key cards even if P1 has slightly worse luck, whereas if P1 has slightly better luck P1 might even win the split 6/4. P2 can only win the split for a key card with significantly better shuffle luck. But notice that P1 is able to get an even split despite worse luck only by having “an extra turn”–i.e., P1 has a crappy turn and misses his fifth Minion on turn X, P2 gets his fifth Minion on turn X, and P1 still get his fifth (even split) on turn X + 1. But if both players play straight-up money strategies, the only pile that is likely to run out is the Provinces. But if P1 gets an even split of the Provinces by buying the last one on his turn (the “extra” turn), P1 loses! P2 is just as likely as P1 to get 4 Provinces by turn X, so there is no first-player advantage.

    Now consider Masquerade–an almost-attack. Attacks can create a first-player advantage, but does Masquerade? Consider that when P1 plays Masquerade, he trades a card from his turn X hand for a card from P2’s turn X hand. In terms of probability, it’s an even trade (although I’ve many times been forced to give a copper for an estate). But when P2 plays Masq, he trades a card from his turn X hand for a card from P1’s turn X+1 hand. Assuming that the quality of the cards in your hands generally increases over the relevant part of the game, the trade is to P2’s advantage!

    So, yes there is such a thing as first-player advantage, but there was no such advantage in this game.

    • yariv says:

      Keep in mind that when you fail to buy a province on turn X, you buy something else, probably a duchy (if you have enough treasure), then P1 will win on minor Victory cards if he can continue buying provinces. Of course, you can just try the simulator to estimate the effect (including size) of P1 advantage in BM games.

      • Anonymous says:

        ‘you buy something else, probably a duchy’ which you then counter by buying a duchy yourself so as to not be the one buying the second to last province.

  8. mischiefmaker says:

    I’m extra sad at the ending, as I read the board, spotted the engine, and really wasn’t sure if it was fast enough/had late-game catch-up power due to Highway/Swindler to beat Masq/Venture. I was pleased that I was about to find out!

    I actually disagree with GwinnR — for a game where your strategy is likely affected by your opponent’s opening, and also focuses on building an engine, I much prefer the annotated style you’ve presented, as it lets the reader see what your opponent did/what you drew and decide how he would play the next hand before seeing how you did it. This feels like it’s pretty helpful for improving engine-building skills.

  9. Anonymous says:

    if you play 8 Highways couldnt you swindle his provinces into curses insted of coppars?

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