Annotated Game #11

(Friday’s preview)

Scrying Pool, Scheme, Warehouse, Apprentice, Harvest,
Ambassador, Tunnel, Conspirator, Counting House, Bank

Annotated Game #11

Click for enlarged link at

This is a 2-player game played between me and Captain_Frisk.  The log is available here (spoiler alert!).  (If Council Room is down, the original Isotropic link is here.)

Analyzing the Set

There are a lot of interactions and key cards in this set.

  • Ambassador, as always, “sits” on the game by greatly prolonging the opening.  Both sides are going to start off shipping Estates and Coppers back and forth, and in a 2p they will eventually get all of it back into the supply.  But this means that effective engine construction will take a while, and the best engine will probably be one that you can build while slogging through all the Estates and Coppers.
  • Almost as interesting as what is in the set is what is not in the set: +Buy or +Actions.  This caps your engine, because there’s no point to building it to exceed $8 or $11.
  • The true “key” card to this set is Warehouse, because it is a tremendous enabler of so many other cards here:
    • Tunnel, allowing you to spam Golds.
    • Conspirator, because it lets you filter through to find and activate your Conspirators.
    • Apprentice, because Warehouse is ideally suited to big hands.  Notice the neat interaction here between Warehouse/Tunnel/Apprentice: Warehouse allows you to consistently gain Golds from your Tunnels, which is both valuable in its own right as well as fantastic fuel for your Apprentices.  Trash Gold to draw your other Golds, and play your Tunnel / Warehouse combo again to regain Gold.
    • Ambassador, because Warehouse lets you sift through your bad cards and play your good cards more often.
    • Even Counting House gets a boost with Warehouse, because Warehouse allows you to sift through all your Coppers to find your Counting House, and furthermore allow you to go through much of your deck so that even if you draw Counting House early in the reshuffle, you can still use Warehouse to get some use out of it.
  • Scheme is a big boost to any engine, and especially to Conspirator.  It further tips the scales in favor of “engine” instead of “money”: it’s not efficient to transition out of Ambassador into just a slow money game, especially not with Colony, and especially not when you have Scheme to get your engine going even faster.
  • Scrying Pool can be borderline effective: it gives you both a little discard for your Tunnels, and will usually also draw at least 2 cards in any somewhat thinned deck.

In summary, I see three paths out of the Ambassador opening.  The first focuses on Warehouse/Conspirator/Scheme, using Ambassador to quickly thin the deck.  The second is with Warehouse/Apprentice/Tunnel, using the Warehouse to gain Golds with the Tunnel, and the Apprentice to trash Golds to draw even more Golds.  Note that both paths benefit from a bit of cross-pollination: the second especially, since the Apprentice provides both the draw for the Conspirators as well as the Actions to help activate them.

The third path (the weird one) is to skip Ambassador entirely and go for Warehouse/Counting House, relying on your opponents’ Ambassadors to give you enough Copper for Counting House, and comboing it with Bank for mega-bucks.  (Neither of us spotted this combo during the game, but we played a game this morning which suggested it would be quite viable, though very swingy, as Counting House always is.  Getting an early Platinum/Bank is probably critical.)

The strategies somewhat benefit from Scrying Pool, though I think it’s probably a distraction.  Scheme is more helpful for the first than the second, since its importance decreases if you have big card draw.

In this game, I go for the first strategy, and Captain_Frisk goes for the second.  Because we have 5/2, he opens with Apprentice/nothing, and I open with Ambassador/nothing. He needs the Apprentice as soon as possible (since he’ll be unlikely to get it anytime soon once Ambassadoring begins), and I need to thin my deck as quickly as possible (since I won’t have big draw).

Game Analysis

We’re trying something new with these annotated games, with screenshots of the logs instead of tables of text.  It’s easier to read, though a lot longer on the screen.  Please let us know which format you prefer.

Annotated Game #11 Turns 1-5

Our openings are about equivalent: I get an extra play of Ambassador, naturally, but he trashed an Estate with his Apprentice.  He gets a Potion/Ambassador while I get a Scheme/Warehouse, and our paths begin to diverge.

Annotated Game #11 Turns 6-8

Captain_Frisk’s deck is starting to take shape, as he has almost everything he needs.  Probably I would have gone for the Warehouse first, before the Scrying Pools, but this way he can keep up his Ambassadoring and Apprenticing to get into a Warehouse/Tunnel/Apprentice groove.

Annotated Game #11 Turns 9-10

I’ve gotten my deck down to making Conspirators, and now I’m planning to buy one on each turn to get up to a $8 Conspirator engine.  With each shuffle, Captain_Frisk is thinning his deck faster than I’m thinning mine, however.  At this point it’s beginning to be clear that his engine is going to surpass mine because it can grow more quickly.

Annotated Game #11 Turn 11

Now that he’s gotten his first Gold, Frisk can start trashing Golds with the Apprentice to re-draw the Warehouse/Tunnel to replenish his Golds.  I’m Scheming the Scheme/Warehouse back on top to avoid any deadly draws.

Annotated Game #11 Turn 12Gaining multiple Golds at once, Captain_Frisk’s deck is rapidly appreciating in value. This is a common problem after thinning your deck: it takes too long to ramp up to Province/Colony level.  His Warehouse/Tunnel trick is proving to be much faster than Conspirators.

Annotated Game #11 Turns 13-14.5Annotated Game #11 Turns 14.5-15.5This is the critical point in the game.  I have $8 from my Conspirators and 2 Copper.  Either I can return 1 Copper, buy a Platinum, and next turn have $13 for Colonies, or I can return both Coppers and try to rush Provinces now.  I choose to start and hope that Captain_Frisk’s engine stalls a little more, enough for me to run out the Provinces before he can get enough Colonies.  I feel like my deck is more capable of absorbing green cards than his.  (In retrospect, I don’t think I could have won with either approach.)

Annotated Game #11 Turns 15.5-16.5Captain_Frisk’s Scrying Pools are sufficiently powerful now that they average out to more than a Lab.  At this point, my only hope is that he somehow chokes with a terrible draw because of his lack of Schemes.

Annotated Game #11 Turns 16.5-17

Annotated Game #11 Turn 18Instead, it turns out to be my deck that chokes.  The game is essentially over at this point: given that my engine had a lower peak than his, it needed to be appreciably faster or longer-lasting, and it was neither.

Annotated Game #11 Turn 19

Annotated Game #11 Turn 20

Concluding Thoughts

This game is a good example of how even when one particular card dominates a board, multiple strategies can spring up around it.  We chose to go for very different engines to take advantage of our Ambassador-thinned decks, and Warehouse/Counting House is yet a third strategy that could have ignored Ambassador entirely.

My engine proves to be too slow.  Had I been able to get to $8 with my Conspirators a turn or two earlier, I could have rushed them out before Captain_Frisk is able to come from behind with Colonies.  Instead, because Captain_Frisk is able to consistently get to Colonies just two turns later, there’s no hope for a Province engine.

This entry was posted in Annotated Games. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Annotated Game #11

  1. GwinnR says:

    Very interesting game!
    I didn’t think that Tunnel/Warehouse/Apprentice can work as good as this.

    I prefer the other format, because it’s shorter and it contains all important informations.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed, the other format if far easier to read.

      • captainfrisk says:

        I agree – but as someone who has written up game reports – this format is significantly faster to put together… at least until Rob automates it for us.

        • Anonymous says:

          I like this format – it is more instructive in some ways. I often wonder about what the best move is when I draw a less-than-ideal card or have collisions. This format allows me to see what others do and try to improve based on their experience.

  2. Nice annotated game! I often underestimate the speed and resilience of Scrying Pools.

    I was surprised by these buys:
    theory buy bought Warehouse (turn 3) before Scheme (turn 4). I would want to get a Scheme with my Ambassador ASAP, but maybe Warehouse finds the Ambassador and two copper/estates more reliably.
    Captain Frisk bought Tunnel (turn 7), when he had just one Scrying Pool to try to discard it, before Warehouse (turn 9).
    Captain Frisk never Apprentice’d his Potion! How many Scrying Pools do you need? 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    Awesome game! Very interesting and fun read. As a beginner I really appreciated the written out logs of this annotation as it helped me to better see and embrace the speed of the game, how the cards interacted, and how the decks drew. Thanks a ton!!!!

  4. captainfrisk says:

    Also a minor tip out there for people who’ve never considered it before… if you have a sufficient lead, Ambassadoring a province or colony (but not returning one!) to end the game is quite frequently a viable play.

    Since Ambassador matches frequently result in one person with a tight engine and the other person ends up with a giant massive bloat of a deck full of coppers and estates, this happens more frequently than you’d expect.

    I’m not sure I can think of an example where it was a legitimate game winner vs. just a time saver, but it’s definitely one of those minor aha dominion moments that many people are surprised to see, like buying out the curse pile to end on 3 piles.

    • mduo13 says:

      Been there. Actually, I saved a couple of logs from cases where I did this…

      I think this game might be a case where it guaranteed me the win rather than risking a turnaround.

    • Anonymous says:

      King’s Court/Throne Room + Ambassador works well like this. Of course, you’re probably going to win that one anyways but why take chances.

  5. WheresMyElephant says:

    I have to say I like the old format better. Anyone who wants to read the full log while following the annotations can open it up in a separate window, so you’re not really gaining anything by using it here. (I guess that’s not so easy for people on mobile devices, but those people probably need the condensed version more than anybody.)

    What might be an interesting idea would be to take the game log and highlight the important tidbits. This way it’s easier to read but maybe you still get to point out interesting nuances that don’t make it into the old format. (Alternately you could just use the old format but take mini-screenshots of key turns or just verbally discuss nuances that are only visible in the full game log. But in practice annotators seldom or never seem to find this necessary, which I suspect is a sign that we’re all worrying too much and the old format is fine.)

    Of course if it’s easier for you to do it in this format, I certainly won’t complain. Anything to keep that sweet strategy juice flowing! And as always, thanks for all the work you put in on this site.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you’re used to reading isotropic game logs this is much much better than the old approach.
    The game was good, but I don’t like seeing Scrying Pool mixed with Gold gaining. The Scrying Pool will be a Lab on average in this deck which is unimpressive. A strategy with just Warehouses, Tunnels and Apprentices (and the one Ambassador) is going to be just as strong and might get set up a little quicker.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you suggesting that he buy Tunnels and not reveal them to gain gold? The trashing of the Gold gained from the Tunnel was a very strong enabler for the Apprentice.

      • rrenaud says:

        I think Anon #1 just wanted a more coherent strategy. Scrying pool is insanely good if you can get your deck full of actions, some of which produce money and no treasure (and few or no VPs, but you know, winning is also important, so some colonies are acceptable). One Scrying pool can draw your whole deck.

        A mixed scrying pool/tunnel/gold strategy mitigates the craziness of scrying pool in small, action dense decks.

        Warehouse does a much better job of discarding the tunnels for golds than scrying pool does.

        • Anonymous says:

          Okay, thanks. That makes more sense. And your comment points to the cross-pollination that Theory mentioned between the strategies.
          I am curious to know everyone’s thoughts: would Captain Frisk have had an even stronger deck without the Tunnel (and maybe without the Apprentice)? Would the scrying pool, drawing almost the entirety of the deck, coupled with a number of conspirators (as Theory tried) be strong enough/fast enough, or does the Warehouse/Tunnel/Apprentice tactic set up more quickly (and self-regenerate) such that it will be stronger than using non-terminal +$ cards?

    • captainfrisk says:

      theory and I played a couple of variants after this one.

      What we learned was:
      – Warehouse / Tunnel / Apprentice seemed to be the way to go. In game #2 – I ended up going pool + conspirators (passing up the gold gaining that you despise), he went warehouse / tunnel / apprentice / conspirators, and while I won, it was because he botched a few early turns and didn’t get rolling fast enough. The ability to gain potentially gain multiple golds a turn + draw 6 off of one of them was amazing.

      – 1 player going for Scheme / Warehouse / Counting house was good – but not dominantly so (we tied!) The ambassador really runs out of steam as your terminal when you don’t really want to send coppers any more and your deck is damn near empty.

      • Chris B. says:

        Thank you for trying that out! What was it that theory did that counted as botching a few early turns? I cannot imagine that he would accidentally hit end turn before buying an apprentice or some such. It’s the small things along those lines that I think help newer people, such as me, to understand the pacing and dynamics of deck-building.

        • theory says:

          I Ambassadored so aggressively that I didn’t have any money left in my deck to actually buy anything (I only had 2 Coppers left in my deck…).

          • Chris B. says:

            🙂 I’ve done that with chapel before. It’s nice to know even the great ones are fallible! Thanks for sharing.

          • Mike G. says:

            Reminds me of a (short) game I played the other day – my opponent opened 2/5, and bought a Mint on his 2nd turn, trashing 5 coppers of his 7 coppers. Oops… He quit right after that.

            Mint trashing is great, but that was a bit too early. 🙂

            • iamsum1gr8 says:

              Perfectly fine with fools gold as the 2 drop… 😛

              • Anonymous says:

                Once my opponent did this, opening 5-2 and buying Mint – obviously counting on Fool’s Gold since it was available. Except I immediately Swindler’ed his Mint into a Duchy on turn 3. Ouch!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Couldn’t you use Apprentice to trash Ambassador with the C. House strat? Or just forgo Amby altogether and use apprentice to handle estates dealt to you? I guess App. is at the same price as C. House, so that does discourage such a plan.

      • You can always feed your Ambassador to your Apprentice when you’re done with it….

  7. Dominion_geek says:

    I wonder if Apprentice then Warehouse would beat Apprentice/Ambassador. Apprentice turns the Ambassador’s attack into fuel early on, and Warehouse provides the cycling to keep trashing the Estates.

    • chris says:

      Anything that omits ambassador seems weak to copper, though. Ambassador is going to send you copper more often than it sends you estates, especially if you aren’t sending any estates back, and you don’t really want to be stuck apprenticing coppers, do you?

      Anyway, one of the great things about the apprentice/warehouse/tunnel engine is that it doesn’t have any terminals, so you always have room to end with an ambassador (which will have plenty to work on because you preferentially discarded tunnels anyway).

      I have to admit, trashing your own gold with Apprentice starting from so early on is an approach that wouldn’t have occurred to me; I’m used to looking at gold as a potential target for something like Remodel in the endgame, but trashing it from the midgame on as a way of fueling Warehouse/Tunnel is a brilliant and unexpected idea. Of course, in hindsight, you’re often going to draw into a warehouse/tunnel combo that will give you your gold back (and then some, if you have enough tunnels).

      If you’re doing that, though, why bother detouring into potion and scrying pool? If you’re not going to have the kind of treasureless deck that can push it above lab level, well, it’s often harder or more inefficient to get (especially in quantity) than labs are.

  8. lympi says:

    I know I’m preaching to the 1v1 choir, but I think this would have made for an interesting 3-player board, all pursuing different strategies. Someday… someday.

    As for the format change… I prefer the old format far more than this new one, but I understand if it’s more work. As a compromise, if you continue down this route, could you just cut and paste in the text from the isotropic log, rather than PNGing it up? Text-as-images kill web designers’ souls.

  9. GenericKen says:

    Surprised you went conspirator on a colony game with no +buy. Hitting $10 and buying a 6th conspirator just sucks.

    Didnt really like the scrying pool play. I feel like ambassador+scheme -> warehouse/tunnel+scheme -> apprentice+scheme would’ve been faster overall. You can ambassador very aggressively early because you only need $3 to buy the warehouse/tunnel, and the BP from the tunnel could be very significant in a +buyless game.

    • Asklepios says:

      Ambassador/Nothing? I’m not sure I understand this opening.

      Not seeking to criticise here, but rather to learn. Why would you pick Ambassador/Nothing over, say, or Ambassador/Scheme? With no terminal draw cards, Scheme is never going to be drawn dead, so why not take one?

      • thisisnotasmile says:

        Both players opened 5/2.

        • Asklepios says:


          • jdotco says:

            Yeah, it’d be interesting to see how Frisk would’ve faired with the same strategy if they both opened 3/4. Getting an early Apprentice is a good way to somewhat negate an opponents’ early Ambassador, especially when they’re getting rid of Estates. Theory says he may have had a chance to end the game quicker if he got rolling a turn or two earlier, and I imagine the same would be true if Frisk got rolling two to three turns later.

            • I’d also like to hear from Theory and Frisk what they would’ve done differently with a 4/3 opening. I played this kingdom 1v1 last night and opened Ambassador/Silver. Opponent went Scheme/Silver, though, so it wasn’t really an even match-up.

  10. flies01 says:

    since i’m used to reading game logs that look like that, i find this format much easier to read.
    Also: I wonder if SP was more reliable than multiple WH/Tunnel/Apprentices. i would never have gone for the SP myself, but then i’m not lvl 40.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Re the format of game logs, I think a format that periodically shows the contents of both decks (rather than just the supply) would be useful. However, I appreciate that that might be harder to achieve technologically.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Let me echo flies01 comments. After playing through with this set of kingdom cards several more times, do you feel like the potion/scrying pool thing was worth doing?

    • theory says:

      I think the Scrying Pool was not worth it. In the end I think the key is Warehouse/Tunnel/Apprentice, and the Potion/Pool just distracts from that.

  13. immauk says:

    Little late to the party here, but i definitely prefer this way of displaying the games – – although it’s a pity it ends up as images, it just seems much clearer when reading. 🙂

  14. Pingback: A review of Dominion, 4000 performs later - JellyEnt

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 )

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