Tunnel is a Victory/Reaction card, worth 2VP, costing $3. But the victory portion of this card isn’t usually the reason to pick up Tunnel — the reason you pick up Tunnel is for its lovely Gold-gaining reaction.
There are 2 main reasons to go for Tunnel: for the cheap VPs and for the reaction. The cheap VPs are nearly self-explanatory — just get them in the late game or use it as a pile to empty in a cheap-VP rush along with Gardens or Silk road. The reaction is a little more complicated. It may not be immediately obvious, but you need 3 things to make the Tunnel reaction really work for you:
- A way of discarding cards — this is the obvious one. It’s not enough to hope that your opponent buys Militia and makes you discard.
- A way of making sure that Tunnel is one of the cards you discard — it doesn’t help you to discard 2 cards every turn with Oracle or something if you never actually get to discard Tunnels.
- A way of leveraging the Golds you get into something good — this is the most subtle, but still very important. If you’re buying Tunnels, your deck is going to have more Golds and VP cards than usual, and fewer Silvers and action cards. You don’t have a high density of good cards, but rather a high variance in card value, and you want cards that leverage this, like sifters.
There are a few cards that give you all of these functions in one, and thus make good two-card combo strategies with Tunnel:
– Heavy sifters: Warehouse, Embassy, Storeroom. These cards are perfect because they meet all three criteria. They discard from hand (1), help get Tunnel in a postition to be discarded by drawing before the discard (2), and offer sifting to help collect the Golds together while dumping the excess VP cards (3). Storeroom in particular even adds a (4): with all the Golds, you might have some very rich hands, and its +Buy lets you make use of it.
– Vault. The key is that while it’s a little weaker at (2) than the heavier sifters, it’s much better at (3), which makes up for it. One Gold in a 5-card hand with Vault gets you a Province, guaranteed, and so Vault and Tunnel love each other. Interestingly, the strategy sort of counters itself — you can discard Tunnels to your opponent’s Vaults.
– Young Witch. Young Witch goes about accomplishing (3) in another way. It’s not great at turning Golds into Provinces, since you need 2 Golds and 2 Coppers in 6 cards which will likely also include Tunnels and Curses, but since it drags the game out with the Curses, you can often still get to that point. Of course, if you can find a better way of accomplishing (3), like Remodel or Salvager, that can definitely help.
The example of using a late-game TfB card with Young Witch brings us to the next idea: using multiple different kingdom cards to cover all your needs. Here you get (1) and (2) from Young Witch, and add in Remodel or Salvager to provide/strengthen (3).
An illustrative example is using the Horse Traders/Tunnel “combo”. At first glance, you might think that Horse Traders + Tunnel makes a good strategy. It certainly covers (1). The problem is that it’s pretty bad at (2) and terrible at (3) — you need to draw HT and TWO(!) Golds in a 5-card hand to buy a Province, which is no easy task. But clearly there’s a synergy here. You can turn this into an actual strategy by adding something like Stables or Lab. By providing non-terminal draw, they help get Tunnels in a position to be discarded (2), and by increasing handsize, they make it easier to turn Golds into Provinces (3). In a six-card hand, you just need a HT, a Gold, and 2 Coppers, which is much more easy to manange. The strategy should thus be something like opening HT/Silver to hit a few early 5s to get your Stables/Labs, then start buying up Tunnels.
This is an example of the more general strategy of going for hand-size increasing + discard from hand. The discard covers (1), and the hand-size increasing covers (2) and (3). You can do this with 3-card-combos like HT+Stables+Tunnel, or you can take it more to the extreme and build a full-on deck drawing engine for the hand-size increasing, and use a discarding engine piece (Cellar, Hamlet) for discard.
Other cards provide multiple functions, but need some help to complete a strategy. Examples include Cartographer (1,3), Minion (1,2), etc. Golem/Tunnel is a particular example of this — — if you only have a single Action for the Golem to find, then it will repeatedly cycle your deck and discard all your Tunnels. The problem is what your deck is doing when that’s not happening — you have hands full of Tunnels, some Golds, and once in a while your Golem. You need a really good pair card for the Golem to consider this.
Trash For Benefit
Sometimes you run into the First World Dominion Problem of just having too many Golds. This is a more serious problem than it seems — a hand of five Golds is not really better than a hand of three if you only have one Buy. Trash for Benefit cards are very useful, therefore, in Tunnel games because they can trash your extra Golds for various benefits. Remodel gives you a Province straight-up; Apprentice gives you 6 cards (comboing nicely with whatever you’re using to discard Tunnels); Salvager gives you +$6 and a +Buy; Bishop gives you 3VP for the Gold. In an engine where you draw your deck every turn this can be your method for greening given the right TfB, or it can be an integral part of your draw engine (Apprentice). Even in a Big Money deck it can help you hit the 2 Province turn if you can remodel a Gold and still have G/G/S or G/G/G in hand.
- Sifters (Warehouse/Storeroom/Cellar)
- Other discarders, provided they meet (1)-(3) above
- Trash for benefit
- Lack of above
- Colony games, since Gold is less helpful for Colonies and Tunnels count less with Colonies available