Dark Ages: Bandit Camp

This article was written by ftl for the DominionStrategy Wiki.

Dominion: Dark AgesDominion: Dark Ages

Bandit Camp has two separate effects. The first is the same as a vanilla Village – +1 card, +2 actions. Simple, but far overpriced at $5. Now, a Village is a good thing to have, but you need to match it up with some terminal actions, and you’re gaining Spoils which will get in the way of that; you’d think that in an action-focused engine, you don’t want every Village you play to gain you a treasure!  (But you’ll see later why this isn’t necessarily the case.)

The second effect is gaining a Spoils – gives you a one-shot Gold to use later. Gaining Spoils is pretty nice, especially in Big Money strategies.

1) Bandit Camp and Big Money

In those strategies, Bandit Camp should be thought of as a delayed Gold; it might as well have said “+1 card, +1 action, Gain a Spoils” or even “+1 card, +1 action, trash this and gain a Gold” and had usually the same effect. On the first shuffle after you buy the Bandit Camp, it does nothing for you, but replaces itself; on the second shuffle after you buy it, you have a Spoils (one-shot Gold) and a Bandit Camp that replaces itself in your hand and refreshes your Spoils. Basically like having a Gold – except with a little more flexibility, since there are ways to be clever with Spoils and save them up at the right times. (That may be outside the scope of this article, and is better served discussed on the Spoils article specifically; always playing Spoils when they get you to a higher price tier is probably not optimal, and sometimes saving your Spoils and buying a Silver may be better than spending your Spoils and buying a Gold.)

Used this way, Bandit Camp will typically be better than a Silver. If you open Bandit Camp/Nothing, that’s like guaranteeing a Turn-3 Gold – pretty good. However, you have to be wary of a few things:

a) In the late game, the extra shuffle to wait to get the benefit from the Spoils might be too long. If you only use one Spoils from the Bandit Camp, having a Silver twice might have been better! Use your judgement.

b) If you’re playing Terminal Draw Big Money specifically, such as with Smithy, Envoy, Embassy, etc… then the analogy of Bandit Camp to a delayed Gold no longer holds, since it can be drawn dead. (Bandit Camp+Wharf plays far more like an engine, it’s still great, but Envoy/Bandit Camp doesn’t work, since the whole point of the Envoy is to just draw a lot of playable Treasure, not to draw your Actions dead.)

c) It antisynergizes with discard attacks –  With a hand of {estate, bandit camp, silver, gold, spoils} you would probably discard the Bandit Camp and buy a Province but then you don’t get the Spoils for the next shuffle.

Of course, in a Money-heavy game without terminal draw, such as with Merchant Ship or Monument, or filled with cantrips, feel free to get Bandit Camps at $5 to your heart’s content.

2) What about an Engine? Don’t the Spoils and Village effects anti-synergize?

Not really.  The point is that instead of having to buy Gold and having to buy a Village, you can just buy your Village and let it generate Golds for you as you play it.  The fact that the Golds are one-shot is not a big deal if you draw your deck and play your Bandit Camps every turn — if anything it’s actually a good thing, because it ensures you can keep playing your engine.

To see when the effects don’t anti-synergize, imagine a simple thought experiment – you have a 5-card hand with a Bandit Camp and some cheap cantrip, perhaps a Pearl Diver. You play a Bandit Camp, get +1 card to bring you back up to 5 cards in hand, gain a Spoils. Then you play the Pearl Diver and lets say you draw that Spoils. You’re still at 5 cards in hand, one of which is a Spoils, and you have 2 Actions.

So if you draw the Spoils on the same turn you gain it, it’s almost as if the Bandit Camp read “+0 Cards, +2 Actions, gain a spoils in hand!” And hey, that not-really-Bandit-Camp card would be pretty good. It immediately suggests a comparison to Festival, which gives +0 Cards, +2 Actions, +$2 and +1 buy; a Spoils in hand is +$3 (but doesn’t combo with Watchtower/Library/Menagerie), so you’re up a coin and down a buy compared to a Festival.

But the real Bandit Camp is even better than the thought-experiment one. You get +1 card NOW, and the Spoils gets left in your discard, to be picked up later in the turn. So if you’re running a sleek engine, Bandit Camp makes your deck turn out perfectly – Villages and Smithies on the top of the deck, with the Spoils on the bottom, to be picked up by your last Smithies.

3) Bandit Camp in a deck-drawing engine

So in an any engine where you expect to draw your whole deck, Bandit Camp is a better source of coin than Gold is. While your engine is running, the Bandit Camp is a Village and keeps things running smoothly; and then when you’ve picked up all of your engine components, you’ll find that you now have a discard pile made up of only Treasures, a number of Spoils equal to however many Bandit Camps you had in your deck, lined up perfectly for your Smithies to draw. Why would you get Golds which you might draw early and which would gum up your Village/Smithy chain before you’ve drawn everything you want to draw?

4) But the good times can end

However, Bandit Camp only seems so great when you maintain the ability to draw the Spoils on the same turn you gain it. If your engine collapses, it becomes harder to get it running again. If you’ve played a bunch of Bandit Camps, but have let your engine choke on green, and you don’t get a chance to draw those Spoils you’ve gained… then you’re in trouble. You don’t have enough to spend this turn because you didn’t draw your Spoils, and next turn, you’re going to have an even harder time getting your engine running and you’ll have to make do with a mixed hand of green, Spoils, and probably an engine component or two that don’t go together. Oops!

5) How to use Bandit Camp – ideal case

So, that leads to an obvious strategy for using Bandit Camp:

  • Build an engine, and make sure you can draw your deck.
  • Build up your buying power by adding more Bandit Camps, not Treasures – your engine will stay reliable because you’ll always draw your Bandit Camps first and your Spoils last.
  • Your engine keeps going even after you start greening because you are replacing the Spoils with green cards (hopefully!)
  • Make sure you keep drawing your whole deck while greening, because once you stop, it’ll be hard to start back up again.

6) Less perfect use cases

OK, but you can’t always expect a card to fit into its niche, sometimes the rest of the board just isn’t there. So how do you use Bandit Camp then?

In the less-than-perfect case, if you don’t draw your deck all the time, you can still use Bandit Camp to good effect. If you aren’t drawing your whole deck, but as long as you are using up the Spoils at the same rate you’re gaining them, then you have still saved yourself several Gold purchases, allowing you to snag the additional engine component. Even if the Spoils show up at the wrong time – it that any more likely to have happened than if you bought a Gold, or any more damaging? It isn’t as awesome as the best case, but it is a good way to have both Villages and Coin to spend.

Bandit Camp is also excellent as an opener with Chapel, if you happen to draw 5/2. In that case, you don’t mind having the Spoils come a little late, to find your Chapel and trash faster.  And it solves the problem of how to trash down while simultaneously building up.

7) Comparisons to similar cards:

Bandit Camp should be compared to Bazaar and Festival, the other 5-cost villages that give coin. They often play somewhat similarly – they both face the same problems that other expensive villages have, namely that it takes a long time to accumulate both the expensive villages and the expensive terminals that you want to play with them.

Bandit Camp provides more coin than Festival (a Spoils is 3 instead of 2). It gives a separation between the “+1 Card” up front and the “-1 Card, +$3” later in the deck. This can be an advantage if you have good control over when you draw the spoils, but a disadvantage if you don’t. Bandit Camp also does not provide a +Buy, which it desperately needs. (It also does not combo with draw-up-to-X engines or Menagerie, obviously).

Compared to Bazaar, Bandit Camp offers a major advantage – $3 for spoils instead of +$1 – but also a major disadvantage, since to get the +$3 you have +0 cards total, whereas Bazaar gives +$1 AND +1 card. This makes Bazaar better when your card draw or trashing is weak, but worse if you’re not worried about draw power and want more buying power.

9) Unusual cases playing with Bandit Camp:

As with many Dominion cards, there are non-obvious niche cases that crop up with Bandit Camp

A) Running out of Spoils

What happens if you’re running a Bandit Camp deck and you run out of Spoils? You’re dead in the water, that’s what.

This won’t happen often in a standard 2-player game; 15 spoils for 2 people means you’d have to have about 7 spoils in each player’s deck before they affect anything – that’s a lot of Golds that are sitting there unused, almost three Provinces worth per player.

But as you add more players, it becomes easier to run out the 15-card spoils pile. At 3-player, that’s 5 spoils per player, still a lot. In 4-player, that’s less than 4 spoils per player – if the players save up spoils between turns even a little, you’ll soon find that you can barely buy a single Province with the Spoils you can get. It only takes a few King’s Courted Bandit Camps to run down the pile. And if other players start deliberately trashing the spoils, then watch out – your economy will be dead in the water in no time.  Forager and Spice Merchant seem like they’d be the most likely culprits for such gimmicks, since they give you +Coin and +Buy for trashing the Spoils.

Other Spoils-gainers can also interfere. If there are four players and a few of them are Pillage-happy, then it only takes one King’s Courted Pillage from two of them to leave you without any economy.

Black Market can provide cute tricks to save you from Spoils depletion, letting you play the Spoils mid-turn, then gain them back.

B) Bandit Camp as a cantrip that gains you cards

Hey, sometimes you just need fodder for your Altar, Forager, Spice Merchant, Junk Dealer… or even your Expand or Remodel. Bandit Camp is a cantrip which gains you a card, and that’s actually very rare. Sometimes that’s what you need.

10) So, to conclude:

Works with: heavy trashing. Since it’s best when you draw your whole deck, heavy trashing is a good way to do that. Engines of all sorts – as long as you’re aiming to hold your whole deck by the end of a turn.

Also, works best with +Buy – since the spoils go away on use, you want to make the most of every single one, and that means having +Buy to spend all the cash you can. Otherwise, you’ll either have to waste spoils, or let them accumulate and clog up your deck.

Also works with fickle engine components like Throne Room, King’s Court, and Procession, ones which are much more easily disrupted by having a handful of treasures when you’re just starting out, since the Spoils can go away and not get in the way.

Works with Counterfeit, since Spoils/Counterfeit work well together in general. Adding a counterfeit to an overdrawn Spoils deck adds $4 and a buy, more than adding a Bandit Camp.

Even if Spoils are near-depleted, Black Market  can let you do cute tricks with playing Spoils and re-gaining them.

Poor House can also fit well into the sleek decks that Bandit Camp likes, and Bandit Camp decks can guarantee that you draw your just-gained Spoils AFTER your full-strength Poor Houses.

Bandit Camp works well enough in Big Money without terminal draw, such as Monument – if you happen to draw $5s at the right time.

Conflicts with: middling engines. You know the type – where you ‘re not quite aiming to draw everything and are content with maybe connecting a Village with two terminals. Where you’ve had a reason to buy a bunch of terminals, and then some Villages to smooth them out, but you always have a bunch of stuff in your discard, so those Spoils will always seem to get drawn at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe then you’d rather have a Gold up-front than a delayed one, and a Walled Village instead of a Bandit Camp.

Sifters, a little. Warehouse and Cellar are great, but don’t work with the Bandit Camp mentality – at the end, you’ll wind up having drawn all your engine parts, and with your spoils AND your sifted-out cards in the discard. You have to draw them all, or else you have no treasure now and an unreliable hand later… that’s not to say Warehouse won’t help your engine, but be mindful that green you discard might come back to bite you the same turn again.

Some engines prefer coin on actions rather than via spoils-gaining; in those cases, Bandit Camp is inferior to Festival and Bazaar. These include Minion engines, draw-up-to-X engines, Golem engines.

Discard attacks can make Spoils less effective – the aforemented hand with both Spoils and Bandit Camp which gets hit by a Militia.

If there are other spoils-gainers, good reasons to trash spoils instead of playing them, or multiple opponents, you have to beware of Spoils pile depletion.

Rush strategies of course have no particularly good time to pick up a Bandit Camp. Terminal draw Big Money don’t like Bandit Camp either (they don’t like much of anything, really). Wharf is a special case, with the huge hands and super-fast cycling to find your Spoils naturally facilitating a transition to a more engine-like game.

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3 Responses to Dark Ages: Bandit Camp

  1. WheresMyElephant says:

    Is it true that Spoils hate discard attacks, or even that Bandit Camp does? This actually seems like a really complicated question.

    Spoils seems to get considerably weaker in a smaller hand, because of Dominion’s nonlinear cost scaling. Because spending your Spoils has an inherent drawback (trashing the Spoils), the net benefit can become very small or even negative, so it really wants good hands. On the other hand it does have high money density: it should usually be enough to hit $5, even in a 3-card hand. A good $5 card is probably enough to justify spending the Spoils, and make you glad it was there. And if you couldn’t hit $5 with your best 3 cards you probably couldn’t do it with your original 5 either, so hey, maybe you wouldn’t have spent the Spoils in either case.

    On that note, if you discard your Spoils you get to save it for later; so that could always be a good option. But the more I think about it, the less I like this. It’s sort of like having plenty of Curses to discard. Surely part of good Spoils play is to make Spoils a card worth spending: if you’re always putting it off until the next shuffle then it’s just getting in the way. So maybe saying “Ha, joke’s on you, I didn’t want to spend that Spoils anyway” is not really so funny after all.

    As for Bandit Camp, you gave an example case where you’re still planning to buy Province after being Militiaed; but this seems like the exception rather than the rule (and also not really such a horrible outcome!) Card gainers are often strong against discard attacks because their benefit is fixed regardless of how much the rest of your hand gets ruined; while conversely they can be discarded without hurting the rest of your hand. Why shouldn’t Bandit Camp be one of these cases? In fact, as a cantrip, it has the potential to provide its benefit without hurting the rest of your hand at all, so that’s even better! (Granted, there’s the whole thing with discard attacks where you don’t know whether to discard your cantrip because you don’t know what it’ll draw; but that seems like a comparatively minor issue here.)

    In any event, it seems like both cards ought to like Ghost Ship more than they like other discarders (however much that may be). Using either your Bandit Camp or your Spoils one turn later usually won’t matter. And you can use the hand rearrangement to help get good value out of your Spoils, or help match Bandit Camp up with two terminals.

  2. Zaphod says:

    I know what you were getting at with the “doesn’t combo with Watchtower” comment, but Watchtower is perhaps the simplest way to gain a Spoils from Bandit Camp and play it in the same turn. Effectively, playing the combo means +1 card, +1 action, +3 coin, correct? Not a world-beater, but it isn’t bad.

    My favorite combo is with Counterfeit, for the reasons you mentioned. The downside of Counterfeit on Gold or Platinum is that you lose that Treasure in the process, but you can only play Spoils once anyhow, so you don’t lose a thing by Counterfeiting it. 7 coin and an extra buy without expending an action is pretty sweet. If Counterfeit doesn’t show up with Spoils, you can at least trash another treasure card, so the Spoils will show up a little sooner in succeeding shuffles.

    It seems to me that Bandit Camp would conflict with Possession. If you Possess my hand with a Spoils in it, the Spoils returns to the pile having helped you, without helping me. If you Possess my hand with Bandit Camp in it, you gain the Spoils. Of course, gaining Spoils might make it easier to get a Possession, so I could be wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, I think you’re right… using up your Spoils is a way a Possessor can actually hurt your deck.

      Of course it also depends on your deck – if you have a draw-your-deck engine that uses up the spoils on the same turn it gains them, a Possessor who takes over your deck is going to find that they have no money to spend!

      Good point on the Watchtower interaction.

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