Donate + Money

This post was originally written by Seprix and edited in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team.



Donate is hard, precisely because it offers the world. The normal limitations of Dominion are erased, and games become much faster. With all of the engine possibilities, it may escape players to envision Donate as a Money enabler. It is true that Donate is first and foremost an Engine card. It is also true that Donate gets rid of Money’s biggest weakness: time.

Donate Money?

Money strategies can be thought of as a rush of sorts, where you are “betting” that you can get most of the Provinces before the engine can catch up and the game ends. The main problem with Money strategies most of the time is that they are bad at ending the game quickly enough. Donate provides this very speed and consistency to make it happen.

It is important to note that Money strategies are still usually bad. However, with Donate they will appear more often than normal. Because of this, it is absolutely worth investing into how Donate Money plays, both as a resource and as a baseline for knowing how much time you realistically have.

The Vanilla Donate Money Baseline

Usually, the Donate Money race culminates into the first to 5 Provinces, with importance on consistency of economy for sustainable Duchy scoring afterwards. A pure Donate Money strategy ends up with 4-5 Provinces in about 11-12 turns, but struggles to score consistently afterwards. What is this strategy, you may ask? According to xnor’s calculations: (assume any standard opening besides 2/5)

  • Turn 1: Buy Silver
  • Turn 2: Donate down to Silver + 4 Coppers
  • Turn 3: Pay off debt
  • Turn 4: Buy Gold
  • Turn 5: Buy Gold
  • Turn 6: Donate down to Gold, Gold, Silver, paying off debt
  • Turn 7: Buy Province (or a 1/7 chance of missing Province due to last turn’s Donate not hitting $8, in which case buy Gold)
  • Turn 8: Buy Province
  • Turn 9: Buy Province
  • Turn 10+: Buy Province or Gold or Silver forever, pivot to Duchies later

Estimated First Province: Turn 7

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 10-11

Memorize this. This baseline is actually incredibly powerful, and will be as strong as some other Donate Money variants. It is important to note that this baseline is somewhat terrible at scoring Duchies while maintaining Province pressure, and will potentially falter against more consistent Donate Money strategies, despite sometimes being just as fast initially. Thusly, Vanilla Donate Money will struggle to put a nail into the coffin of games versus other Donate Money variants, and while it might sometimes come out with a win, it probably won’t.

Another thing to consider is the time spent before the first Province. Vanilla Donate Money is at a snail’s pace when it comes to first scoring on Turn 7. If a particular Money strategy is already at 2 Provinces on Turn 7, it won’t matter too much if both strategies get to the same end goal of 4 Provinces by Turn 10. The tempo pressure will be on the Vanilla strategy to buy Duchies in order to not risk simply losing, which has already been established to be a terrible weakness for Vanilla Money.

Of course, all of this is contextual. There still is a lot of discovering to do with all of the various types of money plays and lines, but here are some of the more powerful variants, in no particular order.

Amulet + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Amulet
  • Turn 2: Amulet
  • Turn 3: Play Amulet to gain Silver, Donate to 0 Coppers
    • (If you don’t have Amulet in play, Donate anyways but you will be a turn slower.)
  • Turn 4+: Always gain Silver with Amulet unless you have $7 in hand, otherwise Amulet should gain a +$1.
    • (After your first Province, if you miss $8 you may buy Duchies.)

Estimated First Province: Turn 6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 11 + Duchy

As it turns out, Double Amulet is pretty okay! Double Amulet not only straight up beats Pure Donate in scoring the first Province, but also in getting more points!

Explorer + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Donate to 5 Coppers
  • Turn 2: Pay off remaining debt
  • Turn 3: Buy Explorer
  • Turn 4: Gain Silver, buy Gold
  • Turn 5+: Buy Province, Donate the next turn down, trash everything but Explorer, Province, Golds, and you may keep a single Silver.

Estimated First Province: Turn 5-6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 9-10

Don’t be afraid to Province incredibly early, then Donate to finish clean-up the next turn. With the constant influx of Gold, one Silver won’t kill to have around ($8 vs $9, no difference). However, More than one Silver risks 2 Silver/1 Gold hands ($7) which are incredibly sad.

For 5/2, you open Explorer and then Donate down to 2 Coppers. On Turn 4, you buy a Silver, Turn 5 is a guaranteed Province, and then you can Donate everything immediately afterwards.

On 2/5, you cry, buy nothing/Explorer, hope to draw Explorer T3 and Donate.

Windfall + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Donate to 5 Coppers
  • Turn 2: Pay off debt
  • Turn 3: Windfall
  • Turn 4: Donate to 3 Golds
  • Turn 5-7: Buy two Provinces and Windfall again in any order, the timing is the same either way.
  • Turn 8+: Buy Provinces or Duchies forever

Estimated First Province: Turn 5-6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 9

This strategy can hold Duchies well due to the density of Golds, and is highly consistent!

Market Square + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Market Square
  • Turn 2: Market Square
  • Turn 3: Play Market Square, buy Market Square + Donate, keep two Coppers and react all of your Market Squares.
    • (If you don’t find Market Square, Donate anyways but cry that you will be a turn slower.)
  • Turn 4: Buy as many Market Squares as you can while still being able to Donate and having 7 or less Debt. Kill the remaining two Coppers, reacting your Market Squares for Golds. As long as you have 7 or less Debt, you have a guaranteed Province the next turn. (5 Gold hand of $15 minus 7 Debt is exactly $8.)
  • Turn 5+: Buy Province+

Estimated First Province: Turn 5

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 8

This strategy is wicked fast and is one of the best if not the best two card combo in Dominion.

Another fantastic thing about this line is how quickly you can pivot into engine play, due to the massive amounts of instant payload and buy. You are not hitting more than $15 a turn without draw support, so use the board to improve on this baseline! Also keep in mind that you can buy an extra Copper at any point to not lose a Gold when triggering additional Donates, if you want to continue gaining Golds.

Fool’s Gold + Donate Money

  • Turn 1: Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 2: Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 3: Fool’s Gold (or if you have $5+ on this hand, you may Donate immediately to 2 Fool’s Gold, still get the third Fool’s Gold but save a turn in speed.)
  • Turn 4: Donate to 3 Fool’s Gold
  • Turn 5: Pay off debt, buy Fool’s Gold (here you can pivot to the Kingdom itself and play something even better than the baseline.)
  • Turn 6+: Province

Estimated First Province: Turn 6

Estimated Fourth Province: Turn 10

Another strong baseline that while playing similar to Vanilla Donate Money, is just simply faster and stronger.

When To Not Pursue Donate Money

All of these strategies are certainly very fast, and often very predetermined to boot! Are there ways to stop these strategies? What is the best way to trip money up, than the classic attacking method? Good Attacks stop money hard as per the usual. Even with access to Donate, junkers like Witch and Mountebank absolutely gum up most of these money strats, giving alternate strategies time to catch up. Discard attacks can work wonders sometimes, although beware of Gold or Fool’s Gold centric money strategies which only need 3 card hands to work! Of course, for the action centric money strategies like Amulet, Enchantress absolutely tears holes into any plans.

Of course, these Donate strategies are still in a lot of ways worse than Donate engines. It’ll be close, but Engines in a lot of cases can end games by Turn 12-13, and should more than catch up by the end. A fast Donate strategy can catch the unprepared slow build engine by surprise, but don’t forget that there are also wicked fast engines. Another disincentive for money is abundance of Alt-VP, which gives the engine player more time to build. Just keep in mind that you are on the clock!

Closing Thoughts

Donate money is an incredibly fast variant of Money, and one that poses interesting questions to the player in any given Donate game. However, in many cases these highlighted strategies (among others) only serve as a baseline, as either a way to kick off the engine even faster or to combo with even more cards in the Kingdom, and you may find yourself only implementing the beginning steps of some of these lines. As with any Donate game, always keep your eyes open for better and more efficient ways to do things!

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Dominion Tournament in Cincinnati, OH

Game Swap Mason, OH

1065 Reading Rd, Ste E, Mason, Ohio 45040

Facebook event

Join us for my tenth Dominion tournament at 1PM on Saturday, January 12, 2019 in Mason, OH (near Cincinnati). RSVP is not required — you can just show up, but it helps me plan if I know who is coming in advance, and if you’re traveling in from far away I can make sure you don’t get left out if you get stuck in traffic or something.

This tournament will consist of two-player games, and have a $5 entry fee. I’m not able to give out promo cards or qualify the winner for GenCon, but I will have something to give out to everyone who enters. Portions of the prize pool (80% of the entry fees) will be given to the top finishers.

The winner of the tournament will have the opportunity to play a “trophy match” against me. You may pick any kingdom you like and you may go first; if you win, you get to hold on to the Scout trophy (pictured in the Facebook event) until the next tournament. If you lose, you still get the standard first-place prize for winning this tournament.

All expansions (including Renaissance!) and promo cards may be used, I won’t be using any of the removed cards from Base or Intrigue, though. All kingdoms used in the playoffs will be designed and playtested by me and some helpers who will not be playing in the tournament.

I anticipate we’ll be done by 8PM, and if you are eliminated early on in the tournament you could be done earlier — everyone who enters is guaranteed at least four games in the tournament. During and after the tournament, there will be the regular Saturday board gaming event.

Official Tournament Format Document

Any questions or RSVPs can either be posted here or the Facebook event, PMed to me, or you can send me E-mail at . Hope to see you there!

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The Secret History Of Dominion: Renaissance

This Secret History was written by Donald X and originally posted to the Dominion Strategy Forums.

Going into work on this set, I had two plans. First, to see what I could do with States. States showed up in Nocturne, just as a way to deal with tracking for a few effects; I had put no work into trying to see what I could do with them, and well probably I could do something with them. Second, to try to do more with the coin tokens from Guilds. They were popular and it seemed like maybe I could actually do more with them.

Along the way I added a third goal: to make a set that was much simpler than the last few sets. The expansions naturally get more complex as you go along, since you run out of new simple things to do. I felt like things had gotten too complex though, and wanted to swing things back the other direction as much as possible. So the set intentionally has a bunch of off-theme cards, which is to say, cards that don’t involve any of the new mechanics; and I limited myself to text that would fit with the large font, and for the landscape cards, text that would fit with the large font on two lines (then Innovation needed three during layout due to the expansion symbol). And the set tried to stay simple in other ways too.

Initially I did two things with States: I had ones that one player could have, and ones that every player got a copy of. The ones that every player got could turn over; one side would have a rule that let you upgrade it. We liked these a lot.

One of the two-sided States was a lot like the Journey token from Adventures – it was, some cards flipped it over, but when it flipped over one way nothing happened, and the other way gave you +1 Action. So some cards essentially had +1 Action half the time you played them. This was cool. But wait: maybe I could just have +1 Action tokens, to go with the +$1 tokens. And I switched to that and it was even better.

So… +1 Buy tokens? I had them in the set for a bit there. And there was a 4th mat, unrelated to the others. In the end I felt like, we were eating up so much table space with mats, and hey what about being simpler. So there are just Coffers and Villagers. And they got those names and notation and then since we were updating Guilds for reprinting it got the Coffers mat too.

The other two-sided States, they were good times, but did not go well with the idea of a simpler expansion. Here, read this extra card, now turn it over. They turned into Projects: you pay to put a cube on a card, and now you have that ability. This is not only simpler – no second side to read, no text to explain how to upgrade it – it also means only one card per Project, rather than six (for six players) per two-sided State. So I could fit way more of them into the set, hooray.

The one-sided States persisted, but somewhere along the way I realized I should use a different name for them, to clarify that only one player got them. So they are Artifacts. The Artifacts were tricky; you want them to move around but not every turn, and they want to be attractive but not have the game hinge on them. I thought there might be 8; there are 5, and I struggled to get those.

Coffers tokens were also problematic; when you have a giant pile of those tokens, it’s pretty demoralizing for the other players, and sometimes it’s even a good strategy. So only one card gives +2 Coffers each time it’s played, and some only sometimes produce +Coffers, and some do it when-gained. Villagers tokens had no issues. Go ahead and get a bunch if you want.

So, I think that covers it: Coffers, Villagers, Artifacts, Projects, and cards that do none of those things.

It turned out Ben King had been working on a Dominion program as a fun project, and he programmed in Renaissance and we playtested it some there. Thanks Ben! He also wrote some bots to demonstrate how powerful some particular cards were.


Acting Troupe: Here you go, some villagers. At first this gave +5 Villagers. Too many.

Border Guard: For a while this had no Artifacts. I wanted more Artifacts and saw that I could add one here, which was Lantern. Then I needed to put another Artifact somewhere and saw that this could have two Artifacts, so it got Horn.

Cargo Ship: The concept debuted on a 2-sided State, limited to Treasures. The first version as a card set aside all gains, and doled them out at one per turn, like Archive. Then it was just one card, and that was better but weak – it cost $5. I tried it with +2 Coffers, then just lowered it to costing $4 and then $3.

Ducat: A late card. I needed a $2, and a +1 Buy card. Matt suggested making it a Treasure and there it is. It didn’t change, but it did get argued about. Adam felt like it was “strictly better” than Candlestick Maker. I am pretty sure it isn’t. What feels better is when you trash a Copper with it… which effectively costs you $3. But any which way, one is a Treasure and one an Action, and various things make those categories matter. It and Candlestick Maker are more similar than most pairs of cards, and well, twelfth expansion, trying to have simple cards, no regrets.

Experiment: We tried several versions of this. After a bit as a Smithy (based on another card that died), it switched to a Lab, because that way there’s usually no tracking (it uses an Action but gives +1 Action, so when it vanishes your play area still tells you the whole story, yes unless you Throne it or something). For a bit they both went to the same place – e.g. if you used Sculptor to gain Experiment, both Experiments went to your hand. That was too confusing for how often it came up. There was a version that was two different cards, the first gained you a copy of the second (the second being non-supply); there was a version that was three one-shot Labs instead of two; there was one that was like Border Village, it got you a cheaper card instead of another Experiment. In the end it’s two one-shot Labs, which it was early on, but with a better wording.

Flag Bearer: Originally you took the Flag when you played it. Well at some point maybe you are drawing your decks and you just pass it back and forth. That isn’t so great. I briefly tried only getting the Flag if Flag Bearer was your first play of the turn; then if you’re drawing your decks it just sits there on the player who got lucky. Also bad. Changing it to when-gain/trash fixed it up every which way; anyone could take it on their turn, so it’s not “those two are fighting over that, let them,” and yet the cost varies (maybe this turn you have $5) and gets higher over time (how many of these Flag Bearers can my deck really handle).

Hideout: One of the first cards in the set, and it never changed.

Improve: Ben and Steveie requested I make a new card that gave you card progression reminiscent of Procession. At first it cost $4, and triggered when discarding a card from play. It shifted to the start of Clean-up in order to avoid having it be possible for every effect in Dominion to happen in the middle of discarding your cards.

Inventor: One of the 2-sided State cards was a Workshop that could get you a Scheme-a-turn that turned into Citadel (but it worked on Treasures too). For some reason I added a Bridge effect to it, while it still used a State. Then I decided the State needed a different card, but kept the Workshop plus Bridge card sans States. We also tried it at $5 with the bottom part of Silk Merchant, but that was too helpful. Inventor does mega-turns, and ideally you don’t always have just what you need there.

Lackeys: Originally it was +2 Cards, turn over your thing that gets you +1 Action half the time. It went straight from that to the final version.

Mountain Village: The last card added. An early village with a negative Artifact didn’t work out; then I made a new village with two Artifacts that also didn’t work out. I decided the move was to just try to have a cool village, and not care about the Artifact being tacked-on, and this was the stand-out from the things I tried. At first you got an Artifact if your discard pile was empty; then I tried giving you the Artifact and +1 Card, and finally moved the Artifact to Recruiter (not what it did, but just, having an Artifact) (and of course Recruiter didn’t keep it).

Patron: The first version had a two-sided State (it was a Cathedral that turned into a Cargo Ship for Treasures if you trashed a $5+ card). When those went away, I preserved the top and added the reaction. I fiddled with the wording some, to try to make it clear, but the idea stayed the same.

Priest: This started out giving you an Artifact if you trashed a card costing $3 or more; the Artifact had you draw a card each time you trashed a card. Sometimes the Artifact felt really important, and it sucked to have to eat your deck to fight over it. I tried changing the condition to “if you trashed a card that hadn’t been trashed yet,” then dropped the Artifact, and switched to getting a bonus per trash right on the card. The bonus was +$2 first, but I also tried +1 Coffers for comparison. It gets rid of some tracking but I liked +$2 better.

Old Witch: For a while the set’s Witch was “Choose one: +3 Cards; or take the Evil Eye; or each other player gains a Curse.” The Evil Eye was an Artifact that had you Curse the other players whenever gaining VP. We had fun with it for a while. Going for Evil Eye early and hard didn’t work, but when someone did take the Evil Eye at a reasonable time, they would suddenly hand out so many Curses. Another issue was, wait, if you Moat this, they can’t take the Artifact from you? Matt suggested it not being an Attack, which would have had a certain something – Young Witch has a built-in Moat, Old Witch is un-Moat-able. In the end I gave up on it and replaced it with this, the Witch that only temporarily gives you Curses.

Recruiter: I tried trashing a card for +Coffers, and for a mix of +Coffers and +Villagers. It turned out to be too good of a strategy by itself – just madly convert your cards into tokens. But +Villagers by itself wouldn’t have that problem, so I made that card and it was great. A kind of inverse Apprentice. Then at the last minute it got an Artifact, in order to not have the Artifact on Mountain Village. Then at the very last minute I moved the Artifact to Border Guard. We’d been happy with Recruiter, and this way I avoided having another card with multiple mechanics.

Research: Gradually, the set developed an at-first unintentional trash-for-benefit theme – cards that do something when gained or trashed, plus nice ways to trash them. So when I was filling the last few slots, I tried to get in some more of that. This is like Apprentice, but you get the cards next turn, and since they’re set aside you have to have cards left to set aside for it.

Scepter: A way to replay actions was an old idea. Well Royal Carriage does it but you know, as a card you played. Royal Carriage happened, but this did not, because what if this game there’s no card with +1 Action? You couldn’t play your after-the-fact Throne Room. A fix is to make it a Treasure, and that card tried out for Nocturne. Well first it was a Night card, and both the Night and Treasure actually returned you to your Action phase, so that most effects would be meaningful. I didn’t feel like it was adding much, and changed it to a Treasure that didn’t change phases, which meant that many cards were now no good with it. Which I liked; it made it more of a combo card. It was a poor fit for a set with a lot of Night cards though. It made a list of cards to try in the next set, and when the time came, we tried it again, and then I made it both weaker when strong and stronger when weak, by changing it from always making $1, to either making $2 or replaying a card.

Scholar: This never changed. A poster child for the set being simple.

Sculptor: One of the first cards in the set. It used the “+1 Action every other time” thing like Lackeys, then switched to +1 Villager, and that’s that.

Seer: At first it got you cards costing $2 or less, but that was too strong early on. Then $2 or $3, then $2-$4.

Silk Merchant: Briefly this was like a Pawn when gained/trashed, only with tokens in place of +$1 and +1 Action. I always like the idea of a when-gain that can draw cards, but it never survives, for the same reason: in the default situation, you don’t want the cards. And then the triggered +1 Buy was problematic. So, no choice, it just gives you the other two.

Spices: Briefly there was a treasure that gave you your choice of a mix of 2 tokens when you played it – Coffers, Villagers, or the +Buy mat. Then, a treasure worth $2 that gave you +2 Coffers and +1 Buy mat token when gained; this was somewhat inspired by a card of Matt’s. Then I got rid of the +Buy mat, but moved the +Buy to the top of the card.

Swashbuckler: An early poster child for the 2-sided States gave +3 Cards and added a token to the State (or took it if you didn’t have it); when one side got 3 tokens it flipped over and gave you +3 Villagers, and when the other side got 3 tokens it flipped over and got you +3 Coffers and 3 Golds. It was called Jungle Explorer, and the state was Base Camp / Ancient Ruins. When the 2-sided States died, I tried to capture at least some of the spirit of the card, and this is how I did it.

Treasurer: Initially this couldn’t get stuff from the trash. That change gave it combos and was great. Late in the going I wanted to try to have more Artifacts and squeezed the Key onto this. It didn’t need it to be good enough; it was just a place that I could reasonably fit an Artifact.

Villain: I tried a few different Militias before getting here. When it got close to what it is, there were versions that looked for cards costing $3+ or $5+, versions that made you discard all copies of what you discarded, and versions that only attacked if you had enough Coffers tokens.


Academy: Unchanged, though there were many unrelated cards called Academy.

Barracks: One of the first Projects, and it never changed.

Canal: Unchanged. A lot of these ideas were just fine from the get-go.

Capitalism: There was a thing that made your Silvers be Peddlers in your Action phase, then a thing that tried making your Treasures into Actions. It just isn’t useful often enough. Once I hit on this, it was a question, should it be “+$ amounts” or specific ones, e.g. “+$2 or +$3.” We tried it both ways.

Cathedral: This started as the front of a 2-sided State, that turned over if you trashed a card costing $5+. Once it became a Project, it didn’t change.

Citadel: This also started as part of a 2-sided State, though it was the harder-to-get 2nd side. It originally replayed your first play each turn, which could be Action, Treasure or Night; this was just too confusing though, everyone just mentally thought it only worked on Actions. Spelling it out was poor, so, it just works on Actions. So much for the sneaky Throne Room for Night cards.

City Gate: The last Project. Unchanged.

Crop Rotation: This was $5 and “discard an Action,” then $5 and “Victory,” then the final version.

Exploration: At first this gave +2 Coffers. Ben demonstrated that it was too strong with a bot.

Fair: Another early Project that never changed.

Guildhall: Unchanged.

Fleet: This started and ended at $5, but went up to $8 in the middle. I messed with the wording so that the turn order would be natural.

Innovation: This started at $5.

Pageant: This cost $2 at first, but a Project can’t cost $2 (unless it has a penalty) – you just automatically buy it sometimes.

Piazza: Unchanged. Werothegreat suggested doing a one-card Golem Project; Matt pitched it as a Vassal; there it is.

Road Network: Unchanged.

Sewers: Unchanged.

Silos: Unchanged.

Sinister Plot: Early on I had a Duration card that sat there accumulating Coffers tokens until you popped it. There were a few versions. It’s no fun seeing a giant pile of tokens on the other side of the table, so these died. Then I brought it back as the same thing but for +Cards. Somehow way more tolerable. So one day, you’d have a big turn. This was in the set for a while. Then I turned it into a Project, which only takes one card instead of eleven. As a Project there’s the concern of, can we all keep our tokens separate, and well, we always managed.

Star Chart: We tried several versions of a card that gained you a card each time you shuffled. It had problems every which way. This was a better fit for “thing to do when you shuffle.”


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Witch in 2018

This post was originally written by Titandrake and edited in collaboration with the Dominion Strategy blog team.


“Witch is a defining card in Dominion. … Curses are the strongest attack in the game, and Witch is as straightforward a Cursing attack as it gets. “

theory, “The Five Best $5 Attacks”, April 2011

“No matter what kind of deck you’re playing, you will benefit from buying a Witch and playing it as often as possible.”

theory, “Guide to the Dominion Base Game”, June 2011

“Witch is a guaranteed Curser with no drawback and definitely one of the strongest cards in the game.”

Qvist Dominion Card List, January 2012

“It’s good.

Buy it.

If you don’t, you better have a good reason, and I mean a REALLY good reason.”

Titandrake, “Witch”, June 2013

It’s been 10 years since Dominion came out, cards have shifted up and down in relative power level, but through it all is one constant:

Witch is still a good card.

You should still buy it.

If you don’t, you should still have a good reason, and I mean a REALLY good reason.

“But there’s a way to trash Curses!”

No, every Curse they trash is a Copper or Estate they didn’t get to trash.

“But the trasher competes at the $5 price point!”

You may want to buy the trasher first, but if you do, you should probably still buy the Witch later.

“But Mountebank is in the kingdom!”

Actually, after you play Mountebanks a few times, your opponents can have enough Curses to block Mountebank fairly often. In this scenario, Witch can turn into the better Curser. The +2 Cards can also be a big deal compared to the +$2 Mountebank gives you.

“But Moat is in the kingdom!”

Having a Witch still threatens handing out Curses. They only have to fail to have Moat once to get punished for it. And if they buy a lot of Moats, then you’ve hurt them in a different way: they spent a bunch of buys on Moats.

“But Lighthouse is in the kingdom!”

Okay. The Moat principle still applies – they only have to miss it once to get hurt. However, Lighthouse is genuinely different. As a non-terminal, it’s more okay to have several Lighthouses, and in some games (like Minion games) it’s even beneficial. Additionally, for Moat to block Witch, it has to be drawn in the opening hand. For Lighthouse to block Witch, it needs to be drawn any time in the previous turn, a much looser condition. A strong enough engine can block all attacks with just 2 Lighthouses.

So sometimes, they do have enough Lighthouses to make buying Witch redundant. But if you notice they’ve gotten complacent and are starting to miss Lighthouse turns, maybe you should reconsider that Witch…

“But Ambassador or Masquerade is in the kingdom!”

These are the most regular counters to Witch. Witch is great because giving away Curses is great. It sucks when they give the Curse back, especially while also thinning their own deck.

“But I’m drawing my deck, and I have a trasher, and I’m out of things I want to trash with it! I’ll just trash the Curse if I get Witched!”

Sure, this is true for now. It’s easy for this to stop being true, as you add payload or Victory cards to your deck. Much like the Moat argument, if they’re playing Witch every turn, you only have to fail to draw your trasher once to fall behind on having a thin deck. Once you fall behind the first time, it’s more likely you fall behind the next, and soon your thin deck can have 3 Curses in it. It’s a classic recipe for beating people who are overconfident in their deck’s reliability, and with Witch in the kingdom, you need to be extra careful not to fall behind in the deck size battle.

A lot of new players don’t like Witch, because it slows down the game. Most people’s idea of fun is playing a bunch of cards and producing a bunch of money. Witch gets in the way of that. But I like Witch. When I give out Curses, I think to myself “yes”. When I get Curses, I think to myself “no”. Even if you don’t like it, you have to respect it.

Sometimes, you can skip Witch, and you get to be a Hero. Maybe even a Champion. Just be careful out there. Curses make the world a scary place.

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Dominion: Renaissance – Release and Card Spoilers

The latest Dominion expansion, Dominion: Renaissance, officially released online today, and will be available in retail stores imminently. This also means that the full text of all cards has been revealed, as well as the game manual, which can be accessed here.

Below are the newly revealed cards. The images are taken from the online client which matches the wording but not necessarily the exact layout of the printed cards; for the newest, sharpest images, check the Dominion Strategy Wiki.

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This article was written by Polk5440 and briefly reviewed by the rest of the Dominion Strategy blog team. Stay tuned for Renaissance spoilers in the next few days, as the new expansion is likely to be available in stores and online as soon as Monday.

Coffers (née Coin Tokens) have been around since Guilds was first released in 2013. With the upcoming release of Renaissance, which once again utilizes Coffers, now is a good time to review some of what we know about how and when to use Coffers.

Save Coffers to Hit Key Price Points

One Coffers is equivalent to $1 which can be used on any turn. Coffers can be saved for later; coins can’t. This added ability makes +1 Coffers better than +$1.

For example, if you have $4 and buy a Silver, you waste $1. With Coffers, you don’t waste the extra money and save it for hitting key price points later. Getting a hand of two Coppers, one Potion, and two Estates is a complete waste if you are looking to buy a Familiar. Avoid this bad luck by using a well-saved Coffers.

Because of the added ability to save Coffers, cards that give +1 Coffers are generally weaker in their other abilities than cards that give +$1. Additionally, for most of the game, no more than one or two Coffers is usually needed to be kept on the mat to hit key price price points. Therefore, while there is a huge benefit to acquiring that first card that gives Coffers, the marginal benefit of a second or third card that give Coffers to your deck is much lower.

Spend Coffers Early

Just because Coffers can be saved for the future does not mean they should. Spending Coffers earlier leads to a compounding effect. Better cards now help you get more, even better cards sooner.

A good rule of thumb is that Coffers acquired early in the game should be spent as soon as possible to buy better cards. For example, while Baker starts you off with just one Coffers, if your opening draw is $3/$4, that one Coffers can get you a key $5 card in your deck an entire shuffle earlier than otherwise. Saving that one Coffers for later has a very high opportunity cost of not getting that better card now.

Beyond a Coffers, or maybe two, there really isn’t a lot of reason to keep more Coffers around in the early to mid game for smoothing out your buys. The extra Coffers should probably be spent on better stuff for your deck.

Hoard Coffers Late

Should you ever hang onto more than a couple of Coffers?  Yes. Late in the game, keeping a handful of Coffers can be used for hitting key price when your deck starts to sputter from gaining lots of green cards and is unable to consistently produce the same amount of money per turn. For example, you might want to consistently hit $8 for Province. With three Coffers stored, a sequence of turns that yields $8, $7, and $6 scores three Provinces, but no Coffers and a sequence of $8, $7, and $6 only scores one Province and two Duchies.

Additionally you can hoard Coffers late to threaten bigger buys. If you have a lot of Coffers, say 8 or more, sitting on the mat, and your deck can generate extra buys (or gains that allow using Coffers, like via Butcher), you are threatening to pick up multiple Provinces or other big Victory cards at your convenience. This can give you a lot of control in the endgame.

How many Coffers you need and how you use them in the endgame depends on how long the greening phase will be drawn out.

Coffers are a unique resource in Dominion. Hoard them late, spend them early, and save them to hit key price points. With the upcoming release of Renaissance, it will be fun to see all the interactions and strategies the new Coffers cards will bring.

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2018 Dominion Online Championship Quarterfinal Interview: Burning Skull

254 players participated in the 2018 Dominion Online Championship.  Only 8 players are left, and we will posting interviews with each player this week before their match.

Burning Skull will be playing jfrisch Friday at 1900 UTC (3 o’clock Friday afternoon Eastern Time); you can watch the live-stream of the match at, or at .

This is Burning Skull’s pregame interview.

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what do you do?

Burning Skull:  Well, hi. Name’s Igor, I’m 30, live in St. Petersburg, Russia and I write code for a living.

How did you start playing Dominion?

Burning Skull:  Picked up a physical copy about six years ago, played a first game on Friday at work, never stopped playing before Sunday night. Was my first experience with board games btw (well, barring some Monopoly in the childhood, and one time Munchkin trauma).

What do you think was your toughest match in the tournament so far?

Burning Skull:  Won’t be a surprise I guess, but Mercury was the toughest.

What are your favourite and least-favourite Dominion cards, and why?

Burning Skull:  My favourite is probably City Quarter, It’s just cool to see how it draws a lot of cards. Also the art on it is nice, if you look closely you can see Donald X. in one of the windows. I also like Miser, it’s kinda niche, but sometimes does a great job. Black Market is love forever as well.

Really don’t like Battlefield – it sometimes makes dumpster strategies win, and why would you want to play a dumpster strategy. Not a huge fan of Tournament – it just leads to frustrations too often.

What cards do you think are the most overrated/underrated?

Burning Skull:  Some of the weaker cards are slightly underrated: Royal Seal is not really a bad card, it’s just the competition at this price point is usually quite high. Also, Transmute is not unplayable at all: you can go for it in like one of 50 games you see it in.

Most overrated cards are still Province and Gold.

What are your initial impressions of Renaissance, the newest Dominion expansion?

Burning Skull:  I’ve been translating the cards to Russian, and that’s a blast, really liked them a lot! Think I like it better than Nocturne so far.

What was the most memorable Dominion match you’ve ever played?

Burning Skull:  Hmm, there was this one relatively recent vs Mic, where I was about to win a game by Ambassadoring him a Province, but there were Changelings on the board, the fact we both missed, and yeah, that was an agonizing revelation. I lost.

How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t playing Dominion?

Burning Skull:  I tend to work a lot, also play quite a few other games. Love reading, love going somewhere to see stuff, just a regular guy stuff. I’m a metalhead of sorts, so summer is for the festivals

What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to get better?

Burning Skull:  Well, fall in love with the game most of all. I started playing competitive to some extent after watching Wandering Winder videos. So yeah, watching good players thought process helps a lot. Taking a break after a game and thinking why it went that way and not the other also won’t hurt.

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2018 Dominion Online Championship Quarterfinal Interview: jfrisch

254 players participated in the 2018 Dominion Online Championship.  Only 8 players are left, and we will posting interviews with each player this week before their match.

jfrisch will be playing Burning Skull on Friday at 1900 UTC (3’clock in the afternoon Eastern time); you can watch the live-stream of the match at, or at .

This is jfrisch’s pregame interview.

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what do you do?

jfrisch:  Hi, I am 26 years old. I’m a math Ph.D student in California. I also grew up in California.

How did you start playing Dominion?

jfrisch:  I learned Dominion at a summer program I went to about 8 years ago but I started playing in earnest in late 2011 thanks to some combination of real life friends, Dominion Strategy, and Isotropic.

What do you think was your toughest match in the tournament so far?

jfrisch:  I’ve had two really tough matches so far. My match for the quarterfinals spot against singletee went to the seventh game and it was a close game!

However for me the very hardest match was probably against Huevos Locos in round 3, they thoroughly crushed me in last years tournament so I went in really nervous and it was also a really close match. It was also decided on the 7th game.

What are your favourite and least-favourite Dominion cards, and why?

jfrisch:  I’m a big fan of (most) cards that warp the game but increase the complexity in interesting ways.

My favorite Dominion card right now is Horn of Plenty. Gainers in general add lots of interesting tactics and thought into the game and Horn of Plenty in particular is quite strong but requires a good amount of finesse to build around properly. I also really like Bridge Troll which helps you gain more cards but, again, is not simply spammable and procession which leads to some excellent puzzles and incredibly precise game play. In terms of things that are not technically cards Windfall is probably my favorite event. It’s often worth warping your deck around but to do so requires careful planning.

My least favorite cards are cards which regularly dominate with limited support while dramatically increasing the luck in the game. Cultist and Rebuild both actively destroy otherwise fun kingdoms and they’re going on my ban list as soon as it exists. I’m also personally disinclined towards Possession. I don’t like the degeneracy it seems to frequently encourage (though I understand why many disagree).

What cards do you think are the most overrated/underrated?

jfrisch:  Bishop is trash. Opening with it is suicidal in most circumstances and merely disastrous in the others. If you’re both going for the engine it gives them a crucial tempo advantage. It can sometimes be a desperate source of alt-VP to enable engines (but, even then, unless they’re going Big money, you’re usually better off skipping it). The trashing it gives to your opponent is unforgivable and, for the vast majority of games, you never want it.

Gold is underrated. Obviously it’s crucial in big money games but, beyond that, you can often get it on the cheap (Courtier/Treasure Maps/Windfall/Soothsayer/Tunnel/Market Square etc). It’s actually uncommon for gold to make a deck worse. (Though there are certainly some cases where it does). Unlike silver it’s generally a good card!

What are your initial impressions of Renaissance, the newest Dominion expansion?

jfrisch:  Mountain Village seemed hilarious, Experiment delightful and Sculptor intriguing. I’m delighted that Donald is trying to push towards strategically complex, but simple to read, cards.

What was the most memorable Dominion match you’ve ever played?

jfrisch:  I remember a game which ended (on piles) in about 7 turns which just felt absurdly fast. I’m not very good at remembering specific games in general though.

How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t playing Dominion?

jfrisch:  I’m a math grad student so I do a lot of math! Other than that I really enjoy hiking, traveling (often for school), and especially trying to find hidden restaurant gems (which is what I might be principally known for in my friend group).

What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to get better?

jfrisch:  For new players specifically, you need at least 300 games (often more) before you’re going to be good (55+). It’s not just that there are lots of cards (and, honestly, you usually need to play with a given card at least 5 times before you understand its nuances) but there are so many ideas, tactics, and strategies that until you’ve played a lot of games you won’t be able to understand. Play these games trying to understand what your opponents are doing and try to make sure your deck is at least as good as big money plus one or two cards.

Don’t worry if you mess up. I don’t think there’s a player around who won’t occasionally pick a strategy that is worse than BMU (pure big money with no kingdom cards).

As in most competitive strategic games you’ll learn way more playing stronger players. Sometimes you’ll win but usually you’ll lose. If you can, ask them questions if you lose, usually they’ll have ideas of what mistakes you made which is the sort of precise tactical or strategic info and reasoning that is really hard to distill into articles. Also as in most strategic games when you’re tired or on tilt you will play much worse. Stop it when you’re no longer having fun.

In terms of specific strategic advice while strategy and deck planning obviously are the lions share of Dominion a close second is endgame play. Endgame play is sometimes simply looking for wins in 1 turn.  More often endgame play relies on paying deep attention to what your opponent could buy next round, determining how empty the piles are, figuring out roughly when the game will end, and planning tactics around it. Moving from weak to intermediate endgame skill is enough to increase your play by at least 5 levels.

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2018 Dominion Online Championship Quarterfinal Interview: JoMa

254 players participated in the 2018 Dominion Online Championship.  Only 8 players are left, and we will posting interviews with each player this week before their match.

JoMa will be playing markus Friday, October 26 at 600pm UTC (2 o’clock PM Eastern time Friday afternoon); you can watch the live-stream of the match at

This is JoMa’s pregame interview.

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what do you do?

JoMa:  I am 31 years old, living in the north of Germany, trying to meet all the expectations of a modern father that cares about family, job and the housekeeping.

In the mornings, I work as researcher in the field of energy informatics, contributing a tiny bit to carry the German energy system transformation forward.

In the afternoons, I work as a father, trying to teach my three-year-old son some life lessons, while he teaches me patience.

How did you start playing Dominion?

JoMa:  During my study time, a friend brought the card game one evening, as we were looking for a good 2-player game. I immediately fell in love with it. We spent hours trying to figure out the cards of the base set and analyzing why certain decks succeeded and others didn’t.

What do you think was your toughest match in the tournament so far?

JoMa:  The closest match was definitely the 3rd round match against train, where I was down 1-3 and somehow managed to make it to game 7 and then luckily had a first player advantage. My best opponent was Jan in the round of 16, but I simply had loads of luck during the match.

What are your favourite and least-favourite Dominion cards, and why?

JoMa:  I somehow like to play raider, especially when both players have strong decks. Making your opponent discard one of the great cards you have played in your turn can be really powerful. However, I really like to play with certain events or landmarks, like Ritual, Mountain Pass, Fountain, Tomb or Wall.

I don’t really like swindler, but I guess I am not alone with that. The card that I play worst with is ambassador. I find it really hard to find the right balance between building your deck and junking your opponent.

What cards do you think are the most overrated/underrated?

JoMa:  Most overrated: Black market. Of course it can be a great card sometimes, but sometimes there is everything you need in front of you already.

Most underrated: I guess it’s develop. Of course it’s not a super great trasher, but during mid game it can be really powerful, especially in a kingdom with good action cards for all kind of different costs (especially good $2 cards).

What are your initial impressions of Renaissance, the newest Dominion expansion?

JoMa:  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to test the cards during the preview weeks (I was busy with the championship matches).

What was the most memorable Dominion match you’ve ever played?

JoMa:  Long ago, I played a 3-player match with Chapel, Pirate Ship, Saboteur and King’s Court. One other player and me, we were going for Pirate Ships, while the other one built up for a whole lot of Saboteur attacks. When all the Pirate Ships got trashed, we all ended up with literally no economy at all. While one player continuously Kinged the Saboteur, the other one was going for Copper + Estates. Out of frustration I trashed my remaining deck. With only a Chapel in hand I then slowly built a 5-card deck and managed to grab a Colony just at the last turn before the 3-pile end, which gave me the win.

How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t playing Dominion?

JoMa:  Usually I spend my time with the job or my family. Once a week, I really enjoy playing table tennis in a sports club. Additionally, every now and then, I meet with some friends to play some groovy samba rhythms on different types of drums, which is really fun.

What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to get better?

JoMa:  Take your time. It has really improved my game when I started to slow down and think a bit more, especially at the start of the game.

Other than that I don’t really feel to be in the right position to give advice about Dominion, I rather feel like I am still learning, how this game works.

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2018 Dominion Online Championship Quarterfinal Interview: markus

254 players participated in the 2018 Dominion Online Championship.  Only 8 players are left, and we will posting interviews with each player this week before their match.

markus will be playing JoMa Friday, October 26 at 600pm UTC (2 o’clock PM Eastern time Friday afternoon); you can watch the live-stream of the match at

This is markus’s pregame interview.

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what do you do?

markus:  I’m 33 years old and from Austria. I have a Math and Econ background and I’ve been living in Germany for a couple of years now.

How did you start playing Dominion?

markus:  I started playing it when it won the Spiel des Jahres, so I’ve been there all along. I played on Isotropic, but only became more involved when I joined the Dominion League for Season 11 three years ago.

What do you think was your toughest match in the tournament so far?

markus:  The last one in terms of not getting eliminated, the first one in terms of keeping my focus.

What are your favourite and least-favourite Dominion cards, and why?

markus:  In general, I like diversity and having all those expansions means that you don’t have to play too often with any card. I like Donate, because it really forces (and rewards) you to have a good plan before the start of the game.

I hate how Star Chart plays out with the new shuffle rule: you should take into account what say the last 2 cards of the old shuffle are that you are about to draw – do I need a Village or a Smithy using Star Chart? And it’s relatively easy to figure out what those cards are (in contrast to say Wishing Well), because youíre looking at your discard pile, hand, play area, set-aside cards and just need to add them up. Maybe also look at supply and trash, if you’re unsure what you’ve gained. It’s annoying to waste time figuring out those cards or waiting for your opponent to do so, when there is a seemingly simple fix (being allowed to see the remaining cards of the deck when shuffling).

But that’s just something that comes up online. In real life – and also with other games – my gaming groups tend to allow looking at everything that could be memorized, because we want to see who finds the best strategy and not who has the best memory. There, I should maybe pick Swindler as least favourite if I wanted to reduce my chances of losing games due to bad luck. But I will actually pick Black Market: what I appreciate in Dominion is the supply that is the same to everyone but differs from game to game. Your goal is to find the best strategy given the supply. Black Market removes that to some extent. Since the second edition and with 60 cards in it online, the Black Market deck has become strong enough that you rarely want to skip that. It’s still high skill because you need to pick the right cards at the right time. But you can’t plan on using positive interactions between cards in the supply so much anymore. I wouldn’t put it on my blacklist, but I would like to reduce the share of games with it a bit and I should put it on my blacklist every other day.

What cards do you think are the most overrated/underrated?

markus:  Overrated is Sauna/Avanto. The nice thing is that it provides a lot that you want (trashing, +Actions, drawing), but it’s not very fast, if your opponent doesn’t help you to uncover Avanto. Before you open Sauna/Silver, check whether there’s better ways to trash, get +Actions, and draw!

Underrated is Summon. Yes, you typically can only gain a $4 cost that way, but playing it without having to draw it or spending an Action the next turn is very strong. This often makes up for it being a weaker card later on in the deck compared to the $5 cost that you could have bought instead.

What are your initial impressions of Renaissance, the newest Dominion expansion?

markus:  First, I always like having a new expansion as it adds to diversity and gives you something new to think about. For sure, I wouldn’t play as much Dominion anymore, if Guilds had been the last expansion.

Second, I like Villagers. They seem like a nice way to rescue awful shuffles and weíve all had all the Villages and then all the terminal draw colliding.

Third, I also like having new landscapes, especially when they make you re-evaluate the rest of the board or do unusual stuff like Innovation. (Not so much when they waste your time when shuffling.)

Therefore, I’m looking forward very much to the full release of Renaissance!

What was the most memorable Dominion match you’ve ever played?

markus:  I remember one of the games in the Monoset tournament against Dan Brooks that had Knights and Rogue (I believe). It went on for a long time and Dan was slowly winning it by better plays.

How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t playing Dominion?

markus:  I like playing board games in general. Usually, I play a lot of different ones and many not very often. Dominion is the exception that proves the rule and probably because every board is different.

What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to get better?

markus:  Try to get someone to comment on your play (join the Dominion Discord!).

In terms of strategic advice, watch out for three-pile endings (finding them, when you can win; not opening them up for your opponent, when it’s not a necessary gamble; setting them up for a future turn).

In the early and mid-game try to play the best strategy that is available (maybe inspired by your opponent). I think you can easily get to level 60 ignoring what your opponent does in the early turns and as much fun it is to react to what your opponent does.

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