DO2021 Interview with Hakha3

Audio interview available at

For info on the other quarterfinalists see

Friday, October 29th at 1930 UTC: nasmith99 v. hakha3

strumphf: Hello everyone! I am strumphf and today I’ll be interviewing hakha3 who has made it to the Top 8 of the Championship. Congratulations, and hi!

hakha3: Hi, thanks.

strumphf: So my first question. How do I pronounce your name correctly? Is hakh-ah 3 the correct pronunciation?

hakha3: I’ve heard my name many times being said as hakh-ah, so I’m used to hearing it as hakh-ah. But in Polish, it’s pronounced hakh-ha, with pronounced H. Because in general, I put an H, so it’s pronounced.

strumphf: I’ll take note of that. Can you tell me a bit about yourself? Whatever you’re comfortable sharing.

hakha3: I’m 22 years old. I’m from Poland. I’m studying physics. In my free time, I like to play different online board games.

strumphf: What else do you play besides Dominion?

hakha3: Right now I’m playing a lot of games on Board Game Arena, like Railroad Ink or Welcome To. I also played a lot of Hanabi.

strumphf: And how did you get into Dominion? How did that start for you?

hakha3: The first time I played Dominion with my parents as a kid. We had the first edition box. Normal first edition and Intrigue. That was a long time ago. I thought I was pretty good, but then suddenly we stopped playing. Several years later I was playing Avalon, and someone on the site said at some point “I’m going to play Dominion online,” and then I realized “Oh, there’s an option to play Dominion online, a game which I played in my childhood.” I played against him. He was around a level 55 player, so I lost most of the games. But it was fun and he showed me how to build decks, so I had a pretty good introduction on how to build engines well. I started playing ladder and found the message on the client about League and that’s how I found the whole community. I was surprised how many people are playing and active. And that’s how it started.

strumphf: What would you say have been the highlights of your “Dominion career” so far?

hakha3: It would be the times when I won my tournaments. The first one was blind mode. That was my very first tournament in blind mode, which is a very fun mode. Everyone should try, give it a go at least once. It’s pretty exhausting, I’m going to say. Not seeing anything, but just black everywhere, almost.

strumphf: It sounds so stressful.

hakha3: Well, maybe, but it’s quite fun when you play cards and are expecting to play Overlord, but it’s (Royal) Blacksmith, and it discards all of your coppers. That was my first tournament. It was nice to win something.

strumphf: Definitely

hakha3: And then my second highlight would be when I won the Order and Chaos tournament. I had won Blind Mode, but it is a variation of Dominion, I would say. And I wanted to win a normal Dominion tournament. That was it. It was four landscapes, so that’s pretty skillful. It was nice to win something like that.

strumphf: Yeah, I imagine. Do you have a favorite and a least favorite card overall?

hakha3: My favorite card probably would be Artificer. I like that it converts draw to payload and often you can make nice draw-to-X decks with it, which I really enjoy playing. It creates a lot of interesting decisions, in that it puts cards on top, so you can leave it for the next turn or you can save your current turn. And there are also considerations with triggering shuffles and I like all kinds of stuff like that. My least favorite, if you count card-shaped things, it would be Keep. I don’t like how treasures get so many points. At first you build nice engines, but then you realize treasures are worth five points, so you start buying treasures instead of victory cards. But then suddenly your deck is full of treasures and I don’t like playing these kinds of games. Then you also need to track how many treasures each person has and that stuff.

strumphf: Yeah, I always lose track with Keep and I’m always convinced I need to buy more Coppers or more Silvers, and then in the end when you have the end screen, you realize I already had 4 more Silvers than my opponent and that’s really annoying.

hakha3: I’m happy I don’t have to keep track of this any more.

strumphf: What do you find to be the most challenging card to play with in Dominion?

hakha3: I think it would be Develop because it’s a pretty mediocre card and I never know if I should get it in the first place. At first, it changes Estates to 3-cost cards, which is OK-ish. But then later in the game, I can change my card into others, but I never know if it’s worth it because you need a lot of draw and actions to do much with it. I never know if it’s worth doing it in the first place. Develop also has loops, which I don’t know. So yeah, I think it would be Develop.

strumphf: Interesting. I just had the interview with (fellow quarterfinalist) JNails earlier, and he also named Develop as one of the cards that he finds most challenging to play with. Do you have any speculations about the new expansion, Allies?

hakha3: Not really. I never really speculate on what can happen. I only hope that it won’t decrease the number of turns per game because games are already pretty fast. I would like it if they were a bit slower.

strumphf: I imagine. Going back to the Championship. You played last year as well. In your experience, are there any notable differences between this year’s Championship and the last one you played in?

hakha3: Well in this one, I didn’t get eliminated yet.

strumphf (laughing): So it’s already a success.

hakha3: Yeah. Besides that, it’s hard to tell, to be honest, any notable differences. Both times, it’s been a great experience.

strumphf: You will be playing your quarterfinal against nasmith99. I don’t know if you have a date for that match yet.

hakha3: I have. We will play on Friday at 7:30 pm.

strumphf: OK, great. We’ll all be looking forward to seeing you in this match. Thank you so much, and good luck!

hakha3: Thank you for having me.

strumphf: Bye.

hakha3: Bye.

Posted in DO2021, Dominion Online | Leave a comment

DO2021 Interview with Mercury444F

Original Interview in Japanese with translation by SSLY. Mercury444f plays JNails on Sunday, October 31st at 1600 UTC. For info on the other quarterfinalists see

SSLY: Hi everyone! Here is a text interview with Mercury444F, one of the quarterfinalists of Dominion Online Championship 2021. Congrats, Mercury! Besides 2017 and 2019, this is the third time you made the way to the top 8. So well, could you tell us about yourself? How old are you, what did you major in in the university, what do you do for living, and anything else?

Mercury444F: Born in 1995, I’m 26 now. I haven’t been as highly educated as other Japanese players graduating from well-known universities that they are willing to reveal, unlike me. I’m barely surviving shachiku — an exploited lower employee — life. The job is one in the strong Dominion cards.

SSLY: How has your life changed since the last time you were interviewed? In particular, how did the pandemic hit you?

Mercury444F: Honestly, I feel not much has changed in my everyday life. The pandemic actually caused irl Dominion circles I used to attend, including To-Domi, to stop their activities, and deprived me of opportunities when I could interact with other players. It terribly made me less enthusiastic about Dominion, as proved by the result of the last championship. 2020 was to me a year of stagnation, though the defeat in turn fired me up.

In the meanwhile my friends introduced to me the Pokemon TCG in late 2020. It reminded me of the fun of card games, and so I got to more Dominion this year. It had a very positive effect on me.

SSLY: Looking at your Tweets, you seem to have been busy with work lately and also very absorbed in a lot of games. What game do you play other than Dominion, and what do you like about it?

Mercury444F: I’ve played a wide range of games, though not played each deep. I don’t play player-versus-player games these days. Pokemon TCG and Dominion are the only exceptions.

Now I enjoy Genshin Impact on PC, and Arknights on smartphone.  All parts of Genshin Impact such as the world, character modelling, and motions are IMO of the highest quality. Highly recommended if you can play with a good computer. Arknights is a sort of tower defense game. It achieves both joy and complexity of the genre, and offers a really enthralling story and world. It has a useful autoplay feature that can do almost all tasks you otherwise might have to spend time completing. Even if you are shachiku like me, you can enjoy all the entertaining sides of the game.

My main focus is on the two competitive card games, but those stories and characters bring great pleasures to me.

SSLY: Do you have a favorite board game other than Dominion?

Mercury444F: Generally I’m bad at games, bad at fighting for wins. I’m a perfectionist too, who can’t bear any mistakes at the early stages of games. Maybe my nature is not ideal for a kind of board game. Anyway I can say I like it, especially the one that gives an uncompetitive “win” to a player with the greatest excitement. Some of the games I’ve enjoyed before are Seasons, Village, Concept, etc.

SSLY: Your R6 match with another Japanese player kazumaru0828, continued for loooooong hours with just a break and you finally won the great battle. Can you review it? What do you think is a decisive game/choice?

Mercury444F: All the games, except G3 of a Governor board, were intensive engine-building boards, so I had to super concentrate throughout the match. I was beaten thoroughly in the games I lost, while when I got I had to take an adventurous risk. I was lucky as a whole. In G7 I fortunately got the first player, and even after my opening for Recruiter was different from his, I confidently accomplished my plan.

SSLY: Do you have any logical/superstitious moves you always do when you have an important match?

Mercury444F: I don’t play before the match on that day. Listening to music, and caring for my conditions to be ready.

SSLY: Among the top 8 players, who do you pay much attention to, and why? If you were not, who would be the champion?

Mercury444F: One is sillypotter. He is now really one of the best players in Japan. I played with him in 2019 and barely won, but I guess he has improved so much in these 2 years that he can reach the final. If I have a match with him, I’ll do my best to win again.

Of course all the others are famous strong players too. I’ll have to have a severe struggle with them. All of them are worthy of the belt, but nasmith99 is the most eye-catching. I want to be a dark-horse contender.

SSLY: You answered in 2019 that you started Dominion after Guilds was released. Can you tell me more details on your career? What drove you to Dominion, with whom/how have you played? 

Mercury444F: One of my friends I played with Yu-Gi-Oh introduced Dominion to me, and I found it very inspiring. I played a lot in the group. Looking for hints for improvement, I watched the videos sangatsu uploaded at the time. Quite shocked by his higher level of playing than mine, I started Goko he played, with a genuine desire to be much much stronger.

SSLY: And I think you joined To-Domi at some point. How did you find it?

Mercury444F: While playing online, I luckily got acquainted with a lot of players. When an offline event took place for them, I was invited and got to talk with the main members of To-Domi. They kindly asked me to join. So far I’ve played there.

SSLY: Which do you like between the 4-player format (note: popular in Japan) and the 2p?

Mercury444F: Having a background of playing TCG, I think I’m better at and prefer 2p than 4p, which involves a bunch of interactions between players. 4p for sure has amusing aspects the other doesn’t have, but I admit that I play hard in 4p partly for domestic reputation, whose prerequisite is being good at the format.

I’m sure that multiplayer games are more interesting if you have a lot of people getting together in excitement. I like both of the two after all, but from the perspective of pure competition I’m for 2p.

SSLY: 2 years ago your least favorite card was Sea hag. Is it still the case after Menagerie came out?

Mercury444F: The card I hate the most now is Black Cat. It deals out a lot of Curse at once ignoring any kind of defences, and thus stops us from buying Victory cards. Its stalemate where we first have to collect a bunch of cats reminds me of that of Possession.

SSLY: Your most favorite card was Remodel. Is it?

Mercury444F: Yes, Remodel. So far, and definitely for the future.

SSLY: Have you deep played Menagerie? What is the most favorite card in the set?

Mercury444F: I feel getting to a certain level of skills the set demands, but still having little experience with the set and more cards to research, especially compared to the performance other top rankers show. My favorite is Falconer, but I like it so much that I’m often deluded into picking in situations when it doesn’t fit. I should appropriately value it on each board.

SSLY: Of all the cards, which do you think is the most difficult/challenging that you are the best at all over the world?

Mercury444F: Renaissance and Menagerie added a lot of somewhat powerful cards that deserve to be mentioned here. I came up with Innovation. Above all, I’m always careful of decisions about Remodel even despite its non-complex appearance.

SSLY: Any rampant speculations about the next expansion, Allies?

Mercury444F: In the last expansion, Ways made a lot of changes to Dominion. Since Adventures I’ve seen various elements added by Landscapes. I hope that Allies have cards with simpler abilities that will be able to develop astonishing chemistry with Landscapes, and that will open up a frontier in the card pool, as coming complicated gimmicks no doubt will do.

SSLY: If you take a sightseeing trip, or a grand tour abroad for ultimate mastery of Dominion, where do you want to go?

Mercury444F: I often say my ambition is to win the Japan Championship and use up the prize of travel money to the World Masters in Indianapolis, for a pilgrimage to Manhattan instead, one of the places of my favorite novel GOSICK. Anyway I know so many strong players in the U.S. and Germany that I would visit them to play irl.

SSLY: Do you have any words for your fans?

Mercury444F: “Fans” sound like a one-way relationship. I don’t think I have, but I’m glad if they watch anime so much, because now I have few to talk with about it in Dominion communities.

SSLY: Whose fan are you?

Mercury444F: I’ve loved for a long time Kazuki Sakuraba, the author of GOSICK. Of course I‘ve read many of her works. All the stories she writes are very fascinating, intricate, and compelling to me. 

I’m also dedicated to Rimi Nishimoto, a voice/stage actress. Her activities and performances give me a lot of energy. She is very strict with herself and always does her best to the full extent. She provides me with a model in any field.

SSLY: What advice do you have for those looking to improve? In addition, a few aspiring to the top of the leaderboard ask you for something helpful.

Mercury444F: Though my answer was always “Read GOSICK” in previous interviews, repeating once more will be boring, and I know increasing Japanese players as well as ones overseas will read this interview, so I have real advice here. The most important thing, I believe, is to play as many games as possible, without being worried about your level or rank so much. Though aiming at a certain rating or rank might be good, slipping it into your purpose would be a kind of sheer waste. We have a lot of competitions, for example the Dominion League and its counterpart in Japan. Those are the best chances to show your skills. Practice every day so that you can win the tournaments, and your rating will go up after all.

Well, as for the 1st rank, it would depend not only on your skills but largely on luck and condition of other top players. If you are really ready and see them suffer, you could eagerly go for it.

SSLY: Finally, how do you want to dive in the concluding phase of the tournament?

Mercury444F: I admit I don’t have as good real skill as the other quarterfinalists. I can’t afford mistakes in games. I’ll do everything I can until the matches, so that I can show more performance than you would expect from my skill.

SSLY: Thank you very much for answering the interview!


To-Domi: To-Domi (The Tokyo Dominion Circle) started as The Dominion Circle of The University of Tokyo a long ago, and was one of the groups in which many top Japanese players in Tokyo gathered every weekend.

Genshin Impact:



Kazuki Sakuraba:

Rimi Nishimoto:

Posted in DO2021, Dominion Online, Tournaments & Events | Leave a comment

Dominion Online 2021 Championship Final 8

Once per year, Shuffle iT hosts the official Dominion Online Championship open to all Gold subscribers and provides prizes to the top finishers, including 500€ for the final champion! It’s an exciting tournament where everybody vying for the championship title will be giving it their all. A single elimination tournament started with 356 players and is down to the final 8. Over the next few days we will post transcripts of interviews with each of these players, and be cheering them on in their matches as they compete for the championship.

In this quarterfinal round we will see the following matchups, with their original seed in (). hsypsx (8) vs. sillypotter (3), RTT (23) vs. recycle_garbage (13), Mercury444F (24) vs. JNails (5), and hakha3(4) vs. nasmith99 (2).

Interview #1: Mercury444F
translated interview text:

Interview #2: nasmith99

Interview #3: hakha3

Interview #4: recycle_garbage

Interview #5: hsypsx

Interview #6: jnails

Interview #7: RTT

Interview #8: sillypotter
translated interview text:

Posted in DO2021, Dominion Online, Tournaments & Events | Leave a comment

Interview with recycle_garbage

This interview of recycle_garbage was conducted by strumphf for the Dominion League Weekly Podcast. You can find the podcast here:

recycle_garbage’s music can be found on youtube at or

recycle_garbage: Hello!

strumphf: Hi, good morning.

recycle_garbage: Morning. How are you?

strumphf: I’m good. How are you?

recycle_garbage: Good, yeah. I just couldn’t sleep cause of the heat. It’s so hot here. So I just woke up anyways at like 7 o’clock.

strumphf: Oh, I’m sorry. 

recycle_garbage: No, it’s fine, it’s fine. Cause I’m in Spain right now, it’s between 30 and 35 everyday. Super hot.

strumphf: I’m a little nervous because I want to ask you so much and we only have one hour.

recycle_garbage: It’s fine, I’m ready.

strumphf: As you may be aware, I have ten little warm up questions which are either/or and the first one is: waffles or crêpes?

recycle_garbage: Crêpes.

strumphf: Eurovision Song Contest or European Football Championship?

recycle_garbage: Ummm… football? I don’t know what the first one was at all, so the second one I guess? I don’t watch football either, so — sorry, so neither, I guess.

strumphf: The next one may be a little political, I don’t know. The Flemish region, or the Walloon region?

recycle_garbage: Both I guess? I like both. Do I have to pick one or the other? I don’t speak Dutch, so probably Walloon for now, because that’s where I’d be working.

strumphf: Dragons or unicorns?

recycle_garbage: Dragons.

strumphf: Orange juice or apple juice?

recycle_garbage: Orange.

strumphf: Would you rather be tired or hungry?

recycle_garbage: Tired.

strumphf: Would you rather watch a movie or a series?

recycle_garbage: Series.

strumphf: Butterflies or tigers?

recycle_garbage: Butterflies?

strumphf: Boons or Hexes?

recycle_garbage: Boons?

strumphf: Dominion Online, or in person?

recycle_garbage: Online.

strumphf: Cool cool cool. So what is the meaning behind your username? Or why did you choose it?

recycle_garbage: I actually prepared something…one second…Ah yes, so when I was like ten years old I just made a Steam account to buy the Orange Box (my friend told me I should buy it) and it had like Portal, Half-Life, and Team Fortress and I just made a kind of random username. Kind of like gamesou I guess, I just keep the same name as I had when I was like ten years old. So I don’t know why, but I find it funny to kind of recycle the same name. So yeah, it’s the same one I’ve had since I was ten years old, so for like seventeen years, the same username.

strumphf: What about the garbage part?

recycle_garbage: I don’t know, you can go back in time and ask me when I was a kid, because I have no idea. It’s just “recycle_garbage”, whatever my kid mind came up with at that moment.

strumphf: I can relate, for me it’s the same. I maybe wasn’t ten, more like fourteen but I can relate.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, my friends are like “make a username, quickly” and you just think of something and it just sticks.

strumphf: Yeah, it does. Well I mean as long as you’re happy with it, that’s all that matters I guess. Why don’t you have an avatar on Discord?

recycle_garbage: I just don’t really use Discord well, I guess? I’m not an avid user. Actually I only signed up for Discord because the pandemic started — actually, I  made a Discord account because I wanted to report this one person on Dominion Online. I was like “ah, I really don’t like this person so I’m going to report them” and that’s really why I downloaded Discord in the first place. I didn’t use it before then and then I only use it for Dominion. I don’t really know how to use it well, honestly. That’s all, I never use it for anything else. Oh, recently, I used it to play Jackbox games with my friends. Do you know Jackbox? It’s like these board games that you can play online. My friends are in Canada, so we used it to chat and apparently it has better video chat than other programs like Skype or something? I have no idea.

strumphf: Hm. I just find it curious that — I guess it’s not so curious that a lot of people have Dominion avatars. So two things: one, I like to imagine what my avatar would be if it was Dominion-related, and secondly if someone joined right now I wonder how many people with Dominion avatars have theirs because they couldn’t have another, because it was already taken by someone.

recycle_garbage: I see. You have to have a unique one, is that why?

strumphf: Well mine is just not Dominion-related.

recycle_garbage: Yours is from a Disney movie.

strumphf: Yeah, it’s Disney. Since you haven’t been with the League as long I couldn’t find any info on you as I could with the previous interviewees so if you’d like to share a little about yourself, as much or as little as you’d like, that’d be nice.

recycle_garbage: I’m 27 years old, male, classic demographic of Dominion I guess. I’m from Canada and I live in Belgium now. Before I was in Switzerland so I do speak some German if that ever becomes a thing. I’m a Musician, I do contemporary music. I was trying to find some relatable composers that people would know, but I’m percussion, like I play drums and percussion and stuff. I can link my YouTube if people are curious what I do. Some composers people would know are John Cage or Steve Reich or Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, John Adams, these people are more the kind of music I play. Also a lot of German composers. Everything is on Google of course, but I’m doing more contemporary music. I do classical also in orchestra, but the contemporary is more strange things. Also sound poetry. So I moved to Switzerland to study, I did my Masters degree in Basel and then I’ve moved now to Belgium. And I was also working a bit in Germany as well; I was teaching drums in Baden-Württemberg so I had my little Schlagzeug class there and that was really fun.

strumphf: I have to ask, why did you study in Switzerland? Was it a very good school?

recycle_garbage: Yeah, exactly, a very good school. They have the money to hire teachers from other countries. So all the really good German teachers and all the really good French teachers, they all teach in Switzerland, which is kinda funny. So if you want all the best German teachers you wouldn’t necessarily go to Germany. Maybe some of them are there, but they have a much higher salary in Switzerland. So my teacher actually was living in Freiburg and then he was commuting every day to Basel.

strumphf: Yeah, that’s how they do it. Live in Germany or go shopping in Germany. 

recycle_garbage: I don’t know if you know this place that is called Dreiländereck. I was living in France and studying in Switzerland and kind of buying my food and working in Germany so I was living in all three countries. And it was just a five minute bike ride for all the three countries. I would buy a baguette and then go to Germany and buy a bratwurst or go to Alnatura and then go to Switzerland and study.

strumphf: Getting the best of three worlds. Nice. The last question out of the general section is the most important to me personally: What is your favorite color? If you have one.

recycle_garbage: Blue!

strumphf: Okay! Reaction cards.

recycle_garbage: It used to be pink, but I think it’s just blue because it’s more calm. But yeah.

strumphf: That’s true. So you haven’t played as many people in League, but do you know who you’ve played most games against? Do you have a guess?

recycle_garbage: jonts?

strumphf: Yes!

recycle_garbage: I think I’ve played him twice or three times, I think it was him.

strumphf: No, that’s correct, it was him. When and how did you start playing Dominion? 

recycle_garbage: When I was in Canada for Christmas in 2016, 2017 I think, my friend bought the base game plus Intrigue. I really remember it well because I had a flight the next morning at 10am, and we played till 5am. It was just an addictive game. “One more game, one more game” and then I had to get up super early to just catch my flight. But it was just so much fun we were like “one more game, one more game”, basically. And after I got back to Switzerland I was looking for a way to play online. There was not a way to play online, I think, yet, but I read somewhere that it was going to be soon. So I guess it was just in-between, they were starting a new one online. And then I just waited until it started, until I could play online. It was super fun.

strumphf: It’s interesting. I think I read that before and heard that before, people playing the first game and not being able to stop. 

recycle_garbage: I don’t know if you’ve ever played Civilization, it’s like the “one more turn” syndrome. It’s just like “it’s one more turn, it’s fine, it’s just five minutes” and then you fast forward to five hours later and you’re like “ah crap what happened!?”.

strumphf: I feel like I have that now, where I can just hit the “Ready” button whenever a game is over. 

recycle_garbage: Yeah, exactly.

strumphf: So, two questions that are kind of similar: Fireonice wanted to know what your journey was like to becoming the top-level player you are today. And kind of linked to that, a little different, but linked, seanahan wanted to know how you managed to move so far up on the leaderboard without playing League.

recycle_garbage: I don’t know. *pauses, laughs*

strumphf: Sorry guys! *laughs*

recycle_garbage: I don’t really think I’m a top-level player, but I guess I could maybe say something about learning. So at the beginning — hold on, I wrote something, let me think of it.

strumphf: You’re so prepared!

recycle_garbage: I was thinking about learning plateaus. Like in the very, very beginning you just miss all the known strategies, like Workshop/Gardens, and you just lose to that repeatedly so you learn the basic strategies and later the second plateau is learning how to build an engine, reading some guides and of course losing a lot and stuff like that. And I was thinking eventually — I felt like I was getting pretty good at building and learning how the game works, and then you sign up for maybe a tournament or League or something against really good players. So again a big learning plateau. Like for me there’s definite periods of stagnation where I’m not getting better at all, and others where I’m getting challenged so I’m getting a lot better quickly. So I had this feeling when I played the game that I’d be losing every game, and I would kind of learn something and then move on into the next place, so I would get better quickly. So I feel like for me it’s these kind of learning plateaus. When I joined League I thought I was pretty okay, and then I realized like half the really good players are chilling in League and not at all playing in ladder, so that was pretty shocking to me. But I thought it was super cool, I didn’t realize there were so many good players in the community who were just not active in the online game. Because for the longest time I thought there was only the online platform, I didn’t even realize there was this whole other thing that was happening on the Discord and stuff. And I guess the only reason I signed up in the first place was just to report one player that I thought was super abusive. I was like “I’m going to sign up and report them and stuff” and so I made a Discord account. That was like a year later, I never used it, and then only when the pandemic started I was like “Ah, there’s this thing, I’ll check it out, what’s going on here.” Thanks to COVID I spent more time at home, and more time playing Dominion I guess. That’s what happened.

strumphf: I see. 

recycle_garbage: As far as moving up the leaderboard without playing in League, I don’t know. I have no idea. I can say that I did play a lot of Magic when I was young, so maybe that helped? Some of the skills are kind of transferable from other games, so that would be a quicker learning curve. Of course you can’t make a board game in a bubble, so any game is coming from other games and kind of — it’s a new idea, but some things are transferable. Like if you play any amount of card games — like what, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Magic, I don’t know all the card games — but I feel like some skills are transferable, like counting and memory and basic stuff.

strumphf: Yeah, that makes sense. I just think it’s hilarious that you’re talking about plateaus and stuff, but you entered League in C tier, but fine. *laughs*

recycle_garbage: Well yeah, I don’t know, but I had played a lot before. I already had played a bit.

strumphf: You must have.

recycle_garbage: I have no idea. But I had periods of course where I played a lot, and then periods where I didn’t play at all, like a year or something. So it wasn’t a consistent learning growth, I can’t really say exactly how it works. 

strumphf: How much do you play now? How often?

recycle_garbage: Not that much. I stopped playing League now, because I think it’s just too much of a time commitment, because it’s hard for me to schedule stuff now. Now that curfews lifted and things are opening up again, I have my friends and stuff and also cause a lot of the players are American, which means European evenings, which is a bit inconvenient for me, so I would rather not block out a whole evening to play Dominion. I’d rather play in the morning, when I’m drinking coffee. So I don’t know how much I play. Maybe five games maximum a day? Not more than that. But also not that often, maybe two or three times a week? Not so much, yeah. Usually I honestly have breakfast and coffee, and in between teaching I’ll play a few games.

strumphf: If you had to choose a favorite card, what would it be? Or do you even have a favorite card?

recycle_garbage: I wrote something down for this. Some things I like are the Events Delay, Gamble, and Save. Just to make some kind of more complex strategies which are more fun. And I don’t know if this is a thing, but also Baker which gives you the coin token so you can afford $5. I just like that it’s balanced. Some boards you look at it and someone has 5/2 and you have 4/3 and it feels just like you’re so far behind, and it’s only turn 1. So I kind of like the Baker for that, just to balance it a little bit.

strumphf: You just like the Baker for the Coffer, and then you wouldn’t buy the Baker?

recycle_garbage: Nah, not really, I don’t like the card that much. I just like the little coin token at the beginning, that just feels nice I guess. You just have way more options. Like I think a broader choice — I get stuck in this thing where you have — in most games it seems like there’s just one, maybe a second correct thing. So most of the time you and your opponent open the same two cards, so with the coin token it’s a different variable, so you have more options. More choice, more complexity. 

strumphf: Do you have a least favorite card? Or multiple?

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I have my banlist. I have a lot of cards I don’t like. If I could expand my banlist I would probably. Probably a lot of Attack cards, I guess. Probably anything that makes it feel unbalanced. Like, something I wouldn’t want to win with or lose to, if that makes sense. Like, you win with it and you feel like — I don’t know if there any specific card, like maybe Possession — but you win and you feel like “ah, oh well”. It isn’t like “yeah, we did it!” it’s more like “oh… great”. I don’t know.

strumphf: Can you give any examples?

recycle_garbage: I can give you my banlist, I wrote it down somewhere. Ah, here it is. Possession, Tournament, Cultist, Rebuild, Familiar. The Events Tax, Keep, Palace. If I could add more, also Torturer, Swindler. So basically a lot of Attack cards. Tournament made me a bit annoyed. It just seems like too obvious of a goal. You have to quickly buy Tournament, then Province so it’s just too straightforward, and I don’t like that. It’s not like it’s too difficult to do, but I like to have more choice with whatever. Anything that encourages a lot of a money thing, like Palace or Keep, can be fun sometimes. The thing for me is, if it’s only fun 20% of the time, I put it on my banlist.

strumphf: So do you have cards on your dislike list as well? And when do cards migrate?

recycle_garbage: For a long time I had Sauna and Governor on my banlist, and then at some point I realized there are cards I didn’t like more like Cultist and Swindler. Like, getting Cultist is so annoying sometimes. So yeah, I took it off, and then I saw it again, and I didn’t know how to use the cards any more because it’s been on my banlist for like two years. It was like “ah, these are cards you can play with. nice”. When I originally banned them was a long time ago, so kind of I guess I matured or whatever. I realized that Sauna is actually not very good, like in most games it’s completely unviable, so fine, I can play with it. Governor is really good, but I’ve been finding some ways around it. I feel like sometimes I was putting the blinders on, and going in one direction with that. Also not a good thing to do, I guess. 

strumphf: You are going to a lonely island and you can only bring the base set and one expansion. What would the expansion be?

recycle_garbage: I also looked this up, because if I have to be honest I don’t know the names of all the expansions. Because I went directly from Base plus Intrigue to online, and everything was just mixed together.

strumphf: Same! Same.

recycle_garbage: It’s like when you listen to music on shuffle, you wouldn’t necessarily know what album belongs to what. So I looked it up. Menagerie is my favorite one, I guess, like the animals are super fun. It adds a lot of variety, like with Cavalry and stuff. And also least favorite, I wrote Alchemy. Just this whole Potion setup is, I don’t know.

strumphf: So Base + Menagerie. You’re in good company. That’s what Mic chose as well. And gamesou as well. Huh. [I misremembered, Mic’s choice was actually Adventures!]

recycle_garbage: I like the theme also. The animals and such. It’s super cute.

strumphf: Yeah, it really is. So you mentioned you were playing tournaments. Do you mean before you started League? Do you play other Dominion tournaments?

recycle_garbage: No, I only played that one last year, the one that nasmith99 won. I played that tournament, and lost pretty quickly. It was the main one, just, uh, the Dominion tournament? I don’t know if there’s a name for it.

strumphf: Oh, like the Championship?

recycle_garbage: Yeah, exactly. It was the first one I ever signed up for. Yeah, that was kind of the moment I was like “wow, so many good players, so cool” because before I didn’t know about any of that stuff. So I played in that, and didn’t do very well, and then was like “oh, there’s a lot of options here in the Discord and stuff” because I had never used it before then.

strumphf: And now it’s just another question of time commitment — or are you in general just not interested in playing any of the other tournaments?

recycle_garbage: I like playing if there’s kind of a cash prize. It’s not like I need the money or something. I just feels like it brings a higher level of competition, and more pressure, and more concentration. For me if it’s not like a big prize for people in general, myself extremely included, you’re like “if I win or lose it’s kinda the same”. It’s nice, it’s fun. But I like to have a competition sometimes too. It also brings more people around, if you have a cash prize, is what I noticed at least. I played in the Grand Market Grand Prix, and there were a lot of Japanese players, which I never got a chance to play before, so I thought “oh cool, look at all these people”. So yeah, I never saw any of that stuff before and it’s just opened my eyes up, it’s cool. I expect they have their own thing going, of course with the kinda big language barrier, they have their own thing, which is interesting. 

strumphf: Yeah, that was definitely cool to see.

recycle_garbage: So yeah, just having a kind of prize brings more people in and makes them more motivated, is the qualities I like. If it was without the money I would also do fine, but it’s a bit harder to say without knowing everyone’s psychology, but I can speak for myself. I just know I’m not as motivated if there’s not a prize. I’m like “oh, why would I do that, I’ll just play ladder or something”.

strumphf: Alright, so for future organizers, if they want you onboard they need to give at least a Euro. 

recycle_garbage: Twenty Dollars, yeah. I also do other competitions too. Like music competitions and it’s just sort of the same. You have the kind of open competitions, which are just kind of for fun, and then you have the competitive ones where they give you a prize, twenty thousand Euros or whatever, where people really bring their A game. If you watch the Queen Elizabeth Competition for piano it’s a completely different level. Or the Chopin Competition, it’s like they have different levels of competitiveness. I don’t know, it’s really interesting, not going to get into the psychology or something like that. For athletes it’s the same as well. 

strumphf: Definitely. So why did you start playing League? Because there’s no prize money in League.

recycle_garbage: Because of the thing where I played in the tournament, I realized I was really actually not that good and “wow there’s so many good players, I should go play League and go play with these guys who are really good and learn from them”, basically, yeah. I think it’s cool. Now I’m getting more into the community and stuff and meeting people and making online friends and stuff, but it’s cool. I like that. I was just initially drawn to like, I don’t know, the level and stuff. Just this whole league of people who are playing really well and I didn’t even know about it.

strumphf: And then you managed to just win League in four seasons, too. Is that part of the reason you’re stepping away a little from it now? Kind of like “okay, done that”.

recycle_garbage: Somewhat. I’m very goal-oriented I guess, so that was like my goal. But yeah, also with everything opening up again, so…I feel like I have other commitments now. I said before I was a musician, so before there’s nothing to do, but now there’s concerts and stuff. And when I play concerts I’m busy for, I don’t know. Like I just have a really hard program or something, and I’ll be busy for a month, so I can’t really commit. My schedule is not 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. It’s like this week I’m super busy, the next week I’m not super busy. That obviously doesn’t work well if you’re trying to organize some stuff. Maybe I’ll come back, but mostly I just like playing online and in tournaments. Mainly the thing is the commitment I have to say, it’s the time.

strumphf: Since you’ve only been around like 5 seasons you only played around 20 people. Is there anybody you would actually like to play against that you haven’t played against yet? 

recycle_garbage: This question reminds of in like boxing or something when you beat the person, they’re like “who do you want to fight next?” I don’t know exactly, there’s so many good players, so really anyone’s who’s nice. I don’t know. I guess maybe Freaky? I don’t think I’ve played him before. I don’t know exactly, but I watched one game that they played and it was like clicking really fast, playing really fast. And I thought that was super interesting, I hadn’t seen that before. Especially in a tournament. Because I don’t play all that fast myself, I have to think. I was super impressed by that. Just the speed and also the thought — it was both extremely precise and also extremely fast and well thought-out, it was cool.

strumphf: Yeah I guess they don’t play League, so you’d have to enter the Championship again.

recycle_garbage: Yeah. I liked playing crabcat also. We had funny games. We both played non-conventionally, or something? Not sure if that makes sense, but we had just super weird strategies, and I thought it was just really funny. But I have to say also in League that it was my experience that I never had such weird games. Just things that I never thought could happen. Just things that are really weird. It’s hard to say specifically, but we had situations where I would be like “how did we get here, what’s going on right now” or when each person has like — I don’t know, there was some Knight thing, you know, the Knights, the trashing ones? I had one where I had a bunch of Captains and I had to get them in play to not get them trashed by Knights and just really weird stuff like that. And I think your deck is just 5 cards for the whole game, and you just have a bunch of Captains and the other person is just trying to trash your deck, but you have no deck at all so you make sure you don’t get hit by Attacks, like for Knights or whatever. But it’s just like, really weird I think. But it really works sometimes, which is interesting. There’s always more levels to the game than I expect, which is what I keep coming back for I guess.

strumphf: I’m not sure if I saw as many games between you and crabcat, but I always find them very pleasant to watch, because you have nice communication. I really enjoy that. 

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I like that as well. Of course everyone is there for that, but I like to talk a lot. And yeah, whether you win or lose, being able to say “ah, this is funny” or this happened, just I like to speak about what’s happening in the game a lot. I don’t know, not everyone likes that, but I really like to speak out or type during my games on my thoughts at least. I find it really fun.

strumphf: Speaking of losing, how do you deal with losing matches? Or games?

recycle_garbage: I wrote something for this — you have to not dwell on it too much. For me myself, everything I say is especially applicable to myself, I think to not dwell on it too much, and always think about what you could have done better. If you’re always thinking about your opponent or whatever, like thinking about what they did right, so in a positive light rather always, like “ah, they did that really well or they did this really well, that was cool and yeah, I could’ve done this on turn 4” or whatever. Think of it objectively, I guess, rather than subjectively, if it’s possible. But not to react too emotionally, that’s not going to help anything. So if you have a losing streak, “what have I been doing wrong these games”. I mean, each game has something that can be improved. Some games you just get unlucky, but that’s just part of it. If your conclusion is just “yeah, I was just unlucky” you can’t do anything, so whatever.

strumphf: Apart from the Captains/Knights game, do you have some memorable moments from League or Dominion in general?

recycle_garbage: I wrote something down for this, I have something for this… I wrote playing crabcat obviously. Oh, when I played jonts and nasmith I feel like I didn’t know how to use Storyteller properly, so both of them showed me in very dominant fashion how to use that card. Like, “ah cool, that’s how you use Storyteller”. For kinda money games to build really quickly and just get deck control super fast I never really — I mean, it’s like a card that I’ve used, but I think not properly after seeing them use it. Oh yeah, the two times in League that I played Noble Brigand against Sicomatic and nasmith. I just kind of went for that card. It’s not like a card I’ve went for before, or really bought too much. And it just ended up being this insanely good card. Just everytime I played it I’d trash a Gold. Or like at a critical moment taking the exact amount of money, it was just super lucky. It was like in the League I had this god-mode Noble Brigand, which I had never seen before. Then I had this one game against terracubist. I was first player and I had a lead on Stables, it was like a 6-4 split or something like that, and they had a Cutpurse, and I kept getting these draws — we had both trashed, obviously — and I kept getting these draws that were 3 or 4 Stables and 1 Copper, and they’d play Cutpurse, and that was my whole turn, I was just done. It was a single buy game, so I had the lead also on Provinces, so I was like “I should win, I’ll be fine” but their Cutpurse had superpowers and it was just obliterating every one of my turns. Every time I had one Copper and like 3 or 4 Stables — it was extremely dramatic. It was just funny to me. 

strumphf: Ah yes, the mythical Stables dud. 

recycle_garbage: Yeah, like having too many Stables duds the Stables and you’re like “ah mean, I should’ve thought about that”. The critical amount of Stables is like 4? I don’t know. 

strumphf: If you had to give advice to newer players, what would you say is the best way to improve?

recycle_garbage: Yeah, just watch the videos, I guess? The YouTube channels? Obviously the Discord is super helpful, I wish I knew about it before. There’s like the coaching thing, that looks really nice. I looked over the slides, really well organized, really well done. All the YouTubers, all the ones that speak as they play, I think it’s all super helpful. I didn’t know that there’s so much either, until I joined the Discord, and then I found the video tab and people post there a lot. I guess like WanderingWinder and aku chi. Oh yeah, also Mic Qsenoch, Lemonspawn. I don’t know so many Youtubers, I didn’t watch all of them, but those are some that I’ve watched some videos. I think it’s really nice, just to kind of self-narrate is pretty cool. I find it kinda difficult, but I find it cool that other people can do it. I’ve been a bit distracted sometimes.

strumphf: Yeah, I wanted to ask about that. You’re not self-commentating ever, are you?

recycle_garbage: I think I prefer just to concentrate. Also I was never thinking of myself as having an advantage in any of my League matches. I always thought I was like the underdog for everything. So I would try to bring my A game and really concentrate. So I was just listening to white noise stuff. Like I was basically as focused as I could be, though I was still making mistakes and stuff. I would prefer, at least for that moment when I was trying to play well, not to self-commentate, but I think now I would be happy to commentate other people’s matches. That seems like a fun thing to do, which I discovered recently also. 

strumphf: Yeah totally. I find that interesting. I feel like there’s two types of players, actually. Like the ones like you who say “I can’t concentrate if I have to self-commentate, this gets distracting” and then there’s the others. Or maybe I’m just extrapolating. I feel for myself I play much better if I self-commentate because I force myself to play slow. But I guess the former category just plays slow from the beginning, so I guess that’s the difference.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I self-commentate in my brain. That might be a false dichotomy, there are some players who self-commentate a bit and some who never — I don’t know, I have no idea. Sometimes I find myself talking a bit out loud. So I could imagine myself doing it. I can see myself doing it if I had to. Just at that moment I wasn’t thinking in that way. And also I didn’t know anyone and I was a little bit shy, so I would not be like a person who’s like “woah cool, talking to a bunch of strangers about what I’m thinking about”. It is really too self-conscious for me. Unless I know everyone, “ah they’re all my friends, it’s fine”.

strumphf: Yeah, no, I get that. I get that feeling but also I feel like everyone who’s playing in the top level tiers is just interesting for other people to witness their thought processes and everything.

recycle_garbage: In any domain, the top people, it’s interesting to study how their brains work. 

strumphf: For sure. Okay, let me see… we’ve already covered so much. I’m very happy with us. We’re doing great.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I was really organized. I tried to channel my inner German, just “I’ll be super organized”. 

strumphf: *laughs* I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you have thoughts on the structure of League, like the division size, the season length, etcetera? If you could have anything improved, or anything changed, would you make amendments?

recycle_garbage: Yeah, one match per week seems comfortable. That’s my only thought, sorry. I’m too new to have any opinion about this kind of stuff. I know some people have been around forever, and they have well-formulated thoughts. I came for a bit, popped my head in, and popped out, so I don’t have any — it all seems fine to me. And people communicate well, that’s the most important thing. I never had a problem. For me it went pretty well, no problems at all, nothing to complain about.

strumphf: I feel like people who’ve been around for a while have a chance to kind of build up some very specific grievances. 

recycle_garbage: It’s kinda like anywhere. Like those guys at your job who have been around for too long.

strumphf: So you already talked about this a little bit, but do you have any favorite games besides Dominion?

recycle_garbage: Seven Wonders, Agricola, Settlers of Catan, Twilight Struggle (the Cold War game), Pandemic, Troyes (the city in France, as a game). I also just go on BoardGameGeek or whatever and look at games. I just wish I had more friends and more money, you know. 

strumphf: And more time!

recycle_garbage: Yeah, and more time. I was looking at this game Arctic Scavengers, but I haven’t played it yet, so I can’t say anything about it yet. When I was younger, I made some friends and they were really into board games, and I was playing Magic basically at that point, and one friend showed me how to play Dungeons and Dragons, and he got really really into that, and we spent summers reading rulebooks. And then we got into the Wizards of the Coast stuff, where you can join the league, and it was super funny. Because we were just two kids, like 12 years old, and everyone there was an adult, like 30 years old plus, between 25 and 30 and we were just playing D&D with those kinds of people. And one of the guys we played D&D with, he owns a board game store now. My friend is doing more board game playtesting. I switched things and now I only play Dominion and not anything else, but I’m busy with studying a lot and playing and doing gigs and stuff. But yeah, I really like playing the board games stuff. Wish I had more time for that. Or being like a board game playtester, that’s super cool.

strumphf: So I like Seven Wonders as well. Do you play the multiplayer or the 2-player?

recycle_garbage: Both. 

strumphf: Which one do you like better?

recycle_garbage: Multiplayer, I think. 

strumphf: I should check it out.

recycle_garbage: I think the multiplayer one seems to have — I don’t know. I like sometimes when you have more people, there’s someone on the other end of the table and you’re like “ah, they’re about to win, guys we should do something!” and you can’t do anything, I think that’s a really funny situation. “Guys, do something, that guy is building all the science stuff” and no one’s doing anything about it. I think that’s super funny.

strumphf: Sometimes I feel like the 2-player version is a little unbalanced in that way. But I like the concept a lot. There’s so much going on in this game.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, it’s cool. They did something nice there.

strumphf: What are your other hobbies? I’m a little hesitant because I feel like with music and other stuff maybe there’s not a lot of time for other hobbies?

recycle_garbage: There totally is, especially recently. I do a lot of sports. I do like weightlifting, recently weightlifting, but more calisthenics before, like stuff on the bar like in the parks. You can do pull-ups and stuff. I used to do a lot of calisthenics, and now I do more weightlifting and then recently again more running because the gym’s closed cause of the pandemic. One of the reasons I was also really excited to move away from Switzerland is it was impossible for me to have a gym membership because it’s so expensive there. Like I had the university one for a while, which was okay. The gyms are pristine, which is amazing, but yeah. In Belgium I have the cheap one, and I can just go whenever, which is super nice. I can do that more. Then that closed, so I was doing just running. And now it’s open again, so I can go back. But yeah, I really like that kind of stuff. I don’t play any organized sports or anything.

strumphf: It’s interesting that you were in Switzerland for so long but didn’t pick up rock climbing or anything.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I’m a percussionist, so I did rock climbing when I was young, but it messes up your forearms, makes them super tense, and I need that flexibility to play. My first year of university, when I was like 18, I would go to the rock climbing gym with my friend and then like “let’s go practice” and I couldn’t play. My wrist — I felt like I couldn’t bend my wrist anymore. 

strumphf: Aaaah, that makes sense. 

recycle_garbage: I just did a quick pivot. I actually had the rock climbing shoes and everything. But it’s just too much stress on my forearms and wrists, so I couldn’t do that anymore. I do other stuff, but I’m careful. Even when I’m lifting weights I’m careful to lift correctly so that it doesn’t hurt my wrist. If I ever have any wrist pain I just stop. Because there’s a bunch of fine muscles in my wrist that I need to protect. They say a lot of musicians shouldn’t do that. As a percussionist it’s a little more chill, because I’m not using the fine muscles in my fingers, but if you’re a violinist you probably shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff. So yeah that’s a bit career specific. If you’re a pianist or a violinist you’re not going to be lifting weights. Running or swimming. 

strumphf: Or cycling.

recycle_garbage: Cycling, yeah. Anything that’s more cardio, less muscle stress.

strumphf: Or ultimate frisbee. 

recycle_garbage: I’ve never seen ultimate frisbee before.

strumphf: Oh, you just run a lot.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I know what it is. I’ve just never seen it before. But I’ve heard about it.

strumphf: It’s horrible. For me personally. Oh, I forgot to ask this. Do you watch other players’ matches? I assume not often.

recycle_garbage: Sometimes, yeah. I think one of the first ones I ever watched was last year’s Championship match. When I first got into the community a little bit, I watched that match with nasmith. And I’ve watched some League matches, a little bit. But I feel like I don’t have the attention span, maybe. Can’t focus for that long. It’s too easy on my computer to just tab out. I kind of feel like if I’m watching I want to be actively involved, either speaking in the chat or talking, and at the beginning I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me obviously, so that’s just normal. So just taking my baby steps to be comfortable. I’m not one to be just going and talking to people I don’t know. I prefer to be comfortable first and then I’ll speak a bit. And I like to be actively involved. So just passively watching is not my thing. Maybe commentating would be really fun.

strumphf: Please do! That would be so helpful.

recycle_garbage: I can commentate your match.

strumphf: That would be so cool. Go get that role.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, that sounds fun. And I know you, so it’s fine. That’s totally fun.

strumphf: Well I mean maybe not my matches. 

recycle_garbage: One of the most helpful things was when SamE commentated my match. He gave me some really good comments and calculated all the moments I could have piled out and missed it and stuff like that. I was really impressed by that so I think having someone commentate is really good for learning. Of course everyone wants to learn, I think. So that’s really helpful.

strumphf: Probably. You can only commentate in emoji. 

recycle_garbage: Alright. Maybe using Egyptian font on Microsoft Word and emojis. Just ancient hieroglyphs like a cat or something. “Oh cool, I really could’ve done that better, Black Cat”.

strumphf: So you said you’re not as active on the Discord? Is that —

recycle_garbage: It’s not intentional.

strumphf: I mean, I guess it’s intentional, but is it intentional, now that you’re bringing it up?

recycle_garbage: I don’t hate people, I’m just getting comfortable. That’s it.

strumphf: *laughs* What are your three favorite Discord channels, if you have favorites.

recycle_garbage: I don’t browse enough. I’m not a big forum browser person. I looked at the #videos one, I check that one for cool videos. #results, maybe? There’s also the Canadian Discord server, that’s pretty fun. There’s one where you can complain. That I thought was pretty funny. 

strumphf: Who else is there? I think I have a good grasp of the US players, but who else is Canadian? 

recycle_garbage: Lemonspawn, kaplane, xyrix, truffles? I can’t name everyone off the top of my head, but there’s a lot of them. fireonice maybe? I think a lot of them are expatriated like me, but yeah. Also interesting to me. Lot of Canadian ex-pats that are in the same age demographic. I don’t know if Dominion attracts a certain audience, but we have a lot of similarities for sure. 

strumphf: Yeah, well that’s definitely one thing I like about it. That it’s mostly people around my age, maybe five years younger or older and like people who have kids and stuff. I feel like that contributes a lot to the community being very nice and kind of civil. 

recycle_garbage: Totally, yeah. I was really impressed by how diverse it is. People are really nice. Also just there’s some things I was gonna say I just don’t understand on the server, to be honest. And taking the time to learn it, that’s on me. So there’s like a music thing, and like a thunderdominion, I just don’t know what that is, so I never even bothered to like …

strumphf: And there’s six music channels!

recycle_garbage: Yeah, I saw that. It’s like voting and stuff? 

strumphf: Yeah, I don’t get that either. 

recycle_garbage: It’s cool, it’s really cool. I just don’t know how to do it. Maybe someday when I take the time. Like I said, I’m not that big into using forums. And like Discord I’ve never really used.

strumphf: Yeah, same, it’s pretty overwhelming, I have to say. But I have my axe to grind that there’s six music channels but not one books channel. I’m trying to manifest that.

recycle_garbage: That’s actually a really good idea.

strumphf: I think we need to wrap up now, because you have your schedule to keep. But if you…

recycle_garbage: I have ten more minutes, if you want.

strumphf: Oh, nice. I wanted to know if you have anyone you would be interested in hearing an interview with. 

recycle_garbage: Ah yeah. I think anyone who makes the videos — really anyone obviously. That you’re doing the podcast is I think really cool. I’m really happy with it. It’s super nice. 

strumphf: Awww, thank you.

recycle_garbage: For me it adds a lot to the community, not that I know much about that. But I think it’s super nice to have different facets of something. To have the videos and the podcast, and the forums. I think anyone, anyone who wants to talk obviously. I wrote down some people who make content, like the videos, that could be interesting. WanderingWinder, aku chi, seanahan… or in general, crabcat maybe. Someone who speaks and self-commentates and is happy to talk a lot. I’m just curious to learn about the people in the community so you’re not just a random Discord user, with or without a profile picture.

strumphf: Yeah, I’m trying to give it a little variety. Obviously I’m only starting the whole interview thing. But I’m also just very very curious about everyone, basically. And that’s why I love the commentary so much because I feel like getting to listen to people helps me getting to know them a little. Which makes it of course kind of nervous with people like you, who I haven’t heard before. Of course, I saw you communicating during your matches, so I had the feeling that you were very nice. And I have the feeling that so many people are so nice and so friendly and so generous. I very much enjoy the community and the banter. So, adding to the list.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, anyone in the community is a good choice. You pretty much can’t go wrong. So if someone wants to talk and they want to come on, that’s nice I guess. I’m sure you have a thousand people you could interview. You have a pretty big resource pool. 

strumphf: I do.

recycle_garbage: I also played against gamesou once, I was going to say, too. So it was nice to hear him speak a bit. Like, he was super friendly too when I talked to him in French. I’m not going to ask questions if they don’t want to answer or don’t want to talk, if they want to be focused. But yeah, if someone wants to talk, I always like to ask “oh, where are you from?” and “what language do you want to speak”, just to be nice. It’s just nice to know there’s a human being behind the computer, that you’re not playing a program. So yeah, there’s a human aspect to it that I really like. You’re not playing a robot. And of course if you’re going to get mad, it’s a human being, so there’s not really any reason to … Like I mean in ladder people get mad sometimes. It’s just … it’s a human being you’re talking to, not a robot. Sometimes the anonymity, it can be a good thing, and also it can… yeah. There’s good and bad sides to both, but I like to have the human aspect a lot.

strumphf: Yeah, totally. How many languages do you speak?

recycle_garbage: Just three.

strumphf: Psh, “just three” *laughs*

recycle_garbage: My German is super rusty now, so that’s why I said “just” maybe. I was teaching and working in Germany, and my Masterarbeit [thesis] was in German as well. I felt really good about that. 

strumphf: Wow!

recycle_garbage: Yep. When I did pedagogy. But now I’m in Brussels and just speaking French all the time and I feel like I’m maybe losing it a bit. Hearing a lot of Flemish, too. Getting distorted a bit. But it comes back quickly, there’s some German speakers in Belgium. There’s also a small German community as well.

strumphf: Yeah, I saw that German is actually one of the national languages of Belgium, because of course you have 3.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, next to Aachen there’s a part that’s German-speaking. Like, native German-speaking Belgians. I’m guessing it’s very small. But it is interesting. I was thinking about going on Facebook for Deutsche in Brüssel and maybe there find some people and maybe I can do some teaching again. Yeah, some drum teaching in German, just to get back in practice.

strumphf: Well, if you ever get to commentate one of my matches, I ask you to do it in German.

recycle_garbage: Okay, fine. *both laugh* It’s gonna be awful, but I can try. I used to play the game… for two years I used to have Dominion in German too, I switched it back to English, but yeah. I had the platform in German for me, and didn’t know the English names for any of this stuff. I was like “what, what is this”. I also find it funny sometimes becauses some of the cards are different languages and it’s funny to see how each person pronounces them. Not to make fun of them, just to figure out how each person interprets the name. 

strumphf: Totally, yeah. I only recently made the switch to the English names, just for the self-commentary. It is similar for most cards, but then some cards are just strange. 

recycle_garbage: Yeah, that’s what translation is; it’s half art, also, so… It’s like “ah, I know the picture, but I don’t know what the card is called”, just staring at it. And then when you don’t know what a card does, you’ve used it for a year, but don’t know what it does, you’re like “ah, I have to read the text” and then “ah crap, it’s in English”. 

strumphf: Yeah, definitely. That’s one thing I learned: reading is very essential. It happens so often, like “what does that card actually do, why is it doing this” and then “okay, it says it on the card itself, it says it in the text”.

recycle_garbage: Like, normally, it doesn’t matter. And then once you’re like “ah, it really matters now”. And also some terms, I don’t know how deep you want to go, but some get oddly specific and you’re like, like for a reason too, so you don’t take advantage. Like there’s one card that would make it completely broken, so you have an oddly specific wording sometimes. That’s an interesting linguistic thing. Like “discard”… there’s different ways of discarding, or like “reveal”, “discard”, whatever, “peek”. 

strumphf: Yeah, “gain” and “buy”.

recycle_garbage: Yeah, just to avoid these terrible interactions. “Just peek at the card, oh cool”. Just flip the corner, so it’s not a reveal.

strumphf: Yeah, no, that’s right. I was just thinking, because I didn’t know you were actually from Canada, I would’ve adjusted my warm-up questions accordingly. Now you had to answer all those Belgium-related questions.

recycle_garbage: No, only one, it’s fine. I’m getting to know them. I think it’s good to know the country. But I kinda want to stay there for a while. There was one question you sent, your favorite card-shaped object. And I think I was gonna say if in 3 years, in 4 years, if I get my citizenship, it would be my ID card. That would be my favorite card-shaped object. But now I just have my temporary ID. Because I’ve been ex-patriated for six or seven years now, so I would be happy to have another citizenship one day. 

strumphf: So that’s the plan, to stay in Belgium?

recycle_garbage: Yeah, at least until I can get my citizenship. Because in Switzerland, I don’t know if you know, but it’s just impossible. It’s not part of Europe, and they just make the rules really difficult. Especially for musicians. You have to have a single income source, and musicians have many many different gigs. And it takes ten years, as opposed to most places in Europe it’s five years, to naturalize. It’s cool, I’d just be happy to have access to Europe more.

strumphf: Thank you so much, that was really fun! Thank you for being so candid with me. I’ll see if I can get the edit done today.

recycle_garbage: I did some interviews before and I was doing some work and I also did transcription and it takes such a long time. Lots of respect to terracubist.

strumphf: Yeah, totally. Especially with the first interview with Mic, which went on for so long. I had planned thirty minutes, and it went for over an hour. Much respect!

recycle_garbage: Thank you terracubist.

strumphf: Yes. Yeah, thank you again, and I hope you have a nice day at the beach now? Or no, you get to teach now, but after that I hope you have a nice afternoon/evening at the beach. 

recycle_garbage: Vamos a la playa!

strumphf: Yeah! 

recycle_garbage: Una cerveza por favor. Cool, thanks for having me. It was nice to meet you, and also maybe I can get to know everyone else in the community that’s listening! I’m happy to talk.

strumphf: Yeah, have a nice one! Bye!

recycle_garbage: Bye-bye!

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Interview with Gamesou

Last week on the Dominion League Weekly Podcast host Strumphf interviewed Gamesou, who has played in every single one of the 46 seasons of Dominion League! The transcript of the fascinating interview is below, thanks to terracubist for the transcript. Let us know in the comments if you are interested in more interviews, and feel free to suggest interesting people to interview.

You can find the podcast here:

strumphf: Hello! How are you?

gamesou: I’m fine. It’s a bit rainy today. 

strumphf: Are you in Lyon right now?

gamesou: I’m in Lyon. Not yet holidays. I spent a lot of time home this last year, as did many people I guess. 

strumphf: So to start us off, I have ten little either/or questions, so I just give you two things and you can say which one you prefer, or if you don’t prefer any. So, the first question is: Pain-au-chocolat ou croissant?

gamesou: Pain-au-chocolat. So much better.

strumphf: Parc de la Tête d‘Or ou Théâtre Antique?

gamesou: Parc de la Tête d’Or.

strumphf: Breakfast or brunch?

gamesou: Brunch.

strumphf: Strawberries or cherries?

gamesou: Strawberries.

strumphf: Donkeys or giraffes?

gamesou: Giraffes.

strumphf: Saturday or Sunday?

gamesou: Ummm… both? Is that allowed?

strumphf: Yeah, that’s allowed. You can say all you want to say. Computer or phone?

gamesou: Computer.

strumphf: Music or no music?

gamesou: No music.

strumphf: Great Britain or Germany?

gamesou: Germany.

strumphf: Dominion Online, or in real life?

gamesou: In real life.

strumphf: Okay. I am always curious about everyone, especially about names and avatars. So what is the meaning behind your username?

gamesou: Yeah, that’s a good question. So it’s old, because I’m—it comes from my childhood, so before Internet. I’m 40 and an old friend of mine was calling me gamesou. I don’t really know why. My first name is Guillaume which kinda sounds like “game”, so it became gamesou. So I used it, and the first time I had to choose a name I chose it and now I stick to it. But the funny thing is that in the last 10 years I’ve learned that it has a quite interesting meaning in Greek, it means “fuck you”. *laughs*

strumphf: What?! Oh no!

gamesou: Yeah. So some Greek people sometimes have some weird behaviour with me online. I think my childhood friend doesn’t speak Greek.

strumphf: I see, I see, wow. That’s some bad luck. I mean if you’ve had it for so long it would be weird to change it now. So what is your avatar on Discord? What is this thing I’m looking at?

gamesou: Okay yeah, so it’s a polytope. I’m doing maths, I’m a mathematician, and it’s a shape like a weird cube, and it comes out—so if you imagine if you take a cube in large dimension and you cut it through a plane—and you see think like this—if you take a usual cube, like a die, if you cut it you can have a triangle if you cut close to a vertex, you will see a small triangle. If you take parallel to some face you will get a square. If you cut it other ways, you can get a hexagon, if you cut it in an oblique way. And in the same way if you hide the cube in a very high dimension through a plane as I mentioned something similar to the world we live in, you would see an object similar to my avatar. It’s a random section of a cube in dimension 1000 I think.

strumphf: Okay, okay, I can’t say I really followed all of that. 

gamesou: Yeah, but I guess the words have some poetry at least.

strumphf: So I have to ask, are you originally from Lyon?

gamesou: No, I’m not. I’m from Bordeaux, which is maybe a more famous city in France and I moved to Lyon for my first job. Yeah, so I’m from Bordeaux, but my parents don’t make any wine, so I got my wine education in Lyon. 

strumphf: I was very happy when I saw that in the other interview you did in 2017 because I’ve lived in Lyon and I’m very emotionally attached to it. 

gamesou: Oh really? When was it? 

strumphf: Ages ago, I was 6. But I still have the best memories. That’s why I had the question about Parc de la Tête d‘Or.

gamesou: I was going to say I can see the Parc de la Tête d‘Or from my window. Very nearby to it.

strumphf: Aw, that’s amazing. 

*gamesou shows strumphf view out window over video*

gamesou: Yeah so if people don’t know it’s a very large park, I think it’s the largest in France. I don’t know how it compares to Central Park, but for sure it’s large. The round trip is around 4 kilometers.

strumphf: So the last general question, it’s a question that is also interesting to me, but do you have a favorite color, and if so what is it?

gamesou: I used to answer orange. I don’t wear orange often, but I like it. And Duration cards, in Dominion. 

strumphf: So before we dive into League stuff, I was curious, just as a little quiz, do you know how many unique opponents you’ve played in the seven years of Dominion League you’ve been playing?

gamesou: I would say close to 200, 150 maybe?

strumphf: Close, 115.

gamesou: I think there was some other player who had played all the seasons, MtMagus. I don’t know who’s played most opponents, because in the early years we played mostly the same people.

strumphf: So do you know who you played most games against?

gamesou: Qvist, maybe? No, no…

strumphf: No, you’re right. Wow. But they’re not playing anymore, are they?

gamesou: I haven’t seen them recently, so I don’t know. Possibly, yeah. We played last year or two years ago? I can’t remember the seasons, I’m mixing a bit.

strumphf: Yeah, it’s so impressive that you’ve played every single season. How did you do that?

gamesou: Well, I like it for sure. There was one season where I was close to quitting, because I couldn’t find time to play, so last week came and I played only one match, but the moderator was very nice and encouraged me to try again, to find some time and we did it in the end. But once you have such a long streak it’s hard to stop. I would like to play 50 more seasons.

strumphf: Do you play any other Dominion tournaments, apart from League?

gamesou: I’ve played for the World Cup, all the World Cups, for France, and all the Championships. All of them so far. I’ve never played for lesser tournaments. I know there are many of them, but I cannot commit to more Dominion. League is fine, it’s one game a week, it’s fine for me.

strumphf: Yeah, I see that. So you have witnessed all of League, from the beginning. How do you think, from your perspective, the League has evolved since its beginning?

gamesou: Well I think everyone knows it but I think the level is much higher. I was able to go to A league several times in my years, but not anymore. I’m often in B in the good seasons or D in the bad ones, but I don’t think I play much worse than before, maybe a little bit. Of course there are more players, but also there are much more good players. It’s quite clear for me. The average level for the top divisions is much higher, it is clear to me. Also there was a switch, because before Discord people used to discuss on the forums on dominionstrategy which were less interactive, and now there are much more live discussion and online events so it helps people improve more and commit to the league. So that’s a lot of change. I don’t follow a lot of online discussions and I don’t often watch games. I don’t read the Discord discussions for lack of time, but the amount of discussion around the League increased a lot for sure. 

strumphf: Yeah it’s interesting because I only signed up in November so the way it is now with the Discord and the League and everything and also the expansions—that’s all normal for me. That’s how I got introduced to it, so the idea of this evolution is so fascinating to me. Also, like, you will have witnessed all the different expansions being released, right?

gamesou: Yeah, and all the different websites. Before Dominion Online we played on a site called Goko which was a bit buggy. If one player was disconnected the game may stop. And this would happen quite a lot. If a player was clearly winning, he would be given 0.75 to 0.25 points, and you can imagine this was not really easy to deal with. So it was a big problem. The new website is working really well. It was a big change.

strumphf: That’s also something I don’t know anything about. *laughs* I just know this.

gamesou: So even before there was a client in text mode, called Isotropic. I think it was before the League. There were also tournaments in that era. Yeah, that was also an interesting one. A purely text mode client. I think you can find videos of it if you search for it.

strumphf: I’ll check it out. How did you get into Dominion?

gamesou: My cousin got Intrigue as a present, so we played together and I loved it, and then I quickly bought the expansions. I think Prosperity was already out, so it was not at the very beginning. And then I bought all the expansions as they came out. At some point they stopped being translated into French, so I bought the English ones and now we have a mix.

strumphf: That’s going to be good for your son, though, right? He can learn English with Dominion.

gamesou: Yeah true. He knows what’s a Buy, and what’s an Action, and what’s a card. 

strumphf: Are you still playing Dominion together? 

gamesou: Yes, yes. So now we play regular games. I’m still trying to give me something of a handicap, because I cannot just play without trying to win. So we came up with the following thing: on each of my turns I would randomly choose one Kingdom pile, by rolling a die, and if possible I would have to buy that card as my first buy. But on some boards that’s quite an issue, if you have a single Buy it’s very hard to deal with. But there are some boards once your engine is running even if you have to buy a Curse every turn that’s not a big issue. In these games it’s not so easy for my son to beat me, and then if he loses we will play with the same Kingdom, then he will try to imitate whatever I did. We’ve had some very nice games. And he was very happy to run a complicated engine and win.

strumphf: You’re training him. So coming back to League, do you have any thoughts on just the structure, like are you happy with the way it is?

gamesou: Yeah, it’s working very well. Yeah I’m super happy. It didn’t change much with time. Only some divisions were added. I think it’s working very well.

strumphf: Do you have some memorable matches or moments from League?

gamesou: I think I was twice in the A finals. 

strumphf: Oooh, wow, congrats.

gamesou: In the “easy times”. Against Stef, yeah, I don’t remember the actual games, but some of them were quite close. I remember at some point in a critical match, I was losing. It was a game with Harem, and I bought a Scout. Do you know about Scout?

strumphf: Mhm.

gamesou: It was the worst card in Dominion, and it was not completely unreasonable to get. There were some other games where I was beaten by some nice engines. Some particular games I do remember, but most of them I’ve forgot. I’m sure if I watched videos of old games I would remember, that would be interesting. I should do that, watch over old games and see what I think of my play.

strumphf: So, there are recordings. Did you record those, or…?

gamesou: No, I never recorded. Many opponents did. Qvist did, even in those early times. No, I never recorded. I wouldn’t even know how to do it. I’m not a computer guy.

strumphf: That makes sense. When did you feel you were playing your best?

gamesou: Especially compared to other people, it would’ve been the early days of course. But it’s true that in seasons 5 to 15 was the time I was more into Dominion. I would try to follow everything that was on the forums. Now I’m often missing some combos and it was not the case at this era. I think the other people improved, or at least I hope so. I don’t think I play much worse than I did before. For sure other people play much better.

strumphf: I also feel, like you said, it also depends on how much time you have to watch other matches and improve, watch videos, and also what your expectations are for yourself, so that makes a lot of sense. 

gamesou: Yeah, I don’t expect much now, I’m just having fun in playing the League. There is a part of randomness with regard to promoting…

strumphf: I mean, you are a pretty successful player, right. It sounds like you have some higher expectations, but you’ve been playing since forever and you’re pretty good.

gamesou: Well, not the very best but I’m still a reasonably good player. But when you’ve played for 46 seasons you start relativizing. You think of things in a more relative way, you can compare to many more things. It’s all the experience of the veteran.

strumphf: Yeah, you’re taking down the new ones. So in this 2017 interview you said that Ironworks is your favorite card. So I want to know, is it still your favorite card?

gamesou: Well, it’s one of them. I like all the gainers. Groom, Ironworks, Devil’s Workshop, all these cards I like, but it would be hard for me to single out one. Ironworks I like because I started with Intrigue. Yeah, I think that’s something with Ironworks. Whenever it’s on the board it makes me something. Yes, I think it’s still my favourite card. Because you can play an Ironworks, gain an Ironworks, and repeat.

strumphf: And is there a card you absolutely don’t like?

gamesou: No, I like all the cards. Possession I don’t get often because it’s on the banlists of many people, but it happens sometimes and it’s fun. I wouldn’t play a Possession cage match where you play with it every game. Might be a bit too much. All the cards are fine, even Scout. 

strumphf: Yeah, I never quite understood this banlist thing, because I feel like I want to know how to play every card, so it doesn’t make sense for me to ban any.

gamesou: Yeah, but some people hate some cards or they wouldn’t have them banned. For some people the banlist was a real good plus. They would play with the banlist, they wouldn’t play without. So if it’s like this for sure we should have one. All my lists are empty. 

strumphf: Oh, my banlist is empty too, but I have things on the other lists. You don’t even have a like list?

gamesou: No, no list. No list at all. I just like pure randomness. I was just saying that now we have so many cards. In the early times a banlist would make a bias to the calculation that was noticeable, but now the pool is so large that the effect is negligible. In the early times if you had a banlist and a like list, it may happen that you play with a card from your like list three times in a six game match. That would be too much.

strumphf: So the list feature came with the new, or the current, client?

gamesou: No, it was a bit later. It was maybe three years between banlists and the new client. 

strumphf: Interesting. So if you were going to a lonely island, and could only bring the base set and one expansion, what expansion would it be?

gamesou: Okay, so the Base set and Intrigue. Ok, Base. I could have taken Intrigue just for Ironworks but that would be a bit boring. I would choose Menagerie. I continue learning new tricks about them, so I think that would be the case on this island. Can I bring my son?

strumphf: *laughs* Sure! The question is just for Dominion, you can take whatever you want. If you had not the base set but Intrigue, would your second expansion still be Menagerie?

gamesou: Yeah. The cards from Base and Intrigue, I’ve played a lot with them. Definitely I would choose Menagerie because they are quite new. Also I bought Menagerie not too long ago, like six months ago, so a bit late compared to when it was released. 

strumphf: Do you have all the expansions? Like, as real cards?

gamesou: Yes. I’m missing some promos. I’m missing Prince, Church, Captain. I have a homemade Summon. You can easily play with homemade landscapes and card-shaped objects. These you can easily make a home version, just print it. I hope Donald is not angry with me for this. But yeah, I have bought all the expansions.

strumphf: Cool! That must take up a lot of space, no?

gamesou: I store everything in a large box but I couldn’t throw away the boxes, so they are empty, and my kid will store his Legos inside. But yeah, I could not throw them away. 

strumphf: I see. That’s one thing that I like about the client, that all the cards are in there, and it shuffles for me, and draws for me, and also the client knows the rules about cards. So when I play with my mom for example, all of a sudden you have to remember all of the rules yourself and explain it to others and be like “No, now is the Action phase and then there’s the Buy phase”. But I’m a bit lazy, and like the client.

gamesou: Yeah yeah, for sure, for that it’s great. Also, some of the cards changed. It doesn’t matter often, but sometimes you have to know that you shouldn’t rely on what’s written. It seldom matters but sometimes it’s an issue.

strumphf: I remember the first Base edition as well, that had cards that it doesn’t anymore, right? So I think my brother still has it.

gamesou: I play with them. When I choose my cards in real life, of course I use all the old ones. With Thief I can steal Magic Lamp! And then have two Lamps pop in the same turn. You can do it on the client if you have the right set, but that was nice. 

strumphf: Yeah, I can imagine, that’s so cool. So you do play one match a week for League with Dominion online, but then you play in real life…

gamesou: Yeah, I would play from time to time, casually. Per rate I would say two games a day, maybe, maybe less. Some of the time I would play while I would wait for something to happen. It may happen that I have to resign which is not very nice. It’s a way to spend time but I’m not really happy with it, playing games fast while thinking about something else. I do it, but I’m not happy with it. I shouldn’t do it.

strumphf: But it’s so easy to. You just click the button. How long did it take you to play on your current level.

gamesou: Well, I don’t know how to answer because I think my level is the same it was 8 years ago. That time it went quite fast. I think it was easier in the early days. I started playing on Isotropic, I think there were only 4 expansions? So it was easy to know all the cards. And it was much easier to reach a really good level. Now I think the learning stage is much longer, just from the cards. So I think it took a few months, let’s say maybe four months from the moment I started playing online to the moment I was at the top of my level.

strumphf: So what do you think is the best way to improve? Just learning cards and combinations? Or playing a lot? Or both?

gamesou: To start you should play a lot, you should play with all cards several times. But once you know the cards quite well, you should stop playing and look at other players, either watch videos or online games. Now there is a lot of material for this. Lots of videos, lots of online, lots of commentary. But it makes sense to go into this once you really know all the cards, I would say. 

strumphf: How do you deal with losing matches or losing games?

gamesou: It doesn’t affect me anymore. I may be the person who’s lost the most matches in League, though.

strumphf: Yeah, because you’ve been playing all the seasons. 

gamesou: Maybe I’m also the one who won most games. Anyway, If I don’t promote some season, or the next one… I’m much more detached than I used to be. In the early years I was really angry with myself. When I would demote from A to B the first time I was angry with myself, but no longer. The trick to be able to lose games and not care is to play forty League seasons. 

strumphf: *laughs* Okay, pro tip. Do you play any other games besides Dominion?

gamesou: I’ve played a lot of Hanabi, which is now quite famous. I think at some time it was not so famous, I think I played it before it was really famous. I think it would be the game I’ve played the most after Dominion, in person that is. The other game I’ve played a lot was Height of the Galaxy. An old game, a game that came out the same time as Dominion. I played it online a lot through the client. There are other games I still play from time to time, I don’t know much about the most recent games. I’m sure there are many good ones, but I stick to my old classics. I play a lot of Scrabble. Competitively, I even competed twice at the World French Scrabble Championship, the French language. I would go to Dakar/Senegal. And then, there was this crazy story of this guy from New Zealand, Nigel Richards, who doesn’t speak any French, but was able to just read the dictionary and remember all the words and always find the best one. So he would just kill the game. So in French people play in duplicate Scrabble to eliminate chance. But he just wouldn’t fail. So this guy who didn’t speak French is by far the best French Scrabble player today.

strumphf: *laughs* How do the French take that?

gamesou: It was very hard, yeah. The French, Belgians, Swisses, Québec… the nice thing is that there are many countries that speak French, the community was worldwide, but yeah, Nigel Richards was really amazing.

strumphf: Do you happen to know Seven Wonders, the game? Because it’s French, I think. I just noticed, because you can play it online too on some platform, that all the French people play Seven Wonders. 

gamesou: Yeah, it’s a French game. The same company as Hanabi I think. Was it on boardgamearena maybe? That is another platform where many games are available.

strumphf: I didn’t know Hanabi was a French game.

gamesou: Yep.

strumphf: I’ve only played the Seven Wonders Duel thing, and I like it, but I feel like it’s so competitive I always feel like the person who’s winning feels great and the person who’s losing is like “I hate this! I’m never going to play this again!” but maybe that’s also just the people I’m playing against. 

gamesou: I meet with friends each summer for one week and play some games. I’m trying each year to buy a new game to play with everybody, and have heard a lot of good things from Clank. Did you know about it?

strumphf: Nope.

gamesou: But yeah, I think I’m going to buy that one for this summer. I cannot tell yet if it’s really great.

strumphf: Okay, so you are into numbers, and you are into letters, as you do maths and Scrabble. What are your other hobbies?

gamesou: I like running. I did Parc de la Tête d’Or quite a lot. I would just go and run laps around the park. But yeah, that’s my main hobby apart from games. Running.

strumphf: It sounds very well-rounded. You have many-faceted interests. And you will be playing Dominion for the next fifty seasons. We haven’t even reached fifty seasons. 

gamesou: Yeah, it’s 47, right?

strumphf: This has been the 46th.

gamesou: 46, okay. 

strumphf: And you are promoting, aren’t you? Congratulations.

gamesou: Yeah I am promoting to C, thank you. I may be the player who has promoted the most, maybe not. I don’t remember how many times I’ve promoted, but it is something I could check easily. I think from D to C I was never lower than D and maybe it was only twice… but I’m happy to go back to C. I think that’s where I should be. 

strumphf: You feel like that’s where your level is?

gamesou: Yes. So if I’m good and lucky I go to B, but if I go to B and stay in B I would be happy. 

strumphf: Well I still think it’s pretty amazing that you’ve been playing so long in those very high tiers. I mean I only joined the server half a year ago, so I guess my perspective is just different from yours, because I only know this huge, huge League with like 700 players. 

gamesou: Yeah, I should say I’m not the only player who’s played since the beginning. There are many players who just had some breaks, but who played from seasons 1 to 46, except like 5. You can find many players like that. I’m not the only one. 

strumphf: Yeah, but you are only one of two players who’ve played in every season. I’m still fascinated. If you could have anything, is there anything you would change about League? Like would you have smaller divisions or that the season is longer, anything? Or are you just happy with the way it is?

gamesou: No, I wouldn’t change anything. Maybe one could have a single B division, but I’m not sure it would be too great. Also it’s good to have consistency. Now we have a pattern which works well, so let’s keep it. It allows us to compare between different times more easily. I don’t see any reason to change.

strumphf: So is there any other player you would be interested in hearing an interview with? 

gamesou: I’d like to hear about Stef. Sure, he doesn’t play in the League, but for sure he would be an interesting interview. 

strumphf: He’s on my list.

gamesou: Great. Ummm…no, any top player would be interesting, but if you interview Stef I will for sure listen to it immediately. It was quite impressive, he was able to essentially create the website from scrap in a very short time to convince Donald X. to give him the rights. Quite impressive!

strumphf: Well, we’ll see, but he’s definitely on my list. Is there anything you’d like to share, storywise or whatever, any thoughts. 

gamesou: Nothing which comes to my mind. 

strumphf: We’ve covered it all. Well thank you very much. This was great. Thank you for coming on, and I hope you have a wonderful evening now. Thank you again and have a good one. Bye!

gamesou: Thank you. Bye.

Posted in Dominion Podcast | Leave a comment

Interview with Mic Qsenoch

This interview of Mic Qsenoch was conducted by strumphf for the Dominion League Weekly Podcast. You can find the podcast here:

strumphf: Hello.

Mic Qsenoch: Hello.

strumphf: Hi! How are you?

Mic Qsenoch: I’m okay. How are you?

strumphf: I’m fine, I’m a little nervous, but it’s gonna be fine.

Mic Qsenoch: It will be good.

strumphf: How do I pronounce your name. Is *mick sen-awk* correct?

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah, I mean it’s more like “see-nock”, like a long “E”.

strumphf: Ah. But “mick” is correct?

Mic Qsenoch: It’s just nonsense, it’s not like a real anything. But how it’s pronounced I guess is *mick see-nock*. So “mick” is right.

strumphf: I see. Where did you get that from?

Mic Qsenoch: It’s an Internet handle that a friend of mine used at some point. It’s sort of a strong corruption of their real name, and at some point I co-opted it and started using it myself. So it is loosely based to a real-life name, but real loosely, and it’s not my name.

strumphf: I see. And your discord avatar? What is that? It reminds me of “Where the wild things are” but it’s not that, is it?

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah, it’s Renard the fox, is the little character. It’s the art that was used for Swindler on Isotropic, the old Dominion online client – and also the art on Isotropic is taken from the art that Donald X. uses in his prototypes, so it was used as the art for Swindler in a prototype version of Dominion.

strumphf: So why did you choose that for your avatar?

Mic Qsenoch: Oh, just because I love Swindler.

strumphf: Really?

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah. *laughs*

strumphf: Okay. Curious.

Mic Qsenoch: I love many of the cards that are commonly hated. 

strumphf: Yeah no actually I’m really not as experienced as most of the other players and I used to like Swindler as well but then I had so many games where Provinces were swindled away. *laughs* And I was like okay maybe that’s the reason people don’t like them.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah, I think it’s like when they get their $5s turned into Duchies is the thing they don’t like.

strumphf: So I have a couple of quick questions for you just to warm up, and they are “either/or” questions, so if you would just answer spontaneously, or if you don’t want to you just don’t obviously.

Mic Qsenoch: Okay.

strumphf: Tea or coffee?

Mic Qsenoch: Neither.

strumphf: Cats or dogs?

Mic Qsenoch: Both.

strumphf: Winter or summer?

Mic Qsenoch: Both.

strumphf: mornings or evenings?

Mic Qsenoch: Mornings.

strumphf: Sweet or savory?

Mic Qsenoch: Both. I’m saying “both” a lot.

strumphf: That’s a part of the game, you’re allowed to. Peanut butter, smooth or chunky?

Mic Qsenoch: Crunchy. 

strumphf: Oh, is it crunchy?

Mic Qsenoch: Well, I think both, I’m just used to calling it crunchy. But, no, I think both words are used.

strumphf: Oh, okay. Tomatoes or cucumbers?

Mic Qsenoch: Tomatoes.

strumphf: Vampires or werewolves?

Mic Qsenoch: Neither.

strumphf: Italy or France?

Mic Qsenoch: I don’t really know. I’ve never been.

strumphf: Dominion online, or in real life.

Mic Qsenoch: Online.

strumphf: Okay, cool. Now we’ve warmed up. So actually, the thing that was most interesting to me – seeing that you have been with the League since the beginning – is your thoughts on how the League has evolved, if you’d like to share some reflections on that?

Mic Qsenoch: Sure, so I think as a player the basic experience has not changed a whole lot, at least for me. You know, you’re still just playing your five matches and seeing how you do. As a player I don’t think it’s changed too much. I think the biggest change for me personally has been the shift from running it on the forums to running it on Discord exclusively. That, to me, was a big quality of life improvement as far as scheduling and such. I find the division channels to really aid in the “getting your matches scheduled” and just the communication and I think even just the social aspects of it, of communicating with your fellow division-people kinda in a shared chat is fun. But as far as the Dominion goes, the experience is really not different from my point of view. Obviously the League itself has changed a lot in terms of scale from the very beginning, just the number of players participating in League now is really impressively large. I’m sure from an organizational perspective, I mean I know, I have some insight into what goes on behind the scenes, but I think it’s impressive the scale they’ve managed to grow to and maintain. But I’m sure for the moderators, it’s certainly—it’s changed the experience from one that, depending on the moderator and what their responsibilities, they’re doing like actual work. It’s actually on the level of some kind of part-time job or something. And all the difficulties that that might entail. Certainly my appreciation for the moderation has always been high and continues to grow, for the number of things they have to manage and deal with.

strumphf: Yeah, I’m really curious too, because I mean I only joined half a year ago, so for me the state that it is now is kind of normal. But I mean now that I’m doing the podcast and am checking standings and everything more closely, it’s mind-boggling how large it is, actually. How do you feel the community has evolved? Or has it?

Mic Qsenoch: This is kinda hard for me to answer, or to give something that I think is coherent. The main shift, again from my perspective and my experience of the community, is just the competitive scene used to be organized on, all via forum, and then however many years ago, four, five years ago jsh started a Discord server and more or less the competitive scene has migrated to be focused on the Discord. There’s still some posts and things that occur on f.ds, but it’s definitely reduced from its heyday. And along with that shift the personalities change, of course as well, cause not everyone makes the transition, and who the active posters are. I mean, my experience of the community has always kind of been determined by who the handful of really active posters are at any given time, and it’s usually a small number. It’s usually a dozen or so people, who really determine, maybe two dozen, something like that. In both places, I tend to lurk more than post, so my experience of it is really—just tends to be dominated by the personalities that are actively posting at any given time. *laughs* and I don’t know if I want to reflect too specifically on any personalities, but that’s for me what determines the experience of lurking in the community than being a really really active poster. I tend to just get my one-liner in and kinda dip, which is probably not great social behavior, but *laughs* that’s how I tend to do it.

strumphf: No, that makes sense. So here is a question that Cave-o-sapien sent in, and I like the question a lot: Do you think the top players are better now than when the League started, or are there just more of them?

Mic Qsenoch: People like to tell the story about how much better people are now than they were in the past, but I really think the comparison is sort of impossible to make for a number of reasons. Just one is the changing cardpool, and also you can’t make the direct comparison, so it’s hard to say. Qualitatively, you can point to the streak where only Stef and I won the League for seventeen seasons or whatever and then you can say that obviously changed, where I don’t win the League at that rate anymore, and Stef stopped playing in the League and so that certainly shifted, and there’re more people in any given season who could win the League, you might say, but I think even during the period where it was just Stef and I winning that was in some sense a fluke. There were other players who were competitive with us in that period of time, it just happened that we kind of went on this streak. So for me there’s not like a qualitative difference in, like, the level of competition. I think it was hard back then, and it’s hard now, and I don’t have anything to point to that could describe a change that I’ve noticed. Obviously from the very start of the League there’ve been a lot more expansions released, so the cardpool is very different, so there’s certainly things that are available to players nowadays that simply didn’t exist, but I don’t have a strong sense that the nature of the competition has gotten way way way harder, maybe a little. 

strumphf: So… I’m trying to collect my thoughts on this, but I feel like the window I got into the whole League and everything is too small to weigh in on that. But it is interesting to see fluctuation and there’s lots of statistics and data available, so that’s pretty cool. But I have to say your performance is quite impressive to watch, also on the spreadsheet. 

Mic Qsenoch: Well thanks.

strumphf: What is it like getting to playtest new expansions?

Mic Qsenoch: It’s really fun, it’s interesting to see things go from basic ideas and get tweaked and just I feel like I’ve learned a lot about game design in general, not that I’ve ever attempted to apply those principles. Just one of the things I think is fun: Donald X always, if there’s a card idea, the idea is always to push whatever novel thing that card does as far as possible as the initial guess, and if you need to pull it back a little bit, if it’s too strong or does too many crazy things or whatever. It’s interesting to me that you start with the crazy thing always, and dial it back. And that makes playtesting a lot of fun, because you get to do things, that, well, maybe you wouldn’t want the card to exist in published form, but you get to see some fun things along the way, for a game or two, or a handful of games. That is something crazy. Those games are fun to play. 

strumphf: How does it look like? Is it strictly online? Or how does it work?

Mic Qsenoch: So it’s been different. So for Adventures, Doug Z., the guy who made Isotropic, the first Dominion client I played on—this was after the public version of that had been shut down, but he updated it for Adventures playtesting, so that allowed Donald X to reach out to more people, to that community, and invite them to playtest. So I was invited, Stef was invited, and some other people. Adventures playtesting for me was exclusively online. We played a lot. I think probably, Donald X would be able to answer this better, but I think Adventures received probably more playtesting than any other expansion, because there were all these people being brought in new into the playtesting, and we could play just online, so we played a lot of games. And then for Empires, Doug Z. did some implementation of the cards online for playtesting, but some way through the expansion he stopped doing that. And at that point the only available way was to print your own prototypes and play. I did a little bit of that for Empires, you just play with people you know. Ongoing, it’s been a mix of whether somebody in the playtesting group has developed an online thing that has the implementation for the current expansion or not, so it’s been a mixed bag of what things have been tested. I did some IRL testing for Nocturne, I didn’t really do much playtesting for Renaissance. And I guess along with all these – once Stef took over the online client, I have playtested all the expansions at the point of them being implemented on the public thing, or for them to be released on the public thing. But that was not necessarily at a point in time when the cards were still changing. That was more a “playtesting the client” kind of thing. I don’t know, I don’t really remember what the question was about *laughs* but hopefully that answer helps. 

strumphf: No, it did, thank you.

Mic Qsenoch: And I have gotten to playtest some other Donald X games IRL. For instance, Winter Kingdom which was just released this past fall, I did a decent amount of IRL playtesting for that. 

strumphf: Oh cool, I haven’t gotten to play any other Donald X. games, I think.

Mic Qsenoch: I definitely recommend Kingdom Builder and Winter Kingdom.

strumphf: Cool, I’ll check them out. What other board games do you play, other than Dominion or Donald X. games?

Mic Qsenoch: Kingdom Builder and Winter Kingdom sort of became the game I would play IRL over the board with my family. The at least most common one, anyway. I dunno. I like Tichu, which is like a card game, like a partnership four-player card game, and then I like Troyes, I like Keyflower, those are kind of the Euro games of the ones I’ve experienced, that I kind of prefer. I do like word games, the quick paced kind of party-style games, things like Time’s Up or Bananagrams, just something that moves along pretty quick that has some dexterity or quick thinking components. Quite enjoy those.

strumphf: I don’t think I know any of those games you just mentioned. *both laugh* But Bananagrams sounds awesome!

Mic Qsenoch: Bananagrams is basically just Scrabble. It doesn’t play like Scrabble, but you have tiles with letters on them, and you have to form the crossword style words, but you just have a pile of letters and you just do it as fast as you can, and then you draw more, and you’re trying to run the pile out. But it’s not about scoring or anything, it’s just about making the words as quickly as you possibly can. It doesn’t matter if they’re long or short or whatever. 

strumphf: I see. How did you start playing Dominion?

Mic Qsenoch: I bought Dominion, you know, cardboard/paper version, in 2011, just off of looking at Board Game Geek ratings slash estimated playtime, something that wasn’t super long. And then I played a bunch the summer of 2011 IRL, got quite a few more expansions. Maybe all of the ones that were printed at that point, which I think was everything but Hinterlands. Then Hinterlands came out somewhat shortly after I started playing. Then I really started playing online a lot, on Isotropic a lot in 2012. So…I was in graduate school, and that’s a perfect time to do things that you aren’t supposed to be doing in graduate school, like play a lot of Dominion. And that’s basically what I did. I’ve played a lot, pretty much, ever since. 

strumphf: Do you play everyday?

Mic Qsenoch: No, I don’t play everyday. I play bots a lot. I don’t play on matchmaking hardly at all anymore. I do play the bots pretty frequently. Probably not everyday. Probably on a rate of every other day at least. Certainly average a game a day overall because I play several when I play. And I have a match for some tournament almost every week, so you know, that’s about the rate that I play it. When I first started playing on Isotropic I was playing a bunch of automatch games, like, you know, really playing a lot almost everyday. But after probably a year or two of that I stopped playing the automatch stuff as often, once we had switched to a new platform and things.

strumphf: What are your favorite Dominion tournaments?

Mic Qsenoch: By far League is my preferred format. I think it’s just really nice. I think for me League does a good job as far as balancing stakes versus kind of casual fun. League is nice in that every game has the chance to matter. Most likely to you, but at least to somebody in your division it’s going to matter. So I think League throughout the whole season does a pretty good job of making every six game match, every game in it, feel like it means something. I think that’s really nice. I definitely prefer the competitive style with this pool play or this round robin stuff, where you’re trying to get a high total score, versus like an elimination bracket, where you lose and you’re out. I don’t actually know that it actually is fairer across a large number of tournaments, they’re probably both reasonably fair competitive formats. But I think it feels a little more fair in the League, certainly for like a single season. You had thirty games, you know if you didn’t win, if you lost 15 of them or whatever you probably didn’t play the best of all your competitors. So it feels like it does a good job of being a fair competitive format, whatever that means, to me. And I also think it’s nice it’s not going away. If you don’t do well in one season, you know there’s gonna be another season. You don’t have to feel like “I gotta do this right now”. If it doesn’t go your way, you’re going to get another chance in the same competition. I think that’s really nice. 

strumphf: I agree. I guess for me I only know League as it is now, so that’s like my normal, and I feel like I had a very nice start because to me divisions are like a little family of players, and I guess when I started I just happened to meet very very friendly people in my division, so that was my introduction to it, and my first impression was everyone is really nice, and we just play a couple of friendly matches that happened to decide what the family is gonna look like the next season. I enjoy the format as well. 

Mic Qsenoch: I agree —I guess it depends on your division, there’re people who have bad luck and have people who aren’t so friendly. Even at the top it’s always felt to me like the competitive aspects never seemed to be dominating the friendly aspects of it for me, even at the top divisions. I never felt like people were so concerned about winning or losing that they behaved badly because of it. At least it’s few and far between. 

strumphf: Going back to expansions, what’s your favorite expansion? If you’re going to a lonely island, and you can only bring the Base set and one expansion, what would it be?

Mic Qsenoch: Maybe…This is hard. Um…I get base set also…I don’t know, I think one of second edition Intrigue, Adventures, Cornucopia/Guilds double pack—that’s a product in the US at least—

strumphf: You’re cheating!

Mic Qsenoch: No no no … okay I have to pick one. I might just go with Adventures then. You get a lot of stuff with Adventures, so that’s nice. The other aspect—this is not an answer to this question but—a really great expansion is Nocturne, but it’s really kind of a weird expansion to have as your one expansion or in a small expansion environment. It’s one of my favorite expansions, but I find it really—Nocturne heavy games are kind of weird, but I like the cards sprinkled into full random a lot. So I wouldn’t take it to the lonely island, but it’s probably my second or first favorite expansion.

strumphf: So if you could take one Kingdom to the island, there would be Nocturne in it.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah. I think taking one Kingdom doesn’t do you much good though. 

strumphf: I guess not.

Mic Qsenoch: You’d end up pretty sick of it.

strumphf: Yeah, probably after one day, that’s true. So in this 2018 interview for the championship, you said Butcher was your favorite card. Is it still your favorite card?

Mic Qsenoch: I don’t know, I’m bad at picking favorites. I don’t know that I have a favorite favorite. I still love Butcher. The other cards that immediately spring to mind are Haggler and Artificer, for cards that I really love. I imagine if I went through some of the recent expansions I could probably pick out a thing or two, but I think those are the three that stand out for me. I mean Haggler has existed basically as long as I’ve been playing the game, and I still love it just as much.

strumphf: It’s funny, I think the first time I ever played Dominion was at least 10 years ago. But now I’ve come to the League with all the expansions there, so to me it’s like normal to have this giant cardpool, and I find it so weird to imagine that soon there’s going to be a new expansion.

Mic Qsenoch: The new expansion is the most fun time for the community, in the conversations at least. I think it’s the most fun time for me at least, to read stuff from people, around the time of the new expansion releases. 

strumphf: I’m very much looking forward to that. Do you wanna talk more about League? Because people sent in some potentially controversial questions. 

Mic Qsenoch: I don’t think—I’m sorry tracer, I don’t think I can pick my favorite League moderator. That doesn’t sound like a good move. I mean if I knew who my moderator was going to be next season, then maybe I could answer that question. 

strumphf: Lemonspawn mentioned division size, season length, and stuff. Is that something you want to get into?

Mic Qsenoch: I mean I have some thoughts. The big thing is the thing Sharur has mentioned, the flex divisions, which are terrible. *chuckles* They’re the worst. Flex divisions are secretly just, A and B now have 7 players a lot of the time. That’s at least for my experience. That’s not necessarily the experience at all tiers, but for my personal experiences flex divisions just mean I have to play another match in the same exact time period. And that I don’t really like. But it’s not a big deal. I just—every single season since flex divisions have existed I’ve put in some sort of feedback in my returning form about how much I don’t like flex divisions. It’s sort of a meme more than anything. I mean, I’m serious I really don’t like them, but I’m not torn up over it. But as far as division size and season length, I’m pretty okay with the status quo. I think it would be interesting, I don’t think it would ever happen, but it would be interesting to live in a world where we have something like a superleague kind of thing, where you have the top 10 people or something and you have them all play, like have a really long season, and have them all play each other like twice or something like that, just have a massive number of games amongst 10 of the strongest players. I think that would be really interesting to kind of get a more definitive answer of “right now, who is playing the best dominion” but I don’t think that’s sort of realistic to happen. And it wouldn’t really work within the League format necessarily, but it would be similar to League in the sense of playing a big round robin kind of format. 

strumphf: Like an All-Stars.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah. And I think like A division over a couple of seasons or whatever basically achieves that, it’s just interesting, I would think it’d be interesting to expand that a little bit. But I don’t imagine that would ever happen.

strumphf: Well, somebody would need to pick up the idea.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah. I mean, well you could do it, I think the issue is getting participation, because ideally I think you would want—if you can convince them to play, you want all the people who are like in contention for being “the best”, quote unquote. I think League already does a great job of getting participation from the strongest players. I don’t think League is bad on that at all. But there are certainly, like, notable exceptions. 

strumphf: How do you deal with losing matches or demoting?

Mic Qsenoch: I think, at least in League, if your goals are all focused on this immediate thing you’re just going to be dissatisfied over and over and over again, cause it’s just not going to work out. That’s not how the game works. There’s just too much randomness. You can’t just force a game win, you know, by sheer will, so you have to have a longer term feel on these things and basically I think it’s absolutely true that on a long-term scale if you’re improving, if you’re actually getting better at the game you’re going to see improved results over time. It doesn’t mean you’ll promote this season, or you’ll win this specific match, but if you’re getting better—if your goal is to—I guess one thing is you could just not care, right, you could just not care if you’re getting better or worse, and then you shouldn’t really worry too much about losing at all. That I think is a perfectly good and reasonable way of dealing with it. But if you’re upset about losing because you want to have success or because you really want to win or whatever, you have to take a longer view of things. Like, I guess the other thing I would say is, that if you’re like playing in a division, you’re good enough to be there. You just simply are. And so if you’re playing in a division you’re good enough to win it, or at least not far away. And so you just have to believe that, and keep doing whatever things do for you to improve, but know that it’s not necessarily going to happen immediately. But I guess especially for the League you know you have another chance in the future, or you can if you want it anyway. Also you can just win a lot. That’s what I do. Then you don’t have to worry about losing matches. 

strumphf: *laughs* Great advice.

Mic Qsenoch: *jokingly* Just get good. I don’t know. 

strumphf: As easy as that.

Mic Qsenoch: It’s easy to say this here. I’ve of course been upset about losses before that have hurt. But I think they do hurt more when it’s like a tournament that is ending. For me at least, then if it’s something that happens in the League context it’s easier to think “I’m going to get another shot at this”. But even in another tournament context, I think you just have to tell yourself “there’ll be another tournament, whatever it is”. The Dominion competitive scene is not disappearing.

strumphf: I hope not! Maybe this is a bit too personal but I’ve listened to some of your self-commentating and maybe it was like the specific games or the specific matches, but it felt to me as if you were being pretty harsh with yourself, and you were kind of beating yourself up a lot. Is that something that you just do because you were mad at yourself, because you made some mistakes, and then when the match is over it’s all good? Or is that like, lingering?

Mic Qsenoch: I don’t think it lingers too long. I sometimes lose a few hours of sleep running through games again in my head as I lay in bed. But it doesn’t stick around too long. I think it’s—I mean part of it—okay, it’s hard to sort of capture all of what’s going on when I’m commentating, because my mind is divided amongst a number of things. And I’m also just trying to talk for the sake of talking, right, I’m just trying to say something at any given moment while I’m also trying to think about this game. And so not everything I say is 100%, I don’t know if sincere is the right word… but it doesn’t always reflect some long-term view. I do not have a problem with saying that something I’ve done is really stupid. That to me is just part of identifying a mistake so you can think about the situation so you can build up that memory, build up that pattern recognition so that you don’t do it again in the future. So part of that is just to draw attention to it, myself, mentally. I think as part of a match it can be bad if you do that too much past the point of when it happened, which I do do sometimes. Which is I’ll think about a mistake I made two or three games ago, and that’s obviously not helpful for doing well in that particular match. I think if I did more—I don’t do a lot of match review other than what occurs to me as I’m laying in bed at night. I think a better habit—I don’t practice this, so this is advice that I don’t personally follow—but I think the best way to go about that is to not focus on it in the match—you know move on in the match, and then when you’re reviewing the games afterwards, then is probably a safer time to probably berate yourself a little bit. Just as a way of, again, keying onto these mistakes and pointing them out to yourself so that you can do better the next time. I don’t really feel that—I know sometimes that it’s hard. I said commentary is—what I say in the moment is not what I think of later on. I do do some self-beration but I don’t feel super bad about myself in general, I wouldn’t say.

strumphf: Okay, that’s a relief then. Okay so, I’m not terribly familiar with the whole Quarantine Cup situation, but SamE asked you to reflect a little on this experience.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah, so Quarantine Cup for those who don’t know is a weekly competition that’s held online. It’s just one day on the weekend, Saturday or Sunday, and it’s basically two hours in which people can match against and just play each other. You can play as many or as few matches as you like. If you win a match you get 5 points, if you lose a match lose 3 points, and so you’re incentivized by the way the scoring works to stick around and play more matches, but you don’t have to, and then we take the top 4 people, and they play a little single-elimination playoff. So it’s just, you know, a little self-contained one day competition, but it’s intended to be fairly casual. It’s intended to be sort of like a—you know you can just come and play however many games you want, leave or come when you like, if you want to stick around for the whole thing, try and make it into the playoffs, great, if you don’t, that’s cool too. And so we started it last March or February, last March I guess, in 2020, right about the time when the whole world was going into quarantine. So there were a lot of people you know sitting around at home on the weekends so it was something for people to do and we just kept doing it because I think it’s kind of fun and the participation has been high enough I feel like it’s worth still doing. And so it happens every week.

strumphf: Every week, for thirteen months, fourteen months now?

Mic Qsenoch: Yep, we haven’t missed a weekend. 

strumphf: Wow!

Mic Qsenoch: So this Saturday will be the 61st. 

strumphf: Wow!

Mic Qsenoch: I’ve said this many times throughout the whole thing is that—I don’t actually know if weekly is the best way to keep doing it because the numbers have gone down quite a bit from where we initially had people. And if you don’t get like at a bare minimum a dozen or so people, it’s hard to get the matches happening. A dozen or so throughout the whole thing, no one has to stay the whole time, but it can be harder to make the pairs—when you have 20 or more people, you have way more than enough, you don’t have to wait for matches, you’re able to find someone real quick almost always. So when it dips down into the teens it gets a little harder. I don’t know all the reasons for why the numbers have gone down, I think it’s just that, well, people are literally not quarantined in their homes anymore as much and so they just don’t want to use their time on the weekend to play Dominion or just the novelty has worn off, things like that. At some point we may switch it to monthly or something like that, but we haven’t quite gotten to that point yet. It still mostly functions week-to-week. 

strumphf: Maybe move it to a weekday.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah, we haven’t tried anything like that. I don’t know—it would probably work for some of the audience which is often like student people—I think Dominion has a lot of that. Part of the thing is we try to do it at a time where both the American and European time zones can participate so it’s like an American afternoon, European evening. And I don’t know if, like, a weekday if that’s as likely to hit. But we haven’t tried it, so it’s maybe worth trying. 

strumphf: Oh no, but that makes sense. You’re right. The timezones.

Mic Qsenoch: I mean the other thing is just to do it for a time that maybe only works for one, and see what kind of participation it can get. I think there’s a lot more in the space that could be done. Not Quarantine Cup specifically—I really like the Quarantine Cup format, actually, just again as something that has mostly casual—at least to me, the intention is for it to be a mostly casual environment, but just to have some little bit of competitive aspect. But then there’s a lot more that could be done in this space of like, self-contained one-day events, I think, on the competitive side. Where you can do more … the Quarantine format is a little bit wonky with the scoring, but you can do things that are a little more fair. I think the issue is just, like, pace of play is just not fast enough across the board for players to make it super feasible. I think you need timed formats and that’s just, we don’t really have them. But if there was like, built-in—that’s my thing, interest for the client, I think amongst—maybe not my biggest, but one of my biggest interests for the clients, for there to be support for more time restrictions, timed formats. I think that could really improve or open up a lot of different things that are currently not really available in the competitive formats because the matches—the six game matches take 2 to 3 hours for a lot of players. 

strumphf: Yeah, I just really like this concept of having this weekly thing because—and specifically in the context of the pandemic—because I guess it gives you or maybe those people who participated in it last year some sort of stability when, like, nothing was stable anymore. So it’s a pretty cool concept. 

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah I was really happy with the participation, you know, just that people came out and played and we got—we had some fun. At the start there were a lot of people and we—it kind of led into like the finals, we would have commentary and stuff. I still usually—someone commentates the playoff part of it, but it was like this, you know, more of an event whenever the participation was a little higher. But it’s been fun. I should just shout out the people who have made it happen: alibby, rozyroz, formerly truffles, xyrix, and uh, I don’t know why I’m blanking on all of these people. Crlundy helped at the very beginning, and then eh1414 —anyway we have a bunch of League mods involved in it.

strumphf: And we love them all!

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah.

strumphf: What are your top 3 channels on the Dominion Discord server?

Mic Qsenoch: I don’t know, this is hard. I don’t really like—I don’t feel strong affection for any channels *laughs*.

strumphf: What? Not the #pets channel? Seriously?

Mic Qsenoch: No, I—I have most of the channels muted except for like the tournament section, where I have a lot of stuff unmuted. Part of it is that—I have dipped into #pets before, #pets could make it, I don’t read it regularly, but it looked good when I was there. I just forgot about it. I like #mix-kingdoms, the channel where you generate your Kingdoms for the mix tournaments. Nobody’s giving any takes, you just see those Kingdoms. Like I said, I do enjoy the discussions around the release of expansions, so there’s usually a separate channel for those. There isn’t one that exists currently, but you know, in the future there will be.

strumphf: Oh actually, I have a question for whenever the new expansion is released: Will this be added automatically to the Gold subscription? Asking for a friend.

Mic Qsenoch: It’s worked differently a couple of times. The first few times an expansion came out on Dominion Online, on ShuffleIT, basically the cost of the Gold subscription went up a little bit, by some proportion depending on some formula Stef has for the size of the expansions. But it was—I don’t know, some number of cents. But if you want to get that expansion, like if you add—the new expansion comes out, you’re already subscribed to the Gold, if you add that expansion, you just pay the difference, you don’t have to re-pay the full Gold for whatever overlapping time anyway. When Menagerie came out, it was done a little differently, which is that the Gold price did not change when Menagerie came out. People who were subscribed to Gold just got it but he kind of shifted all the formulas in a way to make that happen so … I don’t know what the plan is going forward for future expansions. Maybe he does that every few expansions where it doesn’t change the price but I don’t know if the plan is to do that with every expansion or release in the future. So the answer is I don’t know for this next one. I don’t have any idea. 

strumphf: Yeah, I guess we’ll see. 

Mic Qsenoch: I’m not even hiding insider info, I literally do not know *both laugh*.

strumphf: I didn’t think you were hiding anything from me. When did you feel you were playing your best? Cave wants to know.

Mic Qsenoch: I think results-wise my two best periods were probably either, like, spring/summer 2018 before the very end of it, or 2020, again probably before the very end of it. Both of those years I won four League seasons in a row.

strumphf: Wow.

Mic Qsenoch: Then in 2018 I won the Dominion Online championship in the fall as well and then 2020 I won a couple of little tournaments during the summer. And I think it, in particular in 2020 I won a tournament called WELP, which featured forced Kingdoms that were required to have a Way, an Event, a Landmark, and a Project, so there were four landscapes on every Kingdom. And I say either of those two because I’m not really sure which period was better because in the WELP finals between nasmith and I was probably the best Dominion match I’ve participated in, personally if I had to pick one, you know. As far as how I think we—I think the play was very high. That match was also really weird, so I don’t know the answer between those two. Those were like the clear ones as far as a period of time where I had a good run of tournament results. 2018 maybe is a little bit better, capping it off with the big win of the annual single-elimination thing, but I felt in 2020, I felt like in that WELP match was maybe the best match that I had personally been a part of. But that’s all—it’s very hard to say, it’s hard to compare these things. 

strumphf: Yeah, I mean judging by how many matches and games and tournaments you’ve already played it’s probably hard to choose at some point. Do you have any other memorable moments or games?

Mic Qsenoch: There’re quite a few. There was a season—this was a sad one for me, but there was a season where I had to—in a League where I was playing Stef in the finals—this was an early season—where I had to win 5-1 in the championship match to win it and I lost the first game and then I won the next 4, and then I totally blew it on the last one. Like I had a totally good position and I totally messed it up. That’s one of the ones that I kind of have always remembered as one that I wish I had gotten. Just cause it would’ve been really nice to beat Stef 5-1 to take a season of the League. So that was—I mean it’s funny to me, cause it was like—I definitely had like, in the game that I lost at the end, I had like a good lead and I just blew it in some fashion, I don’t really remember now. I do remember some of the cards, it was like a big King’s Court thing, and I didn’t go for all the King’s Court stuff and Stef eventually came back and beat me. It was really close, that was a heartbreaker for me. It’s probably like my number one heartbreaker. But it’s funny. And I don’t know, I don’t have anything else. The WELP match—I keep talking about it but—it was really weird because I can remember like really losing time. At the end of it I was just like “what has happened”—I was like in some kind of flow state or something, which doesn’t happen to me a lot when I’m playing. Occasionally, but it doesn’t happen to me a lot when I’m playing because of the talking and stuff. I can remember finishing WELP and not really remembering almost any of the match, but having this sense that—well I remember like one or two games but there’s like this block of time which is like lost to me. It was really weird because it was like, exhausting, it was just a really bizarre sensation, mental experience, I don’t know. 

strumphf: Interesting. 

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah so, I don’t know, I have some other ones, there’s some other heartbreakers but I don’t know how many of them are interesting—there’s one that gets memed on a lot. There’re two that I’m a participant in, that I get memed on a lot. One is bad for me, one is good for me. The bad one is a Stables dud that I drew a hand full of Stables and no Treasures in the middle of this game that I was ahead and almost certainly going to win on that turn, and lost a game in one of these elimination tournaments to Seprix. And then the good one is there’s this game with BurningSkull. I don’t know if it was in League or what it was in, but … where he tries to Ambassador and give me a Province at the end of the game to try and run out the last Province, and neither one of us realized this until the prompt came up, but that I could—there was Changeling on the board, so instead of getting the Province I could take a Changeling instead. And somehow I managed to come back and win that game. So those were my two memorable games that at least have sort of penetrated the broader—I don’t know—I don’t talk about these games that much, but other people talk about these games pretty often, or with some regularity, and I have some association with them in the community.

strumphf: Yeah I saw the Ambassador Changeling Province thing ( that resurfaced recently. That was quite the moment. 

Mic Qsenoch: It was quite funny because neither of us knew it was coming and then it happened. And it’s also funny because you can see both players’ perspectives on it, there’s a video on it from both sides so if you want to see the whole thing, or if a person wants to experience the whole thing from both sides it’s possible.

strumphf: So Cave also wanted to know what you think if Stef had kept playing in League, who would have more League titles by now, you or Stef?

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah, this is another one of those questions where it’s like, who knows? I think for sure, Stef obviously maintained his level of play even after quitting the League. Stef didn’t stop being good at Dominion, and he is to this day extraordinarily good at Dominion. So, you know, he would’ve won more—I don’t know who would’ve won more, but Stef would’ve continued to win League seasons. That’s fairly clear to me. And so, I don’t know, the easy answer is probably Stef, because he had edged me out in the time we had overlapped, but it was, you know, close, so I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a really sensible answer, but that’s kinda what I think.

strumphf: How many players have you ever met in real life? Who’re now in the League?

Mic Qsenoch: I’ve never met anybody face-to-face. I mean I’ve been on Discord or voice chats in various capacities with people, different people throughout time, but I’ve never seen anybody in person. As far as I’m aware, maybe I have and I just didn’t know, but I’ve never met anyone IRL from the Dominion community. 

strumphf: So I only saw this on the Discord, but there are some tournaments—I guess there was one in New York and there’s gonna be one in Chicago, maybe, so that’s not a thing that you participate in?

Mic Qsenoch: I’m not really anywhere near New York so that would’ve been a plane ride you know, some big commitment to go there. I could get to Chicago a little more easily. I have some interest in attending the Chicago tournament, whether I go or not I’m not sure. So we’ll see whenever the plans are finalized. I think it would be fun, but so far I’ve never met anybody in person. 

strumphf: I’m just so jealous. I’m so jealous! I wanna go. I wanna meet people! *laughs, sighs*

Mic Qsenoch: You just have to organize one in—where are you from?

strumphf: I’m in Berlin. 

Mic Qsenoch: I’m sure you can get—I don’t really know, but I imagine you probably have a good concentration of Dominion players near you, somewhat near you. 

strumphf: I think so. I mean we have a good couple German players around, and then it’s not very far to Scandinavia and the UK and France and Russia. Not that far, but yeah, we’ll see. What’re some of your other hobbies besides board games?

Mic Qsenoch: I mean, just other nerd stuff. I like to play video games and read mostly sci-fi fantasy stuff. I don’t know, I just like walking. Walking around outside, do some hiking.

strumphf: What was the last book you read? Or, what are you reading right now, if you are reading a book right now?

Mic Qsenoch: Let me go look. I’m reading a book called The Tyrant Baru Cormorant. It’s some fantasy book. It’s part of some series. It’s okay. I don’t have a strong recommendation for it at the moment, but it’s alright. 

strumphf: I haven’t been reading a lot, like ever since the pandemic, which is weird because I had so much time, but somehow I didn’t feel like reading, but I got into fantasy a bit more because it’s so interesting to have those visions of society, I guess.

Mic Qsenoch: Mhm. Yeah, I go on spurts with the reading. I haven’t actually been reading a whole lot right now, it’s taken me a while to get through these books, but sometimes it’s what I’m doing in all my free time, and sometimes it doesn’t happen much for a month or so. 

strumphf: Yeah, same with me. It was so curious last year because all the things I used to do in my free time, once I had like 100% free time I just didn’t do them anymore. Like with reading, and also with music I was very—ah well, the human mind, I guess.

Mic Qsenoch: Yeah it’s weird. People are in weird mental states depending on the changes, you know, and how your mood affects what you want to do and stuff you know.

strumphf: It’s just a bummer I didn’t get to discover Dominion Online earlier. I only, like, started in November I guess, and then I started a job this January, so… *laughs*. Too few time. Oh well. Is there anything else you’d like to share? Do you even listen to the pod?

Mic Qsenoch: I did not know it existed until you sent me the message, but I did listen to parts of a couple I think. I didn’t listen to, like, the full recap stuff, but I jumped around some, listened to some of it. It’s interesting, it’s always cool, the different things people find to make about Dominion is always neat. It’s always been a cool thing about the community, it’s just, there’s just a lot of different contributions that people have made as far as just spending their own time to make something for other people to enjoy, and whether that’s like analysis tools or just like entertainment aspect things, it’s always cool to see. 

strumphf: Is there anything else you want to share?

Mic Qsenoch: No, I don’t really have anything else in particular but thanks a lot for having me on.

strumphf: Thank you! You’re my first ever guest!

Mic Qsenoch: First of many, I’m sure you can get some, you know, I’m sure there’s lots of people that’d be happy to come answer questions. 

strumphf: Who would you like to hear an interview with?

Mic Qsenoch: Hmmm … I don’t know. That’s tough. I’m trying to think of someone who, like, I don’t already hear them because they post a lot, or … some voice of someone who’s been around a long time, but I don’t have a conception of who they are as much. That’s hard, I’d have to think about it, I don’t have one off the top of my head.

strumphf: Sorry for putting you on the spot there. 

Mic Qsenoch: It’s a good question. I think it’d be fun to have any of the other, like, long-term League people, someone like markus.

strumphf: Happens to be on the list.

Mic Qsenoch: Someone from the moderator side of the League would be good, I think. There’re lots of people to pick from there I think who’ve been around for a long time. It would be interesting—if the focus of the podcast is on League, it would be interesting to have, like, Stef on, to have him talk about starting the League and, of course, Stef has a lot of other things that he can be asked about as well—there’s tons of stuff that Stef’s been involved with in the community over the years. Or someone like assemble_me, who was around for the start of the League.

strumphf: Okay, noted.

Mic Qsenoch: Those are some possibilities. Those people don’t really meet—the other thing I said, people who are like enigmas to me, because I have interacted with Stef and assemble_me quite a bit over the years, but anyway, those are some people who come to mind. 

strumphf: Mic, thank you so much! That was awesome.

Mic Qsenoch: Sure, I was happy, happy to do it. It was fun.

strumphf: It was, it was. Have a nice one. I’ll see you around. 

Mic Qsenoch: You too. Bye.

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Generalized Kingdom Analysis (and Some Ramblings About Teaching)

Writer: terracubist


This article is partly written as a result of the lessons that have been happening recently in the #coaching channel of the Dominion Discord. Come join us on Thursdays, 7pm EST!

I only started playing Dominion competitively about a year ago, and only recently hit a thousand rated games on the client. One of the disconnects I often see between the best players in the world and those trying to improve is over intuition—what is instinctive (as the result of thousands of games) is often hard to articulate. One of my takeaways from #coaching lessons and learning the game relatively recently is that, when teaching newer players, it helps a lot to try and explain from more fundamental concepts rather than assume similarly honed instincts. For that reason, I thought it’d be useful to share what I’ve personally found success with: a procedural approach to kingdom analysis that attempts to minimize instinctive play by giving clear goals for each stage of the game (opening, midgame, endgame) before the game even starts. 

30 second elevator pitch

The overarching idea of this approach is the following: think backwards from the end, asking all of the following during turn 1:

  1. Endgame: How do I score?
  2. Midgame: What do I want my eventual deck to do, given how I score?
  3. Opening: How do I build to that eventual deck?
  4. Is there anything that could disturb my plan?

I like to think of a game like building a pyramid: scoring (endgame) relies on payload (midgame) which relies on deck control (opening). 

Figure 1: Author is bad at art

Endgame: “How do I score?”

Why start thinking from the end? I found it a lot easier to build with a goal in mind, and what better goal than nice shiny points? Also, I think it’s fairly common that how you score affects how you build (e.g. “I see Distant Lands as a way to score, which meshes nicely with a draw-to-X deck based around Cursed Village”). 

There are two parts of this stage of the process:

  • Look at all the possible ways to score
    • Ex: “on this board, I see Provinces, Witch, Distant Lands, and Tomb as ways to score”
    • Is there alt VP?
      • Where alt VP = literally any other scoring outside of Prov/Duchy/Estate
      • Is that alt VP actually usable?
        • “Oh hm there’s no trashing for tomb, and terminal space for Distant Lands looks iffy”
  • Is any pile liable to run?
    • Basically, “how likely is a pileout to occur, given it can shortcut the normal scoring process?”
    • Requires experience, but look for junkers, self-gainers, power cards
    • Ex: “I think with Witch curses are probably going to empty, and with Magpies that’s probably a second pile. Lackeys are cheap and incredibly powerful, so it’s possible we’ll buy a bunch of those and that pile runs.”

Note that each of the above can have a strong or weak effect: Colonies are very strong alt VP, while Pasture is relatively weak. Similarly, Groom heavily encourages piles to run, while Ironworks is usually a step slower than Groom. 

Midgame: “What do I want my eventual deck to do, given how I score?”

Once you’ve identified how you can score, it’s time to think about how to build a deck that can score in that manner. The steps for this stage are the following:

  • If alt VP available, figure out how good it is to pursue it
    • Ex: “ok, Witch slows my opponent down, and completely ignoring it means -10VP, which seems like a lot given the only other way to score is provinces”
    • Ex 2: “lol triumph and horses means provinces are for scrubs”
    • If it is good to pursue, compare options against Provinces/other alt VP. 
      • Look at the support for each, and as a result try and guess how frequently you can buy/gain/play each option. As an example, spamming Monument may be viable due to Hunting Lodge and good thinning, but uncontested Horn of Plenty access will likely decimate the Province pile before monolithic Monument playing can score enough.
      • If the options aren’t mutually exclusive, consider pursuing both/all. In the example from before, maybe plan to have Monument as one of your 8 uniques, and take more Monuments as the situation presents itself. 
  • If alt VP not dominant, what’s the best way to get Provinces?
    • Is there a viable +buy or way to gain Provinces?
      • If “no”, look for fast money strategies
        • Ex: “gear + trade go brrr”
      • If “yes”, what support does that deck want?
        • Ex: “I see horn of plenty and a few decent cantrips, so I want to get thin and add a little draw”
    • Basically, decide if building to single/double/megaturn
  • If piles look likely to run, plan to have at least one of the following:
    • VP lead – Ex: a money deck getting to a decent lead before piles get too low due to building
    • More pile pressure than opponent – want more relative gains to dictate when the game ends

Essentially, you’re trying to figure out what payload you want to use to go about scoring/the endgame, and what the optimal deck for playing that payload is. 

Opening: “How do I build to that eventual deck?”

The opening (turns 1 through ~6) is arguably the most important stage of the game, as whatever decisions you make here have a compounding interest-esque effect: the cards you open are likely going to be your most played (and therefore most impactful) cards. As such, the goals for this stage are the following: 

  • Set up deck to play payload as often as possible
    • Look for trashing
    • Look for draw/sifting
    • Look for reliability – e.g. topdecking, Gear, villagers, etc.
  • Get payload cards into deck soon
    • Figure out if you want to hit certain price points, and when (ASAP? whenever?)
    • Figure out if taking early payload/gainers helps get more payload/deck control (Ex: is playing cursed gold for Sentry worth it here?)

An example of thinking through this stage might look like the following:

“Okay so I want to get lots of Distant Lands and play them via Cursed Village. That deck wants to be clean of starting junk and doesn’t like Silvers, so I’m going to open Fisherman/Cargo Ship with the goal of hitting $5 early for a Sentry, and cleaning up while maintaining some midgame-friendly econ.”

This is obviously dependent on working through the endgame and midgame questions, so make sure you’re confident in your work there before jumping straight into clicking on cards. 

“Is there anything that could disturb my plan?”

After working through the stages of the game, I like to ask the following questions:

  • “Will any attacks/opponent interactions affect my plan?”
    • Ex: Scoring via Duchy/Duke might struggle against a Bureaucrat-spamming deck playing a lot of Haunted Woods
  • “Do any of the power combos/cards break/augment my plan?”
    • Check for things like CH+TF, Lurker + HG, Groom rushes, etc. which break a lot of the assumptions this approach relies on (i.e. scoring and the “endgame” starts almost immediately)
    • Check for strong synergies or tricks
      • Ex: Villa + Cursed Village, Way of the Mole + Village Green
    • Look at the canonically “good” cards and see if they fit into or warp your plan. Silk Merchant, for example, offers draw, +buy, pricepoint flexibility, temporary terminal space, and trash for benefit food. Some part of that will usually shortcut the usual concept of “get control, then build payload, then score”, so make sure not to ignore it. 

Answering these questions does rely a fair amount on game experience or study; even plenty of good players don’t know about Storeroom + Stampede, and memorizing a list of the best cards in Dominion isn’t always fun. As much as I’ve tried to minimize this approach’s reliance on external knowledge, I haven’t really found a way around this yet. 

Putting it all into practice

Kingdom 1 – 67897727

Using the approach I’ve described above, my analysis for the board above goes something like the following:

  • Endgame/Scoring: On this board, there is scoring via provinces, tomb, monument, and curses from desperation and cursed gold. Monument looks hard to use given limited terminal space, but tomb looks very good with trashing options in watchtower and pooka. Watchtower looks even better given it can trash the curses from desperation and cursed gold for “free” econ, and you can score a lot of points with Masterpiece overpays and trashing all the incoming silvers. Scoring with Provinces mostly has the problem of being a dead card in deck, and only scoring 6VP at a time, whereas Masterpiece overpay into Watchtower trash converts $8 into 6VP, $9 into 7VP, etc. Provinces will probably come into play later once Silvers run, but until then Masterpiece overpays are more efficient. Without much in the way of gains or terminal space, it looks like only silvers and masterpiece could run, while curses almost definitely will. 
  • Midgame/payload: Our “payload” includes anything that scores us tomb points, so we want watchtower and pooka, and scepter looks nice to play pooka again. Most of the other cards compete with pooka for terminal space, or have a better option at their price point.
  • Opening/deck control: Watchtower asap to get access to cursed gold and desperation (and free VP) looks like a must. Then Pooka to start killing coppers for vp, draw, and thinning looks good. Hitting $5 for Pooka seems pretty easy once we have desperation and cursed gold available. Given that we’re aiming to consistently find watchtower and lining up pooka + scepter is nice, we don’t want to take a curse without Watchtower in hand. In terms of reliability, Haven might or might not be useful to set aside excess Watchtowers, and Watchtower itself gives topdecking which might be situationally useful.
  • Disturbances: None of the boards really jump out at me as monolithic power cards, and I don’t see much in the way of attacks or player interaction here. Winning the split/pile denial doesn’t seem like much of a factor here either. 


If you’ve found this approach useful and would like to try it out, the following are the other kingdoms we used in our #coaching lessons. You can check the speaker notes here for some hints (

  • Kingdom 2 – 67586246
  • Kingdom 3 – 63616668
  • Kingdom 4 – 62608723
  • Kingdom 5 – 67402462
  • Kingdom 6 – 62066481
  • Kingdom 7 – 57956965


  • This is what’s worked for me. Take what works for you, and adapt it as needed. This isn’t a strict checklist, merely a template.
  • Freaky’s ideas of next shuffle optimization are still applicable while you’re playing the game. Everything I’m talking about is ideally done during turn 1, before you’ve bought anything. 
  • This approach is more concerned with “how much do I build here”, not “how do I build”. I started doing it after I already had some idea of how to build an engine, so if you don’t think you’re at that stage go check out JNails’ excellent video series: 
  • “All models are wrong, but some are useful” 
    • As with all general advice in Dominion, there’ll be edge cases that this approach won’t work for. The premise this approach relies on (that there are different stages of the game that are broadly deck control→payload→score) falls apart on boards with rushes, Cavalry/Villa silliness, and some of the more monolithic combos. 
  • This approach attempts to reduce the amount of experience and raw intuition needed, but is much faster as you get more.
    • It’s a lot easier to evaluate the relative strength of things (e.g. double goatherd or chapel? Is village smithy with no thinning reliable here?) when you have direct experience. 
    • Also knowing power combos (Gear + Trade, CH + TF, etc.) and synergies can help shortcut a lot of the thinking.
  • My ideas were loosely inspired by Dan Brooks’ forum post here:
  • This approach works best in formats that are not time-controlled (e.g. the Dominion League) and is sometimes a little slow for the “click buttons win prizes” mood that seems to predominate the automatch queue. 

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Cathedral Strategy

written by 13csande

Cathedral is a very strong trashing effect that should typically be purchased on the first turn of the game, even with a 4 or possibly even 5 copper hand. This allows you to trash a card every turn for the rest of the game, including an estate on turn 2, which greatly improves your second shuffle. Eventually, this will likely cause you to trash a good card, such as a Silver, because you have already trashed most of your starting coppers and estates. While this is regrettable, it is still well worth it because trashing your starting cards will allow you to buy more good cards faster than you otherwise would have. As such, even having to trash a few good cards you still wind up with a much better deck.

Although Cathedral is a very strong project, there are still a few instances where you should be wary of it. The three main factors to make you consider skipping Cathedral are (1) the presence of a stronger trasher, (2) a single-gain board, and (3) discard attacks.

Very few trashers are stronger than Cathedral, but a few do exist. These include Donate, Goat, and sometimes Chapel. These can allow you to get thin roughly as quickly and as efficiently as you would with cathedral, but without the downside of being forced to trash good cards later in the game. Therefore, when these other powerful trashers are available, it is often correct to skip Cathedral in favor of them.

Single-gain boards tend to be when Cathedral is at its weakest. Since you have to trash a card every turn, and can never add more than one card per turn to your deck, your deck can never increase in size after buying Cathedral on this type of board. That means that if you buy Cathedral on turn 1 your deck will never be bigger than 10 cards. This is fine at first as it allows you to quickly replace your starting coppers and estates with better cards, but eventually you will likely need to start buying provinces. At this point you will start being forced to either trash the provinces you just bought, or to trash the cards that you need to keep buying more provinces, and the deck begins to collapse. Sometimes you can trash a province from your hand, buy another province, and exhaust the province pile ending the game before your opponent can catch up, but typically you will not be able to score many points doing this (usually no more than 3 provinces). As such, it will usually not be too difficult for your opponent to reach that number of points before the game ends. It is possible that in such a situation delaying the purchase of Cathedral for a few turns can be effective, although it is still somewhat unclear how beneficial buying a delayed Cathedral is.

Cathedral is also weakened by the presence of discard attacks. Since you will have to trash a card at the beginning of your turn, you will need to keep a bad card in your hand to be trashed. Therefore, getting hit by a discard attack, like a Militia, which would normally reduce you to a 3-card starting hand, now forces you to actually start from a 2-card hand, which can be difficult. However, discard attacks by themselves are generally not enough justification to skip cathedral. The player that buys cathedral will be able to get to the point where they are consistently playing the discard attack much more quickly than a player that skips cathedral, and therefore the player that skipped cathedral will likely never be able to catch up. Discard attacks with strong alternative means of trashing can push you towards the other trasher over cathedral though. This is most evident with Mercenary, which is both a strong trasher and a discard attack, and thus usually discourages going for cathedral. On the other hand, cards that allow you to increase your hand size at the beginning of your turn (ie. Duration draw such as Wharf) are good for cathedral since they help make it more likely that a card you want to trash is in your hand at the beginning of your turn.

In conclusion, cathedral is a very strong project that you need a compelling reason not to buy on turn 1. While those reasons can exist, they are quite rare.

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The Value of Building

written by topher1588

In Dominion, there is a perpetual conflict between building and greening. Building involves adding draw, villages, and payload to allow your deck to do more in a single turn, while greening involves adding victory cards that score you points. In this article I’m going to highlight the benefits of building, and why you should err on the side of building too much versus too little. 

I recently played this board against Stef, one of the top rated players on ShuffleIT:

Even though I built pretty big, I greened a turn too early, and ultimately Stef had a nearly deterministic win. This article will be a case study on this board, where I describe various plausible decks and then describe how they can be beaten by building more. This trend is certainly not universal among Dominion boards, but tends to describe boards with high complexity fairly well. 

Journeyman Money

The idea: Okay, so I see that this board has no +buy. There’s Cathedral which lets you trash while still buying cards. So all I need to do is buy a bunch of treasures and a few Journeymen and I should be able to start hitting $8 reliably

How I built this deck: I opened Exploration/Cathedral which got me 2 Coffers and 2 Villagers, bought a Silver, two Journeymen and two Golds on successive turns and started provincing turn 8. I then bought Province for 6 straight turns. 

The Punish: This deck will punish itself. It will get to 5 or 6 Provinces fairly quickly but soon will have trouble hitting $8. Once the starting cards are trashed the player will have to decide between trashing higher value treasures, Journeymen and green cards. This deck will be outlasted by a player with an Artisan or two who can add villages and Journeymen throughout the game and take Duchies towards the end.

Adding some Artisans

The idea: Well, maybe I need a few Artisans, but I still don’t see the point in building big. After all, I just need to hit $8 every turn and contest the Duchy pile a little bit. 5 Provinces and 2 Duchies is ½ vp excluding the estates and curses which usually aren’t significant. Let’s build a little less and then green first. 

How I built this deck: I opened Exploration/Cathedral again, but this time I bought an Artisan when I had $6 or more. I ended up buying two Fishing Villages, an Artisan and passing a Buy phase for Coffers by turn 7. I started buying Provinces turn 8, this time with much more deck control. Artisan lets you topdeck Coppers so I was able to avoid the downside of Cathedral.

The Punish: Where’d my Coppers go?! Cutpurse is one of the rare discard attacks that stacks indefinitely and can be used to devastating effect here. Every turn your opponent plays Mastermind on a Cutpurse you either a) have to trash a good card or b) you have at least 4 Coppers in your starting hand and start with a 1 card hand. It’s easy to reliably play Mastermind on Cutpurse here, so the non-Mastermind player will quickly see their deck destroyed. The Cutpurse doesn’t hurt the Mastermind player as much because they can draw into the Coppers during the “start of the turn” phase and trash them after with Cathedral.

Start with Two Masterminds Each Turn

The idea: Fine, I’ll build here but I’m stopping with 4 Masterminds, with 2 in play at the start of each turn. That will let me play Mastermind on Journeyman (which I will have topdecked using Artisan on the previous turn), find my Artisan each turn and play it three times. So at least for a few turns I can gain Province and 3 Duchies comfortably. After Duchies are gone, either the piles will be low, or I can go back to adding engine components and hitting $8.

How I built this deck: I opened the same way, except this time I used artisan to gain masterminds. I had a pretty lucky shuffle where I got to play Artisan 3 times early on and quickly was able to play 2 Masterminds per turn. I picked up a second Artisan turn 7 and started greening turn 9. By turn 11 I had emptied Duchies and bought 3 Provinces. This seems unbeatable!

The Punish: I’ll be honest, the deck I built was pretty good. In the real game against Stef I had a chance to buy the final Mastermind (I had 4 and he had 5) or buy Province, and I chose to be the first mover in the hopes of gaining an insurmountable VP advantage. Since I greened first, I ended up getting 5 out of 8 Duchies. Stef instead built a tiny bit more and loaded up for a big final turn by playing Mastermind on Mastermind on the penultimate turn. He ended up with 6 Masterminds at the start of his final turn. Although I made a blunder and gave him an Estate pileout, he could have also comfortably given me 10 Curses by using the second Mastermind on Artisan (after drawing with journeyman) for three copies of Young Witch and then Masterminding the Young Witches with the 3 of the remainingthird-fifth Mastermind plays. Even after giving me 9 curses, he would have still been able to mastermind an artisan, which he could use to give me the final curse, take more engine pieces, or gain estates. While the Journeyman could have kept my deck functioning in the face of the Curses, he had all of the pile control and could easily play around letting me end the game, while eventually outscoring me. 

Conclusion: Look, I don’t think any of you good players are going to play Journeyman money. But I do think it’s hard to look at the board and notice every possible form of payload instantly. If you build more, you always have the option to implement ideas when you notice them later, or steal ideas from your opponent. In my case, I didn’t notice the Curse pile as another source of VP, and by the time I noticed, I hadn’t built enough to take advantage of it. And for those of you who think that good players figure out the board every time, pay attention to spectator chat when two A-league players face off. 

The paradox of Dominion is that building big is often safer than greening early, as it allows you to react to new information about the board more gracefully. Build big and ambitious decks, and learn when they fail to beat a more streamlined strategy. Once you understand the value of building complex decks, you’ll know when you can get an advantage by greening early.

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Guide To Engines

written by Freaky


This will be a review of the fundamentals I have been using for the past year when playing engines; I will attempt to keep it as widely applicable as possible and as such will not cover specific kingdoms. 

The following topics will be covered 

  •     Evaluating the kingdom 
  •     Opening 
  •     Draw is the best payload
  •     Shuffle management

Evaluating the kingdom

You can start out by picturing what your final deck might look like here but in truth I don’t hold a high opinion of that approach. The very first thing I do on a given kingdom is look for the ‘power cards’, this is usually but by no means exclusively the $5 cards. As fun as using bad cards can be, on the vast majority of kingdoms the path to victory does not include them. 

Once you figure out what cards you want to obtain, the next step is to look for support cards: for terminals you want villages, for payload you want draw, you get the gist. Now you want to ask yourself how do you play as many of those as quickly as possible, so you look for early acceleration and then you’re already at the opening.


If you can already open a power card, do so. If not, figure out how you get there. Don’t be afraid of Silver; it gets its fair share of hatred for good reasons, but for both the opening, as well as once you have deck control, Silver is a perfectly good card. Cards that cycle (usually cantrips with some major benefit) will get you to play your cards faster, while also not hurting your chances at buying power cards significantly (read Poacher/Ironmonger etc.). If the important cards cost at least $5 DO NOT open slow trashing cards if trashing is better done by a $5 card, this means not opening the likes of Forager/Temple. If there is a strong card costing at most $4, strongly consider gainers in your open over the card you truly want; this is especially true for the $4 Workshop variants!  If there is no strong card to get or the card just needs a sufficient amount of deck control to shine (best example: Governor), opening a trasher is your best bet.

When considering opening a trasher that does not produce economy on play, it is important to consider the quality of the $2 cards. The better they are, the stronger the trasher becomes as you can still buy them after playing it and the downside to taking a slow turn is mitigated by a significant degree.

A rough priority list for your opening

  • Cards that enable you to hit important price points for power cards/card shaped things like e.g. Recruiter, Wharf
  • Multicard trashers, especially in the presence of a strong $2 card
  • Workshop variants in the presence of a good  $4 card
  • Single card trashers that preserve some amount of economy (such as Scrap)
  • Single card trashers

Draw is the best payload

When playing an engine, draw isn’t just your friend, it’s your lifeboat. Without draw you can have all the best payload cards and well, you won’t see them more than once per shuffle. Draw not only makes you hit your price points almost as well as pure payload cards, it also lets you play them much sooner while running a lower risk of having them miss long shuffles. 

Unless the payload cards come with a strong attack like Mountebank, focus foremost on draw and payload second.

Shuffle management

This is a big topic that I can’t possibly cover in its entirety, so I will focus on the very basic principle of it. I like to divide shuffle management into two different categories: the first being situational overterminaling and the second being next shuffle philosophy. 

Situational Overterminaling

This comes up most games, especially in the early turns: you bottomdeck one of your terminals with a draw pile of at most four cards. What this means is that your next hand will contain the bottomdecked terminal and all the other cards topdecked, so adding yet another terminal to your deck has a much lower chance of colliding with your the bottomdecked terminal given the only case this happens is if you draw it as a new card from your discard. Having this in mind allows you to run your deck with more terminals than you would otherwise have, which is a great way to mitigate bad draws and can sometimes even be an outright advantage. 

This principle also applies to when your terminal is a draw card that triggers a shuffle. A notable example of this is opening Masquerade/cantrip or Masquerade/Project. If you do not see your Masquerade turn 3, then turn 4 Masquerade will trigger a shuffle and draw exactly one card from the new shuffle. If you bought a terminal T3 (often just another Masquerade) you are a big favourite to not draw it, meaning you will play another Masquerade T4, which is again unlikely to find your Masq. you played T3.

Next shuffle philosophy

This approach tries to ignore the bigger picture of what the endgame will look like and instead focus merely on your very next shuffle, has you gain cards and in general, make any decision with only your next shuffle in mind. The justification of such a simplification is that Dominion is a very snowbally game; getting an advantage now translates into an even bigger one down the line and focusing only on what helps you now drastically reduces decisions that have an end state of your deck in mind but do not help you get there the fastest.

This is only applicable before piles/provinces piling becomes a serious concern and is meant to accelerate your building phase.


To summarize my approach is to spend less time thinking about what I want my deck to do eventually and more time thinking about how to best use my decks in the very short term, thinking more about how my shuffles influence my gains rather than some eventual goal. Do note that this comes after having played tens of thousands of games and requires a certain kind of intuition to be utilized to its fullest extent.

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