This article was written by Donald X. Vaccarino, the creator of Dominion. It was originally posted on the forum. For more insights from Donald, check out The Bible of Donald X.
Lots of people ask: what Dominion expansion should I get next? They have different criteria in mind and well this guide will try to answer that question for a variety of criteria.
It can be helpful to look at the cards, see what’s in the expansions. The wiki has images of all of them.
Mainly there’s the main set and 12 expansions. You technically don’t need the main set – you could know the game and get Base Cards plus any expansions. So I have to consider it too.
Small – 150 cards: Alchemy, Cornucopia, Guilds
Regular – 300 cards: Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Hinterlands, Empires, Renaissance
Large – 400 cards: Adventures
Extra large – 500 cards: Dominion (due to base cards), Dark Ages, Nocturne
Dominion: The main set – includes base cards needed to play. The focus is on simplicity.
Intrigue: Cards that give you a choice, and victory cards that do something.
Seaside: Duration cards – they do something this turn and next turn.
Alchemy: Potions – a new resource that most of the cards in the set require to buy them.
Prosperity: Adds Platinum and Colony as a step above Gold and Province; Treasures that do things, VP tokens (worth 1 VP at end of game).
Cornucopia: Variety theme.
Hinterlands: “When you gain/buy this” theme.
Dark Ages: Trash theme; Shelters to replace starting Estates; Ruins which are similar to Curses; Spoils which is a one-use Gold.
Guilds: Coffers tokens ($ you can save), overpay (pay extra for a card to get an effect when buying it).
Adventures: Duration cards return; Reserve cards you can save until you want to use them; Events, effects you can buy that aren’t cards.
Empires: VP tokens return; more Events; Landmarks, things you don’t buy that modify scores; Debt that lets you pay for a card later; Split piles with two or more cards in them.
Nocturne: Night – a new phase after the Buy phase with cards usable then; Boons/Hexes – small random good/bad things that cards generate; non-supply Spirits; cards with Heirlooms that replace starting Coppers.
Renaissance: Coffers tokens return; Villager tokens (+1 Action you can save); Projects, abilities you can buy that aren’t cards; Artifacts, abilities only one player can have at a time.
But wait, there are other products you might find. I’ll ignore these elsewhere in this guide, but let’s see what they are.
Dominion and Intrigue were changed, with 6 cards dropped and 7 cards added. Thus we have:
Dominion, first edition: This is the only way to get the 6 cards dropped from Dominion. They were dropped with good reason! You don’t need this. And it’s not in print (in English), though there are lots of copies out there.
Intrigue, first edition: Similarly this is how you get the 6 cards dropped from Intrigue. You don’t need them. Also this version of Intrigue was standalone – it has the base cards needed to play, meaning it’s 500 cards.
Dominion Update Pack: Just the 7 cards added to Dominion. If you don’t have them they are a great source of 7 pretty simple but still interesting cards. This is out of print (the expectation being that the people who wanted it got it, and new copies of Dominion just have the new cards).
Intrigue Update Pack: And the 7 cards added to Intrigue. They are pretty sweet imo. Out of print.
The other expansions through Adventures got new versions with improved layout, but no new cards.
Base Cards: Just the basic cards needed to play – Copper Silver Gold Estate Duchy Province Curse – plus a few similar things that have appeared in expansions – Platinum Colony Potion. Once they were prettier than the main set / expansion versions; now everything is even prettier. You could want this in order to aviod buying Dominion itself, though it’s a fine product, or if you want to go to 5-6 players.
Promos: Over the years some promos have come out. They’re are a mixed bag, typically too weak or too strong. Some of them are fun though. You can buy them at BoardGameGeek and support the site at the same time.
Mixed Box: It’s Cornucopia plus Guilds in one box; we no longer sell them separately (in English). I couldn’t quite bring myself to combine them in this guide though.
Big Box: The current one is Dominion plus Intrigue plus extra base cards so you can play with 5-6 players. The old out of print one was Dominion plus Prosperity plus Alchemy, for some reason.
Non-English language versions include different Big Boxes and different Mixed Boxes and random assortment products; I don’t have all the information on those. Hobby Japan also makes rethemes – mixes of cards from multiple expansions, with different flavor. You can look those things up on BoardGameGeek if you want. 999 Games makes an intro product in Dutch that’s smaller than the normal main game.
If you just want a few sentences more on each set, I’m there for you.
Dominion: Some of the simplest cards in the game, covering all the most common kinds of abilities. Most of you have this already. If you don’t, I recommend getting it; while it’s possible to get base cards elsewhere, these cards are great to add to your games.
Intrigue: This expands on the main game in the simplest way possible, without much to send you to the rulebook. There is a theme of cards that give you a choice – something like “choose one…” or “name a card.” There are also Victory cards with abilities, including Action – Victory cards and a Treasure – Victory card, plus a few cards that like those cards.
Seaside: Introduces Duration cards – orange cards that set up something to happen in the future. Many of them simply do something this turn, and that thing or another thing on your next turn. The rest of the set has some related cards, like stuff that interacts with the top of your deck. Duration cards were much admired on their debut. They finally came back in Adventures, and the later sets each have a few Duration cards. But they started out here.
Alchemy: Adds a new basic pile, Potions, which produce a new resource. To buy cards with the potion symbol in the cost, you need to play a Potion. The set also has an action-chaining theme, which it got to make sure that most of the cards were worth buying a Potion for even if no other cards in the game required a Potion. Some people adore Alchemy, but it tends to be people’s least favorite set.
Prosperity: The overall theme is “spendy.” There are Platinum and Colony, new base cards above Gold and Province; there are Treasures that do things when you play them or while they’re in play; and there are at last cards that cost $7. There are also three cards that use VP tokens – a way to have VP without it being a card in your deck.
Cornucopia: There are no new rulebook mechanics in this small expansion. The theme of the set is variety, with cards that care about the variety of cards you have in your deck, or in your hand, or in play, and some cards that can get you more variety.
Hinterlands: This is a simpler set. The main theme is cards that do something (extra) either when you buy them or when you gain them. There are 3 Reactions, 3 special Treasures, and 3 Victory cards, but that’s only 7 cards total. A number of cards push “filtering” – getting through your deck without using all the cards.
Dark Ages: This is a sprawling set full of crazy combos. There is a trash theme, cards that do something when you trash them, lots of ways to trash things, and a few things that care what’s in the trash or can take cards out of it. The Ruins pile is like Curses but more interesting, with 3 cards handing them out. The Spoils pile is an unbuyable one-use Gold that 3 cards give out. Starting Estates can be replaced with Shelters, which have little abilities to spice up those games.
Guilds: A small set with two themes: Coffers tokens, which you can cash in in your Buy phase for +$1, and overpay, which is cards that let you pay extra for them in order to generate an effect when you buy the card.
Adventures: Duration cards return, including Duration attacks and Duration cards that just hang around in play all game. The Tavern mat gives you a place to put Reserve cards, which go to your mat when played and can be “called” off later to do what they do. For the first time a new kind of card is shuffled in with the randomizers (or kept separate if you prefer): Events. A game can have 0-2 Events; they give you an effect you can buy in your Buy phase, but aren’t a card in anyone’s deck. There are two Travellers, cards that upgrade themselves four times each.
Empires: VP tokens return, with lots of uses for them, including cards that they pile up on. In addition to more Events, there are Landmarks, more randomizer-deck cards that can be added to a game. They provide a way to score VP, sometimes with tokens or sometimes just calculated at the end of the game. You use 0-2 Events/Landmarks total. Some cards cost Debt, which means you don’t have to pay for the card now, but can’t buy other things until you finish paying off the Debt. There are 5 Split piles that have two different cards in them – five copies of each – plus the Castles pile with 8 different Victory cards.
Nocturne: This expansion adds a new phase, Night, which occurs after the Buy phase and before Clean-up. The only thing it means is, there are Night cards that you only play then. This lets them care about what happened during the turn, and many of them do; others go right into your hand when gained, so you can buy one and then immediately play it at Night. There are two small decks of random good/bad effects, the Boons and Hexes, and cards that cause you to turn over one of those cards and see what happens. Seven cards have Heirlooms, which are special Treasures that replace a starting Copper in games using that card. Several cards use new non-Supply cards, the Spirits. Overall it’s the most flavorful set.
Renaissance: This set is much simpler than the last few, but still has four mechanics. Coffers tokens return, paired with Villagers, which are tokens you can cash in in your Action phase for +1 Action. Projects are randomizer-deck things like Events, but instead of getting a one-time effect, you get a permanent ability. You use 0-2 Events/Landmarks/Project per game. Artifacts are non-deck cards that only one player can have at a time; the cards that produce them will let you take them from other players.
Let’s Start Off Simple
The main set is especially simple; start there! Intrigue is next simplest, adding just “Victory cards can do things” as a concept, and never really sending you to the rulebook. Hinterlands is pretty simple, and then, simple but with more new stuff, we have Seaside, Prosperity, and Renaissance.
I Just Want the Best Expansions, Okay?
You get better with experience; I think the later sets – Adventures, Empires, Nocturne, Renaissance – are all more polished than the earlier sets, with fewer duds, and lots of exciting content. I also especially like the revamped Intrigue, and Dark Ages. Note however that Adventures, Empires, and Nocturne are the three most complex expansions.
I Want the Sets That Add the Most to the Game
Adventures, Empires, and Renaissance add not just kingdom cards but also Events / Landmarks / Projects, which add lots of variety to the game. After those, some expansions mess with the starting decks or basic cards: Prosperity adds Platinum / Colony; Dark Ages has Shelters and is also 500 cards; Nocturne has Heirlooms.
I Want Lots of Player Interaction
Empires has the most interaction overall: it has attacks, split piles, and Gathering piles (they accumulate tokens one player will get), plus many of the Landmarks are interactive.
I Hate Attacks
Renaissance only has two, getting much of its interaction from the Artifacts that players can compete for. Prosperity and Empires only have three, although Prosperity’s three get played a lot. All three sets make up for that reduced interaction by having more non-attack interaction.
Wait, I Love Attacks
Intrigue and Seaside have some especially vicious attacks, attacks that make the game be about that card. Dark Ages has fewer attacks by %, but they include the ones that give out Ruins cards, plus the Knights pile; if you like attacks, you will want to see the Knights. Nocturne has attacks that give out Hexes, which are random effects.
I Want the Best Player to Win
Any new expansion you get will favor the best player for a while. Empires helps the better player via VP tokens, so many ways to catch up to a lead in Provinces. Dark Ages and Renaissance help the player better at spotting card interactions. Renaissance and Guilds help the player better at knowing when to use up Coffers and Villagers.
I Want Crazy Surprising Things to Happen
Nocturne has the most randomness, with completely random Boons and Hexes. Dark Ages and Renaissance push card interactions, and can produce lots of crazy surprising ones.
I Want Big But Less Surprising Things to Happen
Prosperity has a “big” theme, with Platinum and Colony as the next step from Gold and Province, and cards costing $7. Empires picks up from there, with a treasure that doubles your $, an Event that makes 15 VP total, and cards that cost 8 debt.
I Like Theme
Nocturne and Adventures stand out as having more thematic cards than other expansions – at the expense of, they’re more complex too. Dominion’s theme gets singled out some for ridicule, but well, whether that’s your stance or not, those expansions are heavier on theme.
Which Sets Have Those Cool Metal Tokens?
Empires has VP tokens and Debt tokens; Prosperity has VP tokens and coin tokens; Seaside has coin tokens and Embargo tokens (they are only used with Embargo). Guilds and Renaissance have coin tokens. In terms of actually using the tokens, Empires and Renaissance get the most out of their metal.
No Fiddly Bits for Me
Dominion, Intrigue, and Hinterlands have no extra bits and no extra piles.
What’s Next if I Liked…
Dominion: Intrigue does the least to stray from the basics.
Intrigue: Empires has lots of VP tokens, which are more non-deck VP. Guilds and Renaissance push choices.
Seaside: Duration cards return with a vengeance in Adventures.
Alchemy: If you liked the action-chaining, try Dark Ages.
Prosperity: Empires is kind of a sequel to Prosperity.
Cornucopia: There isn’t much that cares about variety outside of Cornucopia, but some sets help you get variety – Dark Ages, Nocturne.
Hinterlands: All later sets have a little when-gain, but Renaissance has more than usual.
Dark Ages: Renaissance has some more trash-combo stuff. Nocturne has more non-Supply piles and starting-deck cards.
Guilds: Renaissance revisits Coffers. Hinterlands debuted when-gain, related to the overpay cards.
Adventures: Seaside debuted Duration cards. Events are also in Empires, and the related Projects appear in Renaissance. If you liked the flavor, Nocturne is especially flavorful.
Empires: This is kind of a sequel to Prosperity. Adventures debuted Events, and Renaissance has the related Projects.
Nocturne: Dark Ages has more non-Supply piles and starting-deck cards. Adventures also has fantasy elements.
Renaissance: Guilds introduced Coffers. Dark Ages has more trash-combo stuff, Hinterlands more when-gain. Adventures and Empires have Events, which are related to Projects.
But What Would Someone Else Recommend?
Seaside and Prosperity! When they came out they were the best sets. People have a lot of nostalgia for them. Duration cards from Seaside were popular; some people never want to play without Platinum and Colony from Prosperity. Among the later sets, Empires was especially well received.
If you look at BoardGameGeek ratings, expansion ratings are always warped; an expansion (correctly) tends to only get rated by people who have it, which tends to be people who were pretty pleased up to then. So expansions rate higher than games, and later expansions rate higher because the people who bought ten expansions are bigger fans than the people who bought two. So you can’t just look at the ratings and get a clear story. Still, trying to take that into account, Prosperity and Empires stand out as outliers, higher than expected.
Hey, What About Cornucopia and Alchemy?
None of the above categories recommend these expansions. In the case of Alchemy, well, it’s most people’s least favorite expansion; I’d get it last. Cornucopia I think is great; it just doesn’t fall into any of those categories. The variety theme is a unique thing that people like but don’t specifically ask for.
And That’s That
There you have it. When people say, what expansion should I get next, here is a thing you can link them to.