Dominion Expansion Mini-Reviews Now With 100% More Matt

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Marc – Dominion is somewhat notorious for having a ton of expansions. There are a lot of them–no denying that. But they’re also quite fun and each one has its own theme and feeling. They can vary tremendously. Prosperity couldn’t feel any more different than Dark Ages. But for a newcomer who maybe only has the base game the expansions can seem daunting. Here’s our guide that will help you navigate this wealth of gaming.

Matt – I will admit, my ratings aren’t very helpful… All the Dominion expansions are great – it’s hard to find much separation.  No, I won’t apologize for giving only one set a score lower than 8. Yes, Alchemy is great, too. (No it isn’t – Marc)

Hopefully my quick rundowns will help give you a sense of what to expect from each set. Maybe some mechanism, play style or individual card will grab your attention. That set can be your next Dominion purchase! Or, if you’ve never played Dominion at all, I hope you take away that this game is a joy to experience, even if you just pick up the base game.

Base Game – 10 Gold out of 10

What needs to be said? It’s a modern classic that defines the deckbuilding genre. The base set is possibly the most elegant modern game that I have ever played. Easy to learn, and incredibly replayable just by itself.

Highlights:

  • Remodel: Make a card into a better card! Innocuous until you snatch up the last Province by remodeling your gold.
  • Laboratory: 2 Cards and an Action. Very simple, but the basis for a lot of chaining decks
  • Militia: Still one of my favorite attacks. Good early because of the +2 money, and the discarding attack changes how your opponents have to plan their strategy.

Marc – See my full review hereChapel and Gardens completely change the game unlike any other card in the base game. I also have to highlight Festival as an incredibly useful card that I love inordinately.

Intrigue – 8 Dukes out of 10

A great first expansion, Intrigue adds a layer of decisions with “choose one” cards, expanded attacks, and fun multi-type cards. Intrigue widens the possibilities of the base set without adding complicated new mechanisms.

Highlights:

  • Harem: do I spend that 6 money on a silver+2VP, or go for the gold? Marc – Choose the gold
  • Duke: The first really viable alternate VP strategy. Pulling off a Duke/Duchy win feels great.
  • Mining Village: just a little village, until you trash it to afford that late game province.

Marc – Intrigue is solid, for sure. Some great cards in there like Duke and Masquerade, but some stinkers like Torturer. In retrospect it isn’t a particularly exciting expansion, but overall worth picking up. 7/10

Seaside – 9 Islands out of 10

I think every card in Seaside is fun, with the possible exception of the very mean Sea Hag (I’ve never liked attack cards as much as I probably should, anyway). Duration cards were my first glimpse of the incredible extensibility built into Dominion. This might be a good first expansion for the slightly more adventurous.

Highlights:

  • Wharf; Caravan: Chaining decks with Duration cards is just fun.
  • Ambassador: So selfless… here, have all my copper and estates!
  • Island: Alternate VPs that thin your deck, very cool.

Marc – I love Seaside. For a long time I said that this is my favorite expansion. Looking back I think I just love duration cards. The set as a whole seems to have a high power level, which can make for some tighter, quicker games. Except that it’s counterbalanced by some of the meanest attack cards in the entire game, like Sea Hag and Pirate Ship. Ambassador is probably the strongest card in the entire game. Fishing Village is the best village in the game. This is what I will always suggest as the first expansion to buy after the base game. 9/10

Alchemy – 8 Potions out of 10

Ok, why the hate? Alchemy is awesome. It has powerful actions and a whole new resource! I, for one, am sad that this 2 resource system hasn’t been further expanded in later sets. (You are, in fact, the only one – Marc). University is a blast in games with good 5 cost cards (even just chaining with lab). Pulling off a Golem/Tunnel (from Hinterlands) win was one of my great early Dominion memories. I recommend playing Alchemy as a 50/50 mix with another set.

Highlights:

  • Golem: I like this as a way to sift out a few strong action cards in an otherwise big money deck
  • Vineyard: fun alternate VP card that rewards super chaining decks.
  • Possession: Is it good? Meh… Is it awesome and ridiculous? Yes, possession is awesome and ridiculous.

Marc – This is the expansion most people will say is the weakest, and for good reason. It introduces a new resource to the mix–potions, and every card but one in the pack requires a potion. It’s not a horrible idea, though it does extend the length of the game. My biggest beef with this pack is that the cards are so uneven. Golem and Possession are indeed fun and wild. University and Apprentice are strong. Everything else ranges from horrible (Familiar!) to annoying (Philosopher’s Stone; Scrying Pool). And because it’s a small expansion you’ll want to mix it with another pack, which makes gathering potions all that less appealing. 5/10

Prosperity – 9 Banks out of 10

Prosperity is probably my recommendation for first expansion to buy after the base set. It’s Dominion, but bigger! More money, more VP, more devastating attacks. I like the introduction of VP tokens, and there are plenty of cards that gently introduce new ways to play.

Highlights:

  • Bishop: Trashes cards and gives VP that won’t clog your deck.
  • City: Another village, but it gets better as piles empty in the late game.
  • Venture: One of many treasure cards that give new strategies for generating buying power.

Marc – Like a shot of steroids, Prosperity beefs up your game of Dominion by introducing Colonies and Platinum. I love mixing this set with others because of the tremendous combo potential. I mean, look at King’s Court. That’s insane. Prosperity, even with all of its wealth, has some of the most devastating attack cards in the game with Rabble, Mountebank, and Goons. Plus now you have something to buy with 7 money. Prosperity is fun, but wild. 8/10

Cornucopia – 7 Hamlets out of 10

I’ve always found Cornucopia to be the most middling Dominion expansion. The “variety” theme encourages buying more of the available cards, but this always seemed at odds with my desire to find a focused strategy. I’m not a big fan of the super overpowered Tournament, which lets you gain powerful prizes not in the supply. (I think Dark Ages and later sets have better out-of-supply cards). All that said, I think Cornucopia still brings a fun and unique twist to Dominion, especially lightly sprinkled into games from other sets.

Highlights:

  • Menagerie: Perhaps the epitome of Cornucopia, this enables some fun engines if there are a variety of support cards.
  • Hunting Party: A better Laboratory for the same cost; also a fun engine card.

Marc – I think I agree with Matt here. It’s an okay expansion, but perhaps would have been benefited by being larger. The cards sync with each other well, but there’s not necessarily enough of them to make that synchronization fun or effective. But there are some fun cards here, most notably Tournament, which while imbalanced, is amusing. Hamlet is one of the best 2 cost cards in the game. 7/10

Hinterlands – 9 Hagglers out of 10

About 5 days a week this is my favorite expansion, which makes a lot of sense as it was originally conceived as a follow up to Seaside! Hinterlands just has endless interesting possibilities – every card seems enticing. Tunnel and Fools Gold are the type of cards that you just want to make work (even when they aren’t the best play in the kingdom). Effects on buy and gain add yet another wrinkle into your planning.

Highlights:

  • Border Village: I’m always tempted to use my 6bp on this + another solid card in lieu of gold.
  • Nomad Camp: 4 cost, +2 money that is gained to the top of your deck and allows for a 4/4 or 4/5 opening split! Game changer.
  • Crossroads: Love the +3 Actions “if this is the first time you played crossroads this turn”. It’s an interesting engine card.
  • Mandarin: +3 money, put a card onto your deck is such an interesting tradeoff. Is it good? Sometimes.

Marc – I had to take a second look at this expansion to see why Matt was so excited about it. When I think of great expansions for Dominion I think of the expansions that use a mechanical theme well, like Seaside. But while Hinterlands does add a small new mechanism (cards that have an effect when you buy them), the real strength is simply a large number of good, interesting cards. It’s a strong expansion across the board and what I would recommend for your 2nd expansion buy after Seaside. I don’t even know what I want to highlight. The cards here are just fun. 9/10

Dark Ages – 8 Spoils out of 10

I think Dark Ages represents a shift in Dominion for me. It expands what is possible in Dominion more than any previous set. It changes the starting deck, elevates trashing to a first class mechanism, and adds both cards outside the supply, and card piles of all-unique cards. Dark Ages really shows how robust Dominion is as a game platform. There is a lot to like here, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Highlights:

  • Urchin/Mercenary: An annoying cantrip attack that upgrades into a jack of all trades attack that thins your deck. Weird!
  • Fortress: Village, but gain into hand when you trash it?! Crazy combo possibilities.
  • Graverobber: Gain a card from the trash costing 3 to 6 (or a better remodel for actions). That’s just weird. Maybe it could be good?

Marc – Dark Ages is Dominion on hard mode. I barely know how to evaluate it, given just how dense and complicated some of the interactions are here. It turns trashing into a puzzle of possibilities. I don’t know if I like it. Maybe if I was in the habit of playing Dominion nearly every day and got myself back into a level of play where the other expansions started seeming passe. Maybe then I’d find Dark Ages a worthy foe. 7/10

Guilds – 8 Taxmen out of 10

Guilds is probably the most consistent small expansion (over Alchemy and Cornucopia). I don’t love any of these cards, but I like nearly all of them. I think overpay is a great extension to Hinterland’s on-buy effects, and coin tokens are a logical addition to the game, much like VP tokens were in Prosperity. I also love the little thematic details in this and other recent expansions.

Highlights:

  • Baker: simple cantrip that gives you a coin to use now or later. But it modifies setup to give each player a starting coin, opening up the potential for a 4/4 opening split? 3/5? 2/6?!
  • Doctor: A mediocre deck thinner, but that overpay is tempting with a big money hand mid-game. How many coppers can I trash at once?

Marc – A slight expansion, but some interesting interactions. I wish there were more coin token opportunities here, like there were VP token opportunities in Prosperity. Notable for being perhaps the most thematic of all of the expansions, Guilds is fine. A decent addition but nothing exciting. 7/10

Adventures – 9 Magpies out of 10

Like Dark Ages, Adventures pushes the boundaries of what Dominion can be, but in more friendly and accessible ways. Upgrade cards progress as you use them, the excellent Reserve cards act like duration cards, but let you choose when to get their benefits, and Events offer interesting effects for a cost. I’m lukewarm on the new tokens, which put upgrades on certain kingdom cards or affect future turns. There is a lot going on, but it does lead to some fun and interesting play.

Highlights:

  • Royal Carriage: Play to your Tavern Mat, call later to immediately replay any action card!
  • Page/Treasure Hunter/Warrior/Hero/Champion: a 2 cost card that grows with your deck into some very powerful cards. And I love the thematic progression.
  • Inheritance: 7 cost event that gives your estates the abilities of a card costing up to 4 in the supply for the rest of the game.

Marc – I fell in love with this set from my very first game. Adventures is also tremendously thematic, and I adore the Page-to-Champion upgrade path. There are so many fascinating and subtle cards here. Look at Messenger or Haunted Woods. There are also a ton of cards that interact with other players in interesting ways, which I love. And the Tavern Mat is my favorite mechanism from any expansion. Most days of the week I think this is my favorite expansion. 9/10

Empires – 8 Rocks out of 10

I think Donald X has been playing with house money with these last few expansions. Empires adds at least 3 successful new mechanisms while still having a bit of just about everything else. Not that Dominion needs more replayability, but Landmarks change scoring in a way that can fundamentally change any kingdom. Debt costs are a nifty counterpoint to the coin tokens of Guilds. Split piles and Gatherings offer new strategic and tactical decisions.

Highlights:

  • Crown: Following the Throne Room theme, but now for actions or treasures!
  • Wild Hunt: Will you take the 3 cards, or take the Estate to take the build pile of VPs before someone else does?
  • Engineer: 4 debt for a Workshop that you can later trash for another 4 cost card? Interesting option for the second turn
  • Wolf Den: Any card you have exactly one copy of costs you 3 VP! Plan wisely.

Marc – Like Hinterlands, Empires just has a collection of interesting cards. I’ve played this expansion the least, so I don’t have as much of a grasp on how to evaluate them, but so far I’ve enjoyed my plays. Debt is an interesting new mechanism, though I don’t know that I love it. Again there’s a lot of interaction and a lot of interesting decisions within play of the cards themselves. Look at Enchantress as an example of a fascinating card from this expansion. 8/10

Nocturne, the next expansion, will be here soon! We’ll be sure to have a review of that as soon as we play it–a lot.

 

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