Dominion Card Game – Card By Card Analysis

May 6, 2009 at 1:59 am 3 comments

Author – Cory Duplantis

We are going to go through each of the 25 Kingdom cards in Dominion and explain what the card does and how you can use each in various ways.  We will also go through common combos with each card.

We assume you have played Dominion or understand how the game is played before reading this article. All of these strategies will not work all of the time.  Because each game of Dominion is different, the setup could require tweaking of various strategies.

Adventurer – Reveal cards in your deck until TWO treasure cards are drawn, discard all other cards – 6 cost

This card is a great card to have in a deck where the gold count in the deck is small.  Since you are guaranteed to get two treasure cards from this one card, it doesn’t matter how big your deck is.  The way this card is played best is by eliminating Coppers (and Silvers if possible) from your deck completely.  This can be done with Chapel, Moneylender, or Remodel.

That is the basic combo with Adventurer

  • Make a very small deck with Chapel.
  • Make sure you only have Silver and/or Gold in your deck.

This way, each Adventurer you play is worth at the least 4 Gold or at most 6 Gold.

Bureaucrat – Gain a Silver card.  Each other player must place a Victory Point card from their hand on top of their deck.  If they do not have a Victory Point card, they must reveal their hand – 4 cost

This card is great for a deck where you want to dramatically increase the size of your deck.  This card can also be used in a strict Remodel deck.  You use Bureaucrat to gain silvers, and then Remodel those silvers into 5 G cards (these cards will depend on what is available for that game).  It is also a good opening card if the Militia is not currently in play.  As the card gives you a silver card each time is played, actually buying gold is useless for you now.  You can use the money you have to buy action cards instead of money.

Cellar – +1 Action, Discard X cards, +X cards – 2 cost

Use this card to discard useless cards in your hand in order to gain other cards.  This card prevails in a +Card deck.  Basically you discard everything except your +Action and +Card cards.  This way you maximize your draws you can get.  It is also a good card to use to end the game.  Since this card only costs 2, you can use it to empty a stack of cards if you are wanting to end the game.  One common mistake however is to have too many Cellars.  Too many cellars is useless because each time you use a cellar, you have one less card in your hand, because the cellar itself had a place in your hand.  So chaining Cellars is almost always useless.

Chancellor – +2 money, deck may be put in discard pile – 3 cost

At first, this card doesn’t seem that great, but after playing with it; it is quite useful.  This card shines in a small deck.  The reason for this is because you should know what cards you have in your deck, thus you should know what should be coming up in your deck.  If one turn you played a good bit of your gold or a good bit of your kingdom cards and know that you only have small money and victory point cards left, then this card is played to shuffle everything back together.  Also, since it is only 3 gold, it is a good starting card.  It gives you an early jump in money, and it also gives you the option to shuffle your deck or not, which is a useful option to have.

Chapel – Trash up to 4 cards from your hand – 2 cost

Well, the use of the chapel is obvious, get rid of cards you do not need.  Many new players do not understand the reasoning behind this.  The reason you want to trash cards is to draw other cards more often.  The smaller the deck, the more often cards are drawn, and therefore are played more often.  Basically instead of drawing a lot of copper, you will have a fewer number of silver and gold, but will draw that money more often.  This card is also vital if Witch is in play and Moat is not.  This card gets rid of those pesky Curse cards that no one wants to have.

Council Room – +4 Cards, +1 Buy, others players draw one card – 5 cost

At first, this card is amazing. WOW! 4 cards and a buy.  You must be very careful with these cards.  This card is only good, if other players are also playing with a big deck.  If there are players playing a small deck, then this card will help them more than helping you.  Since their deck is so small, every card they draw is useful.  On the other hand, if everyone is playing with larger decks, this card is also good.  Also, if this is the only way to purchase multiple cards, then it is also useful.  This card is a good card to combo with a Garden deck.  Since this card gives you a lot of cards as well as a buy, the odds of you drawing lots of gold is good.  Thus, you could purchase a Province as well as a smaller card (like a cellar for instance).  If this card is also one of the few +Card cards, then it is also good.  It is also a good starting card if you draw 5 copper on your first or second hands.  The reason for this is that your odds are great that you will draw 3 or 4 copper the next time your deck is shuffled, which almost always becomes an early Gold.

Feast – Gain a card costing up to 5 money, Trash this card – 4 cost

This card is absolutely great.  Early game, it is great to grab a couple of these for various 5 point cards.  In a game where Witch is in play and moat is not, grab a feast to grab a witch very early to put your opponent(s) on the defensive. Or, use the feast to grab more draw cards like Laboratory.  This card is just a great card to have in the early game.  That said, later in the game it is not so great.  You need to gauge when you think your opponent will end the game and how large your deck is.  If you are going to buy this but never  reshuffle your deck, then your money could have been spent on Victory Point cards, rather than this Feast.  In short, buy these early, but try not to buy them in the late game.

Festival -+2 Actions, +1 Buy, +2 Money- 5 cost

Hmm, where to start with Festival.  Festivals are a tricky card.  At first, it seems like festivals should always get priority because of all the stuff they give.  In some games this is the case, but most games it is not.  Festivals should be used with there isn’t Villages in play, or if there aren’t many +Buy cards.  If you are using this card solely for the +money, then you have wasted 5 money.  While yes, you can chain 4 festivals together to get a Province, you could have spent that 20 money on better draw cards.  That said, if there are not many +Card cards in play, then yes, this is a great card to have.  This card is also very useful in a Library deck strategy which I will discuss shortly.  In short, festivals shouldn’t be a deck strategy.  Use a couple festivals, but do not rely strictly upon them.

Laboratory – +2 cards, +1 action – 5 cost

This card is by far one of my favorite cards.  You get two extra cards in your hand, and you get to play something else.  This card is key to a “money only” deck strategy.  Basically you only buy money, in order to buy up to Gold and fill your deck with Gold.  The +action with the Lab will be used with either a Chapel, to get rid of Coppers or Victory point card in your hand, or with a Cellar for the same reason.  Also, Lab is just an overall good card you can use in most any deck.  Drawing cards, and then being able to play more things is just a fantastic ability.  That said, do not buy strictly Laboratories.  It is useless to go through your whole deck and only end up with 5 gold to spend.  That is pointless.  If you already have 3 Lab’s and you get another 5 money in your hand, use it on a Silver or a Mine, if it is in play.  That way, you can bring in gold faster.

Library – Draw until you have 7 cards in hand.  You may set aside any Action cards drawn this way, as you draw them; discard the set aside cards after you finish drawing  – 5 cost

Basically, with the Library, you want to empty your hand until you only have the Library left.  You then play the Library and redraw 7 cards at which point you continue to play cards.  A basic strategy with the Libray is Festival/Library.  This way, you get rid of cards in your hand so you can draw more cards, as well as give yourself actions to use after you have chosen the Library.  And since the very nature of Library is that you may keep action cards or not, you can gauge whether or not to keep certain action cards or to discard them.  Another good strategy with Library is to Chapel all the Estates out of your deck and then Library.  This way, you are guaranteed to draw money.  While this only works in the beginning, it is still a good opening strategy.

Market - +1 Card, +1 Action, +1 Buy, +1 money – 5 cost

WOW what a card!  So much stuff to use on one turn!  I must get every market I can.  WRONG! (most of the time).  This is the mentality many new guys have when starting Dominion.  While in some occasions this card would be great to have 4 or 5 of, this card just isn’t as amazing as people think.  This card is basically a placeholder copper card.  When you draw it, you automatically get one money.  While this is great and all, you can use the card spot for a more viable card with many more uses (like a Laboratory or a Throne room, or heck even a Duchy at this point).  Yes the Market does give a lot of things in one turn, but again, it is merely a place holder.  If you are looking for a deck that get’s lots of  +Buy cards, then maybe this is an option.  For the most part, stay away from trying to buy too many of these.  While a couple (2 or 3 at most) is good, any more is just a burden and remember, the key to Dominion is deck management.

Militia – +2 money, each opponent discards down to THREE cards - 4 cost

Now this card is a great opening card.  Not only does it give you money at the beginning (which is key) it also reduces your opponent’s hand.  This is great because in the beginning, the game is usually a race to see who can get to a couple of the 5 cost cards the fastest.  That being said, this card is also great with Council Room in play.  If you can chain a couple of Council Rooms together and then finish the chain with a Militia, not only do you get the cards and the buys from the Council Room, but your opponent will more than likely have to discard at least one or two cards that would have made this hand great.  Your opponent discards down to only THREE cards, not discard only TWO cards.  This is a common misconception.  That being said, militia is not one of those cards you want to have more than 3 of in a deck, unless you are playing a heavy Festival/Village deck.  Militia’s main purpose is to give you money; the discard element is merely the bow on top of the present.  It is also to note that if Moat is in play, gosh you might as well pass on Militia if you see your opponent gaining a lot of Moats.  Why spend 4 gold on a card that you will only gain half the use of?  Militia is a great opening card, but mid-late game, it just isn’t terribly powerful.

Mine – Trash a treasure card; gain a treasure card TO YOUR HAND of the next highest value – 5 cost

Mine is one of my favorite cards.  This card does great in nearly every deck, because every deck needs to get rid of copper cards.  And, what better way of getting rid of copper card than by replacing every copper with a silver, or every silver with a gold.  Now for the common question… Which is better to do, Copper à Silver or Silver to à Gold? The honest answer is…it depends (yeah, yeah, it’s a generic answer, I know).  BUT 9/10 Silver à is going to be the most worth-while decision.  The only time this wouldn’t be the case is if Thief is in play, and even then it is still usually a good deal. You want to be able to purchase more powerful cards at all cost.  Yeah, you will draw that other copper, but remember Dominion is all about deck management.  Having 1 Gold and 1 Copper is much better than having 2 Silver.  You will draw the Gold which is automatic Silver if you still need it.  Overall, Gold is better to have, end of story.  Mine is an all around good card, and quite possibly could be in almost every deck strategy.

Moat – +2 cards, Show to have the effects of an attack card negated towards you  – 2 cost

Moat is the only reaction card in the first set of Dominion.  This card is a lifesaver in basically one game – a Witch game.  Every other attack card is kind of meh! on the attack, but the Witch is just MEAN!  This card is good when games are low on +card cards (remember the moat does have an ability other than the reaction) or when the Witch is in play.  Those are basically the only times moats are necessary.  You can also use a Moat for an easy end game strategy since they are so cheap.  Other than that, this card is just mediocre for what it is.  It is a reaction card, and basically only that.

Moneylender – Trash a copper to gain 3 money- 4 cost

I could also say this card works good in most any deck, but not as successful as the Mine.  Since the Moneylender only trashes copper and doesn’t guarantee any money cards in return, this card is tricky.  Many people pick up the Moneylender with the intent of using it like a mini-Mine (Trash a Copper to gain a Silver).  Many people have that intent, but get excited when they have more than 3 money.  Many people feel the need to buy a higher powered card than have the money.  Most of the time, the money cards are good to buy when using the Moneylender, UNLESS it is near the end of the game.  At this point, it is time to buy Victory Points.  Also, buying any more than 2 of these guys is basically useless, unless your deck revolves around +buy and regaining a copper every turn, which is a viable strategy.  With this strategy, you need Festivals as well as Moneylenders.  The optimum hand would be Festival, two Moneylenders, and two copper.  This is an automatic Province as well as another copper to refill the one  you used.  Other than that, there is no need to buy more than 1 or 2 of these guys.

Remodel – Trash a card, Gain a card costing up to 2 more than that card – 4 cost

This card is great – in more ways than one.  This card allows one to transform the early Estates into 4 cost cards.  This card allows 5 cost cards to become gold. This card allows Gold to become Provinces.  This is just an all around great card.  A common strategy with the Remodel is you have lots of +actions and you remodel everything in your deck up to gold.  Once your deck is full of gold, then you remodel the gold into Provinces.  Not many other decks can buy 2, 3, and possibly 4 provinces in one turn.  That is HUGE!  The other advantage Remodel has is it can Remodel CURSES.  That’s right, now you have an easy way to not only get rid of curses, but get an Estate from a Curse.  That is an automatic +2 Victory Points than you would have had.  Remodel is a card that is useful in some decks, but other decks - not so much.  This is also a card to watch out for other people using a lot.  It will easily sneak up behind you.

Smithy – +3 cards – 4 cost

Welcome to the shortest ability of the base game of Dominion.  Smithy is a good opening card to draw.  Odds are that it will allow you to gain an early Gold, which is good.  A VERY common strategy with Smithy is to combine this card with a +2 Action card (Village/Festival).  The reason for this is you play the Village first, then the Smithy which draws 3 cards.  You then have one more action left with which to do as you please.  No doubt this strategy will get you a lot of cards.  The only downfall this combo has is that people become too engulfed with that strategy that they forget to buy money cards.  There is no point in drawing 10 cards in your hand when you can only get 4 money out of it.  While this card is great for the combo, be warned not to disregard the key elements of the game (money and Victory Points).

Spy - +1 card/ +1 Action, Each player (including yourself) reveals the top card and either puts it back or discards it, your choice – 4 cost.

This card is also another one of my all around good cards.  This card, when chained with other draw cards, lets you eliminate cards you don’t want to draw, while ensuring cards you don’t want to get drawn do get drawn.  The way you use this card is it should be played first before anything else.  You want to know what is on top of your deck.  Even if you don’t have any +card card in your hand, this is extremely useful.  It allows you to discard your Victory Point cards that aren’t necessary in your hand.  Spy is just an all around great card to have.  I recommend at least picking two of these cards for your deck – if you can.

Thief – Each other player reveals the top two card of their deck.  You may gain one treasure card from each player.  The other cards are discarded – 4 cost

This is the ultimate “take-that” card in Dominion.  It is just a lot of fun for people who like to hurt their opponents.  With this card in play, getting Gold is almost a sin (assuming a moat is not in play).  This card goes AMAZINGLY well in a Spy deck.  You basically have 5 or so Spies in a deck.  You chain at least 3 of these together until you get a Silver or Gold on top of you opponents deck.  You then Thief that silver/gold and viola, instant free money.  That is a very common strategy with both of these cards in play.  If those cards are not in play however, then the thief is a bit weak.  It is based too much on the luck side of the coin.  Unless you know for certain that you will be getting money, then I would not play a Thief.  Also, if you trash some of their copper, you are helping them, because mid-late game, copper is useless most of the time.  While the Thief is good in some occasions, I would only recommend getting one or at most 2 of these bad boys.

Throne Room – Play one Action card from your hand twice – 4 cost

This card is quite powerful in a strong kingdom deck.  This card is not strong in a money heavy deck.  If you are playing with a lot of kingdoms, grab at least one Throne Room.  It WILL go a long way.  If you are playing a chapel deck, don’t grab this card.  Since you only have a couple of kingdom cards, this card MIGHT be drawn with another kingdom card, but usually it won’t.  This card has endless possibilities though.  Throne Room/Witch is a FANTASTIC way to screw over your opponents early on in a game without Moats.  To give your opponents two useless cards and negative 2 points in ONE turn is just amazing!  That is basically the strategy to Throne Room.  Play it when you can.  There is one rule note, however.  If you play two Throne Rooms back to back, you must play two kingdom cards following it.  You cannot play Throne Room/Throne Room/Witch in order for the Witch to be played 4 times.  Since each Throne Room must have its own target, you must play a separate action card for each.  That doesn’t go without saying you can’t play two Witches back to back, but not the other way around.

Village – +1 card, +2 Actions – 3 cost

Ah! the best new player gimmick out there. WOAH! One card, and two more actions, OMG, I must have all ten of these.  I have seen that before with players and they are dead wrong.  One player only needs 2 or 3 of these at most.  The reason is, is when you are done chaining these things together, you have close to 6 actions left over.  That is a signal that you have too many Villages and not enough Kingdom cards in general.  Yes this card gives you Actions.  You don’t need to flood your deck with as many of these as you can.  This is the same argument that goes with the Village/Smithy strategy be sure to grab some money and other kingdom cards and not just these.  Early game, yes go ahead and buy these, but later on, don’t bother.  Your gold is better used for other buys like 5 or 6 cost cards or even Provinces.  In the end, don’t buy more than 2 of these guys.

Witch – +2 cards, each other player gains a Curse card – 5 cost

Having two MAYBE three of these girls in your deck should suffice quite nicely.

Woodcutter – +1 buy, +2 money – 3 cost

This is a great opening card.  To have a card that acts as a Silver is great.  This card is also great for the Garden.  With the Garden, +buy is a necessity and this is the best low cost card for the job.  This card is basically a free Estate in a Garden deck.  Other than that, the Woodcutter is merely an alright card.  After your deck gets above 20 or so cards, more times than not you can Chapel/Remodel the Woodcutter unless you have tons of actions to use.  This is a great finisher to a chain.  Woodcutter allows for a great starting card as well as a great finisher to a long chain of cards.

Workshop – Gain a card costing up to 4 – 3 cost

This card is just a beauty.  It allows you to gain two cards in one turn, without having to have the gold or the +buy to do it.  This card is used to get spies/gardens/smithies/villages/SILVER, the list goes on and on.  This card is just an all around great card.  This card isn’t however a good starting card.  I would get my first two buys out of the way, and then I would buy the Workshop.  The workshop is not good in a Chapel deck.  There is no need for it.  Basically if you are in need of extra cards in one turn, the Workshop is the easiest way to get it.

Garden – Gain 1 victory point for every 10 cards in your deck at the end of the game

I saved the Garden for last because I wanted to tell show you all the other cards needed to make a good garden deck.  The OPTIMUM cards for a garden deck are Festival, Workshop, Bureaucrat, Council Room. While these are the optimum cards, you can mix this strategy to fit almost every possible set up.  Your goal is to gain more than one card every turn, and two cards if possible.  The festival is good for all its actions, +actions, +buy, and +2 gold.  If anything else, this gives you an estate every turn.   The Workshop allows you to gain a Garden every turn.  Bureaucrat allows you to get a silver every turn.  These two cards are good because they allow you to get cards before your actual buy stage.  Council Room finishes your chain buy drawing four more cards and getting yet another buy.  If everything else in your deck is money, then you are golden to use all your buys on useful cards. At your buy phase you then focus on gaining money, money, and more money.  USE ALL OF YOUR BUYS WHENEVER YOU CAN.  You want to get your deck up to 40/50/60 as fast as you can.  Take a copper every turn you can if you have extra buys.

Get your own copy of Dominion and good luck!

Entry filed under: Board Game Articles, Board Game Strategies, Most Popular Posts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Strategies to Build Your Dominion « Held Action  |  January 6, 2010 at 6:36 am

    [...] Strategies to Build Your Dominion Given my own shiny copy of Dominion and the realization that my skill at the game just doesn’t rate compared to the people with whom I usually play, I was pleased to run across a post at Best Dang Games analyzing the various Kingdom cards and how they can interact most effective…. [...]

    Reply
  • 2. Keith  |  October 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Awesome strategy page. Appreciate the in-depth analysis. Also I think you have typo when you write “This card allows 5 cost cards to become gold.” I think you meant to write 4 not 5.

    Reply
  • 3. Alyssa  |  December 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I have a question, its about using Bridge and Kings Court. I realize these cards are for a different expansion but I was wondering if you could help me out.

    What do you think should happen?

    Thanks

    Reply

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