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Tabletop for Newbs – Dominion

From UrbanDictionary.com:

"Contrary to the belief of many, a noob/n00b and a newbie/newb are not the same thing. Newbs are those who are new to some task and are very beginner at it, possibly a little overconfident about it, but they are willing to learn and fix their errors to move out of that stage. n00bs, on the other hand, know little and have no will to learn any more."

Maybe you're a tabletop newb looking to get more involved with off-screen games. Maybe you're a seasoned vet who just wants to laugh at us newbs trying to make sense of it all. Either way, you've come to the right place. Welcome to my newest educational blog series, Tabletop for Newbs. This month: Dominion.

Title: Dominion
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Originally published:
2008
Official website:
www.RioGrandeGames.com
# of players: 2-4 (base game); 2-6 (expansions)
Duration: 25-40 minutes

Dominion is an excellent introduction to the Living Card Game (LCG), a term coined and technically owned by Fantasy Flight Games. Despite this trademark, numerous game publishers (like Dominion's Rio Grande) have capitalized on the LCG distribution model in recent years, chiefly because it provides a more affordable alternative to collectible card games (CCG). Instead of perpetually "blind-buying" individual booster packs, LCG players buy a core set of cards that includes everything needed to play. Most LCGs see regular expansions, but again, they are purchased as fixed sets. Compared to collectible card games, LCGs generally have a lower barrier to entry.

You've undoubtedly heard of card games that require strategic deck-building (Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone), but Dominion turns the concept on its head. Instead of building your deck before a match, in Dominion you build your deck during a match. You begin with a certain amount of money cards, and each turn you have the opportunity to buy one additional card from the bank. All of the accumulated money, land, units and structures in your deck are known as your medieval "dominion." 

(The cards above are included in Dominion's seventh expansion, "Dark Ages.")

Dominion's version of deck-building is a blast. For one, it ensures that all players have access to the same cards. Unlike in Magic: The Gathering, victory doesn't go to the player who's spent $500 of real-world money on a trump deck. Any player could win any game. Secondly, being able to build your deck one turn at a time allows for on-the-fly strategy changes. Does one of your opponents insist on stacking her deck with militia? Buy a moat. Having trouble drawing enough money cards? Buy a market. This design prioritizes counter-strategy over blindly drawing from a preset deck, while still leaving plenty of room for individual playing style.

Since its release in 2008, Dominion has won numerous international awards, and it continues to grow both in reputation and size. A total of eight expansions are now available, including more than 200 unique card types. Though such numbers may be intimidating for new players, I can't stress enough how easy Dominion is to pick up. Its instructions won't take more than a half-hour to master, and its fantasy medieval theme is light enough to attract tabletop newbs (like my girlfriend). At the same time, Dominion offers more than enough depth and expansions to keep veteran players interested for dozens of games. I can't recommend it enough.

Look for my next post in which I'll cover either Magic: The Gathering (a CCG) or The Lord of the Rings: A Card Game (a more advanced LCG).

Matt Akers (me!) is a freelance journalist based in Boston. He writes about geek culture and works with a youth literacy project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Find him on Twitter @ScholarlyLad.

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