Expansion Buzz – Dominion: Prosperity

I remember hearing the buzz from Spiel 2008 about this game called Dominion.  Very quickly, the game pretty much conquered the world, winning the Spiel des Jahres in 2009 and beginning to come out with expansions.  I came into the craze relatively early, before the release of Intrigue (the first expansion).  This was odd for me, because (as I’ve said) usually games are no longer relevant when I get there.  However, I’ve gotten a lot of good play out of Dominion.  I don’t own any of the expansions, mostly because of the expense.  However, I’ve played them all, except for the most recent.

Prosperity - image by BGG user gf1024

Prosperity is the fourth expansion to Dominion, and was released mere weeks ago.  It comes from Rio Grande and designer Donald X. Vaccarino.  If you’ve been living under a rock and know nothing about the Dominion series, the theme is essentially that you are a land owner building up your dominion.  The theme is unimportant – the object is to have the most victory points at the end of the game.  The game is famed for introducing the deck building mechanic…you begin the game with a deck of cards consisting of seven coppers and three victory points, and try to build an engine that will win for you.  On your turn, you take one action from the five cards in your hand.  This action may allow you to draw cards, take extra actions, have extra buys, mess with your opponents, or increase the value of what you have.  Once your done with the action phase, you may buy one card (unless you played an action that allows you to buy more).  Each card has a monetary value, and you apply the money in your hand towards the cost.  You’re not actually spending the money.  Once you have bought, you discard all cards played, bought, and that are still in your hand, then you draw a new hand of five cards.  If you have no cards to draw, shuffle your discards.  In this way, your deck will grow.

The strategies of the game become apparent over time.  You don’t want to load up on VPs too early as they are generally worthless during the game, at least with the base game.  Later expansions added VP cards with actions you could use.  Also, you’ll find that coppers (worth one money) and estates (worth one point) are not as important to keep in your hand early on.  If you can get rid of them, you’ll do better, particularly if you replace them with cards that give you more money.

One of the coolest things about the game is its variety.  In the base game, there are 25 decks of kingdom cards, a set of ten cards you can buy that are generally used as actions.  You only use 10 of these kingdom decks per game, so the combinations are endless.  Each expansion has added more kingdom cards, pushing the game’s possibilities towards infinity.  Each expansion has also added mechanics to the game.  Intrigue added more interaction.  Seaside added some extra components, including player mats and tokens.  Alchemy added potions, a new type of treasure that could be used to buy cards.  Now we have the fourth expansion in two years, Prosperity.  As the name suggests, it emphasizes money.  The big additions are the platinum treasure, a card that costs 9 money but that gives you 5 to spend; and the colony, a 10 point card that costs 11.

Here, I’m going to look at the 25 new kingdom cards you get with the set.  I’ve never played with them, so I can only surmise how they work.

  • Bank (cost 7): Gives you an extra money per treasure you have in play, including this one.  In other words, you can get a lot more money for this turn if you already have a bunch of treasure in your hand.
  • Bishop (cost 4): Gives you one extra money for this turn and a VP token.  In addition, you trash a card (discard it from the game) and gain VP tokens equal to half of its monetary value (rounded down).  This seems like a good way to rack up some VPs that won’t be in your hand, which can be valuable.
  • City (cost 5): Gives you an extra card and two extra actions, just like the Village.  However, if there is at least one empty supply pile, you get an extra card.  If there are two or more empty piles, you get an extra money and an extra buy.  This card gets more powerful as the game goes on, but I’m not sure how useful it is early.  The Village is nice because it only costs 3.  This costs 5, making it tougher to get, so you’ll probably want to hold off.  I have to say, I find it funny that they say two or more empty supply piles.  I suppose it is TECHNICALLY possible that you’ve taken a card that empties a third pile before playing this card, but seeing as the third empty pile ends the game, it would be very rare.
  • Contraband (cost 5): A treasure worth three money, and also gives you an extra buy.  However, the player to your left can name a card that you cannot buy this turn.  This is interesting – it costs less than gold but is worth the same amount of money, and gives you an extra buy.  Yet that is balanced by the inability to buy one card.  I’d say it’s probably worth it…even if you can’t get that colony, a province is still a pretty good deal.
  • Counting House (cost 5): Lets you pull out coppers from your discard pile to put in your hand.  This seems like it might slow down the game a bit while you dig through the discards (not as much as the Philosopher’s Stone from Alchemy), but gives you an incentive to actually keep your coppers.
  • Expand (cost 7): Trash a card and gain a card costing up to three more.  This is better than the Remodel because costs of money and VP cards are three apart (I guess there’s a larger gap between gold and platinum).  So, you can trash a silver to get a gold, or you could trash a province to get a colony.  Pretty powerful, which I guess is why it costs so much.
  • Forge (cost 7): Trash any number of cards and gain a card that costs as much as the trashed cards.  I’m not sure this is that great, but who knows.  I didn’t really appreciate the Chapel for a while either.  I guess you could get rid of four estates and a silver to take a colony, getting rid of four useless cards and gaining a profit of seven points.  OK, I’m in.
  • Goons (cost 6): You get an extra buy and two money to spend.  Plus all other players must discard down to three.  PLUS you can get a VP token if you buy a card while this is in play.  It’s like the Militia with bonus actions and the potential for points.  Sounds good.
  • Grand Market (cost 6): Gives you one extra card, one extra action, one extra buy, and two extra money to spend.  It’s the Market with two money instead of one, and you can’t buy it if you have copper in play.  I’d probably just as soon have the regular Market.
  • Hoard (cost 6): A treasure worth two money.  It costs as much as a gold and is only worth as much as silver.  However, you gain a gold if you buy a victory card.  It might be a good way to gain free gold, but at the cost of taking a victory card into your hand.
  • King’s Court (cost 7): Choose an action from your hand and play it three times.  It’s the Throne Room with an extra action.  It costs more, but if you get it, you are GOLDEN.  I love the Throne Room, and this is even better.
  • Loan (cost 3): A treasure worth one money.  It has the cost of a silver and the value of a copper.  When you play it, you go through your deck until you get to a treasure.  You then trash it or discard it, discarding all other cards you revealed.  I cannot see the value of this card at all.  Sure, you MIGHT get a copper to trash, but at the cost of having the equivalent of another copper in the Loan card.  Maybe I’m missing it, but I can’t see myself buying this one.
  • Mint (cost 5): Reveal a treasure, gain a copy.  The copy is discarded, the revealed stays in your hand.  This sounds awesome, but when you buy it, you have to trash ALL treasures you have in play.  I don’t know if it’s worth it unless you can spend five coppers on it.
  • Monument (cost 4): You get two extra money to spend and a VP token.  Sounds like an easy little card to buy that will help build up some point tokens.
  • Mountebank (cost 5): You get two extra money to spend.  Other players can discard a curse.  If they don’t, they GAIN a curse and a copper.  This is EVIL!  I LOVE IT!
  • Peddler (cost 8*): Gives you an extra card, an extra action, and an extra money.  That doesn’t seem like it’s worth eight, but this has a conditional cost – it costs two less for every action you have in play, but not less than zero.  I would imagine that it’s worth buying if you have three or four actions in play, but I don’t know that I would want to spend four on it.  I might.  Definitely not six or eight.
  • Quarry (cost 4): A treasure worth one money.  At first glance, this seems worse than the Loan.  However, while in play, actions cost two money less.  This means that it is actually worth three when attempting to buy actions.  It is cumulative, so multiple quarries mean that actions cost less.  I like it, I would go for this, especially with an action heavy deck.
  • Rabble (cost 5): Gives you three extra cards.  What puts this above the Smithy is that it’s an attack.  The other players reveal the top of their deck, discard all revealed actions and treasures, and place the rest back on the top of the deck.  A nice attack ability, I think, removing useful cards and leaving worthless junk for their next hand.
  • Royal Seal (cost 5): A treasure worth two money.  When you gain a card with this in play, you can put the card directly on top of your deck.  This means that you don’t have to wait until it cycles through to get the benefit.  I like it.
  • Talisman (cost 4): A treasure worth one money.  When in play, if you gain a non-victory card worth 4 or less, you can gain a copy.  So this card will allow you to double your haul if it’s cheap enough.  Sounds like a nice addition.
  • Trade Route (cost 3): Gives you an extra buy and one extra money per token on the special trade route mat.  The way those tokens work is that you place a token on top of each VP pile at the beginning of the game, and move it to the trade route whenever someone buys a card from that stack.  When you play the card, you also trash a card from your hand.  This card gets stronger as the game goes on, but it seems that it’s overly complicated.  Some people might say “fiddly”, but I hate that word.
  • Vault (cost 5): Lets you draw two cards.  You also can discard cards from your hand, gaining one money per card you discard.  Other players are allowed to discard two cards from their hands, and if they do, they can draw a card.  So, like the Council Room, this card benefits others as well as yourself.  I’m not exactly sure how it will combo, but it sounds OK.
  • Venture (cost 5): A treasure worth one money.  This also allows you to reveal cards until you come across another treasure that you can play immediately.  The thought is that maybe you’ll get lucky and come across a platinum, or perhaps another treasure that has an action.  The more I think about it, the more I like this card.
  • Watchtower (cost 3): This is the reaction card of this set.  The normal power is that you can draw until you have six cards in hand.  The reaction is that, when you gain a card, you can reveal this card from your hand and trash the card or put it on top of your deck.  So if you gain a curse, you can show the Watchtower and get rid of it immediately.  If you gain something good, you can place it for immediate use.  Not bad I suppose.  It doesn’t protect you against attacks that cause you to lose cards, just attacks that give you cards.
  • Worker’s Village (cost 4): Gives you one extra card, two extra actions, and one extra buy.  It’s essentially the Village plus a buy power.  This means that there are two cards in this set that are merely upgrades of cards from the base set.  I think I like this one better than the Grand Market.
All Dominion Cards - image by BGG user tiggers

So there you have it.  A brand spankin new set that increases the replayability of the entire system immensely.  I don’t know if a game that combined all five sets would work too well, but you might be able to mix two or three with no problems.  There have been two expansions this year and two last year.  I don’t know how long they can keep up with this pace – people already seem to be burning out.  Dominion, which was originally intended to be the answer to CCGs, is becoming more and more collectible as time goes on.  Now, you can’t call Dominion a CCG because everyone who comes into the game will always be working with the same set, and you don’t need to have every set to stay competitive.  However, I think all five sets will run will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $210 from a game store.  Maybe they’ll release a big box some day as they’ve done with Carcassonne and Alhambra.

That’s all for today.  This turned into a long one.  Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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