Expansion Buzz – Dominion: Dark Ages

It’s a semi-annual tradition.  Rio Grande puts out a new Dominion expansion, I take a look at it on the blog.  The newest one is:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Dominion: Dark Ages is the seventh expansion to the popular deckbuilding game (following Intrigue, Seaside, Alchemy, Prosperity, Cornucopia, and Hinterlands).  This is supposedly the penultimate expansion to the game – designer Donald X. Vaccarino has said that the next one should be the last.  There’s a certain amount of cynicism surrounding that pronouncement, but I’m willing to take him at his word.  My guess would be that after Guilds (the next expansion), the system might get rebooted into something else.  We’ll see.

Dark Ages was released at GenCon, and I saw a ton of copies on the shelf, at least on Thursday on Friday.  We walked by the store on Saturday and the guy was selling his last 15 at an inflated price, which I thought was pretty classless.  Nevertheless, they all got sold.  This is probably the biggest expansion so far – the 500 cards includes 31 new action card types (10 of each), a new treasure card (10), a victory card (12), 20 Rats cards, 10 Knight cards, 35 randomizers, 5 Ruins cards (10 of each), 3 shelter cards (6 of each), 15 Spoils, 10 Madmen, and 10 Mercenaries.  My tradition is to go through each card and give some initial thoughts on each, so beware of spoilers ahead if you don’t want to know what’s coming in the set.

We’ll start with the Shelters.  These replace the Estates in your starting hand if you’re only using Dark Ages cards (you get one of each type).  Each has a cost of 1, though you can’t actually buy them, and they have no supply pile – they only have a cost so they can interact with some other cards.  Each has a small benefit associated with them.

  • Hovel (reaction): Can be trashed when you buy a victory card.  It’s like you’re moving out of a broken down shack into something nicer.
  • Necropolis (action): Gives you two additional actions.  Which is always nice to have.
  • Overgrown Estate (victory): Worth 0 points, and gives you +1 card when trashed.  So you trash this one and replace it with a new card from your deck.

These seem much better than Estates, just because they’re a little less useless.  Now, let’s take a look at the kingdom cards (35 of them):

  • Altar (action, cost 6): Trash a card from your hand, and gain another costing up to 5.  So you could dump a copper for a Market?  Nice, no wonder this is so expensive.
  • Armory (action, cost 4): Gain a card costing up to 4, putting it on top of your deck.  I can see this creating a nasty combo of gaining lots of armories in subsequent turns.  Good thing there are no extra actions involved.
  • Band of Misfits (action, cost 5): This is like a wild card.  You can use it as an action card in the supply that costs less until the end of your turn.  So, you can’t use it as a treasure or a victory card, but it still could be quite useful.
  • Bandit Camp (action, cost 5): Gain a Spoils from the Spoils pile.  Spoils are a treasure that get you 3 coins, but are returned to the Spoils pile once used.  It’s not part of the supply, so it doesn’t contribute to the end game if it runs out.  Seems interesting – a treasure that is not yours forever.  Hmm.
  • Beggar (action/reaction, cost 2): Gain 3 Coppers into your hand.  When another player attacks, you gain two Silvers, putting one on top of your deck.  The Silvers might be worth it, but the Copper isn’t.  Not unless you have the Coppersmith or something.
  • Catacombs (action, cost 5): You can look at the top three cards of your deck and keep them, or discard them and draw the next three.  So, no matter what, you get three new cards, but you have a little control over what you get (or, rather, what you don’t get).  You can also gain a cheaper card when you trash it, which might be nice if forced to trash something.
  • Count (action, cost 5): You can either discard 2 cards, put a card from your hand on top of your deck, or gain a Copper.  You can also choose +3 coin, trash your hand, or gain a Duchy.  That…could be interesting.  I need to see it in action.  Could be awesome.  Discard two good cards and trash the rest, or gain a Copper and +3 coin to put you over the top for a Province, or save that Gold until next time and get a free Duchy.  Yes.  Very possibly awesome.
  • Counterfeit (treasure, cost 5): This is the one kingdom treasure card.  It gets you 1 money, then allows you to play a treasure from your hand twice, trashing the treasure after use.  Might be a good way to double the value of your Coppers before dumping them.  Still, not quite seeing the greater benefit here.
  • Cultist (action/attack/looter, cost 5): Gives you +2 cards, and each other player gains a Ruins (which are slightly better than Curses – more on them later).  Additionally, if you have another Cultist in your hand, you may play it.  When you trash the Cultist, you get +3 cards.  This sounds VICIOUS if you have a bunch of them.  Maybe Dominion: Cthulhu should be a future expansion…
  • Death Cart (action/looter, cost 4): You get +5 coin to spend and may trash an action card from your hand.  If you don’t, you trash the Death Cart.  This seems way powerful for a 4-cost card – until you find out that you gain two Ruins when you gain the Death Cart.  I guess you have to decide if it’s worth it.
  • Feodum (victory, cost 4): This is the only victory card in the kingdom set (except for Dame Josephine).  It gives you 1 point for every three Silvers in your deck, and gives you three Silvers for trashing it.  Interesting that you can trash a Feodum to make your other Feodums more valuable.
  • Forager (action, cost 3): You get an extra action and an extra buy.  You can also trash a card in your hand, then get +1 coin per differently named treasure in the trash.  Could be very valuable.
  • Fortress (action, cost 4): You get an extra card and two more actions.  When you trash it, you put it into your hand.  That’s nice – a card protected from being trashed.
  • Graverobber (action, cost 5): A choice with this one – gain a card from the trash costing 3-6 (it goes on top of your deck), or trash an action from your hand and gain a card costing up to 3 more than it.  I like it.
  • Hermit (action, cost 3): You can look through your discard pile, and either trash a card from there or from your hand (as long as it isn’t a treasure).  You also gain a card costing up to 3.  If you discard it without buying anything, you trash it instead and gain a Madman.  The Madman gives you 2 extra actions.  If you then return it to the Madman pile, you get an extra card for every card in your hand.  VERY NICE.  Gives you an incentive not to buy anything when the Hermit comes into play.
  • Hunting Grounds (action, cost 6): You draw four more cards.  When you trash it, you either gain a Duchy or three Estates.  It would probably be good in the early game, and then you can dump it for points.  Nice.
  • Ironmonger (action, cost 4): You get an extra card and action.  You then reveal the top card from your deck, and may discard it.  Whether you or don’t, you get +1 action if it’s an action, +1 coin if it’s a treasure, and +1 card if it’s a victory card.  Sounds fairly useful.
  • Junk Dealer (action, cost 5): You draw a card, get an extra action, and have an extra coin to spend.  You can also trash a card from your hand.  Since so many cards give you benefits when trashed, this makes the Junk Dealer quite valuable to have.
  • Knights (each cost 5): Knights are a bit different.  There are 10 different knights, shuffled up and placed in a pile.  You can only gain the top one.  Each one forces the other players to reveal the top two cards of their deck, trash one costing 3-6, and discard the other.  This is a pretty mean attack, but you can fight back by trashing a knight, forcing the attacker to trash their knight as well.  Each knight does have a special action associated with it:
    • Dame Anna: Trash up to two cards from your hand.
    • Dame Josephine: This is a victory card worth 2 points.
    • Dame Molly: You get two extra actions.
    • Dame Natalie: You may gain a card costing up to 3.
    • Dame Sylvia: You get 2 coin to spend this turn.
    • Sir Bailey: You get an extra card and an extra action.
    • Sir Destry: Draw two cards.
    • Sir Martin: You get two extra buys this turn.
    • Sir Michael: Each other player discards down to 3 cards in their hand.
    • Sir Vander: When you trash Sir Vander, you gain a Gold.
  • Marauder (action/attack/looter, cost 4): You gain a Spoils from the Spoils pile, and every other player gains a Ruins.  Spoils are only temporary, and Ruins aren’t as bad as Curses, so I don’t know about this one.
  • Market Square (action/reaction, cost 3): You draw a card, get an extra action, and get an extra buy.  When you trash a card, you can discard the market square to gain a Gold.  So, even though it’s missing the extra coin from the base game Market, it costs two less and seems more valuable to me.  I would probably load up on these.
  • Mystic (action, cost 5): You get an extra action and two coin to spend.  You can name a card, and reveal the top card of your deck.  If it’s the named card, you put it in your hand.  This seems like a gamble, but if you know exactly what’s on top of your deck, this might be very useful.
  • Pillage (action/attack, cost 5): The action here is to trash the card.  Each other player with five or more cards in hand reveals their hand and discards one that you choose.  You then gain two Spoils.  I like this attack – you can deduce what your opponent is going to do and remove an important card from their plan, but the attack is limited because you have to trash it to use it.  Cool.
  • Poor House (action, cost 1): A kingdom card that costs 1!  It gives you +4 coin to spend, but you must reveal your hand and subtract one for each treasure card in your hand (no less than 0).  That’s interesting that it only helps if you don’t have a lot of money.  Might be good if your deck is clogged with victory cards.  I don’t know how many times I’ve only had one coin to spend and had to pass because I didn’t want a Copper.
  • Procession (action, cost 4): Play an action from your hand twice (a la the Throne Room), then trash it and gain a new action card costing exactly one more than it.  That sounds pretty nice – use an action twice, then get something better.
  • Rebuild (action, cost 5): You get an extra action, then name a card.  Reveal cards until you reach a victory card that is not the one you named.  Trash the card, and gain a victory card costing up to 3 more.  Discard the others.  This looks like a nice way to upgrade your victory cards without spending anything.
  • Rogue (action/attack, cost 5): You get +2 coin.  If there are any cards in the trash pile costing 3-6, gain one.  Otherwise, each other player reveals two cards from the top of their deck, trash one costing 3-6 and discard the other.  This is like a Knight, but without the danger of having to trash your own.
  • Sage (action, cost 3): You get an extra action, and reveal cards from the top of your deck until you reveal one costing 3 or more.  That card goes into your hand, and the rest get discarded.  Not too great, I suppose, but maybe a good way to cycle through your deck.
  • Scavenger (action, cost 4): You get 2 coin to spend, and may put your deck into your discard pile.  You then look through your discard pile and put one card on the top of your deck.  So, you can discard your deck, then look through everything to find one card.  That would be cool.
  • Squire (action, cost 2): You get 1 coin to spend, and choose +2 actions, +2 buys, or gain a Silver.  When you trash the Squire, you gain an Attack card.  The choice is nice to have, but there wouldn’t be a point to trashing it with no Attacks in play.
  • Storeroom (action, cost 3): You get an extra buy.  There’s then a two step discard process – you can discard any number of cards, gaining one card per discard; you can then again discard any number of cards, and get +1 coin per discard from the second time.  Seems a little convoluted, might be fun.
  • Urchin (action/attack, cost 3): +1 card and +1 action, and all other players discard down to 4 cards in their hands.  If you play another attack card while the Urchin is in play, trash the Urchin and gain a Mercenary.  The Mercenary allows you to trash 2 cards from your hand.  If you do, you get 2 cards and 2 coin, and each other player discards down to 3 cards in their hand.  Unlike Madman and Spoils, you can keep this one after playing it, but like the other specials, it’s not a part of the Supply and can’t be bought.
  • Vagrant (action, cost 2): +1 card and +1 action.  You then reveal the top card of your deck and add it to your hand if it’s a Curse, Ruins, Shelter, or Victory card.  It would be a good way to cycle through some garbage, and you might get something useful.  We’ll see, not too sure right now.
  • Wandering Minstrel (action, cost 4): +1 card and +2 actions.  You reveal the top 3 cards of your deck, put actions on top in any order, and discard the rest.  It would be bad to get rid of treasures, but it would be nice to stack some actions.

Ruins are dealt out by Looters.  There are 50 Ruins cards that you shuffle, and only use 10 for 2 players, 20 for 3, 30 for 4, 40 for 5, and 50 for a full six player game. Like Knights, you assign the top card in player order when passing them out.  They are actions, they can be bought, and they are part of the Supply.  As I mentioned, they’re slightly better than Curses.  They don’t really do much, though they do do a little:

  • Abandoned Mine: +1 coin.
  • Ruined Library: +1 card.
  • Ruined Market: +1 buy.
  • Ruined Village: +1 action.
  • Survivors: Look at the top card of your deck, discard them or put them back in any order.

So there you have it.  Lots of stuff to do with trashing cards and upgrading things.  I’m looking forward to playing it sometime soon once it finds its way into my gaming group.  Thanks for reading!

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for the summary… even though I’m not reading it all. I don’t want to be spoiled! I like finding out what the cards are once I get the game.
    But it does look like a LOT to this expansion. 31 new actions? Wow!

    • Yeah, they didn’t include any tokens or extra mats or anything this time, just cards. It looks like this may change the game more than any previous expansion, and I can’t wait to play.

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