Expansion Buzz – Dominion: Guilds

In 2008, Dominion was released.  It absolutely revolutionized the world of board gaming, introducing the deck-building mechanism.  Now, as we swim in a sea of such games, the eighth and final expansion is being released with not as much fanfare as there once was:

image by BGG user m_knox
image by BGG user m_knox

Guilds is the “final” expansion of Donald X. Vaccarino’s ground-breaking game.  “Final” is in quotes because I don’t think Rio Grande is going to let it die just yet.  They may not come out with any further cards for it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they take the franchise in another direction (Dominion: The Board Game, anyone?).  Guilds is the third small expansion for the game, with 13 new kingdom card decks and and 25 coin tokens that go with the game.

As is my tradition with these expansions, let’s look at the cards.  I’ll look at some of the new mechanisms as they come up.

  • Advisor (action, costs 4): +1 action.  You’ll reveal the top three cards of your deck, and the player to your left will choose one.  You’ll discard that card, and keep the other two.  So, basically you get two cards, and your neighbor gets to make the decision about which two they are.  It could be an easy choice (two estates and a gold) or it could be much harder (a gold and two attacks).  Pretty interactive – I like it.
  • Baker (action, costs 5): +1 card and +1 action.  Playing this card gets you a coin token.  Coin tokens can be kept and spent before buying to increase your money pool.  This means that you can save some money, and that frustrating seven coin hand that happens all too often is not quite as maddening.  Generally, players start the game with no coin tokens, but everyone gets one at the beginning of a game where Baker is in play.
  • Butcher (action, costs 5): You get two coin tokens, then may choose to trash a card and pay any number of tokens.  If you trashed something, you gain a card with the cost of the trashed card plus your coin tokens.  Another way to use coins, and a new way to remodel your deck.
  • Candlestick Maker (action, costs 2): Well, you had to know this was here with the Butcher and Baker.  It’s simple – +1 action, +1 buy, and take a coin token.  Seems like a pretty good card for only a 2 cost.  I guess it helps if you have another action in hand with this one.
  • Doctor (action, costs 3+): Name a card, reveal the top three cards of your deck, and trash the matches.  If you’ve been taking Curses or Rats, this might be a good way to take a shot to try to get rid of them.  Additionally, this card has an overpay bonus (note the 3+ in the cost).  If you buy this card with more money than it costs, you will get to look at cards from the top of your deck (one per coin you overpaid by).  You can choose to trash them, discard them, or put them back.  So, if you have 5 coin and buy this, you can look at two cards.  I don’t know about you, but I frequently have too much money for what I want – this is a pretty welcome mechanism, in my opinion.
  • Herald (action, costs 4+): +1 card and +1 action.  Additionally, you reveal the top card of your deck and play it if it is an action.  This card also has an overpay bonus – for each coin your overpaid, you take a card from your discard pile and put it on top of your deck.  What a great way to recycle cards quickly.  This one seems like one I’d really like, and would probably play a lot when in the game.
  • Journeyman (action, costs 5): Name a card, then reveal cards from the top of your deck until you have three cards that are NOT the named card.  They go into your hand.  This is a little bit of a contrast to Doctor – you’re not trashing anything, just looking for cards that aren’t something.  So if you have a bunch of duchies in your deck, you can try to avoid them.
  • Masterpiece (treasure, costs 3+): The only treasure in this set.  It’s only worth one coin, BUT, for every coin you overpay, you get a Silver.  So, if you spend 6 on this, you gain what is essentially a Copper, but also three Silvers.  Always nice to have more money.
  • Merchant Guild (action, costs 5): +1 buy, +1 coin.  When you buy a card while this is in play, you get a coin token.  Just another way to collect coins, but it seems to be kind of over-priced.  If I want to pay five, I would hope to get at least an extra action or some more virtual money to spend.
  • Plaza (action, costs 4): +1 card, +2 actions.  If you discard a treasure card, gain a coin token.  This is more like it – it’s a little bit better than a Village because of the coin token, and gives you a reason to keep Coppers around.
  • Soothsayer (attack action, costs 5): Gain a Gold, while each other player gains a Curse and, if they do, draw a card.  It’s like the Witch, except you get big money, and your opponents get to draw a card.  It has no immediate benefits for you, but hopefully it will have long-term benefits.
  • Stonemason (action, costs 2+): Trash a card from your hand and gain 2 cards, each costing less than the trashed card.  The overpay effect for this card, however, allows you to gain 2 action cards each costing the amount you overpaid.  So, it’s a like an inverse Remodel, where you get more coins but they cost less than the trashed card.  The overpay effect is kind of neat – it forces you to think about things as you’re purchasing.
  • Taxman (attack action, costs 4): If you trash a treasure from your hand, each other player with 5+ cards discards a copy of the card you trashed, or reveals a hand without it.  You gain a treasure costing 3 more than the trashed card, and put it on top of your deck.  So, this is sort of like the Mine, though cheaper and with a bit of an attack attached.  It’s not overly mean, just a discard.

And with that, Dominion is “complete”.  This looks like a more strategic expansion than some – you have to think about overpaying, you have to think about how to best spend your tokens, you have to sometimes think about to best do your actions.  Most of the cards look pretty good – the only one I’m not happy with is Merchant Guild.  But I like the idea behind overpaying, and I like the ability to save some money.  Definitely an expansion I hope to play.

Since I’m here, I feel like I should do some reflecting on the Dominion phenomenon.  I don’t think anyone will deny that Dominion is one of the most important games to be released in the 21st century, for good or bad.  After Monopoly and Yahtzee, it is probably one of the most copied games out there.  It spawned a whole genre, and while some people think it has been surpassed, people will be playing for years to come.  I’ve talked to people who are not as immersed in the hobby as I am, and they play Dominion all the time.  I would be very surprised if this is the end of the line for the game.  It’s probably the end of Dominion 1.0, but I would imagine that Rio Grande has plans to take it into its next phase.  Kind of like they’re doing with the mythical Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts expansion.

For me, I have played all the expansions (other than this one) at least once, and own Prosperity and Alchemy.  I don’t really feel then need to own them all, but I have enjoyed finding out about all the cards as they come out.  And it’s a game I will happily play whenever it comes out.  I feel that it’s a great game for gamers and non-gamers alike, and I think it will be around for a long time.  Thanks for reading!



  1. Firstly, great review! Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    I think you underestimate the power of the Merchant Guild. The card is +1 Buy and +1 Coin. If you buy 2 cards then you immediately have +3 coins for next turn! A rate of +3 coins per use is fantastic, especially in comparison with something like Pirate Ship.

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