Expansion Buzz – Dominion: Empires

To recap – Dominion came out in 2008, and very quickly established itself as a major force in the gaming market.  Expansions were released quickly, and by 2013, we had eight – Intrigue, Seaside, Alchemy, Prosperity, Cornucopia, Hinterlands, Dark Ages, and Guilds.  Guilds was announced to be the final expansion in the series, but no one really believed that, and in 2015, we got Adventures.  Now the Dominion series is back, with its tenth expansion (and second since the series “ended”) called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Dominion: Empires comes to us from designer Donald X. Vaccarino and publisher Rio Grande Games.  It’s a large box expansion, and comes with 300 cards – 242 Kingdom cards, 24 Randomizer cards, 21 Landmark cards, and 13 Event cards – as well as 56 Victory Point tokens and 40 Debt tokens.  You do need a copy of original Dominion, Dominion: Intrigue, or the Dominion Base Cards in order to play.  As in every version of Dominion, you’ll choose ten Kingdom cards and put the entire stack for each on the display.  When randomizing, you also put Events and Landmarks in the deck, but these are not Kingdom cards – it just helps to determine what is going to be available.  It is recommended that you only use two Events and/or Landmarks in a game.  Then you proceed to play – take an Action, Buy a card, then Clean Up.

I’ve covered every Dominion expansion since Prosperity on this blog, and every time, I do a break down of each card.  This one is no different!  Here we go!  We’ll start with the Kingdom cards.

image by BGG user chadw09
image by BGG user chadw09
  • Archive (Action/Duration, cost 5): Gives you an extra Action.  Also, you set aside the top three cards of your deck face down (you can look at them).  On each subsequent turn, you may put one into your hand.  A nice bit of preplanning there.
  • Bustling Village (Action, cost 5): There’s always a Village of some type.  This one gives you +1 Card and +3 Actions.  Additionally, you look through your discard pile, and may reveal a Settlers card before putting it in your hand.
    • This is part of a split pile, something new in Empires.  What that means is that 5 cards are on top of 5 other cards.  This one is the bottom half of a pile with Settlers.
  • Capital (Treasure, cost 6): Gives you 6 coin to spend and +1 Buy.  When you discard it from play, you take 6 Debt tokens, and then may begin paying it off.  Debt tokens are a new mechanism with this expansion, and must be paid off before you can Buy anything else.  You can pay it off with the leftover money from this round, or you can start paying it off with the money you have next round.  This one gives you Debt every time you use it, so it may not be as useful as it looks.
image by BGG user LastFootnote
image by BGG user LastFootnote
  • Castles (Victory): This is actually a pile of victory cards that are all different.  The pile has 12 cards, stacked with the cheapest on the top and the most expensive on the bottom.  You have to buy the top card if buying from this stack.  Here are the possible cards.
    • Humble Castle (Treasure/Victory/Castle, cost 3, 2 copies): Gives you one coin to spend, and worth one extra point per Castle in your deck at the end of the game.
    • Crumbling Castle (Victory/Castle, cost 4, 1 copy): Worth one point.  Also, when you gain or Trash it, you get a Victory token and a Silver.
    • Small Castle (Action/Victory/Castle, cost 5, 2 copies): Worth two points if you keep it until the end.  If you Trash this or another Castle from your hand, you gain a new Castle.
    • Haunted Castle (Victory/Castle, cost 6, 1 copy): Worth two points.  When you gain it on your turn, you gain a Gold as well.  Each other player with 5 or more cards in hand puts two of them on top of their deck.
    • Opulent Castle (Action/Victory/Castle, cost 7, 2 copies): Discard any number of Victory cards, +2 coin per discarded card.  This Castle is worth 3 points.
    • Sprawling Castle (Victory/Castle, cost 8, 1 copy): Worth 4 points.  When you gain this, gain a Duchy or 3 Estates.
    • Grand Castle (Victory/Castle, cost 9, 1 copy): Worth 5 points.  When you gain it, reveal your hand, then take one Victory token per Victory card in your hand.
    • King’s Castle (Victory/Castle, cost 10, 2 copies): Worth 2 points per Castle you have.
  • Catapult (Action/Attack, cost 3): Gives you an extra coin, and makes you trash a card from your hand.  If it costs 3+, everyone else gets a Curse.  If it’s a Treasure, everyone else discards down to 3 cards.  It’s like a Militia and a Witch all wrapped up in one.
    • This is the top of a split pile with Rocks.
  • Chariot Race (Action, cost 3): Gives you an extra Action.  Also, you reveal the top card of your deck and add it to your hand.  The player to your left also reveals their top card.  If yours costs more, you get an extra coin to spend and a Victory token.  So with some luck, this can be valuable.
  • Charm (Treasure, cost 5): You can choose between and extra Buy and 2 extra coin to spend; OR you can choose to buy a card and gain a different card of the same cost.  That could be pretty sweet.
  • City Quarter (Action, cost 8 Debt): When a card costs Debt, you take Debt tokens, which must be paid off before you can buy anything else.  This card gives you two Actions, and you reveal your hand, gaining one extra card per Action there.  So the Debt may hurt your buying ability for a couple of turns, but the benefits might just outweigh the cost.
  • Crown (Action/Treasure, cost 5): If you play this during your Action phase, you may play an Action from your hand twice.  If it’s your Buy phase, you may play a Treasure from your hand twice.  Nice to have options.
  • Emporium (Action, cost 5): Gives you an extra card, extra Action, and extra coin.  When you play it, if you have at least five Action cards in play, you get two points.  This can be really helpful if you are doing a heavy Action strategy.
    • This is the bottom of a split pile with Patrician.
  • Encampment (Action, cost 2): You get two extra cards and two extra actions!  Sounds pretty powerful for a cost of 2, doesn’t it?  Well, if you don’t also reveal a Gold or Plunder from your hand, you’ll set this card aside and return it to the supply during Clean Up.  So if you haven’t been stocking up on that stuff, this might be a one time use card.
    • This is another split pile, with 5 copies on top of 5 copies of Plunder.
  • Enchantress (Action/Attack/Duration, cost 3): Until your next turn, the first time a player plays an Action card, they get +1 card and +1 Action instead of the card’s stated instructions.  At the start of your next turn, you get two cards.  So it’s a bit of protection for you as the other players will have to burn an Action card to get their full turn, but only a bit as who knows what they’ll do with that.  Doesn’t seem that worth it to me.
  • Engineer (Action, cost 4 Debt): Gain a card costing up to 4 coin.  You may then Trash this card to gain another card costing up to 4 coin.  So you could potentially get two cards by sacrificing this one.
  • Farmer’s Market (Action/Gathering, cost 3): You get an extra Buy.  Also, add one Victory token to the pile and gain 1 coin per Victory token there.  If there are 4 Victory tokens at the beginning of your turn, trash this card and take the Victory tokens.  This is an interesting mix of cooperative benefits.  If you’re the only one taking Farmer’s Markets, you’re going to be in good shape.  If others are also taking Farmer’s Markets, you have to be very careful about giving them potential points.  Cool idea.
  • Fortune (Treasure, cost 8 coin/8 Debt): You gain a Buy, and if you haven’t already done so this turn, DOUBLE your money.  When you gain this, you also gain a Gold per Gladiator you have in play.  Very costly, but potentially VERY beneficial.
    • This is the bottom half of a split pile with Gladiators.
  • Forum (Action, cost 5): You draw three cards and get another action.  You then must discard 2 cards.  It also gets you an extra Buy when you Buy it.  It might be useful, but then again, it might not.
  • Gladiator (Action, cost 3): You get 2 extra coin to spend.  You then reveal a card from your hand.  If the player to your left does not reveal a copy of that card, you get another coin to spend and Trash a Gladiator from the supply.
    • This is the top half of a split pile with Fortune.
  • Groundskeeper (Action, cost 5): You get an extra card and an extra Action.  While it is in play, if you gain a Victory card, you also get one Victory token.
  • Legionary (Action/Attack, cost 5): You get three extra coin to spend.  Additionally, you may reveal a Gold from your hand.  If you do, each other player discards down to two cards then draws one card.  So it’s like a conditional Militia.  That +3 coin will be really useful if you don’t already have a Gold in your hand.
  • Overlord (Action, cost 8 Debt): Play this card as if it were an Action card in the supply costing up to 5.  That makes this an extremely versatile card, and you don’t have to sweat not getting the action you wanted as much.
  • Patrician (Action, cost 2): Draw a card and take an extra Action.  You can also reveal a card from the top of your deck, taking it into your hand if it costs 5 or more.  This could be pretty useful – the ability to draw is always welcome, and you could possibly get a more powerful card into your hand.  You could also get a Duchy.
    • This is the top of a split pile with Emporium.
  • Plunder (Treasure, cost 5): This is worth 2 coin and gains you a Victory token when played.  Pretty useful.
    • This is the bottom of a split pile with Encampment.
  • Rocks (Treasure, cost 4): This is worth 1 coin.  When you gain or trash it, you also gain a Silver.  The Silver goes on top of your deck if it’s your Buy phase, or into your hand otherwise.
    • This is the bottom of a split pile with Catapults.
  • Royal Blacksmith (Action, cost 8 Debt): Draw five cards.  You then reveal your hand and discard any Coppers you have.  If you’ve been culling them out of your deck, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Sacrifice (Action, cost 4): Trash a card from your hand.  If it’s an Action card, draw two cards and take two extra actions.  If it’s a Treasure, gain 2 coin to spend.  If it’s a Victory card, get two Victory tokens.  Sounds like a good way to cull and get a benefit at the same time.
  • Settlers (Action, cost 2): Draw a card and take an extra action.  Look through your discard pile – you may reveal a Copper and add it to your hand.  The Copper itself might be helpful in purchasing something if you’re that one coin short.
    • This is the top of a split pile with Bustling Village.
  • Temple (Action/Gathering, cost 4): Gain a Victory token.  Also, trash 1-3 differently named cards from your hand, then add one Victory token to the Temple Supply pile.  When you take a Temple, take all of the Victory tokens from the Temple Supply pile.  This will either create a frenzy of Temple buying, or no one will want to for fear of giving the others free points.
  • Villa (Action, cost 4): Take two more Actions, an extra Buy, and one extra coin to spend.  When you gain it, put it into your hand, gain an Action, and return to your Action phase if it’s your Buy phase.  Interesting.
  • Wild Hunt (Action/Gathering, cost 5): Choose one: draw three cards and add one Victory token to the Wild Hunt supply pile; or gain an Estate and take all Victory tokens from the Wild Hunt supply.  So you have to decide if it’s worth it to take a useless Estate in order to get the token points that aren’t going to clog your hand.
image by BGG user donaldx
image by BGG user donaldx

Dominion: Adventures introduced Events, and this game has some more of them.  Events remain on the table.  To use them, pay the cost and follow the effect.  This is instead of buying a card.

  • Advance (cost 0): You may trash an Action card from your hand.  If you do, gain one costing up to 6.  This is a free Event, but it still uses up a Buy.
  • Annex (cost 8 Debt): Look through your discard pile and shuffle all but five cards back into your deck, then gain a Duchy.  Interesting way to cycle without having to put useless card back into your deck, but costly.
  • Banquet (cost 3): Gain 2 Coppers and a non-Victory card costing up to 5.  It’s like a Kickstarter campaign – buy this 5-cost thing for only 3, and we’ll through in two pieces of junk that no one wants!
  • Conquest (cost 6): Gain two Silvers, as well as one Victory token per Silver you’ve gained this turn. So with one Buy, you get what otherwise would take you two Buys AND you get points for it.  Seems like a good deal to me!
  • Delve (cost 2): Gain a Buy and a Silver.  Simple, and cheaper than buying a Silver would be otherwise.
  • Dominate (cost 14): Gain a Province.  If you do, also gain NINE VICTORY TOKENS.  No wonder this thing is so expensive.  That’s 15 points right there.
  • Donate (cost 8 Debt): After your turn, put all cards from your deck and discard pile into your hand.  You may trash any number of cards, shuffle the rest, and draw five cards.  That is super powerful.  You can get rid of ALL junk just like that.  Wow.
  • Ritual (cost 4): Gain a Curse, then Trash a card from your hand and gain one Victory point per coin it cost.  So if you Trash a Province, you’re giving up six points to get eight (well, seven if you count the Curse, but I assume you’ll get rid of that later).
  • Salt of the Earth (cost 4): Gain a Victory token, then Trash a Victory card from the supply.  So you’re hastening the end of the game – you could even end it by trashing the last Province.
  • Tax (cost 2): Add two Debt to a supply pile.  At the beginning of the game, each pile gets a Debt token.  Whenever you Buy a card from a pile with Debt tokens, you take the Debt tokens.  That’s aggressive, and also may serve to cause people to wait on getting certain cards, hoping someone else takes the Debt first.
  • Triumph (cost 5 Debt): Gain an Estate.  If you did, gain a Victory token per card you’ve taken this turn.  Useful if you’re doing a lot of purchasing.
  • Wedding (cost 4 and 3 Debt): Gain a Victory token and a Gold.
  • Windfall (cost 5): If your deck and discard pile are empty, gain 3 Golds.  Good for super thin decks.
image by BGG user donaldx
image by BGG user donaldx

A new type of card for Empires is the Landmark cards.  They stay out on the table, like Events, and provide new ways to score.  There’s no cost involved, it’s just an additional scoring rule.

  • Arena: At the start of the game, seed it with 6 Victory tokens per player.  If you discard an Action at the start of your Buy phase, you can take 2 Victory tokens from here.
  • Bandit Fort: During the final scoring, you lose two points for every Silver and Gold you have.
  • Basilica: At the start of the game, seed it with 6 Victory tokens per player.  When you buy a card, if you have 2 or more coin left over, you can take 2 Victory tokens from here.
  • Baths: At the start of the game, seed it with 6 Victory tokens per player.  When you end your turn without having gained a card, take 2 Victory tokens from here.
  • Battlefield: At the start of the game, seed it with 6 Victory tokens per player.  When you gain a Victory card, take 2 Victory tokens from here.
  • Colonnade: At the start of the game, seed it with 6 Victory tokens per player.  When you Buy an Action card, take 2 Victory tokens from here if you also have a copy of it in play.
  • Defiled Shrine: At the start of the game, put 2 Victory tokens on each non-Gathering Action Supply pile.  When you gain an Action, move 1 Victory token from its pile to the Defiled Shrine.  When you buy a Curse, take all Victory tokens from this.
  • Fountain: When scoring, add 15 points if you have at least 10 Coppers.
  • Keep: When scoring, add 5 points per differently named Treasure you have that you have more of than anyone else (or are tied for most).
  • Labyrinth: At the start of the game, seed it with 6 Victory tokens per player.  When you gain a second card on any of your turns, take 2 Victory tokens from here.
  • Mountain Pass: When you are the first player to gain a Province, each player gets one chance to bid up to 40 Debt.  The winning player takes all of that Debt and also gets 8 Victory tokens.  They just couldn’t stand having a game with no auctions in it, could they. (grumble grumble)
  • Museum: When scoring, add two points per differently named card you have.
  • Obelisk: At the start of the game, choose a random Action Supply pile.  During scoring, add two points for each card you have from that pile.
  • Orchard: When scoring, add 4 points per differently named card you have 3+ copies of.
  • Palace: When scoring, add 3 points per set you have of Copper-Silver-Gold.
  • Tomb: When you Trash a card, take a Victory token.
  • Tower: When scoring, add one point per non-Victory card you have from an empty supply pile.
  • Triumphal Arch: When scoring, add three points per copy you have of the second most common Action card among your cards.
  • Wall: When scoring, lose one point for each card you have after the first 15.
  • Wolf Den: When scoring, lose three points for each card you have exactly one copy of.

And that’s Dominion: Empires.  There’s a lot here, and most of it seems to be very positive.  It has been absolutely fascinating to watch Dominion evolve over the years, and I think that taking their time with the expansions has made them even better.  The Events were a great addition in Adventures, and I think Landmarks are a really good one here as well.  The Castles and other split piles are a great idea, and I’m excited to see how they work.  There are two Duration cards, which are among the favorite mechanisms people have since their initial appearance in Seaside.  I do have to ding them for one thing – the Mountain Pass.  This card is destined to be the Robosmokies of this expansion.  WHY force an auction into an otherwise great game?  I know people like auctions, and I know this card won’t come out every time.  But come on.  This is a card I would probably remove.

That’s it for today (he says, nearly 3200 words later).  Thanks for reading!

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