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Fortnightly on Sunday
afternoons (1pm-5pm)

Location
Room E.103 (Building E)
University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs
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Upcoming Meetings
September 2018
* September 30th

October 2018
* October 14th
* October 28th

November 2018
* November 11th
* November 25th

December 2018
* December 9th
* December 23rd

Admission
Non-members $2
Members free
(membership $25/yr)

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Borrowing Sheet 2018

Bland But Brilliant

Dominion

Bland But Brilliant

Review by Craig Hargraves

Like Magic the Gathering, its inspirational forebear before it, Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominion has established and defined a brand new genre of game. In Dominion’s case, it is the Deck Building Game and it has inspired a host of other games with its engaging formula. However unlike Magic, whose early competition tended to be fairly weak games in comparison, Dominion has seen competition in what is arguably a much stronger hobby games market than 20 years ago both from a game design and market size standpoint. Many of Dominion’s successors are arguably tussling for the position of the Number 1 Deck Building Game. So how well does Dominion stand up to its fairly fierce competition?

Dominion is as a game brilliant in both its conception and execution. It’s a simple idea really. Everyone starts with the same basic deck and then proceeds to customize it into an efficient victory point reaping engine by buying new cards from a common pool and adding them to their deck. With the current game’s pool being made up of only 10 different types out of a total range of 25 types in the initial Dominion set you’re guaranteed of having a different experience every time you play.  Unless of course you decide to replay that favourite set of cards. Dominion rewards players with the ability to look at a given set of cards and work out the best combinations and ratios to put into their deck. The way Mr. Vaccarino has taken the idea of Magic the Gathering’s deck-building meta game and crafted it into a game in its own right is genius. It’s one of those ideas that you later scratch your head and wonder why no one had thought of it sooner.

On the whole, Rio Grande Games have done an excellent job of the production. Notably the insert, at least at the time, was a work of extremely considerate genius as it made sorting and accessing the various types of cards much easier and I won’t hold the fact that it doesn’t work quite as well when the cards have been sleeved against them. And while these days I would perhaps lean more towards the Thunderstone option of having a number of deep wells and card dividers for sorting the cards, the original design is still extremely functional.

Sadly, the art on the cards does leave me a little cold. While each piece does match up with the title of the card reasonably well, the style overall does nothing for me. For the most part they’re just a bit too blocky and simplistic (although some pieces do have a lot more detail). What I will commend Rio Grande Games on however is maintaining a fairly consistent style amongst the eight artists who have contributed art to this set of cards.

Now, I’m personally a very thematically oriented game player. I love seeing game mechanisms which make sense and are well integrated with the theme of the game. The more a game tends towards the abstract, the less likely it is that the game will work for me.  And this is where Dominion should by all rights fall flat for me. I quite like the rather tongue in cheek humour used for the theme and I totally get the connections between the different titles of the cards and their respective mechanics. They make sense.  I even like the odd bit of mechanical humour on cards like Feast. But when I’m playing the game I really don’t feel any of it. I don’t feel like a monarch expanding my realm through the use of bureaucracy or woodcutters or whatever. I feel like I’m trying to create a deck that can string together a bunch of different actions so I can get a fistful of money cards to buy me a Province and win the game. The gameplay just feels totally mechanical to me. I think that games like Thunderstone, Rune Age and others have done a better job of creating a game that conveys its theme while you play.

But ironically, I still like Dominion more. A lot more.

There is just something undeniably brilliant about Dominion’s design. It just works perfectly. Even after you’ve mixed lots of expansions in, the game still rarely misses a beat. This has a lot to do I suspect with the fact that Dominion as a complete product (the base game and almost all of its expansions) had been designed and play-tested before the first game ever went on sale. This is something that those who have followed haven’t had the advantage of doing in their rush to market.

And ultimately for me, Dominion plays fast. Experienced players will knock out a game easily in 20-30 minutes. Other games like Thunderstone and Rune Age take a lot longer. And there is just something really satisfying about being able to play through several quick and varied games of Dominion in the time that I would have spent playing one of those more thematic games.

Dominion: Arguably Bland. Undeniably Brilliant.

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