This is a post from when I was playing a lot of Dominon. I don’t play as much anymore, but I still love the game!
Just getting into Dominion? Need a few pointers to help beat your friends? Here are five quick stratagems for the beginning Dominion player. These are not ironclad rules, but should be helpful in most games.
1. Trash your Coppers and Estates.
Getting rid of these cards means better cards will come up more often. Buy a card to help you trash them early on (Chapel, Moneylender, Mine). There is a reason that Chapel is considered the best card in the game. Just make sure you don’‘t get rid of all your money.
2. Don’t buy too many actions.
Remember, you only get 1 action per turn. Unless you have actions that give you more actions (Village, Cellar) having more than one action in your hand is wasted space. Make sure not to buy too many “terminal” actions (actions that do not give you bonus actions). When in doubt, buy a Silver or Gold.
3. Go for Provinces.
Your goal should be to buy the most Provinces as they are the most “efficient” victory points. You would much rather have one Province than six Estates in your deck, as the Estates will make it much harder to buy more victory points. You don’‘t need to buy only provinces, however. If it looks like the game will end soon (within a few of your turns), buy as many victory points as you can. If you can afford Provinces, great, if you can only afford Estates, get those.
4. Keep track of the score.
It may seem daunting at first, but after a little practice it becomes easy to remember how many victory points each player has (remember everyone starts with 3 Estates/points). Cards like Gardens may complicate this, but you can still keep a pretty rough total. Also, make sure you have an eye on the number of empty piles, as this can sneak up on people.
5. A strong strategy: 2 actions and lots of money.
This is not fail safe, but should be effective in most games. Limit yourself to two (or possibly three as your deck gets larger) actions, and then spend the rest of the game only buying money (Silver and Gold). Try to get actions that will help you trash cards (Chapel), give you money (Militia, Woodcutter), or give you cards (Smithy). You will be surprised at how quickly you can start buying Provinces.
The Ten Minute Strategy Guide
Still have time? Let us elaborate on each of the five tips.
1. Trashing is a good thing.
For a lot of new players trashing cards can seem counter productive. Why would I want to get rid of my Estates if they give me points? The answer is that you are making a trade-off. Losing three points (Estates) now means you will be able to get Provinces much faster. Similarly, trashing your Coppers helps you draw better treasures more often. The ability to trash cards is also useful if an opponent has given you curses.
2. Terminal actions.
Early in the game you do not want more than two or three terminal actions, as any more will quickly start to “collide” and leave you with an unusable action. As the game goes on and you either (1) get more cards in your deck or (2) acquire cards that give you additional actions you can buy more.
3. Buying victory points.
Ideally you should aim to buy Provinces or Colonies. Think of it like this: to get to 24 points you would need four Provinces or eight Duchies. The Provinces will take up less space, enabling you to buy even more victory points. When to start buying can be a tough question. When in doubt, buy provinces as soon as you can. When should you buy Duchies and Estates? If you think the game will end soon (within a few turns) and you cant afford provinces.
Advanced: check out the Penultimate Province Rule.
4. Keeping track of things.
In addition to tracking the score you should be aware of the number of empty piles and number of Provinces left. Remember that curses count as a pile too! This will give you a rough idea of how much time is left in the game and is crucial for knowing when to buy victory points (see above). You will often be able to “steal” games by buying a few victory points before anyone realizes the game is about to end.
5. Basic Strategy (buy only two actions and treasures).
This is a powerful strategy that many experienced players (including myself) often use. It works well for a number of reasons. First, because you are buying so few actions it is unlikely they will ever “collide” and become unusable. Second, typically newer players are less focused and will buy cards (actions) without a clear strategy. By mostly sticking to buying treasure you will quickly ramp up the buying power of your deck, faster than if you had been buying “randomly”. Actions that go well with this strategy: Militia, Chapel, Smithy, Moneylender, Woodcutter, and Cellar (but not all of them at the same time).
Even though the above strategems are usually true there are exceptions. Trashing can be counter productive in some situations, like when you are trying to win with Gardens. Using cards like Festival, Village, and Smithy you can build a winning deck that is mostly actions (although mostly non-terminal actions). There are situations where you should not go for Provinces. Even the “Basic Strategy” outlined above is not fool proof, and can be vulnerable against attack cards like Thief and Witch. The best thing you can do to get better? Practice.