Archive | May, 2013

If you still haven’t bought Dominion… Don’t!

17 May

All right, all right… I’m going to clear some things up right now, I don’t actually hate dominion. In fact, I absolutely love it! Lots of people complain that it’s seriously lacking in theme and has been made obsolete with games like Thunderstone and Nightfall, but I personally think Dominion has a very strong theme. You’re trying to build up your kingdom, through the acquisition of land and wealth and most importantly the people and buildings that make up your ‘Kingdom’ (after all, they are who allow you to expand your kingdom at an ever increasing rate). The critiques range but the biggest one is that the benefits of the cards are the biggest detraction away from any sort of theme… But when you stop and think about it these benefits all make sense. I mean if you have a Bureaucrat, it only makes sense that he’d benefit you monetarily while making it more difficult for others to acquire wealth. Or how a Council Room would create significant opportunities for you to do more with what you have while also allowing those around to to act better in response. I mean the cards are not that detailed in how they present themselves, but I think that is another one of Dominion’s strengths… You’re not filtering through all this unnecessary text just to try and figure out what the card does, the card tells you exactly what it does along with telling you what it is and showing you a picture if what it is… Now no offence if this is you, but if that’s not enough to get your imagination going to fill in what few blanks there are then you may want to think about taking an artistic expression or creative writing class because these are not huge leaps to be making in your mind for the theme (and if the game made the leaps for you then the complaint would be how confusing the cards were, and I’d personally prefer a game that I can explain and play easily with my friends than one that I need to stop every ten minutes to explain a card to, or hunt down an FAQ to figure out exactly how all that text interacts with other cards). But wait a second, didn’t I title this post telling you not to buy dominion?

Well, yes… Kind of… Here’s my two cents, Dominion is great and all… But I honestly never play the base game anymore. The expansions have done so much in making this game something exceptional instead of just a great game. And Dominion, realizing this, released a set of base cards you can buy to accompany any expansion without the need of a base game (and the artwork on these cards are significantly better than any of the base cards in the base set). But that still leaves you with the question of which expansion to get. While I have admittedly not played all of them, I have played a few, and Dark Dages by far is the best I have ever played, to the point where we will frequently play games with nothing but card from Dark Ages. It’s actually the most common kind of dominion game that is currently played amongst my gaming group, with a close second being a Dark Ages/Seaside mix.

In Dark Ages, you do not start with any sort of beneficial victory to help you squeak ahead later on… This is a game where only what you acquire goes towards your end points. You have cards that create new cards not available from the purchasable pool of cards. You have cards that are basically garbage and do nothing but gum up your deck making it less efficient… but most importantly, there are 500 kingdom cards… That is more than any other Dominion game including any of the base sets (assuming you don’t count the basic coins/victory cards in the ‘kingdom’ card count). And if that’s not enough, it is currently the second highest rated expansion on board games geek (at least based on average ratings), and while it does not have nearly as many ratings as Seaside, I’m confident that this game will continue to get better ratings the longer it stays around (I mean it’s only what, a year old?).

So ya, If you’re thinking of treating yourself to Dominion, spend like 5-10 bucks more and just get the Base Cards with Dominion: Dark Ages. Far greater re-playability, it’s more thematic, and you get more cards (plus it’s just straight up more fun).

Careers – A Childhood Favourite and a Fond Memory

10 May

I’ve been playing board games for as long as I can remember. So just like every other young gamer in the early 90’s I was basically limited to roll and move games like Monopoly and Life, party games like Pictionary or Scattergories and the more thought heavy games like Scrabble and Mastermind. Oh sure Settlers of Catan came around in 1995 but, unless you were a somewhat serious gamer and did not rely on your parents and the board games selection at Zellers, that was not really a board game that was on your radar. But of all the games I played as a child, one game stands above them all. And when I go back to replay it today, even after having been exposed to this new era of exceptionally well designed high quality board games, I still think it is a great game… If it had aged a bit better, or if Monopoly hadn’t been the Hasbro juggernaut all about making success for yourself that left all other monetary games in it’s shadow, I really believe this game could have given the other childhood standards a real run for their money.

While at a glance it appears very similar to all those other roll and move games, it differs in how it treats chance. While it starts out very random in terms of where you land (as is common for a roll and move game), you will slowly start to acquire cards that allow you to mitigate the randomness by allowing you to move to certain places on the board as well as cards that allow you to move a specific number of squares in place of rolling a die. This means that if you have enough of these cards at your disposal (and you likely will unless you completely ignore the name of the game and never start any careers) that you can basically plan out your next couple of turns to optimize your movement and get nearer to your personal goal (or if you’re like me, amass enough cards to plan your moves to victory… at which point everyone else is just frantically racing against this clock you’ve created with your cards).

Oh right, that’s the other thing, you personally decide what your victory conditions are. Which means you never quite know what everyone else is going for. You basically have 60 points to spread across three different categories; Happiness, Fame, and Wealth. Which means that even if I’m going for 50 happiness and 10 fame, you’re all going to be on edge as soon as I start nearing 60k of wealth (cause there’s no way I haven’t completed Wealth by that point), which will affect how you play even if I’m doing particularly awful this game and only have five happiness and no fame to accompany that 55k because until I win you do not know what will win me the game.

For a roll and move game it is seriously the best I have ever played, and I really don’t think any roll and move games past, present or future will ever be able to touch it simply because of both how much it has going for it and the nostalgia factor involved. If this was not a part of your childhood like it was mine, I often see it at thrift shops (the copy I currently own was purchased for about 2 bucks as we never actually owned this game, it was one of those cabin games that never made its way back to our house). Seriously, a good game for under 5 bucks is a rarity these days so if you find it, buy it… You won’t be disappointed.