You Swindled my Prince into a Peddler! Let's All Play Dominion

Grand Scheme with jivjov:

Commentary: This is almost entirely a game that hinges on virtual money. There’s no way to trash your starting cards, so every Treasure you buy is a new stop card. Between Market and Bridge, you can get a lot of value and the ability to buy a whole bunch of cards well under cost… IF you can line them up. You’ve got all the other elements for an Action-dense deck - Mining Village and Shanty Town for actions, Council Room and Patrol for draw, Militia for getting rid of all the cards your Council Rooms handed your opponents… but it gets clogged easily, especially when you can’t tell whether you’ll be shuffling again. I’d like to say that my first Duchy/Estate buy should have been just another Patrol, but with the luck I was getting, that would mean a hand of three Patrols and two Victory cards. Seriously, I swear those two Patrols had been next to each other in the box so long that they stuck together. I clearly needed more Patrols, but they had such a tendency to show up in contexts where I didn’t want to play them that they were pretty much dead on arrival every time.

There’s a strong case to be made for an early Bridge, which can help in getting 5-costs, but the early Artisan does that too. Mill can be great if you line up the Patrols with extra actions - you can discard Victory cards for coins, then draw them all back. There’s always a mental calculation to be made late in the game - can I gain enough cards to cause the game to end? Can my opponent? Bridge really shifts the math, since it increases gains and money and decreases the amount of money required. Get a couple of Markets and only two Bridges, and you may be looking at emptying the Estate pile in addition to whatever else you use the money to buy. In a game where the Mills run out quickly and everyone’s grabbing as many Markets as they can, Provinces are almost certainly not going to run. I was trying to build up to them, but had to switch tacks when jivjov started stocking up on Bridges while he had the lead. I’ve previously made the mistake of waiting until my deck was as good as I wanted it to be, only to discover that it was the end of the game and I had no way to catch up. Not this time, even if my sifting cards only got one total play in the entire game.

The final kingdom for these two sets, “Deconstruction”, frankly looks a little boring to me. It’s got plenty of attacks (Bandit, Replace, Swindler), the only defense is Diplomat (which defends against none of those), the only draw is, again, Diplomat, and it’s even got Remodel, which is just diet Replace in this kingdom. At this point, I don’t even really want to try it, so my hope is to start the next expansion, Seaside, with the next video. I’ve got a potential guest for tomorrow, but it’ll depend on our schedules, and he may not want to take on a new expansion just yet. We’ll see. I’d like to pick up the pace and start getting to the sets I really like (mainly Hinterlands, Prosperity, some of Dark Ages, and a handful of the post-Guilds stuff), especially given how infrequently I’ve been able to make the videos.

High Seas with Warmal:

Commentary: The Seaside expansion makes a rather explosive debut here, throwing a bunch of new mechanics our way right from the start. The big card to pay attention to here is Pirate Ship - in many games, it’s negligible, and you’ll find that both players tend to ignore it. If there’s an economy in Action cards (Vassal, Conspirator, Festival, etc.), and a reliable way to trash Treasures, then Pirate Ship will quickly become nothing more than a terminal Silver or Gold equivalent, depending on how many Treasures you managed to hit with it. In this kingdom, the only other Actions that provide money are Bazaar, which is a single coin, and Embargo, which you can only ever play once. This makes Pirate Ship rather crucial for both of its functions. Trashing your opponent’s Treasure cards will slow them down a lot, and the profit will be one of your main sources of economy. Lookout is also an excellent card for getting rid of your Coppers before your opponent can. If you were confused as to why I chose to trash Copper over Estate, that’s why - the fewer chances for my opponent to boost his Pirate Ships, the better. The best defense against Pirate Ship is to have a Treasure-free deck, but that’s not really possible here. Explorer is very helpful here, because not only do you gain decent Treasures without wasting your limited Buys, but they go directly into your hand, so you’re guaranteed the chance to spend the money at least once before it gets trashed. Contrast that with Bandit, which gains you a Gold that may well be trashed before you ever get to draw it.

Embargo has some complicated strategy associated with it, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t prevent anyone from buying anything, and if the Curses run out, the Embargo loses its effect entirely. In rare cases, a player with a sizeable lead might intentionally buy Embargoed cards to deplete the Curse pile and end the game. You won’t generally Embargo a pile you want to buy from, but the key is to choose piles that will hurt your opponent more than they hurt you. Good targets are piles from which you’ve already bought all the cards you need and piles that seem to be central to your opponent’s strategy but not yours.

Island is handy when there’s no trashing, particularly if you can easily line it up with the cards you want to set aside. In this game, I think it’s a little slow to be very practical, but it’s still worth a couple of points, so not a bad buy. It’s even better when you’ve got enough Actions that you can play it without slowing down - you don’t want to spend a turn setting aside an Estate when you could just trash it early and play something else on that future turn.

As for the Duration cards, there’s little to say about them that isn’t fairly obvious. The Duration nature of Wharf means that you can get by playing one every other turn, rather than every turn, and still have the Buys you need, but it’s best to get one into play every turn if possible. Generally, you’ll want to play half of your Wharves and Caravans every turn, to help you kick off the next turn. Bazaars are essential for the Actions, and Wharf is the best mid-turn Draw you can get. Since you won’t be able to keep many Treasures around, drawing what you can is important. Havens will help you stack your next hand more effectively, letting you set aside the Durations you don’t want to play on a given turn, for example. You can also use them to set aside cards like Estates if you’re about to shuffle.

Buried Treasure with kieranmillar:

Commentary: Naturally, the focus of this kingdom is Ambassador and how to use it most effectively. There’s a limit to how much you can increase your hand size during the turn - Wharf grows it by one card, but unless you’re using the extra Action from a Fishing Village on the previous turn, you’ve got to play a Fishing Village first, leaving you with just as many cards as you had before. The big benefit is the Wharves and Fishing Villages you played on the previous turn, giving you plenty to work with, but those Estates and Coppers are going to get in the way. The question of what to do when you have Ambassador with one Estate and two Coppers is a tough one - do you divest yourself of two cards and leave the useless Estate in your deck for another shuffle, or keep the Coppers to preserve your buying power? My general advice would be to keep the Coppers if they allow you to buy something you want immediately. Otherwise, get rid of them, as long as you still have enough money in your deck to rebuild. I mentioned having seen some very good players thin so aggressively in Ambassador games that they left themselves with only two Coppers and no other money in their deck, and their opponent naturally refused to Ambassador them any more. By the time they’d bought the extra Copper and thinned enough Estates to reliably get the three coins they needed, the opponent had managed a significant lead in initiative. So, like with Chapel or the aggressive trashing you’ll want to do against Pirate Ship, keep an eye on your economy. Cutpurse is one of those cards that I often overlook, but it’s really strong in the opening - it can ruin some turns for your opponent and gives you a reliable two coins, letting you sluff a few more Coppers before you start to miss them. It loses effectiveness later in the game, when your opponent has fewer Coppers to hit, but when there’s no better four-cost card to open with, I recommend it.

There’s also a lot to say about Tactician. I think I played the second game poorly - the second Cutpurse should have been a Fishing Village for sure - but the things that make Double Tactician an appealing strategy include: A reliable means of drawing your entire deck every turn, since failing to draw your second Tactician effectively ends your game; Action cards that give you coins while still working as part of your draw engine, like Bazaar and Vassal with support; and optionally, a lack of other +Buy. Having two Buys per turn to your opponent’s one is incredibly strong, especially if you can generate 16 coins with few enough stop cards that it’s actually impossible to dud. In this kingdom, none of those factors applied. Duration cards don’t make good engine components for a Tactician deck because you can only play them every other turn, and it’s tough to manage the draw with the junking attacks from Ambassador. You have to keep up your own Ambassador plays to keep your deck thin, which gets in the way of effectively using your Tacticians. As a side note, it is possible to trigger multiple Tacticians in a turn, but it’s difficult and requires very specific combinations of cards in the kingdom, and honestly isn’t worth playing for. You can’t do it with just Throne Room, since you won’t have anything left to discard for the second play. One way to do it with cards we’ve already seen is to combine Throne Room with Vassal. If you can manage to Throne a Vassal and hit a Tactician on the first play, then something like a Laboratory or Smithy on the second play, you can draw more cards after the first Tactician and potentially play another one to get a triple turn. It’s more of an academic exercise than a viable strategy, like ending the game on your first turn.

The swing factor in the first game, honestly, was my opponent missing the start of the endgame. This can be hard to judge when there are good +Buys, and even more so when Outpost is in play, but there’s a point in every game when Estates go from junk to valuable point cards. With the point counter on screen, you don’t even need to keep track of your opponent’s deck to know when you’re ahead. Had he kept an Estate, I would have needed to take a lead in points, and I couldn’t have ended the game at the same time. I think I could just have bought a Province, but he would likely have recovered and overtaken me before I could seal the win. This is why one of the first things you should ask before playing any card is “Can I win the game right now?” It’s much easier to see when watching someone else play, of course, but I say the same thing about Bridge hands - when it’s a lesson, you know there’s a complication to it and you need to do something tricky to win. The trick in real life is to pretend that every hand is a lesson hand and trying to figure out what the gimmick is without the prompting. The multiple ending conditions in Dominion lend themselves well to that kind of thinking. The other question to ask is “Can my opponent win? How likely is that? What can I do to stop it?” That’s three questions, but they go hand in hand, every hand. But really, the key to this kingdom is getting as many Fishing Villages and Wharves in play as possible every turn (along with one Lighthouse), while leaving enough to get plenty in play the next turn as well. You’re probably going to get most of your economy from Treasures, but I don’t think Treasure Map is a good fit - it saves you having to buy Gold, but four Golds may be too many here, depending on how well you can get rid of the smaller Treasures. On the other hand, when you can reliably get those Treasure Maps to collide, you’ve probably got the drawing power to get them all, and twelve coins with Wharves gives you a lot of flexibility in ending the game. So they might be good late-game buys.

Shipwrecks with LaminatedMoth:

Commentary: I don’t really like most of the cards in this kingdom, but they certainly offer some variety you can’t afford to ignore. I think you want to focus on trashing early, as usual, and Salvager turns your Estates into some extra value as you go. You’ll want to attack with Sea Hag as frequently as possible, just to clog your opponent’s deck, then switch to Ghost Ships later. Interestingly, I don’t think the draw from Ghost Ships is particularly relevant here. After all, Native Village (set aside) into Ghost Ship doesn’t increase your hand size. The only way to get more cards into your hand here is to pick up from a Native Village, which requires having set some cards aside previously. This is why Ghost Ship attacks are so painful - there’s no reliable way to get more cards, and if you put junk on top of your deck, it’s going to take up space in your next hand as well. Warehouse provides some decent sifting, but if you don’t have three cards that you want to discard, you risk having to discard cards you’d rather have played. The more junk in your deck, the better it is. That would also be a case for Navigator, but… frankly, Navigator is a terrible card. For most cards, I think it’s possible to construct a kingdom where that card becomes a vital component of a clearly superior strategy. I don’t think you can do that with Navigator. Given any nine other kingdom cards, there has to be a better strategy available than using Navigators. The ideal case for Navigator is having a spare Action and five junk cards on top of your deck. Each non-junk card you hit makes discarding less attractive an option, and if you don’t discard, you’re just rearranging the top of your deck. If you don’t draw any of them, that doesn’t really do anything for you, and if you do, it means that you’ve got a means of drawing cards, which is generally going to be more worthwhile than playing a Navigator. It’s probably better just to get more of those cards instead. There can be some benefit to emptying your deck more rapidly sometimes, but that’s counterbalanced by the possibility of the card you’re trying to get to turning up to the Navigator. I suppose it would combo well with Wishing Wells, giving you a preview of two plays’ worth of cards and two extra coins to boot. I still don’t think you want the Navigator if Wishing Well is your best draw, though, since you’d need to have all of those cards in your hand to start with, and if there’s enough support, it’s one more card you’d have to draw, taking up the slot that could have been another draw card.

Merchant Ship is a great card when you’ve got lots of Actions - if you can toss out a few Fishing Villages, say, you get some quick coins and a boost for the next turn. In this kingdom, I really don’t see the point. I want to save my Actions for Ghost Ships and Salvagers, especially once I can pile a lot of Treasures on my Native Village mat and buy multiple cards. For the same cost, I can get a Treasury that boosts my economy by one coin every turn until I buy a Victory card. Late in the game, it would probably be a good idea to buy a Merchant Ship or two, but I really didn’t have the time this game. Maybe one in place of the last Ghost Ship would have been sensible.

Random with kieranmillar:

Commentary: We decided, due to the glacial pace of this series, to skip the pre-set kingdoms that mix Seaside with the other sets. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake, but it goes to show that not every random kingdom really offers much. We got no villages in either kingdom and lots of various attacks without much good defense. I think luck was really against me both times, but I’d have done much better in the first game with another Lookout (and possibly a replacement Swindler, but it wouldn’t have come into play much), and in the second game with at least one more Upgrade to give me a chance of turning my Sea Hags into something good. I don’t know that Mills were very good for me in the face of Militia attacks, and of course, I ignored the handsize attacks in both games to my detriment. I probably should have gone for Islands in the first game to thin even faster and preserve what little value the Estates offered. Wishing Wells were a key card in the second game, and I let too many of them go. I had an opportunity near the end to bring the split to 6-4, I think, and bought a Market instead of a Wishing Well and maybe a Silver or a Lookout. Basically, I needed to deny more of the key cards for my opponent in each game, as much as the Duchies may have slowed me down in the first one. They’re good for Militia attacks, and I was gathering enough money for a respectable number of Provinces. I could certainly have slowed him down with some discard and topdeck attacks, but I never saw a good opportunity to go for them. The Markets in the second game really didn’t help me. I might have been better off getting more Upgrades and turning them into Gold when I had nothing better to do. Filling my deck with Gold would keep me in the Province game.

Kieran’s last turn was totally Yu-Gi-Oh, though.