Dominion | Everything We Love About This Game

Dominion is a first-of-its-kind deck-building card game designed by Donald X. Vaccarino. The game was published by Rio Grande Games in 2008 and has been sweeping the globe ever since. In this game, each player has their own deck of cards and they draw their hands from their own decks, not other players’. Players use the cards that are in their hands to perform actions or buy certain cards from the card stacks, which are a common pool. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins. 


Dominion has what has been called a “light” medieval theme. The card names all reference monarchal, feudal, and pre-industrial structures. But the theme is just window dressing for the real strategy of the game. 


Many people liken the gameplay of Dominion to other collectible card games like Magic: the Gathering. Vaccarino denies that there was any inspiration drawn from Magic and the gameplay is actually different. Instead of coming to the table with a pre-made deck, players build their decks ad hoc throughout the game. 


Dominion is based on a simple formula that’s easy to learn after a few rounds. Its accessibility makes it attractive to new players and collectible card game fans alike! The first of its kind, it went on to inspire games like Thunderstone, Trains, and Arctic Scavengers (among many others). The simple rules and massive replayability of the game made it a smashing success when it was released. Dominion became so popular because it made deck-customization a game you could play with friends – a whole game in which the players compete to build the best possible deck with the available cards.


And now that you have the background, let’s talk about the things that make this game so freaking awesome.

Literally Infinite Combinations

Dominion – including all of its expansions – has a grand total of two hundred (200) unique kingdom cards. This gives players approximately twenty-two (22) quadrillion unique combinations for the initial set up. That’s more than you could possibly play in a lifetime! With infinite combinations, you never have to worry about running out of playing options – or about getting bored with playing the same deck over and over. 


Best Seller for a Reason

Dominion was a success as soon as it was released. It spawned translations in about thirty (30) different languages. That means you can play with almost anyone across the world! The game – and its expansions – sold more than one (1) million copies worldwide. When a game sweeps the globe like that, you know it has to be pretty dang fun.


The Pacing is Perfect

The reasons people love the game are manifold, but pretty universally we can all agree on a few excellent design points. The pacing is pretty close to perfect. The early game is forgiving – meaning you can test new cards, explore and little and try out new strategies. You can afford to make a few mistakes (which we all know is the best way to learn!). By the middle of the game, you’ve tested and corrected, your combos are starting to work (or fail miserably in some cases, let’s be fair), but you still have a little time for a few quick adjustments. By the time end-game rolls around, you’re in a frantic race with the other players to buy up the most Provinces and WIN. It’s a gorgeous build.


Spirit Warrior… II?

Have you ever heard of the card game Spirit Warrior? Exactly.* Dominion was originally designed as the sequel to a different game by the same game designer – Spirit Warrior. The theme was supposed to be the same as in Spririt Warrior – fantasy heroes and monsters. The deck-building mechanics were actually introduced to customize the heroes when you were setting up.


*Note: if you have heard of Spirit Warrior this bit doesn’t work as well. But it’s still good information right??


Rumor Has It

Dominion was designed by game designer Donald X. Vaccarino. In 2009, it won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award – but Vaccarino missed his flight to Germany and wasn’t able to be presented with possibly the most important award of his career. Obviously, this was a terrible and embarrassing accident – but it sparked rumors in the gaming community that the reason he didn’t show up was that he didn’t exist. There were whispers that Donald X. Vaccarino was just a nom de plume for the real geniuses behind Dominion. 


Of course, this isn’t true – you can Google pictures of Vaccarino right now. He’s definitely a real dude. But the whole thing lent a sense of silly mystery to the game which was fun to play into. 


An Addictive Design

Vaccarino play-tested Dominion by getting his friends to play it. He got his board gamer and Magic the Gathering groups to try out his game and even before the final version, his friends were hooked! Legend has it that it was so popular that both groups stopped playing pretty much everything else. 


If you dip into the forums, you’ll find that this is actually a common story with groups who play Dominion together – it’s just so freaking fun! Try it yourself and see if you can keep from getting addicted.  


Just… One… More…

Speaking of addictive – Vaccarino’s fans were heartbroken when he insisted that the Guilds expansion released in 2013 was the last one. Whether it was a clever marketing ploy or he really thought he was done at the time, that didn’t last long. In 2015 he released Adventures – a new expansion for Dominion. And there’s been a new expansion each year since. There have been 12 expansions total (we’re not counting Base Cards because there are no kingdom cards), which makes this a mind-bogglingly huge game.  


If you have any questions about starting your own Dominion game, or if you want to check out a few expansions, stop by Game Goblins and let our staff help you out! You can always try out dominion in our game testing area – bring a few friends, grab a beer and settle in! Or you can contact us online to make sure we have what you need.