I originally wrote this review for Amazon. It seems to have picked up some traction, so I’m republishing it here.
Dominion is a deceptively simple game which encompasses endless variation. The basic game contains the following major components:
1. 25 groups of action cards, victory cards, and money cards, in total over 250 cards.
2. Card storage and organizer box designed specifically for organizing the game components.
3. The Rules.
A game starts with each player holding an identical 10 card deck. As the game begins a group of 10 special action cards are selected from the 25 categories in the box. The rules outline specific selections for scenario play or you can design your own lay out. There is no banker or moderator; all players start entirely equal with access to the exact same cards.
During each player's turn they may take actions and purchase new cards from the communal decks. Each player has to balance the need to buy new cards and money with the purchase of victory points (which remain in the player's deck but don't help them until points are totaled.) The decision of when to stop building one’s deck and start buying victory points is one of the most critical choices the player will make. Too early, and you’ll find yourself bogged down with a deck full of moderate victory cards while other players’ resources have increased to the point where they blow by you. If you wait too long, all of the good cards will have been bought out and you won’t have anything to spend your resources on.
I have to be honest, when I first heard about Dominion I didn't understand why my wife and several of our friends were so worked up over the thing. It sounded terribly dry, particularly to a person like myself who has played collectable card games like magic the gathering for many years. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Dominion has something for everyone, from the collectable card game nut, to the poker player, to the family looking for an alternative to trivial pursuit. Since everyone starts out with access to the same selection of cards and the same resources for advancement, everyone has an equal chance of victory. Because there are 10 different categories of action cards with each category having at least 10 cards in its pile, there is plenty of room for strategy as the game progresses and certain resources are bought up to the point of extinction.
The game is set up in such a way so that you can play cut throat games with lots of player-vs.-player actions or less interactive games where the victory is determined by who fields the most effective resource acquisition strategy. Those familiar with CCG drafting will feel right at home in this environment, while those with no card based gaming experience won't be at a disadvantage.
My only criticism of dominion (as has been said on several other forums) is that while the game is entirely self contained, I can easily see the cards (which are essential in exactly the numbers provided) wearing out or being lost. Because there are so many of them I recommend using card sleeves (available at most hobby stores from companies like rook and ultra pro.)
I started out one night thoroughly expecting to dislike this game and found myself 3 hours later wondering where the evening had gone. Dominion is completely addictive and doesn't loose its fun factor after the player has played multiple scenarios in one sitting.
Simply put, this is the best interactive casual game I've played in 32 years.
It’s four years later and I still endorse this game without reservation. The basic set is still just as fun as when I played for the first time, while the addition of other optional sets have magnified the enjoyment.