Friday, 26 March 2010

Dominion: Seaside

Dominion: Seaside is the 2nd expansion to the innovative and multi-award-winning Dominion. Unlike the first expansion Dominion: Intrigue, it does not contain the full components to allow a game to be played out-of-the-box. You need some of the cards from the base game or from Intrigue. I have written about and posted photos of Dominion before, this being my first impression of the game. I never was a very big fan of Dominion. It is a likeable game, but I don't play it anywhere near as often as I play Race of the Galaxy, another popular card game. Intrigue, with more "mess up your opponents" cards, never quite intrigued me. However Seaside interested me because of its new concept of cards that can affect your next turn.

The Game

I won't describe again how Dominion works. I'll just briefly explain the "next turn" concept. Some cards have effects on your current turn and your next turn, e.g. giving you extra actions, or cards, or money. Such cards are called Duration cards, and after you play them, they stay on the table instead of getting discarded to your discard pile, so that they remind you to do something on your next turn. There is one very interesting Duration card called the Tactician, which allows you to draw 5 more cards on your next turn, provided you discard your hand in your current turn. Less than half of the cards in this expansion are Duration cards. There are many other cards which have various special powers which are not Duration cards. E.g. the Island card allows you to set it and another card aside for the rest of the game. This is pretty handy for removing victory point cards from circulation, so that your deck is more efficient. And I guess it is also useful for removing cards in games where you don't have other cards that allow you to Trash cards.

The game comes with some mats, metal tokens and metal coins, which are used for specific cards. These components are quite nice, especially the coins. They are only used as reminders / aids, but they are done quite well.

The Play

So far I have only played 2 games, only with Seaside cards. The Duration concept is interesting. In some cases it allows you to plan or prepare better for your next turn. I find that sometimes the tricky thing about whether to play a Duration card is whether you want to sacrifice the current turn (by not playing another regular action card which may be more powerful in the current turn) so that you can have a better next turn.

Another effect of the Duration cards is you spread out your discard deck a little. I have been thinking about this for a while, and still am not sure how big an impact this is. Since your played Duration cards (and sometimes some action cards that are played with them) stay on the table and do not go to your discard deck until the end of your next turn, when you need to shuffle your discard deck, you may have some such cards still in front of you that do not go back into the deck to be reshuffled. You know these cards won't come up in the next cycle that you run through your deck. You know what the cards remaining in your deck are. This information can help you plan what to do during the next cycle through your deck. I have not come up with a strategy that makes use of this feature, but I'm sure there are such strategies to be explored.

One fun card is the Treasure Map. If you have two such cards in your hand, you can Trash both and gain four Gold cards at the top of your draw deck. The Treasure Map costs $4 each, which means you are investing $8 (likely over two turns) and hoping to be lucky enough to draw both the cards on a later turn, to earn back four Gold cards, which would otherwise cost $24. I thought this was fun, and decided to give it a go. I knew I should do this early, before my deck grew too large. I only bought two such cards, and I was lucky to draw both on the same turn soon afterwards. It was a great feeling, like winning the lottery. Woohoo! Yeah... cheap thrills...

Woohoo! Two Treasure Map cards in my hand.

Michelle tried to do the same in the same game after seeing me strike jackpot. I thought it would be hard by then, because our decks had grown larger. However Michelle used a Haven card (which allows you to set aside one card to be used for your next turn) to set aside one Treasure Map card, and then she drew the other Treasure Map card on her next turn. Now that was one smart move I hadn't though of.

Both our games went quite quick, since we already knew the Dominion system quite well from previous plays on BSW. We both had the same victory points in both games, and I only won because Michelle had one turn more in both cases. So the games were very close. They were exciting races to grab as many Province cards as possible. We still haven't explored strategies around depleting 3 stacks of cards to end the game. I wonder whether these are too much harder to do when only playing with 2 players.

The Thoughts

Michelle's summary of Seaside: "It's the same". That's quite true to an extent - since the core gameplay doesn't change, despite some new twists. I think some of the cards are quite interesting. There are more fun powers compared to the base game.

People who love Dominion will most likely buy Seaside. People who don't like Dominion most likely won't. I'm in between, and for me Seaside was a good buy. One of the reasons I bought it was I hoped it'll allow me to get more plays out of Dominion. Let's wait and see whether this happens. Having more types of cards also mean more variety. I am more keen to play Dominion now, I just need to convince Michelle to play more of this. She is nowadays more keen about At the Gates of Loyang.


Tom said...

Thanks for the review - I bought intrigue for our group (I thought it would be more intriguing!) and we were taken in for a few games but then the interest tailed off. I'm not sure now that Seaside would be any better for us, but I'm intrigued by Race of the Galaxy...

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I have not played Intrigue, so I can't really comment.

I'm a very big fan of Race for the Galaxy, but I can imagine some people will find it rubs them the wrong way. I think Race is very clever. There are many different things you can try to do. Lot of interesting combination of cards. Sometimes you do get screwed by bad card draws, but I find it always interesting how to make best out of what you get.

I read the Uplift novels by David Brin, and I enjoyed the theme of RFTG much more after having reading them.

wankongyew said...

Hmm, I've already ordered Intrigue from Sean (since a while back now!) but now I think that Seaside might be the better addition. Some of the card effects you describe are really, really interesting and I'd never have thought of them myself. I guess that's why these people get billed as the designers.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Wan, then get both expansions lo, :-D

Cecrow said...

Haven is a good strategy for drawing Treasure Maps together. Another I thought of is using Chapel to knock out most of your deck early on - you might even pull off two early Treasure Map combinations this way - although I've yet to try this and not sure if it would work quickly enough.

Hiew Chok Sien said...


Yes I have tried using Haven to help me pair up my Treasure cards. It does help. The thing about Treasures is sometimes after buying the first one, you keep drawing $3 and cannot buy the second one, and every turn that you buy something else, you are diluting your deck and making it harder to pair up your Treasures when you do buy the second one.

But then, that's exactly what digging for treasures is like. It's a gamble, and if you find your treasure, it's a windfall. So I quite like Treasures.

Cecrow said...

I succesfully used Stewards last night (from Intrigue) to make two Treasure Map pairings, similar to what I was planning with Chapel by trashing my other cards.

Another I've now thought of is Native Village rather than Haven. Keep setting aside cards until you catch a Treasure Map there, then draw it to your hand when you've a second (or when you've captured two of them in the village).

Hiew Chok Sien said...


I always have difficulty with Steward, in that I don't know what to do with it. It seems to be not very useful, but not exactly useless either, thus occupying some embarassing middle ground. Good point that it can work well with Treasure.

Indeed Native Village can work well with Treasure too. But one thing I don't like about Native Village is the randomness. You can't be sure what you'll end up hiding away.

I haven't played Dominion for some time. Your comment makes me want to play again. :-)