So I’ve sort of locked myself into a pattern where every four posts I make needs to be a Dominion expansion of some kind, as to maintain a vertical line of Dominion on the desktop version of my blog’s home page. Yes, you heard it here first; that’s literally the only reason I’m doing this.
But there’s nothing wrong with that.
Dominion: Seaside is the first non-standalone expansion to Dominion (yes, Dominion: Intrigue can be played standalone — check out that review for more information), so you must own either Dominion, Dominion: Intrigue, or the wonderful Dominion: Base Cards to play this. For this review, I’ll be using the Base Cards because they’re very pretty and then I don’t have to open any of the larger boxes (also note the lack of base cards in the featured photo). In Seaside (as I will henceforth refer to it), you’re looking to expand your already-considerable empire into the tropics via a nautical theme, and Seaside changes things up by introducing a completely-new type of card: Durations! To find out more, keep reading.
Set aside the base cards (Copper, Silver, Gold, Estate, Duchy, Province, Curse), and give three Estates and seven Coppers to every player to form their starting deck. Set the base cards up like so:
As always, remove certain amounts of cards, depending on your player count:
- For 2 players:
- Use 8 Estate, Duchy, Province, and any other Victory (green) cards.
- Use 10 Curse cards.
- For 3 players:
- Use all 12 Estate, Duchy, Province, and any other Victory (green) cards.
- Use 20 Curse cards.
- For 4 Players:
- Use 12 Estate, Duchy, Province, and any other Victory (green) cards.
- Use all 30 Curse cards.
Next use the Randomizer cards, or honestly use Randominion or another app if you’re playing with more than one set:
Take 10 Kingdom Card sets (and their mats, if you really feel like you must) and set them out, and have each player draw a hand of five cards. Once your setup looks like this, you’re ready to go:
I’m cutting you off, just so you know. At this point, if you don’t know what a deckbuilder is, please see my explanations for Paperback, Flip City, Dominion, or Intrigue. I’m going to proceed as if we’ve already had that talk.
…And that’s how a deckbuilder works. Great, so now that you know that, let’s talk gameplay. Unlike previous Dominion games, there are five types of cards that can be used, and, as mentioned previously, Seaside adds another totally-new card type to the Dominion universe, namely, Duration Cards:
As you can see, they are cards that give you an ability both when played and later. They stay in play until they’ve completely fulfilled that function.
Again, your turn has two phases: the Action Phase and the Buy Phase. During the Action Phase, you can play one Action card. During the Buy Phase, you can reveal and play Treasure Cards and then buy one card from the Supply (the Kingdom cards + Treasure cards + Victory cards + … Curses, if that helps your strategy [which it … could?]), provided you can pay its cost (bottom-left number).
All cards have a title (top), a cost (bottom-left), and their type or types (bottom-center), but their effects are very different. Generally, along with some optional explanatory text, Action cards will have some effects that could enhance the rest of your turn:
- +X Card[s]: Draw X extra cards into your hand.
- +X Action[s]: You may play X additional Action cards during the current Action Phase.
- +X Buy[s]: You may buy X additional cards during your Buy Phase, provided you have the money to pay for all the cards you buy.
- +X Coin[s]: You have X additional money to spend during your Buy Phase.
As you might guess, being able to play more Action cards can be pretty useful, especially if you have more than one Action card in your hand. If you have no +Action cards, you only get to play one Action card before your Action Phase ends. Action cards that lack a +Action are generally referred to as terminal Actions, and you generally will see a fair number of those.
After the Action Phase comes your Buy Phase, in which you play Treasure cards to accumulate money, and then spend that money on cards from the Supply. Treasure cards can be Copper (value 1), Silver (value 2), or Gold (value 3), and you should also count +Coins you got during the Action Phase. As usual, unless you got +Buys in the Action Phase, you can only buy one card.
And that’s the end of your turn! Well, almost. You still have your Clean-Up Phase. As mentioned previously, discard everything except for active Duration cards (actions, treasures, etc.) in front of you from play and discard any cards left in your hand. If your Duration card has been completely spent (for instance, you’ve played two turns with Wharf in play), then you can discard that. Then, the next player takes their turn and so on / so forth until the game ends. Which, is:
There are two possible ways to end Dominion:
- The Province pile is exhausted (there are no more Province cards).
- Any three piles in the Supply are exhausted.
Note that the second case includes Coppers, Silvers, Golds, Curses, Duchies, and Estates, in addition to the normal Kingdom cards.
At that point, if playing with Island, put your Island mat cards back into your deck, and then count how many Victory points you have among your cards. Whoever has the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Again, I personally prefer Dominion slightly more at lower player counts (for me it’s 2 > 3 > 4). With more players it might be beneficial to at least have an attack or two so that you can have something to do when it’s not your turn (as it will be increasingly as you add more players).
You’ll notice with more players that there are likely more strategies being played (since really you shouldn’t endeavor to copy someone else’s strategy), which as a result might mean you’re seeing more (and a wider variety of) attacks, and you might notice that you get fewer of certain cards from the Supply, since there are more players buying from the Supply, but the numbers of cards stay constant (save for Victory cards, which increase when you move from 2 -> 3+ players).
You should remember that the hybrid Victory card Island is still a Victory card for the purposes of having only 8 or 12 in the game, depending on player count. Other than that, it plays pretty similarly at higher player counts.
As a quick aside, when I write these I try to write them in a vacuum (in the sense that I ignore “future” expansions that I haven’t written about, generally). This means I’ll do my best to not reference combos that require cards from expansions I haven’t written about, yet.
- For the patient, Native Village is a great way to set up a superturn. You don’t generally get to pick which cards you put on top of your deck (unless you’re manipulating the top card of your deck with, say, Navigator), but if you were to use that to set yourself up with a bunch of +Actions and a bunch of Bridges from Intrigue, well, you might be able to do something pretty cool.
- Island isn’t too bad, either. Island will allow you to remove cards in your deck from the game and is a cool +2 Victory points. However, unlike trashing cards, you get these cards back once the game ends. Suddenly Islanding a Province means you have 8 points that don’t gum up your deck! Just watch out, since it’s a terminal action.
- An early Cutpurse is painful. Since it’ll force your opponents to discard Coppers, you’ll actually be able to use it with great effect in the early game to force opponents to lose 25-33% of their buying power per turn (assuming you have 3 or 4 Coppers in your hand). Even moreso if multiple players buy and use Cutpurse regularly. It offers some advantage to being first (since you can be the first person to use it), so we don’t generally play with it.
- Embargo isn’t too much fun, either. It’s not the worst thing in the world (since it trashes itself), but it can be annoying if someone Embargoes the Province pile or something such that everyone’s taking a fair number of Curses. Or you can just be a real jerk and Embargo Silvers or something. It’s a good way to prevent certain combos from emerging (especially if you already have all the pieces of that combo), but I wouldn’t say it’s an exceptional card. It’s more situational.
- Warehouse is a great card for cycling through your deck. Looking for another Treasure Map? Trying to find that elusive Silver? Need a Province to go with your Island? Warehouse can help with that +3 Cards / +1 Action, Discard 3 Cards. Haven does that a bit, too, but it’s more about offloading cards you can’t use this turn.
- Ambassador can be fun, too. It lets you return a card to the Supply, causing every other player to gain a copy, which can be fun with Curses or Coppers or other general garbage cards at literally any point in the game. I tend to avoid this card because it can make the game a bit ugly, but you can see where this could be interesting (such as giving your opponents the last Provinces to end the game on your turn rather than letting them potentially buy a Duchy + Province if they have extra buys, or just filling their deck with your Coppers).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Duration cards are a great addition. I just think Duration cards are great. So great that even Marvel Legendary incorporated something like Duration into its recent Captain America expansion. I like the idea of being able to keep a card around for another turn, and the whole theme of the expansion around cards that affect subsequent turns is solid.
- The theme of the expansion is great. Not just the “affecting subsequent turns” theme, but also the “nautical / tropical / pirate” theme, too. The art is fun, it’s a nice change of pace from the original expansions.
- Some of the cards are super enjoyable. I find that I’ll often try to throw Haven, Wharf, or even Treasury into games of Dominion I’ll play because I enjoy their effects and they add a lot to the game. I think this set has a bunch of really great cards.
- Something here for everyone. I just like the variety of this set a lot.
- Mats and tokens seem not particularly useful? The mats seem woefully underutilized to the point of not being really necessary. Same with the Embargo tokens — they’re just kind of … there. I appreciate them, but I don’t really get them. The coin tokens are super useful, in other sets, but this set only really uses them for Pirate Ship, I think, so… perhaps less so.
- Some of the cards are pretty … situational. Thankfully, it’s a “Meh” because you don’t ever have to play with them if you don’t want to, but Lookout is … not great (+1 Action, look at the top three cards of your deck. Trash one, discard one, put one back). In the same vein, Treasure Map can be good sometimes, but generally you’re never gonna want to buy more than two, it’s even more situational than, like, Embargo, and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll never draw them together unless you’re manipulating your deck with other cards. It just means you shouldn’t add Treasure Map to your Kingdom unless there’s a card that’ll help Treasure Map (Warehouse, from this expansion, for instance). Pearl Diver isn’t really great (+1 Card, +1 Action, look at the bottom card of your deck and you may put it on top), but it’s thematic?
- A lot of these cards can just make the game … unpleasant. Or very long. I generally avoid Ghost Ship, Sea Hag, and Cutpurse, for that reason, but imagine playing against someone who plays Ghost Ship every turn, meaning you only ever get to play with three cards in hand compared to their five. It would be unfortunate. Sea Hag just tends to make the game a fair bit longer, as you’re making the other players’ subsequent turns worse AND giving them a Curse. I played a heavy Sea Hag game and ended up drawing a hand of three Curses and two Estates. Not what you want.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think Seaside adds a lot to the Dominion family. More cards are always good, generally, but the new card types and options provide fun new ways to approach the game and it’s a great expansion for spicing up the game. Also, who doesn’t love vaguely nautical themes? I think this is the closest thing I currently own to a pirate game (though I’m trying to get my hands on Islebound, so hopefully that won’t be the case for long). Generally this and Prosperity are recommended for your first few expansions (which I’d agree with), so check it out if you need more Dominion in your life.