#56 – Dominion: Cornucopia [Expansion]

Dominion Cornucopia Box.jpg

Autumn. It seemed like the summer would never end, but that fortune teller was right. It’s over. Autumn, the time of the harvest. Agriculture has advanced significantly in recent years, ever since the discovery of the maxim, “leaves of three, let it be.” Autumn, a time of celebration. The peasants have spent a hard week scything hay in the fields, but tonight the festivities begin, starting with a sumptuous banquet of roast hay. Then, the annual nose-stealing competition. Then you have two jesters, one who always lies, one who always tells the truth, both hilariously. This celebration will truly have something for everyone.

Base price: $??? (Now usually sold with Guilds for $45.)
2-4 players.
Play time: ~30-45 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy Guilds + Cornucopia on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?) 

Another fourth post comes up Dominion, this time focusing on one of the smaller expansions – Cornucopia! I thought about combining this with Guilds since my box is technically Guilds and Cornucopia, but I figured eh, what the hell, I’ll just try writing a short review.

As usual, Dominion has you vying against opponents to try and build the greatest kingdom in the land, but this time you’re focusing a bit more on the bounties of the recent harvest. Can you incorporate all that plenty into a kingdom that crushes your opponents?

Contents

Setup

Now, this set has fewer cards than the previous sets we’ve covered (only 13 sets!), but it adds 5 Prize cards along with the Tournament card:

Dominion Cornucopia Cards.jpg

Note the center row, which is Prizes, + Tournament, the only card that can bring them into play.

In case you’ve forgotten, set aside the base cards (CopperSilverGold, EstateDuchyProvince, Curse), give three Estates and seven Coppers to every player to form their starting deck, and set the base cards up like so:

Dominion Cornucopia Base Cards.jpg

I got some of the treasure cards signed by their illustrator, Ryan Laukat! (Of Above and Below / others fame)

Surprising everyone, you should 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.

If you’re not using Randominion and still reading all of these, I’d really recommend it or any other app if you’re playing with more than one set. If you’d prefer not to use those, shuffle the randomizer cards:

Dominion Cornucopia Randomizers 1.jpg

Deal ten out, and take the ten corresponding Kingdom Card sets. Lay them out to form the Supply. That said, if you’re using the Young Witch Kingdom Card, select one card costing 2-3 (has a 2 or a 3 in the bottom-left corner of the card) as your Bane card, adding it to the supply as well.

Each player should shuffle their given deck and draw 5 cards. Once you’ve done that, your setup should look like this:

Dominion Cornucopia Setup.jpg

I set out the Prize cards next to the Supply since we’re playing with Tournament.

Gameplay

If you don’t know what a deckbuilder is, please see Dominion or Dominion: Intrigue for the starter. If you do, then allow me to talk about how Cornucopia is different.

Unlike, say, Seaside or Prosperity, Cornucopia doesn’t add any new card types. Instead, its an expansion focused on having a variety of cards in your deck, from Horn of Plenty, a Treasure card that lets you gain a card costing X, where X is the number of cards you’ve played this turn, to Fairgrounds, a Victory card worth 2VP for every 5 differently-named cards in your deck. There are other interesting cards, and I’ll talk a bit more about the ones I’ve played with in Strategy.

As with all other instances of Dominion, 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 you feel that you must (I suppose they are another card for variety’s sake), 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 different, otherwise the game would probably be fairly dry. Generally, along with some potential explanatory text, Action cards will have some effects:

  • +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.

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 Horn of Plenty (value 0, kind of), 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.

Now, the Clean-Up Phase. As mentioned previously, discard everything (actions, treasures, etc.) in front of you from play and discard any cards left in your hand, and then the next player takes their turn and so on / so forth until the game ends. Which, is:

GAME END

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, as well as the normal Kingdom cards. The Prize cards do not count towards this if you’re playing with Tournament, but the Bane pile that Young Witch demands does count towards this.

At that point count how many Victory points you have among your cards, and whoever has the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

Well, as for specific cards, Jester (force all opponents to discard their top card, if it’s a Victory card they gain a curse, if not, then you choose whether they gain a copy of it or you do) becomes a bit more useful at large player counts if you’re looking to gain either a variety of cards or valuable cards, since you’ll have more targets. Similarly, though, expect other players to be buying it as well. It’s not the best attack in town, but it’s certainly kind of annoying.

Other than that, as I’ve mentioned previously, I generally prefer Dominion at smaller player counts, but not by a whole lot (2 > 3 > 4) and mostly due to the time committment more players bring in. If you do play with more players, you may want to consider throwing in an attack to increase the player interaction and give other players something to watch for during their downtime. You’ll also notice that you might get fewer of a certain card since, save for Victory cards, no other Kingdom cards scale with player count.

Also remember that Fairgrounds is a Victory card, so make sure you’re playing with either 8 or 12, depending on your game’s size.

Strategy

Well, as always, this is nonexhaustive, but I’ll add my thoughts based on the games I’ve played with Cornucopia. For more strategies, check out the Dominion Strategy Wiki.

  • Tournament is pretty great to have, but is swingy. Generally it’s not too bad to have it early-game, since it’s guaranteed to get you +1 Action, +1 Card, and +1 Coin (since nobody has Provinces at that point), but later in the game it’s fantastic to get Prize cards. They’re generally amazing and there are only five of them. Get several of them.
  • Late-game, Jester isn’t that great. Unless you and your opponent have picked the same strategy, a late-game Jester isn’t awesome unless you end up giving them a Curse or revealing, say, a Copper or some junk. If you reveal a card that’s great for them and terrible for you, now you have to decide if you want junk or if you want to give them a great card, which isn’t awesome. Be careful with it.
  • Generally, if Young Witch is in play, might as well buy the Bane card. Sometimes it can be pretty useful (since +1 Action / +1 Card cards don’t really weigh down your deck and can boost Fairground, but better to be safe than Cursed.
  • Keep in mind for Fairgrounds that there are only so many types of cards in a game. Generally you’ll have Copper, Silver, Gold, Estate, Duchy, Province, Curse, and 10 Kingdom Cards for 17 total (and you probably want to avoid gaining a Curse if you don’t need to?). Certain sets override this rule (Dark Ages, for instance, has Knight cards where every card in the pile has a different name), and the Prize cards are all differently-named, but generally you’ll max out at, say 6 points for 6 money, and that’s if you get all 15 cards, which might be tough. Just make sure to set your expectations around there.
  • With Cornucopia, variety is key. A solid third(ish) of the set looks for variety (Horn of Plenty, Menagerie, Fairgrounds, …others), so you might want to try experimenting with this to diversify your deck and potentially reap the benefits of doing so. That said, it can also be hard to build a strategy around “let’s buy every card in the set”, so be careful that you’re not shooting yourself in the foot long-term for short-term gains.
  • Using Hunting Party when you have a Tournament or Province in hand is a decent way to try to get the other card. I wouldn’t try it with Seaside‘s Treasure Map, since that’s not how Hunting Party works, but it’s great if you need a specific different card, since it’ll hunt through your deck for any cards you don’t already have in hand.
  • Princess + King’s Court is pretty fun. You get +3 Buys and all cards are 6 cheaper. Were you going to buy a Province? Why not buy four? EDIT: As a comment points out, this is actually not correct! Princess + King’s Court doesn’t work based on how Princess is worded, so be careful with it. (There are a few other cards that work similarly — make sure to read your cards carefully!)

Let me know in the comments if there are any other fun combos you enjoy from Cornucopia.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Cute little set. Nothing particularly offensive in here, except for perhaps Tournament, but overall not bad.
  • Cool theme idea. I like the idea of forcing players to buy a variety of different cards in order to benefit from this set’s theme, and even in other sets it’s pretty useful / cool to have, provided the Kingdom cards synergize well.
  • Some cards allow for novel ways to sift through your deck. Hunting Party’s ability to ignore cards in your hand is pretty nifty, and if you’re ever hit with a discarding attack, discarding all your duplicates and keeping Menagerie can really help you get back up to speed. Even Horn of Plenty is super neat, though it’s kind of weird.
  • Generally interesting cards. Even if it sucks to get hit by Fortune Teller, it does have a neat effect, and I generally think that it’s an interesting set, albeit a small one.

Mehs

  • Tournament can rely a lot on luck. Usually in games with Tournament it’s a “race to the first Province”, even if you wouldn’t be able to buy another one for a while because the Prize cards are pretty great. If you get an early Followers, sure, you’ll gain lots of Estates, but you’ll be able to reduce all your opponents to three-card hands. That said, I think the idea of Tournament is pretty cool, so… I’m mixed on it.
  • For a set focused on variety, it doesn’t add a lot of it. I’d buy this in the Guilds + Cornucopia pack rather than trying to buy it standalone, since it’s only 13 extra Kingdom Card sets and most expansions are 20+. I’m not even sure they sell Cornucopia standalone, anymore. I’ll review Guilds … later.

Cons

  • None, really. I don’t have a ton of strong negative opinions about this expansion.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

Dominion Cornucopia In Progress.jpg

Nobody went for Diadem, really — we neared the end of the game and Tournament winners opted for Duchies over the last Prize.

I kept waffling about the score between a 7.5 and an 8, so I decided to opt for the 7.75. Generally, I’d call this a solid expansion, in that nothing particularly bothers me about it; however, I’m also not particularly fighting to get it off the shelf and play it (though I’d be happy to add a Kingdom card or two to any game of Dominion I play). I like it, and I think it’s a good expansion, but this wouldn’t be the first one I’d buy if I were starting my collection from scratch. That said, I still think it’s a solid expansion, and one that’s improved in value by the fact that it’s being sold alongside Guilds, another mini-expansion. As with most expansions, Cornucopia adds variety to your Dominion game, but unlike other expansions its focus on variety makes for an interesting spin on the current formula. It’s worth having.

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5 thoughts on “#56 – Dominion: Cornucopia [Expansion]

  1. “Princess + King’s Court is pretty fun. You get +3 Buys and all cards are 6 cheaper. Were you going to buy a Province? Why not buy four?”

    “While this is in play” effects, including Princess’s ability to make cards cost $2 less, do not get multiplied by Throne Room, King’s Court, etc. So King’s Courting a Princess will give you +3 Buys, but cards will still just cost $2 less, not $6 less.

    Liked by 1 person

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