Y’know, I consoled myself a bit by telling myself that I’d only be reviewing a Dominion expansion every four weeks, though it seems with all the Kickstarter previews / reviews / etc. that I’m actually doing these closer to every other week.
Oh well. Good thing I like Dominion.
Hinterlands is the next up in my near-chronological breakdown of Dominion expansions, this time focusing entirely on “what happens when you gain cards?” as you explore lands outside of your traditional domain in an attempt to add them to your traditional domain. Dominion is as Dominion does. Will these distant lands give you the means to crush your opponents?
So! Setup. We’re back to the big expansions, so there are a whopping 26 different sets in Hinterlands:
By this point you should basically have this memorized, but, set aside the base cards (Copper, Silver, Gold, Estate, Duchy, Province, Curse), then give three Estates and seven Coppers to every player to form their starting deck and set the base cards up like so:
In keeping with all games of Dominion, 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.
At this point, I’d almost insist that you just use Randominion or a similar app (we’ve covered like, four expansions, at this point), but, if you still insist on not using any of those, shuffle the randomizer cards:
Deal ten out, and take the ten Kingdom Card sets that match those randomizers. Lay them out with the Base Cards to form the Supply:
Each player should then shuffle their provided deck and draw 5 cards. If your setup looks like this, then you’re ready to begin:
If you don’t know what a deckbuilder is, I describe it in detail in my Dominion or Dominion: Intrigue reviews. If you do, then I’ll briefly describe how to play Dominion and how Hinterlands changes that up.
Similar to Cornucopia, Hinterlands doesn’t add any crazy new card types (unless you count Treasure – Reaction, which … honestly, I’d allow). Hinterlands’s shtick is all about cards that provide benefits when you gain cards (as in, add them to your discard pile from the Supply, either through a card effect or through your Buy Phase). These include cards like Duchess, which lets you gain it whenever you gain (or buy) a Duchy; Noble Brigand, which attacks other players when you buy it, or Ill-Gotten Gains, which “rewards” all other players with a Curse when you purchase it. Weirdly enough, you can buy a card without gaining it, as there are cards (like Hinterlands’s Trader) that allow you to buy a card and then immediately gain an entirely different card instead (allowing you to get Noble Brigand’s on-buy effect, for instance, without actually having to have it in your deck).
Cards sure are weird! But there are also more, weirder cards. I’ll talk about a few I’ve played with in Strategy.
As with every other expansion / instance 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 (or you have a Trader in your hand and can turn it into a cheap Silver), 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 reasonable number of those in every set.
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 Fool’s Gold (value 1, sometimes value 4!), Ill-Gotten Gains (value 1), Copper (value 1), Silver (value 2), Cache (value 3) 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:
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. Now, count how many Victory points you have among your cards, and whoever has the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
In this one, no really specific ones in particular, though some strategies (like gaining all the Fool’s Golds) are a bit less viable if there are more players (since they’re likely to gain at least a couple). It does boost the efficacy of Tunnel (if you discard Tunnel outside of your Clean-Up Phase, reveal it to gain a Gold), since there’s a chance there will be more discard attacks if you’ve got multiple opponents.
Ill-Gotten Gains will still likely torch the Curse pile regardless of how many other players you have, though having it in a game with Ambassador could be lethal.
There are definitely some interesting ones.
- Don’t underestimate Trader. Having the ability to ignore cards you’re forced to gain and gain a Silver instead is an awesome ability, as it prevents Curse-giving cards and junk-giving cards.
- Trader + Ambassador + Ill-Gotten Gains could be interesting. Everyone else gains N Curses (N = number of other players) and you gain N Silvers, which might be pretty nice for you.
- Jack of All Trades may be a master of none, but certainly better than a master of only one trade. I think that’s also how the saying goes, but anyways. Jack will protect you from discard attacks, Curse-giving attacks, and let you slightly sift through your deck. Might even activate a Tunnel, if you’re lucky. Certainly better with + Actions played earlier, but not a bad card at all.
- This expansion allows for a lot of sifting. Sifting is the act of going through your deck and trying to get rid of junk cards (often by discarding them, sometimes by trashing). Hinterlands has a lot of sifters of various quality (Oracle, Duchess, Jack of All Trades, Cartographer, Embassy, Inn, others), so maybe give it a whirl? Couldn’t hurt, maybe. Especially given how many Silvers you’ll potentially be getting, sifting might not be a bad idea (a hand of all Silvers is a Province, after all).
- Highway is a solid solo Bridge. Since Highway is also a +1 Card +1 Action (a cantrip, as they’re often called in Dominion), you can play as many Highways as you can draw in a turn, potentially leading to a free Province / Colony (if playing Prosperity). Unfortunately, it lacks +Buys and +Money, so it’s a bit harder to set up. Though anything’s possible with a King’s Court.
- You can trash a Farmland with another Farmland to gain a Province. I know that’s just simple math, but it might be useful to you?
- Use Scheme to enable engines. Since you can top-deck (put a card on top of your deck) an Action, you can use Scheme to top-deck your best action (maybe King’s Court? Maybe even Scheme) to try and set up your subsequent turns. Just don’t try to use it with Seaside‘s Durations (it doesn’t work), unless they’re being discarded this turn.
- Lots of different roads to victory. This is a great expansion with a lot going on, so try and experiment to see what combos work for you! This isn’t an exhaustive list, as I’ve mentioned.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very diverse set. I like the sheer variety of cards and strategies that Hinterlands has. Even now, I’m still discovering new things.
- The “on-gain” effects on various cards make the game interesting. I like seeing if it’s worth buying a Duchy or buying a Border Village and then getting a Duchy / something else for free. It gives me more options on my turn, which I like.
- Some of the cards specifically are also super cool. I love Tunnel, and I’m rapidly really liking Cartographer and Trader. They’re both super interesting to me. Also a big fan of Inn.
- Great art. I don’t think there’s any art in this set that I don’t particularly like.
- Hinterlands adds a LOT. Lots of new Reactions, lots of new Treasures, lots of new Victory cards — if you’re looking to breathe life back into your Dominion if you’re getting tired of it, Hinterlands can do just that.
- Some of the cards can be a bit wordy. Noble Brigand is a particular offender, here, but it kind of has to be, hence the meh.
- Some of the cards can also be pretty confusing. Why can you trade in Fool’s Gold when another player gains a Province? Why would you even want to gain a Duchess when you gain a Duchy? It’s a bit unclear. That said, why you would WANT to trade in Fool’s Gold for a Gold makes perfect sense — it’s a great catch-up mechanic. It’s just an odd one to have, especially on a Reaction / Treasure, which is a weird enough card type on its own.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Dominion: Hinterlands isn’t quite my favorite expansion, but it’s very close. I love the variety of the cards (and will usually use at least one Hinterlands card per game if we’re playing mixed games, or at least suggest Hinterlands if we’re trying to pick expansions), I love the variety of strategies, and I think it really revitalizes Dominion enough that I usually try to include at least one Hinterlands card whenever I mix sets for my Dominion games. This isn’t to say any of the expansions before now were bad; I think they offered really interesting changes to the base game (introducing Colonies, adding Durations, …Intrigue!), but Hinterlands is the first (large, at least) expansion that really adds a ton of variety into the game (Cornucopia is smaller, so it’s less impactful in that regard, in my opinion). I’d say this is a fantastic Dominion expansion, and certainly one of my favorites.