This should be a fairly short review, if I’m being honest.
So if you’re reading this then I’ve actually finished all of the Dominion expansions. Normally I’d just be done forever, but between then and now two update packs were released to update Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue to their Second Edition versions. Some cards were added, some cards were modified, and some cards were (somewhat mercifully, in at least one case) cut. I figured that with the sunk-cost fallacy and all I was already too invested in Dominion to bow out now, so here we are. Are these packs must-buy cards, though? Or should you just stick with your First Editions? Keep reading and find out.
So, I want to reiterate this for people who are considering picking this up: This is not an expansion or a base game. It is an update pack. You need at least one instance of Dominion’s base cards and likely a base game or an expansion in order to play Dominion. Why? Well, let me explain.
As with all other instances of Dominion, this comes with sets of Kingdom Cards. While Adventures and Empires had a ton, this one has relatively few at 7:
Now, you might say, “Eric, don’t you need at least 10 sets of Kingdom Cards to play a game of Dominion?” and in this case, you’d be right. To fix that, I’m adding in a few of the Kingdom Cards from Dominion [First Edition], but I’m removing from the rotation any cards that would have been removed from the Second Edition. Namely, these cards, which are no longer in Dominion as of the Second Edition:
Sad. Anyways. First, you’ll want to give each player 3 Estate cards and 7 Copper cards. They’ll put those together to form their starting deck. Now, set aside the base cards (Copper, Silver, Gold, Estate, Duchy, Province, Curse), and then set them up:
- 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.
Grab your randomizer cards and choose 10. Note that since I want to try the Update Pack, I’m going to keep those 7 fixed and choose 3 from the rest of the Dominion set:
Once you’ve set out the Base Cards and the Kingdom Cards, you should have your Supply ready:
And then each player should shuffle their starting deck and draw 5 cards. Once you’ve done that, your play area should look like this, signifying that you’re ready to start playing:
If you still don’t know what a deckbuilder is, please see my Dominion review. The fact of the matter is that this is just seven new cards for Dominion, so it plays roughly the same otherwise. Thematically, it’s still mostly “fairly standard cards for an introductory deckbuilder”, they’re just a bit tweaked from the original set.
The main changes are the removed cards, which, in my opinion, either mostly weren’t great or were replaced by better cards (for instance, Bandit is better than Thief, significantly, in my opinion). I’ll talk a bit more about the cards in Strategy.
As for the rest of Gameplay, it’s an Update Pack for Dominion, so it plays the same as Dominion does.
Player Count Differences
See Dominion’s player count differences.
Short article since there’s only 7 cards. I’ll talk mostly about their interactions with the larger Dominion Base Set. If you’d like to read more about them, check the Dominion Strategy Wiki, though be warned, it’s a bit sparse since the cards are pretty new as of time of writing.
- Poacher is a solid early-game card. Generally speaking, you don’t want to start playing it once the Supply piles empty for obvious reasons, as will start happening later in the game.
- Harbinger is great for setting up engines, if you’ve played them in the past. You could use them to draw into a combo if you’ve gained / discarded all the pieces of an engine in previous turns (and are fortunate enough to draw a bunch of Harbingers). Play one, draw a card, add an engine piece to the top of your deck, rinse, repeat. Kind of situational, but useful. Or, you could use two of them to get a Gold out of the discard pile or something. Sky’s the limit, but generally unless you’re looking to set up your next turn, you should shoot to have two of them (or one and a +Cards card) in your hand.
- With some setup, Artisan is amazing. If you can play a +2 Action card beforehand (maybe … Festival? or Village, or … anything, I suppose), you can gain a 5-cost Action card into your hand and play it. If you can get a Bridge into play, you can gain a Gold into your hand and then drop it in the Buy Phase for some significantly boosted buying power. Otherwise, like Harbinger, you can just set up your next turn by putting that card on top of your deck, I suppose.
- Vassal seems like it’d be a great card when you’re playing with Alchemy. Or, really, almost any Action-heavy deck. It’s improved significantly by the “you may play it” rather than having to play it, otherwise Dark Ages decks and any trashing-heavy decks would probably want to not buy this. In general, it seems pretty good unless you draw into an Action that’s useless by itself, like Throne Room or King’s Court.
- Bandit, Sentry, and Merchant just seem all-around kind of useful. Bandit is a solid attack, since you gain a Gold each time and your opponent potentially loses a Treasure. Sure, later in the game you’re less likely to hit Treasures unless they’re running a highly Treasure-dense deck (just by virtue of having fewer Treasures), but you still gain a Gold each time. Add in Harbinger and you’re top-decking Golds, which is never bad. Sentry is solid early-game for getting rid of extra Estates or Copper (it’s no Chapel, but … nothing is), plus it gives you some deck sifting / inspecting, which is even helpful later on for making sure Provinces don’t end up in your hand. I like Merchant a lot just for promoting one Silver to a Gold (or, promoting one Silver by +1 for every Merchant you play, which can also be fun — draw your whole deck and only have one Silver?). At the very least, it’s interesting.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I like all these cards. Seriously, they’re all kind of interesting and accessible enough for new players, in my opinion. It feels like these should have been part of Dominion from the start, and I like that a lot about it. I played with a new player and they had no trouble understanding not only the cards but why the cards were useful, which I appreciated. If you forced me, my least favorite would be Vassal, but that’s only because I didn’t really have a situation in which it was useful for me last time I played.
- As I mentioned, very accessible and not-complicated. I was skeptical upon hearing about them and asked, “Why not just combine both Update packs into a small expansion?”. The answer seems to be that they’re consistent within the themes of the two sets they’re upgrading, so they wouldn’t fit just coalesced into a set. Which, as far as justifications go, makes sense to me.
- I didn’t like most of the cards that got cut. I don’t think anyone will miss Woodcutter or Adventurer or really anything other than maybe Feast? Am I wrong about this? If so, lemme know in the comments.
- It’s kind of odd that it’s only 7 cards. I could see a few people getting confused about this and thinking it’s an expansion, though it’s clearly marked. I guess it exists primarily to placate people like me who would get angry if we had to buy the Dominion: Second Edition complete set all over again, so I can’t complain too much.
- The cards are fairly themeless. I think that’s a result of it being an update pack for the base game rather than, say, Seaside. It means I’ll likely use this set for teaching, though a few of those cards might make it into my regular rotation.
- The box is rather small. Not much more to say about it than that. I’d have liked it if they hadn’t folded up the card listing thing, but that’s the best you can do with the circumstances. It’s not a super real complaint; just something that bothers me.
- I’m not terribly enamored with the idea of Second Editions. I would rather see a full expansion, the occasional promo, or nothing than every Dominion set getting a Second Edition. I’m not penalizing this game in particular for that, but I’m a bit miffed about it.
- The cards all kind of have one of two color palettes. You can see it in the featured image that it just looks kind of samey (which, since there are only seven different cards, I have to use some duplicates). It’s a bit unfortunate.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I like the first Update Pack! It gets rid of a lot of cards I don’t like and adds in several I could see myself playing with in the future. I can understand a bit more why the Second Editions happened since these cards are more thematically consistent with this set than, say, Empires, but I would probably prefer to see a new big expansion rather than a bunch of updates to existing ones. I would highly recommend buying Dominion Second Edition rather than the First Edition, specifically because these cards enjoy the benefits of being designed last (and feel well-suited to the game, which I imagine is the benefit of all that experience). Plus, the Second Edition comes with the nice Base Cards that I always use, so what’s not to like? Anyways, this is a solid addition to the Dominion family, and I look forward to digging deeper into this set in the future.