Deck Builder Card Games

The Ultimate Guide to Dominion: Everything You Need to Know About the Game

Christin and I were first introduced to Dominion during a game night with friends. We had no idea what to expect, but we were quickly drawn in by the complexity and variety of the game. What we didn’t realize at the time was that we were experiencing a revolution in board gaming.

Dominion showed us that games could be more than the games we grew up playing as kids – they could be complex, strategic, and downright addictive. We soon found ourselves spending hours playing different variations of Dominion, always eager to see what new possibilities the game offered. In many ways, Dominion opened our eyes to a whole new world of board gaming, and we haven’t looked back.

Are you looking for a game that is strategic, challenging, and has a ton of replayability? If so, then Dominion is the game for you! In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about the game. We will cover the rules, answers to common questions and some tips and tricks that will help you get started with strategy! So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about one of the best deck building games ever created!

What is Dominion?

Dominion is a deck building game created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande Games in 2008. Players take on the role of one of the major factions vying for control of the land. The basic premise of the game is simple – each player starts with a small deck of cards and must use those cards to buy new cards, which are then added to their deck. The goal is to have the most Victory Points (VPs) at the end of the game, which is typically accomplished by buying a lot of high-value land cards.

What are the different card types in Dominion and what do they do?

There are six different types of cards in the base Dominion set: Victory, Curse, Treasure, Action, Reaction and Attack.

Victory cards: Worth points at the end of the game
Curses: Negative points at the end of the game.
Treasure: Cards that are used to buy other cards.
Action: Cards that allow you to perform special actions during your turn, such as drawing more cards, and can give you additional actions to use.
Attack: Cards used to negatively affect your opponents, usually by making them discard cards from their hand or deck.
Reaction: Most often used to protect yourself from an attack but can also trigger a benefit when some other event occurs.

Various Dominion expansions introduce additional card types, but these are the primary types, and the only ones you’ll have to worry about when playing the base game. I suggest you start there and add expansions as you get more familiar.

The game consists of multiple copies of each card. There are ten of each action and attack card, twelve of each Victory card, and lots of treasure cards. When you are using a particular card in a game you put out the entire stack of cards. The exception is Victory cards, where the amount in play is based on the number of players.

Number of PlayersNumber of Victory Cards
28
3-412
5-6*16
* In order to play with more than four players you will need an extra set of base cards, or both Dominion base sets (Dominion and Intrigue)

Setting Up Dominion

To set up a game, set out all of the treasure cards, the appropriate number of each Victory card and chose ten of the other card at random. The set comes with a “randomizer” deck you can use to help you select them. These ten cards make up what is called the “Kingdom” and are the card available for purchase.

Put the kingdom cards in order from lowest cost (bottom row) to highest cost (top row).

How do you play Dominion?

Each player in Dominion starts with the same starting deck consisting of seven Copper and three Estates.

Shuffle these cards and draw a five card hand.

Dominion is a turn-based game where the turns are composed of phases that occur in a specific order. The order is very easy to remember, just think “A, B, C, D”; Action, Buy, Cleanup, Discard.

On each turn, the player gets one action and one buy. Unless they play cards that they’ve acquired that give them more actions and/or more buys.

The goal is to build an engine that helps you draw more cards and play a string of actions on a single turn. This is what will help you get enough money in your hand to buy the more expensive cards.

The best way to organize your cards is to keep your draw pile on your left facedown and you discard pile on your right face up. This way you don’t get the piles mixed up and there is a natural flow to your play. You draw from the left, you play cards in front of you, you clean up and discard to your right.

When you need to draw a new card and and are out of cards, shuffle your discard pile and put it back on your left. Cards that you buy immediately go into your discard pile. You’ll start to see them in your hand as you cycle through your deck and shuffle.

The Anatomy of a Card

Here are some examples of cards that could appear in the Kingdom.

Our cards are sleeved, I’ll reshoot this without the sleeves to reduce the glare… sorry about that.

The number in the lower left is how much that card costs. You have to have that much treasure in your hand durning your buy phase to buy the card. As you can see, both Village and Market give you additional actions, while Smithy only lets you draw more cards. Since you only start with one action, if you had these three cards in your hand you’d want to play Village and Market before you played Smithy.

If you were to play Smithy first you would have used your one action. Smithy does not give you any additional actions, so you have no actions to play the other two action cards with. Your turn is over.

If you play Market first, it gives you and action to play Village with, which gives you two actions that you can play Smithy plus another action card you may draw. See how that engine starts to work?

Basic Rules of Dominion

The game seems complicated but it’s relatively simple. The cards tell you what to do. Things to remember:

  • The order of the phases is Action, Buy, Cleanup, Discard
  • You get one action unless you play a card that gives you additional actions
  • You get one buy unless you play a card that gives you additional buys. Even if you have a lot of money you can only buy a single card.
  • Cards that are purchased or gained go into you discard pile unless something on a card says otherwise
  • Cards with multiple effects resolve top down
  • If a card is trashed it comes out of your deck and goes into the trash pile

Are there expansions for Dominion?

Expansions are at the heart of what makes Dominion popular. The game is constantly expanding and all of the expansions can be mixed to provide an enormous number of different possible games. At the time of this writing, there are fourteen Dominion expansions which add new cards, mechanics, and themes to the game. Each expansion deserves its own review – which I will get to in time and link here. For now, here’s a brief description of each.

Intrigue 

This expansion adds a new “choice” mechanic to some action cards. You have to make a choice when the card is played. This can take the form of “choose one” or “name a card”. There are also action cards that also give you Victory points and one Treasure card that gives you Victory points.

Seaside

In my opinion, this is the first expansion you should buy. It introduces the Duration card type. Duration cards are action cards that are in play for multiple turns. Most of them give you a benefit on the turn they are played and a benefit at the start of your next turn. These cards are not cleaned up during the cleanup phase on the turn they were played; but rather on the next turn.

There is an easy way to keep try of this. Make two rows of cards in your play area in front of you. Play duration cards in the top row and clean up the bottom row at the end of the turn. At the start of the next turn, move the duration cards to the bottom row and play any new duration cards in the top row,

Alchemy

In my opinion, this is an expansion you can skip. We have it, but simply because I wanted to have the entire game. We rarely play with it. This expansion adds a new type of treasure card: potion.

Some cards in this set require money and a potion to purchase them.

The problem is that the potion serves no other purpose, and it has to fall in your hand with enough money to buy the cards that require it. Once you have purchased all of the cards you want that require potions, they just kind of clog up your hand.

This expansion also tries to add some clever wizard-themed actions like “Possession” which allows you to take your neighbor’s turn for them and gain any benefit they would have gained on that turn. Interesting premise, but clumsy to play and frustrating for the player constantly getting hit with it.

Some people love this expansion, but I think I fall in the majority with my dislike of it.

Prosperity 

This is the “spendy” expansion. It adds a new treasure (Platinum) and a Victory card (Colony). This is a fun expansion and probably the one I’d recommend you buy after Seaside. This expansion also introduces Victory Point tokens – a way to get additional Victory points without requiring you to have more Victory cards in your hand.

This one can be a lot of fun with people being able to pull off big multi-buy turns.

Cornucopia 

Cornucopia is a relatively small expansion that focuses on rewarding players for collecting a variety of different cards. You’ll see things like “Reveal your hand. If the revealed cards all have different names, +3 Cards. Otherwise, +1 Card”

Hinterlands 

Hinterlands introduces some new deck manipulation cards and new actions that do something additional when you acquire them.

Dark Ages 

There is a big focus on trashing cards in the Dark Ages expansion. There are many ways to trash cards, cards that give you an added benefit when you trash them, and cards that let you fish cards out of the trash.

The expansion also adds a new card that works like a curse called “Ruins” and cards that you can put in the starting decks instead of Estates that make things a little more interesting.

Guilds 

Two new mechanics in this set: coffer tokens, which you may cash in during your Buy phase for +1 coin, and overpay, which are cards that allow you to pay an additional sum of money to have an impact when you purchase the card.

Adventures

New duration cards in this set, Including duration attack cards!

This expansion also introduces Events. A game can have up to two events in play which you can purchase during your buy phase. They don’t go into your hand, but they have an effect if you buy them

Some cards upgrade themselves as the game progresses.

Empires 

More VP tokens and more cards that they pile upon. In addition to more Events, there are Landmarks, which provide a way to score VP.

This expansion also introduces the concept of Debt, which means you don’t have to pay for the card now, but can’t buy other things until you finish paying off the Debt.

Split piles were also introduced in the Empires expansion. Split piles are Kingdom Card stacks with many different named cards arranged in a certain order. Typically, the cards in a split pile have some sort of synergy with one another.

Nocturne 

Nocturne adds a new phase, Night, which occurs after the Buy phase and before Clean-up. There are new “Night” cards that you can only play during this new phase.

Also adds Boons and Hexes, and cards that cause you to turn over one of those cards and see what happens.

Renaissance

Coffers tokens are back, this time accompanied by Villagers, which may be cashed in during your Action phase for +1 action. Projects are similar to Events, but random and with a one-time impact..

Allies

Released in March of 2022 Allies is the latest addition to the Dominion landscape. I have not played with Allies yet.

How many different combinations of Kingdom Cards are there in Dominion?

There are 26 Kingdom cards in the Dominion base set, which creates a total of 5,311,735 different combinations for a set of ten kingdom cards! Adding just one of the larger expansions (Seaside for example) increases this number to 15,820,024,220! The replay value of Dominion is unlike any other game we’ve played due to the sheer number of different possible games as you add more expansions.

Can I play Dominion Online?

In addition to the physical card game, there is also an online version that can be played for free at Dominion Online. The online version includes all of the cards from the base game and expansions up through Dominion: Seaside. You can play the base game for free, there is a small monthly fee to unlock the expansions.

Can you play Dominion with two players?

Dominion works well with two players. The game is designed for two to four players. In my opinion it is best with four players.

Can you play Dominion with six players?

To play Dominion with more than four players you need additional Victory and Treasure cards. These can be obtained by adding the Prosperity expansion or by buying a set of base cards. If playing with more than four players you should put 16 cards in each Victory pile.

Is Dominion worth the money?

Dominion is absolutely worth the money. The game is infinitely replayable, and while buying all of the expansions is expensive, you can start small and add them over time. If you really get into the game, you’ll have quite a bit of money invested, so I highly recommend sleeving your cards and having a good storage solution.

The components are well made, several of the expansions come metal coins or tokens.

The base game retails for around $30, which is a reasonable price for the amount of enjoyment you’ll get out of it. The expansions can be a bit more expensive, but they’re also well worth the investment (skip Alchemy).

All in all, Dominion is an excellent game that’s sure to please fans of complex card games.

How much does it cost to sleeve the Dominion cards?

I highly recommend that you sleeve your cards. It will keep your investment protected and playable for years to come. We’ve played our set A LOT for over ten years and they are just like they were on day one. The best sleeves to use are the premium euro sleeves from Mayday Games.

SetCard CountNumber of Sleeve PacksEstimated Cost to Sleeve
Dominion Base Set (2nd Edition)50010$27.50
Base Cards1203$8.25
Intrigue47010$27.50
Seaside3006$16.50
Alchemy1503$8.25
Prosperity3006$16.50
Cornucopia1503$8.25
Hinterlands3006$16.50
Dark Ages50010$27.50
Guilds1503$8.25
Adventures4008$22.00
Empires3006$16.50
Nocturne50010$27.50
Renaissance3006$16.50
Allies4008$22.00
Prices based on 50 sleeve packs at $2.75 each

I’d recommend getting one extra pack as you’ll occasionally come across a sleeve that is split. The total cost to sleeve all of the expansions with one extra pack of sleeves is $272.25. You’ll have way more than that invested in the game at that point, so it’s worth protecting it.

If you end up buying all of the expansions you will have nearly 5,000 cards! Check out our solution for the best way to store them all.

Tips for for winning Dominion

With all of the different possible Kingdom card combinations you’d think there could be an entire site devoted to strategy. You’d be right. Head over to Dominion Strategy which is. a great site for strategy, recommended Kingdoms, expansion lists and more.

Final Thoughts

I love this game.

It’s the game that introduced us to what board games had become and what really launched us into the hobby. It may seem intimidating, but just try it. The number of people who have purchased the game after we’ve introduced it to them would shock you, but it probably shouldn’t. There wouldn’t be fourteen expansions if the game weren’t popular.

If you’re still unsure about it, head over to the online version and give it a try for free. As we do in-depth reviews on each of the expansions we’ll link them here. I sincerely hope you check this game out, and that you have the same experience with it that Christin and I have.

Happy deck building!