If you are a fan of board games and are avidly looking for more avenues of play, then you may have heard of the classic game Dominion. This deck-building board game was the first to become famous and forged the way for other deck-builder games to blossom into mainstream media.
Made in 2008, this game, much like video games, has seen a lot of expansions and additional releases that keep it contending with even the newest games releases. While at its core, it is still a deck-building game; the expansions have added more than just cards but events, victory conditions, and even other actions to perform in the game.
While I cannot say that I have spent years devoting my time to this singular game, I have spent nearly two decades playing board games of all kinds, Dominion included. Its expansions each bring about a new level of fun and can be played together or mixed in. Since none of them require another expansion, each expansion brings about its own internal consistency, synergies, and game. So here is where we rate them all.
And the Award Goes to
This ranking is based on my top five favorite sets; while there are thirteen total expansions, going into each would take far too long. However, all the sets are fun and equally good; this list mostly shows what changes they brought and how much they have influenced the board game. Mix that with a little bit of bias from myself, and you have a top-five list of expansions.
I did not add Plunder yet since I have yet to attain the expansion; however, given the cards released and the theme it has, it would rate around 5 or 6 and move everything else down. Looks really fun and intuitive once you play a few times.
Ranking and Restrictions
I know that many updated expansions, fan expansions, and promo cards exist. However, my experience ends with the English edition and single expansion pieces (not the mixed expansion boxes). I have not managed to get any of the promo cards, nor have I played with them, so I will only be rating the games strictly on what the updated version of the expansion provides. Oh, and no fan expansions.
These games are ranked by their understandability, fun, and changes it brings to the game. To go into detail:
Understandability: How the game’s rules are changed and how difficult the new cards and key mechanics are to digest. The difficulty can lie in the tediousness or the wording or perhaps due to its complicated nature.
Fun: Enjoyability, repeatability, and how fun it is throughout all stages of the game. Learning to play and rules finding if the expansion always brings delight and wonder, then it’s great in my books.
Changes: Since these are the top five, you know that the changes they brought to the game changed it moving forwards. Whether the strategy evolves, or the cards get more complicated any positive changes that the expansion brings is what is ranked. The more there are and the better they are the higher the ranking is.
Special Mention: Plunder
I have yet to be able to play this expansion; however, since they have updated their wiki on it, the data on the cards they released are available for reading. So while I do not know how fun it would be or how they feel in a real game, theoretically, I can make my estimations and guesses based on the effects of the cards and the new mechanics this expansion brings.
This adds Trait and Loot Keywords.
Traits: These are modifiers to the Kingdom supply piles (the centered cards) that affect the entire pile. From cards that can cheapen cost by one to adding draw or allowing for additional purchases. There are 15 different cards (15 effects) that are shuffled and dealt to the piles randomly, one for each kingdom pile. In doing so, the entire pile gets that trait, including split piles. (so, for example, the Cheap trait applies to the whole deck.
Loot: this is a type of treasure card that has an effect on top of the +1 or 2 gold; however, unlike normal treasure cards. These are shuffled face down, separate from the other treasures as part of a Loot Pile. They can only be drawn by events or cards that have the effect of gaining loot.
Difficulty of Set
Kind of high difficulty. This set includes many cards that aim to speed up the game. They do this with Duration (from Seaside) and Event (Adventures) cards, along with the new Loot and Traits. Even for veterans of the game, this would greatly change the flow of the game and the strategies they might have coming into this. There is much more gold involved as many of the kingdom cards give gold on top of having additional effects.
While a fast game is not necessarily a bad thing, it does involve more mental gymnastics when trying to compute what cards you actually need and how to play them to maximize your odds of victory.
This is a crazy +2 draws (This photo is not mine) +2 actions duration that benefits a more combo-centric playstyle. not only that but if you skip your next action or play an action-treasure or just a treasure card first this gets placed on top of the deck. Its effect can recur and let you repeat over and over. Strong card guaranteed.
This is a funny little card that thins your deck, nets you an extra buy and is considered a treasure worth three coins. While it does say that it has a 7 coin cost to purchase, since it is a loot card you can draw it from looting effects, (effectively making it free).
This is mostly because I like the idea of Cursed gaming, whether giving or receiving, since it costs 0 but gives a -1 to VP (mostly since other expansions make curse viable)
Is it Fun?
Is it? Since I have never played it myself, I cannot give approval or disapproval. Having this much gold may end up doing nothing for the game or completely ruin it. As much speculation and guesswork as I can make, it never guarantees how the player base will perceive the game. On a guess I would say that it is fun, tons of gold and coins allows for the game to advance at a faster rate and at the same time opens the opportunity for weird build and strange strategies since there is that much room to improvise.
As the name suggests, this expansion is a good mix of theme and actual card effects. Adventure was the set that brought back duration cards (after the initial Seaside set). It had a few cards with a progression that got better as the game went on as if they were on a real Adventure.
Events, Reserve, Traveller, and Tokens are the key mechanics introduced by this set. However, Duration does get a mention here since every set after this began to include Duration cards.
Events: these are landscape cards that you can buy rather than buying from the Kingdom. Normally there are 0-2 landscape cards per game, so there are 0-2 event cards that can be played at a time.
Reserve: these cards have one to two effects. The first is usually a weak effect or no effect on the turn it’s played. Once played, it enters the Tavern Mat instead of the discard pile. Then once the Reserve condition is met you can play its reserve effect (the 2nd effect) and send it to the discard. These are usually very powerful effects, with a few exceptions.
Traveler: These cards form a series, wherein each card evolves into another through discarding from play. This means that you must play each form of the card, then rather than discarding them, they are returned to their pile in exchange for the stronger version of them. It’s a way for cheap cards to become expensive without the cost.
Tokens: So while the concept of tokens is not new (with VP and coins), they added tokens that have more effects, +1 action, -2 cost, and others like those. By receiving this token you can use its effect. It’s a simple concept, just not one used until now.
Difficulty of Set
Medium to Hard, While the cards are intuitive, there are so many added unique cards and card types that it will seem daunting for players who are not used to reading while the game progresses. Not only do you need to keep track of various tokens but also evolving cards and the fast-paced style of play this encourages.
Real talk, this card is low-key, really good. Not only is its initial effect a cycle (since it’s one Action and 1 card to activate to draw 1 card and gain 1 action), but its reserve effect allows you to mulligan or discards your hand to draw five cards. It’s extremely powerful in removing bricks (or dead cards).
So, normally, reaction cards, when triggered, go to the discard. This time it’s a Duration reaction card. Since its effect is +1 draw, +1 action, and +1 coin on your next turn, it instantly benefits you when the reaction triggers since your turn is going to come up next.
Distant Lands is a simple card, +4 VP; if it is on your tavern mat when the game ends, what’s more, to love since once it enters the tavern mat, there’s no way to get it off.
Is it Fun?
Extremely so, the gameplay became hyper fast-paced and combo centric, so it’s just turns of people popping off and letting everyone have fun doing their full combo. There are several winning combinations as there are very few cards that negatively impact the opponent’s play. Most of the cards add on more good stuff and draw till they finish their deck.
It’s the ocean, or more specifically, the Seaside. One of the earlier sets, this one came and went much like the tide. Due to its influence, though, a lot of future sets took its main mechanic and only improved on it.
Duration as a keyword and activating effects outside the turn it is played.
Duration: cards that have one to two effects, one of which activates the turn after the turn it was played. For example, if I play a Fishing village on turn one, the duration effect comes into play on turn 2.
As for the other mechanic, it pioneered non-reaction cards that still had an effect outside of the main turn. For example, Light House protected you from attack cards until the next turn.
Difficulty of Set
Easy, Since it was one of the earlier sets, they did not add much, and the card effects were simpler. Due to the nature of Duration cards, it may seem like a long wall of text, but if you look at it closer, it more resembles two short sentences.
This card is insane for popping off. Since the minimum cost requirement is one card in hand, sure, it will prevent you from buying this turn, but on the next turn gaining +5 cards, +1 Action, and +1 buy is a great trade-off since on the next turn, you could potentially have more cards that can combo with this.
Cards with “Take an extra turn” effects are always insane to play with since they can end up closing out the game. Sure, Outpost limits it by making sure that you only draw three cards on the succeeding turn and that the first Outpost prevents the second Outpost from activating, but even with just three cards, you could buy the last supply card to win the game or to close the game out and snipe 2nd place.
For three cost, it gives you +1 coin and +1 buy for two turns. It’s a good investment since down the line, this might push you over the edge to buy out key cards. On top of that, this is a treasure card rather than an Action card, so its practically free to spend. It’s simple in its design yet remarkably efficient.
Is it Fun?
Yes, while a little simplistic, I believe that this was the only set that had a card that allowed you to take another turn. On top of that, this set pioneered Duration as a mechanic that was later revisited by Adventure and, from there on, used in every subsequent set. It’s fun to play with other expansions too since it does not rely too much on self-synergy.
Empires was a set that aimed for a lot and managed to achieve all of its goals. It introduced a lot of fun mechanics and added complexity to a game that was slowly being solved. It also helps that I love the theme and card effects in this set.
Debt, Split piles, Gathering, and Landmarks
Debt: It’s funny, but even in this game, you can go into debt to purchase cards. Marked by red octagons, this is an “alternate cost” you can pay to buy things. Then all you need to do next turn is to pay off the debt. While in debt, you cannot buy cards, but paying off the debt is 1:1.
Split Piles: these are piles that are made up of different cards arranged in a specific order. Normally piles in this game contain one card. These are arranged with cost in mind, so the cheaper of the two cards are put at the top. Players must then trash or discard through the top cards before getting to the more powerful and expensive bottom cards.
Gathering: These are cards that gain VP tokens in a collective pile that is slowly taken from as the game progresses and the cards decrease.
Landmarks: these are permanently active card effects that all players can benefit from. There can be 0-2 of them in the game based on what is drawn from the randomizer. This became the inspiration for future landscape-oriented cards.
Difficulty of Set
Medium, while at first, it seems like the general cost of the cards is high and debt would block you from proceeding, it’s actually just passing one turn rather than buying something inefficiently. This set makes you calculate the economic value of now versus the future. Kind of like regular debt.
While other landmarks focus on providing VP for actions done, this one actively forces the player to buy additional copies of their cards or else lose three VP per card you have one copy of. It keeps the game interesting as people may have to either take the loss or make their deck less efficient. Youcan even stratagize around it by buying out the last copy of cards in your opponents decks to prevent them from getting a copy.
This action card is wild, depending on what card you trash, this card gets a different effect. Treasure gives you two coins, Victory gives you 2 VP, and Action gives you two draws and two additional actions. Strong, especially since it’s versatile and helps you control your deck size in case of pesky landmarks.
The end of a split pile is always really powerful, and this card encourages you to buy as many castle cards as possible since it gives 2 VP per Castle you own. It’s an immediate win condition, so if you see someone trying to get it, you could try to deny them by sniping it. Good luck though, cause this card costs 10 coins, which is not easily attained.
Is it Fun?
Most definitely, yes. It introduces a bunch of mechanics that were revamped later on, and the cards themselves allow for a fast game state. Going into debt is not as bad as it sounds since it lets you progress in leaps and bounds. The only downside is that Gathering might not make a repeat appearance since tokens became easier to access through other means.
Aside from returning with Coffers, this expansion is a blast to play since it follows the theme of change and improvement. It’s simplistic compared to the other expansions, yet the game can flourish and develop more consistent strategies due to this simplicity.
Villagers, Projects, and Artifacts are the key mechanics that were added this time.
Villagers: are a collection of tokens on the villager mat that can be used to gain +1 action per token expended. These tokens can only be expended at the action phase and can only be expended once per turn. So you need to declare how many villagers you use and not use them as actions come along.
Projects: while normally there can be 0-2 projects on the field at a time, this does not mean that the players cannot share these cards. Projects are Landscape cards that can be purchased by all of the players (represented by a cube in the Renaissance set). Once bought, these provide permanent bonuses.
Artifacts: These are permanent effects like Projects, but unlike Projects, only one player can control an artifact at a time. If a card in the Kingdom piles refers to an Artifact, it is put near the pile and in the game. Once you have “taken” the artifact, it only applies to you. Then when another player gets a card that takes the artifact, they get it from the player holding it.
Difficulty of Set
Medium to hard, While extremely fun, the fact that you can steal passive bonuses, and that the general action economy is much higher than normal makes this game more difficult. The cards themselves are simple effects, but they compound into each other creating massive benefits if played with correctly.
This Project is a definite target to rush for. It costs eight but allows you to double the activation of the first action card you play per turn. It’s a powerful passive effect that any player would dream of attaining.
This action card allows you to trash a card in your hand and set aside cards to draw the next turn equal to its coin cost. It’s a guaranteed draw mixed with a deck-thinning aspect. I value this card quite highly, and since its cost is four, you could buy it quite early and combo into infinity.
This action card is quite powerful since it could be attained at turn one. For two coins, this card lets you get two villagers upon purchase and +2 draw on activation. It’s cheap and efficient and allows for more comboing off.
Is it Fun?
Yes, once you are familiar with the higher pace of the game, the combinations and actions you can take are so varied that you can plan for practically anything. If everyone is overpowered, doesn’t that mean nobody is overpowered?
The final set on this list and the one I think paved the way for the gameplay style we use today. On top of that, this set generates and uses massive amounts of coins to allow you to buy and achieve your full-powered engine (deck build) that much quicker.
This set adds Platinum, Colony, tokens, effects on treasure cards, and expensive cards (over five costs)
Platinum: treasure cards that are worth five coins and are bought for nine coins.
Colony: a victory card that costs 11 coins to score 10 VP.
Tokens: While this deck-building game focuses on cards, tokens are used to denote other effects or amounts for cards to use. Here there are cards that generate tokens that give Vp per token.
This was also the first set that put effects on treasure cards rather than keeping them as value for the buy phase. Speaking of, they are also the set that added cards that cost over five coins in exchange for powerful game effects.
Difficulty of Set
Easy, In essence, this set adds new ways to win and adds more value on treasure cards for both coins and their additional effects. While yes, there are more expensive cards, their effects mirror the price they are worth. Since this set does not have any two-cost cards, it does increase the average value of the cards, but it does not increase the difficulty of the set.
A 7-cost treasure card that gives you one coin per treasure card you have in play. I like this because it exemplifies the focus of this expansion, money that gets you more money. Gameplay wise this allows you to gain a massive amount of coins to make any giant purchase you need.
This six-cost card lets you draw 1, gain another action, buy an additional time, and gain two coins. It’s a strong effect, but there is the requirement that you cannot play a copper while trying to purchase or gain this card. This is a late-game card that flourishes after trashing your copper and gaining some gold.
Investment is a relatively low-cost card at four coins (low for the set). To activate this card, you trash one card from the hand to choose one effect; either gain one coin for this turn or trash the card to earn VP tokens equal to the number of treasures in hand. It’s kind of both a finisher card and one you can use early on to thin the deck.
Is it Fun?
I have the most fun with this set. I like the feeling of collecting these powerful cards and amassing my fortunes. Due to the high costs and high gains, this game is still balanced so long as you do not ignore your economy, but at the same time, you can see where they got the ideas for future expansions with their treasure effects and first attempt at using tokens or in this case VP tokens.
If like me, you enjoy fast-paced gaming with large amounts of money to allow all players to pop off, then the best set, in my opinion, is Prosperity. However, none of these sets are bad; all of them are fun in their own ways. If you like a certain theme over another, then why not play it? All of these expansions are well worth it, just from sheer replayability alone. Dominion Expansions are great no matter what year it is.
Question: How Many Expansions can I Play Within One Game?
Answer: So technically you can play with all of the expansions at the same time, however, due to how the Kingdom piles are selected you will not be able to play with every set at the same time. Not only that but the expansions are better played alone since most have internal synergies.
Question: What is the Difference Between 1st and 2nd Editions?
Answer: 1st edition was the release edition, while 2nd edition took away a few of the unpopular or weak cards and replaced them with cards of the same power level.
Question: How do you Win a Tie in Dominion?
Answer: If a tie occurs, the winner is the player with the fewest turns played; if it is still tied, then the game ends with two victors.
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