As someone who plays games in a variety of settings, something that comes up often is the relationship between winning the game and having fun. While in a perfect world, everyone would have fun all the time when gaming, whether they won or not, sadly, reality sneaks in and finds you in a game you know you’ve lost but isn’t even halfway over yet. I’ve been in a game of Dominion where my opponent had taken a path to drawing his entire deck each turn and in doing so, would make sure to attack me with multiple cards. Or the game of Race for the Galaxy where my opponent had multiple six cost developments working in tandem while I was still struggling to get my consume x2 VPs engine going. In either case, I see no issue with stopping a two player game when its clear who the victor is going to be.
Well, I’ve been on both sides of these games plenty of times and so in a game of Dominion recently where I was trouncing my girlfriend, G, I told her that she could concede if she wanted to. Here’s that story:
Cards: Transmute, Vineyard, Apothecary, Scrying Pool, Courtyard, Menagerie, Steward, Coppersmith, Smithy, Fairgrounds
So there are three important things to notice about this set in my estimation:
- There are no split buys
- There are no split actions
- There are no five cost cards
These three things make me assume that it’ll be a generally boring game, especially since the steward allows you to clear out your estates and coppers fairly early on. Then it just becomes a race to golds and from there a race to five provinces right? The alchemy cards are relatively weak without any extra buys, which makes the cards I’d focus on be the Steward, Silver, Smithy, and Gold (in that order).
The Game Itself:
We both buy Stewards on our first turn, while I buy a Silver, she buys a Smithy. We both begin cleaning out our decks and while I buy almost nothing but currency, she buys, well, everything. A Potion here, a Menagerie or two there and suddenly I’m buying my first Provence while she has no Golds. I’ve had a couple of nice draws (turns where I had exactly 6 while she kept getting stuck at 5) and I’m buying my second Provence when she decides to grab a Transmute even though she Stewarded away two Estates already. In short: things look grim and she’s already mentioned more than once that she screwed this one up.
I don’t disagree. Instead as I buy my third Province I sheepishly tell her that she can concede if she wants to. She won’t hear it. We’re both a bit stubborn, but this is the sort of situation I worry about when trying to bring someone into gaming. If they weren’t a big boardgame person before and they have enough bad experiences, then they don’t want to play anymore. So even though G is mildly obsessed with Dominion, I worry about the 6-2 beatdown I feel is coming.
But it never comes. She hits the Transmute/Estate and then a Transmute/Vineyard. I start getting 5 instead of 6 and foolishly buy a Coppersmith rather than a Smithy (honestly, an incredibly dumb move that I have no real reasoning on what I was thinking. I think I had two hands of Gold, Silver, Copper, Copper, Provence in a row and rather than just grabbing the Gold I thought maybe I’d grab a Fairgrounds later). She buys her first Provence and her second Provence in consecutive turns. She buys her third on her next reshuffle. My Golds that had been paired together earlier in the game now made sure never to be in the same hand, and with my 1 Smithy and one courtyard I found myself getting a Duchy “just in case.” She’s meanwhile grabbed an Apothecary that hits three Coppers and Transmutes a Transmute into a Duchy. She buys a Fairgrounds for good measure but by the time I get my fourth Provence its too late, she has me by a Duchy and a Fairgrounds and I’m left trying to go back a few moves to see how on earth that just happened. Final score: G 31 – Josh 28
The Post Mortem:
I don’t have the suckerpunch feeling that might happen if this was in a tournament, but afterwards the general feeling I have is just confusion. How did that happen? G, meanwhile, is doing a little wiggle of a happy dance in triumph. Overconfidence can bite you, and that’s the only explanation I have. Rather than buying that third Provence, when things were looking so good, I should’ve bought another Gold. Rather than taking the Steward’s +$2 later on, I should’ve trashed the Estate and Copper in my hand to grab another Silver. Rather than seeing the mess of cards in G’s deck, I should’ve realized that those Menageries she bought early would be hitting a lot more often now that she had diversified.
Really though, its as simple as this, just because things look bad doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way, especially in a game like Dominion. And if you don’t mind a good beatdown every once in a while, you’ll steal a few victories that will leave your opponents scratching their heads.