Friday, January 15, 2010

Card Game Review - Dominion: Seaside

By the power vested in me by, I hereby declare the third week of every year to be Dominion week. During this holiday week, all federal employees shall be expected to show up to work, just like normal, and mail had better run or I'm going to be pissed. The holiday will be observed by me talking about Dominion all week, unless my pipes freeze over the weekend and instead I talk about how much it sucks to do your own plumbing.

To commemorate the final day of Dominion week, I declare that Dominion: Seaside is 100% kick-ass. Unlike either the original Dominion or Dominion: Intrigue, Seaside is not a stand-alone game, and yet if you observe Dominion week, you are morally obligated to rush right out and buy Seaside immediately, unless you already have it. If you do already own Seaside, and you intend to observe Dominion week, you must play a game of Dominion using the brilliant cards from Seaside.

As a duly-self-elected representative for gamers who like Dominion, it is my duty to inform the citizens of this relatively mediocre gaming blog that Seaside is the best set yet, even eclipsing the original Dominion in the sheer amount of awesome in the box. The newest kind of card is the duration card, which has an effect both on the turn it is played and on the next turn as well.

These duration cards alter the game in ways never before seen, by allowing players to plan ahead for turns to come before they even have cards in hand. In fact, the tactician allows you to completely forfeit your current turn in order to have an absolutely amazing turn next time. It is difficult to overstate the brilliance in the new layers of planning and strategy now available to the players of the great game of Dominion, but it should be sufficient to say that if you can't decide between Intrigue and Seaside, eat ramen noodles for a week and buy them both.

Seaside also includes other cards that allow you to plan for the future, beyond the general theme of stacking your deck to maximize your spending power. The native village allows you to set cards aside, so that you can use them on a future turn, when you might really need them. Combined with a scout (one of my favorite cards from Intrigue) and a throne room (the most powerful card that does nothing in the original set), the native village is an incredible resource that really allows the skilled player to have the cards he needs, right when he needs them.

Another great development in Seaside is that finally, a consistent theme is presented, better than ever before (not that there was a particularly high bar set in the first place). Now, using the treasure map, you can strike it incredibly rich, and fill your deck with gold - if you can just find the other half of the map. You can use the pirate ship to steal treasures from the other players and make yourself richer. You can set up at the wharf to take on extra cards for next turn, or stash your victory cards on a deserted island, and then come back to get them when the game is over. More than either of the previous Dominion releases, Seaside actually feels a little bit like what it's supposed to represent.

And to make Seaside even more better than Intrigue (and yes, I know 'more better' is grammatically hosed. It's just that I don't care), the art is far better. It seems the folks at Rio Grande heard the complaints of the gamers who thought the harem in Intrigue looked like it was drawn by the guy who does Calvin & Hobbes. The cards are pretty again, and some of them are gorgeous. Like I said with Intrigue, I would play this game to death if it had no art at all, but it's still nicer to look at pretty art instead of something that looks like it was created by Napoleon Dynamite if he was sleepwalking while having a nightmare.

But the best thing about Seaside is how perfectly it meshes with the first two releases. There are so many great combinations possible now - you can pirate-ship your opponents to devalue their gardens, or use the wharf and the salvager to make yours more potent. Use the lookout to combat the witch, or add the sea hag to the witch to drop scores into the negatives. Use explorers to get treasure that the adventurer can find. Use the embargo to stop a run on the duke, or lighthouse to supplement the moat. There's so much more to Dominion when you have all three sets that I can't see owning one and not the others, unless you don't like it and have been trying to trade it away. And if that's the case, then you totally suck at celebrating Dominion week.


Duration cards add a whole new layer of strategy and planning
Great art
So many new ways to play - you could play your whole life and never see the same game twice
The coolest metal money I've ever seen in a board game

Not a whole game - you'll need either Intrigue or the original Dominion (but you should get them all anyway)

Dogstar Games carries Seaside, which is super convenient because they have the other two. And since you wouldn't be reading about any Dominion games, or for that matter, a whole lot of other games, I think you should get the games from them. And since Dominion is such an awesome game, I think you should get them all.


Steerpike said...

That's all very well, but how do you fit all this stuff into one box, that's what I'd like to know.

Matt Drake said...

I don't. When we play, we lug all three boxes. Before you ask, yes, it's a pain in the ass. I've been considering making a card-holding catalog container that would hold all three games in one case, but as soon as I finish, they'll make another expansion and I'll have to start over.

BenGreen said...

Calvin and Hobbes is widely recognized as having some of the most intelligent and beautiful art ever in a comic strip.