Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shilling Dominion

There was a bit of a fuss on about Valerie Putman and Dale Yu "shilling" for Dominion, i.e. writing about the game they were developing in a way that was perceived to be promoting the game. I can sort of see where the critics were coming from, i.e. is usually perceived as an independent source of news about board games, and in this case it was clearly not independent. On the other hand, Valerie and Dale's columns never purported to be about anything other than their experiences in the gaming hobby, and that was what they were doing.

The thing that slightly miffed me was not that they were telling me about this allegedly great game, it was that yet again I was being told about a great game that I couldnt have. It was like teasing. I just skipped over those columns because it was just too frustrating. The scars that I bear from the Agricola experience are long and deep, and still growing. What a fuck-up that is. So Dominion was on track to piss me off like Agricola has pissed me off.

However the Dominion experience has been a much happier one. Remember I ordered Agricola last November and don't have it yet. I first heard about Dominion in April after CyberKev returned from the Gathering of Friends. He told me it was a very good game, and CyberKev can usually tell these things. Sure, he said the same thing about In The Year of The Dragon, and that sucks, but I can recognise that it's a decent game that I just happen to despise. But then a couple of weeks ago, Tom the Swiss Guy turned up in Brisbane with a German copy of Dominion. All of a sudden Dominion was a real game that people could get, and I started to pay attention to it.

We played it under less-than-optimal circumstances - in German, with 5 players. It's only supposed to take 4. And I came dead miserable last in the interactive game. As I hate being attacked in multi-player games (I have a shirt which "Why are you attacking me? <- Attack them ->") it wasn't conducive to my enjoyment at all. We even played a rule wrong - we played that you could buy a curse and give it to someone else. So everything was against the game. Nevertheless, I recognised that my awful performance was mostly my own fault, and the game wasn't so bad.

After the interactive game we looked at the other cards in the box. Some of them were really cool - Throne Room lets you play another action card twice, Chapel gets rid of those painful curses, while the Witch inflicts them. We switched out all of the cards which we'd used a lot in the interactive game and switched in some of the others and played again. I can't remember the cards in the game, but Witch and Gardens were two of them, and I realised they could work together so I invested in Gardens. I won that game.

That was Wednesday. On the Friday the kid played it with Tom the Swiss Guy and liked it, so on the Monday I emailed the FLGS and asked if they had Dominion. They ordered it in, and it arrived on Wednesday. I'm up to 7 plays now, and would expect to pass 25 before the end of the year.

What I mostly like about the game is the puzzle of how to play a particular set of cards. Having read Valerie's strategy tips on the Chapel I play Big Money pretty well, but First Game just confuses me... I can't work strategies that depend on the Dorf / Village. Of course any deck that includes the Thief will break a Chapel strategy as well, so I don't know how to handle that. I like that I can be a wizard sometimes and hopeless other times. My kid likes that too.

Yeah, sure, Dominion has been hyped. But as someone on BGG said, hype is overhyped. Good games bring their own hype. Don't avoid Dominion just because someone said it was good, play it first and then avoid it if you still want to.

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