D-PADS AND DICE - Game builds a kingdom of cards

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There's a fair chance you've played a trading card game in your life. These are games that are primarily sold in randomized foil packets, like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh!, or Bella Sera.

The main strategy in the vast majority of these games is in creating a deck, not in playing the game.

Dominion, however, comes in fixed boxes that always have the same cards in them. But it took more than a little inspiration from those trading games and focuses on deck building.

The theming of Dominion is that you're a feudal lord trying to buy up the most land. Your realm is represented by a deck of cards.

Every turn you can play one action card, and buy one card with the money cards in your hand. Or rather, that's all you can do normally. Many cards will give you additional actions or purchases, allowing you to do more than one thing at a time in a turn.

For example, a Village card lets you draw a card and then give you two more actions. A Money Lender card means you permanently remove a money card from your deck to get more money this turn. A Thief card lets you steal cards from your opponents' decks.

The game goes until three of the action card stacks are empty, or one victory point card stack is empty. Whoever has the most victory points wins.

The game's cleverness is focused around the fact that you want a deck that works well, a deck that sets up little chain reactions in cards. One complication is that victory point cards are actually worthless at any point before the end of the game. The more victory points you have before the end of the game, the less likely it will be for you to build the big chain reactions.

Dominion play moves quickly. You'll be on edge trying to figure out what strategy your opponents are using, and how their card buying will affect you. You'll be hoping you draw the right cards, and trying to decide when to push your luck.

It's a very good game if you're trying to get into deeper board games. It's very easy to learn and sharpens the kind of big-picture strategic thinking that a lot of board games require. The elegance of its mechanics keeps each turn short.

Dominion is recommended for people 13 and older. It is published in the U.S. by Rio Grande Games for a suggested retail price of $44.99.

Walla Wallan Noah Hinz is a games aficionado and graphic arts student at the Evergreen State College. Send your questions and comments to noahhinz@gmail.com.

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