The Dominion card game is a successful deckbuilding game

11. January 2019 - Anika Semmer

Dominion Card Game - Become the Most Powerful Ruler | Review


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In the Dominuion card game you build your dominion, your empire, with tactics, skill and strategy. Take provinces, build thriving marketplaces and be more effective and faster in order to win! 

Your Dominion – that is your pack of cards, which you try to build up so cleverly and tactically in the course of the game that you are the most powerful ruler at the end and win gloriously with the most points. The Dominion card game is thus a so-called deckbuilding game – it is about tactically choosing cards and optimising the deck until the end and its terrific success has ensured that this type of card game is now widespread.

Dominion is the card game of the last few years for a growing fan community. The game was published in the USA in 2008 by the publisher Rio Grande Games, became Game of the Year in 2009, won the German Game Prize and many international awards. Up until 2018, expansions and further editions appeared regularly: if you own them all, you can choose between 309 kingdom card decks and combine them at will to form 7.164 trillion kingdoms! Seriously!!! And that would actually give you more than 44 quadrillion ways to build the game – crazy!

We play the 2nd edition of the base game Dominion (2017) and tell you what’s different about the edition and what we liked and didn’t like about it. In the conclusion, you will find our evaluation and opinion on the game experience, pros and cons in a compact summary!

Note on transparency: The game publisher ASS Altenburger has been distributing Dominion card games in Germany since 2013 and kindly provided us with a copy for review. However, this review is unpaid and reflects our honest and independent opinion.

The Dominion Card Game at a Glance

  • Game type: Card game, Strategy game, Family game
  • Age: 13 years and up
  • Players: 2 – 4 players (expandable up to 6 players)
  • Duration: approx. 30 min.
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games / Distributor ASS Altenburger
  • Game author: Donald X. Vaccarino
  • Year of publication: 2008
  • Objective: Strategically build up and optimise your own pack of cards in order to win as the most powerful ruler with the most points at the end.

Rio Grande Games 22501413 - Dominion Basisspiel - zweite Edition; Neuauflage des Spiel des Jahres 2009 (Familien Strategiespiel, Deck-Building)
Rio Grande Games 22501413 - Dominion Basisspiel - zweite Edition; Neuauflage des Spiel des Jahres 2009 (Familien Strategiespiel, Deck-Building)
Zweite Edition des Basisspiels - dem Spiel des Jahres 2009; Inklusive 7 neue Karten + GRATIS Code für 1 Jahr Dominion online spielen
32,29 EUR Amazon Prime

How to Play the Dominion Card Game

The basic version of the Dominion card game consists of 500 cards.

Storing the cards sorted in the box.

The 2nd edition of the basic Dominion card game consists of 500 playing cards. Of these, 130 are money cards, 48 are point cards and 30 are curse cards. These are the basic cards we need for each game. In addition, there are 262 kingdom cards, 26 placeholder cards and 4 blank cards. In addition to these cards, there is a rubbish tableau on which you place the discarded cards.

In the game box there are cut-outs for the different cards, which are named with a sorting strip – once sorted you can build up the next round of Dominion quickly.


Before a round of the Dominion card game, certain cards are laid out on the table

To begin, the 7 cards are laid out on the table

Each game consists of a combination of piles of cards laid out in the middle of the table, from which you strategically buy/take cards: This is the supply. There are basic card stacks that are always laid out: The 3 money cards (copper, silver, gold), the 3 point cards (estate, duchy, province), the curse cards and the rubbish board for disposing of certain cards.
In addition to the basic cards, 10 different piles of action cards are placed – professionals can choose freely, but the instructions and the accompanying booklet recommend a set of 10 cards, which is ideal for beginners. So in the middle of the table there is the rubbish tableau and 17 separate piles of cards, which are easily accessible to all players.

Now each player is dealt 7 copper cards and 3 estate cards from the supply, shuffles them and places them as a face-down pile in front of them. Everyone draws the first 5 cards into their hand. Next to the draw pile on the left, leave space for cards that have been played and the discard pile on the right, where the last card always lies face up.


The Dominion card game is played in turns and begins with any starting player. Each player’s turn consists of 3 phases:

  1. Play action/s (you may, but you don’t have to)
  2. Buy card/s (may, must not)
  3. Clean up (you must)

Play Actions

At Dominion, you play action cards in the first phase.

The more action cards you play in Diminion, the better

Playing an action means playing an action card that you have in your hand. These cards are marked with the word “action” at the bottom in the centre of the card. Then you carry out the instructions on the action card from top to bottom. For example, the action card Village says + 1 card and + 2 actions.

This means you may draw one more card from your draw pile and play two more action cards, if you want and can. The more action cards you can play in this way, the longer your turn will last towards the end of the game. If you do not have any, this phase is omitted.

You usually try to play the action cards tactically so that you have the maximum amount of money in your hand.

Buy Cards

With 3 money the player can buy a card

With 3 money the player can buy a card

With the money that the player now has in his hand, he can buy a card from the supply every turn that he can afford. This is because each card – whether money, action or point card – costs a certain amount. It is also possible to buy several cards – if action cards were played beforehand that allow this.

The purchased card is immediately placed on the discard pile.
Short info: At the beginning, each player gets 7 copper money cards as starting capital in their deck. They are worth 1 money each. In the stock there is also silver with a value of 2 and gold with a value of 3. These cards can be bought in the course of the game and exchanged for action cards or taken.

Clearing Up

In the Dominion card game, each turn starts with 5 new cards.

The action cards played and the remaining cards in your hand go into the discard pile

This is the only phase you always have to play! During this phase, all cards played and the cards in your hand are placed in the discard pile. So each turn you start with a fresh 5 hand cards from the draw pile!

End of Game

A game of Dominion is always over at the end of a turn when either:

  • The province’s deck of cards is completely used up
  • 3 card stacks in the supply are completely used up

Now each player counts all the points in their deck (discard pile, draw pile and hand cards). The player with the most points wins.

Rating and Conclusion


Total Grade
very good

For Whom Is Dominion Worthwhile?

Dominion’s rules are simple, clear and quickly understood. Central to the game is strategy and tactics – because that’s what it’s all about in building the most powerful empire that triumphs in the end. It is a competitive game in which cooperation plays no important role.

Finally, a strategy game where it is not a disadvantage to play only in twos or threes! Most strategy games come with special rules for small groups – that’s great, but they are usually more fun in larger groups.

Dominion is completely different! We even prefer to play the Dominion card game in small groups, because with 4 (or with the expansion even 6) players, the waiting time for complex moves with many action cards increases enormously after a certain stage of the game. Highly recommended for card game and strategy fans as a game with a partner or friend.

However, the focus on tactics and strategy and the waiting times until it is your turn make Dominion exhausting for children. The recommended age of 13 is also due to this. Whether the game is a top or a flop depends entirely on the child’s interest in diving into the strategic world of Dominion.

The great attraction of Dominion is that, due to the freely selectable action cards (and the random factor), no game is the same!

Pro and Con

First things first: Dominion is an extremely varied card game due to the freely combinable kingdom cards and the strategic possibilities that always arise as a result, in which every game is different. The fun of playing Dominion does not diminish even in the 18th round. Dominion is quickly learned and quickly played – advanced players need 10-30 minutes for a round. Beginners, who study the text of each card and take longer to make decisions, tend to need 45-60 minutes for games at the beginning.

Free choice is a good keyword. The sets of 10 with the action cards can be put together freely and during the game you can gradually build up your deck with the strategic purchase of certain cards – which are also all freely selectable. For professionals, the fun of the game is not over after the 6 suggested sets of 10 in the accompanying booklet, but only really begins. There are also some cards that have a different strategic effect depending on how many players are playing – the number of players also provides other strategic advantages and disadvantages and further variance. And Dominion, with the many expansions that have been released so far, can come up with a maximum of 44 quadrillion ways to build the game!

Despite all the strategy, chance plays a part – you have to draw the cards in the right order, otherwise chance will throw a spanner in the works even with the best cards.
A small drawback for me, who love cooperative and interactive strategy games, is that interaction hardly plays a role in the 2nd edition of the basic version. For example, there are no action cards for trading with fellow players – only cards that slow them down.

Towards the end, a turn can take a while because the players play a lot of good action cards – the waiting time until it’s your turn again can be quite long.

A small downer is also the price of about €32, depending on the provider (as of 2018). That is a steep price for a card game.


Dominion is a fast, varied card game in which strategy and tactics are central. In contrast to other strategy games, not only one strategy is effective, but each game requires a new strategy depending on the other players, the cards on the table, etc. This means that the game remains fun even after it is over. This keeps the game fun even after the 30th game. One of the best card games of the last few years!

Deckbuilding is also available in combination with a board in other game novelties – for example in the Ravensburger game The Quest for El Dorado. We write regularly about our board game tips, special gifts and activities with friends, with kids and as a couple. Stay up to date and follow Abenteuer Freundschaft on Facebook and Instagram or subscribe to our Newsletter!

*This article contains so-called affiliate links. This means that if you order a product through it, we receive a small sales commission without changing the price.


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