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What should I do with an $8 hand that appears in Turns 3 through 6, in a game that only goes up to Provinces? Consider 4-player games primarily, but if games with other numbers of players significantly change this decision, please mention it.

(This might happen a few different ways: Coppersmith and a lucky draw will get you this in T3/T4, but even a simple Big Money strategy can pick this up on T5/T6.)

I realize the answer here is most likely "it depends," but what does it depend on? Does the availability of $7 cards make an early Province buy less tempting? If the other worthwhile cards cost only $5 (or even $4), does it change the answer?

I ask because I've been playing a fair amount of 4-player Androdominion, and early $8 hands crop up occasionally. I usually buy the Province, simply because victory usually occurs somewhere around 5 provinces, and I prefer the bird in the hand rather than trusting what the future might bring.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In a 4p game, you should be more eager to take an early Province than in 3p or 2p. There are two reasons for this. First, in 4p each Province is a larger share of the available points, and you have on average a smaller number of turns. Second, in 4p you are more likely to see the game end on three piles before all the Provinces are gone. As a rule of thumb, I would grab the early province in 4p, but not in 3p or 2p.

That said, what are some of the Kingdom cards that would indicate that you should hurry or not hurry?

Tournament, as swbarnes2's answer indicates, is a very powerful card, and its presence means that Provinces in your deck are very important. In Tournament games, never pass up the opportunity to get a Province.

Explorer is another card that keys off of Province, but it's a fairly weak card, and you can't be sure of connecting it with a Province when you need to. I don't consider its presence a reason to hurry.

Cards that give you something else very strong to do with your money should make you think twice. Overbuy cards like a Masterpiece or Stonemason (with a good target) give you more than the usual opportunity to improve your deck quickly, and are likely a better choice than Province on turn 5. Goons, King's Court, and to a lesser extent Expand are other important cards can be very attractive for an early turn. Depending on what the other players are doing, other powerful $5 cards like Wharf, Cultist, or Rebuild might need to take priority.

By contrast, what would suggest that you need the Province right away? First and foremost, look for piles that might empty out. For instance, if Ironworks is available with attractive targets like Great Hall, Fishing Village, Ironmonger, Gardens, etc., those piles are likely to deplete very rapidly in a 4p game, and you should grab the points while you can!

By contrast again, look for cards that will slow the game down--an absence of buys, and delaying attacks like Militia or Ghost Ship. If those attacks are flying, you're going to have a lot of trouble buying a second Province without a good deck, so you're likely to want Gold. (Sometimes in a 4p game you don't need to bother with attacks yourself if everyone else is playing them for you!)

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I think seeing the game end on three piles rather than on all Provinces gone is VERY MUCH dependent on the available cards. The earlier Dominion sets like the basic or Intrigue usually play until all Provinces are gone. The later sets do indeed end with three empty piles more often. –  StasK May 5 at 4:07
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In the base set, Curse/Duchy/Estate in a Witch game isn't too odd, and anyone going for a Workshop/Gardens rush is likely to deplete the piles. In Intrigue, Ironworks is also a threat, especially since they're an attractive upgrade to Workshop for novices, as well as Pawn and Great Hall. But yes, I agree that later sets have more opportunities to pile out; Hamlet, Lighthouse, Hermit, Peddler, Tournament, Silk Road, and Tunnel are a few prime suspects. –  sitnaltax May 6 at 4:28

Personally, I'd buy a Province too, if there were cards like Tournament, or Explorer, which benefit from Provinces. Maybe Bishop...sure, you lose a VP when you Bishop a Province, but it's still 5 VP not cluttering your deck. If you have something that lets you drill down past your Victory cards, like Farming Village, or Vagrant, or if you are going to be eating a lot of Curses or Ruins (so the Province is one cluttering card among many)...those are all situations where the hurt of an early dead card is somewhat mitigated. There are probably more.

Otherwise, I'd get two gold first, then buy Provinces. The early province is likely to slow you down more than it's worth when your deck is small.

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