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At my weekly boardgames night earlier this evening I was roped into an all-expansions, 6-player game of Dominion. A girl on the sidelines piped up: "You should take out the Goons card. It takes all the fun out of the game."

Needless to say... one of the ten cards randomly selected was the Goons. Those of us who hadn't played with the most recent expansions inspected the card. Forcing everyone else to discard down to 3 did seem liable to slow the game to the crawl... but the card did cost a pricey 6. How bad could it be?

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I started with a 2-5 copper split and bought a Haven and a Trading Post. From there I was able to whittle my deck free of Coppers and Estates until it was a pretty efficient collection of Silvers and Golds. Even though the player who was buying up Goons was hitting me more turns than not, the three cards left in my hand tended to be worth 5-8 before too long, leaving me in a good position to keep buying Gold, Province and Duchy cards.

I ended the game with 36 points; second place. The "Goon player" had a fairly crazy 48 points. What annoyed me about this is that he hadn't really needed to bother scrabbling to buy Provinces with the rest of us: just playing a lot of Goons and buying stuff had allowed him to amass a stack of victory point chips that left the rest of us in the dust.

It's true that there was a pile of Secret Chambers on the table that most of us failed to buy; I could certainly have done with a few, to sculpt my hand against the Goons and dodge the Spy attacks that almost all the other players at the table seemed to be throwing around with abandon. But it still seems to me that there may be a fair accusation to be levelled against the Goons. For the price of a Gold, they're a much improved Silver - they can easily net you a couple of Estate's worth of free victory points every time you play them, with none of the downsides to the efficiency of your deck! And if that wasn't bad enough, they are also a really annoying attack, with, as previously mentioned, the potential to slow the whole game to half speed if they are constantly being played.

Obviously no card in Dominion is unconditionally broken: for any card, there will always be a configuration of available cards that will combat it efficiently. But are Goons too far along the un-fun end of the spectrum? Was the girl at my group right to propose that they should be removed from the game for its own good?

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The effect of every attack is magnified hugely in 6-player Dominion. Goons, as do most attacks, points toward a slower game. Combine that with the fact that 6-player Dominion is naturally pretty slow and it's a bad combination, but I lay the blame more on the 6-player game than the Goons. –  sitnaltax Nov 12 '12 at 22:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Personally, I like that goons opens up the possibility of winning without buying green cards as well as the possibility to have monstrous turns when you've stacked a few goons.

But fun is subjective, if it's not fun for a subset of the players in your group, it is simply not fun for them.

While attacks usually get meaner in Dominion games with more players, Goons isn't really one of the attacks that gets nastier in larger Dominion games. Since being hit by 10 goons is no worse than being hit by 1, the number of players doesn't matter so much. Contrast this with a card like witch, where the damage done scales in proportion to how many are played.

Messing with all 5 opponents isn't necessarily better than messing with a single opponent. You still have to beat all of your opponents. Imagine you could either get 5 points, or cost every opponent in the game 3 points. In a 6 player game, you could theoretically cost each opponent 3 points, for a total of 3 * 5 = 15 points, but you'd still only have a relative advantage on each opponent of 3 points. If instead you took the five point gain, you would have gained 5 points on each of your opponents. Even though the "net damage" increases with the number of players, the "relative advantage per player" is really the important metric, which is often number of players invariant in Dominion.

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Good analysis, sir. As a Magic player, I'm familiar with the principle that winning the game is much more important than slowing down the rate at which you're losing it: so any card that deals 3 damage is probably better than a card than gains 7 life. In Dominion, gaining 5 is clearly better than costing everyone else 3! My lingering issue with the Goons is that they both mess with your opponents and accumulate victory: no one wants to sit through an interminable game they're never going to win. So I'd rather "spoiler" attack cards weren't efficient game-winners at the same time! –  thesunneversets Jan 12 '11 at 20:24
    
And yet I think Possession (probably the only reason some people hate Alchemy) is much, much worse by those criteria. –  Andrew Vandever Jan 17 '11 at 23:12

NO

Goons is just an upgraded Militia. Had your friend never played with Militia before? All Attack cards are designed to slow down your opponents.

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The easy answer to problems like that is "There are ten of them! Everybody has a chance to get one." Goons is even more powerful when you combine it with Watchtower (buy a Copper, trash it, +1 VP), but I've played games where it wasn't worth buying. It all depends on what's in the supply. –  Andrew Vandever Jan 11 '11 at 8:18
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Hmm, it could be argued that "everyone has an equal chance to get the unfun card" doesn't make it fun again. Suppose every player plays Goons every turn, everyone's hand is effectively permanently at 3, and the game takes twice as long as usual to complete. That's "balanced", but not "fun". Still, I definitely agree with the last part of your comment, Dominion is a million different games depending on which cards you used, and no card (yet printed) is always a rotten apple! –  thesunneversets Jan 11 '11 at 17:25
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I have friends who sometimes get frustrated when a game of Dominion seems to be all about Attacks, but I really enjoy brutal games. It forces me to try out new strategies: How can I ensure that, with only three cards, I still have a decent turn? How can I turn a Copper or Curse flood into an advantage for me? To me, that's fun, but I understand not everyone feels that way. –  Andrew Vandever Jan 11 '11 at 19:58
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It's interesting to pull out the flipside of Goons, that is: What's left after you "subtract" the Militia from it. --- "Friendly Goons" +1 Buy. While this card is in play, when you buy a card, gain 1 VP. (Cost: 2 coins) [Action] --- Would you buy Friendly Goons? Is it overpowered? I'm not sure myself. I'm just wondering... –  invisiblejon Jan 12 '11 at 20:49
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Re costing of Friendly Goons: I hesitate to bring up MtG, but even though a card like "deal 3 damage to one target" might cost 1 red mana, "deal 3 damage to three targets" would have to cost way more than 3 red mana... That's why I feel like you can't just subtract the cost of Militia from Goons to get Friendly Goons. Part of the 6 value is getting all the effects at once, no? –  thesunneversets Jan 13 '11 at 3:31

I think the real issue you're having is with attack cards in general. If you want more player interaction, a bit more competition, the necessity for on the fly adaptations, and everybody's fine with keeping attacks in, then go for it. The choose between a more or less competitive game is one we have to make every time we sit down to play.

When in doubt, ask the other people what they think. :D

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I do feel like attack cards don't always scale very well to 6-player games. Messing with 5 other players' ability to operate effectively is, almost by definition, better value than messing with 1-3 other players! Also, it takes a lot longer to resolve each attack, especially if you have to make a decision for each other player, e.g. with the Spy... –  thesunneversets Jan 11 '11 at 22:22
    
Pirate Ship and Thief are examples of cards that can become far more beneficial to the attacking player as you add more players, in addition to affecting each other player. On the flipside, the other players' supplies of Treasures drop a lot faster too. –  Andrew Vandever Jan 12 '11 at 4:52
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Agreed. Any time any attack card comes up during setup, I evaluate it with the group I'm playing with (both whether they would enjoy it, and whether our group size would make the game too slow), and then replace it when necessary. –  keithjgrant Jan 13 '11 at 16:59

When Goons are on the board, you usually have a Goon-focused game. Chapel has a similar property.

If you don't like Goon-focused games, don't put them in your kingdom set. Goon games flow differently than non-Goon games, so it's understandable you'd like the rest of Dominion but not Goons

Still, if you're new to Goons, give them a few more games before you pass judgement.

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It seems like you didn't really seem to have much of a problem buying cards, you were merely surprised that he was able to win using the victory tokens. So did it really make it un-fun?

Is goons broken? I mean the attack is nowhere near as ruinous as Witch/Mountebank/Pirate Ship/Sea Hag. Sure its a great card, but there are definitely ways to work around it, and it generally isn't an auto-buy unless you can make use of the +buy and/or have +actions. So I can't really justify "banning" it unless you just don't like attack cards in general.

For instance, spending time trashing cards really isn't that efficient against mass goons, because you could just keep the junk and discard it. So maybe it might have been more effective to get a different 5 cost card rather than trading post and make use of that secret chamber you mentioned.

The bottom line is, ya goons is great, but for a 6 cost card, it only gives 2 buying power, and the attack is average. It is basically a militia for 6 that trades what could have been more buying power for some victory tokens for the end game. I definitely wouldn't leave it under the card tray where pirate ship is.

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Goons make for a very un-fun game, and here's why:

Goons are more than an "upgraded militia." Other attack cards are mainly attack cards, and the person buying the card understand that they mostly deter other players, but do not benefit the person as much as they could. Goons would be a great card to have in your deck even if they didn't attack the other players. It gives you +1 buy and one free victory coin for each buy, so just buy coppers. Pairing it with a Worker's Village gives three buys, which is 3 easy points that don't clog up your deck. Other cards in Prosperity make trashing those coppers easy.

I played with three other people including my grandmother, who doesn't even fully know how to play the game. She played a worker's village and then a Kings' Court with a Goons on it, then one more Goons. This gave her 6 buys total, +8 treasures (and whatever else she had in hand), and FOUR VICTORY COINS for every card she bought. Bam. Bought one Province, 5 coppers, gained THIRTY POINTS, 24 of which were coins that did not clog up her deck. IN ONE TURN. Plus, no one could get enough more than 6 treasures in hand thanks to the discard rule of the Goons, so the game slowed to a crawl as well. Yes, this hand was very lucky, BUT it's a broken strategy. Getting just Worker's Villages and Goons would work well enough to net you all the coins that come with the game and stop the other players from getting any footing.

I would not say Goons is broken, but I will say that it is an attack card that has too much incentive for players to get the card, so it comes into play a lot, and inevitably slows down the game just the same as if everyone bought nothing but Militias.

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King's Courting a Goon doesn't give you +3VP per buy. The rules specifically clarifies that "while Goons is in play" doesnt apply to those virtual copies of Goons that you play with King's Court. –  user1873 Dec 30 '13 at 17:13
    
So, does that mean for example, that if you play 2 Goons then make 2 buys you still only get a total of 2VP tokens? Because that is what is sounds like. Generally doesn't King's Court make it like you played a card (Goons in this case) 3 times? –  Gary Mar 13 at 14:56

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