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I am going to play my first round of Dominion (+ Intrigue Expansion) this weekend with 4 other players who have played Dominion before. I have read the rules and now I want to avoid the typical traps a beginner might fall into.

What are the big and tempting mistakes that you see new players make in Dominion? Is there any other advise for the first steps in this game?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 34 down vote accepted
  1. The bottom line is victory points. Period. Nothing else matters. If something is not actively helping you get more or your opponents get less, don't do it. It seems obvious that I'm telling you to remember how to win, but its very easy to go super-heavy on kingdom cards until you realize its too late...

  2. Most of the time, the way to get victory points is with $$$. When I was learning I loved to pull of the 10 card action combos that took me 14+ turns to build, but when I realized I still had only made 7$ by the end of it I started looking at things differently. Solution: Make sure you have enough powerful treasures and actions that give +coins. Gold is king!

  3. Keep an eye on end-game. How many provinces are left? Which piles are low? What are your predictions for what people are about to buy? If you know you have the most victory points, sometimes you just want to make the game end as fast as possible. If you can use a Coppersmith to get 1 or 2 provinces early, and then use plenty of +buys cards to buy up 3 piles of cost 2 and 3 cards before your opponents decks really get rolling, go for it. Its so funny when your opponents have just built these gold stocked decks to nail provinces and they realize you just ended the game and won with 10 victory points.

  4. Know what cards will maximize your average $ per card ratio. If you have plenty of treasures in your deck, a smithy is often even better than a gold. Likewise, if you have plenty of actions that give you +cards, make sure you have treasures to back them up.

  5. Know the difference between early game cards, mid-game cards, and late game cards.

  6. Watch your terminal actions. There's nothing that sucks more than drawing 5 terminal actions and having to just pick one of them to play. Try to balance your terminals with you chain actions. On the other hand, don't overload on +actions if you have very few terminals. A few of my friends love the 'village idiot' strategy: get 6 or more villages and have giant chains of them every turn. If you're not using the extra action from a village, its completely and utterly useless as all it does is replace itself.

  7. Know the basic strategies, like drawing lots of cards, big money, attack cards, and trashing your bad cards as early as possible. These are covered very thoroughly here, so I'll just leave it at that.

  8. Know how to evaluate a kingdom set to see what strategies will be strongest. Note how each attack card will change things, and how you need to adjust your strategy. I cover this more in the linked post.

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1  
Great stuff here; not just for beginners, either. It's good to see the lessons I've learned said explicitly. –  acfoltzer Aug 13 '11 at 5:41
2  
+1 nice answer. I see that its included in #7, but I think trashing bad cards should get more emphasis. A lot of beginners I've played with are very slow to pick up on how important it is, and that Chapel is one of the best cards in the game. –  Gregor Jan 4 '12 at 4:39
    
The village idiot should try to become a festival idiot instead. Festival does offer nice benefits (but no +1 card). –  Konerak Mar 10 '12 at 17:40

Buy money and provinces instead of actions.

The number 1 problem I've seen beginners make in Dominion is not buying treasures and provinces.

  1. If your hand generates 3 coins you should buy a silver
  2. If your hand generates 6 coins you should buy a gold
  3. If your hand generates 8 coins you should buy a province

Every time you go against the above plan, make sure you know why. There are definitely reasons not to buy a silver or gold. However, does your deck really need a possession? Or are you just buying it because it is cool?

Once you learn those simple rules (known as the "Big Money" deck) you will start to see good reasons for buying a couple additional cards to help move your deck along faster.

A second tip would be to trash copper whenever given a chance. Thinning your deck is almost always a good idea.

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All the other answers are really great, so I just want to add:

Don't buy the Copper.

Copper cost 0 to buy; if you draw a dead hand (all victory points, for example), there's absolutely no shame in skipping your turn. It will ultimately end up bloating your deck and make it more likely you draw a $1 card instead of something more useful.

Also, I've seen people with multiple buys for the turn spent all their money on their first buy, and then take a free Copper.

Unless you happen to be playing with Gardens ($4 card, worth 1 VP for each 10 cards in your deck) and want to artificially bloat your deck for the chance at an extra VP, don't buy the Copper.

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Biggest noob mistake is watering down your deck early.

Consider buying silver and gold as "Great" moves. Don't be tempted by all the shiny action cards.

If you get a chance, get something that allows you to discard or upgrade an existing card so you can get rid of those crappy starting cards. Don't be afraid to throw away copper! Getting rid of cheap cards is often a fantastic strategy.

If you decide to go "Pro" and take some action cards, be wary of "Dead-end" cards that don't have at least +1 action. Get a few of these in your hand and your hand will be next to useless.

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Don't be afraid to copy ohter players, if they know what they're doing. Don't buy coppers, don't buy coppers, don't buy estates until it's the end of the game, same for duchies in most cases.

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Diluting your hand has been mentioned, but I would like to add its sister vice:

Not paying attention to the rate at which you can move through your deck.

This can make it nearly impossible to really adjust to the different phases of the game. What those phases are depends on your strategy for the setup, but you almost always have stages you move your deck through. If you build a giant deck with multiple buys that takes 10 turns to get through, making such transitions can become almost impossible. It also leaves you feeling like "I bought these great cards...too bad I never see them"

So if you are acquiring cards rapidly, make sure you are also acquiring cards that move you through your deck rapidly as well.

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I would recommend cards that will get you extra actions as well as a couple of smithy's. Keep in mind though that YOU NEED A MINE. A mine is very helpful. It can get you many silvers and golds early in the game. I spend my money originally on a silver then move from there getting a couple villages while still buying provinces when possible, while I sometimes trash the annoying coppers and estates.

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Hello, Lars, and welcome to the site. This site works differently from a typical discussion forum, and your post is likely to be downvoted or removed - it does not answer the question as asked, because it does not list any tempting beginner mistakes. Could you rephrase it to do so? Welcome again, have fun, and please take a look at the site tour and FAQ when you get a chance. –  Tynam 11 hours ago

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