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Last night I finished my first ever game of Dominion: Intrigue, and I'm feeling conflicted about my evaluation of some of the cards on the board. In particular, I cannot decide of the Baron is junk or should be highly valued.

Pros: it gives you something to do with the Estates in your hand.

Cons: it requires you to actually have an Estate in your hand, and will actually stuff you with more Estates if you have to use the "gain an Estate" ability.

On balance, I'm inclined to view the card as junk, but OTOH I could envision a Baron-heavy strategy that involves taking tons of Estates, and discarding them all for cash whenever they show up in your hand. But could such a strategy actually work?

(I didn't attempt to use the Baron strategy in last night's game. Instead, I stockpiled the Great Hall and won by 4 points over my nearest competitor.)

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Because you said "discarding them all for cash" I have to ask...are you confusing discarding with trashing? Also, you can only do this with one Estate per Baron. –  Ryan Sep 5 '11 at 18:41
    
@Ryan, I was speaking imprecisely. I know that the Baron discards rather than trashing, –  JSBձոգչ Sep 6 '11 at 1:22
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5 Answers 5

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Baron is good because it gives a lot of $$$ very early in the game. Few cards will give you a good chance of getting a gold on the second run-through of your deck.

Say you open with Baron and Silver. You have an 83% chance of drawing the Baron on turn 3 or 4, and in this case you can get a gold into your deck for your first reshuffle unless you get no estates with it. This means you have a better than 64% chance of getting gold on turn 3 or 4 and into your deck for your first reshuffle, and the alternative 4-5 split for those turns from the silver isn't bad either.

Getting that many high-cost cards into your deck that quickly is a MASSIVE advantage that few cards can provide. Once you get that first gold, you can start pounding on the high cost cards that will take take on the road to provinces and victory. AND you still can use the Baron later whenever you happen to draw an estate with it to get more cash, towards the end of the game to get more VPs from the gained estates. Top that off with an extra buy every time you use it and you've got a pretty great card.

Baron isn't a strategy in itself, but it does a darn good job of speeding up whatever other strategy you might be using. :D

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Baron will rarely be a strategy unto itself, but it's a decent accelerator for your early game. The strength is that it gives a lot of money early in the game (assuming you don't have an awful shuffle), but it does take up space later in the game. It's late-game use is primarily the +Buy, with the ability to also gain an Estate at the last minute.

You don't want to buy Estates in order to fuel your Baron unless you're in a weird situation (three-pile race is on, you can consistently draw your deck and have an extra action to spend on discarding the Estate for money, etc.)—that will slow your deck down overall.

In terms of $4 openings, I would rate it below Moneylender and Militia but above Bureaucrat and Remodel.

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Blindly stockpiling Barons and casting them as fast as you can is probably a very bad strategy. But Baron is a very good card overall because:

  1. It gives you a very good chance of getting a big money boost early in the game. After buying a Baron you are highly likely to have a 6 to 8 gold turn in your next shuffle, and 6 is a magic number in Dominion. Buying a Gold on turn 3 or 4 will only serve to boost the massive (for early game standards) money boost, and then you can easily start laying into the good stuff.
  2. It gives you +1 buy along with the money, which is significant. There are many card pools that reward having multiple buys when you have a big money turn, and the Baron guarantees this. Also, if there is no other +buy card in the pool it's even more important to have one or two Barons in your deck (I 'm leaving the relatively small percentage of pools where buys don't really matter out of the equation).
  3. It can allow you to combo insanely under favorable circumstances. If the pool favors explosive combo turns, and especially if there is a card like Library or Watchtower along with the +actions to utilize it, Baron allows you to get all the benefits with none of the drawbacks. You will be able to cast it and also discard the Estate, then continue comboing with Library. If you have also used trashing on your deck, you can even leave a single Estate and discard/redraw it multiple times!

All in all, IMHO Baron is one of the better 4-cost cards. Will not always be a first or second turn pick with 4$, but it does have a good chance of making it.

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I'm by no means a Dominion expert (as I don't have any set other than Intrigue and the Base set and I mostly play Dominion 2-player) but I had a recent game with the Baron and found it very helpful in the following situations:

  1. As an early game accelerator - I bought a Province in one of my first turns as a result of getting Baron, Estate, Copper, Copper, Silver with my third hand. Clearly that was a lucky shuffle but I used the Baron profitably plenty of other times in that game.

  2. For the extra Buy later in the game which also proved decisive. We were playing with Gardens in this particular game so the extra Estates + the extra buy was pretty valuable in that specific case.

In a game where I was employing a trashing strategy then yes, the Baron might be less useful - but with the Gardens it was an exceptionally valuable early game purchase.

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One reason you wouldn't want to load up on Barons and Estates: for each Baron/Estate pair, you could have bought 2 silvers. They'd guarantee you $4 each time, and are much more consistent (vs when you draw Estates with no Barons or Barons with no Estates).

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