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Dominion is designed to take 20-30 minutes, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. However, I find that the card Saboteur causes the game to take much longer if more than 1 or two are purchased (which they almost always are) simply because it's nothing more than reverse progression.

All the other attack cards have at least some benefit to you, this just seems to be reverse progress, with no upside to the player. The only exception to this would be Sea Hag, however Sea Hag has a much smaller (and much less aggravating) effect on the flow of the game.

Besides "it's a good attack", are there any reasons to actually use Saboteur?

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In general, ANY attacks will cause the game to take quite a bit longer since people can't just build their deck into a sleek treasure-producing machine. –  lilserf Oct 19 '11 at 13:24
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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Saboteur does not allow the attacker to choose the replacement card. The victim trashes the first 3 cost card he reveals from his deck, and at his discretion he may replace it with a cheaper card according to the instructions.

As an attack, it is valuable in that is slows down everyone else, even if it doesn't give the attacker an immediate advantage. This can be crippling to the victims in the early game, when everyone's still working on building up the value of their hands and only have a few vulnerable cards. If you're not limited to Intrigue stacks, you can use it with King's Court or Throne Room. If you have actions to spare, you can also use it with Bridge to target higher value cards.

And if you're lucky, you might just end up trashing a few Provinces in the late game.

Given the cost of the card, and the fact that it's a terminal action, choosing it over other actions or attacks would be very dependent on what's on the table and what everyone else is loading into their own decks.

Sometimes the best defense is still a good offense.

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I disagree strongly with aramis and goldPseudo's answers. Using the data from Isotropic, we can see that in all the games played on the site, people who bought 4 fewer Saboteurs than their opponent increased their win rate by a factor of 1.5. In fact, this graph suggests that the only worse attack card is Thief, and that even buying a single Saboteur hurts your odds of winning relative to someone who doesn't.

In my play group, I decided not to buy them at all, and I typically won when they were available. We've since decided that it's not a fun card, so now we don't play with it.

To quote the Dominion Strategy Blog, "The best counter to Saboteur is probably not getting one."

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We've basically banned it also, and no longer use it as well. But this is why I asked the question to begin with =) –  Pithlit Oct 19 '11 at 17:31
    
On a side note, Hinterlands introduces a better version of Thief for the same price named Noble Brigand. Likely due to how terrible Thief ends up being in practice. –  Powerlord Nov 29 '11 at 18:30
    
@Powerlord While I agree that Noble Brigand is mostly a "fixed version" of Thief, I've played a few games with a lot of alternate treasure cards (e.g. Horde, Harem, Fool's Gold) where I would have much preferred to have a Thief. Those situations are few and far between, but Thief does have his place. –  Gregor Feb 27 '12 at 20:17
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I dislike Saboteur because it makes the game less fun; it torpedoes the "building" aspect of deck-building, and my face-to-face group won't use it for that reason.

However, contrary to Isotropic's stats (which I believe are heavily biased towards 2-player games -- please correct me if I'm wrong), I've found that in a 3-4 player game, ignoring Saboteur only works if everybody else at the table does, too. If two players get Saboteurs, they can wind up shredding cards faster than you replace them -- and unless Lighthouse or Moat are available, the only good response is to wade into the fray with a Saboteur of your own and make sure they're just as screwed as you are. Which causes the game to degenerate into a Copper- and Estate-based slap fight.

If that's your idea of a fun game, go for it. Just leave me out of it. ;-)

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I am very skeptical that the effectiveness of saboteur increases with the number of players. I've gotten into the argument before on BGG here, boardgamegeek.com/article/6879886#6879886 –  rrenaud Dec 2 '11 at 22:14
    
@Rob Renaud: I'm not skeptical, though I will concede that I may be overly influenced by a small sample size. On Isotropic, when I'm normally doing 2P games, I find Saboteur's rep as a useless trap to be well-earned. But the three or four times it came up in my face-to-face group's four player games, it DOMINATED. Every time. Whoever had the last Saboteur standing won because nobody else could assemble a useful deck. –  BlairHippo Dec 5 '11 at 16:04
    
@RobRenaud: I was going to add to this here, but decided to just make multiplayer Saboteur a question of it's own. –  Gregor Dec 7 '11 at 23:19
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To optimize Saboteur, you need to buy them up as fast as possible, so that one player has more than anyone else, and preferably than everyone else together.

If everyone grabs a couple, it just slows things down. If one guy has most of them, it still slows things down, but also means he is going to be hurting others more than they hurt him. And it's an empty stack.

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