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In Dominion, when someone plays a Torturer, I almost invariably choose to discard rather than take a curse. The exceptions are if I have a trasher (Chapel, Steward, Upgrade, etc.) that I have the actions to use anyway, or if I think there's a good chance a Masquerade will be played and I don't want to give away any cards. In the case of multiple Torturers (whether action-chaining or 3-4 players), unless it's happening every time I'll prefer to discard 4 cards and essentially lose a turn than add 2 curses to my deck.

I think the most common reason people take curses instead is they think their cards are too good to discard, but unless I am guaranteed a good turn (e.g. Village and 2 Torturers in hand, not relying on lucky draw), I'll choose to discard.

What is the value trade-off of discarding vs. taking a curse? How good of a hand do you need to take a curse? How do you evaluate the damage a curse does to your deck?

Of course, all Dominion games are subjective to the Kingdom Set. In a set with lots of ways to trash things, taking curses isn't so bad. I'm more interested in answers where trashing is harder, say a Remodel or Expand are the only options, or where +actions are hard to come by.

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One nastiness I've seen done is to remodel curses into coppers... –  aramis Oct 20 '11 at 22:24
    
@aramis - in the first game I ever played with curses, that's the route I took. –  gomad Oct 21 '11 at 16:19
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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Short answer

You should take a curse when discarding two cards would hurt your strategic plan, but you should also take into account your curse total compared to the other players and how it's likely to change.

Long answer

I 'm not going to dwell on "obvious" circumstances like

  • There are no curses left
  • Your hand is all victory cards
  • etc.

Under normal circumstances you should make the decision based on strategic (long-term) factors. If discarding would mean not being able to buy a card you need in the long term (this usually means 5+ cost cards, and of course not all of them) then you should consider taking the hit so that you can advance your plan.

If all you were going to buy anyway is a "nice to have" card, then taking a curse is probably not warranted.

In a 3- or 4- player game,

  • you should gravitate a little more towards discarding in the beginning of the game, as taking curses too early (before you have the chance to load up on necessities) might leave you too far behind the other players
  • you should consider the possibility of multiple Torturers being played before your next turn; in this case, taking one curse and then playing a good turn might be warranted because with multiple players playing Torturers you can never be sure just when you 'll get the opportunity to play your turn unhindered
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Excellent point about leaning toward discard in the beginning of the game. Assume no removal, a curse you take in the beginning will come up every time you reshuffle for the rest of the game! Deck size is also an important (related) factor. In the beginning, smaller deck -> more reshuffling -> each curse in your deck has a greater effect. This is my favorite answer so far, but I'm not quite ready to accept yet. –  shujaa Oct 24 '11 at 0:59
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To add on Jon's last point: I also consider taking the curse in a 3-4 player game if more than one other play with the Torturer, and the current Torturer got played by the player playing directly after me. Then there's a good likelihood more Torturers are coming in one round, so the curses I draw for the first 1-2 players, I can discard with the next Torturer and I keep my current move. Of course, all what has been said in the other answers about balancing your current move versus weakening one's deck have to be considered.

If I notice everybody going for the Torturer (it seems many people go for it once the first Torturer got bought), then I try to keep track of the times of shuffling of the others, and how many Torturers are still in their deck. And if there are lots of them yet to come, I'll take the curse, so I've got something to discard in the same round when the next Torturer is played.

Some players are so fond of Torturers they combine them with Villages or other action multipliers. It really pays off then to try to estimate the Torturers still remaining in the other players' decks.

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I usually discard as well, unless I'm already below 5 cards. Usually my decision hinges on if I'll still be able to do something with that turn. Of course if i'm holding 2 Victory cards, I'll just drop them. However, if I have a verifiable action chain in my hand, I'll take a curse, or if I have a card that allows me to discard (not trash) for an effect, I'll likely take a curse to boost it's effect.

Like you said though, it's very subjective, so it all depends on your hand, the kingdom cards that are available, and how built up/stagnated your deck is. If you have had a run of horrible hands and just need to buy something because you've already wasted a turn or two, it might be worth grabbing the curse(s) in order to buy something you really need. Or perhaps you've got a good advantage with a streamlined deck, and adding curses to it would hurt your action chains, in that case maybe skipping a turn wouldn't be so bad.

Examples (if opponent Throne Room's a Torturer):


Hand - Victory, Village, Great Hall, Copper, Silver

Decision - Discard 4 cards, keep the Silver, and buy a 2 cost with it


Hand - Victory (non-Estate), Secret Chamber, Copper, Copper, Baron

Decision - Here I'd probably take the curses, and use them with Secret Chamber to buy a 6-cost (Gold comes to mind)


Hand - Victory, Victory, Pawn, Village, Smithy

Decision - Even though I have no money in hand, the draw/action chain available to me is pretty good, so most likely I'd discard the two Victories for the first, and take a Curse with the second and hope for the best with my Action cards.


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In the second example, why wouldn't you just use the secret chamber to avoid the attack (and the curses)? –  Chris Dodd Oct 24 '11 at 17:23
    
Secret Chamber wouldn't avoid the attack, it would just let you possible swap cards in your hand which wouldn't guarantee you to have 2 (or 4) discardable cards. –  Pithlit Oct 24 '11 at 18:16
    
@Pithlit: Yes, but it's still a good idea to at least draw the next two cards, see what they are, and see if that would change your hand. Particularly since you can put the first curse back on top of your deck when you process the second Torturer. –  Powerlord Oct 26 '11 at 14:32
    
@Powerlord: True, you should always use Secret Chamber to see what you can do. I was trying to provide examples and didn't think it prudent to go through all possible actions with the limited format. –  Pithlit Oct 26 '11 at 19:52
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I personally only take the discard-2 if it can be done without harming my hand (I had an extra Copper, or 2 Estates anyway, etc).

My view on Torturer is that it's really just a Witch. They played a Witch, except that I got a special freebie opportunity to avoid the curse if my hand sucked already! So I do the kinds of things in deckbuilding that I'd do to counter a Witch, and I don't stress out about the Curses. And I certainly don't knock a hand of $5 or $6 down to $3 or $4 just to avoid a Curse.

Expecting to end up with some Curses and planning to account for that is, in my opinion, better than sabotaging your own buying power over and over in a desperate attempt to avoid the Curses.

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When to take a curse:

  • When there are no curses left in the curse pile.

  • If you have a way to get curses out of your deck (even if it's just Island) and you don't have excess cards in your hand.

  • If you have an Ambassador or or Masquerade in your hand and plan on playing it next turn.

When to Discard

  • You have 2 "deadweight" cards in your hand, whether those are extra Terminal Actions you know you won't be able to play, curses or victory cards doesn't matter.

  • Discarding would make it so you can't buy the thing you need to buy.

Ultimately it's a trade off... which slows you down more, 1 turn of reduced circumstances, or an extra curse for the rest of the game?

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Your last comment is spot on, exactly the question I want answered, but the bullet points only seem to cover the cases where it's obvious one way or the other. How do you judge that trade-off? –  shujaa Oct 24 '11 at 0:55
    
The problem is that there isn't really a simple answer. It will either be cut & dried, or super situational. The more curses you've already taken, the worse idea it becomes, but you'll probably need to take a few to get those high dollar cards you need. –  aslum Oct 24 '11 at 3:54
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I found that I started losing against Torturer a lot less once I started taking Curses more often. Here's why I think that is:

In the early game, you're going to use the card you buy, and soon, and repeatedly. Discarding 2 cards in the early game is often the difference between buying a 4-cost and a 5-cost card. Is it worth losing a VP and getting a useless card in your deck so that you can buy a Market or a Treasury instead of a Caravan or Smithy? I think so. I think the answer is often even clearer when the choice is between a 5- and 6-cost.

Especially if the card you're buying is one that's going to help you mitigate the fact that the Torturer is going to get played again.

In the middle game, I'm much more likely to discard. And the Curse or two that I've picked up, well, they're not a positive good, certainly, but hey, it's easy to make the decision to discard them.

I'm certainly not saying, "Go ahead! Take Curse with abandon!" But I think reflexively discarding, especially in the early game, isn't the right answer.

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