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Although they can be mixed together, Dominion sets seem to have many cards that were designed to combo with other cards in the same set. Scout works better with the cards that are both victory cards and actions (Great Hall) or coins (Harem), rather than cards that are just Victory cards, such as those found in the basic set. Seaside's Treasure Map works really well with Warehouse's deck-digging ability. Cornucopia benefits from the Tournament Prizes that help diversify your deck.

Does mixing 3+ sets of Dominion together and selecting 10 random kingdom cards lead to games that are less focused on card interactions? In other words, does individual card quality become more of a driving factor?

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3 Answers

In general, adding more expansions will allow more interesting combinations to emerge. Scout is one of the notable exceptions; in fact, Donald X. (the creator of the game) mentioned that Scout is one of the cards that wasn't as well balanced outside of Intrigue because it was made earlier and he was still improving in his ability to develop cards (source: http://forum.dominionstrategy.com/index.php?topic=1412.msg23271#msg23271).

Obviously there are some combinations within each set: you note Seaside's Treasure Map/Warehouse combo. But similar combinations exist outside of the set: consider Treasure Map (Seaside) and Stables (Hinterlands). The more you play the game, the better you get at recognizing the strategic choices between sets, as well as within sets.

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Wow - I was expecting that quote from Donald X to be years old, but it's weeks old! I'd be curious to see his response to my analysis of Scout (which I worked-up before seeing your/this answer!) –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 3 '12 at 14:47
    
@TheChaz: There are two things to consider. 1. The raw number of combos across all kingdom sets. Of course this goes up as you add more cards and cards from different sets. 2. The probability that a given card will be in a viable. This tends to go down as you add cards from different sets, or equivalently, up as you add more cards from its own set. –  rrenaud Feb 3 '12 at 15:02
    
Scout works really well with Tunnel and Crossroads from Hinterlands. Any particular theme (in this case, Victory cards that do things) will naturally wax and wane over time. –  Mark Withers Feb 6 '12 at 10:13
    
@MarkWithers: I'm not sure why Tunnel would work well with Scout, unless you have some other Action card in your hand that lets you discard the Tunnel. –  Powerlord Mar 1 '12 at 19:37
    
@Powerlord Well yeah, you have to have another way of discarding the Tunnel within the set of 10 kingdom cards. But Scout does give you +1 action so that you can use said action and is generally good at filling up your hand with victory cards. I made a deck with 2 Scouts, 1 Jack of All Trades, 3 or 4 Crossroads and as many Tunnels as I could buy. I got to draw my whole deck every turn and often ended up with a fistful of Gold for buying provinces :) –  Mark Withers Mar 2 '12 at 10:02
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Added: A fundamental property of Dominion is card interaction, so to claim (not that anyone has) that a certain expansion doesn't increase the amount of positive interaction between cards/sets would be quite a criticism of said expansion. It's possible, but I haven't seen it yet. (Of course, Alchemy does create a sort of artificial exterior game with the potions, and some dislike it for this reason. But I digress).

So what I should have said from the start is that every set is designed to make games more interesting, especially when combined with other sets. Also, the main way that I have developed strategy over the years is to look at a (random) set of 10 kingdom cards, and start looking at the interactions. As you'll see below, you can use (the cards that you add to your hand with) Scout for two major purposes: trashing, and discarding. So when Scout is in play, I quickly (?) decide if either of these is a viable option given the other cards out there, and then do the same for all the other cards and their main uses.

Consider the combo: Golem (Tactician, then Library/Minion/etc)

There are other examples, but they aren't fresh in my mind (I quit playing after 2000 something games on isotropic, and 1000 on BSW...).


Added: While I stand by my answer, it seems that the best answer to this question would involve, at the very minimum, an analysis of how every card interacts with [all the other] cards from other expansions. At worst, we'd have to consider all 10^14 possible sets of kingdom cards!

Here is my analysis of Scout:

Scout: Like the Apothecary, Scout can be used to add 3-4 cards to your hand (which may not have that great of a direct value - e.g. coppers/estates). Then you can combo (for different reasons, effects on your deck) this with:

  • Ambassador.
  • Warehouse
  • Vault (+ Tunnel = BOOM)
  • Apprentice
  • Transmute
  • Forge
  • Hamlet
  • Horse Traders
  • Young Witch
  • Hunting Party
  • Crossroads (!! Forgot about this one...)

Furthermore, with Hoard, the strategy of using Scout to get cards in your hand for the purpose of trashing opens up more possibilities. Scout is a good counter to Rabble. Scout might be the only +Action in the set, so then your only option to net an action would be to combine this with Golem, KC, or Throne Room. This is, of course, the last thing that crosses my mind when analyzing a set of 10 cards in-game.


And then there's Scheme, which in itself opens up combos with most Action cards!

Analysis of Black Market:

Besides gaining a card that no other player can have, Black Market opens up a unique set of possibilities due to its extra buy phase. So during the execution of Black Market, you can [put into] play all of the treasures in your hand, possibly leaving you with 1-2 Action cards. In any case, you still have the +$ to spend from those treasures! If the other cards are, say, Library or Minion, then you can draw a bunch more cards and have a longer turn. If you are left with a Tactician, then you can use that to start your next turn with 10 cards, and you still get to spend the money that was played during the Black Market!

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Well, obviously King's Court will make combos where there might not have been any before. –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 3 '12 at 5:20
    
but are you considering the number of games you have to play that don't have any interesting combos, because the distribution of the cards in your mixed set all have cards that care about different things. The beauty of Scout being played in an Intrigue only game is that there is that if Scout is in the game, there is about a 50% chance that Great Hall or Nobles or Haram is in the game too. When playing with so many different sets, how many random setups do you have to play before you see an interesting interaction? Edited the question to indicate that I was interested in Random kingdoms. –  user1873 Feb 3 '12 at 6:48
    
good point about the total kingdom set combinations C(127,10) = 127! / 10! (127 - 10)! = 209,123,798,385,425. It would require marking each card with a 127 bit flag that indicates that this card combos with all the cards with "on" bits. Then there are the actual comparisons (127+1)/(127/2)= 8,128 which need to be done by a human. Quite a difficult problem. I suppose a couple of random cards could be chosen, and analysis performed just on those cards. I wonder how large of a sample, is necessary to justify an accurate answer. –  user1873 Feb 3 '12 at 15:06
    
And here I was calculating (125, 10)! :) –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 3 '12 at 15:07
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You had asked about Donald X.'s response to your Scout analysis; while I can't speak for him, I can give you some thoughts. You're right that Scout is useful for clearing out your deck of otherwise un-useful cards, and so discard-for-benefit cards like Warehouse, Cellar, or Vault become more powerful. But there's lots of limitations to that, most notably that a deck with lots of green in it is less likely to allow you to draw the cards you need for the combo at the same time as Scout. –  philosophyguy Feb 3 '12 at 16:09
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Overall, I have to say yes, somewhat. The cards in a given expansion go together thematically and seem to often be selected with certain combos in mind, which of course you will see more often if you play with just that expansion. However, you'll see those same combos again and again if you just play with the same expansion and you will miss out on some seriously good combos that may never occur to you until you lay the cards out... and often you won't really see them until you're opponent is capitalizing them already. I continue to enjoy Dominion because I continue to see new combos in mixing expansions. I don't think anything in just base/Intrigue could surprise me anymore, but just the other day I learned how awesome Bridge is with Native Village. Hinterlands seems to have cards that play especially well with other sets. I would say the only real exception is Alchemy, where buying a potion is a lot more of a liability if there are only one or two cards with potions in their prices.

I would encourage you to mix sets, but I do think you'll have better games if you don't go completely random. It's nice to do a sanity check and make sure you have a decent price distribution, if there's a reaction it's paired with at least one attack, etc. If you go purely random, good games will definitely be fewer and farther between, but small adjustments can go a long way to making good games that you'd never see limiting your sets. (Veto mode on Isotropic is a good example of a small adjustment to random that makes a big difference in playability.)

(Edit) The reason my first answer is "yes" is because of the two condition you put on the situation: "random kingdom cards" and "3+ sets". I say yes because for pretty much every card, if you could list the set of cards that really work well with it by some metric, I'm guessing that cards in that combo set make up a higher proportion of its own expansion than they do overall. And thus by selecting cards from 3 or sets you decrease probability of selecting another card that works well with it.

Honestly, when playing the game physically, not on a computer, I can rarely be bothered to get out more than 3 boxes, though usually 2 or 3 is what I play with, and I think that's just fine.

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You say "yes" in the first line, but the rest of your answer says "no [mixing sets does not diminish card combos]"! –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 3 '12 at 14:10
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@TheChaz Exactly! I say "Yes, somewhat," to the question "[in purely random kingdom sets from 3+ expansions] does individual card quality become more of a driving factor?" because I think any given card is more likely to combo with cards in its own set. But then I go on to say why I think that--though this sounds like a bad thing--I don't think it is because it adds richness to the game. Then I talk about how adjusting the randomness can more than make up for any perceived downsides. –  shujaa Feb 3 '12 at 17:06
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