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If we play a board that has Workshop and Garden kingdom cards, I almost exclusively play them as my strategy. In the early game, I focus on buying Workshop and by the third round I typically get two "buys", one in the Action phase with Workshop and the other in the Buy phase.

Mid-game, I switch to buying Garden (which gives you one VP for every 10 cards in your deck) and if I have less than 3 coins in the Buy phase, I get an Estate or Copper. This strategy has proved to be almost 100% effective in rushing to deplete three decks and ending the game around turn 16 or 17. I've only lost once or twice using this strategy and it's usually when I deviate from my plan and forget to pick up an Estate/Copper or pick up another card on a whim.

For this scenario, I'm only playing the base set and the third pile I'm depleting is Estates.

What are effective counter-strategies to a Workshop/Garden strategy?

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I recently started playing Dominion, and I noticed this strategy right away. It's ridiculously easy to win with this combo (and to win by a lot!). –  CyberneticTwerkGuruOrc 2 days ago

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Workshop/Gardens is usually a dominant strategy. There are a couple of exceptions:

  • Bishop can counter Gardens by buying Gardens and then trashing them for VP. This prevents the Gardens player from being able to get a favorable Gardens split and means that the Bishop player can focus on getting VP chips or Duchies while the Gardens player is buying out Workshops and whatever other pile.
  • Cursing attacks can often foil a Gardens strategy. Since Gardens games tend to end fast, a difference of 3 or 4 points can be huge. The threat of pumping up the value of the opponent's Gardens is overrated; even if the Gardens player gets all 8 Gardens, 10 curses would still be a net loss of 2 points.
  • Discard attacks can significantly slow a Gardens player. Only having 3 cards in hand means that the person can probably keep a Workshop and 2 treasures, which will frequently be Coppers. That's not enough money to keep acquiring Workshops or to get a double Gardens. Ghost Ship is especially brutal because the Gardens player will have lots of bad cards, and so forcing him or her to see those cards multiple times instead of being able to just discard them is really painful.
  • Embargo can make Gardens unattractive very quickly. Put an Embargo on the Workshop pile, then the Estate pile, then the Copper pile. Embargoing the Gardens themselves is ok, but usually the gardener will be gaining Gardens via Workshop and so the Embargo won't matter. If you Embargo their buy possibilities, however, it quickly slows down their deck.
  • A quick mega-turn engine may be able to overwhelm a Gardens deck. I'm thinking about Native Village/Bridge, which can be used to end the game in a single turn. This engine might be fast enough to buy a couple of Provinces, drain the Estates, and end the game on piles. It's ridiculously difficult to simulate because of the pile-ending conditions and needing some intuition in order to decide when to pull the mega-turn, but I played a couple of solo games earlier today and it seems viable as a strategy.
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Side note: There are 12 Gardens in a 3+ player game, not 8 Gardens. –  Powerlord Nov 15 '12 at 18:59

I did ask about expansions for a reason. My first two thoughts were modified versions of Workshop/Gardens: Ironworks and Silk Road. Maybe this isn't what you're asking exactly, but if either of those is around, you can beat Workshop/Gardens at its own game. Ironworks should be able to beat out Workshop - it does cost one more, but the extra benefit it gets you upon gaining a card makes it well worth it, especially given that I doubt you're buying a Gardens on your first two turns with a 4/3 split. Silk Road can easily be worth as much as Gardens if you're going all out gaining cheap victory cards. Compare the effort of gaining four victory cards to that of gaining ten cards.

If Tournament is in the game, along with anything at all that might net you a reasonably early province and let you use it, you can do very well with most of the prizes. If someone manages to get all the gardens and the estates in a two-player game, they'll probably be at either 35 or 43 points. That's not that hard a score to top if you're the only one at all capable of buying provinces. And toward the end of the game, it's very easy for the richer player to grab up a few of the lower VP cards and take a big chunk out of the Gardens deck.

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