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Our group has determined that buying (almost exclusively) money and points is the way to go.

Most kingdom cards are ignored, or are bought very sparingly. This has lead to games feeling 'samey' and has taken a lot of the fun out for us.

What strategies should we use to counter "Big Money"? Or are house rules needed here?

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Maybe you need to find some more fun people to play with. The fun in this game is making use of the kingdom cards to pull off combos (IMO the crazier the better, in fact). I know this isn't a strategy to beat these players (which is why this is a comment and not an answer), but games are meant to be fun. How exactly is buying money and VP cards fun? It isn't really very strategic at that point either. The game becomes pure luck at that point. –  Charles Boyung Apr 12 '11 at 18:15

10 Answers 10

There comes a time in every Dominion group's life where they figure out that Big Money (the strategy you describe) is beating everyone else who is going heavy on action cards. Do not fret - it's most often not actually the best strategy. For example, if everyone else is going Big Money, buying a single Smithy will win a 4-player match about 60% of the time and a 2-player match about 80% of the time (via a trial run of 5000 matches on my simulator program).

There is pretty much always a superior strategy to Big Money on the table; you just have to find it. A common mistake is to spend turns buying too many Kingdom cards to have giant crazy combos that don't pan out. Another thing to watch out for is going for a longer game with a fantastically combo-heavy deck, but then by the time your deck is all situated someone else has bought all the Provinces. Even still, combo decks do sometimes work - I have been in some thrilling Village+Bridge decks that beat the pants off Big Money.

I haven't been playing around enough with it to know for sure, but it seems that the new expansion Prosperity also lends itself toward Kingdom card strategies winning more often. The reason I feel this way is because Prosperity seems to stretch out the game a big longer such that bigger decks with lots of cool combos can succeed quite well.

Generally I like to measure my strategies against Big Money - if it can't reliably beat Big Money, it's not a good strategy.

But even still: when in serious doubt, buy a Silver.

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+1 just because you have a "simulator program". Very cool! –  Vaccano Oct 25 '10 at 15:50
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+1 just for giving me an idea on a way to play single player. Play against a fictitious money only player. –  Chris Persichetti Dec 28 '10 at 19:41

Attack Cards, Attack cards, Attack cards.

Some of the more useful ones against big money are:

  • Pirate Ship (S), $4: All other players flip the top two cards of their deck. If any Treasure cards are revealed, trash one of the attacker's choice. Also accrues tokens each turn you successfully attack and destroy at least 1 treasure, which can be used as money instead of attacking.
  • Saboteur (I), $5: Because the players have to keep flipping cards until they reach a card that costs 3 or more, and the card they get in exchange costs 2 less.
  • Mountebank (P), $5: Players discards a Curse. If they don't have a Curse in hand, they gain a Curse and Copper.
  • Ambassador (S), $3: Returning up to two of the same card to Supply. Give all other players a copy of that card.
  • Jester (C), $5: All other players flip their top card. If they flip a Victory card, they gain a Curse. For any other type of card, you choose whether you get a copy of that card or if they gain a copy of that card.

Less useful, but still might work:

  • Thief (B), $4: Steal their money.
  • Noble Brigand (H), $4: Steal their Silvers or Golds. If they didn't flip any money, they gain a Copper. Also, +$1.
  • Ghost Ship (S), $5: All other players discard down to 3 cards. The discarded cards go on top of their deck. Also, +3 cards.
  • Militia (B), $4: All other players discard down to 3 cards. Also, +$2.
  • Goons (P), $6: All other players discard down to 3 cards. In addition, +$2, +1 Buy, and +1 Victory Token for each card you buy this turn.
  • Torturer (I), $5 - All other players discard 2 cards or gain a Curse.
  • …Any attack that gives players Curse cards.

Expansion key used above:
(B) - Base
(I) - Intrigue
(S) - Seaside
(A) - Alchemy
(P) - Prosperity
(C) - Cornucopia
(H) - Hinterlands

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I don't think you need house rules yet. I suspect that y'all are trying to use too many kindgom cards. You definitely want to limit the number of kindgom cards in any deck. The number of terminal actions needs to be pretty low to have a functional deck. (A terminal action is one which does not give +Actions).

To counter a money deck, specifically using the base set, I would consider using these cards if available, along with the number I would use.

  • Cellar (1-2) - Discard VP cards, draw more
  • Chapel (1) - Trash copper in mid to late game to thin your deck
  • Moat (1-2 even if no attacks) - Even without an attack it gives you a replacement card plus one more, helping you to get to 8 gold for that province
  • Bureaucrat(2) - Gain a silver, slow everyone else down, what is not to like?
  • Militia (2-3) - worth 2 coins and hurts your enemies - nice!
  • Moneylender(1) - thin your deck, buy bigger things
  • Smithy(2) - Terminal action, but it replaces itself and brings 2 other cards
  • Spy(2) - Replaces itself and slows down your opponents
  • Thief(2+) - Kills money decks dead.
  • Mine(1) - Helps a money deck out by trashing the copper
  • Witch(2+) - If you are the only player with witches, you should do pretty well
  • Adventurer(1) - Works well late game if you were able to trash some copper.

In short - Attacks are always good if nobody else is using them. Just concentrate on a couple kindgom cards and use them to speed up your deck by trashing copper or my making sure you get more cards/actions than you spend using them.

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Re: Chapel "Trash copper in mid to late game to thin your deck" -- Trash copper as early and as aggressively as you can. By the time a Chapel has come up in your hand with all of your Coppers, you should have a couple Silvers and hopefully a Gold or two. –  keithjgrant Apr 13 '11 at 17:46

I'm a little surprised that strategy is having so much success. But rather than come up with rule variants, why not simply take advantage of the game's design and choose kingdom cards which hurt that strategy? Try drafting instead of pure randomization. The next time you play try using the Thief, Pirate Ship or Saboteur. If your opponents continue to use the same strategy against those cards, I can almost guarantee you'll win.

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Big Money is just a local maximum in Dominion, and one that's easy to discover and easy to execute. Like Mag Roader says, every group hits this at some point :) –  lilserf Oct 25 '10 at 3:17

I'd willingly wager that there is not a single kingdom set where big money is the best strategy.

If your group has played dominion more than 10 times together, you should have very little trouble accomplishing this. If you ever find a situation where you think you can't beat BM, post the kingdom set here and we'll gladly attack it for you.

If you want to really test the strength of big money, you can add another 'fake' player: one that is not played by one human being, but played by all the players according to the rules of what to buy with different $$ levels for the BM strategy. This helps you figure out if you're group is beating BM without having any player have to actually use that strategy.

My group often plays against basic decks like this, sometimes adding a little spice, like having the fake big money player also buy 1 chapel, smithy, or mine. You can even play dominion solo this way, and its a great way to test your own strategy and learn how big money works. This turns Dominion into more than just a 'beat your opponent' game, but a 'let's see if we can beat the default strategies.'

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Money-heavy play is indeed strong in the base set. You're simply better off buying a Silver or Gold most of the time.

Fortunately, the expansions make action cards and combos much stronger. Unfortunately, the expansions cost money. ;)

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So you suggest the real-world "big money" strategy of buying all the expansions :) –  Zags 20 hours ago

I have been reading quite a bit about how to counter the BM strategy but so far the most popular answer was to use BM with another singleton card like smithy or library. While I am absolutely confident that this is true, something about it still rubs me the wrong way. If the only way to defeat a single strategy is to use a slight variant of it, then isn't the game still off balance?

I guess what I am trying to articulate is that more often than not, the more conservative a strategy is, the better. I was hoping for Dominion to offer a much wider range of strategic avenues. If BM+1Smithy is going to pick up the win by turn 14, then my question is this; is there another strategy that is as effective and reliable as this one? Is Dominion a more strategically dry game than I had anticipated?

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Buying only money and victory cards should be considered the baseline to victory. A few terminals such as chapel or smithy will speed that process up.Attack cards will make this harder for others to do while giving you some benefit. It would also help if you told us which sets you were playing with.

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There's an excellent article on the Dominion Strategy Blog about trying to find an optimal strategy for suggested "First Game" set-up in the Dominion base set. It's a must-read for anyone frustrated by Big Money in Dominion because it shows that Big Money is good, but that you can do much better. And then, with some tweaking, you can beat that. And with a little more though, improve it even more. The article shows that depth of the game.

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'Big Money' as a sure fire way to win is the major flaw that has resulted in my gaming group giving up on Dominion. The problem being that luck in the early game combined with the knowledge that money -> victory points is the way to win is almost a unbeatable strategy.

So the answer to your question is to either experiment with expansions and/or house rules to change the way you play or find a different game. I have found the the best way to engage my board gaming group is more social orientated games where luck and optimized strategy take a back seat to deception and diplomacy.

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