I've seen a lot of discussions about the basic strategies newcomers to Dominion develop:

  1. First you buy as many action cards as you can get you hands on.
  2. After several games, someone discovers Big Money and wins over the clogged decks of strategy #1
  3. You realize that selective purchase of just a few action cards augments Big Money enough to give winning strategy.

In general, I feel like the base set stops there. I bought the base set several months ago, and soon after my friend bought Intrigue and Seaside. My general strategy evolved into something a lot like #3 above, where his became huge on action chaining (and annoyingly long turns with some card setups). When Prosperity came out, we both bought it, but for me, it just seemed to take my general strategy a little further with bigger money cards.

Obviously, owning the base set affected my key strategy a lot differently than owning Intrigue did for my friend. He and I seem to be pretty equally paired when we play, however, when I go over to isotropic and play online, I find I get slaughtered especially when Intrigue (and sometimes Seaside) cards make up most of the 10 kingdom cards.

So here's my question: Most players went through stages 1 through 3 above when they get the base set. What follows those after picking up Intrigue? I feel like I'm really missing something when it comes to the Intrigue cards; a lot more cards work together in a lot more combinations in a way the base set doesn't, so how do you learn to capitalize on that better?

5 Answers 5


Intrigue generally has nastier attack cards than Base does, and you really need to avoid getting hit by them or at least learn how to deal with their fallout. The three major attacks are:

Saboteur Card

This is the only card in the game that can force you to trash a Colony or Province (and not get one back).

Swindler Card

This allows your opponent to force you to trash a card and give you one of the same cost. Essentially, they can dilute your deck, and even give you Curses if you trashed a Copper.

Luckily, for Colony and Province, this just wears down their respective piles, as the cost has to be the same. Note: For any card, if there is no card of the same cost left, you just lose that card.

Very late Edit: There is one other card that costs 8... Peddler. I suggest not playing a game with both Peddler and Swindler in play.

Torturer Card

A nasty card, particularly when used with Base's Throne Room or Prosperity's King's Court. Unlike Militia, Ghost Ship, or Goons, Torturer does not stop when you only have three cards. Also of note is that the Curse goes into your hand should you choose to take it, so you can use it with things like Chapel when your turn rolls around... or if it's King's Courted, take two curses then discard them for the third.

There is one more attack card (Minion) and two pseudo-attack cards (Masquerade and Tribute; they're not attack cards, so you can't block them)... you really should look through all the Intrigue cards to see what they do.

  • 2
    Great answer! I do find that Torturer is easier to deal with if you steel yourself mentally to remember that taking a Curse isn't THAT bad. People tend to destroy their hand to avoid a curse - remember, if you take the Curse it's exactly what would have happened if you were playing with Witch. The discard-2 case is actually a free gimmie if you happened to draw 2 lousy cards, that's all.
    – lilserf
    Commented Dec 3, 2010 at 22:35
  • @lilserf: My favorite is when I only have one action in my hand at the time, and it's either a Chapel or Trading Post. Sure, I'll take that curse! Well, more the Trading Post if I was going to do something like trash a Silver and Copper to ditch the Copper.
    – Powerlord
    Commented Dec 3, 2010 at 22:38
  • Also, you can think of Saboteur as an inverted Remodel.
    – Powerlord
    Commented Dec 3, 2010 at 22:40
  • 3
    I think Minion deserves more than the footnote you gave it, but I think you are right: it's the attack cards that kind of turn the game upside down in Intrigue. Commented Dec 5, 2010 at 16:54
  • @keithjgrant: As I was writing this post. I changed it around to shorten it. One of the things I pulled was a larger section on Minion.
    – Powerlord
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 18:24

This is really an answer to a broader question, but I think a fair way to break down the various Dominion boxes would be:


Build a powerful deck. Stack actions, and build up to buying Provinces.


Change the rules of the game. Swap cards. Make cards cost less than normal. Make Coppers worth more. Victory cards double as actions or treasures. Play the same card with results of your choosing.


Actions that affect the game beyond the turn on which they're played. Duration cards are a clear example of this, but Island, Pirate Ship and Native Village follow the same pattern. Treasure Map also forces you to plan a bit, and Smugglers even look back a turn. Treasury introduces the idea of putting a card you played back on top of your deck.


Actions! Six of the ten action cards introduced have +actions, and Golem also leads to more action stacking. Of course the dependence on the Potion treasure card is significant, and Possession is arguably one of the most powerful and confusing cards in the game. I'd say Alchemy also focuses a bit on general manipulation of your deck, with plenty of opportunity to trash bad cards, and return good ones to the top of your deck.


Amplification, treasures that do stuff and Victory tokens. If you count Colony and Platinum, seven (The others I counted were Expand, King's Court, Grand Market, Worker's Village and Goons) of the 27 new cards are basically bigger, better versions of cards from the base set. Eight of the new cards are Treasures with fine print. Forge helps you turn lesser cards into more powerful ones. Even the reaction card costs more than two.


I feel like the biggest difference between the Base set and Intrigue is that Intrigue focuses a lot more on action combos instead of big money with action augmentation.

In the Base game, action chaining is a great way to get the most out of your turn because it allows you to stack money and buys from action cards, as well as gets you a lot of draws to see a large percentage of your deck in a single turn.

However, in Intrigue, although action chaining still works, a lot of times you're better off using specific card combos instead of just Village, Laboratory, Festival, Smithy, etc...

For example, Scout by itself is an okay card, but when you use it with the Dual-Type cards (Nobles, Harem, Great Hall) it becomes a great card. The same goes for Scout + Wishing Well. Wishing Well is a shot in the dark usually, but if you use it in tandem with Scry cards (Scout or Secret Chamber), it becomes a Laboratory that only costs 3 Treasure.

Obviously there are a lot of other notable combos, and of course there are some usable combos in the Base set, but I feel that Intrigue really focused on using specific cards in tandem much more than the Base set did.


You allude to this, but I think a key in Intrigue is knowing which cards interact with each other. There are a lot of ways this is important:

  • Identifying which Kingdom cards can mitigate the effects of the Attack cards your opponent bought
  • Finding ways to use two terminal actions in the same turn by supplementing them with +Action cards (for example, playing two copies of Bridge is fantastic)

The Intrigue cards, like all the expansions, have a lot more 'complex' cards that go beyond the +X +Y +Z pattern on a lot of the base cards. All I can say is that the more you play with Intrigue (ideally with more than 2 people, also) the more you'll see and learn interesting interactions between the cards in the set.

In my opinion, nothing helps you in Dominion more than knowing the cards. If you've played with every one of the 10 cards out there, you're not guaranteed a win or anything, but you will just be more familiar with the different pros and cons of each and you'll be able to come up with a strategy faster.


Basic Dominion has a few things that if you can master them, the additional complexity of Intrigue becomes easier to handle. First: Three Basic Strategys 1) Big Money: Get Silver when you can, then get gold. When the saturation of money in your deck is 1.6, you can regularly buy Provinces. If you have a province majority, try to remove as many as possible. If you and your opponent are close, start buying duchys when there are about 6-4 provinces left. Do not take the second to last province unless you know they cannot win if they take the last one.

2) Terminal Action Combo: Some cards get you +1 action. No matter how many of these you have, even if you get through your entire deck, you will only be able to play 1 card that does not have +1 action. However, with a card like Labratory, you create an engine that can run through most of your deck in a turn. Buy one terminal action (like witch), and run through your deck each turn, buying whatever is best (usually gold or a province), and you will get your terminal action out almost every turn. One witch goes a long way.

3) Multi-Action Engines: With cards that give +2 action, or duplicate actions etc you can get a deck where you can do many things at once. In basic Dominion Village is a perfect example of this. A Deck with a few villages, a few labs, and some attacks etc can get a lot done on one turn (give them two curses, mine some silvers into gold, and remodel a gold into a province). These decks take a while to set up an efficient engine, but once they get started, they quickly gain enough points to win.

In basic Dominion, just figuring out which of these strategies is best for the 10 cards you have is the first step. Then figure out how the different cards augment or threaten your strategy. Big money can benefit from cards like smithy or council room. Marketplace can add a few crucial extra buys in a competition of action decks etc. Each game turns into a two step contest: BM/Terminal Draw/Multi-Action, and then once you have decided, how to optimize your choice to win.

The next step is realizing that some cards completely change the game. 1) Witch. This slows down every single deck you can be facing. If one player ignores Witches, they will have no chance of winning. There terminal drawing engine will draw into Witches and sputter. The Combo engine even more. Even BM will be slowed enough (hard to get to 1.6 saturation when you have extra non-money cards in your deck). Any game with Witches must include getting Witches as part of the strategy.

2) Gardens/Workshop Combo. This will win before any traditional BM/Engine deck. You workshop gardens, buy workshops, and then try to run out something like estates, which is about the only card you will be able to reliably get. Even witches do not do much to stop this deck, given that every card has the possibility of pushing the gardens to the next point level.

3) Chapel. While commonly seen as the anti-witch, it is actually just a way of beating people very quickly. If you only have 12 cards in your deck (gold and provinces) You will be getting a province every turn. This makes all combo decks run faster, and BM gets to the critical money saturation much faster. If one player uses chapels and the other does not, the game is over.

After this step, of identifying the game-changing cards, you can even go another level. Thief kills Chapel BM decks. You cannot afford to lose one of 4 gold at any point. Chapel does cancel out witches. Etc.

What does this have to do with intrigue? Intrigue just expands the possiblities, but does not add very many additional whole-game strategies. 1) Dukes/Duchies. This can beat a BM Province deck point wise. 2) Torturer is bad enough as a single action, but doubled up becomes horrible. 3) Minion is like witch. If one player is getting minions and the other is not, the minion player will win. it is two free money, and it does not really even take up deck space. You gain the money from as many as you can, use the last to draw 4, and continue on. Having a minion string is awesome.

Simply consider how the new cards fit in with the old. What new combos can you build a multi action deck around (torturer, saboteur, bridge)?

What cards are more effective in a big money deck?

If you had to pick only one or two terminal actions, which ones would they be? What cards help build a chain of actions (Great Hall, Minion, Ironworks sort of).

If you can consider these changes, then you should be fine!

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