I've just started playing dominion a little while ago, so I'm pretty new. I get the basic tactics (big money, deck thinning, don't buy copper, etc.) and I do ok when the kingdom cards vary. However, when playing the "basic" game [moat, cellar, village, workshop, woodsmith, militia, etc.] I can't ever seem to win and I don't understand why. No one is playing militias (I've tried them to disrupt others strategies...to no avail)

We play "tournament style" where you can pick your first 2 cards to purchase.

Maybe my initial buys are not so good?

I usually start out with smithy+silver, and then pick up a mine when I get my first $5. From then on I usually do: $2=cellar, $3=silver, $4=silver, maybe one more smithy, $5=market, maybe silver, $6-7=gold, $8=province.

Basically I'm trying to do some variant of "smithy big money" but it isn't working out so well.

Does any one have a consistent strategy for the base game that works?

  • In my opinion, Base is the weakest of the dominion sets (arguably, either Prosperity or Dark Ages is the strongest).
    – Powerlord
    Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 18:22

5 Answers 5


My favorite Dominion article, Building the "First Game" Engine, looks at this problem. The article works out some very good strategies, comparing them to a baseline of Big Money + Smithy. They run simulations to "prove" which one is best. A Village/Smithy/Province (V/S/P) strategy beats Big Money + Smithy a little more than half the time, and eventually they find a strategy that beats V/S/P a whoppping 89% of the time! Best of all, the article showcases the depth that a single set of 10 relatively simple kingdom cards can have.

Their best answer is complicated--surprising to some, given the common overestimation of Big Money + 1 or 2 other card strategies. It uses a Workshop to pick up early Villages and a Remodel, a Mine, several Smithies and eventually a Militia, with Markets and Cellars "sprinkled in".

Of course it's not a definitive "best solution", but it's several clear steps ahead of an already very competitive baseline.

  1. Open with Militia and Silver.

  2. Get a remodel on turn 2 to get rid of your bad cards and maybe throw in a smithy or another militia. Skip the mine, it's not really that great a card in this set as it gets pretty useless towards the endgame, whereas with remodel you can still turn gold into provinces.

  3. If you have 3, buy a silver for the first few turns, then maybe switch to village or nothing once silver ends up being one of the worst cards in your deck. At 4, buy maybe 1 smithy, then go with one of the 3 options. At 5, take a market as it's better than silver 95% of the time. At 6-7 take gold. At 8 take a province unless it's really early in the game.

  4. Once you get to the point where you only have <2 reshuffles in your deck, buy nothing but victory cards! Even take an estate if you have to. At this point, your will only draw each card in your deck about 2 more times, so that duchy starts looking way better than a gold, since the you'll barely be able to use the gold at all.

Forget that workshop, woodcutter, and mine exist. Take 1 moat only if people are getting lot of militias. Maybe take a cellar if you end up with a lot of copper and estates in your deck despite your use of remodel. Take a cellar only if you want to use a lot of actions and already have plenty of silver. Take village if you have a lot of action cards in your deck and consistently not enough actions to play them.

  • Interesting. Once the big money variants started beating the snot out of me I pretty much lost interest in remodel. I've also wondered about the usefulness of workshop (I already know woodcutter is almost always a bad choice). Thanks a bunch, lots of good info! Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 23:13
  • @javamonkey79 Woodcutter has very specific uses, i.e. when you really need that +buy and there's no other card providing it. In this set there's no need for it. Workshop shines if you're trying to end things quickly on piles, like in a Gardens strategy. Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 5:53
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    I don't really see 1 remodel having a lot of time to be useful if you have no way to pare your deck down. That is my only quibble though. +1.
    – aslum
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 7:03

You are buying way too many actions that don't actually combine well. Try buying a single Smithy, and then buy the first thing you can afford from this list for the rest of the game: Province, Gold, Silver. Literally, that's it. You'll be able to buy your share of the Provinces in 14 turns, on average, which is a solid strategy.


Smithy/ Village is a good combination to have a few of, as it will allow you to draw a lot of cards in your hand. A single workshop very early can help to get the silver flowing, and help to get Smithy/Village cards, but no more. From there, buy Province, Gold, or Silver as you can.

  • 3
    This question has been settled definitely by simulators. Single Smithy, no Village is far faster than any other number of Smithies/Villages. The Workshop will only slow you down because either you'll draw it dead from the Smithy regularly or you'll need to buy Villages to play it with the Smithy, which also slows you down from buying Silver. See forum.dominionstrategy.com/…. WanderingWinder is one of the top players in the world and this is an easy scenario to simulate. Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 23:06
  • Wow, that's really interesting. Hmmmm... Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 23:31
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    @philosophyguy though improvement can be got with Workshop/Market to get those Villages... Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 23:13
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    And, looking at the article in my answer, they run simulations and find a Village/Smithy algorithm that beats Smithy Big Money slightly more than 50% of the time. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 16:38

What I tend to do is use the silver and smithy start, and then use villages, throne rooms and smithys to draw my entire deck. I also try to get golds during this time too. Finally, it may be a good idea to grab one or two cellars and buy enhancing cards

  • 4
    What evidence do you have that your strategy is better than other strategies? Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 8:05

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