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?

  • 3
    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. Commented Apr 12, 2011 at 18:15
  • The bigger question is how you beat Feast + a Draw Card (e.g. Feast + Smithy, Feast + Journeyman, ....). Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 6:57
  • When having 2 or 5 coins, you've got to buy an action though. Choose wisely (find those combinations that will work well in this kingdom) and it will definitely be better than buying a Copper(meh!) or a Silver. Then even when having 3 or 6 coins sometimes you'll find that buying an action card is more preferable, like buying a Smithy(3) while having a Festival(5)
    – 8odoros
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 10:01

11 Answers 11


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.

  • 19
    +1 just for giving me an idea on a way to play single player. Play against a fictitious money only player. Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 19:41
  • 10
    Open source the program? Please? Commented May 13, 2016 at 14:05

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

  • 1
    Disagree that Jester is useful against Big Money. If you are playing Jester you're probably not going Big Money yourself, meaning that extra coin in your deck will likely just slow you down. If you reveal a Silver, what do you do? Gaining a Silver is good for your Big Money opponent, but worse for you - it would have been better to not play the Jester! Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 17:42

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 by making sure you get more cards/actions than you spend using them.

  • 14
    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. Commented Apr 13, 2011 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.

  • 13
    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
    Commented Oct 25, 2010 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.'

  • 1
    I think there are setups where it is, or at least where it is with only a little modification, but they are rare. Playing androminion random setups each repeatedly until I find a strategy that beats the computer players there have been a couple of setups where big money with maybe a very small amount of modification seemed to be about as well as you could do. Obviously I can't prove that. And its been a while so I don't remember the specifics of any of them. I think(??) they involved mostly cheap cards and oddities like no drawing cards, or no multiple action cards, or no multiple buy cards. Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 8:21
  • 1
    Village, Walled Village, Throne Room, Rats, King's Court, University, Royal Carriage, Fortress, Band of Misfits, Overlord. In that Kingdom, buying literally any action card is a mistake.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 14:33

I taught myself how to beat Treasure Bot (our name for this effect, to distinguish from the wait-for-platinum strategy Prosperity introduces) by having simple rules which -- while not on their own necessarily better than treasure bot, were useful for developing the "feel" of a good deck.

(The zeroth rule: if you see a way to buy a province, do so. This is called the Goose Rule, and being able to get a province is called "having the Goose".)

The first rule: on the first two turns, you're likely to get a 3/4 split. unless your 4 is going to supply you with money, or either card will trash your junk, your 3 really should be silver. (And likely anyway; remember that a silver / chapel start is really good, even though they're both cheap.)

The second rule: if you had a terminal action (an action that doesn't give you +Actions) in hand that you did not play because you were out of actions, do not buy a terminal.

The third rule: if you had unused actions, do not buy a Village. Usually, don't buy anything that gives +multiple actions -- the other benefits are not as good as what you ought to be able to get elsewhere. (Having a bunch of action splitters and no terminals is called the Wolf Trap.)

The fourth rule: is the card you're thinking of buying better than three of the cards in your opening hand? In other words, were there three cards in your hand that, had you had this card instead, the turn would have been better?

The fifth rule: When 5 of the provinces are gone, start buying duchies at every opportunity. When 9 are gone, buy all the green you can.

The sixth rule: don't buy more than one of any given cost 2 card, 2 of any given cost 3, or 3 of any given cost 4 until you find yourself wishing you had it in a hand you didn't.

As you play, you'll learn when to ignore these rules or make exceptions; the fifth rule might get some caveats about whether or not you're winning, or if you're about to reshuffle, for instance. I don't follow these rules any more, because they have taught me what I needed to know.

A big part of better-than-treasure-bot play is designing your strategy. Look at the cards available. Figure out what combinations are possible, and what work at cross-purposes. Some cards help you make your deck smaller (by getting rid of bad cards via trashing, e.g. chapel, or handing off, e.g. ambassador.) Some cards help you improve the cards you have (by trashing and replacing, e.g. upgrade or remodel). Some cards help you get past cards you don't want in hand (by drawing and discarding them, e.g. warehouse or oasis). These are all valid tactics, but they mostly work at odds -- if you trash your useless stuff, you won't have much to improve or get past; usually, pick one of these and go with it. Similarly, some decks work by always being pretty good; others work by sometimes being terrible and sometimes being great. think about how the cards work together, or don't. In general, if you wouldn't want both cards in hand together, don't buy one of them. And if your strategy relies on getting both cards together, think about whether it's really the right strategy, or work extra hard to make it happen. (Consider that getting two treasure maps together is rare enough that it's worth 4 gold on top of your deck and isn't over-powered. BTW, if you're going to try to make treasure maps work, you need a lot of trashing and/or 3 or more maps.)

  • Interesting answer. Welcome to B&CG! Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:25

There's an excellent article on the Dominion Strategy Blog about trying to find an optimal strategy for the "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 fairly easily do much better. And then, with some tweaking, you can beat that. And with a little more work, improve it even more. The article shows that depth of the game.


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. ;)

  • 3
    So you suggest the real-world "big money" strategy of buying all the expansions :)
    – Zags
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 0:11
  • 1
    No, in the base set I think it can still almost always be beaten by something else. I like Androminion which is a fun way to try lots of (random) setups and don't think any setup so far has turned out to have big money as a winning strategy. There was one where it was close. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 7:39

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.


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?

  • Note that the top answer doesn't say that BM+1Smithy is the BEST or ONLY strategy to beat BM. It's just easy to do this trial run on a simulator. It proves only that pure BM is definetly NOT THE BEST strategy.
    – MaxD
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 10:29
  • Because there are different small ways to beet Big Money (extra cards, trashing, attacks, etc), There are a variety of strategies to try to beat when other players use them. Also - try adding the cards from Dominion: Second Edition. Some of the cards were clearly designed to make Big Money less powerful.
    – Ned Strong
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 23:38

'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.

  • 4
    No, it really isn't. Every group hits that point. Then you realize that you can do much better. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 7:40

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