Bear with me here. In Dominion: Prosperity you can play King's Court and choose another King's Court as the target:

King's Court

The rules are clear on the basics of what happens here: you pick three cards and play each one three times. My question is when, precisely, the picking happens.

If all three of those cards must be picked before executing any of them, it's a whole lot different from if you choose the cards one at a time.


You must choose all three cards before playing card #1 three times.


You choose card #1 and play it three times, then choose and play card #2, etc.

We played it one-at-a-time since that seemed like it made a little more sense (and was more fun too). If the first card you choose draws any cards at all, you have a high probability of picking up another action card to be the second target.

Anybody know for sure which method is correct?

  • When I get home, I'll check the rules insert. The designers go through interactions on a card by card basis in some detail, so there's a good chance the answer will be there. Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 8:36
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    It's not really precise about exactly when you choose the cards; I did check it :)
    – lilserf
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:42

4 Answers 4


Short answer: You do the "one at a time" option as you described.

Long answer:

This case is precisely identical to the more common question of using Throne Room on a Throne Room, as the two cards are worded identically except for the number and a "you may".

The official Dominion rules PDF says:

You completely resolve playing the Action the first time before playing it the second time. If you Throne Room a Throne Room, you play an Action, doing it twice, and then play another Action and do it twice; you do not resolve an Action four times.

In your case, this means "completely resolve playing King's Court the first time before [starting to] play it the second or third time". This means that yes, if your first Courted action was a Smithy, you're going to have lots of choices for the second and third King's Court.

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    Of course, this means we've been playing it wrong where I work. Then again, for the longest time, we were under the impression you couldn't Throne Room a Throne Room at all, despite it saying you could in the rules!
    – Powerlord
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:43
  • Yeah, this was basically what we were figuring when we played it the way we did. Thanks.
    – lilserf
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:45
  • Nice clear explanation of the rules. This is an issue I've seen people stumble on. The golden rule "Do as much as you can, in the stated order" applies nicely here.
    – Johno
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 9:17

"one at a time" is correct.

There's really nothing confusing about this or any card if you just read it simply and literally without adding any made up external ideas.

You may choose an Action card in your hand. Play it three times

So I play a King's Court. It says I may choose an action card, so I do. The card I choose is King's Court. I play it three times.

  1. First iteration of King's Court: It says I may choose an action card, so I do. The card I choose is Smithy. I play it three times. Drawing three cards, then another three, then another three Now I have 11 cards in my hand, one of the cards I drew was a Bishop, another is a Caravan.

  2. Second iteration of King's Court: It says I may choose an action card, so I do. The card I choose is Bishop. I play it three times. Trashing a card, then another, then another, accumulating $3 and some victory points.

  3. Third iteration of King's Court: With horror I realize that I don't have any action cards because I bishopped my Caravan during the petit mal seizure bought on by the excitement of my initial play. Oh well. My action phase ends.

Joe is incorrect about his application of supposed "rule against impossibilities". There is no such concept in Dominion, and I can think of about a dozen other ways this idea could be misapplied. In the case of King's Court, the word "may" renders such a hypothetical (and incorrect) rule irrelevant, so let's say we are talking about Throne Room instead, which requires that you play an action.

In Dominion is perfectly legal to play an action (or even choose something) that is impossible. Any impossible instructions are simply skipped. Thus the supposed "rule against impossibilities" is refuted directly by the rule book:


The player may still play an Action card even if he is not able to do everything the Action card tells him to do; but the player must do as much as he can.

You may pick any choice offered, even if you cannot do what it tells you to, but once you make a choice, you must complete as much of it as you can.

Other similar confusions based on supposed "rule against impossibilities":

Opponent plays Torturer when there are no curses left. "Rule against impossibilities" suggests you must discard 2 cards. Correct answer: You may choose to accept the curse, then smile and say "oops, guess there aren't any".

Opponent plays Torturer when you don't have any cards. "Rule against impossibilities" suggests you must take a curse. Correct answer: You may choose to discard, then smile and say "oops, guess I don't have any" (actually you probably wouldn't be smiling in this case).

Throne Room with no action seems like it would be disallowed by "rule against impossibility", but it is not. You just play it and nothing happens. There are various reason you might want to do this, such as cheaper Peddler.

Bottom line: The rules in Dominion are very well designed (I've yet to see any ambiguities or contradictions in any of the sets). Everything is perfectly clear as long as you read the rules and the cards carefully and literally. Do not add foreign ideas from law school or other sources. In the real world we need lawyers because the law is packed full of ambiguous and contradictory laws. Dominion does not require lawyers, thanks to the brilliant designers!

As an exercise, I recommend reading the rules with the following in mind: the notes in the right hand margin are redundant (in a good way) clarifications which you should be able to deduce from the main text (as long as you don't let your mind get muddled by external ideas). Similarly, the "Kingdom Card Description" section is also redundant. Make sure every statement in that section is obvious to you from the card text and main rules.

  • While I can't remember the latest example, we've definitely learned that the rules are not unambiguous. They're pretty good, but there are some head scratchers and sometimes you just have to make a decision. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 23:43

In almost every game, when the rules do not specify otherwise, it is safe to assume that the designers meant for effects to be handled in a stack-like fashion. M:tG codified this in their 6E rules.

That is, the effect of the first King's Court is to pick another card and play it three times. Each of those three plays is a unique event, as if two more copies of the card appeared in your hand to go with two extra actions. You will fully execute each of those three events before the next, each of them involving picking a card and playing it.

  • 1
    While I believe you are right, just because one game uses a stack doesn't mean that another game does. Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 22:17
  • Sure, but I find this to be a useful convention to assume, if the rules aren't written otherwise.
    – Sparr
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 23:32

I am going to have to go with the up-front option. I must disagree with the logic used in previous postings. In the study of law there is a rule called the rule against impossibilities. The game rules are clear that you must have 3 action cards and that each action card is resolved individually. However, you create the possibility of an impossibility where you are able to play a king's court/throne room with the anticipation of drawing the necessary action cards. For example, say I have in my starting hand just 3 actions, 2 king's courts and some additional action card. Even where the action card allows me to draw several cards there is the very real possibility that you will not draw any additional action cards. I do not believe that the game creators would have intended someone to play a hand in hopes that the hand will be a valid hand only to find that it wasn't. This creates problems of either knowing what cards you are going to be drawing or shuffling cards into a different order, and by consequence potentially negating the effects of other players' cards (i.e. the bureaucrat).

A second option would be a hybrid where you have all 3 necessary action cards but you are able to supplement/replace those action cards with drawn action cards. This option is obviously riddled with problems. Such as, does a player have to reveal that they have the necessary action cards.

Anyway I full expect people to disagree. If you do find a flaw in my logic please let me know so that I can adapt my game play accordingly.

  • 4
    I see two problems with your argument. First, the King's Court explicitly says "You may choose...", wherein the may allows that choosing (and thus having) an action card is optional, not mandatory. Secondly, there is an overarching rule in Dominion which explicitly states that a player "may play an Action card even if he is not able to do everything the Action card tells him to do"
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 17:00
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    The problem with your "logic" is that you aren't playing by the rules! The rules do not say anything along the lines of "...must have three action cards". And as for that impossibility jargon, there must be something wrong with Dominion, because sometimes I draw a KC/TR with no other actions in my hand. IMPOSSIBRUUUUUUUU! Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 22:38
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    If you really want to deduce things, rather than just look at the rules, this, and basically all other Dominion rules questions, can be resolved easily. Repeat after me: do exactly what it says on the card, in the order it says to do it. Play a King's Court, pick a King's Court as the action to play three times. Play it once - now you have to pick an action to triple. Okay, now play it again - pick a second action to triple. And then a third time. Do exactly what it says, in the order it says. It doesn't say "if you're thinking about playing me, pick an action card in your hand ahead of time."
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 23:30
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    Joe, your answer is completely WRONG... I'd say why but it's already been said several times. The first rule of Dominion is to play the cards exactly as they are read. There are no ambiguities in that rule. I've never even heard of the rule of impossibility and if such thing existed in Dominion, it would say so in the rules! Seriously...
    – user4906
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 16:06
  • Yup, completely wrong. Instead of making up concepts like "rule against impossibilities", just follow the actual rules as written. If you do that, there are no ambiguities or problems to deal with. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 2:52

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