This is an archive of a past course's class materials from 2011. Present "Games & Society" students should look elsewhere to find their coursework; consult your current syllabus for more information.
The designer and intstructor of this lab course, Jason McIntosh, has written notes and commentary about this course which may be of interest to other teachers. You can contact the author at email@example.com.
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Over the next three class meetings, we’re going to really think like game designers. In our first meeting we’re going to play and discuss the game Dominion, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino. Once we’re all familiar with how this game works, we’ll spend the next couple of weeks tinkering with it… but we’ll talk more about that once we get there.
You should know how to play Dominion. As with various other tabletop games we’ve played in-class, the best way to learn is to play, and once again a free online version of the game is available.
There’ll be a quiz, as usual, both on the rules and on the experience of playing.
You can read a scan of the official Dominion rulebook as a PDF, or you can peruse this plain-text rules summary of Dominion in Word format.
This video review does a good job providing a gloss of the game’s setup and rules, even though I don’t necessarily agree with its opinions on the game’s strengths and weaknesses. (It does provide does good fodder for in-class discussion, though!)
The games I link to below do not feature practice modes against computerized opponents – you can only play against real people! Be bold and wade right in anyway. You’ll probably lose a lot to these folks, but you’ll learn a lot too. Of course, you are welcome to coordinate with a classmate or two to log in at the same time and play together…
Board Game Arena hosts a version of Dominion that should work in any modern web browser, though it’s graphically heavy and perhaps a bit slow to load. Please note that it doesn’t try to squeeze the whole simulated tabletop onto your screen; you’ll have to scroll up and down while playing to see all the cards you can buy.
You need to register a free account on Board Game Arena before you can play on this server.
Isotropic Dominion has a much more sparse user interface, and assumes a certain level of Dominion familiarity from its users. As a tradeoff, it offers a much more clean and concise view of the virtual tabletop than Board Game Arena does, and can be much faster to play – at least if you know what you’re doing. Once you feel you have the basics of the game down, feel free to give this version a shot.
Isotropic also offers free accounts, as well as the option to just jump in and play without one.
We’ll reshuffle ourselves randomly into tables of three or four, then play for around 50 minutes. (If your table finishes early, feel free to get another game in). Then we’ll debrief.
A few things to think about to while playing:
What are some interesting combinations of Action cards?
Why does the game use Treasure cards to make purchases, rather than some sort of separate currency (e.g. Monopoly money)?
Why does the game have players purchase Victory cards to gain points, rather than simply advance on a scoring track, or keeping score on a pad of paper?
Why do various cards have the purchase costs they do? How do cards balance their cost against their powers?
Everyone takes turns playing with their very own deck of cards, and interaction with other players is usually indirect. Does this make the game less competitive than other board games, somehow?