Board Game Fridays: Steamrolled by the Baron

Board Game Fridays: Dominion

(about board game fridays)

This game caused quite a stir today, I think, at least more so than the usual post game bantering that occurs after each round.

Game 1 (out of 1)

Number of Players: 6

Kingdom setup:

  • (2) Chapel
  • (2) Haven
  • (2) Pawn
  • (4) Ambassador
  • (4) Baron
  • (4) Horse Traders
  • (5) Cartographer
  • (5) Montebank
  • (5) City
  • (6) Goons

My Starting Hands: 3/4

Opening Play: Chapel (2), Baron (4)

My Strategy:

Chapel off as many coppers as possible. Play a smaller deck with a Baron, a Copper, and a Gold. Cartographer to get back to my combo ASAP.

I had a good start, chapel'ed 3 coppers and an estate on my "opening" turn, followed by two (7 treasure, 2 buy) turns in a row thanks to my Baron, which I used to get a Cartographer/Pawn & City/Haven. I used my following turns to get gold but ... even all of this was too slow! One Province a turn as an end goal? wtf was I thinking, right?

Winning Strategy:

A super streamlined Chapel / Baron deck powered by City. The start here looked something like this: 1 turn worth of Chapel, 1 turn of Baron to a City, another full turn of Chapel, and an early investment in a second baron (he noticed that Barons were running out). Barons did run out, which enabled this game-breaking turn that made the rest of us die in disgust (and questioning the adequacy of our own decks - but you would swear manhoods as well based on the groans I heard):

A (+2 card, +2 action) City play that resulted in this six card hand -> copper, copper, baron, baron, estate, estate -> 10 copper, 2 buys -> 2 City gained.

This 3 City deck with +2 card drawing and a chapel thinned deck enabled another 2 City gain the very next turn, resulting in 5 City deck, but more importantly, a second stack gone, enabling the +1 copper effect. The next two turns looked like this:

5 City chain to draw whole deck [by my count, a 12 card deck] (+5 treasure) -> 3 Copper (+3 treasure), Baron, Baron, Estate, Estate (+8 treasure) -> an even (+16 treasure, +7 Buys) -> 2 Provinces Gained. An inevitable GG.

Retrospect - I'm surprised no one played Goons

This isn't going to be much of a retrospect because once that magic turn hit, I think table consensus was that this game was over. I heard the words "lucky" being thrown around, and also "epic". I prefer to give credit where due though and decided that we all just got steamrolled. The fact that the Barons stack was getting drained by everyone and consequently that City would power up very quickly didn't register with me until it was too late, although the others were right probably when they said it was obvious.

Personally, when I saw the winning player buy his first City, I thought nothing of it - his tendency to play as a Market/City hoarder in past games blinded me to his utterly sinister motives in this one. It's probably time to admit that I'm not as sharp as I used to be, dammit.

Normally, you can see what's happening on the board and adjust your plan accordingly - speed up, slow down, change up cards, and hopefully pull out a crafty win. But this time; yeah, once that turn hit, it was already too late to catch up. That's probably the saddest retrospect ever for me, but I suppose it happens from time to time, and you just gotta be glad you were around to see it happen :)

However, if I did see it earlier and configured my deck differently in turns 5-8 (not including the opening buying turns) ... I can only theorize that a City / Goons / Baron combination may have actually out gunned the winning deck. Let's say at turn 8, my opponent has 4 Provinces and a 16 card deck. With Goons, he must discard down to 3 cards. He has a (5/16 x 4/15 x 3/14) 2% chance to draw 3 Cities in a fresh deck / hand (is that math even correct? I'm sure the right term to Google is 'probability without replacement' but I'm too lazy).

At 3 Cities and 2 other cards gone, let's say he can draw 6 cards out of 11 cards remaining; even if he catches one more City, and is able to draw 7 more cards, he's got a 7 card hand that's probably incapable of dual provincing. All of this means that he may downgrade to ... Goons. In which case, his setup is better than my Goons setup, and I would get pulverized anyways by double city, dual goons with 5 buys a turn. Yeah ... it was probably over; in this case, the winning deck played an engine that already was the most efficient possible ^_^

Alternatively, another player theorized this. Sometime after the first double City turn, to play an Ambassador on a lower count stack. In a six player game, this basically wipes the stack of five cards (half of a full stack; on a low stack, it would pretty much empty it). If he had another willing party that was aware of this plan, the two of them may have been able to wipe the additional two stacks before the double province turn ever happens, and try to win on lowsies (like 5 points?).

I'd never seen Ambassador played like that before. Kind of brilliant; I might want to play around with that in the future if I ever get the chance.

Lesson Learned:

I'm really bad at probability math now. Also, possibly someone bought Horse Traders on their starting turn. Hahaha.