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How to Play Dominion

By Edited Jul 19, 2016 3 2

How to Play Dominion

Originally, I was going to publish this as one article that describes the contents, set-up, my thoughts, and how to play Dominion. After realizing that would be way too much content, I decided to split the article into two parts, How to Play Dominion (which will also include details about the unboxing, set-up, and the contents) and a Dominion Review which will give my thoughts on this card game. This first part will describe in detail How to Play Dominion.

I first became aware of the Dominion card game in the end of November, while I was researching board games to buy around Christmastime. From the Dominion reviews I was reading and watching on YouTube, it seemed like many people enjoyed it, so I thought I would give this game a try.  This card game received the 2009 Spiel De Jahres (2009 board game of the year) so I knew I just had to try it out!

Unboxing Dominion

After you take off the plastic and open the Dominion box, there are 5 different contents: two 8 page rulebooks, 5 plastic packages of cards, a black inlay, and a black mini-filing container to organize your cards. There are 500 cards total, so thankfully Dominion had an organizing "cabinet" as well as an inlay with organizational tips to make it easy to keep track of the cards!

 Unfortunately, the black inlay in my box was ripped (see picture), crinkled, and had several bent edges. The poor condition of this black inlay was so bad, you could definitely return it and get another one. Thankfully, everything else was in great condition.

The black inlay is for you to can organize the cards and place them in their respective positions in the mini-filing container. The inlay is really great at suggesting where to put the cards and is very easy to understand and makes it a lot easier to organize the cards.

However, upon opening each container of cards, you’ll notice that some of them aren’t in order, which definitely makes it a bit harder to organize. For example, 6 of one card could be in the beginning of one set, while the other 4 could be at the end of another set. Also, make sure you pay attention to the color of the back of the cards, as the ones with dark blue backs  are randomizer cards and are separate from the cards you actually play with. I didn’t realize this at first, so ended up spending 10 minutes extra trying to organize all the cards. It should take you no more than 20 minutes to get all the cards together and organized according to the black inlay.

I will talk about Dominon’s artwork very briefly. The cards have nice artwork and are medieval-based, but don’t go overboard with detail. The box is good as well. The rules are a not so great looking sky blue color, but…color’s really not that much important, playing the game is!


To set up the game, first hand out 3 province and 7 copper cards to each player. The titles of each card are located at the top. You then place the remaining copper, silver, and gold cards on the table. Next, you place 8 province, estate, and duchy cards on the playing surface (for 2 player games, 12 of each for 3-4 player games), as well as 10 curse cards on the playing surface. All of these piles of cards, including the piles of actions cards, are called the supply piles. 

Next, it is time to get out the action cards, which are the white colored cards. The back of the “example” rulebook gives 5 different suggestions on what 10 action cards to use. There are 25 different sets, so no 1 game of Dominion will be the same. There are 10 cards in each set of action cards, and you place 10 sets of 10 on the table, or other playing surface you are using. To start off, I suggest you play with the following cards: the Cellar, Market, Militia, Mine, Moat, Remodel, Smithy, Village, Woodcutter, and Workshop.  You don’t have to follow any suggestions of course, you can use the randomizer cards to pick, or just use the randomizer cards as placeholders and just pick whatever you like. 

Now that you have set up the game, you are ready to learn how to play Dominion

How to Play Dominion:How Do You Win, Cards, When Does the Game End

Goal: The goal of the game is to get the most victory points, which are the green colored cards.

End: The game ends when any 3 supply piles are empty, or the supply pile of Province Cards (the victory points that are worth 6) are empty. 

Cards: Victory Points and all the other cards cost money, which is shown in the bottom left hand corner of each card.  The goal of the game is to get as many of these victory points as possible, and to do so, you must obtain more money. You can use that money to buy actions, buy more money, or buy victory points.  

There are 3 different treasure (or money cards) - Gold, Silver, and Copper. Gold is worth 3 treasure and costs 6 each, Silver is worth 2 treasure and costs 3 each, and copper is worth 1 and costs nothing.

How to Play Dominion: Your Turn

1.Draw Phase: Dominion is a deck building game, so of course, you will be drawing cards. During the beginning of your turn, you draw 5 cards and put them into your hands. There are many ways you can use these cards to play, which I will get to in due time!

2. Action Phase: During this phase, you play any action cards that you have in your hand. Note that in your first two turns, you won’t play any action cards. You can only play one action card per turn, unless you play a card that says +# actions. When you do play action cards, there are many different cards to play:

  • Attack Cards- Attack cards aid you while hindering the opponent. Examples of attack cards are the thief, which lets you reveal two of your opponent’s cards, trash any treasure cards they have, and gain one if you want to.
  • +# Action- Normally, you are only allowed to play one action card per turn. + Action Cards bend this rule by letting you play a certain number extra actions per turn. For example, the village lets you play +2 action cards this turn (note that the action card you play that gives you more actions does not count towards these extra two actions. The village also lets you draw 1 more card).
  • +# Buy- +1 Buy cards allow you to buy more than one thing per turn. For example, if you had 3 gold, which are worth 3 each, and 2 silver, which are worth 2 each, you could buy something worth  13 total, like 1 Province Card which costs 8 treasure, and 1 Library card, which costs 5 treasure. 
  • +# Cards- These action cards let you draw as many cards as you want into your hand, such as the smith which lets you draw +3 cards.
  • Gain Cards- There are certain cards that let you get more cards. Whenever you gain a card, you put it in your discard pile, unless stated otherwise.
  • Gardens- The gardens count towards number of sets in the action pile, but are actually a victory card. If you have a gardens card, for every 10 cards you have in your deck, rounded down, you get 1 Victory Point.
  • Trash Cards- There is a difference between discarding and trashing cards. When you discard a card, it goes into a face-up pile next to your deck. When you trash a card, you place it on top of the trash card and cannot get the card back. It may not seem advantageous at first to trash your cards, but if you have a lot of gold in your hand as well as copper, and you play the chapel and trash your 4 copper cards, you get to your better cards quicker. 
  • With Card- The with card allows you to give your opponent curse cards, which are victory points that do -1 damage. It is highly unlikely anyone will buy the curse cards or otherwise use the curse cards unless they have played the with cards.

3. Buy Phase: During this phase, you can buy action cards, treasure cards, or victory points. 

4.Clean-up phase: During this phase, you put any cards you have used and any other cards in your hand into the discard pile, and draw 5 more cards. If you do not have enough cards in your deck to draw, you shuffle your discard pile and draw however many cards as you need. As you may have noticed, victory points cannot be used during gameplay, and are only used at the end to determine who won.

And there you have it, how to play Dominion! It is really easy to play Dominion, and should take no more than 30 minutes to set up as well as learn. In part 2 of this article, I will give you my Dominion Review, with thoughts on how fun it is, it’s replay value, how easy it is to learn, and more! I will make sure to post this article soon! 

...Unfortunately, it came with an inlay in poor condition

Dominion's Excellent Organization System(125035)

Now that you have it set up and have learned how to play Dominion, it's time to play!

From left to right: Treasure Cards- Copper, Silver, Gold. Victory Points- Estate, Duchy, Province, Curse Cards. Trash card. Action Cards.

Dominion Set-up(125036)


Feb 18, 2013 9:45pm
I love it, the article and I would like to try out the game too! Thanks!
Apr 8, 2013 1:13pm
Looks great, this is definitely one that I want to try!
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