Well, as the official story of the new Dominion: Dark Ages expansion game says, the good times are over (thematically, of course). For the context of this latest release in the popular Dominion game series, you’ve moved out of your once lavish and now ransacked castle and into your pleasant ravine. And even though he’s a beggar now, he can at least throw out the trash whenever he wants!
Ok, maybe things have gotten worse. And that fits well with the themes of the new Dark Ages expansion. With cards like Rats, Pillage, and Graverobber, it’s no wonder this version focuses on trash, destruction / upgrade, and card obtaining via other specific cards. Even the nice, comfortable and humble estates that each player started the game with in all previous games have now been replaced by hybrid shelter cards. And, since the new Shelter cards are present in all Dark Ages games, a discussion about how they compare to the previous bland Estates is worthwhile.
But first, check the rules of each of the three shelters:
Shed: Cost = 1 Coin. Card Type = Reaction / Refuge. Rules = When you buy a Victory card, you can throw it away from your hand.
Necropolis: Cost = 1 coin. Card Type = Action / Shelter. Rules = +2 actions.
Covered Domain: Cost = 1 coin. Card Type = Victory / Refuge. Rules = 0 VP. When you throw this away, +1 card.
Before continuing, it should be noted that these cards are not in the Supply and, although they have a cost, they cannot be purchased. The cost is there primarily to facilitate value calculations due to remove / update interactions. A shelter, for example, can be transformed into a card that costs 3 coins. Now for a brief discussion of each of the new Estate replacement cards.
First, let’s examine Hovel. Thematically, this card goes well with the new set. Instead of starting in a nice farm, you are trapped in a hovel. What do you want to do if you live in a shack? Move in, of course! Hovel is not a Victory card, does not provide any benefit, and is basically a drag on your deck. Therefore, this card is even worse than a starting Estate. But, the only scenario that is likely to warrant buying a victory card to get rid of it early in the game is if you open with a 5/2 split. If all 3 Shelters are in your hand with two Coins, buying an Estate to destroy the Hovel makes sense (if there are no good 2 Coin cards on the board). Otherwise, you will trade the purchasing power or engine components for a deck-clogging victory card. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, and once you land on a Hovel it can be difficult to pull a Jeffersons and move on.
Second, let’s examine the Overgrown Estate. This card also fits the theme of wealth to poverty. What was once pristine is now in disrepair and overgrown. Consequently, the 1 Victory Point (VP) awarded by Estates for Overgrown Estate is missing. However, since it is a Victory card, it will still be beneficial for VP calculations with Silk Road. When thrown away, the +1 card minimizes the impact of a reshape on the current hand, and upgrading it produces a 5-card hand. This shelter will be a good target for early destruction and is roughly equivalent to a farm IF destroyed.
Third, let’s examine Necropolis. This card is strictly better than a starting Estate. Its +2 Actions feature allows for much more variability with openings. In fact, you can initially buy more terminal action cards without fear of dying. One of the main ways this can influence a game is through 3-coin attacks (like Swindler and Ambassador). Drawing the Necropolis with two Swindlers, playing with both, and swindling two of your opponent’s Coppers in Curses would probably spell victory.
Of course, these are just the beginning of the possibilities and strategic implementations that can be formed with the new Dominion Dark Ages cards. As more card games are played, more unique interactions will be discovered and skill will increase. Make sure you have your own game ASAP!