Well, as the official story for 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 series of games, you have moved from your once luxurious and now plundered castle to your pretty ravine. And, even though you are a beggar now, at least you can throw out the garbage whenever you want!
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 surprise that this build focuses on trashing, trashing/upgrading, and getting cards through other specific cards. Even the nice, comfortable, humble farms that each player started the game with in all previous games have now been replaced by the hybrid haven cards. And, since the new Haven cards are present in every Dark Ages game, some discussion about how they compare to previous Bland States is called for.
But first, a review of the rules for each of the three Havens is in order:
Cabin: Cost = 1 Coin. Card Type = Reaction / Shelter. Rules = When you buy a Victory card, you can throw it away from your hand.
Necropolis: Cost = 1 Coin. Card Type = Stock / Shelter. Rules = +2 Actions.
Overgrown farm: Cost = 1 coin. Card type = Victory / Refuge. Rules = 0 VP. When you throw this away, +1 Card.
Before we continue, it should be noted that these cards are not in the Supply and, although they do have a cost, they cannot be purchased. The cost is there primarily to ease value calculations due to delete/update interactions. A shelter, for example, can be remodeled into a card that costs 3 coins. Now for a brief discussion of each of the new Estate replacement cards.
First, let’s review Hovel. Thematically, this card goes well with the new set. Instead of starting out on a nice farm, you’re stuck in a shack. What do you want to do if you live in a shack? Why, move, of course! Hovel is not a victory card, provides no benefits, and is basically a drag on your deck. Therefore, this card is even worse than a starting Condition. But, the only scenario that is likely to justify buying a victory card to throw away early in the game is if you open with a 5/2 split. If all 3 Shelters are in your hand with two Coppers, buying a Property to wreck the Hut makes sense (if there are no 2 good Currency cards on the board). Otherwise, you’ll be trading 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 hard to pull off a Jeffersons and move on.
Second, let’s go over the Overgrown estate. This card also fits the ragtag rich theme. The once immaculate estate has now fallen into disrepair and is overgrown. Consequently, the 1 Victory Point (VP) awarded by States for the Overgrown State 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 reshuffle on the current hand, and upgrading it produces a 5-card hand. This Shelter will be a good target to trash early, and is roughly equivalent to a Status, IF trashed.
Third, let’s examine Necropolis. This card is strictly better than a Starting Status. Its +2 Actions feature allows for much more variability with openings. In fact, more terminal action cards can be purchased initially without fear of them dying. One of the main ways this can influence a game is through 3 coin attacks (such as Swindler and Ambassador). Drawing Necropolis with two Swindlers, playing both of them, and scamming two of your opponent’s Coppers into Curses would likely mean 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 games are played with the cards, more unique interactions will be discovered and skill will increase. Make sure you get your own game ASAP!