Monthly Archives: September 2010

Dominion: Best of Alchemy

Here’s my picks for the best 5 cards of Dominion: Alchemy. Not the most powerful 5, but the five I feel are most interesting and make for enjoyable games.

No discussion of Alchemy would be complete without discussing the Potion. This card doesn’t make the list; it is the essence of Alchemy, as without it the set doesn’t work. The Potion changes the economy of Dominion in a fascinating way, making cards cost not just X, but X + Y. When you buy Potions, you’re investing in powerful actions, and the actions are fun. You will likely have less purchasing power for ‘normal’ purchases (like Gold and victory cards), but you’re hoping for more powerful combos. Unfortunately, the effect tends to be remarkably longer games, since the lead-up to buying provinces is longer and the turns have lots of +Card +Action plays.

5) The Vineyard
Alchemy’s sole victory point card is fairly bland on the surface, but it’s really cheap, and fits right in with the high-action decks Alchemy favors. Vineyards are going to be worth tons of points in an Alchemy game. They make a good purchase for when you’ve got a Potion and precious else, which is frustrating otherwise.

4) The Golem
Extra action cards are fun. The Throne Room is fun. The Golem pulls two actions out of your deck and plays them. You don’t know what you’re going to get, so there’s an element of risk, but its great card economy and deck cycling. And just plain fun to play lots of actions.

3) The University
The University gives extra actions and gains an action costing up to 5. The University plays best in a mix with other cards with strong 5 point actions. There are lots out there to choose from, and in later cycles the University gives you the actions needed to play those actions.

2) The Herbalist
One of Alchemy’s two cards that doesn’t require potions, (the other being the Apprentice), and a cheap one at that. Costing 2, it’s well worth it, giving it early game appearance, and late game utility. Since it lets you keep any treasure card for next round, this will combo well with Prosperity (and in fact, I think will find it’s way into my Prosperity box as a permanent addition.)

1) The Apothecary
The Apothecary pulls Potions and Coppers into your hand (encouraging you to play with lots of both), and also allows for some card stacking after the draw it gives you- very useful if you’ve got more of the +Card +Action cards. Also lets you do things prepare for your Golems, or better, the Scrying Pool. The Apothecary may not be the brokenest card in Alchemy (that award clearly goes to Possession), it is very versatile, and offers interesting tactical decisions during play.

Mini Review: Castle Ravenloft Boardgame

Tim warned me not to buy it. Chided me afterwards even.

The MSRP is $65. It has 40 (unpainted) D&D minis, made from the same molds. D&D running minis enthusiasts may find the minis worth the price of admission alone. Then theres cards, tiles, tokens, and more tiles. Oh, the components.

It’s a dungeon crawl boardgame that plays in an hour. I’ve said (ever since experiencing Descent and similar games) that a Dungeon Crawl game that could be played in an hour would be boardgaming gold. And here it is.

The game is delightfully surprising on a number of levels: surprisingly challenging, despite being easily accessible. Surprisingly deep strategically, despite the individual tactical decisions being fairly simple (it lacks the deep tactical crunch of 4th edition, despite using the same ‘core engine’, which makes gameplay much, much faster). The rules were very easy to teach, and the game includes solo play rules to help you learn yourself, or offer a challenge on a lonely evening.

And the replayability! In addition to the natural random shape of the dungeon, there’s different missions with different objectives, some which seem harder than others, and the different characters can have different choices for powers each time they are played.

The only downside (and it’s not inconsiderable) is the rules text- they are not very clear in some parts. I had to make a couple of house rulings where the rules were vague. This is disappointing seeing as how it was designed by Mearls and Slavicsek, who should know better.

Despite this big ugly wart, this game is a heck of a lot of fun to play, and is going to be a staple of my boardgaming bag for the forseeable future.