Jul 18

Dominion Card Picker v1.1.4


As I promised not to turn In Progress into a (game review) blog, I’ll be very brief in describing Dominion. If you’ve never heard of it, Dominion is a deck-building card game by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Rio Grande Games.

I designed the card picker program with three main features in mind. First, shuffling the nearly 200 different kingdom cards to pick a set of 10 is very tedious. There are lots of card picker programs online to do this task, not to mention online versions of Dominion itself. Second, many players like to use some sort of ‘veto’ method of selecting the 10 kingdom cards. There are lots of methods for doing this, but the fairest one I could come up with is a blind veto, a feature included in the program. Finally third, despite the staggering number of possible kingdom sets, very often with true random card selection you end up with a few cards that are obviously useless in that particular set, or gaping holes in the functionality of the available cards. The vast majority of the card picker program features are designed to try to create interesting and balanced kingdom sets, with multiple strategies and viable openings.

From an analysis of the parameters used to create the ‘suggested games’ found in the various set rulebooks, here are the recommended card picker settings to produce games most similar to them:

Cost $2 Cards: Minimum 1, Maximum 2 – Having at least one cost $2 card in the set often adds some very interesting choices to a game. For example, do you buy the cost $2 card with a 5/2 opening split, or is it actually better to skip buying anything with the opening $2? Later in the game, many cost $2 cards provide excellent cycling support for your deck (e.g. Cellar or Crossroads), but when is the ideal time to go back and maybe overpay for them? Having too many cost $2 cards, however, often means one or more will get ignored as useless. Functionally, there just aren’t many different ‘types’ of cost $2 cards.

Cost $3 Cards: Minimum 1, Maximum 3 – It’s the quintessential decision in Dominion: Is x Action card better than a Silver (for my deck right now)? This decision of course requires actually having cost $3 (and to some extent cost $4) cards in the set to compare Silver against.

Cost $4 Cards: Minimum 2, Maximum 3 – Cost $4 and $5 Action cards are typically the cards that you build a deck around, so-called ‘engine’ cards. Having a variety of these cards available is essential for interesting mid-game decisions.

Cost $5 Cards: Minimum 2, Maximum 4 – Described above.

Include at least 1 card that provides additional buys or gains: checked – Having the possibility of purchasing or acquiring more than one card per turn fundamentally alters the game, and lends itself to many interesting game decisions. It also has neat implications for the ‘penultimate Province rule’, or the idea that when behind on points you want to avoid purchasing the second-to-last Province, hopefully prolonging the game. The option of multiple buys can allow for more rapid point total changes, an increased ability to come back from behind, and in some kingdom sets allow for ‘mega-turn’ opportunities.

Include at least 1 card that lets you trash or return other cards: unchecked – A lot of players like having the option of trashing cards to thin their decks, and heavy trashing lends itself well to engine decks, however there are also important strategic aspects to sets with no ability to trash cards. More specifically, cards that cycle, skip, or discard low-value cards are a much higher priority in these situations, yet are often ignored in the presence of strong trashing.

Include at least 1 card that provides +2 or more cards: checked – In the absence of good options for engine decks, games often end up being the unexciting ‘big money’ + one terminal Action.

Include at least 1 card that provides +2 or more actions: checked – Extra Actions are required for nearly all engine decks.

Only allow Attack cards if there is at least one relevant Reaction or lighthouse card: unchecked – Some players really hate Attack cards, to the point where they will only use one if there is a reaction card to counter it available. That aside, there are interesting decisions to be made about Attack cards, perhaps especially when there are no defenses for them available.

¬†Don’t allow more than (2) Attack cards: checked – Many Attack cards are somewhat redundant, and most Attack cards slow the pace of the game down. Having too many Attack cards in a game tends to produce very slow games, where most of the attack cards get ignored in favor of the really strong one.

Don’t allow more than (5) terminal Action cards: checked¬† – Too many terminal actions typically means a lot of ignored Actions *and* ‘big money’ + one terminal action decks.

Don’t allow more than (3) non-Action cards: checked – Many Victory (only) and Treasure cards are somewhat redundant, and tend to get ignored. They also limit the available options for engines and Action cards in general, which most players seem to prefer.

Minimize 5/2 vs. 4/3 opening strength variation: checked -This feature deserves some explanation, because it’s not all that intuitive. To my knowledge, this card picker was the first program to attempt to create Kingdom sets using councilroom.com data, and the only one that uses best/worst buy data for card selection purposes. For reference, councilroom.com stores the complete game data for the millions of games of Dominion played via the Isotropic Dominion server. As one of its features, it lists the relative strength (averaged across all recorded games) of each specific first and second turn buy (i.e. how much more/less likely is that particular opening to lead to a win). One of the frustrating parts of Dominion is the feeling that you’ve lost the game by the second turn simply because you got $4 and $3 on your first two turns, and your opponent got $5 and $2. So, this feature compares the best-available $5/$2 buys against the best-available $4/$3 buys, and simply eliminates the set if the difference between the two is outside a specific range (currently I use a value of >1.5 strength). Update: if you are using the Dark Ages set, unfortunately you will need to uncheck this option, as there is no councilroom.com data for Dark Ages.

Reject sets with useless or redundant cards: checked – Despite having worked on the various filters and restrictions included in this option a lot, this option probably still needs the most work. The intent of this option is to help create Kingdom sets where there are zero totally-ignored cards, where each and every card cannot be quickly dismissed as useless. The result is definitely not perfect, and I’d always welcome suggestions for how to adjust these filters, in particular. In v1.1.4, this checkbox includes the following list of restrictions and filters:

  • Only allow Quarry if there is at least one Festival, Market, or an Action card costing 6 or more.
  • Only allow Scout if there is at least one Baron, Crossroads, Explorer, Hunting Party, Farmland, Tournament, Tunnel, Action/Victory, or Treasure/Victory card.
  • Only allow Chancellor if there is at least one Baron, Counting House, Explorer, Hunting Party, Inn, Minion, Stash, Treasure Map, or Tournament card.
  • Only allow Counting House if there is at least one Ambassador, Chancellor, Coppersmith, Ill-Gotten Gains, Moneylender, or Mountebank card.
  • Only allow Workshop, Ironworks, or Talisman if there is at least one Bishop, Bridge, Caravan, Conspirator, Crossroads, Envoy, Fishing Village, Fool’s Gold, Gardens, Great Hall, Highway, Island, Menagerie, Scheme, Silk Road, Smithy, Throne Room, Tournament, or Warehouse card.
  • Only allow Tunnel if there is at least 1 card that allows you to discard or at least 1 hand-reducing Attack card.
  • If there is a Chapel, don’t allow Loan, Moneylender, or Spice Merchant.
  • Only allow Reaction and Lighthouse cards (other than Fool’s Gold, Trader, Tunnel, and Watchtower) if there is at least one relevant Attack card.
  • Don’t allow multiple cost 2 cards that provide +1 Card and +1 Action.
  • Don’t allow multiple same-cost cards that let you trash or return other cards.
  • Don’t allow more than 3 cards that let you trash or return other cards.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 3-4 card that lets you trash or return other cards.
  • Don’t allow multiple same-cost cards that provide +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 3-5 card that provides +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 5-6 card that provides +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 2-3 card that provides +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 Reaction or Lighthouse card (except Fool’s Gold, Trader, Tunnel, and Watchtower).
  • Don’t allow more than 1 hand-reducing Attack card.
  • Don’t allow more than 2 curse-giving Attack cards.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 treasure-trashing Attack card.
  • Don’t allow both King’s Court and Throne Room.
  • Don’t allow both Workshop and Ironworks.
  • Don’t allow both Nomad Camp and Woodcutter.
  • Don’t allow both Envoy and Smithy.
  • Don’t allow both Market and Grand Market
  • Don’t allow more than 1 Hunting Party, Laboratory, or Stables card.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 cost 5 Treasure card.