Dominion is the stately Duke of deck builders and needs no introduction. Dominion Seaside takes the game in a seafaring direction and among the 300 cards are tropical islands, desert trade roots, pirate ships and hidden coves, making it feel both different to Dominion and, through the game mechanics, simultaneously similar.
It is not a standalone game as it does not have the treasure, victory and curse cards that come with the base game or Dominion Intrigue. If you are reading this review, you probably know how to play Dominion and are wondering whether Seaside is a worthy expansion and whether it both plays differently and combines well with the cards in the base set.
Dominion Seaside Gameplay
Although the game conjures something of a nautical air, you don’t play Dominion for the theme. You play it to enjoy the synergy between cards (there are websites devoted to this, of which I’ll mention later) and to thrill at the monstrous combo chains that you unleash as the game progresses.
So, does Seaside deliver on these fronts? Yes, it does so emphatically. It is just as well that I don’t mind getting trounced at board games as in a recent game of Dominion Seaside my opponent was using his entire deck on his go with 17 card combo chains, multiple buys and canny use of the duration mechanic – storing numerous cards for his next go while I was fizzling out with five or six card chains!
This brings me to the most ingenious mechanic of the game and that is ‘Duration’. Some cards, such as Outpost, Merchant Ship and Lighthouse have effects that last for your current and next go, the Lighthouse card giving you +1 action and + 1 gold for each go and the Outpost reducing the number of cards you draw in the next round but handing you an extra turn. This adds an extra layer of strategy, further deepening the gameplay experience.
In the game I mentioned, my opponent strung multiple copies of Haven, Caravan, Wharf and Bazaar together to gain enough money to buy the all-important Province cards, hastening my demise. In the game there are multiple routes to dominance and part of the attraction of Dominion is discovering them; in this respect Seaside excels.
Combinations with the Base Set
Within the game, there is excellent card synergy but how about between Seaside and the base set? A quick search online will give you a conclusive answer. There are various sites devoted to Dominion strategy and Dominion Deck building and on one site, Dominion Deck Builder, where you can specify the expansions you have, a search of Dominion base set and Seaside gave a result of 50 fan-generated decks (each with 10 kingdom cards).
The same search with Dominion Intrigue and Seaside gave 40 of these results and the three combined gave over 100 custom-built kingdom card decks. There are huge depths to plumb for the serious player with these numbers and there is serious replay-ability for your average gamer, meaning that Dominion Seaside will hit the table and become an excellent edition to the base game.
Player Count and Duration
The sweet spot for the game is three players, although it plays very well with two. The box states 30 minutes for a game and this is about right. You’ll find that you’ll rarely have a single play as set up is so easy and the online guides have multiple configurations for kingdom cards.
Rio Grande Games have gone the extra mile with components and should be applauded for this. You are provided with beautifully illustrated mats depicting islands, villages and pirate ships in gorgeous artwork that function as storage for gold, among other things; whilst these are not essential, it is a rather nice flourish and is appreciated.
You also have metal treasure coins and ‘embargo’ tokens that feel satisfyingly weighty in your hands. Again, Rio Grande could have plumbed for cardboard tokens but they chose to push the boat out with a more refined option.
Final Thoughts on Dominion Seaside
Dominion Seaside forges its own identity through clever gameplay mechanics and a seafaring theme, and is an excellent addition to the Dominion library. You will have a great deal of fun finding synergy between the cards and then formulating your own strategies for victory. The number of kingdom cards in the box ensures great replay-ability and when combined with the base set and Intrigue it seems that there is always a configuration that you are yet to try.
Some people state that player interaction is at a minimum but I believe that you need to know what your opponents are doing and which cards they are chasing whilst developing your own game plan. I am happy to focus on my own plan whilst glancing up to see where my opponents’ plans are leading them - even when they are laying down 17 cards in a row.