Cult of the Turtle

Joe Tortuga's musing on life,tech and gaming

51 in 15 #7 - Dominion Base Set

January 01, 1970

(yes, I’ve skipped #6; I’ll come back to it later, promise)

Dominion is the original deck building game.  I first heard about it at PAX-East, when a lot of people were off playing it.  I heard it was a deck building game and walked away, because at the time “deck building” meant something like Magic: The Gathering.  Dominion and it’s ilk are a different breed entirely.  All the cards required to play are in the base set (although you rarely use all of them), and the gameplay is about building your deck and executing it.  With the game’s focus moving from building->executing throughout the course of the game.

There are a couple of styles of deck builders, one of which is what I call the “Dominion-style” game.  With these kinds of games, there are a certain number of resources (in Dominion it’s 10 random types of card stacks, along with four that are always there — coins and one of the victory point cards).  The whole game is played with these particular stacks of cards available (until they are all purchased, where emptying stacks is often how the endgame is triggered).  The game can play very differently depending on the set of cards out (There ar a couple of cards which we choose not to play with as their purpose is to add bad cards, “curse” cards, to your opponents’ deck, and a card which is primarily to protect against that. Since we don’t like these cards, the base set is somewhat limiting.

The other kind of deck builder, is the Ascension-style where there’s a large deck of a mix of cards and they come out to a limited pool of 5-9 or so, and when cards are  bought, new ones are brought out.  Most of the deck building games we play are this style, and our favorite Star Realms is this style (we haven’t played this one this year — yet). m (including the blood fountains) hint that things are getting serious. was the game that rocked for me. I think one of the keys was that you could save anywhere.  The other was that I’d had some time to learn the controller a bit.  What I loved about Tomb Raider started with this game.

On the one hand it was the puzzle of the environment, and the challenge of navigating it.  But what was perhaps the best, was the precision and athleticism of Lara Croft.  She jumped an exact amount forward, left or right, depending on whether she was running or standing still. I could move her through those sequences without a thought or even looking at the screen. It was a feeling of master and control — not over Lara, but over the game itself.

No, I never felt mastery over the character.  Her personality of confidence meant she knew she was capable and competent — it mirrored my own feeling of the game, so felt natural. RPGs and their related genre, the CRPG. Just that I make that distinction (which I do less today, but it’s there in the base of my reptile brain) should say something about me.  To me, the purer for of the Role Playing Game is the pen and paper game. I can envision a character and make them into whatever I want, and take them into a world with other people and tell stories.  Or, as  a GM make the world and the interesting people who live in it.

I did this a lot, and while I played video games, they were things like Duke Nukem, Doom, with an occasional Might and Magic (Swords OF XEEN!) thrown in.  But then my life got shaken up quite a bit, and most of my friends moved away, and I had nothing but  a PC, and later, once I met the woman who’d become my first wife, a PlayStation.  I had Daggerfall on the PC, which I played over and over — often starting over to try a different character idea.  I had Final Fantasy VII on the PS1 (along with Tomb Raider, of course) which I played, but which boggled me.

I mean, Daggerfall and M&M both let me make characters that I wanted to, I could play them however I wanted.  While I pretty much ignored the main quest in Daggerfall, it didn’t matter, there was so much (random, kind of carbon-copied) stuff to do there, and I loved it, flaws and all.  FF7, though wasn’t a Role Playing Game.  There was no ROLE to play.  For me, for that to be true, I had to be the one to define the role, after all.  And that’s never really been possible in JRPGs — but I didn’t know that then.  I didn’t know that to most console gamers an RPG was a game with statistics and equipment selection.  Sure that’s there in D&D but it’s not what the game has ever been about for me.