Did you know that there is a five-card combo that will win the game in one turn? Do you want to guess the odds of buying, drawing, and playing that combo before someone else wins the game?
I call it the Village trap because that is usually where it starts. The Village is available in your first game, usually your first turn. Because it is +1 card & +2 actions, there is no “cost” to playing it, and it allows you to play more actions, which is the fun part of the game.
There is nothing wrong with Village. It is a good card for what it does. In the right combination, there is nothing better for its cost. It is used badly so often that I am writing this post.
Where do we go wrong? First, think of buying that Village your first turn. Great, you now have one action card, a Village. It lets you draw another card, which is probably not another action. If it is another action, great, you can now play it, but if that Village were not in the way, you would have just drawn that action to begin with. The Village is only of value when you have it and two more actions in a set of six cards (or in combination with a way to get more than six cards to increase your chances for more actions). Buying a Village on your first turn can be part of a good long-term plan, but the Village itself will not be useful until you have gone through your deck a few times and have a chance of getting a Village plus enough actions to make it useful to have drawn a village.
A Village costs 3, just like a Silver. “Should I just buy a Silver?”
The Village is the simplest, most obvious example, but you see it all over the place. Many cards give you more actions, buys, and cards. You need to be able to do something with them. Never buy part of a combo unless you plan to get the rest of the combo. “Plan” may be the operative word in that sentence. Where are you going with that Village? Playing a Village opens an opportunity. You need a way to close that deal.
The Village trap becomes self-perpetuating when you see only half way out of it. You recognize that you need more actions to make that Village useful, and that you need Villages to use all the actions you are going to buy. “Synergy!” Really? Look at your cards for a moment and think about how many actions you have and how many cards you have to give you more actions. It is bad if you end up with all your cool actions and no Villages. It is bad if you end up with all your Villages but no cool actions. You win if you get all your cool actions and all your Villages. You do pretty well if you get a couple of cool actions and a Village.
More generally, the Village trap is relying on unlikely combinations. If you are buying action cards intelligently, you are building a variety of opportunities, but every link in a chain makes your strategy vulnerable. If you need a particular pair of cards to get a big bonus, what are the odds of having those two cards in a set of five given the size of your deck? Given enough turns, you will almost surely draw it, but probably just that once. It is a lot of build up for little pay off.
The fellow who introduced me to Dominion was big on big combos. He always played for the late game, putting together great chains that might let him play six actions in a turn and maybe buy two Provinces. When he won, he won big. He probably enjoyed his wins more than I enjoyed mine, and it surely felt like winning the lottery whenever he pulled off a ten-card play. But he did not win all that often.
Don’t get me wrong, when it works, it works. The Prosperity expansion is designed to encourage that kind of thing, pushing back the late game, and one fine day I had a single turn that got me 48 points. But next week we are going to talk about winning the game before your opponent can.