While you could play most of forever using the base set of Dominion, it now has a lot of expansions. The first of them is an expandalone, which contains a second set of the base cards so you could play without the base set or play 5- to 6-player games. (They now sell the base cards separately as well.) Intrigue cards have with more flexibility than the original game.
Intrigue brought mechanical complexity that was often avoided in the original game. After all, the entire game was new complexity when Dominion came out, so +$2 and +1 Buy is quite enough, thank you. Intrigue cards tend to have choices and differ based on how they are played.
- Harem is both a victory point card and a treasure.
- Pawn does no one thing well, but it lets you choose two of four options.
- Tribute is more powerful if the player next to you buys a variety of cards and less powerful if you have been cursing him/her.
Intrigue also responded to some of the incentives in the original game by indirectly increasing the value of suboptimal cards.
- Baron gives you more Estates and gives you money for having them in your hand.
- Coppersmith makes Copper worth more this turn. Play two and Copper is worth as much as Gold.
- Duke is worth 1 victory point per Duchy you have.
Intrigue pushes players towards more flexible strategies. The actions are less singularly powerful but perhaps stronger at fitting different situations and creating better combinations. Some players start with Intrigue instead of getting the original set because they like the way it plays. Picking between options each turn is a more exciting action than “+3 cards.”
Or does efficiency win again? A Smithy (“+3 cards”) is pretty much always good. A Steward who can give you +2 cards or one of two other options might be better than +3 cards in some circumstances but will never be better in terms of drawing cards. It can also let you trash exactly two cards, so a subpar Chapel that turns into a subpar Smithy might be better in the long run. Or maybe you just ignore actions entirely in an Intrigue game and stick with Big Money.
Intrigue was the developers’ first attempt at exploring the design space opened up by the original game. Appropriately, it was a subtle and flexible one, both exploring and providing a new base on which one could build. Its theme was choice, though, and it only went so far in exploring it. In future weeks, we shall see much deeper and more focused explorations as other expansions took design ideas, ones much narrower than “choice,” and built entire sets around them.