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Playing with a full deck

Occasional platform glitches only downside to free online card game

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Dominion was one of the first deck-building designer card games.

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Dominion was one of the first deck-building designer card games.

Dominion is one of my favorite Euro-style card games. Created by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande, it's a game where players draw and combine medieval-themed Action cards and Treasure cards in order to purchase the most amount of winning Victory cards.

When released in 2008, Dominion was one of the first deck-building designer card games. It was an immediate success and inspired a number of similar deck-building games.

Now, Dominion is available online at the Goko gaming platform. At Goko, you can play against friends, random online players or AI bots. Although Goko has been plagued by delays and bad press, they have recently sent out new promotions for their service claiming "we've steadily been making improvements." So I decided to check out the online version myself.

The first thing that makes Dominion Online great is that it's free. And for a free service, the game interface is excellent. The online layout is intuitive and easy to understand. If you have played Dominion before, you'll have no problem adapting to the online version. If you haven't played Dominion, there's a handy tutorial that will help explain the rules.

Game geeks (including myself) love expansion packs, and Dominion has expansion packs galore -- eight in total, which are all available for the price of four Gokoins (about $4) each. This is a great way to check out a Dominion expansion without shelling out the full price.

I tried the new "Guilds" expansion, which was just released this month.

Guilds has 13 new cards named after medieval job titles, such as Butcher, Baker and, of course, Candlestick Maker. Many of the new cards are "trashing" cards that allow you to discard Action or Treasure cards from your hand for a specific combination of new cards.

Guilds introduces a new element of gameplay: coin tokens. Unlike treasure cards, these coin tokens are held in trust to be used at anytime during the game. Tokens can be very useful if you have an unfortunate hand of treasure cards that almost, but not quite, add up to a good buy.

Guilds also introduces cards that can be purchased for more than their face value. By "overpaying" for these special cards (such as Stonemason or Herald), you can access bonuses.

Although there is no substitute for a night of gaming with your friends, I did find the online version of Dominion very enjoyable. The animated interface, cheerful music and challenging bot opponents make it a fun experience.

In fact, I would give Dominion Online a full five out of five stars -- if the Goko site were more reliable. The gameplay is solid. However, the platform's member login mechanics, lobby interface and payment interface are still a bit buggy. I had to try several times to purchase my Gokoins with both my credit card and my PayPal account. In the end, I got my coins and I was not overcharged, but the process was frustrating.

Hopefully, in the next few months, Goko will fix its remaining platform issues and emerge from beta. Until then, check the site out for yourself and enjoy sampling all the Dominion expansion packs at www.goko.com.


Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2013 C6

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Updated on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 8:51 AM CDT: adds fact box

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About Danishka Esterhazy

Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.

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