Dale Yu, Donald X Vaccarino, and Valerie Putnam back at Essen 2009.

Welcome back to an extended lunch/dinner with Donald X Vaccarino, designer of Dominion, Kingdom Builder, and many others. In this segment, Donald X discusses Dominion development, changes, and design choices. And I nearly let the poor designer eat some of his food in between stories.

DXV: So yeah, I’m not actively pursuing any of these old games. They’re old game ideas that I’ve never even tried, and I certainly might try them, that date back to the 90’s. That have just been sitting in the file, as I’ve devoted all these years to making Dominion expansions. And four Kingdom Builder expansions, and a Nefarious expansion, and a Temporum expansion.

Donald X has a large collection of games he has designed and not yet published, sitting in files at home.

DTD: And a new Kingdom Builder, and…

DXV: And Winter Kingdom, yeah. The odds are that any new game of mine will just be new. But that doesn’t tell you just how new it is. I have a game at a publisher now that seemingly will get published, and it’s from… I also worked on it a lot during the pandemic, playing it with my daughter.  I’d worked on it before, and thought it was basically done, and then it was one she would play, and so we played it a ton. And I polished it up.

DTD: Found some things.

DXV: But I don’t know, you know, how soon. If this publisher doesn’t end up publishing it, I’ll take it to another publisher. But that could still be years away. I know the smart thing is to get it to five publishers at once, and make them race.

DTD: I don’t know… I guess I’m always wondering about another deck-builder. A non-Dominion deck-builder. Because you said you often start with mechanism, and deck-building is just so hot right now. I know you said you haven’t played many, but the big thing now is to have a deck builder going on, that’s driving a board game. That’s driving a push your luck, or it’s driving bidding, or it’s driving…

DXV: Yeah, I mean I still plan on it. Yeah, absolutely. That was the original idea, right? Originally it was Spirit Warriors 2. You were building a deck of fantasy heroes, and the cards were just what they did. And when you drew the card, your paladin did that, while you went on quests on a board, and stuff.

Dominion came from an original fantasy dungeon crawl design by Donald X called Spirit Warriors 2. Players built up their characters with deck-building.

DTD: Right. And it drove this fantasy crawl.

DXV: I tried the Reiner Knizia deck-building game, and I was very disappointed. It just did not innovate the way I would have hoped. And yeah, Eminent Domain was fine. It has kind of a Puerto Rico mechanic, with the deck-building mechanic. It was a new game. I enjoyed it and I’d probably tweak it a lot. But I’ve only played it once, I think. And I’ve never played A Few Acres of Snow, but the premise was good.

A Few Acres of Snow (2011) by Martin Wallace is an award-winning deck-building game about the French and British conflict in North America.

DTD: Have you played… how about Clank?

DXV: No, I haven’t played that. I try not to play these games. I don’t want anyone… I want to be able to make my Dominion spin-offs, and not be accused of having taken anything from anybody else. So, I don’t even know what they’re doing.

DTD: Oh, no worries.

DXV: And I haven’t played Slay the Spire. Everyone tells me it’s the best computer game ever. And it’s like, it probably is great. But, you know, I don’t want to be copying them. I’ve still got my own Dominion spin-offs that I may make someday.

Slay the Spire (2017) by Megacrit is a computer game of progressive battles, using deck-building. There is a proposed tabletop version coming from Contention Games in 2022.

DTD: Which is exciting.

DXV: It keeps coming up, and they may not always turn into something else.

DTD: I’ve definitely seen two… And I hate to generalize like this, but two big styles of designing games. There are a lot of people who don’t play other games, and just have their own ideas, this is what I’m making. And Reiner Knizia has always said that.

Doctor Knizia has said in the past that he does not play other designer’s games.

DXV: Well, no, I like to play other games. I think it’s very good to.

DTD: But there’s also people who try to play every single game out there, with the philosophy of “A writer reads books, a filmmaker watches film.”

DXV: Well, you can’t read and write at the same time. [laughs] And the games take so much time playtesting.

DTD: Oh, absolutely.

DXV: That, there’s your friends… I have more time, but my friends do not. There’s just no time left for them to play other games with me, while we’re playtesting.

DTD: Sure.

DXV: You have to squeeze it in. Like, we squeezed in, you know, a dozen games or whatever it was, at some point, just prior to the pandemic. And I liked some of them, and I don’t know if they’ll have any effect on me. But you know, I can also say, I was also impressed by Isle of Skye.

DTD: Yes, Alexander Pfister’s game.

2015 Kennerspiel winner Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King by Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister has a delightful auction system for buying tiles to expand your territory. Players offer two tiles with prices, but if no one purchases them, the seller must pay the price.

DXV: Which had a… It had like a better version of the Castles of Mad King Ludwig mechanic.

DTD: Yeah, true.

DXV: Well, there may be something else I can cite. I don’t know. Gizmos is the one I bought.

Gizmos (2018) by Phil Walker-Harding is a delightful engine-building marble game.

DTD: Well, I just wanted to emphasize that Dominion was just so tremendously influential. I’m not trying to… I am so impressed with the mechanic.

DXV: Thank you. Well, I mean, I was lucky of course, like anybody. It was a very simple idea. And while I always think of… You know how everyone, how all these people copied this suite of ideas, and not just building the deck. Obviously, some people did just copy “building the deck”. And that idea, someone could have had the next year without me. You know, you have to get around to making the game. And get it to a publisher, or you don’t get to be the drafting guy. [laughs]

DTD: Sure.

DXV: Like in 2003, I wasn’t submitting games. And so, if I’d been… If I started submitting earlier, maybe Greed would have been the first drafting game.

DTD: Could have been the [Antoine] Bauza.

Antoine Bauza won the Spiel des Jahres in 2011 for the card drafting classic 7 Wonders.

DXV: Or Pirate’s Quandary, which was the 1998 one, which I was submitting.

Donald X talks a little about Pirate’s Quandary in this 2012 interview.

DTD: A whole bunch of mechanisms have come, and they’ve done little blips, and there’s fads and things that happened. But Dominion, the deck-building mechanism really seems to be here to stay. It seems to be just a component of so many games.

DXV: I mean, I think… and again I don’t know that, I’m just taking your word for it, right? I don’t know about this theme… I think the big virtue it has, is this hiding of information that makes your game more complex. It’s so amazing to get a line of special abilities on the table in front of you, changing what you do every turn. Like, for example, in Gizmos.

DTD: Yeah.

DXV: It’s so amazing to do that. But you have to do something to combat how ridiculously complex it is. And one trick you can do is to compartmentalize it. Like in Gizmos, they [the cards] all line up with which thing triggers them. So that, when you pick a marble, you can look – it’s going to trigger these things. And that helps you deal with the onslaught. And one thing, of course, is to not use text for… To minimize how much text you use, which Gizmos goes overboard on.

DTD: That’s a trend on so many of them, is using icons instead of text.

DXV: And I mean, I think you don’t want to overdo it. It’s very good to have abilities where you can get a nice variety. And like in Nefarious, I use icons for the card abilities. And I get, you know, I don’t get the variety that I would. Nefarious originally had full text on cards, it had way more variety. And I realized most of the experience you’re getting, I could get from the icons, and I pared it down.

DTD: Sure.

DXV: But, you know, you don’t ask too much of people with icons. You don’t want to make it so your game is hieroglyphics. And then there’s the whole foreign language aspect to it, where it’s very nice for the German companies to print a game and have the same cards work in multiple countries.

DTD: Language independence, yeah.

By using icons, the cards can be used for multiple language versions of the game, and the explanations can be relegated strictly to the rulebook.

DXV: And sometimes, they just print whole new decks anyway. But they’re used to the icons. Queen turned Winter Kingdom, which had text on most of the cards but icons on a few, into having icons on most of the cards and text on a few. And the deck is still in German or English or French, but they still made it more icons. Which makes a bunch of the cards harder to tell what they do.

DTD: Yeah, 80% of them don’t have words.

DXV: But that is how they like it. But tangent about icons… And you also really don’t want to use… Where you put the information on the card is important. Like it’s fine if it’s in the corner, we have power, toughness, or whatever. But as soon as you have, like in this corner there’s a 5 and in this corner there’s a 3, and where they are mean something – very bad. Put an icon next to it to tell us what that is.

DTD: Yeah, I mix them up.

Directions and spatial distinctions have never been my strong suits.

DXV: But anyway, you have this big line of cards. Another trick you can do is to minimize how many cards keep mattering. Like in Greed, which is trying to fight this very problem of there’s too much knowledge on the table. Only a third of the cards do something continually after that, after you play them.

DTD: Right.

DXV: The rest may do something when you play them, but then they just sit there, and there are icons. A third of the cards go away when you play them. They don’t sit around. And then a third sit there and they have icons that matter. Like, it’s got the gun, and that matters for your cards that count guns. But it doesn’t have an ability you need to read, there’s just that gun symbol.

DTD: Sure.

DXV: And so then, there’s this much smaller selection of what cards you played. Like, you played nine cards, and there’s only three sitting there that matter. That you have to pay attention to. “Make sure I get my 5 dollars when this happens.” And so, that’s an approach you can use. But deck-building is another approach. Where you’ve got cards that are full of fun text, and you’ve just hidden it all away and you’re only looking at five of them [at a time].

DTD: Yep. That’s all you have to put your energy towards.

DXV: You do want to know about… If you want to play the game well, you want to know about what’s in your deck. So it doesn’t simplify that. But for a new player, or a casual player, it’s drastically simpler. And so, sure, there is a nice thing you get out of using, basically taking any game that would have had abilities on the table, and turning them into a deck instead. And of course, abilities on the table are still good for games where you’re going to have fewer of them, or you’re going to solve the problem a different way. Like in Gizmos.

DTD: Sure, it’s a way to deal with the engine building.

DXV: So, I don’t think you want to always have it be that you’re building a deck. But that is a reason to do a lot of it. But in the two games I did that started as deck building, but ended without it, you know, it wasn’t compelling enough.

Donald X has said that Temporum and Kingdom Builder started as deck-builders, but evolved otherwise.

DTD: It didn’t add to the game, yeah.

DXV: In Kingdom Builder, you don’t get very many abilities at once. And you can just have them sitting in front of you. And in Temporum, you just have cards with abilities. It does the… some of the Greed trick. A lot of the cards go away when you play them.

DTD: Right.

DXV: But it’s still possible. If I do one it will certainly be trying to get its money’s worth out of the deck-building, to not just have it. Because it does also have a cost of needing to provide all these cards. Because if you have a card like “Laboratory”… It’s not that you draw an extra card every turn. But you draw more cards, to this amount that scales. Laboratory, Dominion card, that says +2 cards plus an action.

DTD: Right. And it kind of set up the precedent that in deck builders, it’s always good to draw more cards. [laughs]

DXV: Oh. Well, that was just going to be true, unless you confine it. Which you can, also. But to get this experience in Dominion, we have to have the pile of Labs. So there’s 11 cards, because we give you one to pick which cards you’re playing with.

DTD: Right.

DXV: And in a game like San Juan, you don’t need ten of those to have the experience. You could have a single one, and one person gets it. Or you could decide, “OK, we’ll put three in the deck.” And that will do it. And so, the Dominion approach is way more component intensive. And they’re the worst kind of component – cards. Which are expensive to produce, but don’t feel like value to customers. Is what I’ve been told. Spending money on the board feels like value. And the cards don’t, but the cards are expensive. It was a big issue when Dominion came out, when it was first being published.

Deck-builders certainly need to have a ton of cards. Each box of Dominion has around 500.

DXV: Would people pay what it would have to cost for 500 cards? And the answer was “yes”. [laughs] We didn’t know that, and there were side plans. Like, what could I do to cut down the number of cards if Jay [Tummelson] decided we had to do it? And they eventually, this knowledge eventually paid off years and years later, when in the Netherlands, they decided to make a really pared-down version of Dominion.

Jay Tummelson was a very influencial figure in the early invasion of euro games into the North American market, and was the founder of Rio Grande Games.

DTD: You already knew how to pare it down.

DXV: “Well, here’s what you could do.”

DTD: So, when you were getting Dominion published, you said that there was this worry about, “Are they going to make all the cards? What about the cost?” It was uncharted territory. Were there other things that you had to make cuts on? That you had to make compromises on, making Dominion? Because it kind of broke new ground in a lot of ways.

DXV: Not really. When I showed it to Jay, he had some board game designer, critic friends of his play it. There at Origins. Which included Valerie [Putnam]. And Valerie really wanted to work on the project, and felt like…

DTD: Valerie was the developer, right?

DXV: And I don’t know who said this. If it was Jay or Valerie.Somebody felt like Dominion needed somebody working on it, to make sure it ended up good. And whoever that was, Jay bought this idea. Or come up with it. And enlisted Valerie, and she enlisted her friend Dale [Yu] to help her, because she didn’t feel confident. Or wanted Dale for whatever reason. So, they were people I had to answer to, making Dominion originally. And technically, this wasn’t true. Technically, the contract gave every final decision to me.

Both Valerie Putnam and Dale Yu can be found on the Opinionated Gamers website.

DTD: OK.

DXV: And when it finally came to them wanting something that I couldn’t agree on. Which was a version of the tie break rule. They wanted a tiebreaker rule that was bad.

DTD: All right.

DXV: Basically, some people don’t like the fact that there’s an advantage of going first. And there totally is an advantage to going first. And we couldn’t qualify it at the time, but now there are online games, and we can quantify it. And you can say, “Boy it would be nice if there was less of an advantage to going first.” But there is, as there is with many games. And it totally doesn’t sink it. And you know, play multiple games, and have the winner go last next time. That’s my advice.

DTD: Yeah.

DXV: But I accepted a tiebreaker rule, which I proposed – if somebody has had fewer turns, they win the tiebreaker, right? If we both made 30 points, but you had one more turn than me, I win. And that’s a fair tiebreaker that doesn’t affect strategy in any way.

DTD: Right. And other games have had that. It’s not unprecedented.

DXV: Yes. It affects strategy in that if you went first, you have to make sure not to tie. So, it has this effect. [laughs] But it basically lets you just play Dominion as we knew it. And they wanted to just give the win to the person who went second, which I found to be abhorrent. Like if they’ve had the same number of turns, the person who went second didn’t… The person who went first didn’t get an advantage. They had the chance of an advantage that did not pan out.

DTD: Right.

DXV: So, this one, this one idea we came to a standstill on. I would not agree to it. And not knowing that every call was mine anyway. I did not know. But it was right there in the contract. I could have known. And I had certainly read the contract, which was just one page. And which had been written by Reiner Knizia. And I’d read it, but had forgot all about this. But, you know, so we took it to Jay. And Jay was like, “Well, we do what Donald X wants.” Because he knew who got to make the decision.

DTD: Well, there you go.

Donald X has said that his contract for Dominion with Rio Grande Games was originally written by Reiner Knizia, and was repurposed over the years for many other games.

DXV: Otherwise, I mean they wanted some things that were reasonable. And you know, I tried to be friendly. And in the end, it’s not like I… I mean, I made some mistakes. But it’s like I said, if you played the game the day we first played it, the very first game of Dominion we played when it came out, you would be trying to figure out what changed.

DTD: It was pretty darn close.

DXV: The end condition changed from “any empty pile” to “empty provinces, or colonies, or three empty piles, varying with more players.”

DTD: Sure.

DXV: And that was to deal with the… Going for Dutchies being too powerful. Originally it was any empty pile. And then it was just any empty victory pile. And that came about during play testing, when Valerie and Dale were working on it. And, you know, there were a few little things like the shuffling. Which was a totally a good change. Because it’s still bad if your card that you wanted is on the bottom, because it misses a shuffle. But it could miss all the shuffles. And that was good to change. And I don’t know how things would have gone without them, because I did work on the game more with playtesters, and they had lots of opinions. But there were just a few things. You know, mostly it stayed the same. And I took out the confusions. It was like, “There’s no point including these.” Once I learned that the number of cards was an issue, I took them out. Like Jay’s philosophy is always, “Make the best game you can. Don’t worry about things, like what will this cost? And then I’ll evaluate it when the time comes.” And I’m always trying to second guess it, though.

DTD: Well, it’s his job to deal with the costs and the production, and your job to make the game great.

DXV: Yeah, I mean he would like a good game, and then see – can we publish it? And you know, I picked the size. I mean, it’s 500 cards based on what I said it needed.

DTD: Sure.

DXV: And I had ways to shrink it, there for if we needed them. Because there was this question of “would we?” And Jay decided to go for it, and just make the best version of the game.

DTD: It worked. It was great.

DXV: Then he felt like people wouldn’t buy Intrigue at what it would have to cost, if it was 300 cards. And so, it became a stand-alone. So, it was also 500 cards. And then he was worried the same issue would happen with Seaside. So, we’ve got mats and tokens, we could have not had. Some of the cards in Seaside used cards to track things that are now used, tracked with mats and tokens. And I really don’t like this. I feel like it’s really a bummer to have a token, a metal token that you only use… And there’s 15 of them that you only use for one card. Game after game you do not play with that card, and these tokens aren’t used.

Intrigue was the first expansion for Dominion in 2008. Seaside followed shortly thereafter in 2009.

DTD: Yeah.

DXV: And if we’re going to make you get out something like that, I would like you to get it out for the evening, like a bunch of things use it. And my philosophy on this has changed some over the years. But it is… For extra piles of cards, it’s very good if I only use them once or a bunch of times. If I use it once, you can just pair it with the card it goes with. Where you store it. And get them out together. And if I use it a bunch of times, you can just get it out for the evening with that expansion. Like the Horses in Menagerie. But if I use it on like 3 cards, then you just have to get it out of the box. And it takes up space on the table.

DTD: If it comes up, yeah.

DXV: But anyway, so that was the thing. And then Seaside and Prosperity had tokens to try to justify costing what they did, and that’s possibly how they got the fancy metal tokens, which everyone adored.

DTD: People like glitz.

DXV: So, what was the question originally? So it was, it was what did I have to give up? And I really didn’t. You know, at first, Valerie and Dale didn’t argue about card balance. That was really up to me. And my playtesters.

DTD: OK. Well, it sounds like you had playtested it a whole bunch at this point already.

DXV: Yeah, we played it a bunch, but I kept working on it. Added cards. There were fewer duration cards in Seaside, because Valerie didn’t like them. And they really pushed for Platinum and Colony – for Colony to be worth 10 points. It had been worth 9 points. I had playtested at 10, and they just wanted the round number. They wanted it to go 1, 3, 6, 10 – Estate, Dutchie, Province, Colony. Because those are magic numbers in gaming. But they were not actually relevant here. They weren’t magic in any way. Estate is bad, and that “one” just doesn’t mean 1 like the other numbers. So, the pattern was 3, 6. And it’s not like it had to be 9, because it’s different. Because you have to pay so much more, it’s harder to get there. And anyway, 10 totally worked out, and I made it 10.

The Estate, Duchy, Province and Colony cards in Dominion are the final score cards. Over the course of the game, players build up an engine to be able to buy these cards, which are just worth straight points.

DTD: That’s cool.

DXV: And it’s nice to have the big round number. And it’s nice to push going for Colonies over Provinces, whereas I was originally trying to make them more even. But you don’t need to make them even. It’s a game with Colonies. They might as well be more attractive.

DTD: Yeah. It’s the super high cost, super attractive card.

DXV: But anyway, yeah, I basically got what I wanted. And that was a very compelling thing about working with Rio Grande. That they will do that.

DTD: That’s really cool to hear.

DXV: And you know, there’s some… You know, the companies have different degrees of involvement. And Rio Grande is an extreme, where they’ve just published exactly what I’ve handed to them. And certainly with the new expansion [Allies], what will they change? They’re not changing anything. And we talked about some things, some aspects of the production. Discussed them, but it wasn’t like I had to get pushed into something I didn’t want.

Dominion: Allies is slated to be the 14th expansion, and is due to release in December 2021 or January 2022.

DTD: It’s always tough though. Because as a designer, this is your baby. You have invested so much into it, that oftentimes it takes an outsider to say, “You know, that bit there should get changed.”

DXV: Oh, I’d like to think I’m not like that. I mean, my playtesters are not… My playtesters are not… polite.

DTD: Not shy! [laughs]

DXV: There’s a couple people who will just play something and not say anything and I’ll never know. And sometimes I play with those people too. But I have a number of playtesters who will just tell me exactly what they think, and say, “You’re ruining this card.” Or whatever it is, for all these aspects of games. One of my friends, Billy… There was some game I was working on, prior to the pandemic. I was working on a whole slate of new games that all died, that all stopped due to no playtesting. And then I made, then I got sucked into working on Dominion.

DTD: Right.

DXV: But there was one game where he said, very diplomatically, you know, “This new version is not pursuing a local maximum.” Something like that. I had made the game worse, you see [laughs]. But maybe it was pursuing a maximum that was not local, right? So, he was being very friendly about it.

DTD: [laughs] Yeah, that’s pretty good.

DXV: But yeah, I mean it is a thing you get, if they if the company is going to work with you on the game, you do get that. It’s a bonus that you’ve got these people considering it, and deciding what they think won’t work, and telling you. To the degree that they’re working with you on it and not apart from you. And like, when Queen worked on Kingdom Builder it’s almost identical to the way I had it. But the prototype did not have the chits. You just had a thing listing all the abilities that you could mark with which abilities you had. And I said I really thought it would be better with chits, and they agreed and changed the chits.

DTD: Queen has always been big on components.

DXV: The one thing they wanted was to cut down the number of pieces, the number of settlements. And it was totally a good change. Like, I don’t know if they were thinking in terms of how much wood are we including in the box? But it was… It shortened the game a little, and you fill up plenty of the board as it is, with the number of pieces. It was 50, and now it’s 40.

DTD: Cool.

DXV: So yeah, I felt like they were working with me on it. And it’s scary, too. Submitting a game to Rio Grande and knowing that no one’s gonna catch it but me if there’s a problem. [laughs] I’d better have caught it.

DTD: Going back to the original Dominion, are there things in there that you would change at this point?

DXV: Oh yeah.

DTD: It seems like when you’re in a creative process it’s so hard to decide when you’re done.

DXV: Well, yeah, I mean there’s that line. The line about Saturday Night Live. “The show doesn’t go on because it’s done, the show goes on because it’s 11:30.”

DTD: Yes.

I truly feel this sentiment. You work and work, and at some point you call it done, usually because time is up. The quote has been credited to both Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels over the years.

DXV: And you could always make whatever it is better. This new expansion that’s coming out this fall [Allies], I could certainly work on it for six more months, and it would get better. And, you know, why not do that? Well, that way leads to never releasing anything.

DTD: It would never come out.

DXV: I worked on it plenty. One of the expansions got worked on more in the old days, which was Prosperity. Prosperity was delayed six months because of Alchemy. Because Hans im Glück wanted small expansions, and so we rushed it out. It did not get enough play testing. And it is hugely flawed. And then Prosperity got 6 extra months. And Prosperity did improve. I tweaked several cards and replaced a couple. And the new version is better. But it’s not enough better to have spent all that extra time on it. It’s not… It’s nice that it’s better. I’m glad it’s better.

DTD: Sure, it didn’t warrant the six months.

DXV: But it wasn’t a lesson in doing that. And all the expansions that are really a lot better – The “Adventures on” expansions. It’s not because they got more time like Prosperity. It’s just because I got better at it. [laughs]

DTD: Well, there’s always that 90/10 rule, yeah?

You spend 90% of the time on the last 10% of the game.

DXV: I mean, my play testers got better. You know, there was so much knowledge of how things had gone with the public. Yes, I am familiar with this ninety-ten of which you speak.

DTD: Well, I’ve heard it from designers so many times.

DXV: Yeah, I don’t know. Is that really accurate? It depends a lot upon the game, because some games I really pursue. Especially games which, like Dominion, have very simple basic rules, and then lots of variety in components. And rules on cards.

DTD: Oh yeah.

DXV: And in those games, all the time is spent testing the cards, and you’re never going to see all the combinations.

DTD: The combinations, the interplay. Yeah.

DXV: But trying to establish what kinds of things could go wrong, and have we made sure we’ve tested those. But there are other kinds of games that aren’t like that, where that isn’t how it plays at all. And you can spend a much greater percentage of the time on the rules, than on the rules that are hidden on the cards.

DTD: Yeah, it’s just supposed to remind you that you could work on it forever. And it will improve a little bit. But like you said, not worth the time.

DXV: Yeah, I think so. So, to a degree, I wish I’d worked on it a little more? But so, the original Dominion. So what could have been better?

DTD: 600 cards. [laughs]

DXV: Obviously, there are several things that have now been fixed that could have been better. The Treasures having different color graphics. Which in the old days, Valerie and Dale said they tested and didn’t like. And I had never tested it. But it was totally removed. It’s fantastic. And you know, I took out those six duds, and added seven new cards, and that was fantastic. And really upped the playability of the main set, I feel. But the way Curses scale is bad. It should be that the experience two players has, has been scaled to match the experience four players have. But I went vice-versa. And so, the way it plays is the Witch will give out 10 Curses no matter the number of players.

DTD: Right.

DXV: So, as it stands in a two-player game, Witch is a super-dominating card in a way it isn’t in a four player game. In a four-player game, it is fantastic to have the only Witch. But if three people buy Witch, you don’t need Witch. It’s an option. You know, you can consider it.

DTD: Yeah.

DXV: And that’s because that’s how that was slanted. And it’s possible that I would weaken trashing a little, although it’s becoming less clear if that’s accurate or not. Trashing feels like it’s at a powerful weight class in the set of effects, but it needs to be strong enough to really make it be that you can’t… That building the fun deck is also the good strategy. It’s one of the it’s one of the aspects of that, yeah.

In deck building games, players gain more and more cards, which can make your more powerful cards less likely to come out. Trashing allows you to remove weaker cards, the chaff, making your cool cards appear more often.

DTD: And I can tell you that as deck-builders get super popular, the people who play tons of deck-builder games really focus hard on culling the deck. That is a predominant strategy.

DXV: Oh sure. Yeah, and the tiny amount I played; You know, I played one game – I thought of another one I played. It had the most minor deck-building element. It was a game of shipping cows on trains, and your deck was all the cows.

DTD: Yes, that’s Alexander Pfister’s Great Western Trail.

DXV: Ah. And I mean, I enjoyed it. And I went for trashing and won handily. Trashing appeared to be good.

DTD: Yes. And that’s what I’m talking about. The game doesn’t depend on that deck-building, but it’s a nice little side. You basically are running the whole board to manipulate your hand.

In Great Western Trail, players start with a hand of cow cards, and get opportunities to manipulate their hand while moving down the board. By the end, they want a variety of cows, which earn money, then they start again at the top of the board with a new random hand.

DXV: Yeah, they’re not using it to hide complexity in their case.

DTD: No, it’s a fairly complex game [without the deck-building].

DXV: I mean, but there… The cows aren’t like abilities on the table. They’re vanilla cards. So they’re using it to… Just as a mechanic.

DTD: It’s like, it’s a Knizia thing, where the cows are points but duplicates don’t count. So you spend the whole board manipulating your deck so that you have all unique cards by the end. And you use a deck-building mechanism to do that.

DXV: All right, I want to make sure I’m answering all these questions. And we were several questions down the line.

DTD: I’ve never had anyone listen to me this much. [laughs]. I think you’ve answered everything, honestly.

DXV: I don’t think I have. Anyway, so there was this question about this lack of control, but now I was… No, we’re going to figure out how we got on this tangent.

DTD: OK. I have never had anyone answered my questions this completely. So you’re doing fantastic, and I’m not used to it.

DXV: Thank you. I’m completely lost now, though. But we’ll figure it out. We’ll remember something from a minute ago. Because there’s just so many more things to say. Like you bring something up, and I’m like, “Oh, I can say this other thing about that.” Then, pretty soon we’re off on a tangent.

DTD: These things [my dinners] are usually all tangents. And you might have seen, if you read some of them… I mean we tangent off into the strangest things.

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