I’ve been playing Rio Grande’s Dominion for a few weeks now and it’s rather awesome. Donald X. Vaccarino’s deck-building card game features one of the most elegant mechanics I’ve ever seen – unlike Magic: The Gathering or Legend of the Five Rings, players construct their decks during the game and the base set (and expansions) come with all the cards you need so you’re not shelling out megabucks every six months for boosters.
Once you’ve gone through the recommended setups, you’ll hunger for a random draw of kingdom cards. Now, you can shuffle and use the included template cards to come up with a fresh combination… or you can jump online and have a website do it for you in seconds.
Sure enough, more than a few people have constructed online Dominion card randomisers and, inevitably, not all turned out equal. I’ve written a couple of short reviews of the ones I’ve found, and ranked them from worst to best.
So, if you’re curious as to which randomiser you should be using, hit the jump!
#5: Card Picker – Dominion
Going to have to mark this one down immediately for only providing the base set, Intrigue and a few of the promo cards and options. Without Seaside, it’s a little useless for those with all of the currently released sets.
It’s definitely phone-friendly, in terms of bandwidth and presentation, but on a proper PC it’s spartan. The text-only presentation is alright, but the images on other sites makes recognition that much quicker. I do appreciate the small icons to the left of the cards that identify attack, victory and normal kingdom cards; at a glance you can see what the general mix is and reshuffle if necessary.
If you scroll down, you can select the type of randomisation and whether reaction cards should be picked if an attack card is chosen. There’s also an option not found on other sites – making sure cards with costs of 2, 3, 4 and 5 are available for a good distribution of prices.
Sadly, that’s about all it has going for it and, as I said, the lack of a Seaside checkbox hampers it severely.
#4: Dominion: Random Card Selector
Well, it should look great on a phone but, otherwise, this one ain’t so hot. While all the current expansions are included, you can’t combine more than two. This means it’s either the base set plus Intrigue or Seaside, or Intrigue plus Seaside. Yes, those are “ors”; the randomiser won’t let you combine the base set, Seaside and Intrigue together.
It’s fast to generate cards, and there’s a text summary followed by the card images. But the lack of configuration options kills it as a realistic choice.
#3 Dominion Deck Builder
Here’s a site dedicated to Dominion decks. Sweet, I say, but how’s your random generator?
Presentation is good, as good as other sites which provide image results. All the sets are available for inclusion, as are card types. It’s confusing at first glance – am I selecting card types to include or exclude? Playing around with these checkboxes determined it’s the former, so only selecting say, reaction cards, results in an unplayable set of two cards. Not the best default behaviour.
There’s a save button if you’re willing to register, and hitting back on your browser gives you the previous set, but the actual card generation feels sluggish. It’s not painful really, but compared to the other sites, it’s slow. There’s also no way to apply rules to set generation, so you can’t depend on reaction cards being available for attacks or trash cards for disposing of curses.
A nifty, but not amazing feature found here is the ability to hover over cards and get a clear text description of the card in question.
Conclusion? Competent, but not snappy enough if you want to charge through random sets. The lack of filtering options and the silly combos you can produce on initial usage put it behind Zack’s generator and the Dominion Card Picker.
#2: Dominion Card Picker
This randomiser is of similar appearance to Zack’s; in fact, the page says Hiwiller’s effort was an inspiration. Functionally though it’s a bit different, but not wildly so.
The most notable addition is the pre-generated set dropdown, which throws up a selection of cards that should play well together. It even includes the recommended sets from the manuals. I’m not sure where the rest are sourced from (some are from BoardGameGeek), but there’s an extensive range of excellent choices.
While it allows you to select which sets to include in the random generation, the only specific condition you can set is whether reaction cards should be included if at least one attack card is chosen. It’s better than Zack’s generator, in that it allows for reactions other than Moat, but Moat is probably the strongest reaction in that it prevents the effects of an attack completely. So it’s more of a side-grade in terms of features.
The outputted card images are a little on the small side, but it’s not like you’re playing with them. The resolution is more than good enough to see what cards have been selected, so it’s a minor complaint, if one at all. What I love is that it’s by far the snappiest generator – once all the images have been cached results appear straight away when you request a reshuffle.
Overall, it’s nice, slick and quick. I’d like more options to filter the cards, but I’m sure there are players that will appreciate the simplicity.
#1: Dominion Card Randomizer
Zack Hiwiller (or more accurately, his blog) introduced me to Dominion, and for that I am massively thankful. It should come as no surprise then, that his Dominion Card Randomizer was the first kingdom card selector I came across and used.
It’s served our group well and for a while, we thought it was the only selector that existed. It was only disappointment with a few of its capabilities that made us search for a better one.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Zack’s randomiser has a lot going for it. You can select any combination of sets, including the unreleased Prosperity expansion and the promo cards. Cards can be ordered by cost or alphabetically, with the former handy for quickly placing cards on the table sensibly. Low-bandwidth or image-averse users can choose to display titles only in the final result, and if you’re after a playable set, you can make sure cards with extra buys, actions and attacks are available. There’s also a checkbox to make sure Moat is included if one or more attack cards are.
The output produced is to the point, with images displayed for all the cards. A nice touch is coloured borders so you can easily see which sets the cards are from. Buttons allow you to deal another ten cards, or start over with new options.
The randomiser is also phone-friendly, but I’ve only read this anecdotally.
What lets the randomiser down is the inability to use the back button to review a previous selection, a side-effect of using code to update the page without refreshing. The “provide a trash card” option also doesn’t guarantee a card that trashes other cards, just one that has trashing as part of its functionality (like Feast or Mining Village).
Besides these niggles, it’s great. Implementing a “save set” option, or at least the ability to hit the back button to see the previous set of generated cards, and an option to have a trash card that can get rid of unwanted cards would make it perfect. As it stands, it’s still the best of the lot.
Conclusion: I’m going to go with Zack’s generator (#1) for creating random sets. However, if you’re after a compiled list of custom-made sets that play well, check out the Dominion Card Picker (#2).