Dominion was released in 2008 and single-handedly launched the deck-building board game genre. Do not be intimidated, it is easy to learn how to play Dominion. When hearing this you may be thinking Magic the Gathering or other TCGs, but it is completely different. In this type of game, you start with nothing and build your deck as part of the game. You can play with 2 – 4 people (6 with additional base cards) and games last about 30 – 45 minutes. This is how to play Dominion Deck Building Game.

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In the center of the board, and the foundation for how to play Dominion, are your base cards. On each person’s turn, these are the cards they can choose to “buy”. Every game has some consistent elements, there are 3x types of victory cards, 3x types of money, and 10x random action cards. The victory/money is always the same but the action cards change every time. The base game comes with 25 different action cards to choose ten from, but there are also many expansions that have grown this number significantly.

How to Play Dominion - Card Pile


The whole idea is that you buy cards from the center to add to your deck. Then you use those cards which help you get more money and better cards. Everyone starts with a ten-card deck (7 copper, 3 estates) and by the end of the game you are going to have more like 40 – 60 cards because you have bought cards over time. The major money units are Copper (worth 1), Silver (worth 2), Gold (worth 3) and with these you buy cards. In the bottom left corner of every card is a number on a gold coin looking icon, this is how much that card costs.

How to Play Dominion - Card Cost

Each turn consists of three phases which you can remember as “ABC” (action, buy, clean-up). You are going to have five fresh cards to work with for the turn and you are going to discard everything at the end so it is all about working with what you have at any given time, no saving anything or setting yourself up for the next turn.

You may be confused as to how you actually get to use action cards since you buy them and discard them but what happens is once you are out of cards to draw from your deck, you shuffle all your cards back together and start drawing again. This happens many times during the game and is how these cards will start showing up. You should not event expect to have any action cards until turn 3 or 4. Understanding this is the biggest hurdle in the pursuit of learning how to play Dominion.


First things first when it comes to how to play Dominion, you get 1 action. You are not going to start out with any but by several turns in you are going to have many. The key is that you want to open yourself up to playing more actions. Many action cards will say “+1 or +2 action” which is how you give yourself options. By the end, you are going to be playing 4 or 5 or 6 or more action cards, because you have strategically set yourself up with combos that are going to help you get additional cards, money or buys so you can get the best cards into your deck in the next “buy” phase.

How to Play Dominion - Combo


The whole action phase is to set you up with as much money as possible so you can get the best cards into your deck. Like actions, each turn you get 1, but there are action cards that could give you “+1 buy” which would allow you to split your money to buy additional things if you want. When you buy a card, you don’t get to use it there, it gets discarded and has to be reshuffled in and drawn to be used.


When you have made all your moves and buys, you enter the cleanup phase. From here you discard everything and draw five new cards. This will be your hand for the next turn. It is important that this happens at the end of your turn and not the beginning of your next because there are certain cards that can do things during other people’s turns and there are also cards that make you discard and things like that.


The game ends when any three stacks of cards have been depleted. As I said, there are 3x victory cards, 3x money cards, and 10x different action cards, but each of those 16 stacks has a set number of cards in them. The action cards, for example, usually have 10 each. If all 10 of one stack are bought, that is it, there are no more, that stack is out.

Remember those victory cards we mentioned but have never said anything else about since, here is where they finally come into play. The winner is the person who has the most victory points in their deck when the game ends. Buying these is part of the strategy, these are worthless during the game and actually hurt you because they take the place of money or an action card you can actually use, but you do need these to win, so you need to find the right time to buy them. Besides some important key notes, you should have all the information you need for how to play Dominion.

How to Play Dominion - Victory Cards


When setting up, how you want to choose the random 10x kingdom action cards for that game is entirely up to you. There are set game scenarios that are recommended in the rule book or there is a randomizer option. Included is one extra of each action card with a different color back, its purpose is so you can shuffle all the cards and select 10 at random. There is also an amazing app that lets you select what range of cards to include and then it makes the selection for you. Any long term Dominion players swear by this app for game setup.


The original Dominion set has 500 cards, including:

  • 130 Treasure cards (60 Copper, 40 Silver, 30 Gold)
  • 48 Victory cards (24 Estates, 12 Duchies, 12 Provinces)
  • 30 Curse cards
  • 32 Randomizer cards
  • 7 blank cards
  • 252 Kingdom Action cards (comprised of 25 types of cards that fall into four categories: Action-Attack, Action-Reaction, Victory or Action)
  • 1 Trash card

If you like the base game, definitely check out the equally amazing expansions: Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Hinterlands, Dark Ages, Adventures, Empires, Nocturne, Renaissance, Alchemy, Cornucopia, Guilds


I hope now you can say you have mastered How to Play Dominion Deck Building Game. This revolutionary game has really changed the board game landscape for the better. It continues to deliver, with well thought out expansions one after another, you can play game after game that is different and delivers big fun. One of the best games out there.

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