Dominion and most of its expansions are taken as a whole, one of my favorite games. Its challenging to master, it plays quickly, you can multitask and I can play it online for free here. Taken as a whole Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Cornucopia and Alchemy* make one game that flows rather well and constitute the ‘complete dominion’ that I am referring to.
There are several reasons why I group them this way but the main reason for this admittedly arbitrary classification is that these sets are all synergistic and play by the same rules in terms of what kingdom cards do and how games play out. There is the initial learning curve of learning the rules, then a second learning curve where you go past learning the rules to learn about say the value of trashing, how fast a game usually is and how fast your engine has to be among other things. Just using these sets won’t create any sort of complication ins learning the game. Everything flows together nicely from some simple rules.
Second reason being is that it fixes the problem that just base dominion has in the sense of Big Money or Big Money plus token action card or two is boring. Action chains are what make dominion distinctive as a game and its what makes them interesting.** With each new set the odds of Action heavy games grow and it becomes a more interesting game to play.***
Finally, Hinterlands doesn’t follow the rules I was talking about earlier. the cards don’t play the same. Without Hinterlands i can feel like I’m playing a perfectly complete game. With Hinterlands I feel like I’m playing a fundamentally different game on some level. I can only imagine that this will be even more true when it comes to Dark Ages. No doubt I’ll play around the cards and get a more informed opinion about them once it gets released on isotropic but I doubt it will change my mind that it is a different blend of Dominion.
*Yes I actually like Alchemy, although I have no plans to buy it since I don’t feel like I’m getting enough value.
**It doesn’t even have to be Action chains but interesting choices created by the kingdom cards for that game, I still remember a game where every non basic treasure card was in play and it was fun.
***When it comes to Dominion I’m a Timmy/Spike. If you don’t know what that means then go read this, the classifications are useful in general