Dominion for IoS: get it while you CAN get it.

I tend to follow news of IoS boardgame conversions, if you read this blog more than fitfully you have already picked up on that concept. So when I read in the the little IoS gaming news blurb on Boardgamegeek that there was an unofficial port of DOMINION, the game that started the deck-building trend in boardgaming, I jumped on it. I had a recollection of an older game by an outfit called Puffin Software called VIKING LORDS, which featured a version of Battlelore by Fantasy Flight Publishing. They weren’t amused and ruthlessly (and quite legally) suppressed the Battlelore knock off. This is all well and good and absolutely within a publisher’s rights to protect their investment and intellectual property, but still, it would have been fun to have Battlelore on the old Ipad. Oh well, sad face. The version of Dominon I picked up is entitled “Donald X. Vaccarino‘s Dominon”, and it apparently does not have the official sanction of the publisher, Rio Grande. In the past, this usually leads to an app being removed from the App store in point blimfark, but surprisingly, it’s still there as of this writing. Even more surprisingly, Rio Grande appears to be looking the other way on this app release, as they have their own, officially sanctioned Dominion app ready to land in (quote) a few weeks (/quote). This evolution has left me scratching my gob and saying “Whaaaaah?” If there was a situation that maybe required a publisher to step in with the iron jackboot of authority in order to quash an unauthorized interloper on intellectual property, it would be in this exact situation, erm, wouldn’t it? It’s not the Viking Lords fiasco all over again. Fantasy Flight didn’t have a Battlelore app on deck, ready to go in a (quote) a few weeks (/quote). If it existed at all, it was vaporware. In the case of Dominion, we have a publisher who states they have the real deal ready to go in short order– so why would they allow a knock-off right when they were poised to exploit a new revenue stream? Oh well, over my head..

The App, itself

Now this was the surprise. I’ll admit something here that’s going to make me look like a heretic showing up at the Christmas Party. I’m just not a huge fan of the deck-building mechanic. It’s clever, yes, I admit that. But it never grabbed me, it never really caught me up in the enfolding narrative of the game itself. To me, it’s just putting down cards and hoping for a good combination, and I can do that with other card games. So I really haven’t pursued owning Dominion as a real physical card game. Why should I? My friend Steve Gibson owns every expansion ever made, and if I want to play Dominion, I’ll drop by and he’ll pull it out and set up a game. But I haven’t had the jones to play Dominion in a while. The Dominion bug never bit me like it bit Steve. And that brings me to this app. I played it. I remembered how to play Dominion readily enough, but I was rusty. I played a game versus AI opponents and was soundly thrashed. Interesting. Then again. And a similar result. And again.. and again.. and suddenly I noticed something. This Dominion app is a good time! I was enjoying myself! It was doing something that the real, flesh and blood game failed to do.. allowing me to enjoy the game experience itself. I’m not a fanatic or anything but the app, at least, is a very worthwhile investment, even if I consider the purchase of seven or eight boxes of cards not to be. Are we on to a new paradigm here?

Opening Screen

Opening Screen

Artificial Intelligence opponents

Artificial Intelligence opponents. I have played the game solo so far, more because not many people own it than desire to play AIs. However, the AI is decent enough for beginners. I was challenged against two players, and definitely am getting the better of them now after about five games, though I have yet to win a game.

Game Interface

The Game Interface is economical, elegant and consistent with real life gaming experience… a game table is represented in miniature here. The screen is a little crowded and I’ve already read a good post about how to economize on screen space on BGG, but that is a piddly little gripe. The app has several iterations or sets of cards to choose from at the onset of a game. I have only used “Random” so far, but I imagine these correspond to the many published expansion sets put out for Dominion.

In game help

In-game Help Functions (in the case of the picture above, the tutorial) are sparse and economical, and perhaps not as descriptive as possible. I had a little previous game experience to draw from, so I wasn’t really confused at any point, but I could see a rank newbie to the Dominion game asking.. “yeah, but what’s the point of all this stuff I’m doing?” Which isn’t really answered well.

More Tutorial
More of the Tutorial in action.

Playing with Internet Players

I found this a little puzzling. You can HOST or JOIN an online game. Hosting seems easy enough, just hit the Host button. And the status bar, at that point, says “Mister Nizz is hosting…” however, nobody jumped in and played a game, though there were other people out there apparently looking for a game, from what I could pick up from the status screen. And when THEY were hosting, I tried to jump into THEIR games, and I really didn’t know how. Since Game Center support is incorporated, I tried writing down the player’s handle, going to the Game Center, and friending them, since the only way I could initiate a game with a specific individual, that I could see, was via the Gaming Center. Observe:

Asking for a game

Me requesting a game from the always reliable Todd Goff, whom you may have seen mentioned on this blog before.


Auto-Match, via the Game Center, yielded absolutely nothing. This means nothing, though.. maybe nobody was on or not a lot of people have picked up the app, yet. Yet, according to the little status screen, there were people online, at that moment, looking for a live game. So what gives?

Status Screen

And here is that Online games status screen I was describing. Lots of people online at that moment, none of whom could I communicate with in any fashion. I hope this gets fixed.

Conclusions When I say “Run, don’t walk, to get this Dominion app..” I’m not engaging in hyperbole. This is good design– elegant, functional, and it conveys the game experience wonderfully. Add to this the fact that due to Rio Grande coming out with an official product in almost no time whatsoever (so they say, anyway) I predict it won’t be on the market for long. So jump, froggy! I was going to make this a Lightning Review, but I’m glad I gave it a longer look (mostly because there’s really not a lot of screens to capture to make a LR review with, but anywaaay).. Dominion for the Ipad made me realize that here’s a gaming experience for which I have very little paper and cardboard experience, and I’m enjoying it more than I enjoyed the physical game. I had a similar response to the Puerto Rico app for the Ipad. That’s something new in my experience.

Look for Dominion for IOS at the Itunes App store. You may have to search for the string ” Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominon” to find it.

Dominion (card game)
Image via Wikipedia
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  1. Walt, a friend told me there is a Call of Cthulu app on the iTunes store.
    Forget the name, something like Forgotten Lands.

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