The law of increasing and decreasing returns is an economic law that states that the production of a good first increases more than proportionally if you add more production factors (such as labour), but that at some point the additional returns will decrease. An easy example to explain is the yield of a piece of land.
In the beginning, extra hands help a lot to work the land, but at some point you will get in each other’s way. I think that this rule of law also applies to the expansions of Dominion. The first expansion provided a lot of extra fun. Also the expansions that followed were much to my liking. But with every new expansion I cheered a little less and now I even have to sigh a little when another expansion comes out.
Every expansion also brought with it some extra rules that you have to remember. Dominion Nocturne is the eleventh expansion and the twelfth has just been announced.
Nocturne adds three new elements to the Dominion world. The first novelty are the so-called night cards. These are action cards that you play in the so-called night phase of a turn. This phase takes place after the purchase phase but before the clean-up phase. You can play as many night-action cards as you like, and that makes them very attractive because you never have to worry about not being able to play them. An example of a night card is the Monastery. If you play this card, you may destroy one card from your hand or a played buyer for each card you received in your turn.
Another new feature in this set are the so-called Heirloom cards. If some of the Nocturne action cards are on the table, each player receives the corresponding Heirloom card in his starting hand instead of a buyer. The Heirloom cards always show one money, but also an action that you may perform if you use the money. The Goat Heirloom card belonging to the Pixie action card, for example, states that you may destroy a card from your hand. Another example is the Heirloom card Cursed Gold. This card even gives you 3 money, but if you use it you have to take a curse.
The latest new element is that several extra piles of cards are added to the game, which at times requires you to draw a card. There are positive cards (Boons) and negative cards (Hex). For example, a Leprechaun (a kind of gnome) yields a gold, but (usually) you also have to draw and execute a Hex card. And then, for example, you have to trash the top card of your draw pile and you get a curse (if it is a buyer or estate) or a cheaper card (in other cases) in return, or you get a buyer you have to put on your draw pile. The beans are the counterpart of the Hex cards. With a bean, for example, you get a silver or you may discard three cards to get a gold.
The set also contains a large number of cards that are brought into the game indirectly, for example because a bean or hex is triggered or as a result of other card effects. So you need a big table to play this set.
Dominion Nocturne Review Summary
You could say a lot about Donald X. Vaccarino, but not that he is bringing out extensions to keep the money flowing. He will only release a new expansion if he has enough new ideas for new maps and he has tested them thoroughly. Because he has already developed so many different cards, the new actions in each set are on average more complicated. It’s really great that he manages to weave all the new ideas seamlessly into the existing system. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the whole game is getting a bit complicated. The strength of Dominion once was that it is a game that you put on the table quickly and that offers infinite variety and fun with limited complexity. And there it starts to wring a bit.
Of course, Nocturne contains some nice cards and a seasoned Dominion fan will enjoy this set. But at the same time, many of the new cards are quite complicated and so I recommend novice Dominion players to buy the older expansions first and get to know them before they start this set.