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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > January 2018 (#14) > How We Made

How We Made

Donald X. Vaccarino’s revolutionary card game was like nothing that had come before – but has been copied countless times since. The designer looks back on the origins of deckbuilding and the pressure of living up to its legacy a decade on


Genuinely new ideas are rare in gaming. Designers take inspiration from one another’s work and riff off of existing concepts, tweaking and tinkering to develop new spins on what others have done before. 2008’s Dominion is an exception. It created the concept of a deckbuilding game, where players craft a deck of cards as they play.

It’s proved massively iinfluential, with a host of creators incorporating its novel approach into their own designs but, a decade after its release, Dominion remains one of the most popular games in the hobby.

I spoke to its designer, Donald X. Vaccarino, about the game’s development, its success and what its future might hold.


“I made games even as a kid,” Vaccarino says. “But I didn’t really start making lots of games until 1995, inspired by Magic: The Gathering; I was really grabbed by the idea of interacting rules on cards. But, while I played lots of Magic, the idea for Dominion didn’t come from there.”

“I was working on a game called Spirit Warriors II, where each player would have a deck representing their party of fantasy heroes, à la Dungeons & Dragons. Each hero was represented by ten cards and you shufied them together to make your deck.”

He worked enthusiastically on the idea, but soon saw that his design had some problems.

“I realised that the math involved would be too hard,” he says. “You’d be looking at a card in your hand; it’s a card for your ranger, it deals two damage per level of bow skill. What’s his bow skill? It’s three, so that’s six damage. Now remember that number and look at the next card in your hand, a card for your paladin, and his sword skill is…

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About Tabletop Gaming

January’s issue of Tabletop Gaming includes an exclusive preview of post-apocalyptic miniatures game Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, a chat with Mice & Mystics creator Jerry Hawthorne about his latest tale Stuffed Fables, a delve into the dark world of fake board games – including tips on how to spot a counterfeit in your collection – and much, much more. Reviews include Azul, Pulsar 2849, Civilization: A New Dawn, Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Indian Summer, Clank! In! Space!, Queendomino, Raxxon, Hunt for the Ring, Photosynthesis, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate and many more.