It won’t be long until avid Dominion gamers around the world get what they’ve been waiting for: the official launch of Dominion Dark Ages. This release, due out in late August 2012, is a long-heralded mega-expansion. Where previous expansions generally consisted of 300 cards (for full expansions) or 150 cards (for small expansions). Dark Ages is a giant, comparatively. The expansion, which consists of 500 cards, does not even include the Common Treasure or Victory cards. That means that all the cards contribute to the actual game.
In fact, Donald X. Vaccarino, the game’s designer, has already previewed numerous cards. The fifteen previews consist of three that cost 0 coins (mad, ruined market, loot), four that cost 1 coin (hovel, necropolis, covered mansion, poor house), two that cost 2 coins (hermit, squire), one which costs 3 coins (Sage), two which cost 4 coins (Feodum, Rats) and three which cost 5 coins (Cultist, Graverobber, Pillage).
But, the preview card that really grabs attention, both thematically and strategically, is the Rats card. In fact, Donald himself has named it his favorite card in the entire game. Before tackling some initial strategic considerations, consider the thematic nature of the card.
Many cards have thematic elements to enhance their play and highlight the interactions between cards. This is particularly true within expansions. Take Dominion Seaside, for example. Most of the cards have a nautical theme and the interactions in the game reflect what would happen in real life (ie, ambassadors often bring “gifts”). Dark Ages is no exception to this Dominion rule. And one of the most unique thematic cards is the Rats card.
The rules for rats are as follows: +1 card, +1 action. Win rats. Throw away a card from your hand that is not a Rat (or reveal a hand from all Rats). When you throw this away, +1 card.
Oh! The rules fit the theme perfectly. If you have a rat in real life, it doesn’t take long before you have an infestation. Leave a small letter of Rats in his hand, and before long, he could be invaded by them. To make matters worse, the pile of Rats in Dominion Dark Ages breaks convention to help with this issue. A pile of rats has twenty cards in supply instead of just 10!
So what are the strategic implications?
To avoid being invaded by rats, you must have strong trashers. The 4 coin cost of the Rats cards helps their use. So Remake and Upgrade, if they’re on the board, make taking those first few rats a viable option. In fact, other strong trash cans like Forge can also come in handy. Forge two 4 Coin Rats cards in an 8 Coin Province! But, if your opponent has foolishly allowed a plague of rats in his deck, be careful playing a Bishop. That would serve as an exterminator for him, especially since rats give +1 card when smashing.
But, if you don’t have strong cards to shred in the game with Rats, they could quickly be equal to Curses (or even worse, since they can multiply). Therefore, take stock of the cards available on any board where there are Rats before purchasing a single Rat. If there aren’t many good to great garbage cans in it, don’t even buy a rat. You might regret the day you did it!