How Dominion Works

How to Play Dominion

A few cards from Dominion laid out on a tabletop.
A turn of Dominion in play, just after the Action phase. I played extra Action cards according to the instructions on each card, and have a handful of Coppers -- plus a few extra treasures from my Action cards -- to use during my Buy phase.
Photo by Elizabeth Johnston, HowStuffWorks 2012

After Dominion's setup is complete, each player should mentally cordon off three sections in his area of play: one for his face-down draw deck, one for a face-up discard pile and a larger space in which to play cards during his turns. To begin the game, choose a starting player at random. After the first game, the player to the left of the winner will go first. Play always moves in a clockwise direction.

Although each player's turn includes multiple phases, playing Dominion is as simple as ABC. During, his turn each player will do each of the following:


  • Action: If you have any Action cards in your hand and if you so choose to, play an Action card by placing it face up in your playing area and doing what the text on the card instructs. This may mean that you draw extra cards, take extra actions, place a card in the Trash, upcycle a card, attack an opponent, gain more treasure for your Buy phase or gain the opportunity to make extra buys (see below for more about buys). You must do as much of what the card instructs as possible, but even if you cannot do everything the card allows, you can still play it. Unless you play an Action card that tells you otherwise, you may only play one Action card during your turn.
  • Buy: Use some or all of the Treasure cards in your hand, as well as any treasure offered by the Action cards you've played during the Action phase, to buy a card from the Supply. These cards go directly into your discard pile for use later in the game. The cost of each card is printed on its lower left corner, and you can buy any card of equal or lesser value to the amount of treasure you have on the board. Although the default for each turn is a single buy, sometimes you'll be allowed extra buys based on the instructions of the Action card(s) that you played. (If you have extra buys but very few treasures, remember that it's always free to buy a Copper.)
  • Clean-up: Take the card(s) you purchased, if any, and place them in your discard pile. Also place any cards you played during your turn in the discard pile, followed by any remaining cards in your hand. Draw five new cards from your draw deck. (If there aren't enough cards in your deck, shuffle your discard pile and place it under your draw deck.)

During the first two turns of the game, players will not be able to perform an action because they won't have an Action card in their hand -- this may also occur at other times throughout the game based on the luck of the draw. If this occurs, you should skip the Action phase and proceed with the Buy and Clean-up phases as usual [source: Rio Grande Games].