Well, as the official storyline for the new Dominion: Dark Ages expansion game states, the good times are over (thematically, of course). For the context of this latest release in the wildly popular Dominion game series, you have moved out of your once-luxurious and now-pillaged castle and into your nice ravine. And, while you are now a beggar, you can at the minimum dump trash anytime you please!
Ok, maybe things have taken a turn for the worst. And, that fits well with the themes of the new Dark Ages expansion. With cards like Rats, Pillage, and Graverobber, it is no surprise that this release focuses on the trash, trashing/upgrading, and obtaining cards by method of specific other cards. already the nice, comfortable, humble Estates that each player began the game with in all past games have now been replaced with the hybrid Shelter cards. And, since the new Shelter cards are present in every Dark Ages game, a discussion of how they compare to the past bland Estates are in order.
But first, a review of the rules for each of the three Shelters is in order:
Hovel: Cost = 1 Coin. Card kind = Reaction / Shelter. Rules = When you buy a Victory card, you may trash this from your hand.
Necropolis: Cost = 1 Coin. Card kind = Action / Shelter. Rules = +2 Actions.
Overgrown Estate: Cost = 1 Coin. Card kind = Victory / Shelter. Rules = 0 VP. When you trash this, +1 Card.
Before moving on, it should be noted that these cards are not in the Supply, and, although they have a cost, they cannot be purchased. The cost is chiefly there in order to ease the value calculations due to trashing/upgrading interactions. A Shelter, for example, can be Remodeled into a card costing 3 Coin. Now, for a fleeting discussion of each of the new Estate-replacing cards.
First, let us examine Hovel. Thematically, this card goes well with the new set. Instead of starting in a nice Estate, you are stuck in a Hovel. What do you want to do if you live in a Hovel? Why, move out, of course! Hovel is not a Victory card, provides no assistance, and is basically a drag on your deck. Hence, this card is already worse than a starting Estate. But, the only scenario that is likely to warrant buying a victory card in order to trash it in the early game is if you open with a 5/2 divided. If all 3 Shelters are in your hand with two Coppers, buying an Estate to trash the Hovel makes sense (if there are no good 2 Coin cards on the board). Otherwise, you will be trading purchasing strength or engine elements for a deck-clogging Victory card. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, and once you land in a Hovel, it can be hard to pull a Jeffersons and move on up.
Second, let us examine Overgrown Estate. This card also fits with the riches-to-rags theme. The once immaculate Estate has now fallen into disrepair and is overgrown. consequently, the 1 Victory Point (VP) that Estates award is lacking for the Overgrown Estate. Since it is a Victory card, however, it will nevertheless be of assistance for VP calculations with Silk Road. When you trash it, the +1 Card minimizes the impact of a Remodel on the current hand, and Upgrading it yields a 5-card hand. This Shelter will be a good target for early trashing, and is approximately equivalent to an Estate, IF it gets trashed.
Third, let us examine Necropolis. This card is strictly better than a starting Estate. Its +2 Actions function allows much more tendency to change with openings. Indeed, more terminal action cards can be purchased initially without fear of drawing them dead. One of the dominant ways this can influence a game is by the 3 Coin attacks (like Swindler and Ambassador). Drawing Necropolis with two Swindlers, playing them both, and swindling two of your opponent’s Coppers into Curses would likely average victory.
Of course, these are just the beginning of possibilities and strategic implementations that can be formed with the new Dominion Dark Ages cards. As more games are played with the cards, more rare interactions will be discovered and skill will increase. Be sure to get your own game as soon as possible!