[Editors note: The following is a Nemesis Review, featuring opinions from our in-house eurogamer, @Farmerlenny, and his deadly enemy the thematic space-loving @Futurewolfie. Make sure to read both opinions to get a better overall picture of the game!]
Dominion: Seaside is the second expansion for Dominion. It is a straight expansion and does not include all of the bits you need to play; in order to use Seaside, you must have Dominion or Dominion: Intrigue.
How It Plays
The theme of Seaside is “your next turn.” Seaside introduces a new kind of action card, the “Action-Duration,” which produces some effect immediately and another (generally less powerful) effect on your next turn. So, for example, Fishing Village gives its player +2 actions and +1 coin on the turn it’s played and +1 action, +1 coin on the following turn. (Duration cards remain in front of a player during clean up; they are discarded at the end of the following turn.)
Seaside also introduces bits and player mats to Dominion, including mats for Pirate Ship, Native Village, and Island, and metal coins and embargo tokens that come into play with certain cards. Seaside also offers some of the nastiest attacks in the game: Sea Hag (a cost-4 cursing attack), Ghost Ship, and Ambassador. These are dangerous waters, but the spoils you can reap might make traversing them worth your while.
Seaside, to me, is the least essential of the big-box expansions. While the concepts it introduces are interesting and sometimes fun to play with, they also seem to have more of a novelty factor than adding exciting new gameplay options. That being said, I still mix it in each time I play, but I would recommend its coming last in the buying order if you’re just starting out in the world of Dominion.
I do enjoy several of the cards in Seaside, and the duration actions add an interesting twist to the game (though they are harder for new players to remember the rules for—don’t clean them up right away!). My favorite card in Seaside is the new victory card, Island. Island is a Victory/Action card, and while worth 2 VPs, it allows its player to set it and another card aside for the remainder of the game. This is a great way to keep your deck lean and to keep your victory cards safe from would-be attackers.
I also like the Smugglers card. Smugglers allows its player to gain a card costing up to 6 that the player to their right gained last turn. Since buying is a form of gaining, there are lots of options for this card. It keeps players on their toes as buying a gold on their turn may enable another player’s smuggler. Smugglers is by no means the most powerful card in the set, but I like the added tension it develops.
Another card I enjoy from Seaside is Ambassador. This card allows its player to reveal and return up to two cards from his hand to the supply, forcing each other player to gain a copy of it. It’s a good way to get rid of copper or curses and gum up your opponents’ decks in the process. (Of course, as is always the case in Dominion, what goes around comes around.)
Pirate Ship is an interesting attack that allows a choice: either attack other players (similar to thief: each other player reveals two cards from their deck, trashing a treasure card of your choice) or get +X coins, where X equals the number of times the attack was successful. (You keep track of X using the provided metal coin bits, which have a great tactile feel, by the way.)
I said that Seaside is the least essential of the big-box Dominion expansions, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad set. The cards contained in the box are fun to play with, and they do add a sense of the roiling chaos of the deep blue sea to a mostly straightforward game. I just think Intrigue is the most essential expansion (adding many more victory options), and Prosperity adds replayability in a way that Seaside doesn’t. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in Seaside, but those on a tighter budget may want to start elsewhere.
I think there’s a good reason why Seaside does not come as a standalone expansion when Intrigue does. Aside from the 6-player additional rules in Intrigue (or 8-player with 2 games without having to buy a superfluous copy of the original), Seaside is pretty intense by itself. There are plenty of tough attacks, from the Pirate Ship, to the Ghost Ship, the Sea Hag, and more. There are a few other memorable cards (mentioned by @FarmerLenny above) but for the most part, Seaside doesn’t really stand out as a whole. The duration cards are an interesting variation on playing cards, but most of them don’t add a whole lot, and they’re just not as exiting as the Prosperity treasure cards or the complex choices of Intrigue. It’s also very easy to forget not to clear them off, and as most of the bonus comes in the next round, this can cost you pretty big. I’m certain that I’ve lost games because of my natural tendancy to clear everything in front of me.
Seaside is best mixed in with other sets. The coins and embargo tokens are pretty and shiny and fun to have. The duration cards mix things up, and the new cards and variants on old cards just add more variety and replayability. If you love the ever-expanding world of Dominion, Seaside mixes well and is a worthy purchase; however, alone it is pretty intense and not as cohesive as Prosperity.
[Edit: the following was added by @Futurewolfie on December 4, 2012:]
Most of the time, my opinion on a game doesn’t change very much over time. Maybe a slight decrease in value as a game begins to wear thin, or an increase as I find it works well coming again and again. After several months and many more uses of Seaside, my opinion of the expansion has changed drastically.
The game has grown on me quite a bit. While it’s not quite as exciting as Prosperity, it does add a whole wealth of ways to manipulate your deck, as well as the decks of other players. From islands that let you stock up on cards over time to either get them out of your deck, or save them up for one epic game-ending-in-a-landslide hand, to duration cards that let you set up future turns, to attacks that add loads of bad cards to your opponents or cut down their hands, Seaside adds a large array of exciting, strategic options. It is a bit “tougher” in this sense, since you can be affected easily, but there are plenty of ways to do well by yourself.
Seaside cards often SEEM like they should blast their way through your hand, but in actuality it’s more about patience, more about scheming and planning ahead, and when you realize that, the cards you can get are quite excellent and a lot of fun to use and play. Seaside has become one of my favorite expansions (okay, I think at some point I have claimed all of the Dominion expansions as one of my favorites. What can I say, it’s a great game with great additions), and sometimes I even prefer it to Prosperity, although certain players wont enjoy it as much. I do know that I always look forward to the Seaside cards that get randomly mixed in to our Dominion setups.