Dominion is, thematically, a game about monarchs attempting to expand their kingdom. Mechanically, it is a deck-building game where players buy cards each turn to add to their decks, slowly growing more powerful as the game progresses. It's fun to play in small groups. Here's a quick guide to the basic rules of Dominion.
Number of Players
2 to 4
The game is made up of 500 cards. There are three large piles of treasure cards: copper, silver, and gold. There are smaller piles of each victory card: provinces, duchies, and estates. 30 curse cards come with the game. There are 250 Kingdom Cards, 10 each of 25 types. And finally, there is one placeholder card for each type of card mentioned above, as well as a trash-pile card.
To have the most victory points when the game ends.
Place the three treasure piles in a row on the table. Next to them, place the victory cards: for two players, place eight each of provinces, duchies, and estates on the table. For three or four players, use 12 of each of these victory cards instead. Place the curses on the table, ten for each player beyond the first.
Finally, choose ten Kingdom cards to place on the table. Players may agree upon these cards using any method they like. Generally speaking, it is useful to arrange them in ascending order of purchase cost.
Each player receives 7 copper and 3 estates as a starting deck. Note that these estates come from the remainder in the box, and not from the victory pile already on the table. Each player shuffles their deck, draws five cards, and the game begins with whoever is chosen as the starting player.
How to Play
Your turn consists of four phases:
Action: You may play one action card from your hand. Follow the directions on the card, which may instruct you to draw additional cards, gain spending power for your upcoming Buy phase, or give you extra actions to play additional action cards.
Buy: You may purchase any one card in a pile on the table. To do so, play treasure cards from your hand until the value is at least as high as the purchase price of the card you want to buy.
Cleanup: The card you purchased, all cards that you played, and any cards remaining in your hand, are all placed in your discard pile.
Draw: Draw five cards from your deck to replenish your hand. If there are not enough cards in your deck, shuffle your discard pile, and it becomes the base of your draw pile.
The game ends when the last Province is bought, or when three piles are empty. (In a four-player game, when four piles are empty.) Players count the victory points in their decks, and the player with the most points wins! In the case of a tie, whoever went first loses.