Holiday Games and Finance: What Can the Game “Dominion” Teach You About Money?
While Joe’s playing Dominion with his sister, brother in law and spouse (we all l.o.v.e. this game at our house), Erin Shanendoah of The Dog Ate My Wallet fame holds down the fort at the blog. Hope you’re enjoying some quality family time like we are!
Dominion is hands down the favorite game in our house. Set up is minimal, and you can get through a 2 player game in as little as 10 minutes if both the players know the cards. Every game is different, which means that players need to be open to different kinds of strategies if they want a chance at winning.
Even forgetting that you have money within the game (copper, silver, gold & platinum(in the expansions)), you can learn a lot about finances from Dominion.
Every game is different. Just like every person’s financial situation is different. Because of this, there is no one strategy works for every game of Dominion, and there is no one size fits all solution to personal finance. You have to look at the cards that have been dealt and figure out the best plan for this game, this situation. Only by responding to the uniqueness of each situation can you hope to consistently do well.
Multiple strategies can be viable options. My husband and roommate both love playing games, and for the most play well together. But they have different outlooks on life and will often see the exact same set of cards and come up with two completely different ways to win. They each go with the strategy that they are the most comfortable with.
Just because someone has a similar financial situation to you does not mean you have to both take the same financial strategy. Find what works for you and what you’re comfortable with, and you’ll have a much greater chance of “winning”.
Diversity is good. Too much is not. Currently, there is the base set and 7 expansions for Dominion. While you can play with as many expansions as you want, we’ve found the best games are limited to 3 sets- usually the base plus two expansions. 3 sets gives you lots of options, but you don’t lose the synergy between cards.
Diversifying your holdings financially helps mitigate your risk, but if you diversify too much, you lose the power of “buying in bulk” so to speak. (Average Joe and The Other Guy can both speak about this much more eloquently than me.)
Sometimes you just need more money. Other times, you need your money to work harder for you. Within Dominion, you use money to buy other cards. You can buy more money, action cards, or victory point cards. Sometimes, the best strategy is to use your money to buy more money, especially in the early stages of the game. But later, you’ll want to use that money to buy action cards. Those cards allow you to advance your strategy, hinder the strategy of others, and sometimes even buy the highest value victory card, even though you started the hand with only 2 coppers.
Early on in your life, often the best solution to money problems is just to get more–go out and work a second job, find a way to earn passive income, etc. But once you get to the point where you’re not struggling to pay the bills, you need your money to work for you. By making smart moves with your money, you can open new doors for yourself or your family, and eventually “win” the game by having a comfortable retirement. (I do hope that in real life, you won’t use your money to hinder others. That should be a game strategy only.)
Just sitting on money can slow you down. One might think the one strategy in Dominion that would work in every game would be to use your money to buy more money until you had enough to buy victory cards, and just keep doing that. It doesn’t work. While you obviously need victory cards to win the game, they don’t do anything else. You can’t spend them. You can’t take an action from them (well, in some expansions there are victory cards that have actions, but those are very special cases). Instead, they just take up valuable space in your hand and do nothing, slowing you down.
While sometimes it seems the safest way to save money is just to stick it in the recliner and sit on it, your money can’t grow that way. It can’t actually do anything for you. It’s a strategy that just slows you down.
The cards aren’t always your friends. There are good cards and bad cards in Dominion. There are cards that are good for the person who plays them and awful for others. There are thieve and militias, there are curses and witches. You can be forced to destroy your victory point cards or have a platinum stolen by the player to your left. Sometimes, you just get negative victory points. In order to win, you have to have a strategy to weather or eliminate the bad.
Bad things happen in real life. You need to have the tools to survive them. Sometimes it’s just in making smart decisions and protecting yourself. Getting yourself out of debt and carrying the right kinds and amounts of insurance can also protect you against the vagaries of the world.
Luck always plays a role, but it’s not everything. Because every player of every game of Dominion starts out with the exact same 10 cards, and a five card hand, there’s a limited number of opening hands you can have. But which one you get and how well it works for that particular game, is all a matter of luck. If two good strategies are going against each other, it’s really just going to be luck that decides the winner of the game. But it’s very rare for a well thought out strategy to lose to no strategy at all. Just depending on luck isn’t likely to win the game.
Some people start life luckier than others. Some people get lucky later on. And some people make their own luck by coming up with a well thought out strategy. And in life, it’s not really going to matter if you retire with $2 million while your buddy is ending with $2.1 million. You’ve both “won”.
Don’t forget to have fun. Dominion is a game. The husband and roommate are both competitive people and love to win. I care much more about enjoying the game. But I can’t enjoy the game if I feel ineffective. I will enjoy myself just as much putting together a strategy that comes “this close” to winning as I will winning the game. I will even enjoy a failed strategy if I find a single good combination within it.
How much money you die with matters only to the people you leave it too. You can’t use it anymore. Don’t put your life on hold just to reach some arbitrary savings goal. If you never take vacation until you’re 75 years old, are you going to be able to climb the island stairs at Tintagel? Yes, you want to save for the future and make sure you have enough to retire in comfort, but there’s no counting up victory cards at the end of your life, declaring you the “winner”, so make sure you have some fun along the way.
Sign up for our Free 2 Guys Newsletter
Get our "too-hot-for-blogging" fresh off the press, highly sought after top secret financial planning information! (and a free report in the process)
We hate spam just as much as you