I first played Heart of Crown during Anime Expo 2017, and I was pretty enamored with it. I usually don’t like sitting around the tabletop area during AX since there are usually better things to do (lot of friends fly in from around the world and it’s a rare opportunity to meet anime creators), but that year I actually spent the majority of my time there. I even entered (and won) a tournament that was held for the game. During the weeks following the convention, the game was in heavy rotation. I played the hell out of it with a friend who also picked it up during the con. We got a few dozen games in before we got tired of seeing the same cards over and over, since none of the expansions were released at that point, so we had the idea to play the game using cards from Dominion, which has way more expansion content. Here’s how we did it (but updated to work with the most recent Heart of Crown and Dominion sets):
Before I get into it, I’d like to say that I’m not going to bother explaining how either of these games work since it’s effort and also I can probably assume that you’re bothering to read this at all because you’re familiar with both of these games (and also that you have them). If not, there are plenty of resources online to help get you up to speed. Also, play both of these games. They’re very good and worth your time.
The first thing you need to do is mark up some of those blank cards that came with your copy of Dominion (and its expansions). Hopefully you didn’t throw those away. You’ll want to make 3 copies of Apprentice Maid cards per player. They’ll be 2-cost Victory cards that provide -2VP. You’ll also want 12 copies of Royal Maid, which will be 3-cost Victory cards that provide 2VP. Make sure you’re marking up the correct type of card because some of them are randomizers with blue-bordered backs; you want to mark the cards that have gold-bordered backs.
Next, you’ll need to set up Dominion in a way that makes it resemble Heart of Crown. Each player gets a starting deck consisting of 7 Coppers and 3 of the Apprentice Maids that you just marked up in the previous step. Then for each player designate some space in front of them to be their Domain. Set up the supply for Copper, Silver, Gold, and Curse as usual. Victory cards are going to be set up differently: 12 Royal Maid, 12 Duchy, and 12 Province, regardless of the number of players (I’m also assuming you’ll only be playing with 2-4 players). Do not set up Estates.
Then set up the Kingdom the way you would in Heart of Crown. 5 copies of 10 card types shuffled into a single main deck, then draw from the top one by one, grouping duplicates into the same pile, until you have 8 distinct piles. You know the drill. Finally, lay out the Princess cards from your copy of Heart of Crown (and Support cards, if you have them). Also setup any extra piles (Ruins, Potion, Hex, etc.) the way you normally would, as necessary.
If you want to play with Fairy Princess Elrune in your Princess lineup, you’ll also want to mark up 2 blank cards to make a copy of Rare cards Fairy Queen Elrune (Victory; 11-cost; 8 VPs; “This card cannot be gained or trashed by effects. When you buy or gain this, discard a Royal Maid, Duchy, or Province from each opponent’s domain.”) and Imperial Crown (Victory; 13-cost; 13 VPs), then add them to your Kingdom deck. Similar with Oasis Princess Emshiele. You’ll want to mark up a blank card to make a copy of Oasis City Nefertiti (Treasure; 9-cost; 3 coins; “This card cannot be trashed.”) and set it aside, next to the Princess cards.
Gameplay works mostly the same as it does in Dominion, with a few changes to make the Heart of Crown stuff work:
- The Kingdom gets refilled during cleanup when any of the 8 piles are emptied. Draw cards from the top of the main deck, one by one, grouping duplicates, until there are 8 distinct piles.
- Coppers give -2VP, like Farming Villages in HOC. Curses do not give negative VP but Miserable and Twice Miserable do.
- Substitute the following Heart of Crown terms on the Princess and Support cards with their Dominion counterparts (they’re fairly intuitive if you’ve played both games so they shouldn’t be hard to remember):
- Territory -> Treasure
- Succession -> Victory
- Main Phase -> Action Phase
- Second Phase -> Buy Phase
- Draw Pile -> Deck
- Market -> Supply
- Acquire -> Gain
- Banish -> Trash
- Counter -> Token
- Link Symbol -> Action
- Calamity-type Curse Card -> Curse
- Farming Village -> Copper
- Senator -> Duchy
- Duke -> Province
- Instead of conducting a normal Buy Phase players can back a Princess (and gain a Support card if they can afford to) or, if they have a Princess, play as many Victory cards as they want from their hand to their Domain. Players can still play Treasures as they would during a normal Buy Phase.
- When a player opts to not conduct a normal Buy Phase, they are not allowed to purchase any cards.
- When a player chooses to back a Princess, they spend coins equal to that Princess’s cost and set aside their 3 highest cost Treasure cards used to pay for a Princess to their Domain. Naturally, they immediately gain access to that Princess’s power and can not back any more Princesses. If they have 2 coins beyond their chosen Princess’s cost, they may choose to gain a Support card as well.
To reiterate, playing and buying cards works just like in Dominion otherwise. Treasures don’t require actions to play, players don’t have unlimited buys, etc.
A few notes on selecting cards for play:
- Some Alt-VP cards like Gardens give a variable amount of VP. They were designed with the assumption that you’ll count up all your VP at the end of the game, so including these can cause tracking issues or at least significantly slow down the game. I recommend not playing with them.
- On that note, it’s probably best to avoid playing with Landmarks at all.
- Some cards like Baron assume that Estates are in play. Don’t use them. Alternatively, use Estates. Play the game however you want.
- Knights should be in one pile in the supply as usual (you can only buy the top card of the pile).
- Cards and card-shaped things that give VP tokens like Monument are balanced with the assumption that VPs are relatively easy to get (easier than it is in HOC), unbounded, and don’t inherently cause game end to trigger. Including them raises the question of how to balance them for this variant because letting players just get a VP upon every Monument activation would be pretty bad when it’s so much more work to get VPs normally. It’s hard to come up with a satisfactory solution so I prefer to avoid playing with them to avoid the hassle.
- Split piles. You’re playing with 5 copies of each card. Do you count them as one card type or two? How many copies of each do you play with? Is it okay for people to be able to grab Fortune without working through Gladiators first? I leave the answer up to you and your group but again I prefer to leave them out to avoid the hassle.
- Some cards, like Travellers (eg: Page), return themselves to the supply. You can decide if it’s okay to have situations where you have more than 8 piles. Otherwise, there’s always the option of not using them.
- Some cards like Teacher and card-shaped things like Pathfinding ask players to place tokens on supply piles. Since piles are always in flux in this variant, you can set aside some space to line up randomizer cards corresponding to the cards in use and have players place tokens on those, if you aren’t a fan of having tokens disappear every time a pile runs out.
- Some may feel that playing with Shelters are against the spirit of the Heart of Crown experience. Personally, I’m fine with using them.
- I prefer not to play with Colony and Platinum since I feel they make it too easy to hit 20VP and end games prematurely (big money with double Witch/Smithy/etc into 1 Colony then back Laolily for a fast win; otherwise 2 copies gets you to 20VP). I know HOC has rare cards but they were designed with the assumption that on average the highest amount of coin you can generate per card is 3, not 5.
- Young Witch introduces a Bane pile. You can choose to shuffle it into the main deck or have it exist as a separate pile. Alternatively, don’t use it at all.
- Fleet causes players to take an extra turn after game end. Again, made under the assumption that VPs are unbounded and don’t end the game. Don’t use it.
- Some cards will randomly be stronger in this variant, in particular cards that require them to collide with combo pieces (since you can store cards on treasures), like Treasure Map, and of course terminal actions in general. A few more examples: Patrol is absurdly powerful since you want to draw into your VP in the late game. Messenger mildly increases in power since you can easily select a pile with only one card so that your opponents don’t get a copy too. Death Cart trashing itself ends up being a good thing because you don’t necessarily care about generating coin late game but you do care about thinning your deck to draw your VPs faster.
- Conversely, some cards will be weaker. Examples: Overlord will have fewer viable targets since there are 8 cards on display as opposed to 10, and the good ones sell out quickly since there are only 5 copies of them, so a good portion of the time you’re looking at the 8 weakest cards in the game, potentially even less. Explorer will come off as pointless since when you get to the point where you have Provinces, you probably don’t want Gold clogging up your deck.
Basically what allows these two games to be combined is that most of the basic cards are the same as their counterparts in Dominion. City is basically Silver, Duke is basically Province, etc. The starting decks are functionally the same and Heart of Crown’s Common card costs are basically balanced in a way similar to Dominion’s Kingdom card costs (2-5, with the odd 6) and they have very similar effects, with some Heart of Crown cards being straight up copies of Dominion cards (eg: Cellar -> Wishing Well). It’d be a bit more awkward to inject Heart of Crown mechanics into, say, Thunderstone, where cards cost and generate twice as much money (makes it trivial to back Princesses), there are no generic VP/coin card types (makes domain stuff and scoring awkward), has no generic class of “action” cards (makes Bergamotte weird), and every game involves playing with four split piles that feature 3-4 tiers of cards (no idea how to even begin to deal with that), among other things. It’s doable, since all you have to do is define how things will work, but it won’t be as clean and the end result probably won’t be as fun or feel remotely close to playing Heart of Crown, which is kind of the point of this exercise.
This variant does feel very close to playing Heart of Crown, but that’s it. Ultimately, Dominion’s cards were meant to be played with Dominion, not Heart of Crown, so you miss out on cards that were designed specifically for the latter, like Kunoichi which copies action cards kept in Domains, or cards that are fine-tuned for it even if they’re otherwise copied from Dominion, like Post Horse which is basically a Village that costs 2 instead of 3. Mostly, though, you miss out on cards that interact with Domains. We played a few sessions with this variant (for a total of I think about 10 games) but we’ve since reverted to playing both games normally.