Life Lessons: Dominion- Playing Your Cards Right.

Hey Everyone! My name is Stephen Ruduski and I’m really excited to share with y’all today (I live in Texas currently, and Y’all is a required word :). Many thanks to Steve Savage for his contribution to this series and encouragement in getting these ideas on “paper”. So, by way of introduction, I would have to say that I’m working on my Geek 2.0 merit badge. You can see more of my crazy here: … I believe that games can help us leverage into more successful and fulfilling careers. We spend so much time using games to capture aspects of life, what if it went in the other direction as well? Could mastering games help us master life objectives? Thats what I’m here to find out. I look forward to figuring this out with you as these posts progress. So lets dive in!)

Did you know that the card game Dominion can teach you how to be much more successful at work?


Today, we are going to talk about three life lessons to be learned from the card game, Dominion. Each lesson includes a business correlation as well as action items for success.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this game, Dominion is a deck-building card game where the objective is to buy the most amount of resources (points) before the game ends. Players can affect how fast cards are drawn either by increasing their own pace or hindering their opponents.

Gameplay is fast and complex, and the players must adapt their strategy as the game unfolds.

Learn Lingo

Game Cause:

When bystanders listen to a game of Dominion being played, it sounds like a list of nonsense words strung together. Rapid-fire exclamations of phrases like, “Procession, fortress, bishop, market, hunting party…” comprise each turn.

The break-neck speed of these lists can intimidate new players as they effort to keep up with the action.

Experienced players instantly understand what is happening and adjust their strategy in response to these verbal queues.

Business Effect:

Any group of people who frequently interact with one another will develop a similar type of jargon. Shared stories or TLA’s (three letter acronyms) become an effective shorthand means of communication within the group’s members.

While this is extremely useful to those in the group, it’s an obstacle for newcomers.

It is important to get up to speed as soon as possible so you can drop the “noob” tag and contribute to the group ASAP.

Action Items:

1. Translation Buddy-

The best thing to help get up to speed quickly is a translation buddy. Look for someone in the company or industry you know (or with whom you can build a fast relationship) to show you the ropes.

The goal is to be productive as soon as possible, and learning how to “speak the language” is the fastest path to productivity.

2. Jargon Junkie-

Pay special attention to the words people use around work. These terms may seem technical or relevant only to other departments.

Don’t wait to find out what people are talking about.

Ask questions about everything, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to your job!

Use your “Noob” credit to ask questions that even others haven’t asked. It will help you become an expert in record time- and you may gain a few allies in the process.

3. Gamer Guide-

If you don’t have a buddy to help guide you in the initial phase of your employment, READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN!

Read company documentation, trade books in the field, or ask Mr. Google Search… He knows everything. Be proactive in your search for knowledge.

This diligence is much better than simply waiting to understand on the job. Your efforts will be noticed and rewarded.

Big Money = Benchmarking

Game Cause:

Dominion centers around a few basic mechanics with a lot of modifiers. The term “Big Money” refers to a game strategy where players buy as much money of the greatest value they can get their hands on.

The goal is to have the most money to be able to buy value cards in the end game. This is a powerful strategy that can beat other card combinations of even well-seasoned players.

Business Effect:

The Dominion “Big Money” business equivalent is “Benchmarking.” For any activity, there is a process that will be successful “most of the time.” This process will form the baseline for effective work.

Strategies not performing AT LEAST at this level should be discarded. (Examples: S&P 500 index for the stock market, hit until 17 in blackjack, or checking Amazon before you buy something.)

Action Items:

1. Find your Benchmark-

In every organization there is a distribution of excellence. Find those in the organization who set the standard for work and mimic what they do.

You will want to eventually outshine this benchmark, but it is the best place to start.

The sooner you can perform “at least as well as” these people, the sooner others will take you seriously in your role.

2. 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle)-

All the work you do is not equal. Whether you are starting a new position or just trying to be more efficient at work, look for the specific tasks that will have the greatest impact on the organization.

Find the one task out of every 5 you are given that can make the biggest impact, and then put the majority of your energy into it. Make this your benchmark, and you will outperform others most of the time.

Engines = Opportunity Cost

Game Cause:

Once players become comfortable with Dominion game mechanics, many begin to build “Engines.” Engine decks string actions together, allowing the player to do “more” in a given turn.

This can really change how fast resources accumulate and ultimately shape how the game unfolds. Depending on the skill of the player, the “Engine” could be more or less effective than “Big Money.”

Business Effect:

The business equivalent of “Engines” is “Opportunity Cost.”

Opportunity Cost is the idea that there are different payoffs for different work decisions, and some have a higher value than others. In both Dominion and in business, the tradeoffs are time (number of turns) and the reward accumulated (victory points.)

Once you have your work benchmark, you will want to find ways to exceed it as often as possible.

Action Items:

1. Leverage Tools-

Find tools to make the work you do more effective. Getting ahead (more victory points) is determined by how effectively you can use your time to produce work.

Your tools could include software packages, performance metrics, specialized knowledge, or even outsourcers. Get the most done in the time allotted. Bonus: get the most done on the 80/20 rule above for even more payoff.

2. Look for Synergies-

Finally, look for synergies in your work tasks. These are tasks that can be completed in a similar way or can be strung together to make work easier.

Completing similar work tasks all at the same time (such as answering all emails at a specific time of the day) rather than jumping from task to task is a much more effective work strategy.

There you have it!

I bet you didn’t know that in all your avid Dominion gaming, you were actually teaching yourself advanced business concepts, such as Benchmarking and Opportunity Costing.

What other life lessons can you pull out of Dominion? Let me know in the comments below!

If you would like to offer suggestions about other games which would be a good fit for this series, check out:


Stephen RuduskiSteve Ruduski blogs and coaches on team building and job satisfaction through the use of games at .His favorite thing in the world is watching the “lights turn on” in the eyes of his students, staff, and customers as they figure out fun new ways to get things done.