Dominions 5! Jumping right in

Dominions 5 has released, so I’ll be blogging a game of it, and since it’s a new game which will probably have many new players, I’ll be adding explanatory footnotes explaining game concepts. These will assume that you’ve at least peaked at the manual or some form of tutorial, though I intend to write a very basic tutorial of my own soonish.

I’m going to jump right in, and I’ve already decided to do it as Mictlan1. I had a somewhat famous game in Dominions 4 where I lost on turn nine, and I’m going to replicate it, except hopefully without the bit where I lose. First of all, I try a moderate pretender based on what seems cheap and effective:

It’s cute but didn’t end up being the final play. Blood bond isn’t as good as I hoped, even with regeneration. It splits damage between blessed units, so in theory no unit should be getting more damage than Regeneration2 can fix. In practice, I found (in a single-player test game) that it was hard to build enough units for it to function well without being super conservative in the expansion phase. Blood Surge3 did help survivability during expansion a lot, but not enough to pull off using that as the only bless for a strategy that wants numbers as much as this one does. I also found Stygian Flesh[^4] to not really pull its weight defensively, and heat aura4 proved to be largely irrelevant the way I was using it. Not terrible, but not the ideal strategy.

Taking these things into account, I rolled out with a different build.

The focus on stats was nice, and the scales were barely good enough to not hurt my expansion, but I came to find that the death and air bits weren’t worth the points, as withering weapons5 didn’t act fast enough to matter, and the swiftness didn’t do enough on units without high move to begin with. It could be great with sacred cavalry and/or quickness, but not worth it in this situation. The downside to this is that my sacreds are defensively poor until the third year, when the earth and nature come into play, but I think that’s an issue that can be handled well enough. The other problem is the low number of recruitment points6 in the capital: It’s enough for six jaguar warriors (with the other holy point then going to a priest) but that leaves very little for warriors to throw javelins7. Luckily, I don’t need a lot of those anyway.

With some refinement, I came up with:

But after discussing it with people online, I decided to make some revisions. There was no weapon enhancement, and Mictlan sacreds have mediocre weapons, so I took Solar Weapons, which give three damage with extra against the undead and demons. More importantly, they’re magic, bypassing a lot of resistances and immunities. I had to sacrifice some magic resistance for that, but only my recruitable units really need it – the summoned sacreds have plenty, especially since later in the game I’ll be able to cast Antimagic8 with Moon Priests anyway. And since I have a lot of sacreds, the incarnate survivability, which was very expensive, is not actually that important – so I tried a scales build instead.

I probably could have kept revising my pretender for ages, but then the game started.

This is a game with no particular gimmicks, and in fact I ran it myself because everyone else was just making silly games with the cataclysm (doom horrors attack thrones) at turn five. That’s not really a game, it’s essentially just tooling around until randomness and AI end things, so I could do it in singleplayer just the same.

Turn One

My starting position isn’t bad. It’s frozen because of my scales, but I’ve got enough dominion to avoid an incidental domkill – not that I’m playing that kind of game. I have a farm next to me, which isn’t the perfect situation (since they’re often well defended) but the income is always nice. Other than that, my surroundings look like perfect expansion targets, and there are two different thrones each only two provinces from my capital, which is pretty much the ideal distance – close enough to easily reach and defend, but not in my cap-ring, where they would divert resources from my capital.

Anyway, first things first, I need jaguar warriors.

I’d like to have a good mage (the four to the right of the commander list), and particularly a high priest of the sun, for the three levels of holy magic, but I can’t have that and eight jaguars, so I’ll do without. Instead I instruct my starting commander to become a prophet9 – there’s no point in using a scout since I really need a H3 to lead my troops anyway, and he’ll likely die at some point.

Since it’s only the first turn, that’s all I can do.

But for the sake of mild bemusement at people’s creativity, here’s the pretender names:

It’s also time to evaluate these guys. Omphalos has a bunch of astral-sounding titles10, which makes me think I might see ethereal Wind Lord thugs, which is kind of terrifying.
Marverni’s titles don’t tell me anything, but his pretender name implies it’s not a bless build, and someone talked about playing Marverni in a non-bless fashion in the thread. Someone also talked about Sequani not being very good any more though. If those people are both him, then this player will be trying something that was not normal for the nation in Dominions 4, which is always fun.
Sauromatia has the title Lord of the Elements, implying bless points from the four elemental paths (earth, water, air, fire) and someone posted a picture of the Warrior Sorceress with the caption “this is your new ponywoman, say something nice about her” so we can guess that’s going to be a blessed thug too.
Chinese Novels looks like a scales build with some light bless.
Natural Hotsprings is me. The warm blood of my blood fountain will help the people of Mictlan fight off the cold winter.
Innovative Imprisoned Bless tells you what he’s doing right in his pretender name. His titles indicate heavy blood and death paths.
I don’t recognize the Birds paths, though “Watcher of Gallows” could be death and “Lady of Dreams” could be astral or maybe air. There’s been a lot of talk in the thread on how to play caelum and whether or not to use Charge Body bless.
Sphink is probably a Sphinx pretender. The titles are mostly scale-related, I think it might be a rainbow pretender or expander.
Pangaea has nature, death, and water titles. Probably a white centaur bless.
Niefelheim has a growth/N title and an Awake title, so presumably a blessrush build with regeneration.
Rus (Gandalf) has high dominion strength and “Feeder on Impurity, Devourer of Sins” which I don’t recognize.
Lanka demons are going to be my big rival for unique blood summons and artifacts. Their pretender has big earth magic, probably a bless aimed at keeping their lightly armored summonable sacreds alive longer.
No idea what Yomi or Seamen Demon are up to, though Berytos is another possible rival for blood stuff.

Turn Two

With the indies near me revealed, I can plan my expansion now. The province to the north contains elephants, so I’d like to leave it for later. To the southeast, there’s a poorly defended province that I could take, but I think that’ll be my second expansion path. My first will go not to the edge of the map, but the middle. This is a slightly more dangerous play, because the middle is more likely to be surrounded, but the edges are also less likely to have fellow expanders coming from the other direction to contest my armies. I’ll still go that way though. I hope to encircle and seal of some areas (using my knowledge that there are no aquatic nations in the game) for future expansion. To that end, I planned out the following expansion paths:

Those were always optimistic. It was likely that I will encounter another nation at some point which will require one or more of these to take a less ambitious path. But that was even before I switched up the map filters and saw something new:

That black candle denotes enemy dominion, which means there’s a foreign god nearby. Never mind efficient expansion, I’m going to get provinces near him before he can. If he’s close enough (and we may even share a cap circle) I may be able to destroy him before he can establish himself (I have decently blessed units) and then domkill him using blood sacrifices. On the other hand, if he’s got a bless rush planned, I may be in deep trouble. My location means I’d be a very good target for this player since if he took my land, he’d have one less border to worry about, what with the coast being there. The game just got very tense and it’s only turn two.

Turn Three

First things first: Expansion successful.

Now, let’s see whose capital is near…

Nobody. What? There must be some site or event causing that black candle thing. Well, that’s a relief. Maybe. It could be that there’s a gap between it and my nearest neighbor. Well, let’s see if anything stands out about the province I took and…

Wow. This is an incredibly good site, it gives a discount to magical items constructed. It’s so good that it’s probably worth building a fort here, even though it’ll make trouble for my capital, resource-wise.

Looking at other new things revealed this turn, the throne has spring hawks, so it’ll be a hard one to take )and as a result, I’m planning to leave it for a while.

And my scout has found my first rival. It’s Rus, the new bear nation. So they’re the ones that my second expansion party will try to block off, and if all goes well, since they’re near the edge of the map, they’ll be the ones I take as my first conquest.

Turn Four


I found Rus’s capital and I’m definitely going to have to fight. He’s got a dragon, which may be kind of tough to deal with, though I think my jaguars can handle it. But this means I’m going to war instead of expanding, which will absolutely hobble me early on. My best hope is to defeat him so decisively that he just gives up, which is kind of an unfortunate thing as far as everyone having fun goes, but if he tries to really fight me, he can definitely hurt me a lot.

Well, to start with, let’s see what we’re up against. The bless includes fire resistance and heat aura. I think I can take him regardless, but he has fear (10) which is bad enough, and the fire resistance will make him immune to my solar weapons – in total, he has 29 fire resistance, which isn’t an amount that I can get through. Even his 18 protection is going to be tough, but his defense is only eleven and he’s not unsurroundable. He’ll definitely be expensive to kill though. Well, might as well get started.

This was supposed to be an expansion army but… It’s possible. Fifteen jaguars and one sun priest definitely have the theoretical potential to kill a dragon. If they can catch him.

The other thing to do is make him wish he wasn’t fighting me, to which end I’ll move my first expansion army onto his capital.

Turn Five

I didn’t get the dragon, it flew away. I also easily besieged Rus’ capital, which means that this war is now officially hurting him more than it hurts me. But he took another of my provinces. There was only province defense to fight, but it let me get a look at what he’s got out this early.

That Son of Heaven is his prophet, incidentally.

It seems like he’s committed enough to hurt me but doesn’t seem to have enough available to actually win without the investment weakening his own position.

In other news, I’ve found another nation.

Turn Six

Well, I’ve been largely victorious this turn. Took two provinces. Unfortunately, one was a province that I already took. I’m winning so far but my expansion is bad.

More unfortunately, I’m only fighting PD. One of those was 17 PD, which means Rus paid an exorbitant 152 gold for it, but because this was a province with amazons and pegasi, it did kill five jaguar warriors (130 gold) and wound many others. That means I’ll have less for the hard part: Taking and holding his capital, where the dragon now resides alongside 30 other units consisting mainly of Rusian hunters and warriors.

Oh, and I’ve seen more neighbors.

In addition to Pangaea and Sauromatia (visible), there’s now black candles to my west, implying a nearby neighbor over there, and I think the ones due east of me are probably not from Rus, implying an additional near neighbor.

Turn Seven

Rus didn’t attack me again. I’ve got him down to just a sieged capital now… But there’s still a dragon there. I’m going to have to either sacrifice a lot of jaguars (which I would rather not) or build up temples, forge jade daggers, and flood them out with my dominion. That’s my preferred strategy but it will take a while, during which time Rus may summon stuff to fight of my siege forces. I also need to keep expanding – something bad has already happened. Yomi came up and expanded into my cap ring. That’s just embarrassing – my expansion has been dreadful thanks in part to this war. Of course, since it is cap-ring, maybe he’ll be generous to avoid war. He also may think I’m exposed and attack me, which would be a bummer. But it’s worth a shot.

Aside from this, I’ve seen Pangaea’s pretender via scouting and it’s the black bull, and I’ve taken a province with a particularly handy indy mage.

Including randoms, that will give me access to three paths that I don’t otherwise having. The level is low, but I can still have them search for sites which will give me gem incomes that I can then use as a purchasing currency from other nations or for some particular future strategy.

Turn Eight

Well, it seems the war may be over.

I’m pretty sure that acronym is supposed to stand for “good game well played”. There’s two problems with that theory, the first of which being that there’s an extra W, but I assume that was either a typo or has some additional meaning that I, no longer being hip with the kids, am unaware of. The other issue is that he hasn’t actually gone AI or anything, he’s still officially in the game. That being the case, it may be that this is a scheme to make me let my guard down but… I doubt it. Such misdirection would be inconsistent with his level of play so far; it’s unfortunate that I can’t really return the sentiment. He didn’t play well, his early attack on me was ill-considered and lacked follow-through. Still, with a new version of Dominions out, it’s fair to suppose that this is because he hasn’t played a lot before. It’s a shame his first game resulted in a loss so quickly.

Moving along to other diplomatic means, I’ve received a message from Yomi. Since only one turn has passed since I sent mine, he must have sent this before reading mine, and therefore it naturally bears no acknowledgement of my proposal.

This is a Japanese greeting used the first time you see someone in the day, and is normally translated as “good morning”. Presumably he’s sent this because it’s the first time he’s seen me this game, and to communicate that he means no particular harm. I’d have used something like “doumo hajimemashite” which is an archaic greeting, and formal, and also a bit more appropriate to the start of a fight. But since he gave me an inoffensive and friendly greeting, I’ll return it only slightly more formally and also introduce myself.

Since he was a bit cutesy, so am I.

Now, one more piece of diplomacy, and this one is more consequential.

It seems I’ve been asked out on a date.

I definitely can’t accept without considering the ramifications though, so let’s do that now. I can’t actually see much of Sauromatia, but here’s what I can see of both of them:

You might notice that there are two crossed swords: Both are clashes, one with Pangaea and one with Sauromatia, which let me see their blesses. Pangaea blessed his white centaurs thusly:

I’m not sure white centaurs have enough HP to make regeneration worthwhile, so he may have some odd strategy coming up… But it’s the only thing that requires an awake pretender. He may have just wanted it to expand with his black bull. Anyway, definitely seems like something I could handle.

Sauromatia, on the other hand, has got a kitchen sink bless.

I think he probably went a bit overboard. He also only had three oiropatas in the squad I clashed with, even though his prophet was there. Then again, I only had two jaguars, which enabled him to win the clash even though I killed most of what he had, because he inflicted enough losses that my non-sacred warriors took the better part of valor. Geographically speaking, Sauromatia is the better enemy since their position will pit them against me sooner rather than later anyway, and their land is more defensible after the war if I were to take it, but then again Pangaea is generally the stronger nation and I’d be more worried about facing it in the midgame than I am Sauromatia. Well, for now I’ll show some interest, as that’ll prevent me from getting backstabbed, even though I think Sauromatia is sincere in his desire to break out of the corner he’s in with my help. And the fact that he asked for help also would seem to indicate that he’s less sure of his position. My best bet might be to take Pangaean lands with Sauromatian aid, then once that job is done (or nearly so) divert my forces to Sauromatia.

Well, I need to amass my forces before I join either of them, so for now I’ll postpone a bit.

Turn Nine

Yomi wants to play hardball, apparently. Since it’s adjacent to my capital, not ceding it would normally be tantamount to declaring war. He is either delaying in order to get troops in position and then fight me or (more likely, I think) posturing to try and get a better price for it.

Well, I want it sooner rather than later, so I’ll go all in.

I’m being a bit imperious, which he may not like, but he’s not likely to declare an immediate war simply because I was rude, and an eventual war is inevitable anyway.

Some other things that happened: I hit Construction 2 and unlocked the Jade Knife, which increases the rate at which a priest can sacrifice blood slaves to increase my dominion, and have begun forging one. This means it’s time to get my slave economy up and rolling and get to work domkilling Rus.

Oh, and I’ve encountered Tíen Chí. That swamp isn’t important to me, but I’ll try and get it before they do anyway.

Turn Ten

So here’s what I woke up to this morning:

Basically I guessed wrong. And despite the mockery of a random bystander in that screenshot, his strategy looks pretty likely to work. His oni thugs are pretty tough.

That’s with Ironskin and his bless. I’m not going to be able to pierce 29 protection with… Anything, really. My best bet would be to spam my smite spell, which does 20 damage, but with 18 MR that’s not guaranteed anyway, and there’s six of these guys while I’ve only got three H3 units – The one I sent into expansion wasn’t properly protected, and that failed. On top of that, Rus went AI, and was able to break the pretty weak army I had holding down his capital, so that’s six less jaguars to deal with the other thing Yomi has headed my way – about 40 freespawn onis. I’m not going to throw in the towel just yet, but I’m in even more trouble than one would usually expect from getting into a war before completing your expansion.

Turn Twelve

It’s time for what may well be my last meaningful battle.

If Banish Demon (a blood spell not related to Banish) successfully takes out the commanders, my jaguars will have pretty good odds at taking out the freespawn oni (though I’m not totally sure how many are here) and I’ll have a strong advantage when I take the war back to him. But it’s negated by magic resistance and their magic resistance is pretty good. On top of that, the unblessed oni are also valid targets, and my mages may decide to focus on them, thinking they’ve got a better chance of actually doing something. Worse, the fatigue cost is high, and my mages won’t get off that many casts. The Claim Life casts aren’t enough to kill in one hit, so they’ll probably end up being irrelevant, but I’m spamming them on units where I’ve got nothing better, because they at least have a chance of helping.

Turn Thirteen

Yomi sent me a poem.

As for that final battle… It didn’t really happen. He’d set a small squad of freespawn armies there, with orders to retreat immediately. His oni shugos and, now, a dai oni, on the other hand? They went to take out the army I was moving to the capital. It’s a clever move in that it greatly reduces my chances of winning by taking out most of my jaguars, but does delay his (likely) victory. For the time being, I hope to use the turns to gain respite by recruiting and researching more. Since he’ll have to tear my walls down again, I can dip into conjuration for jaguar toads, which may do enough in the melee for my demon banishing to do something. It’s still a long shot, though.

Also, Yomi airdropped some shugos onto my commanders, and was proud enough of it to give me a webm of this after the game: flies behind you.webm

Turn Fourteen

I got some recruitment done, but he’s back to sieging me. This probably won’t make too much difference, but I’ll summon some beast bats and jaguar toads. The beast bats may be able to hit his commanders before they finish buffing, which would be very handy. Ozelotls would be better, of course, but you do what you can.

Turn Sixteen

The enemy is at the gates.

In addition to their previous buffs, they have fire shields now.
I deploy imps in addition to my troops, but all I could do for numbers isn’t enough. My beast bats were foiled by a ghost general at the back, and came to nothing. I didn’t expect much.

There’s fierce fighting in the gate for a while

But in the end, it’s not enough.

And I’m out of the game.


I was rushed by two different nations, and only one of them was totally new to the game. Ultimately, there wasn’t a lot I could do. That said, I got off to a slow start, if I’d managed to get my research and expansion going better, I could have survived the rush. Of course, the real issue was just not enough units to cast banish demon, and not enough blood slaves for it to be cast with. That was a functional tactic, just an expensive one. The only important enemy I killed died in that way, after all – an Oni Shugo that ran ahead, ate a cast of Banish Demon and then, as a ghost11 was battered by imps before being finished off by an ordinary bless.

As for overall strategy, I probably could have gone heavier into blessings for my jaguars, but really, lack of research was the main thing that killed me.

Here’s people’s reactions to that shugo that charged forward:

The webM in the first post: madman.webm

And the last image shows him at the top of the hall of fame, dead.

That was all without my input, but I weighed in afterwards.


I definitely didn’t win this game, but despite getting knocked out very early, I was far from the worst off. The tight quarters led to a lot of early eliminations.

I’m omitting score graphs for nations that I didn’t fight, but here’s me, Rus, and Yomi.

  1. Mictlan is a nation inspired by Nahua people, especially the pre-colonial Mexica (more commonly known as Aztecs). Mictlan relies heavily on blood magic, making them a fairly micro-intensive nation, and is notable for having sacred units (who can be blessed with divine magic, applying a buff you design at the beginning of the game) available from any fort with a temple, as well as summonable. 
  2. Gain 10% of maximum hitpoints per combat round 
  3. Gain bonus attack, strength, defense, after killing an enemy. 
  4. Increases heat around the unit. From different units, it stacks, and it does small amounts of fire damage to the enemy. If you have a lot of it, it should be able to add up to a lot of damage, but I didn’t find that to be happening. 
  5. A decay effect – Useful in theory, but very slow. 
  6. Essentially an abstracted representation of manpower, but incorporating elements of societal hierarchical position. They’re bolstered by the order scale. 
  7. A ranged weapon with only two ammunition, it’s handy for melee troops to throw javelins before charging to open up holes in the enemy line and get a slight advantage. 
  8. A spell which increases magic resistance on your troops – despite the name, it doesn’t interfere with your own casting or things that change the state of the battlefield. 
  9. You can turn any unit into your prophet which increases their holy magic to the third level, or if it was already at least that high, increases it by one. It is often advisable to make a scout your prophet, because the stealth allows greater mobility to get to thrones you want to claim (which requires H3) more easily. As a nation with easy access to H3 anyway, though, I found it better to use it for casting divine blessing and thereby expanding more quickly. 
  10. Titles are determined for pretenders at game start based on the choices made during pretender design. From these, you can make inferences about the kind of pretender your opponents have designed. 
  11. After being killed, oni remain as spirits on the battlefield which must also be killed. These spirits are weaker but ethereal. 

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