Dominion Menagerie is the newest Dominion expansion. It came out in 2020 and its most prominent addition are horses, the exile mechanic and the Way mechanic. It also contains 30 new kingdom cards among which some of the strongest reaction cards in all of Dominion. In this post I review the Dominion Menagerie expansion. If you’re interested in Dominion expansion, you may also enjoy our list of the best Dominion expansions.
The most important new mechanic is Exile. You can put cards into exile, which means that they are out of your deck. But, you can choose to regain the card from exile when you gain another copy of that card. So, if you have Gold in exile and you gain another Gold, you can choose to take your Gold out of exile.
Cards in exile still count towards your victory points, so the most common use of this mechanic is to exile victory cards so they don’t clog up your deck. But, Menagerie also introduces many cards that support other strategic uses of the exile mechanic. For example, with Way of the Camel you can quickly Exile a bunch of Gold directly from the supply and retrieve all that Gold when you gain a Gold later.
Honestly, I feel the exile mechanic is very tricky to master. I still find myself making mistakes with it. In the short term this means that Exile annoys me too often, but in the long term it means that Menagerie has a lot of replay value as I keep trying to master this mechanic.
The Menagerie expansion also adds Ways. Each game is played with one Way card which is available to everyone at all times to replace the effect of any action card you play. For example, in a game with the Way of the Horse, if you play an action card, you can choose to ignore the normal effect of the action card and instead gain the effect of the Way of the Horse (+2 cards and +1 action).
The Way cards allow players to refine their strategies and they generally buff action cards. Some of the Way cards, such as the Way of the Horse, are not very strong and impactful, but they help players smooth out their engine strategy. Other Way cards, such as Way of the Camel (see section above) are immediately powerful and set the tone of the game. In general, the Way cards are an interesting addition to Dominion.
Menagerie introduces Horses and many cards that gain horses. Horses are cards that cannot be bought directly and return to their pile after a single use. Horses give +2 cards and + 1 action so you can think of horses as begin effectively +1 card tokens, just like Coffers are +1 coin token and Villagers as +1 action token. But, they are pretty different in that they can only be used when drawn and they can have synergies with cards that remodel other cards.
Horses create temporary power spikes in your deck and it’s up to you to use those spikes correctly. I think Horses are underrated in terms of how difficult they are to play perfectly. They require you to have awareness of both the true power of your deck and the temporarily inflated power of your deck due to the horses. This makes it the third mechanic in Menagerie that’s best appreciated by advanced players.
Reaction cards in Dominion Menagerie
One of the most important additions of Menagerie are its reaction cards. Reaction cards can be played during your opponent’s turn under certain conditions. They provide interactions between players, which Dominion normally lacks.
Although reaction cards aren’t new in Dominion, what’s new in Menagerie is that its reaction cards are actually strong. Our favorite reaction card is Dominion Menagerie is Black Cat. When another player buys a victory card, you can play Black Cat from your hand to force all other players to gain a curse. Black Cat is undoubtedly one of the strongest card in the set and it adds interesting player interactions, as players must try to avoid buying Provinces when their opponent is holding Black Cat. A similar card is Falconer, which threatens other strategies that rely on cards with multiple types.
We really like to see strong reaction cards in Dominion. It enables players to interact more with each other and come up with interesting counter strategies.
Who is Dominion Menagerie for?
We think Menagerie is a great expansion, especially for more experienced Dominion players. The Way and Exile mechanics make Menagerie slightly more complicated than other expansions, which is why we don’t recommend Menagerie as your first expansion. But if you already have some other expansions it is a great addition, especially because it adds some much needed strong reactive cards to your collection.