The Complete Newbie Guide

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Welcome to the The Complete Newbie Guide! This guide is intended for the complete newbie to OpenDominion. Absolutely no prior knowledge is necessary. While there are links to other articles in this text, you will most likely not understand what they say until you have read this entire guide, so please read the whole guide as some things are clarified further below from where they are first mentioned. Dominion is a difficult and challenging game so it will take a while for everything to sink in. However, to use the words of the late Douglas Adams: Don't panic!


The game is structured into rounds with each round lasting 50 days. When a round is over, the final rankings for that round are entered into Valhalla, the game is reset and a new round begins.

When you register, you are assigned a dominion (comparable to a nation). Your dominion starts 250 acres large and with a minute army. The 250 acres are in turn split into different landtypes, whose purpose is to build buildings upon. Different buildings can only be built on a certain landtype. You defend your land with your military. What you build and what army you train depend on your play style and race.

Your dominion is placed in a realm (comparable to a region). Realms typically contain 10 or 15 dominions (including yourself) but may contain less. Realms are numbered from 1 and up. You interact with your realm mates (realmies) using the Council, which is a simple messageboard only accessible within your realm.

The game is based on an hour-system, which means that everything moves forward every hour. It, for instance, takes 12 hours to construct a building, meaning that if you construct a building at 7 AM, it will be complete at 7 PM. Every hour, you gain new resources from your production.

Getting Started[edit]

So you just signed up and someone was kind enough to throw you this link (or maybe they did it before you even signed up)? Excellent! Let's Begin by Picking a Style.


Before picking a race, you must know what style you will be playing. Style is the most fundamental part of a strategy. There are three basic styles of playing:

  • Exploring
  • Attacking
  • Converting

There is a fourth style called 'atteching' which is most definitely not recommended for new players. It will not be discussed here.


Exploring is the act of growing by simply exploring for land. To play as explorer means that you will not train any offensive army and solely train enough military to defend your land.

This is a very easy and simple way to get to know the game but you will not get the thrills of attacking. It is also good if you will not be able to be very active in your playing.


Attacking is the act of growing by invading other dominions. When you invade another dominion, a portion of their land will become yours (they lose some and you gain some). This is by most considered much more difficult than to explore. You have to train a military capable of both defending your own land while also having an offensive military strong enough to break other, less fortunate, dominions' defenses.

This is recommended if you want to have fun and will be able to be active during the round.


Converting is the act of first exploring and then converting into an attacker. A converter will normally explore the first half or so of the round, training only a defensive army. When they have reached their converting point, they will cease to explore and instead of it, train an offensive army and invade other dominions for the rest of the round.

This is recommended if you want to try out both exploring and attacking. It will give you the benefit of learning and studying the game as an explorer and then the thrills as an attacker.


Once you have decided what style to play, it's time to pick a race. In theory, you can play any style with any race but chances are it will be a terrible experience. To make it easy for you as a newbie, here are lists of suitable races for the three play styles.

The races described here are the only ones that will be discussed in this guide.


Humans, Nomads and Merfolks have the advantage of not being dependent on a landtype. Icekin, Nox*, Sylvan and Wood Elf have defensive units whose strength depends on what percentage of a certain landtype your dominions consists of (mountain, swamp, forest and forest respectively). Keep this mind and remember that different buildings can only be built on certain landtypes and you will realize that you will be able to have a more diverse build layout with Human, Nomad or Merfolk than with the other races. However, the other races' defensive units are really good. In the end, it's entirely up to you what race you pick. * Nox Nightshades actually depend on built/constructed acres of swamp.


Humans and Nomads have very strong units but their offensive units are on the expensive side but while other attack units take 12 hours to return home from an invasion, the Human and Nomad units will return in 9 hours. This is a great advantage.

Lizardfolks however have cheap offensive units, but bothersome defense. Their main advantage is that their defensive units act as partial spies which will help you greatly. Their units swim and do not require boats to be sent out on invasion.

Merfolks are similar to Lizardfolks in that they have expensive defense, cheap offense and do not need boats. They do however not have the espionage advantage but they have more efficient DP, which means that you have to train fewer (but more expensive) units which pay off in the long run.


Surprise, surprise - Humans and Nomads are on this list too. They are excellent explorers and fine attackers so they naturally make for great converters.

Wood Elves are among the strongest converters in the game and thankfully also one of the easiest. Their defensive units are, as mentioned above, landtype dependent but unlike any other race, their offensive unit too depends on a landtype (forest). This means that the more forest you have, the stronger your entire army becomes. Their units are however too expensive to attack with, but for converting they are superb.


  • The fields First Name, Last Name and Age are completely unimportant and can be anything you want (although age has to be a number and if you are under 13, you will be told to ask your parents' permission and have them send an email to the game administrator). Email is important and must be a working one since you will receive a verification mail. Be sure it's correct.
  • Username is the username with which you log in. It is not visible to anyone else and is not important. You can vary this from round to round if you wish. The same goes for password. If you specify a password with special characters (other than A-Z and 0-9), the game will strip these without letting you know. The final password will be in the verification mail.
  • Dominion Name is the name of your dominion and it will be what other players see you as. A-Z, 0-9, !, -, . and : can be used to form a Dominion Name.
  • Ruler's Name is the name of the ruler of your dominion. It is suggested to not use your Username as Ruler's Name, nor is it recommended to use the alias or nick you use otherwise. The latter is to avoid people from finding out who you are. What title(Lord, General, Duchess) you use has no significance at all other than determining gender of your ruler (see titles).
  • Race should be a piece of cake to pick by now.
  • The next and final option is Realm. Here you can pick if you want to be randomly put in a realm, if you have a pack that you are going to join or if you are going to create a pack for you and a group of friends. Since this is a newbie guide, you probably should stick to the default selection.
  • Click Submit.
  • Confirm the information.
  • Click Submit this Information.
  • Log in and specify your authentication code. Click Verify.
  • Done!

The Menu[edit]

So you have now signed up and are looking at something you may not be able to quite understand. This is normal and you will be guided through it. Again: Don't panic!

Let's begin by exploring the menu, and if at any time you get lost or confused about something, check out the in game help files called the Scribes.


Here is an overview of your dominion. It will say how long is left of protection (more about that later), how much of the different resources you have and how great your army is.


Under the various advisors you can see how your dominion is doing and what is going on.

  • Production Advisor tells you about your dominion's production and employment.
  • Military Advisor shows your military in detail. (This is not where you train.)
  • Land Advisor shows how your land is broken down into different landtypes and it shows any incoming land.
  • Construction Advisor shows what buildings you have, what percentage they make up and any incoming buildings. Barren land is land that is not yet built or does not have buildings in progress.
  • Magic Advisor shows spells currently affecting your dominion.
  • Rankings Advisor (also linked to on the Status page) shows how you are fairing compared to the rest of the game.
  • Statistics Advisor shows unreliable information about offensive power, defensive power and defense/acre. Wizard and Spy Ratios are interesting numbers. The rest are solely trivia.

Daily Bonuses[edit]

Every day, your dominion is given two bonuses.

  • Platinum bonus: you gain 4*peasants platinum.
  • Daily bonus: you can 20 acres of your home landtype.


Here is where you explore for land. You will also see a simplified version of your Land Advisor.


Here is where you build on your land. It is broken down into landtypes and you will see what buildings go where. Incoming buildings are shown here, but not in as much detail as in the Construction Advisor.

Re-zone Land[edit]

Rezoning is mostly something attackers do. They may have conquered landtypes that do not entirely suit their needs and will hence want to rezone. Rezoning comes at a cost depending solely on your landsize and you can rezone any landtype into another landtype.


This page serves two purposes. The main one is to manage your Castle Improvements (see the linked article). If you are teching (not recommended for newbies though) it will say here if your dominion has enough research points to obtain (take) a new technological advancement. If you click View Your Dominion's Technological Advancements you will see more details about your teching status.


Below your castle, there may or may not be a wonder, depending on whether your realm has taken one. See wonders for more details.

National Bank[edit]

The national bank is used scarcely and only in emergencies (such as when in dire need of food). Races (aside from Nox) that depend on a certain landtype will be producing a lot of lumber or ore, which they initially will be using for Improvements. But later into the round, it will typically pay off more to exchange the excessive ore and lumber into platinum using the National Bank.


Here is where you maintain your army. You will see what percentage of your total population your army is and how many peasants you have. This is also where you set draft rate (see linked article).

All units cost 1 draftee except ArchMages which cost 1 wizard.


This is where attackers go to have fun. Here is also where you accurately can calculate your own offense and defense (unlike the unreliable numbers found in the Statistics Advisor). To do so, click Calculate your Attack with the Battle Calculator.

Battle Calculator[edit]

Target Race does not matter for any of the recommended attacking races, nor does Target Land Total. War Status only matters if your realm is at war with another realm.

Below, you will see a list of two or three units. If you see two or three depends on if your elite defender (Human: Knight, Nomad: Blademaster, Lizardfolk: Chameleon, Merfolk: Leviathan) has any offensive power. These units should however extremely rarely be used for offense.

To calculate your offensive power (shortened OP) and at the same time defensive power (shortened DP), specify how many offensive units you want to send and click Calculate. You will see a table with two columns; one showing OP and one showing DP and all bonuses applying to them.

Defense Calculator[edit]

There is also a Defense Calculator.


Here is where you cast spells.


Here is where you perform espionage.


On this page you can read messages you have received as well as send messages to other dominions. Messages are deleted after 7 days if not deleted manually.


A mini-messageboard for your realm only.

Op Center[edit]

Informative operations (spells and espionage) are stored here. See Op Center.


Here you vote for the monarch of the realm, usually agreed upon in the council. This is also the place where you can apply for or leave the Royal Guard / Elite Guard


Monarchs can declare war or peace here. Other dominions can see current relations with other realms. See Diplomacy.

The Realm[edit]

This page is sometimes referred to realm view or realm browser. Clicking the menu item will bring up an overview of your realm and all dominions in it. You can either click Previous or Next to see an overview of other realms, or specify a certain realm's number to see it.


A page containing all current rankings of the game.

Town Crier[edit]

The town crier (usually called TC) shows you what is happening in your realm. If someone in your realm attacks or is attacked, this will show up in the Town Crier. When new wonders are discovered or when a wonder is taken by a realm, this will be shown in the Town Crier.


Pathway to RL.

However, see Activity.


Note: In this guide it is assumed that you started when registration was opened. If you started in the middle of the round, read this and then the appendix to this chapter.

The first 72 hours of the round (or the first 72 hours since you registered) are called protection. Read the entire linked article. Where the examples say hour x the game in fact displays You are under a magical state of protection for z hours. The value of z is defined according to the following equation:

z = 72 - x - 1

So hour 60 (when units must be trained) is when the game says there are 11.?? hours left of protection. This is because elite units take 12 hours to train so if you train them with 11.?? hours left of protection, they will arrive the very hour you go OOP (which you should know what it means had you read this article). Specialist units (specs) take 9 hours to train and should hence be trained with 8.?? hours left of protection.

Hour 0 is the time before protection even started.

A rather decent guide to protection can be found under the menu item Strategy Guide, which however will disappear after 15 logins so if it is no longer in your menu, you have to access it from Status, click The Scribes and then click Celtillus's Basic Dominion Strategy Guide.

Out of Protection[edit]

This is when the game truly begins.


As an explorer you will spend the rest of the round exploring for more land while building enough defensive power (DP) to be defend your current and incoming land.

See exploring.

What To Build[edit]

Let's begin with what to not build. Do not build Guard Towers. Any seasoned player has seen a lot of tiny explorers go for Guard Towers early on while this in fact does nothing but damage the dominion. These explorers tend to finish very small which is something that this guide is intended to prevent. Never build Forest Havens (not even as Wood Elf or Sylvan). They are the worst building in the game and it is unclear why they have not been removed entirely. While they give you a short-term tiny addition to your defense, it is better to build something else.

Many explorers focus heavily on castle improvements. Humans/Nomads and Merfolks do this by building Diamond Mines (DMs). Icekins do it by building Ore Mines (OMs). Wood Elves and Sylvan do it by building Lumberyards (LYs). While Humans/Nomads need ore, they should never build more OMs than necessary to train units and excess ore is saved for future training. All races need LYs but only Sylvans and Wood Elves should build more than a minimum.

Smithies are a building used heavily by attackers (they always have maximum smithies) but they are not as important for explorers. It is common practice to have full smithies for OOP but what an explorer does then varies. Most let them fade (they do not build more) or destroy them and use the land to build something else (R/R). Some few maintain them at maximum or near-maximum. Races that have landtype dependent units are rarely seen building smithies after protection is over and they often destroy smithies to build farms instead of exploring for plains.

Alchemies are used by most races for protection but they are rarely built later on. Exploring Humans, Nomads and Merfolks are sometimes seen with lots of alchemies, in conjunction with a lot invested in the castle improvement Science.

What To Explore[edit]

First of all, do not join Elite Guard (EG). If you feel an urge to join any guard, it should be the Royal Guard (RG). EG increases exploration cost by +25% and is meant only for attackers. To be in RG means -2% platinum production and since platinum is your main resource for growth and the protection RG offers is minuscule there really is no point in joining guard.

Explore the landtypes you need and do it either in one large batch after which you train defense as much as possible for 12 hours until your land comes in. Optionally, explore a little for a few hours and then train for a few hours. Avoid going up in landsize by a lot without having adequate DP trained or incoming.

What To Train[edit]

Other than explore and build, you have to maintain a defense. How much defensive power do I need? There is only one answer: More than the highest offense in your range (most commonly 75-133% your size). See Defense and Growing Safely.


As an attacker your goal is to grow by taking land from others by invading them with your army. That's the sole principle.

See attacking.

What To Train[edit]

As an attacker, you have to train both defense (Defensive Power; DP) and offense (Offensive Power; OP). Be sure to read the Scribes for your race to see what unit has what purpose.

The typically recommended thing to do is to only train the two cheaper units (specialists, specs) early in the game and late. If you train too many of these they will end up costing too much of your population and that is bad. For the rest of the round, train the two more expensive units (elites). They cost more but since every unit costs one draftee which in turn costs one peasant and every peasant produce 2.7 platinum (plus bonuses) per hour, elites are more efficient and they end up paying for themselves repeatedly.

What To Build[edit]

Aside from always having full smithies, what to build is up to the strategy of the attacker. Recommended however is to build enough barracks to house your military and homes to get many peasants. (Read this and this closely.)

Guard Towers, Gryphon Nests and Temples (so called mod buildings) are used extensively by attackers. As a general rule of thumb, if your race has cheap and inefficient DP but expensive/efficient OP, you should build Guard Towers more than Gryphon Nests. If your race has cheap and inefficient OP but expensive/efficient OP, you are better off with Gryphon Nests rather than Guard Towers. Temples can be used at any point but rarely seen used above 5-6%.

Do absolutely not start building mod buildings too early. Early on, you do better by building homes or barracks to increase your population.

What To Attack[edit]

You should attack people in your Elite Guard-range (that is 75-133% your size). Attacking dominions within this range will give you prestige (which is an ambrosia to attackers) and the land you conquered can be built at half cost.

To attack, you must find a suitable target and send your army and defeat his defenses. Normally, attackers will attack explorers or other attackers who have their armies out. It is very rare that an attacker is able to invade another attacker whose offensive units are home. Why? Because most offensive units have a certain amount of Defense. This amount varies from 2 to 3 defensive points per offensive unit.

How To Attack[edit]

To find a target and attack you need the following:

"How, pray tell, do I find a target?" you may ask. Well, there are a number of ways. You can use the Search for a dominion tool. In your Town Crier, you can see if someone in your realm has attacked or been attacked. If their target or the person who hit them is within your 75-133% range then you may have a target. Other than that, you can simply use the realm view to browse through realms for dominions that look weak or attackers that may have sent out. Someone looks weak by having a low networth (NW), but remember that explorers will have an inherently low NW as they do not have any offensive units.

A Little Attack Guide[edit]

See Attack Guide


Converting is simply put the act of exploring and then converting to become an attacker. As a converter, you want to decide on beforehand when you convert. It is common to explore up to 2500 acres and convert there, trying to reach that point by day 25 or so, at which point you should have full Smithies (the percentage needed for maximum bonus) and you should also overbuild homes/barracks (have more than you need when you first reach there so that you can house all the new troops).

See converting.


What most newbies have the earliest problems with is defending. The only way to know that your DP is safe is to have more DP than OP of the strongest attacker in your range.

To do this, see the attack guide but instead of calculating the DP, calculate the OP. Be sure to include incoming units and remember that the person may not be able to send everything since he too has to defend his lands.


Spies can be used for more than gathering information. They can be used to slay enemy draftees, sink boats and steal from other dominions. Many are exclusive to war.

See espionage.


Just as with spies, wizards can be used for more than information gathering. Wizards can be used to cast damaging spells on other dominions. Many are exclusive to war.

See spells.

The End[edit]

That's all, folks!