I find it useful to look at the buildings in dominion in terms of 3 types. The first is primary buildings, to which the vast majority of your land will be dedicated. It is these buildings that provide you with the greatest degree of strategic choice, in terms of deciding which of them to build.
The second are resource production buildings. With the exception of alchemies pretty much everybody will need to run small quantities of all these buildings, unless you are playing a race which doesn't require a certain resource.
The third are specialist buildings. These have limited usefulness except for certain very specific play styles.
i) Primary Buildings
ii) Resource Production Buildings
- Homes and Barracks: These increase your population. More population means more income, more troops trained and a stronger dominion. You should run large numbers of homes and/or barracks. See subsection iv of this section to find out which of the two you should build.
- Smithies: This building is essential. As an attacker you should run 20% smithies at all times as pretty much any race, with the possible exception of Wood Elf. Explorers require them early also, though later on full smithies are not a necessity for them.
- Factories: Factories are good to use in protection (the first 3 days) and can save you a lot of money. After protection has ended, however, their effectiveness is limited.
- Masonries: These are only good if you have very high castle improvements. Very high means almost 25% in keep and 12-15% in science, forges, and walls. Getting improvements to these level requires large amounts of diamond mines. So unless you are playing a strategy that involves huge DMs and high improvements, do not bother with masonries.
- Guard Towers: Increase defensive strength. Anyone can use Guard Towers, but they are most effective:
- In the short-term for races with expensive defense on a cost-per-point basis (eg Merfolk)
- In the long-run for races who have space-inefficient defense (such as Goblin and Lycanthrope whose maximum unit defensive values are 3 and 4 respectively)
- Gryphon Nests: Increase offensive strength. Anyone can use Gryphon Nests, but they are most effective:
- In the short-term for races with expensive offense on a cost-per-point basis (eg Human)
- In the long-run for races who have space-inefficient offense (such as Merfolk and Halfling whose maximum unit offensive values are 4 and 5 respectively)
- Temples: A great building for any race, as they reduce the defense of your target. Just don't overdo it. They work really well when used in conjunction with Gryphons Nests.
- Schools: These produce research points for technological advancements. If you wish to get any value out of a teching strategy then you must decide to pursue it right at the start and get your schools as soon as possible. The later you get your techs, the less useful they will be to you. Also, effective teching means getting related techs in order to work your way up to the more advanced ones. Randomly picking unrelated low-level techs will not help. 20-30% is the optimal percent of schools to run, and most choose to destroy their schools for another building (usually diamond mines since they are also on caverns) once they have all the techs that they want.
- Shrines: These can be useful if you intend to attack extremely frequently, such as bottomfeeding (attacking small dominions) every 12 hours. Otherwise their usefulness is limited.
iii) Specialist Buildings
- Alchemies: Running a few of these in protection is good for an extra income boost. After protection however you are generally better off building homes or barracks, unless you are an explorer at a large size with less than 100% employment.
- Farms: Build enough of those so that you are producing a positive amount of food per hour without running Gaia’s Watch. This way your people will not starve even if somebody casts insect swarm on you. There is no point building so many farms that you stockpile hundreds of thousands of bushels of food; this is wasteful and the extra land could be better used for other buildings. As a general rule you need 8-11% farms depending on your race and population.
- Ore Mines: 3-6% should get you all the ore you need, depending on what race you are (Troll troops require a lot more ore than Sylvan for example). Some races require vast quantities of ore mines due to unit/terrain dependencies, such as Gnome and Icekin. Others do not require ore at all, such as Merfolk and Undead.
- Lumberyards: 3-7% should get you all the lumber you need to build your lands. Dominions who attack enemies in their 75-133% size range will get reduced build costs and need no more than 3-4% lumberyards. Those who bottomfeed need to spend more money on building and will require 6-7%.
- Towers: 6% should be more than enough for most dominions. This will cover casting your self-spells as well as casting clear sights, clairvoyances, and other information gathering ops on potential threats and targets. If you want to be a dedicated mage and regularly cast spells such as insect swarm and fireball on others, however, you will need at least double this many towers.
- Diamond Mines: Another essential building. You will want at least 10% or so of your land to be diamond mines as investing gems into your castle improvements brings numerous benefits. Keep is the most important of these improvements, and you should invest more into this category than any other. Science, walls and forges come next. Towers and irrigation should be your lowest priority. People have been known to run anywhere between 10-40% diamond mines depending on their strategy. Note that once your improvements reach very high levels (~25% in keep and 12-15% in science, forges, and walls) it becomes extremely difficult to raise them even higher, so at that point building more diamond mines is no longer effective.
- Docks: 2% docks will produce more boats than you will normally need for attacking, unless your enemies decide to sabotage your boats. If this becomes a threat then you will need a lot more, at least 5%. Some races such as Merfolk and Lizardfolk do not need docks. Explorers who do not plan to convert to attackers obviously do not need docks either.
iv) A Note on Barracks vs. Homes
This is a very common question new players ask. Both barracks and homes increase your population, so which should you build?
- Wizard Guilds: Dark Elves need to build wizard guilds as the value of their defensive elite is dependent upon them. Otherwise they have little use except for those who want to dedicate their round solely to casting offensive spells against enemy dominions.
- Forest Havens: Extremely limited use except for those who wish to completely dedicate their dominions to spy operations. They should never be built purely for defensive purposes as guard towers perform this function much better.
If your population bonuses are an even 20%, homes and barracks are equally effective (30 x 1.2 = 36). If your bonuses are less than that, then barracks give a greater benefit; if more then homes are better. Your population bonuses are:
- Homes: House 30 people. These are affected by any population bonuses you have.
- Barracks: House 36 military units. These, however, are NOT affected by population bonuses.
A Goblin has 20% population bonuses by default, and Kobold has 40%, so these races should never build barracks. A Troll, with -5% population by default, would do great with barracks. Keep improvement has a maximum bonus of 30%, however, so most races can make a transition to homes if they get their keep high enough.
Lastly, homes vs. barracks is largely irrelevant for races with terrain dependencies such as Icekin/Gnome (mountains) WoodElf/Sylvan (forest), and Nox (swamp). These races need homes to keep their dependent terrain high, and should rarely build barracks.
v) Rainbow Builds
Rainbow Builds refer to building a little bit of everything to try and derive the benefits of as many buildings as possible. This is extremely ineffective and will generally lead to disaster. You would do best to choose a few of the primary buildings to focus on (not all of them), and to avoid specialist buildings entirely.
Note that while all primary buildings could have a use at some point or with a certain strategy, some are a lot more useful than others. For example, you would go nowhere without homes/barracks and would really struggle without smithies, but you would do just fine never building any factories, masonries or shrines.
In general you can't go wrong with the following:
- Race specific, if applicable
- Bonus from the keep improvement
- 2.5% for every 250 prestige
This is an efficient midround build for attackers that will serve you well for any race that does not have building or terrain dependencies.
For explorers, the only difference is that you reduce homes/barracks if your employment drops below 100%. Low employment means you have too many peasants (homes/barracks) and too few jobs (all other buildings). Adding more homes/barracks will mean that additional peasants are unemployed and produce no income, and thus give no benefit to you. So if your employment keeps dropping then reduce homes and add other buildings (diamond mines, guard towers, or even alchemies can work). Also as noted, 20% smithies are not as essential for explorers as they are for attackers after the first two weeks or so.
In the end your build is yours to choose. Take a good look at your race and the strategy you wish to pursue and choose your buildings accordingly. Your build is an important part of your success so give it some thought to avoid building a little bit of everything or large quantities of a building that will not be useful to you.
- 20% smithies
- 10-20% diamond mines (focus on keep improvement first)
- The necessary farms, ore mines, lumberyards, towers and docks as outlined above, but not in excess
- Some gryphon nests or guard towers ONLY IF your race is one that derives the most long-run benefit from them as outlined above
- As many homes as you can fit on your leftover land. You can use some barracks earlier if they are suitable for your race, but to be most efficient, the idea is to get your keep high enough with your diamond mines so that homes are as good or better