Deck Building Games


Let's talk about deck building games!

For those who aren't as familiar with this mechanic in board games, the "essence" of deck-builders is that you start out with a mediocre deck of cards and improve its quality by acquiring new cards throughout the game. When employed in a racing game, you'll at first feel like an infant just learning to walk and stumbling into things, but by the end, you'll be an Olympian athlete zooming by everything.

With that said,

  • What do you like or don't like about deck builders?
  • What are your favorite deck builders and why? Recommend some great ones for those who might not be so well acquainted with this mechanic
  • Do you prefer "pure" deck builders or ones that play off of a board?
  • Is there a deck-builder that you've been eyeing on/have on your wishlist?

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7 months ago

I love deckbuilding. A very underrated gem is #Trains. The theme might put people off but I find the deckbuilding in it pretty thrilling compared to most other deckbuilders. The turns are lightning fast and satisfying.

I also love how deckbuilding is implemented in #Undaunted: Normandy.

I didn't think I cared much about the look of a game, but I can't understand how so many people are willing to put #Friday on their table. It's a fun and addictive game but the artwork is atrocious. The app is fun though.



7 months ago

I have never been successful at #Friday

Owner7 months ago

Hahaha yeah, interesting artstyle. It's got its own charm in that way. I've only played on the app and I got pretty addicted when I first downloaded it. It was amazing to see the kind of high scores that other people were getting on the leaderboard

Premium User7 months ago

Trains is a ton of fun.  I just managed to acquire a copy of my own for $20 CDN off of a craigslist seller.  Score!

Supporter7 months ago

#Trains, I think I have heard that discribed as #Dominion: Second Edition with a board. Is that an accurate description? If so, I should look more into it.

7 months ago

#Dominion: Second Edition is my blind spot as I've never played it and I know it's the grandaddy. From what I understand, that's a good description though. The cards have actions that let you manipulate the tracks and stations on the board, which is ultimately how you score VP.

Supporter7 months ago

sounds good

7 months ago

I liked the deckbuilding in #Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords Base Set

It's a more abstract, card driven "crawler" game. that is easy to explain and quickly gives you some challenges while buildign your deck in a campaign mode. 

Most of all, I am fan of deckbuilding as a mechanic in a game.
The way it is used in #Gloomhaven is sililar to the Pathfidner card game;

In these games your deck is built slowly, through a campaign over a course of many sessions.
An RPG deck as you could say.

I like deckbuilding most where it strongly interacts with one or two other main mechanics.
Multiple use cards automatically make me interested :)

In the crawler game I'm desiging, I'm including that deckbuilding mechanic but in a more classic sense, buildign it along the way in 1 single session. I'm trying to combine deck buiidling with "dice pool building" where 1 deck of cards contains abilities, items, weapons, upgrades, etc and the dice pool is based on race, profession an gains. (you gain xp to "buy" abilities or booster dice etc from the market). On your turn, you allocate your dice to weapons, items or abilities  in a planning phase. in the "action" phase, each does one action by rolling the dice allocated to one card. The custom dice enable degrees of succes, special positive or negative effects, etc. 
This way, the deckbuilding is a pillar of the game, but it interacts with other mechanics. 


Owner7 months ago

I like multi-use cards in games too. Seems like there aren't that many of them out there though?

And it's awesome that you're designing a game. Is your aim to publish it in the future?

7 months ago

No, not so much games out there. In my game it's only "half" multiple use though; choosing wether the same card is a tableau card (top or bottom half) and which will go in the deck. They will serve as a kind of health or stamina as well as wound cards will cover abilities and flip to show the effect if they are critical.

No, no ambition to publish; I'm in designing for the creative and mental challenge!
pondering about inventing new and fun dice mechanics, adventure maps and tiles, it's such a broad hobby!

I once started playing guitar that way to and now I do live gigsi n 3 acts so never say never when it comes to publishing games :D

7 months ago

One of my favorit Mechanics.  I will acknowledge right away that I am not a fan of #Dominion: Second Edition.  I've played twice and it's kinda of just blah for me.  I prefer my deck builders to have a board and something else going on rather than a "pure" deckbulder.  Maybe had I started with Dominion instead of #Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure my opinion might be different.

My favorite deckbuilders

  1. The entire Clank Family.  I've listed previously that I own #Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure and two of its expansions.  I've played #Clank! In! Space! and that's a really great game as well.  One of my gaming groups had just started #Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated before Covid and we haven't gotten back to that yet.  Maybe in November. 
  2. The Legendary family: I own #Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game but have heard really great things about #Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game as it really depends on what theme you like more.  I did pick the #Legendary Marvel Deckbuilding Game: World War Hulk Expansion and enjoy playing with that as well, how can you not like playing with  more Hulks!!
  3. #The Quest for El Dorado is a really nice small deckbulider/race game.  My plays of that have been really fun and the feeling of looking at the board and figuring out what your deck needs to get through to the end is an enjoyable challange.
  4. #Aeon's End is really really good and currently on my wish list, though I'd probably put #Aeon's End: Legacy higher on the list. 
  5. #Thunderstone Quest is an different type of dungeon crawl than Clank! but still enjoyable.  So many expansions available with this one.  This and Aeon's End are very similar to Dominion so if are looking to branch out these are good options.
  6. #The Taverns of Tiefenthal is another fun deck builder that I've enjoyed my plays of
  7. The Centry Spice Road family.  Not my favorite game from the ones listed here but is a very enjoyable deck builder especially when you can get a nice little engine going. 
  8. #Great Western Trail has a minor deck building aspect that greatly influences how successful each of your trips to Kansas City is.  The number of times i've cursed when drawing new cows into my hand
  9. #Orléans is a bag builder vs a deck builder but gives you so many of the same feelings and angst that its worth including here.  Really enjoy.
  10. #Star Realms / #Hero Realms - only played on the app but its easy and each game gives you interesting choices on how to build your deck

Wish list includes:

  1. Aeon's End,
  2. Great Western Trail
  3. Orlean's

If looking for an exhaustive list of deck bulders here is a good link: list-deck-building-games

Owner7 months ago

Have you tried out the expansion for Quest for El Dorado? Never looked up what exactly that's about. I like the game but I think it will be too competitive to play with my family haha. I like deck-builders but it can be pretty easy for beginners to get behind since there aren't many catch-up mechanics

7 months ago

I haven't looked at any of the expansions for El Dorado and agree it can be hard to catch up, but games are usually short enough that I've found we never play just one race, so it ends up being fine. 

Premium User7 months ago

I don't think I'd call the Century series deck-builders...more like hand builders, since you can just pick whatever card you want at any time, and it doesn't hurt you at all to have a big hand of 10 when your best combo consists of 4 cards or something like that.

7 months ago

I was hestitant to put it on my list but looked at its tags on BGG and deck build was listed so I went with it.  It is by far my least favorite game of the those listed. 

Premium User7 months ago

I haven't played a ton ( #Star Realms, #Fort, plus a bag-builder in #War Chest), but I do enjoy the sense of progression a good deck builder can give you. I also like that in most of them, you can pursue all kinds of different viable strategies. For example, in Star Realms, you can try to build your deck entirely of cards from the blob faction and just try to deal massive damage each turn. Or you can mix in some cards from the blue faction and get some defense in there and try to simply outlast your opponent. Or you can build a deck full of "draw a card" actions and just ping your opponent to death.

I've never really played a deck builder that incorporated a board aside from Fort, and those are just player boards to hold stuff, not a board to navigate. I'd love to give #The Quest for El Dorado a try, as that looks like a light-ish one with a fun theme, so you could probably play it with a wide variety of people.

One that I've got pre-ordered is #Dale of Merchants. This one is neat because, while it's a deck-builder, you also have to deconstruct your deck in order to win. The goal of the game is to be the first to build your 8th "stall", which are stacks of cards from matching suits with values up to your current stall number. So you need to build a stall of 1, 2,3...8. The catch is that you need to pull cards out of your deck to put them into your stall, thereby weakening your deck, and lowering your buying power. Really looking forward to getting this in the mail! I went all in on the pledge with a gift card that I won at I'll have DoM, DoM2, DoM3, and #Dale of Merchants Collection, for a total of 27(?) different decks to mix and match to give tons of variety in play styles.

I also just placed a preorder with my FLGS for #Dune: Imperium, which incorporates deck-building with worker placement and some other really neat mechanisms. This game looks so fun to me. Plus it's Dune.

Owner7 months ago

I'm waiting with you on the game so that I can see your first impressions... lol. I like deck-builders for the kind of meaty gaming time they provide at a fraction of the time. Just that it can be too competitive/duel-like, so I'm curious how DoM will play.

I've been back and forth about pre-ordering #Dune: Imperium. Seems like a great game to try out with but it'll require running an AI which I don't tend to avoid :(

Premium User7 months ago

Yeah, if you don't want to run an AI, 2 players isn't that for Imperium. I don't have too much trouble getting 3 or 4 players together, though, and since I love Dune, this was a no-brainer for me. I look forward to writing up some first impressions here if no one else does first :)

And yeah, I'm super excited to get Dale of Merchants!! They're starting to ship them out, so I should have some feedback in a few weeks time!

Premium User7 months ago

oh also for a pure deck-builder, I've got my eye on #Shards of Infinity: Deckbuilding Game

Owner7 months ago

Some of my favorites right now are 

The next one I'd like to try out is probably #Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure since I've heard so many good things about it.

Partner7 months ago

For me #Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is at the top of the heap. If I had to do a top 5 I'd toss in these with no particular order: #Rococo: Deluxe Edition, #Orléans, #Aeon's End, and #Thunderstone Quest . 

I never really realized how many games that we own that utilize deck/bag building. We do have a few that need to get a few more plays in as well.


7 months ago

We really like #Dominion: Second Edition and have #Dominion: Intrigue (Second Edition). Dominion started us into board gaming as a hobby. I've now bought the #Century: Spice Road trilogy, and one of our all-time favorites is #Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.  Everyone loves that game, even though we've attempted year 5 half a dozen times and not won. I also like #Terraforming Mars which I've only played by myself-still hoping to find someone to play it with.

It's a mechanic I like, and will continue to look for deck builders with and without playing off boards.

7 months ago

I love the deck-building mechanic; I'm more inclined to buy, or at least invistigate a game more if I know if has the deck-building mechanic in it.  Although Magic the Gathering is NOT a deck-builder, one of the things I liked about it when I played heavily was building decks--in 'prime', I had 30 playing decks.
A classic, and the one of the first (or at least the first to popularize deck-building) is Dominion.  Some others to check out though (for those who don't already know):
Trains - very similar to Dominion in play, but includes a board and abstract track laying.
Clank! (and Clank! in Space):  good theme'd deckbuilders that include a board and a slight push-your-luck aspect (aside fom the inherent push-your-luck aspect in most deck-building mechanics)
Flip City:  not one most think of when it comes to deckbuliding, but a very light deckbuilder with the added feature of the cards being double-sided.
Star Realms and Hero Realms:  A couple of more themed deck-builders, but deal with attacking the other players (tho both have co-op variants).
Mystic Vale: while not technically a deck-builder in that you're not adding cards to your deck, instead you are upgrading your cards, so you are 'building up your deck'.
Pathogenesis:  a virus/germ themed deck-builder that uses real scientific terms. Has a 'teacher' version available.
Valley of the Kings:  Egyptian-themed deck-builder that has a unique trait of you having to remove cards from your deck to be able to score them.

There are also a few 'deck-building systems' that each have various licensed themes around them:
Legendary: has Marvel, Alien, Predator, and some others.  Honestly, not my favorite--the setup time is just horendous, especially with their 'box insert'.
Cryptozoic's system, most famous for the DC (as in comic books) Deck Builder, but also have a few other licenses like 'Attack on Titan' and 'Rick and Morty'.  I prefer this system over Legendary.

I have no preference of 'pure' over 'unpure.'

I've been kind of thinking about re-acquiring Mage Knight (but this time the ultimate edition); while much more than a pure deck-builder; it does have the deck-builder mechanic in it...though not very strong.


Premium User7 months ago

I think my favorite is#Dominion: Second Edition although#Orléans and#Altiplano are up there as well. I tend to think of Altiplano more as a deck builder vs Orléans because you have a discard space rather than having everything you used for your actions simply go back into your bag. I also own#Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game which gets a little same-y after awhile for me. I've played#Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure once and thought it was pretty good. Also like to try out#The Quest for El Dorado some day.

7 months ago

Really enjoy the feeling of getting that good flow in a deck-builder. Our collection is small but we've enjoyed #Fort a lot and the theme makes it that much more enjoyable. 

Others I've had my eye on to try are  #Dale of Merchants  as well as #The Taverns of Tiefenthal

Finally being a big sports dude, one that I've tried that is def on the wishlist is #Baseball Highlights: 2045 .  The deck-building plays perfectly into the theme of assembling a roster and making free-agent signings in between games in preparation for the world series.  

Premium User7 months ago

Ahh I can't believe I forgot to mention Baseball Highlights. I've wanted to pick up that game for a while but I'm worried no one will ever want to play it with me. It looks so good though.

I also have Dale of Merchants pre-ordered! Are you me?

Premium User7 months ago

#Baseball Highlights: 2045 sounds fun. I used to play the MLB 2k games as a kid and enjoyed building my roster more than playing the actual games lol

Supporter7 months ago

I really enjoy deck builders. I do the feeling of customization, and the freedom in game direction that a good deckbuilder can offer.

I think my favorite "pure" deckbuilders are:

But, my favorite deck builder of all is #Star Trek: Frontiers. This is a reskin of the famous, #Mage Knight, so I am sure that it would fit in as well. This is, however, far from a pure deckbuilder. Deckbuilding is one of the many facets in this deep, complex, and engaging experience.


Premium User7 months ago

Did not know that MK/ST:F had deck building in them! I guess I don't know much about those games in general. I'll have to look into them! I know how much you love Frontiers.

Supporter7 months ago

Deck building is the mechanic which drives a large portion of those games, it is a really slow deck building mechanism but it is really really good.