Here we will take a look at the 10 top deck-building games with a board based on popularity. This is a series to take a look at a specific board game mechanic or category and out of every game ever released in the space, what are the most popular as of right now, the middle of 2021. We will give some information on each title, as well as, some insight into why it might have landed at its particular spot on the list.
Yes, Deck-Building Games with a Board is a bit of a mouthful, but that little sub category has its own special Allstars and it is nice to take a look at them. They all may have different things to offer, because the criteria is vague, but its about those titles that have busted out of the old card only genre that was popularized with games like #Dominion and #Ascension: Deckbuilding Game, and are trying to do something fresh and new.
Warning, if it has a Mat with spaces that are guides for where to put cards, that is NOT a game board so get that #Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game argument out of here. Modular tile games also unfortunately do not make the cut.
UPDATE: Based on feedback of what constitutes a "deck-building game with a board" this list has been revised. @MarcTTG put it well as something having a "secondary playing surface". This means that #Mage Knight and #The Quest for El Dorado, which were previously excluded, should in fact be on the list. They are popular according to the data, so they will push other titles off the list. It was also well said by @marcnelsonjr that #Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle has a mat (guides for cards) and not a board, so that was removed.
At a 2017 release, this game is not new or old. Altiplano has rode a steady wave. It is a solid product but didn't necessarily have an explosive release. This is a very approachable title and most people that like it really like it. It gives you something interesting in play but it also has this great theme which ties in perfectly.
Each player starts with a unique role tile, giving them access to different goods and methods of production. Players have limited access to production at the start, but they can acquire additional production sites during the game that open up new options. Aside from building up an effective production, players must fulfill their orders at the right time, develop the road in good time and store their goods cleverly enough to fill their warehouses in the most valuable way.
Fort is one of those titles that is still relatively new (2019), has never really gotten its full due, but has been a solid performer in popularity. Fort is lighter and smaller than other Leder Games titles, like #Root and #Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile, so it as an easy one to push aside. Even though it is light, it is fun, very thematic and incredibly successful at what it sets out to do. This one is going to keep climbing over time in this category as more people play. Another helpful boost is that the first expansion, #Fort: Cats & Dogs Expansion, was just announced.
You’re a kid! And like many kids, you want to grow your circle of friends, collect pizza and toys, and build the coolest fort. By doing this cool stuff, you’ll score victory points, and at the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins! Your cards not only let you take actions on your own turn but also let you follow the other players’ actions on their turns.
Mombasa came out back in 2015. It quickly established itself as this top notch deep and heavy euro with tons going on, but backed by incredibly balance, and just never went away. If you are looking for a very strategic deck building plus game, this is very likely the answer you are going to get. People know it and they respect it. This is one of those titles that is going to hold on because everyone knows it is legit and it is going to stay that way.
Players acquire shares of chartered companies based in Mombasa, Cape Town, Saint-Louis, and Cairo and propagate trading posts of these companies throughout the African continent in order to earn the most money. Each round players choose action cards from their hand, then reveal them simultaneously and carry out the actions. These cards are then placed in a discard pile, and the previously played cards recovered for the subsequent round.
#07 Dune: Imperium
Dune: Imperium is a newer title that has taken the community by storm. It is a medium weight game that is both not too complex but has a lot going on. It hits the perfect sweet spot and it does it well. Not only does this do the IP justice, but it managed to create a very special game that is such a great experience. The word of mouth on this one is through the roof, everyone is talking about it.
Based on the classic novel and film, you are a leader of one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad. You will need to raise your banner and marshal your forces and spies. War is coming, and at the center of the conflict is Arrakis – Dune, the desert planet. You start with a unique leader card, as well as deck identical to those of your opponents. As you acquire cards and build your deck, your choices will define your strengths and weaknesses. Cards allow you to send your Agents to certain spaces on the game board, so how your deck evolves affects your strategy.
#06 Lewis & Clark: The Expedition
Whenever a game is at the top of what it does, it is going to succeed. Lewis and Clark is one of those games. It is this interesting worker placement meets deck building game that is proper up against a journey that is moving forward. This interesting mix and great experience has helped set this one apart and give fans something to be excited about. This is by no means a new game, originally coming out in 2014, so it has held its own for awhile.
Lewis & Clark is a board game in which each player manages an expedition intended to cross the North American continent. Your goal is to be the first to reach the Pacific. You have your own crew that will be padded by the Native Americans and the trappers met along the way. You have to cleverly manage your characters and the resources you find.
#05 Lost Ruins of Arnak
This one is only going to keep climbing. Czech Games has put out a good product. It was even nominated for the Kennerspiel, but unfortunately it lost to #Paleo. The only reason it is not higher is because the two titles above this one are long-standing favorites that are going to be very difficult to dethrone. If anyone can do it, this can.
On an uninhabited island in uncharted seas, explorers have found traces of a great civilization. Now you will lead an expedition to explore the island, find lost artifacts, and face fearsome guardians, all in a quest to learn the island’s secrets. In addition to traditional deck-builder effects, cards can also be used to place workers, and new worker actions become available as players explore the island. Some of these actions require resources instead of workers, so building a solid resource base will be essential. You are limited to only one action per turn, so make your choice carefully.
#04 The Quest for El Dorado
Board Game Reviewer and content creator Richard Ham of Rahdo Runs Through said it best, "An absolutely fantastic race game. Should have won the Spiel des Jahres. So fast, clean, fun from start to finish, elegant and with no fat. It is a perfect deck-building race that does exactly what it sets out to do. Players getting to make their own maps is phenomenal." This game has been out since 2017 and it continues to go strong and not fade even one bit in its run.
Players take the roles of expedition leaders who have embarked on a search for the legendary land of gold in the dense jungles of South America. Each player assembles and equips their own team, hiring various helpers from the scout to the scientist to the aborigine. All of them have one goal in mind: Reaching the golden border first and winning all of the riches for themselves.
#03 Mage Knight
Tom Vasel, Founder of The Dice Tower, gave this one a 95 out of 100, one of his best scores ever, stating, "This has an overwhelming amount to it but is worth it and one of the best games of the year. In the current field, none give you the control that this does. Mages are powerful, the night/day is cool, combat is great, tons of scenarios exist and the reputation system is strong." That is absolutely true. This has been out for over a decade and no one can touch it in it's particular space.
You are in control of one of four powerful Mage Knights as you explore a land under the control of the Atlantean Empire. As a Mage Knight you must control your reputation and walk the line - or embrace the role of benevolent leader or brutal dictator. Accumulate Fame and experience to acquire powerful Spells and abilities, then use your power to influence units to join your ranks. Featuring a variety of campaign options allowing you to play both competitively or cooperatively.
#02 Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure
Clank is not just #2, it is also #3 with the standalone #Clank! In! Space!, but you came here to discover variety, so we will keep it to one list spot, but certainly wanted to acknowledge that accomplishment. Clank is just a well-oiled machine that is tons of fun and a fantastic package that is unlike anything else. This is another older title that sticks around because people love it and it is very highly recommended. That word of mouth has gone a long way.
You must sneak into an angry dragon’s mountain lair to steal precious artifacts. Delve deeper to find more valuable loot. Acquire cards for your deck and watch your thievish abilities grow. Be quick and be quiet (“clank” refers to the noise you make). Each careless sound draws the attention of the dragon, and each artifact stolen increases its rage. You need to make it out so how much will you push your luck.
#01 Great Western Trail
It is no surprise that Great Western Trail sits atop the list of the top deck-building games with a board. It is an incredibly popular game that is consistently one of the top games and shows no sign of wavering, even after being out since 2016. There has been lots of new content announced so this remains at top of mind. This is a great example of deck building plus. It uses the mechanic well but mashes it up with other things that make for a unique experience
You are a rancher and constantly herd your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. Each time you arrive in KC, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. However, the trail not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail and hire the right staff such as herders or craftsman.