You've probably heard of this new genre of games going by the name of Deck Building, and you could be wondering if it's something you might enjoy. Some say deck-building games are closely related to card-builder games- such as Magic: The Gathering -albeit featuring a somewhat more enclosed system. However, their origins can only be traced back to 2008, when the hit-game Dominion first landed on the shelves. Since then, we've seen several spin-offs and games with similar mechanics.
Deck-building games combine board game strategies with the luck-based and randomness of playing card games. This makes them fairly easy to learn, highly competitive, but still super fun to play! In this guide, we're looking to walk you through the best deck-building games that might be right for you, your family and your friends.
Best Deck-Building Board Games
- 2nd Edition features updated cards, artwork and streamlined rules
- Tactical game for 2-4 Players
- 30 minute playing time
- Lots of expansions available to add depth and complexity
It comes as no surprise Domino claims our top spot for the best deck-building games. The grandfather of deck-building games -quite literally the first "board" game to only comprise of cards- Domino's ability to switch up the setup for each game makes it undoubtedly the number one option. The artwork is equally stunning, the game is easy to learn and you can find many expansions too.
Players collect different cards that offer different types of power and money. The same cards can be traded for others, which can potentially give you power, money and points. The ultimate objective is to accumulate the most Victory Points by the time the game ends to win. Unlike the vast majority of deck-building games (or any board game, really), the rules for setup and play can change every time. How? The box contains 500 cards, and you can choose 10 of the 25 Kingdom Cards to start playing -and this could be any combination of 10. This sets you up for a whole new experience every time you play!
The game is suitable for ages 13 and up, and 2-4 players can play at a go. The first run-through is arguably the most troubling, but as soon as you catch on, Domine is a breeze. In fact, it scores a kind 2.36/5 for complexity on BoardGameGeek. The box states that game-play takes roughly 30 minutes, but in reality, you can expect around 45 minutes for two players and certainly longer with more players.
2. Aeon's End 2nd Edition
- Aeon's end is a cooperative deck building game for 1-4 players that feels like...
- Your deck is never shuffled, a variable player order simulates the chaos of...
- Every game you will face a different nemesis, each with a unique set of...
Any cooperative game is a great addition to a family game night, and Aeon's End 2nd Edition is exactly just that! It features varying turns that make it pretty exciting. Plus, you can't shuffle and reuse your discard pile, which forces players to be more vigilant and competitive. This deck-building game has a somewhat sinister and intense theme; it revolves around grotesque, powerful figures known as The Nameless threatening the underground city of Gravehold. The players' or citizens' objective is to reduce the enemy's health to zero to win.
You start by choosing a character, followed by your nemesis, and then you place nine cards for the shared market in the middle. These nine cards consist of four sets of spells, three gems and two relics:
- Spells attack The Nameless.
- Gems offer aether, the game's currency, for buying things from the market.
- Relics boost other effects.
One peculiar yet intriguing feature about this highly competitive game is that players take turns by drawing from the turns pile, meaning you never know whether it'll your turn, another citizen's or the enemy's turn. Furthermore, you're not allowed to reshuffle your discard pile and reuse it, as you probably would in other deck-building games. The game can accommodate 1-4 players, although most users reckon it's best with two players, taking roughly 1hr of gameplay. This is a good deck-building game for players 12 years old up; plus, it's not hard to learn with a 2.75/5 complexity rating on BoardGameGeek.
3. Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure
- For 2-4 Players
- A fast and intense dungeon delving experience!
- Push your luck to collect more treasure but watch out for the Dragon!
- A perfect melding of map exploration and deck-building in one game!
If you're looking for collectible card games that are very easy to learn and super fun to play, Clank! is certainly worth your attention. It's the only game featured on this guide that combines deck-building cards and a game board for more varied and unique gameplay. The goal is to sneak into the dragon's lair, steal a certain artifact and make a safe escape.
All movements are guided by the cards you have in hand- your initial deck plus those you buy during play. For instance, if you have a card that says "Clank!", then you've created a clank. Therefore, you have to add a cube from your stock to the clank section of the board. Once you've acquired an artifact from the dragon's lair, you then make your way back to the castle's door to gain some handsome bonuses. And rather than taking regular turns, you make your way across five spots "upper level" of the castle (at the top of the board), which then triggers dragon attacks. The game ends when one of the players reaches the fifth space, hence winning.
The tricky part of this game involves finding a card that triggers a dragon attack. Players must take all the Clank! tokens, place them in the Dragon bag and then draw out some cubes (depending on the Rage Track). The deck builder whose token color is drawn from the bag places it in their damage track. Clank! can be played by 2-4 people at once, and it takes 30-60 minutes to finish a game. Plus, it's suitable for kids as young as 8, as much as the box says 12.
4. Star Realms
- Fun Amazingly rich yet easy to learn game play
- Portable The whole game comes in a deck box that can fit in your jacket pocket
- Expandable One copy supports 2 players Add additional copies for multi player...
- Beautiful Rich full color artwork brings this science fiction universe to life
Star Realms is a huge favorite for almost every great deck builder out there. It's a spaceship-themed card game whose main objective is to decrease the opponent's Authority (their score) all the way down to zero before they reduce yours. Each player starts with 8 cards, six scouts and two vipers, with two main actions: attack or trade.
Each attack card has a number that represents how many damage points you can inflict on an opponent. For trade, you swap one or more trading cards from your hand for any of the 5 random cards placed at the center of the table. Purchased cards go into the discard pile to be shuffled and utilized in your hand later, like most other deck-building games. BoardGameGeek rates Star Reals at a 1.94/5 for complexity, meaning it's one of the easiest games to learn and the game lasts about 20 minutes. Without a doubt, Star Realms is a deck-building game that kids as young as 8 can enjoy, even though the box claims 12 years and above.
There are two huge reasons why deck builders adore Star Realms. For starters, it's pretty cheap. The base game is one of the cheapest among the best deck-building games, a pleasant surprise such a terrific game. Second, there are several expansion packs for enthusiasts, including Gambit, Cosmic Gambit, Colony Wars, four Crisis packs and four different United packs. It's worth noting the base set allows only for 2 players at a go, but you can increase the possible number of players by buying more than one base set.
5. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
- Play as your favorite character to defend the wizarding world from evil forces:...
- Gain influence to master powerful spells, recruit allies, and uncover magical...
- Enhance your abilities with over 140 cards
- 7 successive game adventures offer increasing difficulty: as you advance through...
This is a deck-building game that targets the sea of Potterheads looking for cooperative board games. In Harry Potter; Hogwarts Battle, the goal is for the students to work together to safeguard the school from magical villains. Each deck builder picks a character (Harry, Hermione, Ron or Neville), starting as a first-year Hogwarts student who advances through their education, learning new spells and acquiring tools and tricks as they progress.
Each character has their own specific cards and abilities for gaining resources. The gist of the game's deck-building entails collecting character, spell and magical item cards that allow you to fight the villains and stop them from gaining power. The board game also includes a "Dark Arts" deck that provides villain card effects to the game, like adding Dark Marks to a certain location in Hogwarts or a player losing all their health. The game is lost when all locations on the board have full of Dark Marks.
Strategic play is especially important for this Harry Potter-based board game. This is what makes this deck-building co-op game fun for casual players over family time or at a party, yet still a complex game for serious deck-builders. It's mostly recommended for ages 11 and up, but it might also be suitable for even 8 year-olds. 2-4 players can take part at a time, with a game lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes. It has a 2.08/5 complexity rating on BoardGameGeek, meaning it's not too hard to learn.
Best Deck-Building Video Games
The deck-building genre is not just limited to board games. In fact, card battlers are perhaps some of the most competitive games. Here, we'll take you through the best deck-building games to enjoy on your machine, console or smartphone.
Developer: Riot Games
Legends of Runeterra, developed and published by Riot, is a deck-building video game heavily adapted from the studio's popular MOBA, League of Legends, bring forth a refreshing take for deck-building card battlers. The game's card selection is split into three categories: Champions, Follows and Spells. Each category has an extensive range of unique capabilities and effects that truly make this game very immersive. That, plus the MOBA-inspired design, make Legends of Runterra one of the best deck-building games you have on your PC or mobile.
Developer: Wizards Digital
Magic: The Gathering Arena is perhaps the best digital adaptation of the classic card battler. Even better, the game caters to veteran Magic players while still attracting newcomers, mostly thanks to its free-to-play model. The studio manages to accomplish this by keeping the game consistent with today's gaming landscape. Plenty of the strategies and techniques of the classic Magic are replicated in Arena. Additionally, each card played is followed by flashy animations and sound effects for a more immersive and engaging gaming experience.
3. Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is a classic example of combining the mechanics of two entirely different genres to bring out something new and exciting. It's presented as a tough-but-fair deck-building game that has you climbing a huge spire full of random battles, rest points and treasure. The game's objective is to make your way to the top while collecting a powerful deck that should help you defeat the final boss. Each new run presents a completely new path with unique obstacles, enemy encounters and rewards. This encourages you and the other deck builders to play around with various deck strategies and try different playable characters.
How do Deck-Building Games Work?
Deck-building games typically feature an enclosed system, meaning you have all the necessary components to complete the game when you buy the game. Therefore, you don't have to go out looking for and collect the rarest cards to build your deck, then play against opponents. Furthermore, every player starts with the same starting hand and builds their deck, expanding it throughout the game.
Typically, your starting deck is a set number of cards, most times made of different types of cards, such as action cards, currencies or victory points. After every player has their initial decks, they draw a specific number of cards, say 5 cards, which is considered the starting hand. Now, the particular mechanics of what happens next differs from one game to the other, but most of them more or less follow the same principles.
The player in turn proceeds to the action and/or buy phase (depending on the game). From there, each player uses their cards in hand to further build and enhance their deck, gain Victory Points or fighting enemies (again, depending on the specific rules of the game and its objectives). Finally, after running through all you can do with your hand, you put all your "used" cards (whose actions you have exhausted) into your discard pile, then replenish your hand with the set number of cards from your deck and wait for your next turn.
As much as the action phase varies from one game to the other, the general theme of any deck-building game remains largely similar. Normally, the main goal is to increase the potential and capabilities of your deck such that in each turn you play, you can accomplish more actions, get stronger, or buy better cards.
How Does A Deck-Building Game End?
Different games have different end goals. For some, the objective might be damaging your opponent's health points, others collecting as many Victory Points as you possibly can, while other deck-building games have a set number of rounds. What tends to happen, generally, players stop building their decks at some point during the game and start using what they have in hand solely towards achieving the end goal, for instance, you start wielding your deck to attack your opponents, or you use your currency to buy and accumulate Victory Points. Ultimately, each deck-building game has its own rules on how the game ends, and it's these options that make these games super interesting.