Hey hey folks! This week I thought I'd share one of my favourite styles of game with you all, so welcome to my list of the Top 10 deck building games! I've rated them based, on not just their strengths as a game but also on other factors that may inhibit their ability to play, such as their ease of availability, approachability, support from the publisher by way of distribution and expansions and finally, by how much joy I get from playing them! Let's go!
For those seeking something a little lighter in tone and playability, the Smash Up series serves as an excellent foot in the door to the deck building space. The concept is simple, players each choose from two unique factions, for example, zombies and dinosaurs, then mash those factions’ decks together and voila! Deck building achieved! Players compete to bring down a series of enemies by battering them down and overthrowing their bases. There are a heap of expansion decks available and each one brings something new and interesting to the table. Ideal fun for families or even as a bit of a laugh on game night!
When I first saw Fort, I knew it was going to be one for the collection! The familiar artwork from artist Kyle Ferrin and the childhood theme of building a fort with friends creates a sense of nostalgia, while providing a solid deck building experience. The twist here is the ability to “steal” cards from other players. Each of the cards represents a friend whom, if you don’t play with them, then become available for other players to invite to their yard to play instead. A rather brutal mechanic hidden beneath a veneer innocence and child’s play. It perfectly captures the fickleness of kids having a laugh, then getting bored and moving on. You can almost see your fellow players mouth the words “you’re not my friend anymore” as another player snatches up a friend they had hoped would stick around!
8. Dominion 2nd Edition
To anyone familiar with the deck building genre, there’ll be no surprises in seeing Dominion on a list like this. Harkening back to 2008 when the first edition was released, the second edition released eight years later in 2016 is again showing its age. But like any veteran, it can hold its own and even still beat many younger, leaner games today. In the modern market there isn’t much that sets it apart since, at its core, Dominion is just a good solid deck building game, no pomp and ceremony here. As Lords of Waterdeep is to worker placement games, so too is Dominion the measure of modern games of its kind. With a multitude of expansions and a big box version available, there’s a lot of playability and if you’re new to the genre, there’s no better place to begin!
7. Aeon’s End
Aeon’s End is a cooperative deck building game notable for its variable turn order system. A game for 1-4 players, Aeon’s End sees the players taking on the role of Breach Mages defending the city of Gravehold against the forces of The Nameless, enemies who have broken through from another realm and are set on conquering the world. Characters have special abilities they can charge up to unleash powerful effects and the enemies have powerful city-wrecking abilities of their own. For newer players, Aeon’s End has an excellent tutorial scenario which is a fantastic way to become familiar with the ins and outs of the game! Nothing like diving straight into the deep end!
6. Dune Imperium
Dune Imperium is a game that took a lot of gamers by surprise, myself included. Normally I don’t place much stock in licensed games, they can tend to feel a bit hit and miss at times, as though they’ve merely tacked a theme onto any bland board game. Not so with Dune Imperium! At each stage, the struggles of the great houses of the Dune universe seem to take on a visceral quality as players make and break alliances, lose their political influence, become rich with melange or take to the sands of Arrakis to do battle. The deck building elements force difficult choices with players deciding between playing a card to place a worker or saving the cards to increase their military might or increase their fortunes, whether political or otherwise. The mechanics suit the theme well and while I’m sure the game would have worked with any number of settings, Dune feels like the perfect fit.
5. Arkham Horror
If you prefer more storytelling in your deck building games, then Arkham Horror wants to speak with you. This well established, yet still somewhat elusive deck builder has remained on the top of many players lists since it’s 2016 release. Over the years further stories and investigators have been added to the game, letting players experience the best Lovecraftian horror games have to offer. While many of the mythos packs and expansions have proven problematic to find in recent times, Fantasy Flight is releasing updated expansions, allowing new players to experience the game at its best and for established players to fill those annoying gaps in their collections!
4. Thunderstone Quest
Sometimes cards alone aren’t enough to get the job done. Maybe you’re looking for a more fleshed out experience? I invite you to try Thunderstone Quest, a dungeon based, deck building game with an emphasis on adventure, exploration and character advancement. The fundamentals of the deck building elements are familiar, but where this game differs from the crowd is in its scenario based adventure elements. Each character will spend their time battling creatures in the dungeons or wilderness, completing quests, visiting town to purchase new cards to strengthen their decks and advancing their characters to become more powerful. The component quality is high and the box is large enough to hold several expansions once you feel you’re ready to move on!
3. Marvel Champions
One of my all time favourite deck building games and the one I credit with getting me interested in the genre. Marvel Champions is a medium weight cooperative game where players can take up the mantle of their favourite superheroes and join together to thwart the evil schemes of a multitude of villains. Out of the box players can use the prebuilt decks to begin playing straight away, or they can carefully construct their own decks and enjoy discovering new ways to engage their enemies, or support their team! Great as a co-op experience, Marvel Champions is also a fantastic single player game!
2. Clank! In! Space!
If you’re looking for a light hearted deck building adventure game filled with pop culture references and sci-fi satire, then Clank! In! Space! ticks all those boxes and then some! Building (pun intended) on the original Clank! dungeon crawler, Clank! In! Space! improves on the original in several ways, the board is now modular, resulting in a greater variety of layouts and the cards now embrace the humorous side of the game by incorporating references to several science fiction franchises. Fun, quick to learn and immensely re-playable!
1. Mystic Vale
Not only an amazing deck building game, Mystic Vale ups the ante by introducing the concept of card crafting. Using transparent plastic cards and card sleeves, players begin with a weak deck of only twenty cards, a sizeable number of which are blank. Players then add upgrades to the cards by sleeving new cards over the old ones, adding more powers, mitigation and abilities to their deck. By the end of the game, those twenty cards will be a force to be reckoned with! There are few games out there that can offer this level of innovation, strategy and fun all while bedecked in glorious fantasy art. Offering a number of well received expansions, Mystic Vale has plenty to keep players occupied and the building combinations are staggering!
Thanks for joining me again and I hope you enjoyed my selections this week? As always I'm keen to hear your favourite, so please share in the comments below or over on our Game Kings Gamers group! Until next time, stay safe in your bubbles and take care of each other!