Deck Building games came on the scene in 2008 with the release of Dominion. This genre is not the collectible card games you might be thinking of like Magic the Gathering or Pokemon. Everything you need comes in the board game box. Everyone starts from square one and the game is the process of building up your deck (or pool or whatever).
Deck Building games are a type of engine building game where it is all about buying different pieces to get bigger and stronger, getting you even bigger pieces. We love deck building games because of the endless strategy options and the satisfaction of crazy combos going off. You will see that plenty here. This is the list of the 10 Best Deck Building Games.
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#10 | Ascension
Ascension launched back in 2010 and is credited with popularizing the card river system This is where a constant stream of cards comes through that you can access though if you wait too long they could be gone. There have been many great additional expansions that have kept this amazing combat-based game going.
Not only does Ascension make the list of best deck building games because of the contributions it has made, but it is fun too. Through various cards you have attack and you have resources to buy things. Either path give you more great stuff to build up your deck
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#09 | Great Western Trail
Great Western Trail happens to be a much larger and denser engine-building game that has deck building as a key component. This is a dense one, the setup alone will make your head hurt but it is worth it. Once it starts to flow, the games are really fun.
You are basically cowboys in the Old West who need to move cattle and find ranchers to join your team and whatnot. Deck Building is not the most important thing but because it is used in an interesting way and this game is fantastic (once learned), it just makes our list of the best deck building games.
FOR MORE: Great Western Trail Page | Games Like Great Western Trail | Buy Great Western Trailer on Amazon
#08 | Tyrants of the Underdark
Tyrants of the Underdark is a heavy fantasy dungeon and dragons deck-building game. There are dragons and elves and more. If you are looking for that deep dive into this world, this is the game for you. Besides the deck building, this has a game board with various locations and tracks, as long as, forces. It is the building you deck from cards from the market that drives everything. This is very much a combat game, most actions rely on building up your troops, assassinating enemies, or mixing it up with spies. This is very straight forward and very thematic.
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#07 | Blood Bowl Team Manager
Blood Bowl plays much more like a tycoon game than any other game on this list of best deck building games. Things are happening and you are just the mastermind behind the scene making investments and puppetmastering you minions towards victory. Customize your team by drafting Star Players, hiring staff, upgrading facilities, and cheating like mad. For 2 – 5 players, games last around 90 minutes.
#06 | Trains
In Trains, its modern times and players are the select railroad tycoons who have consolidated power and will fight to make the most money off of the spreading of these modern marvels. Managing private railways companies and striving to become bigger and better than the competition, you are in it to win it.
The game uses cards as an engine with a map game board in the center. You will start with a small set of resources and materials, but by amazing deck building, you will be able to place stations and lay rails over the maps of Osaka, Tokyo or other locations. It is Ticket to Ride meets Dominion. For 2 – 4 players at about 45 minutes per game.
FOR MORE: Buy Trains on Amazon
#05 | Legendary Encounters: Alien
There is also a Marvel superhero version of this game but the Alien version tends to be more balanced and fun. Based on the four movies of the Alien series this is a fully cooperative game with fresh and original elements.
Players must work together in order to survive against hordes of aliens. Taking on the role of protagonists such as Ripley, Dallas, Bishop and Corporal Hicks, players take turns recruiting cards for their deck from a central selection in order to improve their deck and defeat Xenomorph cards that are added to the central game board. Only the strong will survive. For 1 – 5 players, games run 30 – 60 minutes.
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#04 | Clank! Franchise
The various Clank games (Clank original, Clank in Space, etc) merge deck building with dungeon diving all along an interesting game mechanic that deals with how much noise your character makes (“Clank”).
The deck building portion drives the game and is incredibly robust which is why a hybrid game makes it so high on the list of best deck building games. It all works together and it works so well. You have to get into a dungeon, grab a treasure, and get out before waking a monster. The deck you are building dictates everything from movement to money to clank and attack.
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#03 | Star Realms
Star Realms is a pure battle royal with a deck building backend. Most of the other games here are about building an empire, but this game is about building up a space force strong enough to take out the opponent. The pure combat balance and adrenaline are not something you see done well too often but Star Realms does it.
Cards give you money or they give you attack, you can attack a player or the bases they have out, it is as simple as that. There are five different sectors to go into creating some very interesting synergy and replayability but it is all about building up a force to be reckoned with. Games are exclusively for 2 players and run a quick 20 minutes.
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#02 | Aeons End
Aeons End is a great deck builder that happens to also be a cooperative game. It has innovative mechanisms including a variable turn order system that simulates an attack, as well as, deck management rules that are a little out of the norm. It is the players against The Nameless and their hordes using unique abilities and powerful spells. You have some much to build up if it feels like you are the mastermind behind an entire universe. The extra added difficulty of meshing with what the other players are doing is a special challenge worth rising to.
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#01 | Dominion
The top spot on the list of the best deck building games goes to the originator. Dominion started it all and is still the gold standard. Not only is it incredibly balanced to a point where it may never be beaten in terms of perfection, but it has also stayed relevant by pumping out amazing expansion after amazing expansion.
It is just about the cards. You use gold to buy action cards, money and victory conditions. So simple so so explosively fun in every single game, each one different and unique. For 2 – 4 players, games run about 45 minutes each.