So I normally do a lot of top fives at the end of the year in bigger categories, but I wanted to break it down for a few specific categories within board games so you can see what I really enjoy in the various genres and I’ll give my reasons why:
5. Magic the Gathering
Normally I don’t have games on a deck building list like this. MtG, though, is a deck building game, you just aren’t doing it actively in the game. But I would argue that a lot of the fun of Magic, though I really do like the game, is trying to build out that crazy deck that just might work. I think that part of the game can become too much when people start to take the game too seriously and go all in on the pay to win model. But putting together a deck that just might work, that’s a lot of fun. Then you get to test it out, go back to the drawing board, and try again. I really liked to create decks that would build towards a big finish if I could stay alive long enough. Best way to describe it is building the ticking time bomb deck that you know will blow up, but you don’t know when.
4. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
A deck builder that has a good amount of theme. It feels, as you’re early in the game, that you’re playing through the books. The only odd thing is that you continue to add villains each game, so the further in you are, the more it feels like you’re playing through the series as compared to playing through a book. I wish that was different, but the cards themselves, and the characters as you open up more books and unlock more of the rules, feel like you’re playing as the different characters from the books and each has a different thing they are a bit better at, such as Hermoine with spells.
3. Clank! In! Space!
I really enjoy this game for the goofiness of the deck building. The cards are all references to various Sci-Fi shows, books, and movies. I also like it because it’s not something that is just a deck builder. You are building your deck, but you’re building it so that you can move around the space ship and gather the best treasure that you can. So the people you recruit and the cards you buy actually matter in the game for more than just something like victory points. The turns are also extremely fast in the game, which is great, because the game can take a little while to set-up with the modular board and all the different tokens and cards.
2. Xenoshyft: Onslaught
What you’ll notice about most of the games on the list is that they add a lot of plot to the game. Xenoshyft: Onslaught continues that as you are space marines fighting off waves and waves of bug monsters. What I like about this game is that you are using your cards and money to set-up your defenses for the next wave of bugs. So it has the theme of what you are doing, recruiting more troops and upgrading their equipment. I also like that you can help out your fellow players because if they are facing troubles in their lane of defense, you can help them prior to the wave of bugs or sometimes during the wave of bugs, so you can actually help build up someone else’s deck if you have your own engine working well already. It’s a very tough game, but I really like that about it, because you’re always feeling the pressure of getting the right pull.
1. Arkham Horror LCG
This game is amazing and I haven’t even played it a ton. It’s not your standard deck builder as you aren’t purchasing cards as you go, but between games you are gaining XP and upgrading cards or putting in new cards. Sometimes the scenarios even give you new cards you can add to your deck. This deck builder is closer to Magic the Gathering in the style you are building the deck because you build it prior to the game. But it is great because you have to build it in such a way to have some weaknesses that specific to your character(s) in the game, so each deck feels unique.
Now, just a few honorable mentions:
Century: Golem Edition & Not Alone, both great games, but they are really a hand builder versus a deck builder. The mechanics are pretty similar to deck building though, so can be HM’s
Marvel Legendary, I’m not the biggest fan of the game, some because there’s so much bloat that you end up just not getting the right combination of cards because you put together too odd a group of heroes. It can just be too swingy at times, but superheroes are awesome.
Aeon’s End/Aeon’s End: War Eternal/Aeon’s End Legacy, I’m going to be playing this soon, I’ve watched a playthrough of this game, it has enough extra going on with the monster you’re fighting and the spell slots, basically, that you can open up. It seems very interesting, and a deck builder that you don’t shuffle is very cool as you can theoretically stack the deck in your favor.
What’s missing from the list because I haven’t played enough or just didn’t like it that well:
Clearly there is no Dominion on the list. While Dominion is the grand daddy of them all, or at least the first super popular one, Dominion is a pretty boring game where the cards are themeless and could be anything. It’s a pure deck builder, but that’s about it.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is also missing from the list, it’s a pretty cool epic game, however, it’s supposed to be RPG like, and leveling up is just too slow. The game just needs to move a little bit faster. The same thing is the case with Shadowrun: Crossfire. I love the setting, and the game is cool, but the original printing was also just too slow to build to the cool things. I think that Harry Potter is the game that could be like this, bu t you feel cooler much faster.
What are your favorite deck builders? Which games would you recommend to people?
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