We’re back with another mechanic for a board game, not one that you see all that often, but one that covers what is really quite a breath of board games. If you are looking for fast paced tension, real time games are going to give …
Tag: board game mechanics
Welcome to a new series of Board Game articles. In this series I’m going to be looking at a number of different mechanics in board games, starting off with one of my favorites, deck building. I’m going to explain how the mechanic works and then give a few examples of games that are really focused on that and how they use deck building. This is really meant for newer people into board gaming to let them learn about a new type of game and how it works.
Most people are familiar with games that use decks of cards, from the kids game Candyland to something like Uno or Skip-bo to party games like Cards Against Humanity. All of these games use a communal deck of cards that players draw from to get their hand or to take an action and then they play those cards. It’s a very straight forward concept and you have a deck of cards that is consistent that you’ll be drawing the cards from and you’ll get whatever you get from that pool of cards.
A deck building game builds upon this idea of the deck of cards, but instead of having 108 cards in the Uno deck that everyone shares, instead you have your own deck of 10 or 12 or some number of cards. And when you start the game everyone’s decks are the same. But as the game goes on, you purchase more cards from a pool of cards that are face up to add to your deck. So when you have to reshuffle, now your deck is different than another persons deck.
A simple example of this is Ascension. In Ascension, you start with a deck of 10 cards, eight that give you points to purchase more cards, and two that let you fight monsters. The cards that you buy, some of them allow you to draw more cards when you play them, or get more points for purchasing more cards, or they’ll help you fight monsters. So by the time you shuffle again, you will have two or more different cards than the person you’re playing against, so the hand you’ll draw will be different from a hand of cards that they can draw. The further you get into the game and the more cards that you add to your deck, the more different your deck of cards will be from another players and the more different your strategy will be from another player. The deck building aspect of the game allows players to create a deck that matches how they want to play the game.
All deck building games give you a way to acquire more cards. In Ascension you purchase them, so a card that costs more will mean that you need more points to purchase it, so you might not be able to right away. This tends to be a core mechanic as well of a lot of deck building games is that they build up to you doing bigger and bigger things, but we’ll talk about what that mechanic is known as in a future article.
There are two main types of deck building games. The static market game or the changing market game. Ascension is an example of a changing market game. You have six cards to make your purchase from or to fight if they are monsters. When you purchase a card or defeat a monster, a new card is flipped down into the market form a draw pile and you don’t know what that card is going to be. So a card you want one turn might not be there the following turn, or might not be there at all again in a game. In a static market game you have a certain number of piles of cards, all the cards in those piles are identical so when you buy the top one, you know what the one underneath it is going to be. This allows you, from the start of the game, to determine a long term strategy throughout the game and to really dictate what your deck is going to be capable of doing. Dominion is an example of a static market deck building game. Now, it comes down to preference as to which one you like better. With the static deck it is going to more heavily favor the more experienced player or the player with better long term planning skills, because at the start of the game you can sit down, look at the static market and make your plan. If a changing market, you might come in with a plan but then need to adjust it on the fly, but it’ll keep the game more balanced between more and less experienced players. Neither is really a bad thing, it just comes down to personal preference.
Let’s talk about some deck building games that you might want to checkout if this sounds interesting.
Gateway/Intro To Deck Building Game
Ascension – For me, Ascension is the ideal deck building game, the changing market place means that a more experienced player doesn’t have a massive advantage and while there are some better strategies, it all depends on how the market comes out. It also works well because you are just doing two things with your cards, mainly, you are either buying with the purchasing power on the cards or you are fighting a monster with a fighting power on a the cards. A few cards do a few more things, like draw more cards from your deck but they are generally simple. The theme isn’t really there, but in most pure deck building games, which Ascension is, the theme will be missing or barely there anyways.
Medium Weight Deck Building Game
Clank! – Now, regular Clank! isn’t my favorite way to play Clank!. I like Clank! In! Space! better, but there’s just a little bit more going on than a medium weight deck building game. Clank! again has a variable market and monsters to fight, but you’ve added in some additional elements. It does more of one thing you see in Ascension, which is creating combos based off of who you’ve gotten, and it adds in more than just purchase and fight. You now have the ability to move and you are pushing your luck. Also, good cards might have negative consequences as well. It adds a bit more complexity and a bit more strategy to the game, even with a changing market place.
Heavy/Complex Deck Building Game
Aeon’s End: War Eternal – I had a few options to pick here, but I went with Aeon’s End: War Eternal. A lot of deck building games add to their complexity not so much the deck building aspect, but from additional pieces to the game play. Aeon’s End: War Eternal (or any of the Aeon’s End Games) are good examples of this. The deck building uses a static market, but you are presented with more choices. You have to cast spells at monsters, but to do that you have to purchase more spells, but with your money you also need to open breaches to cast those spells. Plus, all of the Aeon’s End games add in something else interesting, not only is there a lot of strategy to what you get from the market, you also don’t shuffle your deck, you just discard cards, so if you can plan it out correctly you can stack the deck in a particular order to get a lot of well balanced hands or maybe a hand with a lot of purchasing power in order to get a very strong spell. There’s just more to think about, though this game is cooperative so a more experienced player can help and teach a new player to the game.
Now, there are a lot of deck building games out there to choose from and some that fall into the category that I’d qualify as more deck construction games that work off of some of the same principles as a deck building game. Have you tried a deck building game before? Do they sound fun to you?
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