Tag: deck building

Top 5: Cooperative Games

Top 5: Cooperative Games

One of the last two board game top 5’s I’m going to do. Cooperative games are a ton of fun, sure you might like to beat up on another person in a game, but what works well with cooperative games is the game is going […]

Top 5: Deck Building

Top 5: Deck Building

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 […]

The Evolution of Deck Building Games

The Evolution of Deck Building Games

Let me start by saying that Deck Building is one of my favorite game mechanics, and one that has been around for a while. Also, let me say that there are two different, distinct ways you can qualify deck building. I am not referring to the collectible card game method (or even living card game), where you can build a custom deck leading into the game. Yes, you do build a deck of cards to play with in those games, but the game itself isn’t about deck building. In some ways, they are the basis for modern deck building games, though.

Image Source: Wikipedia

In those games, you would build your deck of cards, however many that might be, from cards you had bought and collected. You were looking for interesting interactions and synergies between cards. That is something that still definitely exists in modern deck builders. But the modern deck builder doesn’t have you create your deck ahead of time. In fact, everyone starts out with the same cards and then you can build and expand your decks beyond that.

That is what makes the mechanic interesting, in a lot of the early deck builders, you would customize and try and develop your own strategy for the game based off of a set of cards that were available to everyone in the game. Dominion, the first popular deck builder, created an economy where you would search to combo cards to the point where you could buy victory point cards, in particular the high cost victory point cards which were one way to end the game.

While I do appreciate the mechanic in Dominion, Dominion does have one serious flaw to the game. There will always be a best strategy because everyone is purchasing from a static market of cards. This can lead to a run away leader problem in the game, or if the cards don’t synergize well, the strategy is then just to buy more money, so you don’t actually end up using the combinations. Also, the game has a medieval theme that could literally be any sort of economy, so it’s very very themeless. Toss in inconsistent art throughout the game and expansions, and I’ve moved on from my copy of Dominion.

Image Source: CMON

But Dominion was the one that started it for deck builders, maybe not the first, but the first big one. From there we’ve moved on to a few different ways of deck building.

The first big advancement is the rotating market. The game Marvel Legendary is a great example of this. While the market is limited more so than in Dominion, the market rotates as people buy a card, you flip a new card down. This means that the market is constantly changing and there isn’t a way to create a specific strategy as clearly that is going to be the best. This helps solve the run away leader problem. It also provides more strategy for creating your deck as the option of just buying money isn’t going to fix your problem in the game of figuring out card synergies.

In a cooperative game, like Marvel Legendary, you can still make your decks highly focused as you’re talking about what is out there and who might want what card when it comes around to their turn. But in Clanks! In! Space!, you are playing a competitive game with a rotating market. This means that someones you might buy a card that isn’t ideal for your deck, just because you don’t want anyone else to have it.

There are also interesting ways that they fixed the fixed market issue in Dominion in other games without it being a rotating market. Xenoshyft: Onslaught is a good example of this. In the game you are working together to defend your base, but I might have the role of the science department while someone else might have the barracks. Because we have different roles we have different powers that make our strategies unique. If you are the science department, you have the two unique cards in your deck from the start, and you can get a discounted buy on science cards each round. That means your deck is going to lean a certain direction because it’s easier for you to load up on a certain type of good card than it is for other people. Variable player powers cover over a lot of issues you can run into with deck builders by actively making people build their deck in different ways or they won’t be building it the most efficient way using their resources.

Image Source: Portal Games

Xenoshyft: Onslaught also has another interesting mechanic that helps. One issue with deck builders is that as the deck gets larger, you can either get a deck that is too big to really get the cards you want together, or gets too full of early game cards that you don’t get enough money at the same time to purchase more. Xenoshyft: Onslaught fixes both of these issues in unique but good ways. The first thing it does is you area always gaining money to your hand each round of the game, in the first three rounds, you get an extra xenostatham (money unit), in the next three, you get a three xenostatham card, and in the last three rounds, you get a six xenostatham. Now, this means you are never short money, but it adds bloat into your deck. Xenoshyft: Onslaught realizes this, so in the middle rounds, you can trade three one xenostatham cards for a three xenostatham card, and in the last three rounds, you can get your threes to sixes. This keeps the deck cleaner. It also allows you to use troops that you can buy in the first three rounds as discounts on troops in the later rounds, this helps keep the deck thin and focused.

One thing that all the games that I’ve mentioned thus far do better than Dominion as well is that they’ve added theme back into a deck builder. The cards that you are buying and using make sense in the game for the ultimate goal of the game. Wen you’re recruiting heroes to fight against a super villain in Legendary, it makes sense. When the cards have certain abilities on them, they make sense for the hero. That was a huge move forward from what we had been previously seeing in Dominion, and while Dominion might still be the most popular, it gave people a lot more options for games.

There are now some other interesting things that have been added into deck building that make certain deck builders unique.

A game like Cry Havoc, while not a pure deck builder, has some deck building in the game as you add in various terrain cards to your deck. It uses a draw two and pick one methodology of building up your deck. So depending on where you are locate don the board will determine what you want to take, and whom you might be fighting.

Aeon’s End (a game that I’ll have the legacy version of the game on it’s way, but this one does something unique as well. It’s interesting because instead of shuffling your deck like you do with every other deck building game I can think of, you literally just flip your discard pile. However, when you discard cards on your turn, you can sort the order that they go into your discard as long as they are used in the game time in the game. That means that you can stack your deck in an interesting way and specifically create hands, especially earlier in the game.

Deck building is definitely a mechanic that has been extremely popular and I think will remain popular, though we’re now seeing less pure deck building games. A game like Cry Havoc has deck building, but that’s fairly secondary in the game, and you’d actually be able to play the full game without doing any additional deck building if you wanted (if I remember correctly), but it’s fun to see a fairly familiar mechanic showing up in a diverse cross-section of games that wouldn’t always seem like deck building games. It’s also led to some interesting games that have hand building that can work similar to deck building, but you have access to all the cards from the start and then lose them as you play them.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

So, to wrap this up, if deck building seems like an interesting mechanic, where would I start?

That’s a tough question, Dominion is probably the purest deck builder out there, but there are a ton of expansions, so it might seem a bit intimidating to get into. It’s also not the easiest game to sell to people to play, because the theme is very bland. But if you are playing with less gamer-y people, I would start with Dominion.

If you’re playing with people who are used to playing games, just not deck builders, I’d probably start with Xenoshyft: Onslaught. The game has some very interesting choices in it, and it’s fun to face off against a bunch of alien bugs. Marvel Legendary is good as well, but there are so many expansions, I wouldn’t consider it a great starting deck builder. You could look at Legendary Encounters games and just pick the them that works best for you, whether that’s Alien, Big Trouble in Little China, Firefly, or one of the others. These games all offer more to do with your cards and a lot more depth of strategy than Dominion while still keeping the focus on deck building.

What are some of your favorite deck building games?

Mechanically Minded Board Games

Mechanically Minded Board Games

I mentioned the topic in the Kickstarter FOMO post, but I wanted to talk more about different game mechanics that you might here people talk about when it comes to describing a board game, this will be a bit more focused definitions than the Jargon […]

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

I’m doing something that’s a bit different style, I realize that there can be a lot of terms for various nerdy hobbies that might be a bit confusing. So I wanted to, for board games, run through what some of these terms are, if they […]

Magic: The Gathering – An Introduction to the Color Pie

Magic: The Gathering – An Introduction to the Color Pie

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our very first Guest Post Wednesday! We’re proud to present a fantastic article on the color designations in Magic: The Gathering, by Sam Nelson. Sam is a good friend with whom we very much enjoy gaming and nerding out, and who just so happens to be the one who introduced Peder to Magic.

Enjoy!

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Magic: The Gathering – An Introduction to the Color Pie

By Sam Nelson

Knowing where to begin with Magic: The Gathering can be daunting, especially when considering the near limitless combination of cards available. However, there is a good way to guide your curiosity by simply examining the specific colors that make up the color pie. In this article, we’ll explore the basic philosophies behind each color to help you find your potential play-style!

First, we should address the concept behind the Magic: The Gathering color-pie. The order goes clockwise in this manner: White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. Colors that are adjacent to each other are considered allied, while those that are not are considered enemy colors. This concept is generally utilized in sets to show how each color works in conjunction with its allied colors against those of their enemy colors. However, there have been blocks and sets that explore colors working with their enemy colors as well! We’ll likely delve into these advanced concepts in future articles. For now, let’s focus on each color on its own, or as they are often referred to: mono-colored.

White

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

The color of order, justice, and divinity, focusing on the group as a whole over the individual are the foundations of a White mage’s philosophy. Structure is perfection, and looks to benefit all those within its grasp, but doing so as they dictate. It is not unheard of for a White mage to sacrifice for the greater good. Even though White is seen as the color of justice, leaving it unchecked can result in it turning into a very authoritarian role, dictating how the game progresses and is played.

Many mechanics revolve around life-gain, damage prevention and defense, and balancing the playing field (while slowly tipping the scales in your favor). There is value placed in sheer numbers when it comes to creatures, often in smaller creatures that work well in conjunction with each other. Adding additional rules or taxes to spells is utilized frequently to preserve order on the battlefield, as well as creating order and balance amongst players.

Blue

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

Intelligence is paramount to the Blue mage. Careful planning and knowing when to strike is just as important as brute force, and Blue embraces this approach. Not instinctual in nature, it instead takes a logical approach to dealing with threats and overtaking the opponent. Potential, and predicting and understanding change can only improve one’s position and power, so Blue mages ultimately strive to achieve omniscience.

Knowledge and illusion are a Blue mage’s weapons, so many spells revolve around drawing cards and planning and shaping your strategies to fit the current situation. Controlling the pace of the game (also known as tempo) is part of a Blue mage’s strategy. Some of the most common tactics are to simply deny an opponent’s action through counter spells or through such effects as returning creatures and permanents from the battlefield back to their owner’s hand or library. When all else fails, there’s always the ability to simply take control of that which you need!

Black

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

Death and personal gain “no matter the cost” is the mantra of a Black mage. Though not necessarily evil, Black encompasses a much more pessimistic world view. Risky, opportunistic, and amoral, Black’s approach benefits from the suffering of all. Those that are weaker are simply meant to be exploited.

Black magic trusts no one but itself and will do whatever it takes to rise in power. As a Black mage, everything at your disposal is a resource, and you can often exchange one thing for another, such as trading life for additional cards, or sacrificing your creatures to harm your opponents. It excels at spreading death through both creature destruction and the parasitic actions of draining the life from both creatures and opponents alike. It can also cause trauma through discard mechanics, reducing your opponents’ available choices through systematic destruction before they can even make anything happen. One of the most powerful tools comes from the utilization of re-animation spells. With them, the graveyard is not just a place where used spells go, but is rather a resource in and of itself.

Red

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

The color of passion and chaos, no other color plays as impulsively as Red. While often acting first and thinking second, it does so with purpose for an end goal of doing as much as is possible in the shortest amount of time. Red mages embrace the aspects of fire and passion, being able to shift their plans at a moment’s notice if needed to keep up the momentum. Inhibiting oneself goes against their philosophy, as immediate gratification and acting on impulse is what drives them forward to victory.

One of the primary tools of a red mage comes in the ability to deal direct damage to specific targets. Creatures are often aggressive in this manner as well, utilizing quick strikes through blitz tactics with little focus on endurance for the long game. Despite the lack of endurance, they exhibit strengths in their own ability to hit faster and stronger with prowess and power-enhancing abilities. Being able to shift the roles of their resources on the fly amidst the chaos is where a Red mage revels.

Green

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

Embracing the ideals of instinct and “survival of the fittest,” Green looks to change the field around them through individual action and growth. However, green is not necessarily selfish, but rather looks to resolve conflict through the life cycle, with its spells and creatures often giving way to new life. Obtaining resources comes naturally to Green, allowing for faster growth. Through pure strength, Green seeks to overcome all obstacles.

Fierce and often aggressive, Green mages show their might through having some of the biggest creatures on the battlefield and often having the ability to enhance their creatures through increases to power and toughness. Getting to these big creatures would often be difficult if it were not for the Green mage’s affinity for accelerating into mana resources quickly and efficiently. Having two or three lands more than other players early on in a game is not uncommon. Green also encompasses natural protections through regenerative abilities, and through abilities that protect them from being the target of opponents’ spells.

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As you can see, each color embraces vastly different philosophies from the others. They showcase their own strengths in a variety of ways and create wildly different approaches to play. Advanced players will often mix these colors to two or three strong to take care of a variety of strengths and to account for some of the weaknesses that come from mono-colored philosophies. Which color speaks the strongest to you?

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Magic the Gathering: Pick Your Color

Magic the Gathering: Pick Your Color

Our first post on Magic: The Gathering dealt some with decks and how the different types of cards break down. The next big area of Magic: The Gathering to be discussed are the different colors of cards. As you can see on the back of […]

TableTopics: Legendary

TableTopics: Legendary

TableTopics: Legendary Today, we’re continuing on the topic of board games — Kristen and I host a board game night every second Saturday; our most recent one was this past weekend, and this time, we played Legendary. Legendary is a deck-building game in which you team up with […]