Deck Building Card Games

Deck Building Card Games

In recent years, I have discovered a new gaming hobby away from the keyboard and controller:  that of unique board games and card games–specifically, deck-building games.  Deck-building games are a new genre that have become insanely popular in the last few years, spawning a plethora of options to choose from. Deck-building games are generally designed to have 2-4 players.

In a deck-building game, you start with a small, underpowered deck that you build as the game progresses. You build your deck by utilizing your starting cards to purchase or obtain increasingly more powerful cards, and with those new cards, you buy even better cards.  One of the most fun parts about deck building is that you are adapting a deck throughout the game that compliments what is available on the board, and adjusting your strategy as needed.

Each session of a deck-building game has different combinations, as each session randomly chooses which cards are available from a large pool. This also lends the genre well to expansion packs, furthering the variety of each game. Each individual deck-building game varies in specific rules, game flow, and theme.

Penny Arcade is a well known ‘geek’ centric web comic, as they reference the gaming scene often. Penny Arcade’s take on the deck-building genre was my very first deck-building game. What I really like about Penny Arcade is that it is very light, and easy to quickly comprehend. It’s a great introduction to the genre, and it’s very silly. While some jokes will be reserved for the gaming or comic book elite, the absurdity of some of the jokes are funny, even despite the lack of reference. 
The creators of the game even came out with a stand-alone expansion: Rumble in R’yleh, which I can attest to being a solid edition to the base game. If sitting down and playing isn’t your thing, you can also find an app for the game on iOS.
While Penny Arcade is great for beginners, Dominion is its more complicated cousin. While still adhering to the deck-building aspect, Dominion gets a little more complicated. In this this game, the objective is to collect as many land cards as possible. There’s more ‘chaining’ effects in Dominion; that is, cards will continually chain off of each other, creating combos. Late-game Dominion is very exciting, as each player will be combo-ing cards constantly.
As opposed to Penny Arcade, Dominion has a ton of expansions to choose from. The creators of Dominion have made about ten expansions now, but you will be just fine with only the base game. You can also play Dominion in your web browser here!
Marvel’s Legendary is currently my favorite deck-building game. Whereas other deck-building games are competitive against the other players, Legendary encourages cooperative play. While there’s still a defacto winner based off victory points acquired throughout the game, if the players can’t stop the villain’s master plan, all players lose. So, when playing with individuals that aren’t as competitive, it’s a fun team exercise in coordination and planning.
With Legendary, players don’t play any hero in particular, but rather obtain cards with a particular hero’s theme. For example, the Wolverine cards are all about direct attacks, wound healing, and additional card draw. You then can combine that with other hero types and categories for additional bonus effects. This will become necessary as villains, henchmen, and arch villains flood the city board. You will battle these henchmen as you try to thwart the chosen Mastermind’s master plot to destroy the city. 
Here’s an example of the game board mid-game
Legendary has a variety of mastermind, plot, and hero combinations that keep the game fresh, but, if the gameplay does start getting stale, there are quite a few expansions that add more cards into your pool of potential combinations. Best of all, these expansions add even more Marvel heroes and villains to choose from!
The set up for deck-building games can be pretty daunting, at least initially.  It requires a lot of organization during both setup and cleanup, and, as I mentioned earlier, involves randomization in regards to which cards are on the board in each gameplay session.  Fortunately, almost all of the deck games mentioned in this post have randomization applications aplenty. These applications will ask which expansions you have, if any, and will automatically randomize a game for you, cutting the set up process in half– I highly recommend using one!

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