What are Deck Building Games and Which Ones are the Best?

Zack Downes
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These are the best deck building games for family fun and for family bonding.

Deck building games require strategy. It’s a great brain work out. You can play with combinations of other categories of games (deck building, territory control, and dice rolling games).

It is best to play these games with all ages players (4 years onwards) and there’s no minimum number of players to enjoy this category of board games.

Most of these games are for 2 or more players and involve various tactics, strategies and a good dose of luck to win.

How many deck building games are there and which ones are the best? Let’s start by looking at the genre of gaming and then explore the top 20 best deck building games that are available at the moment.

NameCategoryProduct
Dominion: 2nd EditionBest OverallDominion: 2nd Edition
Star Realms Bundle of Base GameBudget PickStar Realms Bundle of Base Game
Ravensburger The QuestUpgrade PickRavensburger The Quest

1. Dominion: 2nd Edition

Our rating: 9 / 10

Dominion: 2nd Edition

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Pros:

  • Bidding mechanic for all purchases add an extra layer of strategy
  • Decent replay value, the cards you get for your kingdom vary each game
  • Easy to learn, play time ~30 minutes
  • No set up
  • No player elimination

Cons:

  • Low player count may make it difficult to find people to play with
  • Game play can feel a little repetitive
  • Leader cards are a luck-based mechanic

Combining a few of gaming’s oldest genres, deck-building and deck-augmenting, Dominion will feel familiar and new at the same time. Easy to learn for new gamers, Dominion offers a different experience every time you play, due to the random nature of the cards and the procedural layout.

The cost for this game is very reasonable, and there is almost no setup time before your first game. The length of the game is about 30 minutes, and there are only a few pieces to put away when you’re done.

Experienced gamers may find this game’s single deck of cards (249 of them!) a bit boring. However, it is a fantastic starting point for young children and non-gamers who want to experience a deeper game than Uno or Match.

2. Star Realms Bundle of Base Game

Our rating: 9 / 10

Star Realms Bundle of Base Game

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Pros:

  • High replay value
  • Easy to learn to play
  • Advanced rules strategy has multiple paths to victory
  • Easy to transport

Cons:

  • Not very many expansions
  • Repetitive gameplay can get draining
  • You don’t know what you’ll be getting before you play
  • No player return policy

We’ve been building decks since 1999, but we’re not sure we’re going to be able to keep up with how quickly players are developing new strategies in this deck-building card game. Star Realms is one of the best deck-building card games you can play. We’ve found that it’s a great way to pass the time, and the rivalries you create with your friends as you try to build the best defensive deck you can will keep you coming back time and again.

3. Concordia Game

Our rating: 9 / 10

Concordia Game

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Pros:

  • Scores of 1-5, and can be played by 2-5 players
  • Has a board with a hexagon shape
  • Simple to learn, fairly easy to play
  • Made of high-quality materials with a sturdy, laminated, 10-inch-diameter board
  • Has a moderate level of complexity in the strategy employed
  • Designed for players ages 12 and up

Cons:

  • The play is not too simple
  • Some of the strategy is not quite suited for younger players

Among the best card games for two players are race games. This game is a race game, and the one that is our favorite. The reason is that it is easy to learn, simple to play, and involves using a bit of strategy to win against your friend or family member.

This board game is designed for two players, but you can play it with up to four players if you would like. The main idea is to be the first player to score 12 points. Points are gained by building cities and establishing trade routes. The first player who reaches the target wins. The game is played over a period of five rounds.

4. Ravensburger The Quest

Our rating: 9 / 10

Ravensburger The Quest

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Pros:

  • This game is excellent for all family members
  • The game is a straightforward but challenging adventure
  • There are many interesting aspects to this game
  • Made of high-quality materials
  • It is easy to set up

This game is great for families and players who enjoy role-playing games, card games, and strategy card games.

To win the game, you have to collect different allies for your cause. You'll need to defeat the opponents and you can do it either by being the first player to collect all of the eight tokens or by being the player with the most tokens when the time runs out. In order to collect tokens, you must defeat the other players in various challenges throughout the game (for example: duel, fate cards).

This game can be played in three ways, depending on the amount of players: 2 to 5 players

5. IELLO The Big Book of Madness Board Game

Our rating: 8 / 10

IELLO The Big Book of Madness Board Game

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The players in this inventive deck building game represent characters from a fantasy novel. The goal is not to reach a certain score from gaining control cards, but to survive and complete the story.

The novel is full of magic and each plot card represents a new adventure. You have to venture into the realm of darkness to defeat the Old Ones. Completing your adventure is worth it because you gain points to win the game.

Your character has four attributes: sanity, madness, health, and soul. These represent the strengths and weaknesses of your character. They can face any darkness as long as they have health, but when it runs out, the character is gone and the card is assigned to another player.

6. Valley of The Kings: Premium Edition

Our rating: 7 / 10

Valley of The Kings: Premium Edition

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Pros:

  • Competitive-level strategy for 2-4 players
  • Easy to learn but difficult to master
  • You can play it on your own or with friends
  • Ridiculously good looking
  • Beautiful, colorful cards

Cons:

  • It’s an expensive game to get into
  • You may spend quite a while learning the rules before you feel comfortable jumping into a game

Discussing the best deck building games is a bit like discussing the best card games. The possibilities are endless, and frankly, it’s just impossible to highlight every single title. That being said, however, one of the best deck building games ever produced is “Valley of the Kings” by the famous Rio Grande.

In the game, you are an archeologist who is searching for the lost tombs of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. You travel around the famous Valley of the Kings in a race against your friends to find the lost tombs first. One bad thing about this game is that it can be pretty expensive. It’s simply not a good idea to get the game if you don’t like to spend money on play.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best deck building game?

There are numerous deck building games to choose from, so it depends what you are looking for!

If you are looking for a game with a fantasy theme, we recommend Dominion – it is our favorite board game.

However, if you are looking for a more strategic board game which has combat, take a look at Star Realms.

Other popular deck building games are Thunderstone and Ascension.

Is Magic a deck building game?

Yes, Magic is a type of deck-building game and the most successful one of its kind. Like many other games, it was inspired by another game, Dominion, but Magic is the more popular version. If you are new to deck-building games, Magic is the game that made them popular and therefore, you should play it first. Even though Magic has spawned several more games, and the above-mentioned Dominion is quite popular as well, we think it is important for you to try out the first real deck-building game.

How can I make my deck better?

The most effective way to improve your deck is to keep it as simple as possible. Ask yourself if you really need all of these low-impact creatures. You may lose a lot of cards every time creatures die, but that doesn’t mean you have to replace them all and clog up your draw deck with them. Also, ask yourself if you really need all of your removal spells. It’s usually not worth it to have two of the same spell, especially since every draw is a bit less likely to be useful.

Ultimately, your goal is to keep your deck simple as possible while still possessing a bit of everything. You may want to include seven or even more removal spells if you know that every deck you play against has large creatures to deal with.

What should a mtg deck consist of?

If you are comparing two cards, one with the quantity of two and the other with the quantity of three, the latter is most usually better. The exception is for recent cards, usually with the help of very specific cards and transformations (such as morph), that allow some cards with lower quantities to be as good as or even better than the ones with a quantity of three, or in extremely rare cases, four.

For example, a single morph creature has the same effectiveness as a creature card with a quantity of two, with the added benefit of being able to be morphed, transformed, or otherwise reused. Also, some lower priced creatures, notably elves, have a plethora of activated and triggered abilities. Another example is when creatures with the same quantity have an added advantage in a mana cost, ability, or effect, as seen in the unusual case where a creature with a quantity of two has a cost of three and a creature with a quantity of three has a cost of four.

Conclusion

One thing we absolutely love about deck building games is the fact that you can jump right in and start playing without having to worry about learning how to use a new set of rules or how to “build a deck” out of cards. They're the sort of game that feels natural to pick up and learn quickly. And they don't feel as "heavy" as the larger, more complex role playing and deck building games. This makes them feel more accessible and be able to play them more times and in more settings.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Dominion: 2nd EditionBest OverallDominion: 2nd Edition
Star Realms Bundle of Base GameBudget PickStar Realms Bundle of Base Game
Ravensburger The QuestUpgrade PickRavensburger The Quest