5 Favorite Deck Builders

One game mechanic I seem to be drawn towards is the deck builder.  Deck builder games are card games (generally) where the players all start with the same basic deck of cards.  Through various means, the players buy cards to add to their decks, building them up to try to defeat their opponents.  I tend to like deck builders because even though you start with the same basic starting deck (usually 10 to 12 cards), each game will be different based on which cards are picked up throughout the game.

Naturally, there are a few of these games which I really like.

Courtesy: quicksaverambling.wordpress.com

Courtesy: quicksaverambling.wordpress.com

1) Ascension

In Ascension, players build their decks by buying cards from a central row while also defeating monsters in this same row.  Defeating monsters gets the players honor points, which is usually a set limit depending on how many players are in the game.  Once the pool is depleted, the players will add the victory points from their decks with what they have in the pool and determine the winner.

I like Ascension because it is pretty simple to pick up.  While you do not come into direct conflict with your opponent, there are things you can do to prevent them from gaining the upper hand.  Also, there are a number of expansions available for Ascension, all of which can be played separately, or combined into one massive game.

I have picked up just about all of the expansions for Ascension available.  I have also bought the iOS app version of the game, which plays identically to the real game.

Courtesy: riograndegames.com

Courtesy: riograndegames.com

2) Arctic Scavengers

Arctic Scavengers puts the players in the role of leaders of groups of survivors.  It is the near future, and the world have been plunged into a frozen apocalypse.  Players build their decks by hiring mercenaries with the food they hunted, or by scavenging for resources in the junk yard.  Once the first two rounds are finished, the players not only hire mercenaries to build their tribe, they also start fighting their opponents for contested resources, much more valuable and helpful items that will help them win.  Once the contested resources are gone, players then see who has the largest tribe.

Arctic Scavengers adds in a few elements that make the game interesting.  First is the fight for the contested resources.  Players decide how many cards from their hands they want to set aside for the conflict in secret.  They can set aside good cards in hopes to get something really helpful, or they can set aside a bunch of junk in an effort to try and fake out their opponents.  Also, as you add players (the game supports 2 – 5 players), you start draining available resources.  Add a third player, and the junkyard has fewer resources and there are fewer brawlers for recruiting.  Add a fourth, and the number drops more.  Finally, the version of the game I bought had a number of additions, not needed to play the base game, but fun to add to the game.

Star Realms

Star Realms

3) Star Realms

Star Realms takes some of the game mechanics of Ascension and adds a direct conflict element to the game.  Well, there’s really more to it than that.

Star Realms is a sci-fi base deck builder.  Players buy better ships and bases from a central pool while attacking their opponents.  The nice thing about Star Realms is that it is compact and inexpensive (which I have talked about in a previous blog entry).  Everything you need to play the game for two players is in one box, from starter decks, to explorer ships to the central pool ships.  They even included cards to be used for keeping score, preventing the need for counters or pen and paper.  Like Ascension, it is easy to teach and fun to play.  Best of all, its compact size means it is easily portable, so you can always have it available for play when needed.

Courtesy: boardgamegeek.com

Courtesy: boardgamegeek.com

4) Marvel Legendary

Marvel Legendary is a bit different from other deck builders.  The mechanics are still the same.  But, the game tends to be a bit more cooperative since the players are fighting against a central villain and their scheme.

Like Ascension, players improve their starting decks through buying better cards, and gain points by defeating villainous henchmen.  Unlike Ascension, the heroes that the players will buy are separate from the villains they need to defeat, and the master villain is separate from them.  The players are playing against time, trying to stop the victory conditions on the scheme card from coming to pass (such as letting 8 henchmen escape the city)  The main villain, the villain group, henchmen and scheme are all determined ahead of time, just which heroes make up the hero deck.  Defeat the villain and win the game.

Legendary kicks up the battle, adding to the urgency of completing the task at hand.  And each scheme has a number of scheme twists which can throw a monkey wrench into the players plans.  It can solo as well as play multiple players, and there are a number of expansions available for the game.  The publisher, Upper Deck, is even adapting the game to other genres and franchises.

Courtesy: cravengames.com

Courtesy: cravengames.com

5) Nightfall

Nightfall is a deck builder involving vampires, werewolves and hunters.  Players improve their decks by picking from a preestablished set of cards.  These cards will change from game to game, making for replayability.  Players also have access to a private stash of cards that only they can purchase from (these also will change from game to game).  As the players build their decks, they are attacking their opponents.  Once the wounds run out, then the game ends and the player with the most wounds loses.

Nightfall is good because while it is still a deck builder, it has its own mechanics that makes it different from other games.  Players play cards through chaining, and each player has the opportunity to add cards to the chain during their opponent’s turn.  Purchases are made with influence, and discarding cards from your hand can increase that influence.  Also, unlike other deck builders, you do not discard your hand at the end of your turn and draw another.  You can keep cards in your hand in the hopes that you can play them on a future chain.  And, like Star Realms, you are in direct conflict with your opponents.  You need to hurt them before they can hurt you.

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About chyrondave

Avid comic reader, amateur writer, music fan, and someone with opinions, lots of opinions.

Posted on June 6, 2014, in Games, Lists, Media, Personal, The Fives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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