Best Deck-Building Games Review 2021

Donald X. Vaccarino, a game designer, published a deck-building game called Dominion in 2008. This box of 500 cards was the first to bring the “Best Deck-Building Games” mechanic to gamers worldwide, and it’s safe to say that everybody loved it. Dominion received several honors, including the prestigious Spiel des Jahres prize in 2009. Since then, a slew of new games has tried their hand at the deck-building genre. But which game is the most enjoyable?

We thought it was time to take a look, so we rummaged through deck builders’ boxes and chose our top ten. It was challenging to narrow down this list, and some excellent games were left off, but we were ultimately able to narrow it down to our (almost) ten favorites. For the sake of consistency, we’re just looking at deck-building sports (games that use the Dominion mechanic of adding cards to your play deck as the game progresses). We don’t count deck builder games (Magic: The Gathering, Netrunner, etc.) or games where you create your deck before the game. We’re just counting a list of deck-building games, not dice-building games, to go along with that.

Best Deck-Building Games

Honorable mention: Valley of the kings

This clever little box game from A.E.G. just missed the cut. In Valley of the Kings, top deck gamers compete for the most sets in an Egyptian-themed game. Valley of the Kings challenges players to make difficult choices throughout the game thanks to a clever pyramid mechanic for purchasing cards. Furthermore, players are only given points for the cards they hold in their tomb (making them inaccessible for the rest of the game). So, if you try to use those cards during the game, you won’t score any points.

List of Best-Deck Building Games


Friday is a brilliant solo card game in which the player must try to survive on a desert island. Players will be challenged to conquer experiences, and if they succeed, they will develop skills that will assist them in overcoming potential challenges. Friday has a clever risk-reward system that will keep you on your toes while you try to make the right decision. I don’t own many solo games, but this one is at the top of my list.


Friday’s tiny box contains quite a few parts. There are a large number of cards, as expected. There are various cards with a tropical island theme that will eventually find their way into your play deck. The artwork on the cards is adequate but not exceptional. I thought the painting was a little silly, but not so much that it detracted from the game.

Along with the cards, you’ll also get three play boards to keep your game organized when you’re playing. 22 wooden life tokens are also included in the small box. I was pleasantly pleased with what came with Friday, given the size and price point.

Game overview-

Friday is a game of deck construction. The game revolves around constructing your play deck as the game progresses, for those unfamiliar with the term (read our review of Dominion for a great entry to this genre). When you play Friday, you try to fill your deck with good cards while removing the poor ones. You battle danger cards each round, and if you beat them, you get to add them to your deck as upgraded play cards. If you don’t succeed in overcoming the obstacle, you’ll lose your precious life points. If you lose all of them, the game is over. To take on the pirates, you must survive three rounds of increasing difficulty. You’ll win if you beat both of them.

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2.Star realms

If you’ve played Ascension, you’ll be familiar with Star Realms. This game takes the Ascension idea and adds a SciFi twist and some direct combat with your foe. This enjoyable little card game, designed by two Magic: The Gathering Hall of Famers, is easy to learn and fun to play. The best thing about Star Realms is that all you need is a $15 deck of cards to play with two players. It’s difficult not to pick up a copy at that price.

Collectible card games (CCGs) exploded onto the scene in 1993 with Magic: The Gathering. Their popularity ebbed and flowed over the years, but Magic and other CCGs are now more successful than they’ve ever been. Ask some Magic player about secondary market card prices if you don’t believe me. Despite the high cost of entry, CCGs have provided gamers with mono-et-mono combat that isn’t found in many board and card games.

Star Realms aims to build a direct conflict game that feels like a CCG but is played out of a single $15 box. Robert Dougherty and Darwin Castle, two former Magic: The Gathering pros and Hall of Fame members, created Star Realms, published by White Wizard Games. Star Realms is, at its heart, a deck-building game. There are no bosses to battle or superheroes to team up against, however. The focus is on player-vs-player fighting, with the winner being the last man standing.

Star Realms is a two-player game that takes about 20 minutes to complete. Multiplayer versions of the game necessitate the purchase of additional copies of the game.

Game overview-

In Star Realms, you’ll use your deck’s cards to buy more advanced ships, build bases, destroy enemy bases, and finally destroy your opponent. Each player begins with ten menus: eight scouts, which provide one trade when played, and two vipers, which can inflict damage on opponents. You may use the exchange to purchase ships or bases from the trade row, which will then be discarded and shuffled back into your deck to be drawn from. The Trade Federation, The Blobs, The Star Empire, and The Machine Cult are the four sects of which ships are affiliated. Multiple cards from the same faction also provide additional benefits, luring players to become invested in one or two sections and develop a strategy based on their strengths. You win if you are the first to reduce your opponent’s authority to zero.

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3.A few acres of snow-

A Few Acres of Snow is an asymmetrical board game set in North America during the colonial period. In an area control war for the continent, one player controls the British, and the other contains the French. A Few Acres of Snow is a lot of fun, and it’s also extraordinary. Players must move their troops across the game board while also attempting to strengthen their deck with more powerful cards.

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4.Core Worlds-

Core Worlds is a deck-building game in which players take command of a space empire and conquer other worlds. Before embarking on a conquest mission more profound into the galaxy, players must first develop their ships and technology. Although Core Worlds is a fantastic game in and of itself, it is significantly enhanced by the Galactic Orders expansion, which adds to the game in several ways. If you’re going to get Core Planets, you should also get Galactic Orders.

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5. Legendary: Marvel Deck Building Game-

Players take on the role of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents attempt to assemble a squad of superheroes to thwart the evil Mastermind’s plot in this semi-cooperative card game. Legendary is semi-cooperative because when all players work together to kill the Mastermind, and the enemy defeated earns the player who defeats his victory points. Only the player with the most victory points wins after the Mastermind is defeated. Of course, if the Mastermind is successful in his plan, everyone loses. Legendary is a fantastic game for the Marvel Universe fans, and it used to be my personal favorite in the Legendary series.

Game Overview-

In Legendary, players assume the role of a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent tasked with forming a team to foil an evil Mastermind’s scheme. To begin, each player is given a small deck of 12 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents. These cards give you either hire or combat power (the game’s currency) (how you fight the villains). Players can recruit superheroes to their decks throughout the game, giving them much greater combat strength, higher recruitment power, and specific special abilities.

Players earn victory points as they battle and defeat villains on their way to being the individual champion. If the players beat the Mastermind’s plan, they win the game as a whole. If the Mastermind’s plot isn’t foiled, everybody loses.

After the Mastermind has been defeated, the players sum their V.P. cards to decide who is the individual winner. Legendary is an unusual game in that it is both cooperative and competitive at the same time. It takes a little getting used to, but that’ll come later.

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6.Shadowrun: Crossfire-

Players take on specific roles in a team of runners in this cooperative card game set in the fantastic Shadowrun universe to complete the scenario’s mission. The game is relatively difficult to win, and survival involves complete cooperation from all four players. One of the best aspects of Shadowrun is: Players can “level up” their runners between games in Crossfire by spending the karma they receive on upgrade stickers, which make them slightly more robust. Shadowrun: Crossfire is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a campaign-style card game. I could easily see this game being played as a long-running campaign with the inclusion of potential expansions.

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7.Blood Bowl: Team Manager

Players in Blood Bowl: Team Manager is in charge of a football (not soccer) team playing on the gridiron. Each player is in order of a separate group based on the various races in the Blood Bowl universe. Players will be able to recruit star athletes into their decks when they win matches and personnel and squad upgrades. These new athletes are much better than the ones that players start with, so they’ll want to beat them as soon as possible. This one is a must-have for any Blood Bowl fan, with great artwork, fast gameplay, and a high interactivity level.

Blood Bowl: Team Manager, a card game, was one of the unexpected successes of Gen Con 2011. Back in the day, I never had the opportunity to play Blood Bowl, but I was always intrigued by the idea. I’m a big N.F.L. fan (Go Bears! ), so the idea of mixing football and fantasy monsters appeals to me right away. In the game “Blood Bowl, “Team Leader You’re not guiding your squad in a football game; instead, you’re handling them during the Blood Bowl season. Is it as much fun to lead a team of orcs or dwarves as it is to play the teams on the field? Continue reading to find out!

Game overview-

Throughout the football season, you must score the most fans in Blood Bowl: Team Manager. Managers will commit football players to match-ups during the game to achieve the payout awarded to the winner. These rewards come in the form of new star players, personnel, and squad enhancements that offer players unique abilities and attract more fans (victory points). The game is played over five rounds, with the winner being the player with the most fans.

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1.Mage Knight: The Board Game

Mage Knight: The Board Game is the most complex game on this list, with players leading their Mage Knight through an unknown country, exploring new locations, battling enemies, and leveling up through the deck building mechanic. As a Mage Knight gains experience, more powerful spells will be added to their deck of cards. This is the game for you if you want a fantasy-themed deck builder with a lot of depth and an epic feel. Mage Knight: The Board Game, as a bonus, can be played solo or with other players.

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2.Legendary: Alien Encounters

Legendary: Alien Encounters is one of the newest games on this list, having just been released at Gen Con 2014. It was an immediate success with our gaming community. Legendary: Alien Encounters takes some of Marvel Legendary’s popular mechanics and transforms them into a similar, but in my view, better game. While the game is now entirely cooperative, there is always a risk that anyone may turn a traitor during the game. If a player is infected with a “facehugger” card and fails to deal with it quickly enough, a “chest buster” card will be added to their discard list. If that card is ever drawn, it bursts out and transforms the player into an Alien (complete with their own Alien cards deck). Legendary Alien Encounters is simple to pick up, has a rich theme, and is challenging to win. All of this, coupled with scenarios that encourage players to play through all of the Aliens films, contributes to Legendary: Alien Encounters becoming one of our list’s best games.

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Dominion, the original deck-building game, is the one that began it all. Dominion has enough variety to keep you amused for the long run, with more expansions than you might ever want. Although the theme is prominent, the gameplay is robust, simple to understand, and can still be used as a gateway to the other deck builders on this list. If you’re looking for a fantastic deck builder who can cater to almost anyone, Dominion is the way to go. Dominion is probably the best place to start if you’ve never played a deck builder before. After you’ve had a good feel for the game’s gameplay, you can scroll through this list to find a style that appeals to you and jump right in. However, Dominion takes the top spot in our Top 10 Deck Builders list because it is the most adaptable, accessible, and appealing.

Dominion card lists







Dark Age



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How to make a deck building games

For years, video games have included card-based games and deck-building elements, often mixed with popular genres to create fresh but familiar experiences. Developers have experimented with this sub-genre in various ways, from entirely random structures to a strong emphasis on trial and error.

We talked with several developers about their deck-building design experiences and what advice they have for other developers who plan to use these systems in their current or future projects.

Familiarity as a tool

According to game director Peter Johansson and lead designer Robert Olsén of SteamWorld’s Image & Form Games, traditional RPGs account for the majority of the mystique and popularity of collectible card games.

“The experience you get from a game like Magic: the Gathering, Hearthstone, or Netrunner is close to that of a classic RPG, in that you play as a hero wielding magic spells and weaponry (or cyberspace hacking tools) to fight a powerful enemy,” the two wrote in a joint email. “What card games do is package the same basic experience in a new way, modifying how you perceive and engage with something you may already be familiar with on a different level.”

The card design in SteamWorld Quest aims to make them instantly recognizable, even if the player hasn’t learned all of the specifics. The image of a sword being swung on a card called “Heroic Strike” is likely to give you an idea of what it does. However, as they claim, the pacing is crucial in games like these.

“Complexity should ramp up quickly enough to keep the player engaged and eager to learn more, but not so quickly that it becomes frustrating. This is particularly critical when introducing new player characters because we want them to feel appealing and distinct right away without confusing the player with new concepts. It’s a delicate balancing act.”

Experimentation is key

Maciej Biedrzycki, Thing Trunk’s co-founder and chief game architect, spent a lot of time with the team figuring out how to build simple concepts for Book of Demons without being too simplistic. That’s how they came up with a central idea: categorising cards into three groups: abilities, objects, and spells.

Biedrzycki explains, “It’s not only easier to operate and demonstrate to the players, but it also gives them more strategic choices to play with.” “Choosing between an object and a spell when you only have a few card slots is a tough decision.”

Yet, once again, juggling the cards was a time-consuming and challenging task. For each of the three classes in the Book of Demons, there are 40 card archetypes (not including enhancements, magical, or legendary variants). The numerous synergies that players can generate between different cards ensure that no overpowered builds exist nearly impossible. “A player can equip ten items at any given time, and while this might seem like a small amount, doing the math yields around 3 quadrillion potential builds.”

The two-and-a-half years of Early Access were critical in developing Book of Demons decks, allowing the developers to make hundreds, if not thousands, of improvements, including completely redesigning certain cards. Stuff Trunk pressed for more depth for hardcore players, which led to the game’s upgrade scheme, in addition to discovering overpowered or underpowered cards and combinations.

Register cards on a database from day one

Due to player feedback, common challenges also underwent significant changes during development. Initially, they were intended to be tests to see how far people could go. However, in the end, they decided to use odd modifiers. Players would still play, but the focus would be on winning common challenges rather than simply completing them.

“Because [cards] can open up such a large possibility room, data collection and playtesting on them must begin at an early stage in the process, or else balance would be a mess,” Giovannetti adds.

Ascension vs. Dominion

Ascension is essentially a Dominion with a little more luck, as new cards replace old ones in the ‘purchase’ sector. There is still some deck-building skill involved, but it only goes so far if you don’t have the good cards when someone else does.

So, as those of you who have played Ascension know, I have the game on my iPad. I’ve had a lot of fun with the game and feel like I’ve earned my money’s worth, but I’m beginning to get a little bored with it, even with the added gratification of losing to you all regularly. I guess deck builders aren’t my thing: I’ve never really enjoyed a pure deckbuilding game.

It’s been difficult for me to gauge how I felt about Ascension as a game rather than a machine implementation. The slickness of the app and the simplicity with which you can play fast games against the A.I. and find human opponents make it difficult to judge how the game will play in real life. Dominion piqued my curiosity at first, but after ten games or so on B.S.W., my excitement waned, and my opinion of it diminished after playing it face to face. It wasn’t necessarily sluggish, but it seemed to be with all the shuffling and lack of contact. Ascension, I assume, will face a similar issue. So, while my initial excitement for the app was intense, I don’t see it translating into a card game purchase. It’s as good an example as any of the pitfalls of judging a game’s quality solely based on online gameplay.

This isn’t due to a lack of experience. I hadn’t played Dominion over two years before playing Androminion, and I’d completely forgotten some of the basic rules. Androminion also places some of the game’s several versions and expansions at your fingertips, none of which I’ve tried, and yet I’m not inspired to do so. I love Ascension rather than Dominion.

I’ve always felt that the most critical single deciding factor in whether or not I’ll like a game is whether or not it has a lot of interaction. I will typically overlook a week theme, boring mechanics, and low production values as long as I can stick it directly to another human being in a meaningful way. But I can’t use that argument here because Dominion has more player involvement than Ascension. Other than attempting to steal or banish cards that you believe your opponent may want to pick, the latter has almost none. In Dominion, you can use Militia to compel your enemies to discard, or use a Thief to steal their best treasure cards, or, best of all, use the Witch’s magic to fill their deck with garbage. It’s nothing compared to the opportunity to crush one’s rivals, see them driven before you, and hear their women weep, which most of my favorite games have. And it’s more than enough to position it ahead of Ascension on the interaction scale.

As a result, I began to understand mechanics. This seems to be more stable ground. One significant difference between the two games is that in Dominion, you have a pool of ten different cards from which to fill your deck, and you typically have a free option of those ten at any point during the game. However, there is only a pool of six in Ascension, and it is constantly changing, so what is available one turn may be unavailable the next. Compared to Dominion, this makes the game much more dynamic, tactical, and varied. Still, it also makes it much less strategic because you can’t predict what will be available and build your deck according to a predetermined model. But think about it for a moment. Ascension, in contrast to Dominion, gives you much less potential – or indeed motivation, since cards have a V.P. V.P.e – to fine-tune your deck while you play. It also provides fewer opportunities to recycle cards than its predecessor and offers a plethora of choices for extra cards, acts, and purchases, as well as the possibility of building a deck capable of recycling itself. Those two considerations would lead us to conclude that Dominion is the more strategic and tactical of the two.

Dc Deckbuilding game expansion list


Base set

Heroes Unite

Crisis Expansion pack 1

Forever Evil (1st Printing)

Rivals- Batman vs. the Joker

Forever Evil (2nd Printing)

Crisis Expansion pack 2

Teen Titans

Crossover Pack 2- Arrow

Competitive deck building games

Deckbuilding games are a favorite of everyone in my community, as well as many other gamers. People seem to love feeling like they’re designing their decks in games like Dominion and Clank! Competitive deck building board games like Dominion and Clank! have been top sellers for a while now because people seem to enjoy feeling like they’re designing their decks in-game. It’s a great mechanic, and several designers have shown that it fits well in cooperative games.

The Big Book of Madness

You play as young wizards in The Big Book of Madness, who must use spells to defeat monsters that emerge from a magical book. It follows the conventional deck building model, in which you use your cards to buy better cards and increase your deck’s performance over time. There’s also a fantastic “service pool” mechanic that allows you to keep cards in your hand for your teammates to use during their turns.

If you’re looking for a decent gateway or family game, The Big Book of Madness is one of the best deck building games you can get. It also happens to be one of the most attractive co-ops available.

After the Virus

After The Virus is a card game in which you must use your cards to battle a swarm of zombies. What’s nice about this one is that everybody starts with similar decks of cards, but each character has a particular starting deck. You never know what you’ll find while searching, forcing you to constantly change your strategy and ensuring that each game is unique.

While the Virus is a popular solo deck building game, I prefer it as a cooperative two- or three-player game. I like how you have to deal with what’s in front of you while still assisting your teammates in their battle against the zombies. It’s a great (and inexpensive) game to play.

The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport

A couple of excellent mechanics in The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport that I wish were in more deck-building board games: (1) The cards you purchase are automatically put in your hand, and (2) you can draw weaker cards from your deck. There’s also a neat “taunt” feature that allows you to drag monsters away from your teammates.

Battle for Greyport is a smooth-playing and challenging fantasy deck builder that looks fantastic on the table, thanks to the revised rules. This one has been in my hands for over three years, and my party still enjoys playing it.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Combat is one of the best family board games and one of the best light deck-building games available. You get to play through all of the Harry Potter novels, adding familiar characters and spells to your decks as you go, all while battling the villains from each book. The designers did an excellent job creating a game with basic gameplay and a strong theme.

If you or someone you know is a Harry Potter fan, you must play Harry Potter: Hogwarts Fight. If you prefer the Toy Story style, there’s also a newer edition.


Because of how well it mixes deck building and dungeon crawling, Direwild ended up being one of the best games we played in 2018. The cards you receive can be used as both creatures, and new attribute enhancers for the creatures you already have are what sets Direwild apart. Furthermore, the character you control has unique powers, providing you with a variety of fun resources to use on your turns. It’s a deck-building game that’s simple to pick up but offers a more substantial experience.

Mage Knight

Mage Knight is a fantastic deck-building adventure board game with a variety of different game modes. You’ll be flying around various maps, picking up powerful spell and action cards, battling enemies, and winning cities regardless of the method you choose. Its co-op mode, particularly as a two-player game, is fantastic, but it’s also an excellent solo and competitive match.

Mage Knight is by far the most difficult deck-building game on this list, but if you enjoy fantasy games, it’s well worth your time to learn how to play.


Dragonfire is a fantasy role-playing game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. You start with straightforward characters, but as you advance through each adventure, you’ll be able to purchase cards from a shared market. This gives you the freedom to design and evolve the characters you want to play with, giving your team the best chance of winning.

Some people can prefer Shadowrun: Crossfire to Shadowrun: Dragonfire. It’s made by the same people and employs much of the same mechanics, but it’s set in a cyberpunk world. Dragonfire, on the other hand, is arguably more refined and forgiving.


Shadowrift is played by my party more than almost every other cooperative deck-building board game. Because of the random hero cards that appear in the market and all of the various monster classes you can combat, it has a lot of replay value. Shadowrift is unique in that you create one deck for yourself while still working together to develop your group’s Town deck. To beat this game, you’ll need to work together a lot, and the majority of the games have thrilling endings.

Aeon’s End

For a long time, Aeon’s End has been my group’s favorite deck-building game. It has its deck-building and spell-casting mechanics, and each nemesis introduces its own set of challenges for your team to solve. Yeah, more bosses would have been good in the base game, but the fact that you can randomize the cards in the supply and the bosses have different difficulty levels means there’s still plenty of replayability. Besides, the designer has added a lot of new material, including the excellent Aeon’s End: The New Era.


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