Gateway Games: Introduction to Deck-Building GamesAugust 29, 2018
Gateway Games is a series of articles aimed at helping you find the games that are right for you. Today, I am going to focus on deck-building games.
Deck-building games seem like a natural step after playing resource management focused, Euro-style games. Deck-building games are card games where each player creates a deck that they continue to use. The deck creation is the main mechanic and focus of the game.
Generally, you have a small starting deck with cards that represent currency and other basic resources required to start the game. There is usually a communal pool of cards that can be purchased with the currency cards. As you build your deck, you get stronger cards that have more complex abilities. Just like Euro-style games, victory points usually determine a winner.
Here are some starter deck building games that I recommend trying to test out the genre or introduce it to your friends. The good news is that once you have played one deck-building game it is pretty easy to pick up another one and know how to play:
1. Dominion: This was the original deck-building game, released by Rio Grande Games in 2008. This game was so crazy popular that it spawned an entire genre and there are now more of this style of game than you can find in any one store. There are now about a dozen expansions for Dominion, but I recommend everyone start with the base game. In the base game of Dominion, there are 25 options for Kingdom cards that players will have the option to purchase for their decks. Each game only uses 10 Kingdom cards placed in the communal board, meaning the replayability is strong because no game is exactly the same when you mix up what cards are available each time. This keeps the strategy interesting because the choices change each game. I believe the combination of the game being fairly easy to learn mixed with endless combinations for play contributed strongly to its success.
2. Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game: This puts an interesting twist on deck-building games by adding a shared goal for all players to defeat a villain. Players still have separate victory point pools based on how many enemies they kill, but no player can win if the villain isn’t defeated by the group as a whole. If you are a fan of Marvel comics at all you will appreciate the flavor of the cards and how they tie to the characters. With many expansions available, you can likely find all the cards with your favorite heroes.
3. Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis: This is by far the silliest deck-building game I have played. Bringing characters from Cartoon Network shows to life, this uses a very well-designed engine from Cryptozoic Entertainment. Each player has a hero card unique to them that can help with strategy and add some fun bonuses. The unique mechanics of this particular game include real-life interactions, such as fist bumps, singing, and physical challenges. These features make it fun for all ages. I will admit that my one complaint with the base game is a lack of playable female characters, but they fixed this issue in the stand-alone sequel – Animation Annihilation.
I hope this was helpful for people interested in trying out some games beyond what they have already played and as a guide for turning your friends and loved ones into hardcore gamers.