Gateway Games: Pool-Building Games

Gateway Games: Pool-Building Games

March 7, 2019 Off By Tifa

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 pool-building games. Sometimes referred to as tableau building games, many of these games are inspired by their popular cousin, deck-builders.

While deck-building games are fantastic, sometimes gamers crave something more. Pool-building games tend to have focal points outside of simply building a deck. I am going to be exploring a few different takes on this genre.

Valeria: Card Kingdoms

One of my favorite games that I’ve learned in the last year, and likely my favorite tableau building game, is Valeria. It’s a beautiful game with lots of little bits and colorful illustrations. Each player has their own kingdom, including a secret duke or duchess with a unique objective that will help multiply victory points at the end of the game. Players gain victory points by slaying monsters, recruiting citizens, and building domains from the shared pool of cards in the center of the board. Each turn, players roll dice that determine what resources every one gets from their kingdom. There are many strategies to choose from and multiple ways for the game to end, so each play through can feel very different. The structured rounds make the game fairly easy to learn, but the multitude of choices makes it hard to feel proficient for the first few playthroughs. I think this game strikes a fantastic balance of being thought-provoking and fun.

Race for the Galaxy

While Race for the Galaxy is a little on the deeper end of strategy board games, it is a staple game for most board game fans and definitely worth trying. If you are interested, there is also a version of this game that uses dice instead of cards, called Roll for the Galaxy. They play very similarly to one another, one just focuses on cards and the other on dice. In this space-themed game, each player builds a civilization in space. Players must select roles each round and play cards that represent different worlds in their galaxy. There are a variety of world types, such as technical or social, and there are many ways to produce goods that will help gain victory points later. If you enjoy complex games and building your own galaxy, this is the game for you.


While mechanically very similar to a deck-building game, Thunderstone focuses so strongly on fantasy based world that I thought it was worth mentioning in this article. If you like games that are more story driven, Thunderstone is a great option to try this style of game. Using themes of table-top RPGs, players build a deck of adventurers and equipment in order to slay monsters in a dungeon. Each starting deck is different and includes Heroes (such as mages, warriors, archers, or thieves) and supplies that will help on the journey (such as weapons or rations). Players also work together to decide where they will venture each round. Instead of victory points, the number of monsters defeated determines the winner.

I hope this article helps you find a new game to try!