Deck Builders… irl?

I know a lot of us love a good deck builder video game and I am curious: is there anything comparable in the board/tabletop space? I am not talking about trading card games like Magic: the Gathering or Pokémon where there are continuous new sets (and a secondary market which can pose as a real barrier to entry) but something that is self-contained. Do folks have recommendations or games that scratch a similar itch?

The two I know of off the top of my head are Dominion and the Marvel board game Legendary. I know there are more - it’s a whole subgenre of board/tabletop gaming. As you say, there are folks out there who love deck-building but don’t want to get into the messy business of Magic. There’s another one I have whose name I can’t remember that actually simulates the draft process too, if you want to go that deep.


Incredibly embarrassed to learn that this is a whole subgenre as my own googling wasn’t proving super productive… guess this is how I find out I am getting old and bad at the internet.

I took a quick look too and there were a bunch of websites I didn’t feel like clicking on that had lists of what they described as “deck-building” games. I’m not sure how much the idea varies from game to game, but even beyond the two I listed, I know there are more out there.

I’ve only played the digital version (it is based on a physical game), but I like Ascension pretty ok.

edit: I should note that they do release expansions every now and again, but unlike magic or pokemon, you buy the whole set, not packs of randomly picked cards.

There’s a couple of space themed ones I’ve tried in digital form as well (their names escape me but I bet I can google them up), but I didn’t get on with them as well as Ascension, but that may be due to the digital implementation as much as the underlying game. Okay, googling…they’re Star Realms and Race for the Galaxy I believe.

already mentioned, but i think Dominion is a pretty good time. i think it’s pretty well known/popular, my guess is it’s an entry point for a lot of people into deck building games (or at least was 5-10 years back when i played it).

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You can play Dominion online too, via this official site, which lets you play the base set for free I think if you wanted to try it out. Agree it’s a great game and scales well (base set is nice and basic, expansions get tricky)

Another recent game that would be a good entry point imho is Leder Game’ Fort, designed by Grant Rodiek and illustrated by the same artist who did Leder Games other releases Root, Vast, and Oath: Kyle Ferrin. A lot simpler than those games though…

The art alone was enough to sell me on trying it when a friend brought it out, as I’m a big fan of Kyle Ferrin. But to be honest the game didn’t click with me, I think in part because I’m terrible at deck building. You are constantly getting new cards but also always losing them so your deck never feels like it gets off the ground the way a good run in Slay the Spire or a win in Dominion does

But I think that’s the point and is as much a personal preference so maybe you’ll enjoy it more!


I’ll throw my suggestions in with everyone else for Dominion and Legendary as well. 2 very great deck building games. While not as meaty, the DC Deck Building Game is also quite fun, and almost all the deck building games by Cryptozoic can be combined together for one big deck building game.

2 other deck building games I’ve been obsessed with lately are The Quacks of Quedlinburg and Cubitos. While they aren’t “deck” building games per se, as you aren’t adding cards to your hand (with Quacks, you’re adding chips into a bag, and with Cubitos, you’re adding dice into your hand, instead of cards), they’re still huge fun, and very modular in terms of what kind of strategy you want to go for in a given game. They scratch that same deck-building itch, and I highly recommend.

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Dominion is phenomenal and, although the many expansions are fun, is fine with just the base game! It’s simple to learn, games go by relatively quickly, and every game is different depending on the cards you choose to play. My wife and I play the base game quite frequently, and her cousin owns every expansion so we can spice it up every once in a while.

I also hate the board game culture where I live, so I’d say it’s better with a group of friends you already play with. I know everyone recommended it, but it’s good for a reason! It’s actually the reason I dislike Slay the Spire, which really can’t compare in my opinion.

I think its more deck builder adjacent since it doesn’t quite have the card interactions as something like Dominion, but I absolutely love Splendor. It’s also pretty solid as a 2 player experience.

The game Flamme Rouge is sort of a reverse deck builder. The theme is bicycle racing and you are essentially managing your two racers exhaustion. Once you play a move card its gone so you have to use the right cards at the right time to get your team across the finish line first.