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Top 20 Deckbuilding Games [Polls]
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So I'm a huge deckbuilding game (DBG) fan. In fact, some of my friends call me obsessed. While some cry foul, getting sick of the glut of recent DBGs, I am going strong on the concept. With each new release, I find new, exciting things in this burgeoning field. These are my top DBGs.

I am in for the long haul on DBGs, and intend for this list to be a "living ranking".

11/16: added "Trending" and Plays, trending is intended to show my desire to play the game
11/17: added Polls
11/18: added BGG Community Rankings
11/19: updated BGG Community Rankings, added Polls to games I haven't had a chance to play yet (so they can be included in BGG Community Rankings)
11/23: updated BGG Community Rankings
11/25: updated rating/ranking - Star Trek DBG
12/23: played & ranked Friday, updated BGG rankings
1/5/12: played & ranked Mage Knight, updated BGG rankings
1/22/12: played & ranked Core Worlds, updated BGG rankings
2/5/12: updated BGG rankings
3/24/12: Added Thunderstone Advance, updated rankings
9/9/12: Updated rankings, please let me know if you'd like to see more current DBGs added!
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1. Board Game: Arcana [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:1854]
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Quality: ABYSMAL
Rank: 999
Rating: 4
Plays: 2
Trending: Solid (can't go any lower, really)

I owned the AEG version at one point because it was one of the first deckbuilding games. I got rid of it because it felt like a soulless numbers crunching exercise. The FFG version adds nothing to fix it. Terrible game.

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Good
OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      69 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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2. Board Game: Evolution Earth: Cataclysm [Average Rating:6.28 Unranked]
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Quality: BAD
Rank: 22
Rating: 5
Plays: 2
Trending: Solid

I ordered this from The Game Crafter soon after it's release because of my love for DBGs and the promise of an interesting theme. I found it extremely dry, long and bordering on broken. I understand rules have changed since I purchased it (and has been published), but the agonizing couple plays I had were enough for me to swear it off.

As a side note, this and a couple other overeager purchases have made me almost completely swear off indie games and Kickstarter also. For every hidden gem, there's a thousand dungheaps.

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Abysmal!
      23 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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3. Board Game: Cartouche [Average Rating:6.22 Unranked]
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Quality: BAD
Rank: 21
Rating: 5
Plays: 2
Trending: Slightly Down

As mentioned above, this was another indie bad experience. Sounded great, extremely confusing to learn from the rules - not to mention some frustrating production issues. I slogged through the anti-intuitive ruleset and poor card design (some text could really have helped) to find a just OK game. Not worth the effort.

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      23 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
 
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4. Board Game: Heroes of Graxia [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:7081]
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Quality: BAD
Rank: 20
Rating: 5
Plays: 1
Trending: Solid

Little minis (albeit useless) and a small box are appealing, but the inane number-crunching was too much for me. Significant in that it was the first PvP DBG, but has been far surpassed.

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      48 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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5. Board Game: Resident Evil Deck Building Game [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1426]
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Quality: BAD
Rank: 19
Rating: 5
Plays: 3
Trending: Slightly Up

After one play, my comment was "Neat system and great theme, but needs more cards to have any respectable replay ability. You use almost all the cards in every game!". After a couple more plays, the extreme randomness and lack of variability killed it for me. Might try it with some expansions some day, but won't go out of my way for it.

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OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      61 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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6. Board Game: Fzzzt! [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2017]
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Quality: OK
Rank: 18
Rating: 6
Plays: 2
Trending: Solid

This is the first one where it could debated that it "includes deckbuilding elements" instead of "being a deckbuilding game". It's a cute little auction game with little pieces of a DBG mixed in. However, it really wasn't interesting enough to me to have legs. I'd rather play Ra or a better DBG. No reason to mix them.

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Good
OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      38 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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7. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:295]
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Quality: OK
Rank: 17
Rating: 6
Plays: 2
Trending: Moderately Down

Kickstarter fiasco aside, I was very disappointed by this one. Mostly because I expected a DBG and this is another one "with deckbuilding elements". I wanted Dominion in space, I got something much more like Puerto Rico. I hate Puerto Rico.

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OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      100 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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8. Board Game: Arctic Scavengers [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:706]
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Quality: OK
Rank: 16
Rating: 6
Plays: 1
Trending: Solid, possibly Up with new version

My initial rating for this one was a good bit higher, as it was the first Dominion clone. Now, however, it has been surpassed many, many times. I don't know why it took RGG so long to release it, but surely the window has closed by now.

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OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      34 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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9. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:142]
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Quality: OK
Rank: 15
Rating: 6
Plays: 1
Trending: Slightly Up

The last one on this list that may be "with DB elements" instead of "a DBG". I absolutely hate war games and Martin Wallace, but since this was a DBG, I gave it a go. Truth be told, I did not hate it. Wallace does some interesting things with the DBG/wargame interactions.

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Good
OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      78 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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10. Board Game: Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1540] [Average Rating:6.61 Unranked]
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Quality: OK
Rank: 14
Rating: 6
Plays: 1
Trending: Moderately up

Almost exactly like the previous entry, but gains a bit from the Star Trek theme. Still a poor game, though. Lots of randomness (get a ship first? win!) and dull play.
Update: OK, you guys got me to give it a second chance, and I'm starting to like it a bit better. I will give it a few more plays and see how it goes.

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I think this game is...
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Good
OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      56 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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11. Board Game: Tanto Cuore [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1124] [Average Rating:6.90 Unranked]
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Quality: GOOD
Rank: 13
Rating: 7
Plays: 1
Trending: Moderately Down with every thought I have about the theme

Pure, unabashed Dominion clone, but has a few new twists that make it interesting. However, I felt dirty playing it. Feels like I'm in a 60-year old Japanese man's fetish dream. If they'd retheme it, I'd consider buying it, but if I brought it home as is, I think my wife would make me go see a counselor.

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I think this game is...
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Good
OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      56 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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12. Board Game: Penny Arcade: The Game – Gamers vs. Evil [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1679]
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Quality: GOOD
Rank: 12
Rating: 7
Plays: 2
Trending: Moderately Down

Decent Ascension clone. Variable characters is a nice twist, but not enough to surpass Ascension. I don't consider this a "DBG 2.0", but it's a good 1.5.

Docked a point for some unnecessarily crude humor. Like Tanto Cuore, the theme doesn't make the game less playable, but it does make it less likable.

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OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      35 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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13. Board Game: Eaten by Zombies! [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:2580]
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Quality: GOOD
Rank: 11
Rating: 7
Plays: 6
Trending: Slightly Down

Impressive production quality...more publishers need to use the "FAQ on the dividers" idea, and I'm amazed no one's done an Ammo Case box before. SO cool.

The game is the first entry in the "DBG 2.0" category. Like others further down the list, it has the same basic core as Dominion, but differs significantly in gameplay. This makes the DBG 2.0 list because it's not a deckBUILDING game. It's a deckDESTRUCTION game. I like play DBGs as an efficiency engine: strip away the junk, then play with only good cards. Try to play this game that way and you WILL lose.

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Abysmal!
      54 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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14. Board Game: Friday [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:241]
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Quality: OK
Rank: 10
Rating: 7
Plays: 4
Trending: Slightly Down

Very interesting experience, and a different direction from other DBGs. As a solo game, I'm not sure how much longevity it will hold, but it's a nice low price point.

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Abysmal!
      25 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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15. Board Game: Nightfall [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:883] [Average Rating:6.62 Unranked]
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Quality: GOOD
Rank: 9
Rating: 7
Plays: 17
Trending: In Flux

Not as different from Dominion as Puzzle Strike, but more different than others in the genre. Definitely DBG 2.0 territory, because it takes the Dominion engine and goes to a different place with it. Self-removing starting decks, attacking, chaining - all key elements that set it apart from the crowd.

Combos are a HUGE thing, which can be both fun & frustrating. A little bothersome that every game tends to end with one player (usually me) taking 10+ damage due to a simple unlucky draw. Hopefully more expansions can allay this a bit. Would also love to see new starting decks. And if they could steal Penny Arcade's unique starting characters idea, that would work really well with this system.

Nightfall, to me, is the border between the good DBGs and the great ones. I'm not entirely sure, though, on which side it falls.

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OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      111 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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16. Board Game: Core Worlds [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:320]
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Quality: GOOD
Rank: 8
Rating: 7
Plays: 1
Trending: Slightly Up

Core Worlds - Played it once. Heavier/longer than I expected from a DBG. That's not a bad thing, though. Just different.

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Abysmal!
      23 answers
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17. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:8]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 7
Rating: 8
Plays: 0
Trending: Slightly Down

Rating after just 2 solo plays, and I already love the idea. I'm confused as heck at all the rules, but I love just doing the activity.

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Abysmal!
      33 answers
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18. Board Game: Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:164]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 6
Rating: 8
Trending: Sharply Up

Another story of a game I initially loved, and has since been surpassed. Thunderstone is great for what it was, an early Dominion clone that took the genre in a new direction. But we've since moved to deckbuilding 2.0, and Thunderstone is deckbuilding 1.5 (or even 1.1). It's not "Dominion with a twist" or "deckbuilding beyond Dominion". It's "Dominion plus stuff". Some of that stuff is interesting, some is not. Some is intuitive, some is not. All is long. That's the problem with "Dominion plus stuff", it gets too long. The allure of Dominion is it's short playtime. Thunderstone forgets that.

UPDATE 1: Currently trending up because I've been playing a lot of the FaceBook version. Still feels a bit clunky, but having the computer take care of the bookkeeping makes this one flow a LOT better. I wonder if a PC version could even fix Heroes of Graxia!

UPDATE 2: So the FaceBook version got me to bite on Thunderstone Advance, and I LOVE it! I wouldn't say it's "fixed" Thunderstone because it wasn't really broken per se, but it's definitely "upgraded" and "streamlined". MUCH better game than the original. I considered adding a separate entry, but Advance is an upgrade, not a new game.

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OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      160 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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19. Board Game: Puzzle Strike [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:885]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 5
Rating: 8
Plays: 20 IRL, about half a dozen on SirlinGames
Trending: Slightly Up, maybe Moderately up with a full expansion, would be Sharply Up with the release of a card version

True DBG 2.0 in every sense of the word. Hearing the game explained, you'd think it would feel very similar to Dominion. It really doesn't. The different starting characters and different end condition make it play VERY differently. My only major complaint is the chips. I would MUCH rather play this with cards.

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Good
OK
Bad
Abysmal!
      66 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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20. Board Game: Rune Age [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:593]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 4
Rating: 9
Plays: 9
Trending: Moderately Up

I was all ready to not like this, as I feared it would be too similar to Thunderstone (which, in turn, I feel is too similar to Dominion). But after playing it, I really liked it. Repeat plays have only held this up. The game end conditions (which are variable), multiple factions and multiple scenarios lend the game a much different feel than most DBGs, putting this the furthest into the "DBG 2.0" camp. For a little box with a small number of cards, there is a HUGE amount of replayability here.

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Abysmal!
      63 answers
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21. Board Game: Ascension: Deckbuilding Game [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:354] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 3
Rating: 8
Plays: 11 IRL, hundreds on iOS
Trending: Slightly Up, was Sharply Down after cardstock change fiasco, quickly changed to Sharply Up with iOS release

Really getting to the cream now. Ascension is a wonderful game (with really hideous art) that doesn't make it to DBG 2.0, but is an excellent 1.5. I'd call it "Dominion lite" because it's more tactical, quicker and more luck based than Dominion.

And of course, I can't write about Ascension without writing about the iOS app. I must be nearing 1000 plays. It's just such a quick game with such a clean interface. COME ON EXPANSION!!!

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OK
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Abysmal!
      135 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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22. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:450]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 2
Rating: 9
Plays: 19
Trending: Sharply Up (expansion is GREAT!)

No, this is not the deepest entry (I would probably give that nod to Rune Age), but it's just SO MUCH FUN!! I love playing with the dice, even if there aren't often deep decisions. I have gone from lukewarm on this game to a raging fan. Every time I play it, I like it more. My initial impressions of limited replayability have been completely assuaged (even though my fears of a runaway leader problem have not). The variety that presents itself after a few plays is fantastic.

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OK
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Abysmal!
      129 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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23. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:30] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
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Quality: GREAT
Rank: 1
Rating: 10
Plays: 229 IRL, at least 200 online
Trending: Slightly Down

Well, what did you expect?!?

Like Magic: the Gathering before it, Dominion consistently has kept one step ahead of it's competitors through innovative expansions. That said, I can see an end to the game. (Which was confirmed by Donald X in a Dice Tower interview) Unlike Magic, it's not unlimited. Which means, at some point in the not too distant future, it will be unthroned. But until then...

Hail to the king, baby.

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      220 answers
Poll created by johnweldy
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24. Board Game: Cut [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Some games that missed the cut and why:

Blood Bowl: Team Manager - solidly in the "deckbuilding elements, not a DBG" camp. Good game, though.
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25. Board Game: Rank 'Em [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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The Rankings, as listed by the BGG Community:


1. Mage Knight BG (4.45 rating, 20 votes)
2. Dominion (4.08 rating, 197 votes)
3. Friday (4.00 rating, 12 votes)
4. Puzzle Strike (3.88 rating, 56 votes)
5. A Few Acres of Snow (3.86 rating, 70 votes)
6. Core Worlds (3.83 rating, 12 votes)
7. Eminent Domain (3.81 rating, 86 votes)
8. Thunderstone (3.66 rating, 142 votes)
9. Ascension (3.63 rating, 123 votes)
10. Rune Age (3.58 rating, 52 votes)
11. Quarriors! (3.44 rating, 117 votes)
12. Nightfall (3.33 rating, 96 votes)
13. Eaten by Zombies! (3.33 rating, 48 votes)
14. Star Trek DBG (3.13 rating, 47 votes)
15. Penny Arcade (3.13 rating, 30 votes)
16. Arcana (2.93 rating, 55 votes)
17. Tanto Cuore (2.88 rating, 50 votes)
18. Resident Evil DBG (2.88 rating, 50 votes)
19. Fzzzt! (2.75 rating, 32 votes)
20. Arctic Scavengers (2.75 rating, 24 votes)
21. Cartouche (2.56 rating, 18 votes)
22. Heroes of Graxia (2.19 rating, 43 votes)
23. Evolution Earth (2.11 rating, 18 votes)

Scores were calculated with simple averages, using the following values: Great! (5), Good (4), OK (3), Bad (2), Abysmal! (1)
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