Top Ten Deckbuilding Games
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Continuing my series of "top ten" lists of games based on mechanisms and themes, started last week with my [blogpost=23068][/blogpost] entry, let's take a look at my top ten deckbuilding games.

For those unfamiliar, a deckbuilding game is defined on BoardGameGeek as any game that uses "a mechanism in which players start the game with a pre-determined set of cards / player pieces and add and change those pieces over the course of the game. Many deck-building games provide the players with a currency that they use to 'buy' new items that are integrated into the deck or pool. These new resources generally expand the capabilities of the player and allow the player to build an 'engine' to drive their future plays in the course of the game."

Thus, any game on this list will use this deckbuilding mechanism and usually will use other mechanisms along with it.

A note: this is my own "top ten" list. The BGG rankings are an aggregate of many people's top ten lists. Thus, although the pure BGG rankings may overlap with this list, it won't completely match this list.
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1. Board Game: Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:932] [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked]
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Puzzle Strike is a fighting video game themed deckbuilder for two to four players, designed by David Sirlin, published by Sirlin Games, and playable in about half an hour. Puzzle Strike's well-known calling card is that the game uses circular cardboard chips instead of cards and you shuffle by putting the chips in a bag and shaking them. For me, though, Puzzle Strike works because of the gameplay, as it builds upon the basic framework of Dominion by turning it into a combat game. Each player is also a unique character, which gives them three unique "chips"/cards in their opening deck of ten, which pushes players to different strategies even on the same board.
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2. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:22]
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Mage Knight is a fantasy exploration game for one to four players, designed by Vlaada Chvatil, published by Wiz Kids, and is playable in two to three hours. In Mage Knight, you play a... mage knight who is exploring and attempting to dominate the countryside. This game has an eclectic mix of mechanisms, but deckbuilding really shines through as it represents the abilities of your character which grows throughout the game as he/she gains experience clearing away the minions on the map and engaging in other adventures. Deep and complex, but worth it.
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3. Board Game: Core Worlds [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:555]
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Core Worlds is a space exploration and domination game for two to five players, designed by Andrew Parks, published by Stronghold Games, and is playable in an hour and a half. Core Worlds involves competing civilizations who are growing through the conquest of worlds and gradually racing each other to the center of the galaxy where the most resource-rich planets are found. Player's decks consist of infantry, ships, and tactics cards for conquering worlds, while the worlds themselves stay in play in front of players, offering victory points and bonuses.
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4. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:449]
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Eminent Domain is also a space exploration game for two to four players, designed by Seth Jaffee, published by Tasty Minstrel Games, and is playable in forty five minutes. Much like in Core Worlds, players in Eminent Domain seek to conquer planets and earn victory points for doing so. However, in Eminent Domain, the actual process of building your deck includes an interesting hybrid of role selection and deckbuilding, requiring players to choose a particular role each turn that other players may follow. This requires a bit of social thinking, making Eminent Domain have a distinct flavor of player interaction for a deckbuilding game.
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5. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:74] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
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Dominion is a fantasy-themed deckbuilding game for two to four players, often considered the grandaddy of the genre. It's designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Rio Grande Games, and playable in about forty five minutes. In Dominion, you're attempting to build up the most powerful faction within the kingdom by recruiting allies to your cause (the player cards) and eventually purchasing land (the victory points) with the proceeds of the use of your allies. This is deckbuilding distilled down to its core, with a selection of choices available at the beginning of the game enabling you to clearly set your strategy.
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6. Board Game: Ascension: Deckbuilding Game [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:521] [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
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Ascension is a fantasy-themed deckbuilding game for two to four players, designed by Justin Gary and his team, published by Stone Blade Entertainment, and playable in about half an hour. To me, Ascension is the perfect "light" deckbuilding game, as it's quick to set up, quick to play, and quick to pick up. In this game, you assemble your deck from a rotating selection of six cards, and the cards in your deck largely provide two currencies - one for purchasing better cards for your deck and another for defeating monsters in that card selection for victory points.
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7. Board Game: Rune Age [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:921]
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Rune Age is another fantasy-themed deckbuilding game, this one set in the same universe as Descent. Rune Age is designed by Corey Konieczka, published by Fantasy Flight Games, and playable by one to four players in about half an hour. Rather than simply having one specific game, Rune Age involves a number of scenarios, some of which are competitive and others cooperative. In each, however, you start off with a unique faction which gives you access to some cards that other players don't have, giving each faction a very unique feel.
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8. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:391] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
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Trains is a train-themed deckbuilding game that also incorporates some elements of route building and area control thanks to the board that serves as part of the game. The deckbuilding aspect of the game plays similarly like Dominion - there's a group of available cards, you play cards that generate coins, and you buy cards to add to your deck - but many of the card effects directly manipulate the board, allowing you to build train routes which connect your network to cities that earn you victory points. This is the newest game on my list and the one most likely to move up in the future.
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9. Board Game: Copycat [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1250]
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Copycat is a politically-themed hybrid of deckbuilding and worker placement. In Copycat, you're a politician attempting to further your political career. You send your henchmen to various offices (the worker placement aspect) with the goal of either generating victory points or enabling you to purchase cards for your deck. There's a rotating row of available cards to buy which either add to your purchasing power, generate victory points, or produce other conditions.
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10. Board Game: Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:350] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
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Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin is a fantasy-themed deckbuilding game in which you assemble a team of fighters to delve into a cave to battle monsters who are emerging from the cave to attack the village. While the deckbuilding aspect of the game - buy cards to add to your deck - is similar to most other games on this list, Thunderstone Advance (and its predecessor, Thunderstone) stand out in that you earn victory points by battling rather nasty monsters that are endlessly emerging from the cave. When one of the final cards emerges - the titular Thunderstone - the game ends and the player with the most victory points is lauded as the greatest of the monster-slayers.
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