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Subject: Differences in 2-player card games with deck building? rss

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mister Feiler
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My wife (a brainy, engineering-minded lady) and myself are looking for a two-player game. We liked searching through all of the cards in Agricola for combos so I'm thinking that an LCG, like Game of Thrones, Call of Cthulhu, or Android: Netrunner, would provide us with a game that allows us to customize and look for synergies.

We are heavy Euro players and we don't care about theme. When we play 2-player, it is better if the game feels fun and clever, rather than a measuring stick of brainpower, which can lead to bad feelings between us.

What are the key differences between these games? Which do you think would strike our fancy? What is the vibe of these games?

For each of the games above (or others that you recommend), can you do deck-building with only the base set? If not, do you need another base set or how many expansions do you need for fun deck-building? I'm willing to drop maybe 60 bucks, but saving money is good.

Thanks in advance for any help! I really appreciate it.
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Brook Gentlestream
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I recommend also looking at Nature of the Beast: Farm vs. Forest and the other stand-alone products in that series. Each game consists of two pre-made decks ready to play, but once you buy a few, you could re-arrange them into new decks. There is no "starter kit" to buy. It's got a very cute theme with solid mechanics that seem more euro-like than the LCGs you mention. It's also been well-reviewed by Tom Vassel and others.



It's also a pretty inexpensive game if you buy them one at a time. At the moment, there are two available (each with two decks). If you want to build decks, you'll want at least the two games that are out right now (Farm vs Forest and City vs Suburb). Prarie vs Polar should be released in a couple months, hopefully.
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Brook Gentlestream
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Just how important is deck-building to you? My favorite two-player card game is Innovation, which has a lot of intriguing mechanics not found in other games. I never get sick of this game.

The game doesn't have deck-building but there are lots of combos and stuff as you play. It has a lot of re-playability for me and my friends, and I never get sick of the game. I highly recommend it for two-players. It retails for about $25.

It's one of those games, however, that people either love or hate. At least that's what I've seen online. Nobody I know has ever hated it.

There are expansions, but you'll get a lot out of mileage out of just the base game alone.

It's a fun game, but it won't give you that "let's build our decks and see whose is better" feeling from LCGs.
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Brook Gentlestream
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What is the vibe of Netrunner? Here's what I remember from the CCG:

In Netrunner, you have two players each with a different faction that plays by different rules: the corp and the runner. The job of the corp is to make money, build defenses, and hide agendas behind the defenses, building them up until they are "complete" and scored.

Both players are trying to score agendas. The corp does so by slowly investing in them, purchasing investment counters to place on the card once it is in a protected area. Since each counter takes both actions and money, this can be a long process. The runner can quickly score agendas, but must make an attack run against the corp to do so, paying for the card once the corp has been infiltrated and the card is accessed. Once one player achieves a certain amount of "agenda points", that player wins.

Everything the corp does is hidden and face-down. The defenses are initially played face-down. Even the protected cards behind the defenses are played face-down, and its possible for those cards to be minor non-agenda corporate operations (such as marketing campaigns to generate money) or even traps laid for an unsuspecting runner.

The job of the runner is to slowly build up his arsenel of software, hardware, and money until he is ready to to attack the corp player. Once he does so, he must choose where and how to attack. He can attack one of the face-down protected cards, or can attack the corp player's hand of cards, or can attack the corp player's draw deck. His choice will determine which single card he gets access to. Once accessing it, he can look at it and place it back, pay a cost to trash it, or pay a cost to score it if it is an agenda card. Each of these areas will have different defenses that have been placed face-down by the corp player.

One by one, the runner will run into each defense in that particular area, starting with the most recently played defenses. When the runner runs into the defense the corp player will then decide whether or not to spend the money to permanently activate the defense or to let the runner slip by. If its activated, the runner must use his programs and hardware to defeat the defenses, which often costs money. If the runner runs into defenses he can't penetrate or runs out of money, he may have to terminate the run.

The corp player can never attack, but everything he does is stealthy (initially) until the runner does something to reveal his hidden plans (like making an attack run). Everything the runner does is revealed and open, but the corp player can't (usually) directly attack him so the runner sets the pacing of the game. He decides whether he's going to play aggressively or let the corp score a few agendas while the runner builds up his arsenal. While the netrunner controls the pacing of the game, the corp player controls how often agenda cards come up. Many of the agenda cards grant the corp player new abilities if they are scored.

Each turn, each player has a set number of actions. These actions can be used to play cards, use cards in play, make a run (runner only), invest money into protected cards (corp only), draw cards, or generate money. Turns are relatively fast until a run is called, but a run involves both players so both players are constantly involved in the game and there isn't a lot of "downtime".

In general, the game always felt skewed toward the runner because it took so much longer to score agendas and the runner had such effective cards for generating money quickly without having to invest several turns into playing them.

Of all the CCGs I've played, Netrunner is the most asymmetrical. It's part of what makes the game fun. Both players have different goals and control the pacing of the game in different ways. One player controlled all the aggression, but another player controlled all the bluffing and secrecy and laying of diabolical plans.

All of my friends preferred playing the runner because it was easier and you were more likely to win. Which worked out well, because I always liked the sinister feeling of playing the secretive corp presenting challenges for the runner and finding ways to out-bluff him.
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mister Feiler
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Thanks, Sir Gentlestream! This is really helpful. I had never heard of "Nature of the beast" and it looks interesting. I'll check it out more. Maybe we could get a couple battle sets; they seem to be about 20 bucks each.

Innovation might be too chaotic for us. Seems like a cool game though; thanks for the recommendation.

My wife doesn't like bluffing elements in games, so after reading your comment i'm thinking Netrunner is probably a no-go (although I'm intrigued).

Does anyone have opinions on Nature of the Beast, Game of Thrones, or Call of Cthulhu? Any other card games that are hidden gems?

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Brook Gentlestream
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I know nothing about it except that its "less cute" than Nature of the Beast, but Tooth & Nail is a two-player deck-building card game that is on sale today and tomorrow. It's on a bunch of banner ads on this site.

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Moe45673
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Mrfickles wrote:
Innovation might be too chaotic for us. Seems like a cool game though; thanks for the recommendation.


I was worried about Innovation before buying it. It's also one of my favorite games. Game never gets old and the feeling of evolution in each game is exciting and never feels the same. It's cheap and I recommend trying it out as well.

A number of the "too chaotic" complaints I've seen have been people who said "admittedly, it was a 4 player game". Ignore those people. Some have thought this after a 2 player game.... those people you can give a bit more credence. But give it a couple games. The game screams "fun & clever". If you don't like it... hey, it's 25 bucks and you can easily resell it on CL.

Here's my review: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/814809/this-game-is-a-jerk.

Quote:
Simple design, keeps you playing like a horse chasing a carrot. Cool Chad-ster thinks he likes this game because it's all about screwing your opponent; in reality, the game has a carrot on a stick feel that keeps you continually trying to find that hidden, better strategy (that may or may not exist). The Eurogamers that like this game know what I'm talking about.



I'm posting this to emphasize that Innovation should not be discarded as an option quite so quickly. Whether it is for you or not, hope you find what you're looking for!
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Brook Gentlestream
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I have heard that for a small group just getting started in playing A Game of Thrones LCG, the best investment is to purchase two initial starter sets. But I have no way of verifying this.
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Mark Aldridge
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I can vouch for Netrunner but not the other games. There is a fair bit of depth to plumb on Netrunner and the well will only get deeper once a few expansions drop and there are more options for deckbuilding.

I like Netrunner's deckbuilding rules as well. It does a good job of limiting your choices so you're not overwhelmed. At the same time, you still have a lot of options.

Innovation is great for 2 players. My wife and I enjoy it, but it's certainly a game where any given game can be won or lost on luck. The better player will win more games over a series though.
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mister Feiler
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Thanks Moshe, Mark, and Brooke!

Okay, having read a bit more about Game of thrones, it sounds like it might be more interesting with more than 2 players, so that you can engage in diplomacy. I am also a bit put off by the large number of additional piece-meal releases for Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu.

Nature of the beast sounds very cool. I wish I could poll a few more opinions on it. I'm definitely going to look into Innovation a bit more too, given the strong recs you guys gave. What's the deal with Innovation expansions?

Thanks again!
 
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Mike Fox
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Only one of these is a true deckbuilder, but they all have that customization or "combo" aspect that you're looking for:
GOSU
Pocket Battles: Celts vs. Romans
Omen: A Reign of War
Warhammer: Invasion
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Moe45673
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The Innovation expansions are good for those who have played out the base game. They don't add more to Innovation, IMO, but they don't take anything away either. The game is equally fun with and without expansions (though a bit less streamlined with) but it's a good way to switch it up for jaded veterans.

As the game is replayable as hell, I wouldn't worry about the expansions for a long time.

I can also give a +1 for the Pocket Battles games. They definitely have that Magic "Pre-built deck" thing going on. The game's simple and streamlined but I dislike pre-building so the game went on the chopping block. I definitely don't have the patience to learn every little card and figure out which goes best with which. Not that the games are overwhelming, just the act of doing that dulls me.
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Jacob Ossar
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If you like seeking out combos, you might want to give Race for the Galaxy a look. It's not a deck-builder (although it does have a drafting variant), but if you like finding synergies between cards and deep strategy it might be something you and your wife would enjoy. The phase selection mechanic might be too close to bluffing for you wife's taste, though.

With both RftG and Innovation (which I also like quite a bit) you have to play a bunch of games and get a sense of what's in the deck before you can really work out detailed strategies. So to enjoy the long-term replayability and strategic depth they offer, you have to be willing to be patient at first while you learn the ropes.
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Brook Gentlestream
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Does Summoner Wars have deck building? Someone might want to chime in with an opinion on that one, too.

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ErikPeter Walker
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If you like Star Wars, Star Wars: The Card Game is coming out very soon and you might want to check it out.

If you're concerned with the amount of expansion packs for LCGs then I'd take a second look at what you're after. Easy access to more cards to extend replayability is kind of the point. You don't need to buy them all, but you can always grab the best-rated one when you start to run out of new ideas with the base game.

Also be warned that your choice of lingo--"deck building"--can cause confusion with deck builders like Dominion, Thunderstone, etc., and lead to painfully derailed threads as people argue about semantics. But regardless the OP is very clear about what kind of game you're looking for.

As such, I disagree with recommending Innovation; sure, it's a card game with deep interaction, but the same could be said about Smash Up and many other titles that don't fit in a thread about deck construction. Innovation is very tactical; synergistic combos arise primarily through chance, and the fun comes from learning to identify and capitalize on them when they do. Another great game (my favorite), RFTG, is a little closer in spirit to the since your tableau is less dynamic/more strategic, but still doesn't fulfill the OP's core request for customization.

I've played Call of Cthulu and Game of Thrones, only just, and I suggest you try before you buy, if possible. They're clever games (and quite similar) but a bit unwieldy; there's a lot going on to make room for strategic (customization) possibilities. Net Runner (and probably Star Wars) could offer more "re-customizationability" because of the asymmetric teams.

Since this is all FFG things I might ask, have you tried The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game? It seems to have a good rep here on BGG, and while I seem to remember its objective structure resembling CoC/GoT the co-op aspect should shake things up a bit.
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J.A.H. van de Laak
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+1 Call of Cthulhu
+1 Omen Reign of War

What about Rune Age?... many different scenarios, co-op, or player VS player, and many other variations. (most buildings etc etc)

I personally don't like LOTR the card game, too finicky.
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mister Feiler
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Wow, so many options. thanks everyone! This has been very very helpful. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to begin the search for the next game, but I think I better understand what I'm looking for now and you guys have given me a good idea of what's out there. Bgg seems to be a really interested and helpful community. Thanks!
 
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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lordrahvin wrote:

Does Summoner Wars have deck building? Someone might want to chime in with an opinion on that one, too.


Yes! Summoner Wars is a totally fun game even if you do no deck-building whatsoever (and it fits the cleverness-not-raw-brainpower standard of the OP), but combos are important in the course of play, and reinforcements allow for deck customization. It's also much more reasonable price-wise than LCGs. You could pick up the Master Set plus the corresponding three reinforcement packs (thus fully equipping six factions out of the game-wide range of sixteen) all for $70 or so.

I like Call of Cthulhu too, but I would say that deck building doesn't start to get interesting until you have sunk in almost $150 retail. Also, the theme is a big draw for me here, and I'm not sure if I'd be as into the game without that affinity.
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Dan Verret
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Well, if you don't have it, you must consider Dominion.

I have Game of Throne LCG, and just with one core set, you can deckbuild for a while.

I tried Cthullu LCG too. There's many factions, and mixing two can be really powerful or weak. That put me off, but maybe that's what you're looking for.

I really like Netrunner. The 7 decks play differently, and I found it's easier to improve a deck than other LCG games (with just the core set). My 2 cents.

From your post, I'm not sure if you're looking for a real deck building game, or a game where you try to optimize your cards.

Currently I'm playing Mage Knight. The deck building part is somewhat secondary, but optimizing how you play the cards in your hands is what this game is all about. It's a long game.

Dungeon Petz is a good candidate too (same designer than Mage Knight).

I've never played Summoner Wars.
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Brook Gentlestream
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So which game(s) won our little contest?
 
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