Deck-building games have been a part of tabletop hobby since forever. Early trading card games made card combo crafting into an art, and then clever designers repackaged that experience into deck builder board games, for those who didn’t fancy collecting cards. We’ve collected the best of them – from TCGs to deck building board games – in this guide.
Yes, some are full-blooded trading card games; others provide a light-hearted experience for fans of family board games; and there’s plenty of choice for those who love complex, crunchy strategy board games.
The best deck-building games in 2023 are:
- Magic: The Gathering – best trading card game
- Dominion – best classic deck-builder
- Dune: Imperium – best new deck building board game
- Marvel Legendary – best for superhero fans
- Undaunted: Normandy – best for wargamers
- Clank! – best quick and easy deck builder
1. Magic: The Gathering
The best TCG deck-building game is Magic: The Gathering.
While not deck-building board games, trading card games rely on similar mechanics. You’ll still be tasked with creating killer card combos, and you’ll also be testing your deck’s strength against opponents. The biggest difference here is that new cards are coming out all the time – your deck is now a living, breathing thing that can constantly evolve. This means you might want to do a lot more card collecting.
Magic: The Gathering is our personal top pick for TCGs here at Wargamer. There’s a wide range of different MTG formats that offer varied ways to enjoy the game, and the gorgeous, still unrivalled fantasy card artworks add extra icing to the Magic cake. MTG is easy to learn, but it can take years to truly master – so there’s never a bad time to start playing.
If you’re looking to learn, start with our beginner’s guide on how to play Magic: The Gathering – and play your first games in MTG Arena, the free to play digital version. You can even swipe a stack of free cards right out of the gate using our guide to free MTG Arena codes.
The best classic deck-building game is Dominion.
Dominion is more than just a great deck-builder; it’s a fantastic gateway game full stop. Even after nearly 15 years, Dominion just doesn’t seem to get boring.
Its core concept is a simple one: you want to have a bigger, more luscious kingdom than your rival monarchs, and you achieve this by having the most victory points at the end of the game.
Every player starts with the same basic deck, but you can spend money each turn to acquire new buildings, minions, and land for your kingdom. Many cards come with special abilities, and the joy of Dominion comes from figuring out which cards to play together to create the silliest combos and the most profitable turns.
3. Dune: Imperium
The best new deck building board game is Dune: Imperium.
Dire Wolf’s 2021 release Dune: Imperium combines deck-building with worker placement mechanics and tops it all off with an iconic sci-fi theme. You’ll start with a basic deck and a unique leader, and from there on it’s up to you to decide how to best prepare your House for incoming war.
This is a strategy game wrapped up in political tension, military dealings, and secrecy. You’ll only play one card at a time from your hand during the Agent turn, leaving everyone else to calculate what your next move might be. After all these turns are taken, the Houses clash – and the rewards you reap will rely on your strength in Swords and Persuasion.
4. Marvel Legendary
The best deck building board game for superhero fans is Marvel Legendary.
Many tabletop games try to recreate the rush of a superhero taking down their arch-nemesis. Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game (or Marvel Legendary for short) is the best of this genre that also involves managing a deck of cards. It has a well deserved place in our list of the best Marvel board games ever made.
Iconic characters from the best Marvel comics – like Spiderman, the X-Men, and Red Skull – all make an appearance, each with their own deck.
Each game is a showdown between your deck and your chosen Villain deck. Five hero decks combine to make up your deck, so this is an Avengers-style team-up from the get-go. Rescuing innocent bystanders will earn you victory points, but the game isn’t over until you’ve attacked your enemy four times, destroying their evil plot once and for all.
5. Undaunted: Normandy
The best deck building board game for wargamers is Undaunted: Normandy.
As well as being one of the best war board games around, Undaunted: Normandy and its siblings in the Undaunted series are also stonking deck-builders. Players go head-to-head as the American and German forces, recreating the D-Day Landings of 1944.
Play your cards to advance across the battlefield and attack your enemy. You can gain cards from your supply and add them to your deck thanks to Command cards, but you can also permanently lose cards from your deck if your troops fall to enemy fire.
Unhelpful Fog of War cards add even more chaos to the fray, bulking out your deck and making it harder to draw those crucial cards you need to win the scenario.
For more info, read our Undaunted: Normandy review.
The best quick and easy deck building game is Clank!
Want to be the greatest thief the realms have ever seen? Clank! challenges you to compete for this title, with players racing to nab the most valuable loot from a dragon’s lair. Well, we say racing – it’s more like speedy sneaking, as making too much noise might draw the ire of the scaly horror you’re stealing from.
Each turn you’ll play five cards from your hand. These might be skill cards that let you bolster your deck for the future, boots for moving around the board, or swords to fend off any foe you meet on your journey. This is a fast-paced, quick-to-learn deck-building game that’ll soon have you scampering off for loot (and hoping you make it out alive afterwards).