The High Five - Deck-Building Games

The High Five - Deck-Building Games

Today I’ll be taking a look at deck-building games. In deck-building games, players continually add cards to improve an individual deck while they cycle through it. For this list we’re sticking entirely with card based deck-building, and we’re keeping the treated lumber jokes to a minimum. Without further ado.


5. Dominion

Dominion, by Donald X Vaccarino and Rio Grande Games, receives a spot on this list as the grandfather of all deck -building games. Are there better deck-building games available? Sure. Do other games have more theme? Definitely. Did other games create an entire genre of games? Nope. It’s a classic and deserves to be on the list for that reason alone.

The Quest For El Dorado

4. The Quest For El Dorado

In The Quest for El Dorado, the deck-building game from Ravensburger and famed designer Reiner Knizia, players utilize deck-building to traverse through treacherous terrain to locate the elusive city of gold. The design is clean, uses a customizable game board, and embraces the race atmosphere of deck-building games. Like most Knizia games, it’s robust and devoid of extraneous filler.

Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure

3. Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure

Clank!, published by Renegade Game Studios, combines deck-building with a game board, press your luck elements and an evil dragon that fights back against the heroes. “Clank!” is the first game I played that felt like a complete board game with deck-building, instead of a game entirely about deck-building, a subtle but essential distinction.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

2. Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game from Upper Deck makes this list for a couple of reasons. The first, it’s a cooperative deck-builder with an insanely popular theme. Sure, there’s a minuscule competitive scoring element to determine the most decorated superhero, but I refuse to play with weirdos that care about that. The second reason? The sheer amount of content available for this game is staggering, and I’m not even referring to the number of spinoff titles released for this system.

Star Realms

1. Star Realms

Star Realms from White Wizard Games is a clean deck-building game with a theme that works. It features bases that stay in play from round to round and utilizes factions that synergize together. Throw in a steller app version and the fantasy implementation, Hero Realms, and you have the best deck-builder around.

Honorable Mentions

As usual, here are few games that just missed the list but still have something unique to offer.

Mystic Vale

The innovative card crafting system allows you to create more powerful cards even though the number of cards in your deck never changes. Add in some press your luck elements, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Not only am I sucker for the theme, but I applaud this game for its introductory approach to deck-building. Throw in dice and cooperative play, and I’m hooked.


The game that combined deck-building with scrabble, Paperback is a unique concept that works surprisingly well. And the pulp fiction artwork pushes it over the edge.

Shards of Infinity

Shards of Infinity introduced two interesting concepts to deck-building. The first was the ability to increase experience to make cards in your deck more powerful. The second was single-use cards that can be purchased, played, and removed from the game immediately. It’s surprisingly good.

Doug Doug Kotecki is the Chief Curator at Tabletop Game Gallery, and even though his brain tells him not to, he still loves Taco Bell.

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