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10 Best Deck Building Games

10 Best Deck Building Games

Deck-building games are a relatively new but rapidly growing subset of the board game world. With a growing number of deck-builder games available, a wide variety of themes and types mean there’s something for everyone! 

Build your rail system or herd cattle in hybrid deck builders with a game board in front of you, claim treasure without making noise and awakening the ultra scaly dragon, engage in epic space battles, or battle as your favorite superheroes!

Whether you are looking for a specific theme, complexity, a quick and portable game or a cooperative experience, there are lots of options. We sifted through the options to present you with our list of the best deck-building games.

Our Top Picks – Best Deck Building Games

Best Deck Building Game Overall: Dominion

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 30 minutes // Age: 10+ // Difficulty: Medium

This classic medium-weight deck-builder is a great gateway deck-building game to play with non-gaming family members or friends.

Most Magical Deck Building Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battles

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 30-60 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Experience the epic Harry Potter novels like never before! You’ll work together as Hermoine, Harry, Ron or Neville through each of the seven books. Bonus: Luna Lovegood is available as a playable character with the expansion.


Best Deck Building Game to Play With Kids: Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure

Players: 2 - 4 // Game time: 30 - 60 minutes // Age: 10+ // Difficulty: Easy

Finally, a fun deck-builder that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Compete to get the most treasure AND escape to tell the story by avoiding the dreaded CLANK!, which brings the angry dragon closer to you!

Best Deck Builder for Solo Play: Aeon’s End

Players: 1 - 4 // Game time: 60 minutes // Age: 14+ // Difficulty: Easy

Manipulate two or more sorcerers using the Aeon’s End trademark variable turn system to simulate the chaos in each attack. Oh, and unlike most deck builders you’ll never have to shuffle your deck. Whoa.

Most Budget-Friendly Deck Building Game: Star Realms

Players: 2 // Game time: 20 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Medium

This light, snappy little deck builder is quick, affordable, portable and easy to learn and teach. Yet it features plenty of strategy to keep you entertained for hours.

Our Top 10 Deck Building Games

Train/ Deck Building

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 45 minutes // Age: 12+ (10+) // Difficulty: Medium

Publisher: OKAZU Brand

Welcome to the Golden Age of Japan’s railways! Trains transports you to the 19th century, where the development of railways has exploded around the world.

You are an ambitious capitalist who manages private railway companies for a living. Your ultimate goal is to own the biggest and the best railway company in Japan, by all means necessary! Build new routes and networks by gobbling up smaller railways through acquisitions and mergers. 

After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world.

In a nutshell, Trains is a competitive deck builder and route builder with a double-sided game board that allows you to play in the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.

Trains is fun and one of our top deck building games because it takes the basic deck builder to a new level with an actual game board and pieces. Hand management is key to victory, as buying victory points, building new tracks and stations will generate waste cards that can clutter up your hand and hinder your progress. May the best capitalist win!  

Who This Game is For

Train buffs! Anyone who loves the deckbuilding genre! Gamers looking for a light game – Trains is easy to learn and teach, but can be a heavier game for newbies. Newbie gamers who want to try out a deckbuilder. 

Buy Trains on Amazon

The stand-alone game Trains: Rising Sun is compatible with Trains. The game has a board specifically for 2-player games and is better for more competitive 2 player games.

Looking for a deck building game with a different theme? Check out Automobiles. Planes, which is not a deck builder, is another sequel to Trains.

American West

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 60-90 minutes // Age: 12+ // Difficulty: Advanced

Publisher: Eggert Spiele

Welcome to the West! You are a rancher earning your keep by herding your cattle from Texas to Kansas City. You’ve succeeded when your cattle are delivered by train to your location of choice. Manage your herd, hire cowboys, commission buildings and hire engineers to optimize the railroad line!

Great Western Trail is a heavy Euro game that features a unique mix of game mechanics. You’ll build your deck of cows, manage your hand and move your cattle across the board in this multi-dimensional, challenging game that will keep you entertained for hours. 

The game ends after players have completed a certain number of trips to Kansas City. Every game is different, influenced by the variable setup, how you choose to earn points, your playing styles and even how fast players choose to move through the game.

Strategize your way to victory. In the end, the player with the most points wins the game. Pat yourself on the back, write “most valuable rancher” on your nametag and get back to ranching!

Great Western Trail is fun because there are a lot of options and actions, which make for interesting decisions along every step of the way. It’s a GREAT feeling when you unlock bonuses and special abilities on your journey! 

Who This Game is For

Hard-core gamers looking for a challenging but well-made and fun strategic game to sink their teeth into. Intermediate gamers will enjoy Great Western Trail if they love the Western theme and don’t mind the significant learning curve.

Buy Great Western Trail on Amazon

The Rails to the North expansion for Great Western Trail adds a new railway system. You’ll also get new station master tiles, private buildings and an expanded player board to provide more depth to the game.

While Great Western Trail can feel like a race to deliver the most cows and earn points, the expansion allows for greater opportunities for player interaction, tactics and strategy.

Fantasy Quest / Dungeon Crawler

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 60-90 minutes // Age: 12+ // Difficulty: Medium

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

The village of Barrowsdale is threatened by Doom Knights. Your objective? Prevent them from corrupting the world by gathering all remaining Thunderstones. A mystical object, each Thunderstone has magical powers and you must prevent them from falling into the wrong hands! A group of brave villagers have volunteered to venture out and save the world against all odds.

At the start of the game, each player manages a team of six adventurers, including wizards, clerics, fighters and rogues. You start with a basic deck of cards to use to purchase, or upgrade to, increasingly powerful cards. As the game progresses, you can add new characters, magic spells and other items to your deck.

Thunderstone Quest is a deck-building dungeon crawler with campaign play that plays out over multiple game sessions. The game is not quite a cooperative game and not quite a competitive game. Without the expansion, players will play their own game at their own speed with little player interaction.

Thunderstone Quest is fun because your deck builds up quickly as you evolve from Level 0 Adventurers to mighty heroes in no time. There are a lot of great strategic elements, including capitalizing on synergy between characters, equipment, enemies and dungeon locations.

Who This Game is For

Thunderstone Quest should be right up your alley if you enjoy fantasy-themed dungeon dives and deck building games! Players who don’t like competitive games or enjoy playing games at their own pace may also enjoy this game. If Thunderstone Quest is up your alley, and you’re curious about other great dungeon crawlers, we put together a list of the best dungeon crawlers (no surprise, Thunderstone Quest is there).

Buy Thunderstone Quest on Amazon

Thunderstone Quest is just one part of the fantasy deck-building family of Thunderstone, which includes the original Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin.

The Thunderstone Quest: Barricades Mode expansion allows you to play Thunderstone Quest with 1-6 players, compared to 2-4 for the base game. This expansion also includes a cooperative mode where you and your fellow champions work together as you navigate the game.

Harry Potter Universe

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 30-60 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: USAOPOLY

Experience the epic Harry Potter novels like never before! Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative campaign game, making this an immersive experience as you work together to defeat the forces of evil in each of the seven legendary books. As Hermoine, Harry, Ron or Neville, take up arms and save your beloved Hogwarts as you battle Voldemort and his dark forces! 

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle starts as a basic deck building card game that is easy to pick up. The game slowly evolves in a way that is easy to learn, with new rules for each round / book. By Book 7, the rules are much more complicated and the difficulty level is higher. Each character has a unique set of skills and uses their personal deck of cards to acquire resources. More cards are added to your deck as you gain influence, including iconic characters, spells and health.

Just keep in mind that the base game can seem easy with two players, unless both of you control two characters- which we recommend. If the idea of playing within an overarching storyline or grand campaign appeals to you, check out our list of the top ten legacy board games out there. While Hogwarts Battle isn’t a legacy game per se, it includes many elements that are found in the best legacy board games. 

Who This Game is For

This is a GREAT game for Harry Potter fans, giving you an immersive experience in Potterverse right in the comfort of your home! The game was designed to be accessible, making this a fun game to play with your family or other folks new to gaming.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a lot of fun for folks of all abilities, which is why we’ve ranked it as one of the best deck builder games out there! If you are an advanced board gamer and not a fan of the Harry Potter theme, there are other deck builders with stronger gameplay.

Buy Infinity on Amazon

The Monster Box of Monsters Expansion adds Luna Lovegood as a playable character (yay!), intros new creatures to the villain deck and pours in new cards, along with a couple of new elements that increase the level of difficulty. As with the original, you will unlock boxes as you play through. One note – this expansion is designed to be played with Book 7 after you’ve completed Books 1 through 7.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts is a standalone competitive deck-building game for two players. You are students taking practical Defence Against the Dark Art lessons, casting Spells and Hexes. This game is not designed to be integrated with Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.

Marvel Universe Deck Building Game

Players: 1-5 // Game time: 30-60 minutes // Age: 10+ // Difficulty: Medium

Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment

Welcome to the Marvel Comics Universe! You are a S.H.I.E.L.D agent with a super-important task: assemble a team of legendary superheroes to thwart the scheming evil masterminds of the universe. 

In Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game, each player starts the game with a small deck of a dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. You choose five different superheroes to play during the game, with your pick of 15 superheroes: Hulk, Gambit, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Emma Frost, Thor, Deadpool, Iron Man, Storm, Captain America, Nick Fury, Rogue, Cyclops, Wolverine and Spiderman. 

Three things happen during each turn:


  • Villain – Play the top card of the villain deck, which could be a villain, an innocent bystander or other action cards.


  • Recruit and Fight – Most cards have either a recruit point or fight number, which you can use to add new heroes and fight with existing heroes. Heroes often have special abilities, such as drawing additional cards.


  • Final – Discard your hand and draw all-new cards.


The gameplay in Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is fairly simple, fast-paced, extremely thematic and comes with plenty of strategy. There are a lot of possible combinations of heroes, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, masterminds and schemes, making the base game highly replayable. When you add in all of the available expansions, the replayability factor of this game is off the charts.

Who This Game is For

Fans of the Marvel universe will love this game, whether you have fond memories of reading Marvel comics or are an avid Marvel comic collector. Although there are other deck building card games better suited for beginners, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is accessible enough for folks new to the deck building genre to pick up without major problems.

Buy Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game on Amazon

There are a ton of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game expansions, and the decision of which expansion to get is based on your preference or affiliation with certain characters.

Big Box expansions like Legendary: Dark City, Legendary: Civil War and Legendary: World War Hulk add tons of cards, new characters, masterminds and schemes.

Small box expansions like Legendary: Fantastic Four, Legendary: Paint the Town Red and Legendary: Guardians of the Galaxy add a few new heroes, new villains, new masterminds and / or new schemes. They’re all great for the completionist.

Space-based thriller / horror with... ALIENS!

Players: 1 - 5 // Game time: 30 - 60 minutes // Age: 17+ // Difficulty: Medium

Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment

Play your way through the events in the classic Alien movies in this cooperative deck building game. Legendary: An Alien Deck Building Game is based on the game design and mechanics of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.

You’ll play one of ten avatars as you work together to survive against the aliens. The game is incredibly thematic, exciting and tense and features a variety of aliens.  There are four main scenarios, each representing one of the Alien movies. Each scenario has three phases, each with its own objective. This basically ensures that each of the scenarios features its own twists and challenges. Legendary: An Alien Deck Building Game includes several additional playing modes that boost the replayability. You can play in traitor mode where one of you has a secret agenda, and a mode where infected players can turn into aliens and fight other players.

This game is fun because the gameplay and immersive theme emulate the stress and tension of the Alien movies. This makes for lots of fun with your favorite gamers!

Who This Game is For

Anyone who loves the Aliens franchise. Fans of deck building, scifi and cooperative games will enjoy Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game.

Buy Legendar Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game on Amazon

If you’re interested in playing the Alien Queen, the Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game Expansion will be right up your alley. You’ll also get more facehuggers, Aliens, characters (e.g. Lieutenant Gorman and Kane), a new playmat for the Alien Queen and 400 new cards.

Quick Science Fiction Deck Builder

Players: 2 // Game time: 20 minutes // Age: 8+ // Difficulty: Medium

Publisher: White Wizard Games

Welcome to the future, where space is full of conflict, trade and bustling activity! 

There are four factions in this futuristic deck building game:

  • Trade Federation – The human race is now governed by a group of corporations by the name of the Trade Federation.
  • Machine Cult – Technology became their religion when they were cut off from the Trade Federation and under siege by the Blobs.
  • Star Empire – Former colonies on the outer edges of the Federation that united into an independent empire.
  • The Blobs – Not much is known about the Blobs, beyond a gelatinous mass found in a few intact Blob ships. Most encounters between humans and the Blobs are friction-filled.

In a nutshell, Star Realms is a game of outer space combat and is all about quick gameplay. Use Trade to acquire new ships and bases in the trade row during your turn. You can purchase and play cards from any faction, but you may get bonuses if you play multiple faction cards in one turn. Each faction has unique abilities and advantages. Which faction will you invest your Trade in, and will the Trade row bless you with the right cards before your opponents snap them up?

Who This Game is For

Anyone looking for a light, snappy little deck builder that is portable, accessible and easy to learn and teach. Star Realms with its intuitive game play and neutral space theme can be more appealing and fun to a broader audience (read: kids and casual players) than a lot of card building games out there. Serious deck builder fans may like this more as a filler game.

Buy Star Realms on Amazon

There are three main standalone games in the Star Realms universe: Star Realms, Star Realms: Colony Wars and Star Realms: Frontiers.

While Star Realms is for two players, you can expand it by adding up to two more decks of Star Realms or Star Realms: Colony Wars. 

Star Realms: Colony Wars is a lot like the original Star Realms, but with all-new cards, some new mechanics, plenty of resources, more emphasis on card scrapping and more ways to scrap cards from the trade row.

Star Realms: Frontiers allows for cooperative play for solo play or up to four players with new “challenge cards” that set up scenarios and bosses. This game also includes all-new cards and new mechanics.

Hero Realms is a quick fantasy deck builder based on Star Realms mechanics. You’ll meet components head-on to come up with the most powerful spells and minions.

Fantasy Adventure Deck Building

Players: 2 - 4 // Game time: 30 - 60 minutes // Age: 10+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

You and your fellow burglars are competing for the title of Greatest Thief in the Realm! This is all well and good, but now you need to sneak into a dragon’s lair to steal precious artifacts! The dragon becomes increasingly angry with each artifact that is stolen. If you make one false move that draws the dragon’s attention (CLANK!), you may not make it out of the lair alive! That part’s pretty important. After all, you can’t enjoy your treasure if you don’t escape alive!

Each player has their own deck in this fun fantasy deck building game. Most cards will generate resources (skill, swords and boots) that allow you to acquire new cards, fight monsters and move around the board. You’ll build up your deck as you progress through the game – bigger is better! There are lots of ways to earn points, but none of that matters if you don’t make it out!

Who This Game is For

Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure is a fun deck-builder that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This competitive game is easy to learn and teach and is great fun for both gamers and non-gamers alike. Even folks who don’t profess to like deck builders will likely enjoy this adventure! This is a good family game to play with your kids if competition isn’t an issue.

Buy Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure on Amazon

Since Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure took the board game world by storm in 2016, a lot of expansions have been published. Some of the more popular ones are: 

Clank! The Mummy’s Curse adds a mummy that can curse you, and cards that you can use to get rid of curses.

Clank! Expeditions: Gold and Silk adds two new boards, one that features dwarf gold and the other with spider webs.

There are also two other popular standalone Clank! games with their own expansions:

Claim your treasure and escape pod in the highly popular futuristic space-themed Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure.

Make permanent changes in Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated throughout 10+ rounds of campaign play with a sarcastic, entertaining story arc.

Science Fiction / Fantasy

Players: 1 - 4 // Game time: 60 minutes // Age: 14+ // Difficulty: Easy

Publisher: Action Phase Games


You are one of a handful of sorcerers fighting to save Gravehold, the last stronghold of humanity, against the invading Nemesis and their minions (the Nameless). 

The future of humanity is in your hands.

Throughout the game, you’ll work together with your fellow mages to defeat the Nameless. 

Each round features the Aeon’s End trademark variable turn system to simulate the chaos of an attack. Hand management is unique – unlike in many deck building games, you never shuffle your deck. Instead, you flip it over to restart it, adding a whole other layer of strategy to arranging your discard pile. The Aeon’s End family is a leader among deck builders, and Aeon’s End does not disappoint.

Who This Game is For

Fans of the Aeon’s End collection. Gamers looking for a good cooperative deck building game with solo play. Gamers looking for a legacy deck building gaming experience. 

Buy Aeon’s End on Amazon

The Aeon’s End family is a leader among deck builders, which includes the standalone Aeon’s End: War Eternal expansion and Aeon’s End: The New Age

Aeon’s End: Legacy is a legacy game. You’ll unlock new content, enemies, surprises and cards throughout the game. You’ll even make permanent changes to the game. A lot of the fun in Aeon’s End: Legacy is starting from scratch with your mage and developing their skills throughout the campaign.

Medieval Deckbuilder

Players: 2-4 // Game time: 30 minutes // Age: 10+ // Difficulty: Medium

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Dominion was THE original deck building game, and is basically the reason why we have so many great deck builders these days. Although some players who prefer the deck building genre have moved on to other deck builders, Dominion is always the first point of comparison when a new deck builder comes out for good reason.

The objective of the game is to acquire cards to expand your kingdom’s influence. You start as the ruler of a small peasant kingdown, looking to bring order to nearby lands. The catch? Other monarchs (A.K.A. other players) have the same idea.

Dominion includes Copper ($1), Silver ($2) and Gold ($3) treasure cards; Estate (1 point), Duchy (3 points) and Province (6 points) victory cards; and 10 kingdom cards mostly focused on actions.

For the base game, your starting deck, of which you’ll deal yourself 5 cards, will have 7 Copper treasure cards and 3 Estate victory cards. You’ll build and enhance your deck as you proceed through the game. On each turn, you’ll 1) take an Action, 2) Buy cards and 3) Clean up. Your ultimate goal is to acquire the most victory points, which is best achieved by purchasing victory cards. 

Who This Game is For

Dominion is a great medium-weight gateway game to deck-building games and the board game world overall. Great for serious gamers looking to bring their non-gaming family members into regular game nights. Once you get the hang of it, Dominion proves to be a lot of fun and is seriously addictive.

Buy Dominion on Amazon

Dominion is a fun game, but after multiple plays you just might want a little more variety. Cue the expansions- and hoo-hah, there are a LOT of expansions for Dominion. Here are just a few:

Focus on growing your wealth with new treasures, cards that interact with treasures and new powerful cards with the Prosperity expansion. 

The Seaside expansion adds a fun nautical twist to Dominion, with the addition of cool cards such as the pirate ship and duration cards that last your entire turn. The addition of brutal, cutthroat cards is great for players seeking a highly competitive experience.

For a less “take-that” competitive experience, the Hinterlands expansion is a great option. The cards don’t add radical new abilities, but you get new complexities for a game with deeper strategy and new opportunities- a win in our book for a mainstay like Dominion.

That’s A Wrap!

The best deck-building game for you is out there! Whether you are looking for THE classic deck-building experience with the game that started it all (Dominion), a quick and portable deck-building game (Star Realms), a cooperative deck-builder (Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle and Aeon’s End), or a dungeon crawler deck builder (Thunderstone Quest and Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure), there is something for you in our list of the top 10 best deck-building games.

With so many options, here are a few other top deck building games that almost made it onto our list:

Quest for El Dorado – Race through a dense South American jungle for the ultimate find in this kid-friendly deck builder – the legendary city of gold!

Dale of Merchants – You are an animalfolk merchant working to make your stall the best in town – and gain a membership to the prestigious guild. Great for kids!

Mystic Vale – Created by the same game developers as Thunderstone Quest. Play as druidic clans working to cleanse the curse on the Valley of Life in this fantasy deck-builder.

Friday –  You are Friday, and your goal is to help Robinson Crusoe survive the island and defeat the pirates in this solo game.

Eminent Domain –  Build your civilization in space. Your goal? To compile the best civilization in the galaxy!

DC Comics Deck Building Game – Are you a DC Comics fan? Look no further! Battle with your favorite iconic characters, from Superman, Batman and Flash to Wonder Woman.

Valley of the Kings: Premium Edition – You are an Egyptian noble preparing for honorable death and burial by acquiring food, statues, amulets and other cards for the grandest, most treasure-filled tomb!

Palm Island – Upgrade your own personal island in this portable, bite-sized 1-2 player game that you can play at the airport, on the sofa or in line at the DMV.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set – Roll your way to victory with 10-sided polyhedral dice in this cooperative deck-building game with an old-school RPG feel.

Header Photo Credit: Thanks, Chris Brooks! cc

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