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TOPIC: Deckbuilder Games

Deckbuilder Games 10 Oct 2017 15:56 #255460

It has been nearly a decade since Dominion was published, but designers continue to assemble games around the deckbuilder mechanic. Deckbuilding was always my least favorite aspect of collectible card games, so I have avoided playing most deckbuilder games. But I know that lots of gamers enjoy deckbuilder games. What do you like about deckbuilder games? What makes one deckbuilder game better than another one?
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 09:23 #255498

Dominion doesn't do much for me. It just feels like I'm moving cards around. But it, like Magic, got a lot of things right that other DB games failed to capitalize on. For example, the word game PAperback suffers from the usual word game problems, but also the VP cards in it also count as Wild Cards, which is a bizarre and frustrating failure to learn from Dominion. In Dominion, the choice to go VP is tough, as those cards will not do anything else. In Paperback, there's no reason NOT to get a VP card if you can.

Deckbuilders I like:

Ascension - mostly on the iPad. In person it can be a frustrating mess. It's got a lot of randomness and turns can suddenly snowball like crazy. But it's fine for async play.

Thunderstone - I liked original Tstone, and liked the changes they made to Advance. But I'm not buying it a third time, so I can't speak to the new Thunderstone Quest. I find it a lot of goofy fun.

Core Worlds - Similar to Thunderstone but a little more streamlined and interesting. IT can go LONG if you play with 4 or 5 and any of them have AP, but I really enjoy it.

Zeppelin Attack! - Absolutely overlooked gem of a game where you are pulp villains (including a Brain in a Tank and a Sentient Gorilla) attacking each others' zeppelin fleets. It's a lot of fun, the expansion is a hoot, and it fits in a small box. One of my faves. It does a different thing where money is its own separate type of card and is spent when you use it, so you need to take actions to get cash, unlike games where the currency is built in.

Valley of the Kings - Another small gem. Gives a reverse decision to make in that cards only score points if you entomb them, taking them out of your deck. So do you keep this great card you have or pack it in the tomb? Plays fast, is small. There are three different sets but you can get plenty out of just one.

Ones I've tried and dislike:

Dominion - I don't hate it, just find it to be the typical flavorless all-mechanism euro thing.

Eminent Domain - Has one strategy that is just plain easier than the others (may not always win, but it's a no brainer), and ends before it actually gets interesting.

Clank - Fun idea but far too timid in execution. Maybe there's more to it than I saw.

3012 - you may see this cheap and think it's worth giving a whirl. It's not.

I'm sure there are others I don't remember.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 11:52 #255506

Mystic Vale is good but lacks a culling feature which is desperately needed to shorten playtime.

Marvel Legendary is good, probably the best DB game I can think of.

Arctic Scavengers was pretty novel for its time and I like the theme, but it's not spectacular.

Star Realms is fun. Lots of random but fun.

All other DB games and variants (Mage Knight) just bore me to death.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 11:57 #255507

I like deckbuilders. My main issue with them is time as you need to do frequent shuffling, which can often take longer than your actual turn once you are familiar with the game.

The ability to cull is an extremely important feature as you otherwise end up with a horrible glut of cards.

My favorites are probably Dominion, Legendary, and the original Thunderstone. Of course, I only own Legendary at the moment. I have eyeballed Valley of the Kings because my mini-human is a big of fan of all things about ancient Egypt or with that as a theme.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 12:07 #255508

These games are generically better when some app does the shuffling. Compare to solitaire/patience games.

DOMINION--boring as fuck all. Seriously, why are folks so into this game. Half your cards don't do shit.
PENNY ARCADE: GAMERS VS EVIL--Fun! Player powers make the game pretty nuanced.
ASCENSION--Bizarro artwork, but the game is good enough. This is my generic intro-to-deckbuilders recommendation.
PUZZLE STRIKE--Player powers implemented in a different way, also very interesting. Community is... well, we know about this community.
MAGE KNIGHT--Hard as balls if balls were made of something harder than weak human flesh. I like it though. Very game-y.
STAR REALMS--Meh. Very generic. Not sure why this exists.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 13:40 #255516

I haven't played that many. Like the rest of you. Dominion never really did anything for me. The two I did like enough to buy and would still gladly play at anytime are Blood Bowl: Team Manager and Rune Age. I guess Race for the Galaxy was kind of a deckbuilder and I did enjoy that for a few years, but recently traded it.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 13:45 #255517

I have only played a few of them, and I don't mind it as a mechanic in a larger game, when it makes sense. Here is my brief rundown:

Dominion - boring as all get out
Ascension - its mechanical simplicity gives way to a deeper understanding of the cards; this is a good game
Nightfall - one of the most cutthroat games I have ever played, and can be really cool if you have at least 3 players who aren't afraid to get nasty
Some Marvel nonsense - go away
Warmachine High Command - go away * 1000
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 13:53 #255519

I've gone through kicks on at least four different deckbuilders.

Dominion - I got to a point where I had probably played too much. I also didn't much like playing with anyone besides my wife, since I didn't have to teach her how to play or give her a chance to digest card effects. I collected expansions until about 2011, at which point the amount of physical product was way more than my desire to actually play. Traded it away for Thor comics, with no regrets.

Thunderstone - I actually liked Thunderstone in its original iteration. I had a few of the expansions, and tried to push it into group rotation. Unfortunately it never really took, and then Thunderstone Advance came out and everyone wanted to play that. It got traded away too, and I do regret a bit that I didn't have a chance to really burn on out it.

Puzzle Strike - Played a whole LOT of this one for about a year, but it faded away like all the others. I think I was just losing interest in deck-building as a mechanic. I also was really turned off by the constant fine-tuning of the game, with new editions and "add-ons" published every few months. I unloaded it in a giveaway.

Mage Knight - Mage Knight is a great game, but I came to the conclusion that I'm just not much of a solo gamer, and if that's the case there isn't much reason to own this for me. I also went a good 12-18 months without playing, and then found myself in a position of having to learn how to play again. I sat down with the rules and immediately decided to sell the game off rather than face that prospect.

I am pretty disillusioned with the mechanic as a whole, although I feel like the best version of it might still exist for me. The problem is that the constant shuffling and cycling of cards feels so repetitive to me, and it inherently makes every deck-builder into an efficiency game. That's all well and good, but I have other efficiency games I like a lot more, thanks.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 16:51 #255526

Shellhead wrote:
What do you like about deckbuilder games? What makes one deckbuilder game better than another one?

I'm not a huge fan of the genre per se, but I like some aspects of it. Fun combos, seeing your deck ramp up in power, etc. All good stuff.

I'm not currently playing any, but I liked Star Realms and Puzzle Strike a lot. Star Realms got kind of bloated with expansions, and PS had the endless "upgrade" churn plus the community problems Jeb mentioned.

I think the mechanic is kind of underused, or at least underused well from a thematic point of view. The point of putting a deck into a game is to have limited randomness. I.e., more limited than a random roll table (where you could repeatedly roll on the extremes, even with a bell curve). You use a deck if you want things to happen, but in an unpredictable order. Building your own deck means expanding something of your own that you have some control over but not much. But in too much game design, deckbuilding is used in an antithematic way. I.e. you are building a kingdom or an army, but you have almost no control over it because if card X is buried in your deck then your kingdom or army simply can't use that resource no matter what it is. That might be thematic for some cards (a shady assassin or enemy double agent) but for your core cards it's pretty silly.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 16:58 #255528

dysjunct wrote:
I think the mechanic is kind of underused, or at least underused well from a thematic point of view. The point of putting a deck into a game is to have limited randomness. I.e., more limited than a random roll table (where you could repeatedly roll on the extremes, even with a bell curve). You use a deck if you want things to happen, but in an unpredictable order. Building your own deck means expanding something of your own that you have some control over but not much. But in too much game design, deckbuilding is used in an antithematic way. I.e. you are building a kingdom or an army, but you have almost no control over it because if card X is buried in your deck then your kingdom or army simply can't use that resource no matter what it is. That might be thematic for some cards (a shady assassin or enemy double agent) but for your core cards it's pretty silly.

Good point about the thematic use of the deckbuilder mechanic. I haven't enjoyed most of the deckbuilders that I have tried, but I enjoyed both Slapshot and Blood Bowl: Team Manager. The deckbuilder fits well in a sports game, as the adding of cards represents recruiting, while the current unavailability of a cards can represent players who are injured.

I do like pulling off card combos, but building a deck to obtain the combos feels like a hassle, compared to a game like Wiz-War where I am just making the best out of the cards in my hand. Maybe this is just the old strategic vs tactical divide.
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Last Edit: 11 Oct 2017 16:59 by Shellhead.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 17:42 #255529

BBTM was fun.

I think a good theme for a deckbuilder would be a gang war. Since you control who's in your gang, but due to the criminal element they are kind of inherently unreliable -- your hitman might be in trouble with the law, your bookie or drug pusher might be late bringing in his payments, etc. You build up your gang and use your resources as best you can.

Anyway, there's my million-dollar idea, now someone else make it into a fun game.
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Deckbuilder Games 11 Oct 2017 18:07 #255531

I've never been big on the mechanic or most of the games I've played with it. The only deckbuilder I'd still play is Resident Evil. Its not really the kind of game where you sit there working out the optimal move or most efficient deck strategy. You pretty much just load up your deck with whatever weapons you like and use them to kill monsters for VP's.
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Deckbuilder Games 12 Oct 2017 02:42 #255541

I don't particularly like the genre, altough I think it's a great mechanism for part of a game (as in Starcraft or Mage Knight or A Study in Emerald). But RUNE AGE is really good. One of the things that work for me in Rune Age is that the deck building makes sort of sense. Your deck is your standing army, and your hand equals what troops you have available in the vicinity of the battle you're fighting. Thinking that way it also makes sense that you buy a card and don't add it to your hand - when you train new troops they don't automatically arrive at the front, but have to march there first (appear in your hand).
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Deckbuilder Games 12 Oct 2017 06:55 #255543

Not a fan. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's been the idea with the biggest buzz for the weakest payoff in my whole time as a gamer. Although it sounds great in practice, it has a problem with length. Short games don't give you enough time to do anything interesting with your deck (Ascension) and/or don't do anything interesting with the card effects themselves (Dominion). Solving that problem - as per Mage Knight - makes the game run too long.

All my favourite games with deck-building elements have the focus somewhere other than the deck. The closest thing to a pure deck-builder that I like is Trains and even then you're jostling for board space. Others that work for me are:

Automobiles, where the track is more important and the card pool is very limited (and is in fact composed of cubes, not cards, removing the shuffling problem).
Blood Bowl: Team Manager, where the deck building takes second fiddle to good timing, clever used of powers and choice of highlight cards.
Hands in the Sea, which is far more of a CDG where the deck just happens to be built on the fly than a true deck-builder.
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Deckbuilder Games 12 Oct 2017 07:08 #255544

san il defanso wrote:
I am pretty disillusioned with the mechanic as a whole, although I feel like the best version of it might still exist for me. The problem is that the constant shuffling and cycling of cards feels so repetitive to me, and it inherently makes every deck-builder into an efficiency game. That's all well and good, but I have other efficiency games I like a lot more, thanks.
That's also the problem for me: They are efficiency games but they cannot really compete with the better efficiency games.

By nature deckbuilders are very narrow. The important decision is what to buy and what to buy is limited by how much money you have. Most turns you are going to have 1-3 choices and chances are they are obvious ones. It's an inherently tactical genre which also limits the quality of the choices.

I don't know, I think the mechanic as present in Dominion is brillant, I'm just not sure a game purely focused on it can be great.
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