March 19, 2012

About Deck Building Games

Lately I've heard a lot of people are growing tired of Trading Card Games. Many TCG*s and sets are imbalanced but you have no way to control what is banned and what isn't. There is also the issue of money. You need to stay up-to-date with new sets, which can be a problem for many people money and time-wise. Even if it isn't, dropping cash for every set, at least if you want to play standard or what have you, just sucks.

This turned me off to TCGs as well, and I feel how many people do about the subject in that regard. So I looked for something new. That "something new" is deck building games.

A quick explanation: Deck Building games are games where every player starts with a small, identical deck (usually around ten cards). You then collect more cards in game from many to customize the deck to your liking. You start from scratch every time. Every deck you make can be geared toward a different strategy or what-have-you.

I found that I enjoy deck building games quite a bit, and have played and bought quite a few of them. There are merits to many, but before I go into that let me talk about the benefits that (I believe) separate them from TCGs.**

First, a deck-building game is self-contained. In a TCG, to continue playing, you're generally going to have to continue buying cards. There is nothing wrong with this, and it makes the game dynamic -- constantly changing and adding new features. In deck building games, what you buy is what you get. This means you don't have to buy more to have many complete games. Also, games all tend to play very differently, even with the same set of cards. It all depends on who you are playing with, what specific cards you play with (some DBGs have an option to chose what cards are used, others are randomized), and other random elements of the game.

This is not to say there is not more to buy! DBGs have expansion sets as well. These are not necessary to continue playing, nor is the base set necessary to play an expansion. They can be played together though, taking cards from the first set and cards from the second set, and on, and putting them together also leads to new kinds of game play. The expansion set up was always something I enjoyed because when a new expansion of a game came out, I didn't have to buy it. If a friend wanted it, but couldn't afford the base set, they would buy the expansion and we could still use the two together even though neither of us owned both. It allows for more diverse play without having to spend as much money.

A good thing about the card selection and randomization of the cards in a DBG is that if something is over-powered or over-used, you don't have to use it. For example, I occasionally play with a friend who is just... not nice. He uses the [b]same[/b] strategy every time (He also cheats, but that is another issue entirely)***. It gets repetitive and boring playing with him. So, when we choose card we take out some of the cards for his strategy, forcing him to adapt, try something new, and makes the game more fun for everyone. No dealing with an official ban list or anything. Just house rules.

Finally, and best of all, only one person has to buy it. You don't have to make sure people in your area play the game -- if they don't, you bring it to your local comic book shop and teach them how. That's it. I can't begin to tell you how many nights I've spent having fun with people at my comic book shop with a DBG and hearing someone lamenting about how they invested in this new TCG they found only to learn that no one has the cards to play against them! This is when I show them whatever DBG I've brought in that day.

Anyway, here are some notable DBGs along with some information about them****:

Resident Evil:
Based off of the Resident Evil series of games. You start by randomly selecting a character from the series (different sets have more characters) and spend the game buying guns, ammo, and other equipment to fight zombies. There is a shuffled deck of zombie cards that you fight.
This game is somewhat competitive, but there is not a lot of attacking other players. Your main goal is to defeat the "boss" zombie of the deck. There are many different "house rules" included in the booklet as well. There are many sets of this game.

Tanto Cuore:
I won't lie, I have so much fun with this game. It is a maid game with pretty art. You are a master and you use "love" to employ maids from the the center, or "town." These maids then "serve" you when you play them on your turn. There are also private maids, buildings, and event cards.
This game does not have a lot of pure PvP elements, as the main goal of the game is to get the most points. Event cards, however, add some PvP if you chose to include them. These are illnesses and bad habits that you can play on other player's maids. There are a few maids that allow you to take other's cards as well. There are two sets out right now, and I highly recommend it!

This is one of the best DBGs in my opinion. It is fast-paced and very fun. I used to play it during lunch in high school because, if you set it up right, a game can take ten to fifteen minutes (It can obviously take longer as well). There are some "set" cards that are always available: one gives you runes, one power. There is also a cultist that is always available to kill. All the other cards are shuffled into one deck and six off the top of it are placed in the center. You can either buy or kill these cards, and when you do they are replaced by another from the deck.
It is very much PvE, as you are trying to collect the most points for victory by collecting cards and defeating monsters. The game ends when there are no more points left to give out. It is easy to learn and fun to play.

This is a fun game, but you have to play it with the right kind of people*****. There are two places you can buy from: the center (cards everyone can buy) and your own personal two stacks of cards. These are selected by a draft at the beginning of every game. In this game, you play creatures and attempt to create chains in order to play more cards and get more effects from cards. A very interesting mechanic is that you have to opportunity to play and chain cards during your opponents turns, thus giving the game an "always active" feel. When you take damage as a player (that is, when you don't have a minion to block damage from another player's attack), you get wound cards equaling the amount to damage.
This is a very competitive game with no real PvE elements. The game ends when all the wound cards are depleted. Also, every creature must attack every turn. It is a cutthroat game, but it's still very fun.

I don't know much about this game. I bought it on a whim because it looked cool but I haven't had the opportunity to play it. From my understanding, there is a dungeon containing three monsters that you can defeat, to be replaced from the top of a deck. You acquire heroes to defeat the creatures and equip them to make them stronger. It seems to be a mostly PvE game, first look.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone. I enjoy DBGs immensely. They are fun and can be enjoyed by a group of people. I recommend them highly******. :3

*For Sanity's sake, I'm shortening these terms: DBG: Deck Building Game; TCG: Trading Card Game
**I won't argue that they are better, inherently, because they both give a different experience.
***Every group of gamers has a guy like this. F*ck 'em. >:/
****I don't know all the games. These are the ones I either own or have played extensively.
*****Not assholes.

******Yes, all of them.


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