I love deck builders. All kinds of deck builders. If there is a deck building mechanic in a game, I’m there…with bells on. One of my sons also loves deck building games. So, you might say that I have handed the deck building gene to the next generation of gamer.
What is it about a sliver a cardboard that gets my motor running? Why is it that a deck builder’s theme doesn’t matter one iota to me? Why is it if a game starts with a small deck, which then builds into a larger, more powerful stack of cardboard slivers right before my eyes, I start feeling an inexorable pull on my wallet to make that box of cards mine; to make it come home to live with me and to join the other deck builders in a happy little family of cardboard slivers?
I think it’s the fact that I actually can watch my power grow. I can see my deck mature and become stronger. I can strategize on the fly; modify the deck to fit the scenario without having to go back and spend hours on end trying to build individual sets of perfect decks that meet any possible circumstance or threat.
I could care less about CCGs (Collectible Card Games for those newbies fortunate enough to read this rambling rant), those games rightfully described as cardboard crack that take inexorable amounts of money in order to competitively keep up. Nope. Those games with a never-ending flood of updates that has made (in some cases) a penny’s worth of layered paper become more valuable than all the gold in Fort Knox do nothing for me. First, it’s the fact that you never know what you’re going to get when you purchase a foil packet (or 500 foil packets). I don’t play the lottery, so CCGs, which are much like the lottery to me, don’t scratch my proverbial gamers’ itch. I also don’t have the time or inclination to sit for hours on end studying each and every card (of which there could be thousands), comparing and contrasting in order to build a more perfect union of characters and weapons and defenses. To me, this is tedium taken to its ultimate level after said tedium has ingested a ton of steroids.
LCGs (Living Card Games) pique my interest a little more although they, too, have an almost seemingly unending flow of scheduled updates. Those updates, however, aren’t random and fraught with the peril of buying a dozen duplicates at a time. Nope. Those good ol’ LCGs come in non-randomized booster packs, so I know what I’m buying. They’re the FDA-approved brand of card games, listing their ingredients for all to see. However, to get started and become truly competitive, I would have to buy two copies of the starter boxes, then those booster packs, and spend time cogitating how to best build decks to whip the bejeesus outta my competition. So, ultimately, the LCGs turn into CCGs in order to be competitive. Again, too much work.
With a deck builder (Dominion, Resident Evil, Lord of the Rings, Legendary, DC Deckbuilding Game, Star Trek TOS and Next Gen, Rune Age, Eaten by Zombies, Salmon Run, A Few Acres of Snow, and my favorites: Fantasiqa and Thunderstone), it’s strategy on the fly. No long, drawn-out solo sessions of ‘what ifs’, but an on the fly visceral experience where I pit my strategic chops against one or more people who are also building their strategies on the fly. There’s something fascinating about that. There’s also something nice about not having to spend hours playing that aforementioned What If game. I want to try a different strategy to see how that might work out? I reset the game and buy/play different cards to see what happens. Instant gratification.
So, that’s why I like deck building games so much. No collecting and uber-duplication of unwanted or weak cards in order to get one ultra-powerful card or sets of cards. No long, lonely hours of blind strategizing, building individual decks that have one sole purpose and, if I choose incorrectly when going into competition I’m screwed. Just a truly free-flowing set of cards that let me be a frontline commander reacting to whatever the enemy is throwing at me as that enemy is throwing it at me. And both of us have to use the same card sets, so one doesn’t necessarily have the ability to overpower the other due to super strong cards the other might not have access to. Yeah, I know. All’s fair in love and war. But there’s nothing more frustrating to me as a gamer than knowing I’m going to lose and still have at least an hour to go in the game knowing I have no chance whatsoever to make a comeback.
Yep, for my son’s and my style of gaming, deck building games are the way to go. On-the-fly strategizing with some fun and maturing rule sets (some of those games I listed are actually board games with a deck building mechanic added in) that add diversity and interest. To me, at least.