Top 10 Cooperative Deck Building Games

best deck building board games ever

There isn’t a single person in my group who dislikes co-op deck building games. It’s just a ton of fun being able to tweak your deck of cards (or bag of tokens, or whatever you’re “building”) in hopes of being powerful and balanced enough to beat the game. I don’t know if deck building is my absolute favorite board game mechanism, but it’s definitely high up on the list.

Competitive deck building board games like Dominion and Clank! have been top-selling games for a while now because people seem to really enjoy feeling like they’re designing their own decks. It’s just an awesome way to make games interesting and replayable, and multiple designers have proven that it can work brilliantly in co-ops.

The deck building games on this page are the type that have you building your decks while playing the game rather than before it starts. So, a game like The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game won’t be here since the deck building there happens before you start playing. I just wanted to get that out of the way in case anyone wonders why certain games aren’t on this list.

Okay, let’s get to it! Below you will find some of the best cooperative deck building board games that my group has played.

10. After the Virus

After The Virus review - cover

Players: 1-3 | Ages: 10+

After The Virus is a co-op card game that is all about using your cards to fight off a swarm of zombies. What’s great about this one is that everyone starts out with identical decks of cards, but each character has a different starting deck and you never know what items you’re going to find when searching the town. That forces you to adjust your strategy on the fly and it makes each game play out differently. Plus, there are 16 replayable missions, each with unique objectives.

After the Virus is a popular solo deck building game, but I actually prefer it as a two or three-player cooperative game. I like that you have to deal with what’s in front of you while also having the option to help your teammates fight off their zombies. It’s really fun and one of the best cheap board games out there.

Read our After The Virus review

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9. The Big Book of Madness

The Big Book of Madness board game review - cover

Players: 2-5 | Ages: 12+

In The Big Book of Madness, you play as young wizards who have to use spells to fight off monsters that are coming out of a magical book. It’s very much in the classic deck building mold where you use your cards to buy better cards and make your deck more efficient over time. It does have a unique co-op mechanic, though, called the “support pool,” which allows you to put cards to the side so your teammates can use them on their turns.

The Big Book of Madness is one of the best deck building games to get if you’re looking for a solid gateway game or family game. It also happens to be one of the best-looking co-ops out there.

Read our The Big Book of Madness review

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8. The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport

The Red Dragon Inn Battle for Greyport review - cover

Players: 2-5 | Ages: 12+

If you’re looking for the hidden gem on this list, well, this is the one.

The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport has a couple of great mechanics that I wish were in more deck building board games: (1) The cards you buy go directly into your hand so you can use them right away, and (2) you can get weaker cards out of your deck. There’s also a really cool “taunt” mechanism that lets you pull monsters away from your teammates.

With the updated rules, Battle for Greyport is a smooth-playing and challenging multiplayer deck building game that has very nice artwork. I’ve owned this one for over five years now and my group still has a blast playing it.

Read our The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport review

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7. Mage Knight

mage knight review

Players: 1-4 | Ages: 14+

Mage Knight is an excellent deck building adventure board game that can be played in multiple ways. Regardless of game mode, you’ll be moving around different maps, picking up powerful spell and action cards, fighting enemies, and attempting to conquer cities. I think it plays especially well as a two-player co-op game, but it’s also a great solo and competitive game.

Mage Knight is easily the most complex deck building game on this list, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn how to play it if you’re a fan of fantasy games.

Read our Mage Knight review

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6. The LOOP

The LOOP - cover

Players: 1-4 | Ages: 12+

I’m a sucker for the time travel theme, and The LOOP is one of the best time travel board games that I’ve played. It has multiple game modes and a modular board, which gives the game plenty of replay value. Its deck building element gives you multiple ways to attack Dr. Faux (the main villain), and it has a cool little cube tower. The artwork is awesome too.

The LOOP is a great option for people looking for a next-step cooperative family game and those who want a co-op game that has the feel of Pandemic but with a little bit more going on.

Read our The LOOP review

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Check out our Top 10 Co-op Party Games!

5. Dragonfire

Dragonfire board game review - cover

Players: 2-6 | Ages: 13+

What makes Dragonfire really special to me is that you have a ton of options when it comes to customizing your characters. You start out as very basic characters, but you’re able to buy cards from a shared market as you play through each adventure. That allows you to create and develop the characters that you want to play with so you can give your team the best chance of winning.

If you’re a fan of D&D, or fantasy games in general, and you’re looking for a deck building game that allows you to feel like a truly unique character, Dragonfire might just be the best choice for you.

Read our Dragonfire review

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4. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Harry Potter HB - cover

Players: 2-4 | Ages: 11+

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is one of the best family board games out there and it’s one of the better light deck building games that you can get. In this game, you go through all of the Harry Potter books, adding popular characters and spells to your decks along the way while facing off against each book’s villains. The designers did a great job of creating a thematic experience in a light board game.

If you or someone you know loves the Harry Potter books and/or the movies, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a must-try.  You can also check out the Toy Story version if you like that theme.

Read our Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle review

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3. Shadowrift

Shadowrift 2nd edition review

Players: 1-6 | Ages: 14+

Shadowrift is probably the co-op deck building game that I’ve played the most times. That’s partially because it was one of the first deck builders that I got really into, and also because it’s been a hit with multiple groups.

What’s unique about Shadowrift is that you’re building one deck for yourself while also working together to buy improvements for your group’s Town deck. It has plenty of replay value thanks to the random hero cards that show up in the market and all of the different monster groups that you fight. Plenty of cooperation is required to beat this one and most games have very exciting finishes.

Read our Shadowrift 2nd Edition review

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2. Legendary Encounters

Legendary Encounters Alien

Players: 1-5 | Ages: 17+

Everyone in my group loves the Legendary games, especially Legendary Encounters: Alien, which is why it’s on our Top Co-op Board Games list. There are now a bunch of great themes to choose from, including Buffy and X-Files, but for the most part they all play very similarly.

What’s great about these games is that they are easy to get into, yet there’s plenty to think about each turn. You need to know the enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, what your characters’ unique abilities are, and what cards you should get to give your team the best chance to win. These games are very well-balanced, so you’ll consistently have intense games that go right down to the wire.

Read our Legendary Encounters: Alien review

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1. Aeon’s End

Aeon's End review

Players: 1-4 | Ages: 14+

Aeon’s End has been my group’s top deck building game for many years now. In fact, it’s one of the best cooperative board games out there, period. It has unique deck building and spell-casting mechanisms, and each nemesis creates different problems for your team to deal with. There’s also a decent amount of replayability since you can randomize the cards that are in the supply and each of the bosses has multiple difficulty levels. Plus, the designer has created a lot of new content for it, including the excellent Aeon’s End: The New Age.

Unless you are brand new to board games–in which case I’d recommend Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle or The Big Book of Madness–you really have to give Aeon’s End a try. It’s challenging, requires a high amount of cooperation, and it’s one of those games you’ll spend plenty of time talking about after each playthrough.

It’s going to take a very special deck building game to knock Aeon’s End out of this top spot.

Read our Aeon’s End review

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What are some of your top cooperative deck building games? Any that didn’t make this list?

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