Everyone in my group loves deck building games, as do plenty of other gamers. Competitive deck building games like Dominion and Clank! have been top sellers for a while now because people seem to really enjoy feeling like they’re designing their own decks in-game. It’s just an awesome mechanic and multiple designers have proven that it can work brilliantly in co-ops.
There are some newer deck building games that my group hasn’t played yet. If we play any that beat out any of the games on the list, I’ll update it.
To the list! These are the best cooperative deck building games that my group has played:
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. There’s also a great “support pool” mechanic that allows you to hold cards so your teammates can use them on their turns.
Read our The Big Book of Madness review
After The Virus 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 you never know which items you’re going to find when searching, forcing you to constantly adjust your strategy and making each game play out quite differently. Plus, there are 15 replayable missions, each with unique objectives.
After the Virus is a popular solo 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. Really fun (and inexpensive) game.
review coming soon…
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 games: (1) the cards you buy go directly into your hand and (2) you can get weaker cards out of your deck. There’s also a really cool “taunt” mechanic that lets you pull monsters away from your teammates.
With the updated rules, Battle for Greyport is a smooth-playing and challenging fantasy deck builder that looks great on the table. I’ve owned this one for over three years now and my group still has a blast playing it.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is one of the best family games out there and it’s one of the better light deck building games. You get to play through all of the Harry Potter books, adding popular characters and spells to your decks along the way while fighting against each book’s villains. The designers did a great job of making a thematic game with simple mechanics.
If you or someone you know loves Harry Potter, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a must-try. There’s also a newer Toy Story version if you prefer that theme.
Read our Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle review
Direwild ended up being one of the best games we played in 2018 because it combines deck building and dungeon crawling so well. What makes Direwild stand out is the fact that the cards you acquire can be used as both creatures or new attribute enhancers for the creatures you already have. Plus, the character you control has his or her own abilities, giving you plenty of fun tools to use on your turns. It’s a game that is pretty easy to learn yet it feels like a meatier experience.
Read our Direwild review
5. Mage Knight
Mage Knight is a fantastic deck building adventure game with multiple game modes. Regardless of mode, you’ll be moving around different maps, picking up powerful spell and action cards, fighting enemies, and conquering cities. I think its co-op mode is excellent, especially as a two-player 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 like fantasy games.
Read our Mage Knight review
Dragonfire is a fantasy campaign game set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. You start out as very basic characters, but you’ll be 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.
Some people might like Shadowrun: Crossfire a bit more than Dragonfire. It’s made by the same people, uses most of the same mechanics, but it has a cyberpunk theme. Dragonfire is arguably a bit more polished and forgiving, though.
Read our Dragonfire review
My group plays Shadowrift more than pretty much any other cooperative deck building game. 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 can fight. 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. Plenty of cooperation is required to beat this one and most games have very exciting finishes.
Read our Shadowrift 2nd Edition review
Everyone in my group loves Legendary Encounters: Alien, which is why it’s on our favorite co-op board games list. It’s fun, it’s intense, and there’s always the potential for an epic moment. While you can’t go wrong with any of the Legendary board games, this one has been the biggest hit with us.
The best thing about the deck building in Legendary Encounters: Alien is that your “recruitment” options change from turn to turn and you usually don’t have an obvious choice. You have to think about the aliens that you’re facing, but you also want to give your deck as much balance as possible. All of that stuff makes this game so much fun to play.
Read our Legendary Encounters: Alien review
1. Aeon’s End
Aeon’s End has unique deck building and spell-casting mechanisms, and each nemesis creates different problems for your team to deal with. Sure, it would have been nice if there were more bosses to fight in the base game, but there’s still plenty of replayability since you can randomize the cards that are in the supply and the bosses do have multiple difficulty levels. Plus, the designer has created a lot of new content for it, including the excellent Aeon’s End: The New Age.
Anyone who loves fantasy board games will get a kick out of Aeon’s End. 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
What are your favorite cooperative deck building board games? Any that didn’t make the list?