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Pretty much everyone in my group loves deck building games, and so do plenty of other people. Competitive games like Dominion and Star Realms have been top sellers because people seem to like having that feeling that they are designing their own decks.
Unfortunately, there really weren’t that many cooperative deck building games to choose from until a few years ago. Well, it seems like designers have realized that people like co-op deck builders because a lot of them have been popping up recently and more are on the way.
Since there aren’t a ton of cooperative deck building options out there right now, it was tempting to add a few that used just a little bit of deck building. Rather than doing that, though, we decided to stick with just straight-up deck builders in the main list.
So, with that being said, we think these are the best cooperative deck building games out there right now:
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 this different than other deck builders is the fact that the cards you acquire can be used as both creatures or new attribute enhancers for other creatures. Plus, the character you control has his or her own abilities. It’s a game that is pretty easy to learn yet feels like a meatier experience.
Read our Direwild review
Dragonfire is the only game on this list that has a campaign, allowing you to follow an ongoing story and to build up your characters to be stronger in future playthroughs. You start out as very basic characters, but you’ll be able to buy cards from a shared market as the games move forward. This allows you to create the characters that you want to play with and that you think will give you the best chance of winning.
Some people might like Shadowrun: Crossfire a bit more than Dragonfire. It’s made by the same people, uses similar mechanics, and it’s set in the Shadowrun universe. We really could have put either game in this spot, but Dragonfire feels a bit more polished and forgiving (Shadowrun: Crossfire is extremely tough).
Read our Dragonfire review
Shadowrift wasn’t on this list originally (it was just outside the top 5), but we realized we play it more than pretty much any other cooperative deck building game. That’s because the game was designed to give you plenty of replay value thanks to the random assortment of hero cards you can buy and all of the different monster groups that you can fight.
What’s unique about Shadowrift is that you are building one deck for yourself while also working together to buy improvements for your group’s Town deck. Plenty of cooperation is required in this one.
Read our Shadowrift 2nd Edition review
We’re obviously huge fans of Legendary Encounters: Alien considering it’s in 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.
Easily the best thing about the deck building in this game is that you usually don’t have an obvious choice. You have to think about the aliens that are going to pop up, but you also want to give your deck as much balance as possible. It’s also pretty great that your “recruitment” options change from game to game and from turn to turn.
Read our Legendary Encounters: Alien review
1. Aeon’s End
Aeon’s End takes cooperative deck building to a whole new level! It introduces a unique deck building mechanism, and each nemesis creates different problems for your team to deal with. Sure, we wish there were more bosses to fight in the base game, but there’s still plenty of replay value since you can randomize the cards that are in the supply and the bosses have multiple difficulty levels.
Anyone who loves fantasy board games will get a kick out of this one. It’s challenging, has a great amount of cooperation, and it’s one of those games you’ll spend plenty of time talking about after each playthrough.
Read our Aeon’s End review
Here are some other great cooperative deck building games:
Pathogenesis – This is one of the most thematic co-op deck building games we’ve played. You get to play as pathogens attacking a human body, with the immune system fighting back each turn. You can only play this cooperatively with two players, but it also plays well solo and it has a competitive mode. (read our Pathogenesis review)
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – If you’re a Harry Potter fan and also happen to like deck builders, this is game you pretty much have to try. One person in my group actually thinks this is the best deck building game out there right now. (read our Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle review)
Paperback (Co-op mode) – Most people think of Paperback as a competitive game, but it actually has an excellent solo/cooperative variant in the rulebook. People who love word games need to own this one. (read our Paperback review)