[TT] Introduction to Deck-Building Games

Welcome to Tabletop Tuesday, something new I’m trying here at Kill Ten Rats. For most of this year, I will be gradually discussing the game Dominion, which is the trope maker for deck-building games. This is rich territory for discussion, with quite a few mechanics and expansions, and you know I can spend a whole post talking about one card.

In case you have never played one, deck-building games are second cousins to collectible card games like Magic the Gathering or Pokémon. The big difference is that you buy your cards within the game, not between games. There is a fixed pool of cards in front of you, and you start with a small pool of resources. You use those resources to buy cards, which get shuffled into your deck. You now have more resources and abilities for the next time you go through your deck. Repeat unto victory.

The ideal of a deck-building game is to capture everything good about collectible card games without the soul- and wallet-crushing pay-to-win business model. You still get to customize your deck and strategy, but everyone has equal access to all the cards. Deck-building is an excellent model of controlled randomization: you do not know exactly what you are getting, but the degree of variation is mathematically knowable and limited by the size of the deck. Controlling and manipulating probability is a key skill in effective play. Deck-building games can mix strategy, tactics, and execution as well as the best real time strategy games, minus the need for good reaction times.

Next week, we will talk about the rules of Dominion and the base game as it was launched.

: Zubon