Shuffle over, Dominion, there are new decks in play.
Listen, no matter how many times you shuffle those coin cards, no one will believe that playing Dominion means you’re good at handling money. The fact that your coinage gets stuffed back into the box after each session is a bad start, and you can’t even buy a Starbucks with those credit cards. It’s time to move on. But all those hours spent gobbling up duchies needn’t be wasted. Surely somewhere values such expert card combos.
What to play after Dominion
Fortunately for the utter cards of the world like us, there are plenty of places to feed our unhealthy cravings for shuffling, drawing, then shuffling some more. Deck builders have come a long way since 2008, and it’s about time you caught up. Below, you’ll find our picks for the best board and card games to play after Dominion. Provided you’ve managed to escape the clutches of it’s three million expansions, of course.
Shards of Infinity
You might pretend that Magic: The Gathering is too nerdy to interest you, but we all know the truth: You just don’t like putting together decks outside of the game. Shards of Infinity requires no prior planning, injecting a swift dose of card-dueling tension directly into your cybernetically enhanced bloodstream. Spend crystals to buy cards, boost your mastery, and craft a sleek, damage-dealing engine faster than your opponent.
Why it’s like Dominion: Your goal here is to build as efficient a deck as possible, trimming the crystalline chaff from your futuristic machine to make room for powerful card combos. You’ll be purchasing from a shared pool, though here replacements are drawn randomly from the game’s entire selection.
How it evolves the formula: Instead of a money-making engine, Shards lets you build towards direct damage, healing, card-boosting Mastery, or a mix of all three. Different colors of cards offer their own faction-themed combos, and you’ll also have the option to fast-play some, activating their power once without hogging precious space in your deck.
The Quest for El Dorado
Cards may have paper-cut their way to a permanent place into your heart, but board games have a lot more to offer besides them. If you’re not quite ready to put the deck away entirely, The Quest for El Dorado offers a brilliant compromise. Plunging into the gnarled undergrowth of a tile-based South American jungle, it’s a race to see whose wooden meeple can book it to the mythical city first. Your deck is your movement, but racing ahead too soon may miss vital opportunities to trash or upgrade cards.
Why it’s like Dominion: Over the course of a game, you’ll buy cards and trim your deck into a lean beast, capable of prowling at pace through the jungle.
How it evolves the formula: The Quest for El Dorado asks you to adapt your deck to the challenges on the table before you. Your build might excel at paddling across rivers, but run into a dense bit of undergrowth and your next hand could be useless for progressing. Fortunately, all those spare cards can be spent in the shop, meaning turns never feel wasted.
If El Dorado’s unholy blend of genres has tempted you toward even more blasphemous combinations, Dune Imperium is sure to present devilish allure. Here, your deck controls not just card purchasing but worker placement and combat, too. By playing from your hand, you’ll direct a limited supply of agents to perform actions like recruiting troops, harvesting resources, and trashing from your deck. Alternatively, you can save your hand for card shopping and the round-ending conflict. The approach is up to you, and it’s only the fate of the universe on the line so, er, try not stress it.
Why it’s like Dominion: Cards are purchased from a shared pool. Each offers unique benefits, allowing you to build up a system tailored around certain mechanics. Beyond that, you’re venturing far beyond the sleeved walls of Dominion’s card house.
How it evolves the formula: Rather than piecing together a machine solely out of the cards you buy, Dune Imperium asks you to synergize with the board’s actions as well. Cards have multiple powers depending on how they are used and the factions or regions they’re tied to. On top of that, you’ll also need to keep track of resources and compete for special bonuses during the conflict stage. It isn’t nearly as complex as it sounds, but that’s only because it sounds brain-meltingly complex.
OK, keep it quiet, but we think the serious Dominion-lovers have already moved on to another game. It’s time to bring out the truly controversial takes: Endless shuffling is so last century. Yes, there’s a satisfaction to crafting a draw-heavy engine to cycle your deck each and every round, but we’re after something new here. In the frozen wastelands of Arctic Scavengers, your deck is your camp, and the more people in it, the closer you are to victory.
Why it’s like Dominion: You’ll be buying up tribe worker and soldier cards from an adjustable supply of cards. Each offers unique powers to strengthen your deck, but an early strategy to synergize will see you to success. It also bundles a whole bunch of expansions in the box.
How it evolves the formula: Each round ends with a skirmish showdown as players commit leftover cards to compete for valuable rewards. Instead of aiming for a slim deck, Arctic Scavengers encourages you to bolster it, tying victory points to the number of tribe members.
Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
Don’t be fooled by the name -- Clank is barely a deck builder. At least, not in the traditional sense. Delving into the dungeon of a dragon, your aim is to pilfer as many goods as possible. Cards can be used to hop between rooms and slay goblins, all while hunting for valuable artifacts. Unfortunately, the scaly beast in residence is an awfully light sleeper. Make too much of a ruckus, and you’ll need to scamper quickly or end up adding your newly singed armor to their treasure horde. So long as you make less noise than your plundering rivals, you’ll probably be fine. Probably.
Why it’s like Dominion: At first, your deck will be good for little beyond buying better cards from the reserve and dungeon supplies. Over the course of the game you’ll bolster your options with more effective cards that, well, by now we really hope you understand how deck building works.
How it evolves the formula: Instead of a lean, combo-fueled engine, Clank has you tailor your deck to the path you plan through the dungeon. Routes are restricted by locked doors and monsters, only surpassable by purchasing the right cards. You’ll rarely find extra draw options here, meaning each turn involves mapping the best route available based on your current hand. Don’t dally too long though, as if everyone leaves before you, there’ll be no one else to hide behind when the dragon comes calling.
The title on the box might disappoint a few waylaid James Bond fans, but for deck builder aficionados, Moonrakers is a very exciting prospect. Despite being competitive, Moonrakers makes cooperation crucial, forcing players to commit hands together to obtain victory points and upgrades for their spaceships. Going it alone among the stars is nigh-on impossible, so you’ll need to work on your negotiation skills as you barter for the help from around the table. If you’re eager to shuffle a spot of political intrigue into your deck of life, sign up for the mercenary Moonrakers as soon as possible.
Why it’s like Dominion: You can’t just play your whole hand each turn. Cards provide actions (which, in turn, let you play more cards) and draw power, meaning it’s vital to carefully manage the balance of your deck to avoid wasted turns.
How it evolves the formula: Money and victory points aren’t stored on your cards. Instead, you’ll need to fulfil contracts from a shared pool on the table, usually with the help of others. This means that, unlike most deck builders, every turn is of interest to you as players debate who’s willing to lend aid toward a contract and which rewards they want as payment.
If you’re particularly impressed with the build of your own deck, you might want to share the game it came from with us via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Be sure to also give a listen to the Going Analog Podcast for more great gaming suggestions, and test your own knowledge with Season One of our Quiz Show.
When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.