Deckbuilders! I love 'em. Slay the Spire got me into this genre digitally, after originally feeling the pull of Magic the Gathering in the late 90's. After over a hundred hours playing Slay the Spire, the classic that invigorated the whole genre, I had the bug, bad. So since late 2019 I’ve been hunting for more. MOAR! Here’s a round up of a few favourites.
Let’s start with a couple of Proton-only titles, then look at the native options.
Yes, this is full of scantily-clad, over-sexualised ladies, thanks for noticing. Judge me all you like, but after landing this in a Humble Bundle, I was gobsmacked at how good it is and I stand by that assessment.
This is the game in this round up most like Slay the Spire, and like its inspiration (it launched almost exactly one year later), each of the three characters have very different styles. The right amount of challenge combines with surprisingly deep gameplay and brilliant synergies if you land the right cards. Well worth playing.
(Note: Proton. Also, I didn’t test the GOG version under Lutris/Wine, apologies)
Another single-player vs the world game, but this time, with a beautifully realised 3D world which acts as the map. The map has a clever lighting mechanic which revolves around a dwindling torch, driving the gameplay forward. Some unusual design choices in this one – for example just a single “block” will block ALL damage from one source, while other stats drive armour and dodge. There’s a lot going on and it’s pretty challening, but beautfully done. I've not played much yet, but it looks like there's about 7 characters to unlock.
Across the Obelisk [Steam]
Still in early access, but showing a lot of promise, this is the first "team" game I'm covering - this features a cast of four characters from different classes. The mechanics are under heavy development, but there's a nice combination of in-game progress as you build your deck and between-run progress as you build up city resources. There’s also the glimmering of a cool story developing already, and the lore of a fantasy world recovering after decades of conflict. Already fully playable for multiple hours, this is also one to keep an eye on if you prefer the finished product, as I suspect it’s going to be pretty special.
My personal favourite, this game revolves around a party of two taking on a series of challenges inspired by the developer's other game, Faeria. Amazing (truly AMAZING) synergies are at play here, allowing you to develop awesome teamwork with much less RNG than Slay the Spire.
I honestly can’t recommend it enough. Full of character, an incredible overland map mechanic, inventive challenge system, beautiful graphics, clear, clean gameplay – it’s a must-buy in my opinion.
Hadean Tactics [Steam]
I’ve covered this one before and it continues to develop apace, as you can see when Liam covered it 6 months later for its huge content update. It’s the combination of classic deck building with grid-based auto-battling which makes this so unique and compelling.
The auto-battling is frantic, but freezes every 7 seconds to allow you to spend your three energy by playing cards from your draw pile. Your tactics here can deal damage, boost allies or reposition units, which all follow their own rules about how they attack on the field of battle. Intense and unusual.
Much more story-based than the others I've mentioned, but still recommended. Some synergies, much more limited deck-building, but because it's driven by its narrative, there's much more of a slow-burn going on here.
This one hopefully needs no introduction. Is it really a deck builder? I don’t really care about pigeon-holing it – it’s great, and deserves to be played!
A brilliant sci-fi team-based deck-builder. I recommend sticking to it for a while, because it starts out very slowly. It pays off in the longer run though.
If you have any other deck-building suggestions, holler in the comments!