Deck Building: The Deck Building Game is a fairly easy game to learn and play. Like other deck building games, both players start with the same three cards, and on their turns they can buy more cards to add to their deck (of cards) or use cards from their hand to build on to their or their opponent’s deck (the structure). The game is played until one of the buy piles is depleted, or until one player has no cards in their hand, deck, or discard pile at the end of their turn. Then, the score is calculated and the player with the highest-scoring deck wins!
In Deck Building, there are several kinds of cards which can be purchased and used by players, with each having a cost of the number of screws on the card’s back. The first type of card is planks which will form the bulk of the deck. These include Rotten Planks (1 screw cost), Pine Planks (2 screws), Cedar Planks (3 screws), and Mahogany Planks (4 screws). Next, there are railings which can be placed around the players’ decks. There are two types of railings: Regular (2 screws) and Ornate (3 screws). Finally, there are Stairs, which cost either 1 or 4 screws and which are placed around decks similarly to railings.
To start the game, each player receives a starting hand of 2 Pine Planks and 1 Rotten Plank. The rest of the cards are shuffled together and separated into two piles of 22 cards each which the players can purchase from during the game. In addition, there is a supply of red tokens (similar to bingo chips) which are used to stain decks.
On each player’s turn, they must take two actions, which could be used to take the same action twice. The first possible action is to purchase a card from one of the purchase piles. To do this, the player reveals their hand and counts the screws showing on the front of their cards (for planks and railings, the number of screws on the front is the same as their purchase cost; stairs do not have screws on the front). The player can then buy the top card from either of the two purchase piles, provided its cost in screws is less than or equal to the number showing on their cards in hand. If they want to buy two cards, the total cost of the cards must be less than or equal to the screws on the cards in their hand. Purchased cards go to the player’s discard pile.
The next possible action a player can take is to build, by putting one of the cards from their hand face up in either their own or their opponent’s play area, forming or adding to their deck. The goal when building is to form large contiguous areas of the same kinds of cards, as that will lead to the most points, as explained below. Also note that it is possible to build cards onto your opponent’s deck. This is because until they are stained, cards on your deck can be built over and replaced by playing a new card on top of them. So if your opponent is working on a nice section of Mahogany, you can play one of your Rotten Planks on top of it to really lower the value of their deck.
Fortunately there is a way to safeguard the cards in your deck from being built over. The third possible action for a player to take is to Stain their deck. This is done by taking one of the red stain tokens from the supply and placing it over one or more cards in your deck. Stain tokens can either be placed on the middle of one card, protecting it, on the side between two cards, protecting both, or on the corners where four cards intersect, protecting all of them from being built over. Staining your deck is a very good preventative measure, especially if you’ve built up a large scoring area.
One final thing to note is that Stairs cards are special. Instead of providing screws that can be used towards purchasing new cards, they can be traded in (by putting the card at the bottom of one of the purchase piles) to take an extra action on that turn (for a total of three). Once a player has taken all of their actions on their turn, any cards remaining in their hand are discarded, and then they draw a new hand of three cards (shuffling their discards to form a new deck when needed). Play then passes to the other player, and this sequence continues until one of the purchase piles is depleted or one of the players has no cards left in their deck, hand or discard pile.
Once the game ends, players tally up the scores for their decks. First, and most importantly, for a deck to be considered valid, it must contain at least two planks and two railings. If a players’ deck does not meet those criteria, it will score zero points. Then, players add up points for all the planks and railings in their deck. This is done by taking the number of screws in each contiguous area of the same kind of card and multiplying by the number of cards in that region. For example, if you had four cedar planks (3 screws each, so 12 total) in a region, you would score 12 x 4 = 48 points for that region. Railings score similarly to planks – they must be adjacent to each other, and can go around the corners of the deck. Finally, stairs are counted as one of the types of railings for scoring purpose. They don’t contribute any screws, but will add to the multiplier for the chosen type of railing.
When we were preparing ourselves for GenCon last year, we made a prioritized list of all the games we wanted to buy. This involved quite a few hours of researching different companies, game mechanics, themes and things of the like. This game made it onto the short list simply because of the name. We figured at about $10 we’d get at least a few laughs out of it, but it ended up having pretty ok game play. It’s fairly simple as deck builders go and there is a lot of luck involved with what pieces your going to get, but it’s a quick 2 player that’s we’ve definitely gotten $10 worth out of.
Let’s not mince words. Deck Building: The Deck Building Game is a very silly game, and we bought it just for the novelty and ridiculousness of the title. That being said, there is at least a decent game under the name. It’s very small and light compared to other deck building games with only 50 cards in the whole game, but it does have some strategic elements, especially with the “take that” nature of being able to build onto your opponent’s deck. That alone makes this game more cutthroat that most other similar games (with the exception of something like Star Realms where you’re directly attacking each other), which is unfortunately something I don’t particularly care for in games. The other thing that I think detracts from the game is the blind nature of the buy piles. Is that 3-screw card an Ornate Railing, which will fit in nicely with your deck, or Cedar Planks which you don’t have much use for. Is that going to be the Mahogany Planks you want or just a really expensive set of stairs. Altogether though, for a small, quick, inexpensive game, you could certainly do a lot worse than Deck Building: The Deck Building Game.