Top Ten Games That Utilize Cards


I recently watched a top twenty countdown from Mik and Starla at Our Family Plays Games on YouTube where the couple counted down a collective list of favorite games that use cards. You can find part one here

Seeing as how it's been quite a while since I've last posted here (and forgive me for that- it's been a very busy season in my life as I transition back into working full-time), I thought this would be a terrific stop-gap as I work on my next large project (more on that later). My expertise is not as encompassing as theirs, so I'm going to whittle my list in half. Here are my top ten games that utilize cards.

The Criteria

Before I begin, let's set some criteria. In addition to containing cards (duh), the cards MUST be the main mechanic, the driving force of the game. That's not to say that the game cannot have any other components such as a board or dice, but the cards must be the most important part. 

Number 10

What: Sushi Go

Who: Gamewright

Why: Sushi Go is an entertaining game that is quick and easy to teach. It is perfect for those who are new to the hobby as the rules are simple and the play time is very brief. Each player is dealt a hand of cards. After looking at their hand, players choose one card and place it face down. Once everyone has chosen one card from their hand, players reveal it at the same time and then pass the remaining cards to the person on the left. This is done until everyone is out of cards and then those that have been placed on the table are scored. Do this for two more rounds and add points. Sushi Go is card drafting at its most rudimentary, but it introduces that concept in a fun, cute, family-friendly package.

Number 9

What: Love Letter 

Who: AEG

Why: In Love Letter, players are attempting to make it to the end with the highest value card in their hand. That person gets his letter to the Princess and wins the round. Once a player has amassed a specified number of hearts that are given when winning a round, the game is over. Sometimes the current hand lasts until the deck is exhausted. Sometimes it won't last much more than a single turn around the table as players try to eliminate one another. Quick to learn with a lot of replayability. Plus, there are a variety of themes for this game such as Lovecraft Letter, if you're looking for a little something different.

Number 8

What: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Who: Greater Than Games

Why: Some might say that this one has been replaced by something newer like Marvel Champions, but this game is so classic. With artwork that belongs in a mid-nineties comic book, this game has a distinct look with its completely unique characters. Imagine assembling a team of super heroes to fight against an evil villain while also protecting the citizens from crumbling terrain. Do you attack the enemy or do you save the people from the falling trolley? It's up to you. Play your cards right, and you'll be the greatest super hero team of all time!

Number 7

What: Fox in the Forest

Who: Renegade Games

Why: Many people, myself included, grew up around card games. One of my closest, dearest friends had very patient and gracious parents who invited me to dinners out with them frequently. It was rare that a deck of playing cards was not taken out of a purse. Oftentimes we played Hearts or Spades. I didn't know that we were playing trick-taking games, but I know I enjoyed the predicting how many sets we'd win and playing off of our partner's leading. I wasn't sure how that mechanism would work with only two players against one another. Fox and the Forest answered that query with a resounding- "BEAUTIFULLY!" The fact that you want to win a majority of the tricks without winning too many or else give the other player all the points is genius! And the artwork is gorgeous!

Number 6

What: Grifters

Who: Indie Boards and Cards

Why: Everyone begins this hand management/deck building game of rival gangs pulling heists with the same three leader cards in red, blue, and green. However, each player will then receive three random "specialists" from a deck. Every specialist has a unique ability. Players can use either an individual card for its power or lay down a team to do a job and gain the precious reward. 

Ultimately, it's a game about amassing the most money, and that's a familiar thing for many who aren't in the board gaming hobby. I particularly like how the end game is triggered in one of three ways: All the jobs have been done, there are no specialists left in the deck, or all the money is gone. It ensures that the game won't overstay its welcome if players aren't really focusing on one of those scenarios. Grifters also plays with a "time" element as cards you play during one round won't be available to you until after a few in-game days have passed. It's an easy concept to grasp once new players see the board. It's very intuitive.

The only negative here, really, is that the deck is filled with a number of the same specialists. While that does help level the playing field and eliminate some of the luck inherent in card games, I would still like to see a bit more variety in the game.

Number 5

What: Century: Golem Edition

Who: Plan B Games

Why: An old adage says that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Go ahead and judge Century: Golem all you want! This artwork needs to be turned into a movie. Flat out. Crisp, colorful, imaginative animation grace every over-sized card in the deck. It gets all the "Wows!" and deserves every one of them. And on top of that, the game is a joy to play as well. 

Players begin with the same two cards- a collect two yellow gems card and an upgrade twice. Then they go around the table and can either play a card and do what it says (with easy to understand iconography, I might add), pick up a card from the center of the table to add to their hand, buy a golem card worth points at the end, or rest and pick up all previously used cards. And it's actually even easier than it sounds. Such a lovely, lovely game. 

Number 4

What: Arboretum

Who: Renegade Games

Why: A card game about placing trees. How exciting. Sense the sarcasm there? But it is! Someone once described this game to me as having a knife fight in a phone booth. As players are developing their individual arboretums, they also have to pay heed to what the other players are doing in theirs. "Why?" you ask. It doesn't matter how many points players rack up for a specific tree if, at the end of the game, you have cards with that tree of greater value than they do, you block them from getting any points! 

The tricky part is, you begin the game with seven cards. You must draw two from anywhere. You can take cards from the draw deck or the discard decks of other players. Then you play one card to your arboretum and discard one. But what? You want to keep cards you can play for later, but also cards that your opponent is sure to take if you discard. Just keep in mind that you will only have seven cards in your hand. Can't do it all.

Oh, and the artwork is phenomenal. 

Number 3

What: Silver and Gold

Who: Pandasaurus

Why: Sometimes you just want a quick game for the family. I did a review on this game last month, so I won't go into any real detail. Go read all about it here.

It's a fantastic game!

Number 2

What: Coup

Who: Indie Boards and Cards

Why: This is the absolute number one go-to at our house. When my brother and sister-in-law come over, this is always requested. Want to lie to your friends and family? Get this game. Want to have a great time? Get this game. Want to see just how much game fifteen cards can give you? GET THIS GAME!!

If you want to know more, you can read all about my thoughts by clicking here. No lie!

Number 1

What: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong

Who: Grey Fox Games

Why: Growing up, my favorite game was Clue. I loved the mystery aspect of it all. When I first played this game, my wife asked me about it. I said that it was like an interactive version of Clue. And that I loved it!

Each player gets four evidence cards and four "means" cards placed in front of him. Then roles are secretly given. Depending on player count you might have an accomplice, a witness, etc., but typically the game has investigators and a murderer who is also an investigator. One player acts as a clue-giver and knows who the murderer is and the evidence and "means" card that was secretly selected. The clue-giver then has to lead the investigators using panels that have different words on them. After three rounds, if the murderer has not been identified along with the evidence and "means," the killer wins and everyone else loses.

I don't want to say too much about this one because it deserves an entire entry here of its own. But if you like party games, if you like card games, if you like mystery games, this game is a killer. Sorry about that terrible pun. Just get this game.

Three I Wanted to Include...

Clank (Renegade Games)- This is my favorite deck builder. Navigate a network of tunnels to steal as much loot as you possibly can and get out alive. But beware of making noise as the dragon will attack you. While cards are very important (it's a deck builder, come on!), the "clank" part of making noise, dropping cubes in a bag, and having the dragon attack is too much of a focus for me to have seriously considered it on this list. But it would have made it. Great game!

Chronicles of Crime (Lucky Duck Games)- A murder has occurred, and it's up to your team to investigate! This game is ENTIRELY cards. The suspects are cards. The evidence is all cards. There are special cards. Even the locations are (large) cards. However, the main aspect of Chronicles of Crime is absolutely using the required app to scan the QR codes on the cards. It is immersive and fun, but cards aren't the main element even though they make up the majority of the game.

Downforce (Restoration Games)- A racing game where everyone's movement is directed by cards deserves consideration for a top ten games that utilize cards list. People are focused on the cars on the track and not necessarily the cards. Another game you should look into. I recommend it- it just doesn't earn a top spot on this list.

What's your favorite games that utilize cards? Comment below! 
Thanks for reading!

Upcoming Posts: Electronics in board games, Review of Run, Fight, or Die Reloaded


  1. I have played nearly all of these, and I agree! They are all great games. In my case I would add Marvel Champions, Legendary: Alien, Inis, Path of Light and Shadow, those kinda come to my mind right now. Great post buddy!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts