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Top 5 Card Games

I have a great fondness for card games. There's a unique pleasure in the simplicity of playing a game that revolves solely around cards. While I certainly appreciate a big box filled with components just like the next person, sometimes the desire for something more accessible arises. You want a game you can grab off the shelf and dive into right away. Card games fulfill this need with their straightforward rulesets and minimalist components. For this list, I specifically focused on games that consist primarily of cards, occasionally supplemented by tokens or chips for counting. It was crucial to me that these are not games just considered card games but then include boards or multiple components. In my view, those fall into the category of board games or tabletop games that happen to use cards. This is about pure card games.

As with previous top-five lists on this site, I aim to provide more than just a ranking of games based on a specific mechanic. The intention isn't to merely present the top five games in a certain category, as you could easily just consult BGG rankings or skip to the number one game. The best game for you might not necessarily be the top-ranked one either. Instead, I'll select a mechanic and then explore the best five games within that mechanic, considering how each game works for differnet circumstances. This top five is presented without a specific order. These are five great games, each earning its place for distinct reasons. This approach allows you to make informed choices based on your preferred game style.

Without further delay, here are my top five card games.

Top 5 Card Games

( I photographed the old Crew box as the other one was elsewhere!)

The Classic Deck-Builder: Dominion

And the best to play if you want to play seomthing simple.

Current BGG rank: 117

Published by: Rio Grande Games

Designed by: Donald X. Vaccarino

WBG Rating: 8

Several classic mechanics are employed in card games, and in this list, I aimed to include games that each utilise different core mechanics. Dominion stands out as the quintessential deck-building game, often referred to as the granddaddy of the genre. Its monumental success has inspired numerous designers to delve into the possibilities of this mechanic. With an extensive array of expansions (too numerous to count), Dominion has secured its place as a cornerstone in any board game collection.

Originally released in 2008, Dominion has served as the gateway game of choice for many gaming groups. It boasts accessibility on all fronts—simple rules, an incredibly clear rule book, and minimal components. It basically cards! Despite its straightforward appearance, Dominion surprises newcomers to the hobby with its depth of gameplay. While seasoned board gamers have explored more strategic deck-building options, Dominion retains its unique appeal as a pure, historically significant game in the genre. And for people newer to the hobby offers something magical.

The Revolutionary Co-op: Hanabi

And the best to play if you want somehting clever but accessable.

Current BGG rank: 507

Published by: ABACUSSPIELE

Designed by: Antoine Bauza

WBG Rating: 9

Top 5 Card Games

Alright, so here's the setup—it's a cooperative card game. We're in this together, cool? Our mission is to play these different suits in a specific order, from the lowest to the highest. Got it? Good. Now, here's the twist: you can't look at your own cards, but you can see everyone else's. I know, a bit weird, right? So, pick up your hand, but turn them outward away from you so you can't see them. Strange, isn't it? Okay, let's dive in and play.

While there are a few games where you hold your cards the "wrong way," Hanabi was the one that truly nailed the concept. For many, it became the gateway game to introduce cooperative card games to their groups. The unique twist of not being able to see your own cards broadens the appeal to a wide range of players. When you can't see your own cards, the pressure is somewhat alleviated—it's tougher to play the right card if you don't know what's in your hand. However, this feeling is quickly replaced by the pressure to provide good information and remember the clues you've been given. Since you can't see your own cards, the primary actions in this game involve giving other players clues about their hands. With a limited number of turns before the game concludes, efficiency with your clues is crucial.

Hanabi is incredibly addictive, offering a great sense of accomplishment when you do well. It never fails to elicit cries of joy, anguish, and happiness whenever I've played. It stands as one of my all-time favorite games, not just among card games, but an essential in my collection.

The Highest Ranked Trick-Taker: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

And the best for getting non-gamers involved.

Current BGG rank: 36

Published by: KOSMOS

Designed by: Thomas Sing

WBG Rating: 9

While it may not hold the title of the highest-ranked card game on BoardGameGeek, or even the highest-ranked card game in this list, The Crew claims its spot as the highest-ranked card game that I categorise as such, excluding Arkham Horror, which is featured in another category below.

This game made waves in the board gaming scene in 2019 with the launch of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. It brought a revolutionary approach to cooperative trick-taking games, featuring exceptionally smooth gameplay, innovative takes on the mechanic, and a captivating story that unfolds seamlessly over a replayable campaign. Following the success of this release, a worthy follow-up quickly followed—Mission Deep Sea. This installment pushed the genre even further by introducing a delightful method of incorporating randomised rules for each mission, that I just love.

If you're a fan of playing card trick-taking games, The Crew might be right up your alley. While it may not shine as brightly in a two-player setup, it's certainly doable. However, with three players and more, this game truly comes alive. The game oozes class. You can feel the work that went into making this game. It is noticeably better than many other games in its class and I have had so many wonderful moments introducing people to this game. I am currently juggling three different campaigns, which is a breeze. There is minimal administration required. It's pure cooperative fun, and while some later rounds can pose a significant challenge, the sense of accomplishment upon overcoming them is truly gratifying.

Top 5 Card Games

The Main Stream Hit: Monopoly Deal

And the best to play with a more casual gamer.

Current BGG rank: 2,451

Published by: Hasbro

Designed by: Katharine Chapman

WBG Rating: 7

While this may not be my favorite game and wouldn't secure a spot in my personal top 50 card games, it undeniably earns a place as a mainstream hit that I couldn't overlook. It's a decent game, and I do enjoy playing it; however, I believe there are superior games out there. Yet, given its massive commercial success, I had to include it.

If you're in search of a quick, light game for people not particularly into gaming, this is a solid choice. The familiar theme automatically puts people at ease, drawing on their past experiences with Monopoly. Even if they didn't enjoy the classic board game, the concepts in this card version are more accessible and easier to grasp.

But don't worry, Monopoly Deal won't consume hours of your time, lead to arguments, and, surprisingly, it's quite enjoyable. If you're looking for a straightforward game to play with casual gamers, this could be the one. I would recommend exploring some of the other games on this list first, perhaps starting with The Crew or Hanabi. Still, there's no denying the commercial success of Monopoly Deal.

And the best to play if you want a challange.

Current BGG rank: 27

WBG Rating: 9

Alright, while this might have a higher ranking than The Crew, I wanted to feature both games. The reason this one made it into this category is that it excels in solo play compared to any other card game. But sure, it holds the top spot on BGG here too.

Arkham Horror is an absolute delight. The narrative is dark, mysterious, and utterly captivating. The gameplay is intricate and fulfilling, completely absorbing me, making it perfect for a solo experience. While it offers a great cooperative experience if you prefer playing with others, I've mostly indulged in its solo mode, and it's been a love affair for me through out.

Setting up can be a bit cumbersome, especially with the specific cards needed for each player that often get mixed up between plays due to my lazy packing away. If you plan on playing this multiple times, a better storage solution than what the box provides is reccomended.

The story is expansive, with numerous expansions available. However, a word of caution – don't dive into this if you have an addictive personality and are working within a budget; it might consume you! Although, recently, they've condensed the previous story arcs for each cycle into two boxes, making it easier to navigate the back catalog, although the various versions available due to some retailers selling old stock might be a bit confusing.

Regardless of the version you have, rest assured that you're in for a wonderfully immersive, exciting, and sometimes downright scary experience with this game. It stands as a masterpiece in the modern era of card games.

Top 5 Card Games

Well there you have it. 5 great card games for differnet purposes. If you want more, you can check my insta here to find a run down on my top 31 pure card games based on my personal preference as pictured above. It ran for 31 days starting December 1st 2022.

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