Deck building games have become quite common since the first version of Dominion came out in 2008. Many different designers have made their own changes to those base rules to create new and exciting deck builders. Mystic Vale is changing those rules in a large way by moving away from building your deck to building your cards that are in the deck. People who enjoy deck builders will likely enjoy card building as it obviously has its roots in the deck building system.
In Mystic Vale instead of adding or removing cards from your deck you buy transparent cards that slide inside of the sleeves to increase the strength of those cards. One of the few rules about the ways you can build those cards is that you can’t cover anything up so preprinted information and prior upgrades are stuck in your cards once you get them.
The beginning cards and even some of the improvements have red tree symbols on the cards and those can cause you to lose all of your resources and your turn. So the game has a bit of a push your luck mechanic. When you get yourself ready for your next turn you flip over cards until you can see three of those symbols. If you ever can see four that is when you lose everything for the turn. Sometimes you really want just one more buying power or one of your powerful cards so want to flip over one more card. Will you get the resource you wanted or wind up wiping out for the round?
There are lots of different improvements you can get for your cards. Some let you get more buying power, others cancel out the red trees, and others get you points every time you play them. The game runs until the victory point pool based on the numbers of players is exhausted. After that you total up the points you have between tokens and the points on the cards that you bought over the course of the game.
Mystic Vale keeps the spirit of deck building while never increasing the size of your deck to dilute the powerful improvements that you buy. It is always lots of fun and we are looking forward to where this designer and others take this type of game play in the future. Especially after seeing all of the inventiveness people have had with the deck building system. Mystic Vale’s uniqueness and fun makes it deserve its spot on this list - but it might be replaced as they continue to innovate with this card crafting system!