Best Card Drafting Board Games (with Reviews)

(Click the image to jump to our comparison table)

Card drafting games often combine the best of both worlds: card and board games. They don't (obviously) rely just on boards, but they can rely only on cards. However, card drafting is quite unlike Go Fish, Old Maid, Uno, or even Exploding Kittens and Pit. There's a bit of strategy and luck involved in every game, and you often have to decide between what's best for you and what will hurt your opponent the most.

So what is card drafting? It's choice. Instead of drawing cards randomly from a pile, players have a choice about what cards they take--either from a common pool, a random draw pile, or a combination of both. What we like about card drafting is this combinations . Some of us, like some of you, hate card games, and sometimes we need a change from dice or board-only based games. Drafting is a  great compromise for all players, and we compiled some of our favourites below.

Card Drafting Games Comparison Table

(Click the thumbnail to jump to the review)

Image

Game 

Players

Time

Price

Our Rating

2-7

30 min

$$$

3-5

60 min

$$$

2-4

25-45
min

$$

2-5

30-60  min

$$$

2-6

40 min

$$$

2-8

30-60 min

$$

3-6

45-60 min

$$

2

15-20 min

$

2-5

30 min

$

2-5

15 min

$

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Seven Wonders tops our list for many reasons. Its intense strategizing may not be for everyone, but this game hits so many high points we recommend you give it a chance even if strategy isn't your thing. From colourful, artistic illustrations and high-quality game pieces to buying, fighting, building and piggy-backing, 7 Wonders draws many elements from different genres to give players different pathways to win.

​Your objective is to build the most prosperous civilization--that is, earn more victory points than other players--through developing science, commerce, civic and war cards, and through building your individual wonder's phases. Every player gets a unique wonder board that starts them with a resource used for building cards, or money to buy resources. Through three ages, each player builds six cards in their civilization from communal hands. Some grant points, some promise future rewards, some give you money, some make future cards free, and so on. With more players, there are more cards and some are duplicates, so you have to keep an eye on the names because you can't own two of the same card.

Players are dealt seven cards, and the cards are passed to the next player after everyone chooses one to play. Everyone reveals simultaneously, then picks up the next hand and repeats. If you're broke, you can throw cards away for money, and if you are short on resources to build, you can buy from your neighbors (some cards even reduce this cost which is a huge benefit). Depending on how many people you're playing with, you may or may not see the cards again. Why seven cards but six rounds? It ensures everyone has a choice, even in the end.

Note: We have a 7 Wonders - How To Play - Simplified to help you out if you need.

The rules are fairly straightforward but the complexities come from managing your civilization while keeping an eye on your opponents. You need to ensure you can afford to build the card you've chosen, and you need to ensure you keep key cards away from your opponents that could grant them major points. Everyone will  be eyeing your civilization, so even if you've chosen to pursue science, you may need to adapt your strategy if others are doing their best to keep science away from you (Wes' strategy always when it comes to Whitney...). Additionally, some people like to duke it out and gain points through war, and this gives you another aspect to keep in mind, as you lose points if your opponent is stronger than you.

There's a lot to think about, and every decision is important. We find games run longer than what the box says, and we've started using a timer to speed up our decisions. Yes, it's intensely strategic, but it can also be as much fun as it can be frustrating. There isn't one easy way to win, and the game adapts from two players to eight. It also has different expansions which add different elements, there's a separate two-player game (7 Wonders: Duel), there are additional wonder cards you can purchase, and there's even a co-op expansion that players can choose whether they want to direct time and resources towards.​

With all of these offerings, 7 Wonders is one of the best card drafting games you can play.​

Hexagamers

Sheriff is fun and interactive and isn't as intensely strategic as 7 Wonders. It's a pretty game with colorful illustrations and high-quality game pieces, and it relies heavily on your bluffing ability and your relationships and interactions with other players rather than your individual ability to build or buy cards. (Everyone has equal ground there.)

Your goal is to be the richest patron in Nottingham, earning points through wealth and having the most of bread, cheese, apples and chickens.  Each turn, you collect goods and secretly seal them in a bag for the Sheriff to permit or prohibit you from bringing into Nottingham. If you're caught lying, your goods go away and you pay their cost. Every player is Sheriff twice, ensuring the equality--or inequality--is divvied up.

Sheriff isn't as complex in rules as Wonders, but you still have to work every round in an arms race to ensure your goods collection remains the most fruitful. Every player interacts with the Sheriff and more often than not the other players, and there's no limit to bribing, lying, stealing and smuggling. We love Sheriff because it demands some of the elements we love most about games--interaction, bluffing, yelling--and turns these elements into a great card drafting game that is easy to learn, fun to play and gives every player the chance to win. 

Hexagamers

Dragon's Hoard is a fun and interactive game that will appeal to gamers whether or not they like fantasy. As a dragon, you collect sheep to buy treasures and battle to win victory points, all while avoiding wizards, thieves and angry mobs. It's fairly simple to understand and play, and doesn't have a board so the setup is simple.

The ridiculous-looking sheep are actually pretty cute and the illustrations are awesome. Our only complaint is that some of the colors look a little similar (purple, blue, orange, yellow and red). Dragon's Hoard was a Kickstarter game, and it can be difficult to find, but you can still get the German version Von Drachen und Schafen then download the English rules. It's worth the effort.

The game involves a bit of strategy, a bit of luck and several battles with your opponents. As a group that likes to argue, yell, steal and fight, the battles are a hit. Your goal as dragon is to collect the biggest treasure trove. The first to 10 points wins, which sounds like a low number, but other players can steal your cards, force to you to discard and even make you miss your turn (thankfully, nobody can miss a turn twice in a row, otherwise Kaitlyn and Whitney would never get to play).  

Each player starts with four cards and four cards are set next to the draw deck, sheep side up. On the other side of the sheep cards are treasures, lairs and actions. When it's your turn, you can draw up to four cards, and then play a lair, or buy a treasure by eating (discarding) sheep. Each card has specific rules about purchasing and playing which are easy to read on each card, but it makes buying and playing not as simple as you'd expect. You can also play action cards unless you're blocked by another player, and your turn then is over. Lastly, if you play a lair, you can't buy treasures. Lairs collect treasures you purchase, all of the same color, and give you bonuses--but lairs by themselves aren't worth points. 

We always have fun with this game. It isn't as intense as 7 Wonders, but it's as competitive as Sheriff is, especially with the added risk and annoyance of stealing, blocking and treachery. The ease of play, quick setup and highly enjoyable gameplay makes Dragon's Hoard a game we return to again and again. Baaah, baaah!

Hexagamers

Perhaps one of the most well-known games, Ticket to Ride nevertheless surprises many gamers by being a card drafting board game. Ticket to Ride is popular for a reason--it's easy to learn, doesn't require players to track their own scores, is great for all ages and has many different boards that enable both individual and team play. In fact, it made our Best Gateway Boardgames for Beginners list!

Your goal is to build as many train routes as possible and collect the most victory points, but it isn't as simple as it sounds. ​Players start with four train cards and four destination tickets. Destination tickets show a train route across the map, and players must keep at least two of the four they're dealt. Some routes are short while some are long, and they are scored accordingly. If you don't complete these routes, though, the points count against you. Train cards are one of eight colours or a locomotive (wild card), and are used to claim the same-coloured route along a destination. On your turn, you'll either pick up cards from the draw pile or face-up cards, claim a route or draw more destination tickets.  

Each Ticket to Ride version has slightly different rules--some maps have tunnels, some have train stations, some have water routes, and so on. On some maps, you can also play in teams while still working to build your own routes. You have no shortage of maps and versions to play which is pretty fantastic. The card and map illustrations are beautiful and generally easy to reference, and the scoring track along the board makes it easy to tally points and keep an eye on your opponents. The plastic trains remind us a bit of Monopoly, but they're sturdy enough to withstand toddler abuse, a win for us. 

Ticket to Ride relies both on strategy and luck. It can be infuriating to be a victim of poorly shuffled cards, thus not getting the train card colours you need, and to be stumped by difficult decisions--take the face-up locomotive,  draw more cards and chance losing your route, build a route you think your opponent wants...? It's a quiet game as each player needs to focus on their routes and plan alternatives. You also want to throw other players off ​so they don't know what destinations you're building towards, and you want to prevent them from building their routes or getting bonuses like longest continuous route. 

Every game is different, even with the same map, because you can't replicate what cards are dealt where and when, and you can't predict who will get what routes. More, the game changes its rules for two players, something we always appreciate. ​ While we as a group like more interaction and vocalization, we still love Ticket to Ride. It's a unique game with many options and forces you to exercise your brain in order to end up as the best train magnate.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

In Treasure Hunter, your quest for legendary treasures takes you through jungles, mountains and caves and battles with goblins to walk away the richest hunter among you all. We have a lot of fun with this game. It's highly interactive and every player has a chance to make up for lost ground during each phase of each round. The game is easy to set up and has a great board with self-explanatory references, something we appreciate and look for in games (no matter how often we play games, we seem to forget at least one or two rules...).

Treasure Hunter is played out through four phases in five rounds. We were a little overwhelmed with the terminology and rules on our first go-through, and every card has a different function or value. The creators were a bit ambitious we think with their aims and wording, and some of our pickier reviewers (ahem, Whitney) feel that some of the elements don't align with the theme. However, every card is color-coded and clearly illustrated, making references and decisions a little easier--at least, that is, to determine where and when the card is applicable. Like 7 Wonders, each player starts with a hand of cards (nine in this game), then selects one, passes the hand to the next player, and so on until the cards are all chosen.

Unlike 7 Wonders, these cards are kept secret until everyone has a full set of cards, not shared after each choice. There are a lot of decisions to make, because you really do want a little bit of everything (watchdogs, adventurers, locations, etc.). An added element we really like is that it's not just the strongest hunter who is rewarded. If you have the lowest score during a round, you get a bonus, too. It throws an interesting predicament in the game, making players constantly assess the risk of aiming for a low number. Nobody gets a bonus if there are ties, so we find there's a lot of talking, lying, deception and yelling while we're choosing cards and revealing our hands.

There is always some kind of punishment or bonus for hunters who have the most or least of something. Even if you make out like a bandit in one phase or round, in the next you may be punished and end up losing points or coins. For us, this is a great element. It means that the game is never a runaway with one player constantly dominating (remember the cards you chose? You can't have it all!). While there is strategy involved in Treasure Hunter, there's also some luck when it comes to the cards and bonuses. It can be maddening but it's also a lot of fun, and these components along with the player interaction and unpredictability makes Treasure Hunter a top choice for Best Card Drafting Games.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

As a city leader, your aim is to be the most prosperous through building city districts. When the eighth district is built, the game is over. Sounds easy, right? It would be, if there weren't assassins, thieves, special powers and cards with abilities. Citadels is a great group game with a lot of interaction and different elements from different genres--stacking, bonuses, role-playing, drafting, building, and more.

Citadels modifies itself depending on player numbers, and while it takes longer with more players, we like it better with a group of five or more because it becomes more exciting, challenging and interesting with the added characters. At the start of a round, one character is removed and remains a secret while up to two other characters are removed and shown to the group. The player with the crown marker starts the game, secretly selecting a character and passing on the remaining cards. When everyone has a character, the characters are called out in the order they're ranked, and the player with that number takes their turn.  On your turn, you can collect gold or draw district cards, build a district if able and then play your character's special ability (killing off another character, exchanging your entire hand of districts, collecting money, etc.).

Setup and play is quite simple in Citadels, but execution can be complicated because of thievery, assassinating, swapping, bonuses and on and on. There is always something to consider--gold or district cards? Build cheap or save for a costly district? Assassin or King? How do I get bonuses from all my trade districts? Is Ryan cheating? You can't build districts without gold, but you have to choose between drawing district cards or collecting gold. However, if you take too long acquiring districts by being greedy and collecting gold (Kaitlyn), you can fall far behind in the race to build the best city. If you have indecisive players (Whitney), gameplay can take quite a bit longer, but we still have a lot of fun with this game because it's constantly evolving and changing depending on everyone's decisions. If you love strategy, this game might drive you nuts. As much as you plan, someone can undo all your efforts, and sometimes the cards work against you. But, even the ones among us who don't particularly appreciate strategy still enjoy this game--if only for the opportunity to mess someone else's game up. 

The way Citadels adapts to different players and the different characters with their own abilities reminds us a bit of a simpler Dominion. Getting assassinated repeatedly can be seriously annoying, but the chance to even out the score is satisfying. We love the different elements of this game that make each round different and force us to take risks based on our own needs and what we think other players are doing, the top reasons Citadels in on our top card drafting games list. 

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Nevermore is highly interactive, easy to learn and a lot of fun. One of the best elements of this game is the players who are turned into ravens (and unable to win the game) aren't actually out of the game. Ravens can be turned back into people and they can, fittingly, peck other players--sometimes to death (you're welcome, Wes!). A raven's ability to peck other players, deal damage and still be part of the game is our favourite part. There's nothing worse than being out of the game early and having to wait out the rest of the game by yourself (we're looking at you, Betrayal at House on the Hill).

This is a simple card drafting game with a few twists on the traditional. Each player starts with five cards and passes three, keeping two. With the new cards, players pass two, and the next, players pass one. There are only five different kinds of cards which may seem like your decisions are easier, but they're not. Passing on too many of any given suit can give your opponents an incredible advantage, but not keeping enough can impact your game--often rendering your other cards useless. Ravens can and do cancel out your action cards if you haven't kept enough but they can also grant you magick cards with special abilities. Another unique and fun element in Nevermore is the way players conduct actions. The player with the most of one card (say, swords to deal damage) is the only player to perform that action. To perform the action, however, the player with the most of one suit (say, four swords) subtracts the number of the second-most cards in the same suit (say, three swords), giving the number of actions you can actually perform (one sword, so one point of damage).

That's about as complicated as it gets, and really, it's pretty simple when you're playing the game. The five action cards are played every round, once in a specified order and then thereafter randomized. The game continues until either a player reaches six points, all but one player turns into a raven, or a raven pecks the remaining players to death, thus turning back into a human and winning the game. Cards are labelled, actions are clear and setup is quick--all huge pluses in our books. The uniqueness of Nevermore and its unpredictability bring us back to this game again and again.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Tides of Time is a micro-game with only 18 cards, played by two people. While replayability is lower than other games on our list, we love that Tides of Time is so quick and easy to play, cheap and great for travel.

Played over three rounds, each player draws five cards and selects one to play. Players switch cards and choose another to play until both players have five cards. Here's a bit of a difference: players now tally points, choose one to remove from the game, and choose one to keep permanently in their hand.

Round two plays out the same but with six cards, and round three with seven. The player with the most points wins. It's simple and it isn't, though. Some cards stack on each other, some give points for having none of a certain type, some offer straight points. With only 18 cards in the deck, this game runs on strategy.

Wes in particular enjoys this game because he hates when luck interferes with his strategy (something often seen in 7 Wonders), and with Tides of Time, he knows the cards will show up. That said, your opponent will be strategizing, too, so you need to make critical decisions with every hand as to what will both serve you best and hurt your opponent most. 

Like Sushi Go!, Tides of Time is a great intro to card drafting. Every card is clear in its role, the game is easy to follow, and it takes minimal effort to explain and set up. It's a quick game, so it also makes a great filler while you have a few minutes to spare. If you like strategy and need a quick game to pass some time, Tides of Time will fill that need.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Fairy Tale is the predecessor to 7 Wonders, and its complexity falls between it and Sushi Go!. Fairy Tale is highly interactive, and there are plenty of opportunities to impact other players' plans and scoring--a big plus for us.

We have a lot of fun plotting ways to manipulate the game and mess with someone else while trying to walk away unscathed, but this is definitely not always manageable or easy to do. There are 100 cards in the deck, and each card shows how many of it are in the entire deck), so players can assess odds and gamble on the outcome. At the end, the player with the most points wins.

Setup is super easy. You only play with cards, and the game ends after four rounds, each consisting of three phases. Each player is dealt a hand of five. Everyone selects one card and places it face-down in front of them, then passes the card and chooses the next until everyone has a hand of five. Players choose one of their drafted cards and everyone places their selection face-down in the centre of table. Cards are revealed simultaneously and all effects are applied. This is repeated twice more, so everyone drafts three cards for each of the four rounds, and this is why it's so important to pay attention to effects and card rules. What you draft in round three could stack on what you drafted in round one, increasing your points exponentially, among other things.

This is also where things get a little complicated, and while we know it's the point of the game, it's our one complaint. Some of the rules and effects get a little too complicated, so there's a lot of reading, re-reading, clarifying and questioning, especially if you're new to the game. Some cards impact one player while others impact everyone, and effects can range from collecting straight points, forcing players to turn over cards (thus losing that card either permanently or temporarily), stacking cards and points, and so on. Like most drafting games, you need to decide whether you want to choose the card that's best for you or choose the card you know your opponent needs/wants. Luck plays a fairly significant part in this game as some of the cards have requirements that are difficult to meet if you want their points, and if your cards keep getting flipped ("closing"), then you'll be short of much-needed effects when it's time to tally up.

Cards are nicely illustrated, though tailored to the fantasy fanatics, so not everyone will appreciate the theme and execution. You can learn Fairy Tale fairly quickly, and it certainly gets easier as you play. The level of interaction, evolving scores and changing game mechanics are great game components and make Fairy Tale a great card-drafting game you can play over and over.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

As a sushi lover, your task is to nab the best sushi dishes that will earn you the most victory points. Sushi Go! is played over three rounds, and you're dealt a number of cards that changes depending on how many players are playing.

It's a bit like a basic 7 Wonders. You select a card from your hand before passing the hand to your opponent, and continue this routine until the cards run out. While there is no "board" in this game, Sushi Go! is on our list of best card drafting games because it is easy to learn, quick to play and uses some of the better elements of card drafting: stacking, bonuses, punishments and secrets. 

There are eight different kinds of cards, and each is handily labelled at the bottom with its point value. Some cards are straight points, some need to be stacked, doubled or tripled to have any value, some offer bonuses or punishments if you have the most/least, and so on. ​Also similar to 7 Wonders, players trade hands clock- or counter-clockwise depending on the round. This is as complicated as it gets. While it's wise to keep an eye on your opponents, your interaction with them is limited and there's no stealing their cards or really changing their game.

We like Sushi Go! as it's quick, light and easy to learn. When we are looking for a filler or are waiting for other players, it's a great option for us to play. We love bribing and lying and yelling at each other, so while Sushi Go! only really employs the yelling, it's still a fun game for us. ​As our kids grow into adolescence, we will certainly be able to play this with them, and it absolutely is a game anyone can win--a definite positive in our books. 

If you're looking for a good intro to card drafting, Sushi Go! is a good place to start, making it last to round out--but certainly not least on--our list.​ This game can also be found on out Top Board Games for Beginners list.

Conclusion

We tried compiling a variety of card drafting games to suit different tastes: long, short, card, card and board, dice, strategy, luck and a combination of several elements. This genre really does have something for everyone, so if you have a bad experience with one, try another. Don't let the more complex games like Treasure Hunter and 7 Wonders intimidate you! Try a micro-game or a quickie first if you're uncertain, as these make the best gateways into this genre. Let us know what games you love, what games disappointed you, and what games you think deserve to be on this list. 

About the author

HexaGamers

We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

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