The deck-building genre has come a long way since its inception, with countless games pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. However, one aspect of deck-building has stood the test of time: the roguelike deck-builder. But who was the first to bring this unique gameplay style to the masses? Join us as we embark on a journey to unravel the mystery of the first roguelike deckbuilder and discover how this groundbreaking game paved the way for the countless deck-building games we know and love today.

The Origins of Deck-Building Games

The concept of deck-building games began in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These games introduced a unique mechanic where players start with basic deck games and gradually improve them as they progress through the game.

This idea brought a new layer of strategy and replayability to card games, laying the foundation for future innovations.

The Rise of Collectible Card Games (CCGs)

The first commercially successful collectable card game (CCG) was Magic: The Gathering, released by Wizards of the Coast in 1993.

Magic introduced players to build a deck from a collection of cards, each representing different characters, spells, and artefacts. The game revolutionized the industry and inspired similar games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!

The Birth of Deck-Building Mechanics

In 2008, Dominion, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, hit the scene and introduced the world to the deck-building game (DBG) mechanic. Players started with a small deck of cards and bought new cards from a central supply to build a more powerful deck.

Dominion’s success spawned numerous imitators and established deck-building as a staple mechanic in the gaming world.

The Evolution of Roguelike Games

Roguelike games have their roots in the 1980 game Rogue, which featured randomly generated dungeons and permadeath.

These games challenged players to navigate treacherous environments, battle monsters, and collect treasure, with the ever-present risk of starting over from scratch upon death. The roguelike genre became synonymous with high difficulty and endless replayability.

The Emergence of Roguelike Deckbuilders

The early 2000s saw the emergence of roguelike deck builders, blending the strategic deck-building mechanics with the challenging elements of roguelike games.

One of the earliest examples was 2001’s NetHack, which combined deep gameplay with randomization and permadeath. This fusion created a unique gaming experience that captivated players.

The Impact of Netdecking and Balance Issues

As deck-building games gained popularity, net decking—copying successful decks from online sources—became common. This process has led to a homogenization of strategies and raised concerns about game balance. Developers had to continuously adjust card abilities and game mechanics to maintain a fair and competitive environment.

The Shift Towards Innovation and Creativity

In response to net decking and balance issues, developers began exploring new mechanics and innovative gameplay styles. Indie developers, in particular, played a significant role in pushing the boundaries of the genre. They introduced unique themes, mechanics, and storytelling elements, enriching the deck-building experience.

The Search for the First Roguelike Deckbuilder

To identify the first roguelike deck builder, we must look at games combining deck-building with roguelike elements. Key candidates include Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness (1992) and Dungeonland (1995). These games featured procedural generation, permadeath, and strategic card use, laying the groundwork for the genre.

Analyzing Early Deck-Building Games

Dominion’s release in 2008 marked a significant milestone for deck-building games. Its innovative mechanics inspired a wave of similar titles like Thunderstone (2009), Ascension (2010), and Star Realms (2014). Each game added unique twists to the deck-building formula, contributing to the genre’s growth and evolution.

Examining the Development of Roguelike Games

Roguelike games evolved from simple dungeon crawlers to complex, strategic experiences. Games such as Rogue, Hack, and Angband brought about permanent death and procedural generation, laying the groundwork for upcoming roguelike deck-building games. These elements became defining characteristics of the genre.

Uncovering the First Roguelike Deckbuilder

Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness and Dungeonland are strong contenders for the title of the first roguelike deckbuilder. Both games featured vital elements of the genre, including procedurally generated content and permadeath. While the debate continues, these early titles undoubtedly influenced the development of roguelike deck builders.

The Influence of the First Roguelike Deckbuilder

The first roguelike deck builder left a lasting impact on the gaming industry. Its innovative mechanics and strategic depth inspired countless games and helped shape the genre. The legacy of this groundbreaking game can be seen in the continued popularity and evolution of roguelike deckbuilders.

The Evolution of Roguelike Deckbuilding

The genre has grown and evolved over the years, with new titles continually pushing the boundaries of gameplay. Modern roguelike deck builders, like Slay the Spire and Monster Train, build on the foundations laid by their predecessors, incorporating new mechanics, themes, and storytelling elements to create engaging and challenging experiences.


Uncovering the initial roguelike deckbuilder presents a history filled with innovation and imagination. From the early days of deck-building games to the emergence of roguelike elements, the genre has continuously evolved, offering players new challenges and experiences. As the genre continues to grow, the legacy of the first roguelike deckbuilder remains a testament to the power of innovative game design.


What is a roguelike deckbuilder?

A roguelike deck builder is a type of game that combines deck-building mechanics with roguelike elements, such as procedural generation, permadeath, and randomized challenges.

What are some examples of roguelike deck builders?

Examples include Slay the Spire, Monster Train, and Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness.

Who was the first roguelike deckbuilder?

While there is debate, Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness (1992) and Dungeonland (1995) are strong contenders.

What makes a game a roguelike deck builder?

A game is considered a roguelike deck builder if it incorporates deck-building mechanics with roguelike elements like permadeath, procedural generation, and strategic challenges.

How has the genre of roguelike deck builders evolved?

The genre has evolved by introducing new mechanics, themes, and storytelling elements driven by indie developers and major studios. Modern titles continue to push the boundaries of gameplay, offering fresh and engaging experiences.