Board Game Mechanics


Alright folks, let’s talk about board game types and mechanics. If you’re like me, and reading the term board game mechanics and immediately started to imagine a mechanic underneath a Monopoly board game fixing it, you’re wrong. Creative, but wrong. We’re talking about what makes game play unique. What makes Monopoly different from Ticket to Ride? Well, Monopoly is a roll and move game with set collection and Ticket to Ride is Set Collection with card drafting. In my reviews I might throw out a term here or there, so I thought it would be best to start with what some of these terms mean.

Let’s start with game categories. If you have a favorite type of board game, once you know the category it falls into, it will make finding similar games easier. I like social deduction games, so if I see a game that falls under this category, I’ll be more likely to try it. The same, I don’t care for roll and move type games, so I’m less likely to try those. So let’s get to it. Here are some of the more common types of games.

Roll and Move – These games often use Dice/Spinners/Card to determine how far you move on the board.

Candy Land, Monopoly, and Chutes and Ladders

Word Games – Games that use words as the main mechanic.  This is either spelling words or hinting towards words.

Scrabble, Unspeakable Words, Boggle, Code Names

Party Games – These are games that can accommodate large number of players, encourage social interaction, and usually have a short play time.

Apples to Apples, Really Bad Art, Pictionary, Werewolf

Deduction Games – These games use deduction and logic reasoning to get to an outcome. These can range between group discussion, close observations, or even asking questions as part of the game.

Clue, Guess Who, Kill Doctor Lucky, Chameleon, Werewolf, Saboteur

Dice GamesGames that use dice as the main component.

King of Tokyo, Yahtzee, Zombie Dice, Roll for It, Sagrada

Card games – Games that don’t typically have a game board but rely on cards for the game play

Euchre, Dominion, Magic the Gathering, Sushi Go!, Saboteur

Bluffing Games – Games that you’re encouraged to deceive other players. These games usually have hidden information in them.

Werewolf, Chameleon, Poker, Welcome to the Dungeon

Abstract Strategy Games – These are games that typically are theme-less, or you can take the theme out and they play the same, and built in simple mechanics.

Azul, Hive, Chess, Checkers, Blokus, Tetris Link, Tsuro

Dexterity/Action Games – These games test the players physical reflexes or coordination.

Jenga, Terror in Meeple City, Meeple Circus, Don’t Break the Ice

Co-operative Play – Games were all players are working together for the same outcome.

Pandemic, Mysterium, Flash Point:Fire Rescue, Forbidden Island

Underneath I put some of the games that fall into these categories. As you can see, some of those games are repeated in several categories. I just wanted to show that games can fall under multiple categories.


Now that we have the game types down, we’ll talk about the game mechanics. This is what makes the game play different for each game. I like to have a variety of game mechanics in my game library. It gives a good selection when you have people over to play games. Not everyone will like every mechanic.

Betting/Wager – System in which players are encouraged to bet or wager the outcome of the game or round

Poker, Wits and Wagers, Liar’s Dice, Say Anything

Area Enclosure/Control – Game pieces are placed or moved in order to fill, surround, or capture as much area as possible

Blokus, Tetris Link, Carcassone, Small World, Risk

Drafting – Players pick game components from a center pool to benefit them either immediately or long term.

Azul, Dominion, Sagrada, Ticket to Ride

Tile Placement – Placing a tile to score victory points.

Kodama:Tree Spirit, Carcassone, Tsuro, Hive, Blokus

Player Elimination – Each player is trying to be the last one left in the game.

Mario Power Up, Texas Hold Em, Love Letter, Bang! The dice game, King of Tokyo

Press Your Luck – Games where you repeat an action until you decide to stop due to the increased risk of losing points.

Zombie Dice, Code Names, King of Tokyo, Welcome to the Dungeon

Set Collection – Primary goal to collect a set if items to score.

Forbidden Island, Sushi Go, Azul, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride

Take That – Maneuvers that attack another player directly.

Munchkin, Mario Power Up, Saboteur, Magic the Gathering, Guillotine

Worker Placement – Players select individual actions from a shared pool each round. Typically only one person can select an action at a time, and thus can lead to blocking other players from what they are after. Usually a game piece is used by each player to select an action.

Stone Age, Harbour, Harvest, Charterstone

Trick Taking – Typically a card game that on each players turn, play a card to make a trick which is then awarded to a player.

Bridge, Diamonds, Euchre, Hearts

Lastly, I have a couple of terms that if you’re getting into board games you’ll want to know.

Meeple – Me + People = Meeple. It refers to any anthropomorphic playing pieces in a game. These are typically wooden pieces.

Filler Game – A easy game to teach that plays quickly.

Heavy Game – Having complex rules and strategies or long play time.

Light Games – Having simple rules and strategies or a short play time.

Legacy Game – A game that gets permanently changed after playing it due to the campaign that goes with the game.

Hope this helps with some of the mechanics and terms used when talking about board games. I didn’t hit every single game mechanic since there are so many. I just hit the most common ones. While going through the list of terms and game categories, I noticed I didn’t have some games that fit under these categories or mechanics. When thinking of a board game library, I’m a believer of having something for everyone. I think having a solid game to teach a mechanic and enlighten people to new games is important.

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