Board games are a fun and engaging way to spend time with family and friends. However, not all board games are created equal, and the mechanics are one of the key factors that can make or break a game.
In this article, we’ll look at board game mechanics, what they are, and how they can impact your gaming experience. Each mechanic offers a unique experience, and having an understanding of the board game mechanics available will let you understand how a game works and help you pick games that you’ll enjoy more.
What Are Board Game Mechanics?
Board game mechanics refer to the rules and systems that govern how a game is played.
Mechanics determine how players interact with the game, how turns are taken, how victory is achieved, and more. Essentially, mechanics are the backbone of a game and define how it works.
Table of Contents
Common Board Game Mechanics:
1. Tile Placement
Tile placement games involve arranging tiles to create a game board. This mechanic is frequently used in games where the board changes frequently and players must adjust their strategies accordingly, but it can also be used for players to build their own board.
2. Deck Building
Deck Building is a game in which players construct a deck of cards to use in the game. Players begin with a small deck that they use for their actions, and gradually add cards to their deck and build it up to be more powerful as the game progresses.
- Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
3. Worker Placement
Worker placement involves players placing workers on a board to perform actions. Because each action can only be performed once per turn, players must strategize in order to make the most of their turns.
- Stone Age
4. Set Collection
Set Collection is a game in which players collect sets of items to earn points. This mechanic is frequently combined with other mechanics when used in games.
- Ticket to Ride
- Sushi Go!
5. Hand Management
Hand management involves players managing a hand of cards to achieve their goals. Players must decide which cards to play and when to play them to gain the most advantage and score the most points.
- Schotten Totten
6. Engine Building
Engine building is a popular board game mechanic in which players build and improve a “machine” or “engine” to gain resources or other advantages throughout the game, usually making them more powerful and able to take more actions or future resources for less.
- Terraforming Mars
- Race for the Galaxy
7. Resource Management
Resource management is a mechanic in which players must use their limited resources in a strategic way to reach their goals and get ahead of their opponents. This mechanic can involve managing resources such as money, materials, or workers, and it usually requires balancing short-term needs with long-term goals.
- Settlers of Catan
- Brass: Bermingham
- The Castles of Burgundy
8. Area Control
Area Control is a board game in which players compete to control specific areas of the board. This mechanic is frequently used in games that have a military or political theme.
- Small World
9. Hidden Movement
Hidden Movement entails one player moving their game piece in secret while the other players try to find them and guess where they are. This mechanic is frequently used in games with a spy or detective theme.
- Scotland Yard
- Fury of Dracula
- Letters from Whitechapel
10. Trading and Negotiation
Trading and negotiating games entail players making deals and trading with one another. This mechanic is frequently used in games where players must acquire the most resources in order to win.
- Settlers of Catan
- Sheriff of Nottingham
Auctions and bidding are games in which players bid on items or actions to gain an advantage in the game. This mechanic is frequently employed in games with a business or economic theme.
- Power Grid
- Modern Art
- For Sale
12. Press Your Luck
Press your luck entails taking risks in hopes of reaping a reward. Players must decide whether to take a chance for a bigger reward or to play it safe to avoid losing what they’ve already won.
- The Quacks of Quedlinburg
- No Thanks
- Incan Gold
Players in cooperative games work together to achieve a common goal rather than competing against one another. This mechanic is frequently used in survival or adventure games.
- Forbidden Desert
- Spirit Island
If you want some more suggestions, check out our articles for some awesome cooperative games to play.
14. Legacy & Campaign
Legacy games consist of a series of games that build on one another and permanently alter the game board or rules. Campaign games are games in which you play through a story but do not change the game board so that you can pass the game on to another group afterward.
In both types of games, a player’s actions during a single gaming session can influence the outcome of subsequent games in the series. Both types frequently have lengthy storylines but are not really replayable once you’ve finished them.
- Pandemic Legacy (Legacy)
- Gloomhaven (Campaign)
- Betrayal Legacy (Legacy)
The storytelling or narrative mechanic involves creating a rich and immersive world that players can experience through the game’s story or plot. This frequently entails having an adventure and making decisions that affect the outcome of the game.
Most legacy and campaign games also involve an amount of narrative storytelling, but there are also games that you go through a story each time.
- Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate
- Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
- Mansions of Madness
If you want some more suggestions for narrative games check out the RPG section of our article on board games similar to D&D.
16. Route Building
The route building mechanic requires players to create paths or networks to accomplish a specific goal, such as connecting cities or delivering goods.
- Ticket to Ride
- Power Grid
17. Card Drafting
Card drafting is a board game mechanic in which players take turns selecting cards from a shared set of cards that is passed around to construct their hand or deck. It necessitates strategic decision-making because players need to balance picking cards they need with ensuring their competitors don’t get the cards that make them really powerful.
- 7 Wonders
- Sushi Go!
- Point Salad
In board games, the abstract mechanic focuses on strategic gameplay without a thematic or narrative context. These games frequently have simple rules and mechanics, but mastering them requires deep thought and planning.
The party mechanic is designed to provide a fun and social experience for a large group of players. Most of the time, these games are funny, silly, and easy to play, which encourages players to join in and get involved.
- Cards Against Humanity
- Just One.
20. Deduction & Bluffing
Deduction and bluffing mechanics are frequently employed in social deduction games, in which players attempt to uncover each other’s hidden roles or identities while concealing their own. To gain an advantage, these games frequently involve deception, misdirection, and lying.
- The Resistance: Avalon
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf
- Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Instead of taking turns, players in real-time games make decisions and take actions at the same time. This mechanic is frequently used in fast-paced or action-packed games.
- Captain Sonar
- Space Alert
- 5 Minute Marvel
Trick-taking is a game in which players use cards or tiles to win “tricks” and score points. This mechanic is commonly found in games that have a twist on traditional card games, as this mechanic is used in two popular traditional games: Bridge and Hearts.
- The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine
- Fox in the Forest
- Skull King
Roll-and- To score points, players roll dice and then filling out information on a sheet of paper. A popular variation on this is also flip and write, where rather than rolling dice, players are flipping cards from a shared deck and then writing on their sheet of paper. This mechanic is frequently used in puzzle or strategy games.
- Welcome to…
- Railroad Ink
24. Simultaneous Action Selection
Simultaneous action selection involves players choosing actions at the same time without knowing what their opponents are choosing.
- 7 Wonders Duel
- Roll for the Galaxy
- Food Chain Magnate
25. Pick-up and Deliver
Pick-up and Deliver requires players to pick up items from one location and deliver them to another in order to earn points. This mechanic is frequently used in games with a transportation or logistics theme.
- Xia: Legends of a Drift System
- Age of Steam
26. Variable Player Powers / Asymmetric Games
In Variable Player Powers, each player has their own special skills or powers that set them apart from the other players. Asymmetric games are similar in that each player is able to take different actions. This mechanic is very hard to balance, but when a game gets it right, it makes for an amazing game. It is often used in games with characters and in combination with a role-playing mechanic, or in player vs player games
- Cosmic Encounter
- Blood Rage
27. Modular Board
Players assemble a game board from a set of tiles or pieces that can be arranged in various ways into a modular board. This mechanic is usually combined with other mechanics and gives games a lot of replay value as the board is different every time.
- Kingdom Builder
- CLANK! In Space
- Five Tribes
- Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Racing is a board game mechanic in which players compete to see who can reach the endpoint first. Most of the time, this involves moving game pieces along a track and trying to beat your opponents while avoiding obstacles.
- The Quest for El Dorado
- Camel Up
In puzzle board games, players use their problem-solving skills to get past the challenges and obstacles that the game puts in their way. This can include tasks like pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, and logical deduction.
- Exit The Game
- Under Falling Skies
- Roll Player
The dexterity mechanic requires physical skill and coordination, and often requires players to move game parts with precision and accuracy. This mechanic is used when you stack, flick, balance, or otherwise physically interact with game pieces.
- Junk Art
31. Roll and Move
I left this one all the way to the bottom. Roll and Move is perhaps the most basic board game mechanic. It involves rolling dice and moving your game piece the number of spaces indicated by the dice. This mechanic is often used in children’s games and in more traditional games, such as Monopoly and The Game of Life.
- Deep Sea Adventure
- Camel Up
How to Choose Games Based on Mechanics
When choosing a board game, it is critical to consider the mechanics, as that dictates how the game is played. Different people have different tastes, and what one person finds enjoyable may not be the same as what another finds enjoyable. Some people may prefer games with simple, easy-to-learn mechanics, whereas others may prefer more complex games with a variety of mechanics.
Here are some things to think about when selecting a game based on mechanics:
- Complexity – Consider how complicated the mechanics are. Is it simple to understand them such as tile laying, or does it require a lot more logic to play such as engine building.
- Theme – A game’s theme can influence how enjoyable it is. If you are not interested in the theme, it may be more difficult to get into and enjoy the game. Narrative-driven mechanics tend to be a lot more thematic than something like an abstract mechanic which is a lot dryer.
- Player Count – Certain mechanics work better with a specific number of players. Games with area control mechanics, for example, may work better with fewer players, whereas games with simultaneous action mechanics may work better with more players as there is no downtime between turns.
- Replay Value – Consider the game’s replay value. Will you be able to play it multiple times and still enjoy it, or will it become tedious after a few attempts? Some mechanics such as modular boards create additional replay value, while others such as legacy games only let you play through the storyline once.
The mechanics are an important aspect of any board game. They determine how the game is played and have a significant impact on the enjoyment and replay value. When selecting a board game, it is important to consider the mechanics in order to find a game that meets what you are looking for.
You can improve your gaming experience by learning the fundamentals of different board game mechanics, as it will help you recognize common rules and strategies and possibly even increase your chances of winning.
Q: Are all board games with mechanic <x> difficult to learn?
A: No, there are many simple and easy-to-learn board games available. The level of complexity can vary greatly between different games, even if they use the same mechanics.
Q: Can board game mechanics be combined?
A: Yes, many board games use a combination of mechanics to create unique and engaging gameplay experiences.
Q: Are board game mechanics the only important factor in a game?
A: No, other factors like theme, artwork, and components can also affect a game’s overall enjoyment and appeal.