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Board game mechanics


Games with the Acting mechanic require players to use some form of mime or mimicry to communicate with the other players. Charades is probably the poster child for this mechanic, where one member of a team must use non-verbal clues to allow the other members to guess the solution.

Action Point Allowance System

You have a several amount of action points per round that limits your overall moves but gives you more freedom to choose what you want to do.
Area Control / Area Influence The Area Control mechanic typically awards control of an area to the player that has the majority of units or influence in that area. In El Grande, for instance, players earn their score in a region by having the most caballeros in that region.

Area Enclosure

In Area Enclosure games, players place or move pieces in order to surround as much area as possible with their pieces. The oldest and most famous Area Enclosure game is of course Go, but many newer examples also exist. Area Enclosure is different than Area Control / Area Influence because players actually create the areas on a gridded board during the course of play, whereas in Area Control / Area Influence the actual areas are pre-existing and players are merely battling to see who can control the most of them.

Area Movement

Area movement means that the game board is divided into areas of varying size which can be moved out of or into in any direction as long as the areas are adjacent or connected. Risk is a classic area movement game. Area movement is one way to handle movement on a game board. Two other commonly used ways are Grid Movement and Point to Point Movement.


This mechanic requires you to place a bid, usually monetary, on items in an auction of goods in order to enhance your position in the game. These goods allow players future actions or improve a position. The auction consists of taking turns placing bids on a given item until one winner is established, allowing the winner to take control of the item being bid on. Usually there is a game rule that helps drop the price of the items being bid on if no players are interested in the item at its current price. In most games, once a winner for one item is done, if there are more items to be bid upon, another auction is held for those items. The process repeats until a game condition is met or items are exhausted in the auction phase of the game. In Power Grid, for example, you start with no power plants and must win bids to be able to produce power. Winning a bid on a given power plant allows that player to add it to their current inventory of power plants and also allows for more power to be made in a given turn. In Vegas Showdown, players bid on rooms. such as a slot machine or a restaurant, in order to build a larger hotel with more prestige and value. Winning players pay for the room based on their bid and place it in their hotel. In both examples, bidding is done in a turn format and players have the option of passing on bids.


Betting/Wagering games are games that encourage or require players to bet money (real or in-game) on certain outcomes within the game. The betting itself becomes part of the game. This mechanic is most commonly associated with Poker. The Commodity Speculation mechanic is also a type of betting, in which in-game money is bet on different commodities in hope that that particular commodity will become the most valuable as the game progresses.

Campaign/Battle Card Driven

The Campaign/Battle Card Driven mechanic is a relatively recent development in wargames that focuses the players' actions on cards they have in their hand. Can be categorized as a subcategory of Hand Management.

Card Drafting

Card drafting games are games where players pick cards from a common pool to gain some immediate advantage or to assemble hands of cards that are used to meet objectives within the game. Ticket to Ride is a well-known card drafting game. Games where cards are simply drawn from a pile are not card drafting games - drafting implies that players have some sort of choice. In Ticket to Ride, players can choose to draw random cards. If they could only draw random cards however, it wouldn't be drafting.

Chit-Pull System

The word chit usually refers to little rectangular or square cardboard counters that have some sort of game-relevant information on them. In a chit-pull system, a number of chits is first placed in a container (often a bag or cup). In the course of the game, chits are drawn randomly out of this container, triggering certain game effects. This is essentially just another way of producing random results. However, a chit-pull system differs in a number of ways from dice-rolling, which is another method for obtaining random results. First, dice never "remember" which results have already occured; each time they are rolled, probabilities are exactly the same. When, on the other hand, a chit is drawn, it can be removed from the container so that that result will not occur again. Chits can also be used to randomize a certain sequence of events repeatedly by drawing chits from a container until it is empty and then putting all chits back. Second, chits can usually relay more information than the face of a die, which tends to be limited in size (barring oversized dice). Also, since a chit can be kept near a player or on the board itself, this information can be made available indefinitely, while a die usually will soon be rolled again and not kept around for conveying information (there are exceptions). Also, since chits are cardboard counters, they have two sides that might convey different (or additional) information. Their ability to be used as markers on the gameboard itself distinguishes chits from a deck of cards, which can otherwise be used for randomization in a similar fashion. Third, chits have a nice haptic quality that appeals to many gamers. Examples for chit-pull systems: Arkham Horror, Dragons of Glory, A Most Dangerous Time: Japan in Chaos, 1570-1584.

Co-operative Play

Co-operative play enourages or requires players to work together to beat the game. There is little or no competition between players. Either the players win the game by reaching a pre-determined objective, or all players lose the game, often by not reaching the objective before a certain event happens.

Commodity Speculation

The Commodity Speculation mechanic is a subcateogry of Betting/Wagering, in which in-game money is bet on different commodities in hope that that particular commodity will become the most valuable as the game progresses. Often the values of the commodities are continually changing throughout the game, and the players buy and sell the commodities to make money off of their investment.

Crayon Rail System

The Crayon Rail System is a subcategory of Route/Network Building.

Dice Rolling

Dice rolling games are games where dice are used for ramdomness.

Hand Management

Hand management games are games with cards in them that reward players for playing the cards in certain sequences or groups. The optimal sequence/grouping may vary, depending on board position, cards held and cards played by opponents. Managing your hand means gaining the most value out of available cards under given circumstances. Cards often have multiple uses in the game, further obfuscating an "optimal" sequence.


Classic wargame mechanic, played with 'Counters' on a map with an Hexagonal grid allowing to move the counters in more directions (6) as opposed to a square grid with only four direction Counters are commonly thick cardboard chit, with printed attributes and identification.

Line Drawing

Play occurs upon a modular board that is composed of multiple pieces, often tiles or cards. In many games, board placement is randomized, leading to different possibilities for strategy and exploration. Some games in this category have multiple boards which are not used simultaneously, preserving table space. Unused boards remain out of play until they are required.
Modular Board Play occurs upon a modular board that is composed of multiple pieces, often tiles or cards. In many games, board placement is randomized, leading to different possibilities for strategy and exploration. Some games in this category have multiple boards which are not used simultaneously, preserving table space. Unused boards remain out of play until they are required.


The mechanic is simple. We have the classic game Memory - in different editions and variations. Here the mechanic is almost the only thing worth focusing on; the needed competences are obvious.. In many card games (Bridge etc) a mechanic like memory is also existing, you have to remember specific cards or colours. In boardgames this mechanic is often existing, but in a much less degree. In a popular game like Settlers, you will be better of, if you remember how many specific ressources are in play, when you use the monopoloy-card. Just to name an example, where memory plays a small, but important role in the specific situation.


Material rule: games using pencils and paper to create the gaming board or other material while playing.


Similar to coop, partnerships are created and dissolved while playing. This can be direct by creating a single group in the game or indirect by sharing the same goals, e.g. owning the same shares in of a railroad company as in "1835".

Pattern Building

Pattern Recognition

Pick-up and Deliver

This mechanic usually requires players to pick up an item or good at one location on the playing board and bring it to another location on the playing board. Initial placement of the item can be either predetermined or random. The delivery of the good usually gives the player money to do more actions with. In most cases, there is a game rule or another mechanic that determines where the item needs to go to. In Railroad Tycoon, players build railroads between cities and use them to deliver good cubes from one city to another. The force that drives the good to the location is the color of the good goes to a matching colored city. when the player delivers the good to that city, the player receives money.

Point to Point Movement

On a board of a game with point-to-point movement, there are certain spots that can be occupied by markers or figurines, e. g. cities on a map. These points are connected by lines, and movement can only happen along these lines. It is not enough that two points are next to or close to each other; if there is no connecting line between them, a player cannot move his or her piece from one to the other. With point-to-point movement, you do not have a division of the board into areas which can be moved out of or into freely (like with Risk). Neither do you have a board completely covered in squares (like with Chess) or hexagons (like with Tide of Iron) that allow unrestricted or nearly unrestricted movement in any direction and to any square or hex. Unlike these counterexamples, point-to-point movement arbitrarily restricts areas on the board that markers or figurines can occupy, and it also arbitrarily restricts the ways that these points may be reached. Oftentimes, this allows for interesting strategies. Examples for point-to-point movement: Nine Men's Morris, Kensington, Friedrich.


Rock-Paper-Scissors is a subcategory of Simultaneous Action Selection. It describes a basic system of equally powerful units with their unique pro and contra to create an interesting game balance. Scissors cuts Paper, Paper covers Rock, Rock crushes Scissors

Role Playing

Roll and Move

Roll and move games are games where players roll dice and move playing pieces in accordance with the roll. (This term is often used derogatorily to imply that there is no thought involved. Roll and move games like Backgammon however contain a tactical element.)

Route/Network Building

Route/Network building games reward players for placing their playing pieces so that they form a route or network.

Secret Unit Deployment

Secret unit deployment games are games that contain hidden information. Only the player controlling certain playing pieces has perfect information about the nature (or even the whereabouts) of those pieces. This mechanic is often used in wargames to simulate "fog of war".

Set Collection

The primary goal of a set collection mechanic is to encourage a player to collect a set of items. For example, players collect and harvest different types of beans in Bohnanza, and they collect Pharoahs and River Tiles in Ra.


Simulation games are games that attempt to model actual events or situations.

Simultaneous Action Selection

Simultaneous action selection games are games where the players do some things simultaneously. Example: in Diplomacy players write down their army actions in secret.


Stock Holding

Stock holding is a subcategory of Commodity Speculation, in which instead of purchasing or selling an entire commodity, players purchase and sell (or hold) a share in a given company, commodity or nation. Notable examples include Acquire, where players can purchase shares of companies, and benefit if those companies grow before being bought out, and Imperial, where players are purchasing bonds in European nations which grant not only a dividend and points at the of the game but also the right to control that nation's actions for as long as you are the majority bondholder.


Tile Placement

This game mechanic implies playing a tile in a strategic location, respecting rules to expand the playing area or score points. A classic example is Carcassonne, where a player randomly draws a tile and place it next to other tiles and has a chance to place a Meeple on the tile just played. Some abstract games, such as Ingenious and Othello, also utilize this mechanic.


In games with a trading mechanic, the players can exchange game items between each other. For instance, players trade for different types of beans in Bohnanza, while they trade resources in The Settlers of Catan.

Variable Phase Order

Variable Phase Order implies that turns may not be played the same way as before and / or after. With Puerto Rico, every turn is different, depending on who starts selecting the roles, and what roles they take. You may have to play the 'build' action sooner than you'd wish depending on an other players move, or with other games, you may be denied from taking certain action. Most games with worker placement, limited action and any game without a static turn order fall under this 'mechanism'

Variable Player Powers

Variable Player Powers is a mechanic that grants different abilities and/or paths to victory to the players. To illustrate, here are some notable examples. In Ogre, one player controls a single powerful piece, and the other plays many weaker units. The net effect is a balanced game. In Cosmic Encounter, each player is assigned a random special ability at the beginning of the game. Although each player has the same victory goal (control five non-home colonies), their abilities enable differing means to the end. In Here I Stand, each player controls a political power with unique ways to score victory points. Some focus on military conquest, some on religious influence, etc.


Worker Placement

This mechanic requires you to place a limited number of playing pieces representing agents (i.e. "workers") on a range of possible action spaces. Placement of an agent on an action space allows you to activate and gain the benefit of that space. Usually, placement of a worker on an action space limits the range of actions available to subsequent placement and other players. In Agricola, for example, you start with two family members who can be placed on action spaces to collect resources or take certain actions like building fences. When someone places on a given space, that action is no longer available until the next round.

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