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Engine-Building: The Mechanic


I sat down to create this post and fell in love with the word play for that title! Anyway, I'd like to discuss engine building and why it is such a satisfying part of board gaming. There is such joy in starting with hardly anything and by the end of the game your engine is running on all cylinders.

There are so many great approaches to this mechanic - some obvious, while others are a little more subtle.

Some of the more obvious ones are games like#Wingspan where there is little to do beyond the engine.

A game like#Gaia Project is a little different- yes you build an engine but you are also attempting to do different things with that engine. But you still have control over the what and how of your engine. 

Id even argue that#Terraforming Mars is an engine builder, but you have less control over what your engine develops into that game. In this game your Engine develops and hopefully you continue to acquire cards that will help your engine both continue to function but also expand and accomplish more each generation.

Getting even more subtle I think that a game like#Scythe has a bit of this engine building as well. Yes, you need to take certain actions to make your engine work, but you can eventually cobble something together that works a bit like an engine.

As for why this is such a great mechanic- there is so much joy in clawing your way from nothing to something big. That wonderful feeling of progression and the sense of accomplishment that you built something.

Engine building can also be very thematic as well. Building your engine in#Gaia Project feels like you are expanding throughout the galaxy and doesn't feel artificial or "gamey". The same could be said of#Terraforming Mars or#Scythe.

So. A bunch of hopefully coherent rambling about engine building. Let me leave you with a feel discussion questions to jumpstart a conversation.

What are some of your favorite engine building games?

What makes them an engine builder and why do you like them?

Why doesn't BGG consider engine building a category?

Is a deck builder also an engine builder?

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Supporter5 months ago

I posted this in the other Engine Building Mechanic thread as well, but noticed that you haven't been on that thread at least from a commenting perspective...

Ok, so I looked up a defintion for Game Mechanics last night which defines it as follows

In tabletop games and video games, game mechanics are the rules that guide the player's moves or actions, as well as the game's response to them.  A game's mechanics thus effectively specifies how the game will work for the people who play it. (EMPHASIS MINE)
In my opion this last line shows Engine Building as being a mechanic.  When you play an engine building game even remotely correctly then that is how the game will work for the people who play it.

Supporter5 months ago

It's been a busy couple of days for me. Haven't had much of a chance to comment on any threads!

I agree totally with you that engine building should be listed as a mechanic. 

5 months ago

I will always have a soft spot for #Russian Railroads. This was the first game I played that really had that feeling of an engine purring away, snowballing your victory points more and more each turn.

Engine builders are really about the "I love it when a plan comes together" emotion for me.

I especially love Russian Railroads because of the theme (expanding rail-networks), which meshes so well with the ideas of engines, mechanics, progress. All the stuff that is connected to the actual game-mechanics. It just clicks so wonderful into each other. 

Premium User5 months ago

Fantastic title choice for this post by the way. Stellar use of wording :)

Supporter5 months ago

Thanks, I quite enjoyed it. 

5 months ago

Engine Building is my favorite mechanic. I think certain Deck Builders could be considered an Enginer Builder, but not every Deck Builder is. I think the main reason it isn't an official mechanic on BGG is because the way you build your engine varies between games. Such as tableau building, etc...

I also understand why sometimes people don't like it as much because if you build a really good combo, suddenly your turn can take much longer than other players. That is why #Space Base is one of my favorite ones though because you still get benefits on opponent turns.

5 months ago

'As for why this is such a great mechanic-' Why is it such a great mechanic?! Will we ever know? I mean, if you were to ask me it's because -

Supporter5 months ago

Ok sorry. I fell asleep in the middle of this one. I'll finish it now. 

5 months ago

Haha, not a problem. My articles are littered with mistakes, it was just the perfect moment to cut off

Supporter5 months ago

LOL...... I wondered what happened.

Supporter5 months ago

There, it's finished now. Sorry. 

Supporter5 months ago

Perfect, I wrote a post in response. I expect that my unpopulor opinions, that are therein outlined, to catch me some flack....LOL

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