I have been thinking about the mechanisms I tend to enjoy in boardgames. One of the things I love about boardgames is exploring the different mechanisms and the ways in which they interact with each other. I suppose that is something that most of us boardgamers tend to enjoy.
This list should be pretty self-explanatory. I will be listing them in order most to least favorite. I will, briefly, explore the mechanisms and then mention some of my favorite examples of games that use those mechanisms.
- Tableau Building: Tableau Building is a mechanism wherein each individual player has a personal array of cards or tiles in front of them. This tableau is not a static entity. Rather it is to be manipulated by the player, and sometimes by other players as well. This tableau will have a direct effect on the quantity and quality of actions one can take and/or affect the efficacy with which one can score points. Most of what are known as “engine building” games include elements of tableau building. Some of my favorite games that include tableau building include: #Race for the Galaxy, #Pax Renaissance: 2nd edition, and #Pax Pamir (Second Edition) It is worth noting that the first of those games is a very pure tableau builder.
- Deck Building: Deck building is a mechanism in which one builds or trims their card deck during the game. In fact, one might almost sort of consider it a tableau builder where your tableau is a deck rather than arranged in front of you. This is different than “deck construction” games. Deck construction games are usually TCG’s or LCG’s like #Magic: The Gathering, or #Android: Netrunner. Those are games where you construct your deck before the actual game. In deck building, you construct or otherwise modify your deck during the actual gameplay experience. Some of my favorite games that include this mechanism include: #Dominion, #Star Realms, and #Star Trek: Frontiers.
- Variable Player Powers: This is a mechanism wherein the individual players are marked by some combination of individual advantages, abilities, weaknesses, or rules. The differences in the players may be extremely marked, so drastic that the individual players almost feel like they are playing different games. Or, the variability between the players may be quite superficial. A criticism of many of these games is that it can feel a little bit like the game gets put on rails. Often the best thing to do is to lean hard into your characters advantages, and that may or may not concord with your strengths as a player. That being said, I generally don’t find that complaint to be one that I personally feel. Some of my favorite games that include this mechanism include: #Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain, #Cloudspire, and #Scythe.
- Hand Management: This is a mechanism wherein the players are rewarded for playing their cards in certain sequences. This sequence can and will vary depending on the current game state, or on the general game meta. Basically, it is the ability to get the most use or points possible out of your current hand. Several games that exemplify this include: #Spirit Island, #Underwater Cities, and #Ticket To Ride.
- Splaying: This mechanism is in my list for one single game. This is a mechanism wherein the cards in your tableau are stacked on top of each other, but they splay out one way or the other to change hide or reveal actions or powers in your tableau. The only game I have played that has this is the one, the only, the great #Innovation. I do wish that more games would include this mechanism. It really is great. I do understand that #Pax Emancipation does include some of this, that will be the next Pax game I learn, and I am looking forward to that aspect of it.
These are my favorite mechanisms. What are yours? Are there any that you think are grossly underused? Or, do you think that there are mechanisms that are terribly overused?