Following is list of my five favorite game mechanisms. I will give a brief explanation of each mechanism and I will give an example of a game or several games that include this mechanism. It should however be noted that it is rare for a game to have only one mechanism. Most of the games I will list will contain more than just the one mechanism.
- My no. 1 is tableau building. This is the process in which you start with very little, or nothing in front of you. But during the course of the game you build a tableau of cards, tiles, or other game components. This tableau will generally do various things, it might make new actions available to you, it might give you extra actions, it might make your "stock" actions more powerful...... Generally your tableau will end up making a boardgame engine. I love this for the sense of building and progression that such a game engenders. Typically this sort of game has a shorter set up time than many others. Notable examples of games with this mechanism include, #Race for the Galaxy, #Innovation, and the whole line of Pax games.
- Deckbuilding is my second favorite mechanism. In deckbuilding you generally start with a pretty junky deck of cards. And, during the course of the game you weed out the the junk from your deck, while at the same time acquiring actual good cards to put into your deck. Therefore, during the course of the game you will, ideally, transform your starting deck from junk, to something good. I like this mechanism for many of the same reasons I like tableau building. There is a strong sense of progression and building. It is also similar to tableau building in that, in many deckbuilders, you are building a small engine in your deck. Noteable examples of this include, #Dominion: Second Edition, #Star Realms, #Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure, and #Mage Knight.
- Hand management is my next pick. Hand management is a mechanism wherein the player is rewarded by playing the cards in their hands in a certain order or in a certain groups. However, that order or those groups may change depending on the board state, or the actions of the other players. Further confusing the issue, frequently the cards are multi-use thereby making the optimal play a little harder to discern. I love this mechanism for the tension it can introduce. It is also a extemely common mechanism. Notable examples of games that include this mechanism include, #Gloomhaven, #Brass: Birmingham, #Spirit Island, and #Concordia.
- For my fourth pick, I choose Action selection. Action selection is wherein the players, at the beginning of a round, choose their actions for the round. This can take the form of drafting as in #Puerto Rico, or it can take place simultaneously as in #Race for the Galaxy. This is a really big mechanism and there is so much variation within this mechanism that I don't really want to nail it down to much harder than that. For me the best examples of this are still #Puerto Rico and #Race for the Galaxy.
- My last pick is Auctions. I think this is fairly self explanatory. In the auction mechanism you are, during the course of the game, auctioning of various items. I love this because of the room for bluff, and for the tense decision space it makes. Notable examples include, #Ra, #Power Grid, and #QE.
There you have it. What are your favorite mechanisms? What do you think I didn't define correctly?