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Popular Engine Building Board Games (Mechanic)

These are the board games with the Engine Building mechanic.
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How Will You Build Your City? – Settler of the Boards image
ReviewHow Will You Build Your City? – Settler of the Boards (https://settleroftheboards.com/how-will-you-build-your-city/) [The City]Like| 2 comments | [+]
Engine building, is it a mechanic? Like| 46 comments | [+]
Engine-Building: The Mechanic Like| 12 comments | [+]
Pacific Rails Inc.: A Game of Railroad Building for 2 to 4 Players image
CrowdfundingPacific Rails Inc.: A Game of Railroad Building for 2 to 4 Players [Pacific Rails Inc]Like| 3 comments | [+]
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1. #Dune: Imperium

LOVE IT. Played it last night at game night (after months of me being absent from said game night). I really enjoy deck building and worker placement, and the combination flowed like all spice should. During the last round, we entered the combat phase with three of us tieing for 10 points. But, the winner used his reward to move up on a faction track, thereby surpassing me and taking my token, giving him a point and causing me to lose one. So I ended up coming in third out of four, but dang. What an awesome game!

2. #Wingspan

I really love Wingspan. Such a pretty game and I enjoy seeing all the various birds. This game actually got me into birding, which is a hobby I now enjoy. I really like the engine building aspect of Wingspan. This is a top game for me.

3. #Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Not sure if this is a number 2 game (from my last five plays) or number three, but Euphoria is just so much fun. I really enjoy the worker placement aspect, using dice as workers and the dice pips as knowledge. If the workers get too wise, they start to run away from the dystopia. Lots going on but not so much that its overwhelming. Better at higher player counts, but still very good at two players. 

4. #Takenoko

I played this one with my five-year-old, along with my wife and four-year-old (who were on a team together; they won, followed by my five-year-old, followed by me). I was very impressed with how my five-year-old caught on to the game and understood what he had to do to get points. With a bit of coaching in the beginning, he was able to take it on his own by the end.

5. #Twice As Clever!

This one was almost swapped with Takenoko, putting it at 5 and Twice as Clever at 4, but I just had a lot of fun playing with my kids, which is why Twice as Clever is at number 5. My wife and I taught her parents how to play. They enjoyed it, even if it was a bit confusing for them the first half (or so) of the game. Wonderful game though. This is one of my wife's all-time favorites.


And that is about the extent of my plays so far this year haha I also played #The One Hundred Torii, but that was the sixth game, so it didn't make the list, but I wanted to give it an honorable mention, as it's one of my top-ten games (and probably would have taken number 2 or 3 on this list). 

Hmmmm good question. In general I like lots of games, but like you mentioned, there are ones that make me want to revisit. The ones that leave a strong impression tend to have these aspects:

  • Strong build-up or as mentioned, an "arc" - The game lets you make decisions all throughout the game that builds something that you can feel proud of by the end of the game. Engine building games do this for me. And it's important that there are various ways to approach it
  • Story-worthy moments - I love games that tell a story, whether through actual narrative elements or through the gameplay itself. It could be an exciting race to the finish line filled with twists and turns, fighting for control among different factions, or just chance elements that create anxiety and excitement

Interesting idea as I recently find myself passing on games that seem too similar to games already in my collection due to similar mechanics and themes. Well that's what I tell myself anyway..LOL. I think like , I would just find a way to game the system to keep my entire collection. I mean "Deck Building," "Bag Building," and "Pool Building" are all listed as separate mechanics on BGA. Add that into "Tableau Building" and "Engine Building" and that's 5 games from my top 25 right there lol.


One of my all time favourite games is #Archipelago, it embodies so many of my favourite aspects of games: negotiation, hidden information, semi-cooperative play it is a game that has the best, most-petty, hilarious discussions and at its best I've rarely enjoyed sitting at a table moving meeples around so much.

However, I do think that the game is very much one of those that gets significantly better the more you play it with the same group and one that makes it easyfor people to bounce off of hard. I'll explain: when the game is first set out and the rules taught it appears very much to be a Euro/4X game. You gather resources, get upgrades, hire (or brith) new meeples, explore new sections of archipelago and build an empire. If you play it like a straight Euro game it isn't great: everything is slow and resource gathering is inefficent/can feel impossible, you don't have enough actions and the traitor (although they are definitely the 'good' or at least 'best' player morally speaking) seemingly has the easiest time rallying the native peoples to overthrow their colonial oppressors and bring the game to a premature end. (On a side-, but important, note, the other glaring flaw of this game is that it very much puts the players in the role of the bad guys casually exploiting an island and its people, and while within my group of friends we are pretty aware of this and use it to spark discuss and comment on how awful we are I can absolutely see this being a deal-braker for some and I wouldn't blame them in the slightest.)

Rant over, the problem with the way the game presents itself is that it is in reality a negotiation and deal-making game much more that it is a Euro-game. The way we have found it plays best, is when everyone is cutting deals and trading with each other while trying to get an edge. The semi-cooperative aspect really comes to life when you are negotiating who is going to use their hard earned resources to deal with the current crisis and how much you are going to pay them for it. The engine building side takes off when players are trading freely, as this is a free action, and so instead of having to use all your actions to collect 1 stone, 2 cows and 2 wood, you instead use one action to collect 8 pineapples and then trade them to get everything you need from other players. When you are trying to work out who is the 'traitor' and then working together (while of course trying not to make any real sacrifices yourself) to economically stifle that player and taking over their 'territory' (no one really owns anything in the game which is amazing) to limit their influence that is is when the game takes off and is a non-stop joy. However, the game doesn't mudge you to do these things at all, it is very much a sandbox, and while I love that aspect in many ways I can see how other people might try it once, not like it and then never bother again. So while I could say that they are just 'playing it wrong' and blame other players instead of the game. I think it is a legitimate critiscm of the game that it hasn't made how it wants to played clear, either mechanically or otherwise, and as such has made itself less accessible than it could have been. 

However, I adore this game, and whenever I teach it I make a point of highlighting these aspects. It still usually takes people at least until the second game to really grasp what makes the game tick, but once they do I've had so many people fall in love with it.

Great week of gaming! In addition to the online gaming mentioned by , I got to play:

  • #Jinja - an interesting worker placement game with tight resources but a clever combination of area majority scoring at the end with engine building in the middle; 
  • #Whale Riders - my Kickstarter copy of this new Reiner Knizia game came in and it has gorgeous Vincent Dutrait art and simple to teach, but deep, game play. Typical of Knizia's best! My wife really enjoyed this one;
  • #Red Rising - this is my most played game this week, played at 3-4-5 player counts -- I think I like 3p best, because you have time to read the cards, affect your hand, and still keep an eye on what other players are doing. I liked this one a lot more than the rest of the Gumbo Krewe, but my sons really dug it;
  • #It's a Wonderful World - been on my list for a while, cause my nephews adore this 7W style drafting game. I was lost at first, but the second half of the game made a lot of sense. I'd play it again but not sure I need to own it;
  • #Stockpile - another one of my most played games over the years, it has long been a Gumbo fave since we learned it from the designer way back at Gen Con 2016 (maybe?) -- we played with EVERYTHING -- all the expansion goodness, and I am convinced that's the way to play; and
  • #Block Ness - very polarizing little 10-15 minute abstract game with cute Loch Ness monsters for pieces. My family adores it and the Gumbo krewe was bored. What to do! I'll just keep it at the house and introduce it to friends and non-gamers and family alike. It is fun for what it is and looks great on the table! 

Whew -- so nice to be playing in person again instead of just online, although I am thoroughly enjoying playing games with the Board Game Atlas krewe! 

This is a great family game. It can be taught to just about everyone quickly, and it's always fun! I do hate the metal box, though, haha.

I've seen this describes as "easier #7 Wonders," which I don't think is real a great description. Obviously it takes the core mechanism of 7 Wonders, but that game involves more long term strategy and engine building, and in my opinion requires more attention paid to your opponents. If you want a drafting game that is just breezy and fun, Sushi Go Party is the answer, where 7 Wonders is a great option if you're looking for something a little deeper.

I think that almost any game can be a gateway game for people if they're invested in learning it, but in general, I'd say that a key is showing them something they've never seen before in a game they've played before. For me, that was drafting and sort of engine building in #7 Wonders.

1. Really interested in Glory to Rome but I wouldn't pay $250 for a game that I've never played. Don't think my budget would allow me to spend $250 on any grail game

2. Played much fewer boardgames than normal because of COVID but I enjoyed #Rurik: Dawn of Kiev the most. Still really enjoy the auction programming mechanism and the player interaction as players try and outbid and outwit each other

3. #Bus probably surprised me the most. For a game that first came out in 1999 it's still very enjoyable and stands the test of time

4. My top 5 games would be #Terraforming Mars, #Troyes, #Orléans, #Concordia and #Yokohama  Being a Sci-Fi buff I just like the world and engine building of Terraforming Mars. All the others have a surprising amount of complexity for a reasonably simple ruleset i.e. you get a lot of game for the few rules there are

I saw the name Ivan Lashin, and heard "engine building" and "economy" and I'm all in on finding out more about this one, thanks for the review. 

1. I own 4 Chudyk games so far (2 OOP) and have played another.  I've not yet gotten to GtR but it seems to hit all the high points for me.  I can't say its a graill game though since i've not played it.  I don't think I would pay that much for a grail game though.  In most cases, they come back around (just look at Dune).  GtR is a bit exceptional of a case but there are ways around that ...


2. Innovation is still my top game with probaby 10x plays of the next.  In terms of new-to-me for 2020, I would guess Rallyman GT via Board Game Arena (the other BGA).  I was mixed on the Rallyman DIRT kickstarter and ended up passing on it for now.  Need to decide which of the two I want and which expansions.  Now those are tough decisions.


3. I can't say a game surprised me since I don't get to many new or new-to-me games, especially with the Pandemic.


4. My top 5 games are

  1. Innovation.  At first I thought I hated it but I found I couldn't stay away from it.  Its a game that keeps me thinking about it afterwards.  I appreciate the opaque win conditions that always give me hope that, no matter how bleak things appear on the surface, there is a chance (queue Dumb and Dumber)
  2. The Bird Told Me To Do It.  Terrible rule book but a really nice, chaotic, distillation of a programming game.
  3. Evolution Climate.  I enjoy the science theme though Evolution was getting a bit samey until I added Climate.  I need to get more plays with the expansion.
  4. Suburbia.  I love Sim City The Board Game; I just don't get it out enough.
  5. Machi Koro.  Chaotic engine building with cute pictures.

Part of the limitation of my list is I've been in a bit of a rut, pre-pandemic even, not getting to play with many groups or a varity of games, even ones I vaguely remember enjoying (like Five Tribes)

As we end 2020, what are your current Top 5 games and why?

1. I am somwhat interested in GtR. I owned and sold the original (ugly) version. Enjoyed the game play. Too confusing for my playing partners at the time. I have spent more than $250 on some games (expansions, upgrades, crowd funding campaigns) so yes. I didn't think I would but I suppose that I would.

2. Enjoyment is tricky to valuate. #The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine stands out as my "Game of The Year". #On Tour was my most played game. But #Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated is one of the best gaming experiences ever!

3. My biggest surprise is the double header of #Point Salad and #Truffle Shuffle. Easy, portable, tough mini decisions. Everyone can play. I though they would be just another pair of card games to toss in the pile. These are great!

4. My Top 5 games of all time:
#Scythe - Resources, expansion, fast turns, meaningful decisions, a touch of randomness, awesome expansions, beautiful.
#The Castles of Burgundy - Fast to play, highly variable, dice rolling with mitigation, multiple strategies.
#El Grande - Still the best area control, El Castillo, variability, intrigue.
#Concordia - Deck building with muti-purpose cards, exploration, resources, clever combinations, awesome expansions.
#Endeavor: Age of Sail - Engine building with exploration, thematically brilliant, fabulous presentation, modular

The aches and pains are setting in as I recover from my 2nd COVID shot.  But that gives me time to type a little and dive into this "perfect game" idea.

has touched on two things that I think are significant.  One being the upgrading of two things for one action, or, I think in broader terms, this would be getting a lot for a little, or each action feeling it has some weight to it.  The second thing is the game not having any major weak points.  This could fall into that subjective category but I think, to some degree, an avid gamer can appreciate even a game they don't really enjoy playing based on it being well designed.  I think of this in terms of judging a beer style I don't prefer but still being able to look at it objectively without taking points away just because of my style preferences.

So let's dive a bit deeper into this rabbit hole, shall we...

I touched on #Gloomhaven and #Scythe has been touched on starting things off with a few "perfect game" features...

1. Game progression that allows each game to feel a little different or have a twist of some sort and matches experience (Gloomhaven)

2. The feeling of accomplishment from turn to turn and no weak areas (Scythe).  Or a higher payout in points or resources than investment (Wingspan).

3. Natural gameplay interactions between players that match well with the theme and don't feel forced.  Even in competition, players must interact successfully with opponents.

4. A pleasant tension (or difficulty) that creates enough challenge to breed stories and memories over the course of multiple games.

5. Art that is captivating, blends smoothly into theme and gameplay and draws the players in further.

#Wingspan has shot up the charts since it came out and has maintained a high ranking despite a theme that might have caught a few folks off guard when it came out.  I think the theme is actually quite approachable and may contribute to its success to some degree.  However, the gameplay seems to be what keeps people coming back to the table.  I think the engine building aspect of this game is its magic with there being several different types of engines that one can build.   I'm not sure it's the engine-building in and of itself that hits the right notes but maybe the same bit from #Scythe in which players can see how their actions pay off and may get a good payout from one action.  I simply added to 2 on this one.

I think with #Brass: Birmingham it comes down to the tight interweaving of interactions that influence point games and resource management.  This likely falls into the lack of a real weak area as in Scythe but also feels like something more social.  I'd add a social factor to the "perfect game" that allows space for self-deterministic gameplay (as in Brass, I can interact with others or try to create my own space on the board to some degree)

#Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is rated very highly and while I have not played it I know there is a glorious tension with this game that draws players back to the table over and over again.  I think I would enjoy playing this but have a feeling that Gloomhaven gives me the same experience with a pit more autonomy of character.  One aspect of Pandemic and other games like #Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island and #Spirit Island is the challenge and difficulty.  These are all co-op games as well and I am not sure that the "perfect game" would be co-op, but I do think it will be quite challenging and force players to make difficult decisions over the course of gameplay (Do I move and hit the monster with a huge swing or sit here and heal my ally who is down to two health?)

#Terraforming Mars brings my thinking back to Scythe or Brass and the idea that some form of player collaboration is important in the perfect game.  You should have to pay attention to what other players are doing to one degree or another. #Castles of Mad King Ludwig uses this well with the auction mechanic to make income and determine room prices each round.  

#Everdell #Scythe #Brass: Birmingham all have great art.  The "perfect game" would have the absolute best art.  It should be aesthetically pleasing in every way possible.  I would argue that the "perfect" game would use art in a meaningful way in the game.  Something like #Canvas but even better. #The Gallerist has a unique feature the allows the tiles players' place of the art they purchased to blend in with their player board.  Something along these lines should be incorporated.  


I could likely go on for a while down the game list.  I will stop here with these five takeaways and a few questions:

1. Game progression that allows each game to feel a little different or have a twist of some sort and matches experience (Gloomhaven)

2. The feeling of accomplishment from turn to turn and no weak areas (Scythe).  Or a higher payout in points or resources than investment (Wingspan).

3. Natural gameplay interactions between players that match well with the theme and don't feel forced.  Even in competition, players must interact successfully with opponents.

4. A pleasant tension (or difficulty) that creates enough challenge to breed stories and memories over the course of multiple games.

5. Art that is captivating, blends smoothly into theme and gameplay and draws the players in further.


What game aspect do you think I have missed that would be in the "perfect" game?

Do you think the perfect game already exists, and if so, what is it?

What game falls outside your normal game choices but you have found it is very good despite being outside your preferences?