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 Copyright Eric Pietrocupo

E-Mail: ericp[AT]lariennalibrary.com

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Mechanic Research

Page: Main.MechanicResearch - Last Modified : Mon, 30 Jul 18 - 2935 Visits

Some time ago, I wanted to do a mechanic database, because board game design is essentially about finding the right mechanic for your game because for me I rarely create new mechanics. It can happen, but the odds are really thin. Then when I design a board game, I will rarely come up with a mechanic that abstract well the theme of the game. I am stuck doing mechanic research that could match the idea of the game, and most of the time, the design is stuck until I stumble on the mechanic I need.

But then, I watched a lot of video game review and found interesting mechanics I would like to use in a game of mine, but sometimes, I don't even have a game in design that could use that mechanic, or don't have the time to design a game about that mechanic idea, or the mechanic is fine, but it's not a game in itself. So I thought I should put all those mechanics ideas somewhere that I could look back later for inspiration. Since I take a look at a lot of games, I forget how they actually get played, so when it's time to design, all that research is forgotten.

Another thing is that even if I do not like it, board games needs to be designed from mechanics, and since there is so much possibilities and combinations, it's hard to remember them all. On the other hand theme has a lot of possibilities too, but they are harder to forget, because they are applied to many other medium than board games. So this is why, I will list my findings below, try to categorize stuff as the list grows and maybe it could eventually lead to a mechanic database. But hey don't put your hopes too high as I don't think it will ever happen.

Feel free to get inspiration from this list for your design if you want. Still, the mechanic selection in this list is made according to my taste, it does not systematically list all the mechanics of the games I find. I'll put in parenthesis the Original Game that used this mechanic.

After Some Discussion, I am going to use the BGG mechanics categories for classification found here:


Since I don't have the time to play as many board games that I used to play and that I design less board games, this page is remaining idle for now.

Area Control / Area Influence

Face off, until a certain condition occurs (Omen: Reign of war, Smash UP, etc): Suitable for 2 player or solitaire. Cards get played on each side, normally there are multiple columns players can place cards and each column is a separate battle. When a certain condition is reached, total number of cards for both sides is common, the battle is resolved and the strongest player win the challenged resource. Cards could also be played face down for added mystery, or with a combination of face up/down cards.

Card Drafting

You Split and your opponent Choose (Shitenno): The source game does not use it this way, but the original mechanic should be you split a certain amount of resources, cards, or what ever in 2 groups and your opponent choses which groups he takes. This would work perfectly for 2 player game where 1 player has the control and split the resource the way he think is best, but let his opponent do the final choice.

Dice Rolling

Pay the difference to succeed (Dungeon Quest - Variant): This is one of my design where when you fail a skill check, you could collect 1 experience token, or pay the difference in experience token to succeed. So you have a certain amount of strategy on either if should worth the cost to succeed now. A similar variation for a stealth game is that the difference is paid in time.

Match the Opposing dice (Curse of the Black dice, Dungeon Roll): Usable for solitaire game, you have Enemy dice which are rolled which determines your opposition, and you have your dice that you roll and try to match or exceed the enemy dices to succeed.

Hand Management

Cards are used as Resources and Abilities (San Juan and Many others): A common mechanic where cards in your hand can be used as resources to buy other cards will put in play. So each cards is used as money or for it's special ability once played. Other variation of mine is to put in a deck building and give each card various money output which can also be of different type. So that as you build your deck, it will make you lean toward a direction or another. In an idea of mine, you used spell cards, to research other spell cards, but they needed to match color, so that if you buy more of a color, buying cards of the same color will be easier later.

All or nothing cost in card design (Epic Card Game): You simply thin down the cost range of cards to something every small, or have a cost of 0 or 1, so that Almost all cards are equal, but some could be better or more restrictive by giving them a cost of 1. This is interesting for game with shared deck of cards, but when you do not want all cards to have the same level of power.

Push your Luck

Flip until you get a double color (Port Royale and many other): A simple push your luck abstract mechanism where you flip cards, until you get 2 cards of the same color displayed or until you wish to stop. If you get 2 cards of the same color, you bust and lose your turn. If you stop before busting, you acquire the cards or resources.

Route/Network Building

Obstacle Course building or challenging (Boss Monsters): The idea is having a series of obstacles that the player can build to protect what ever he wants or that can be built and must be faced by the player. Could be used as push your luck dungeon crawler, or build your dungeon and protect when ever thing you want to defend. Suitable for solitaire game play.

Secret Unit Deployment

Forward secret planning with face down cards (Sun Tzu): You play face down combat cards on each territory as your planning for the round and then reveal and resolve. Similar to "LOTR confrontation", it requires a low number of territories and be only a 2 player game to be convenient to play. Would work well for game with rebellion card are placed secretly. Or a ww2 pacific game where you don't know where the player is going to move the bulk of his fleets.

Worker Placement

Build stuff other players can use (Caylus, Lords of Waterdeep): You basically place a building into play that other players can use but you also gain benefits from it. For example, you set up a weapon shop and other players comes to your weapon shop to buy weapon. You are helping other players in their quest but you are also gaining money when they spend it in your shop. I find it very rewarding to build stuff that your opponent can use and it balance out also the game, but I think it is more likely suitable for games with 3 or more players.


Limited resources (Invisible Inc, Hero Quest): Invisible inc is the best example as you have limited storage space, time, Cyber augment space, resource, items to purchase, item usage, etc. Those limit creates a huge amount of tension and stress to the player even for a turn based strategy video game. Hero quest has limited potions where some of them are linked to a random roll. This is less interesting because you are unsure of the effect. So when you have a lot of restriction, its better to be sure it's going to work.


	Action / Movement Programming

Action Point Allowance System

	Area Control / Area Influence

Area Enclosure

	Area Movement




	Campaign / Battle Card Driven

Card Drafting

	Chit-Pull System

Co-operative Play

	Commodity Speculation

Crayon Rail System

	Deck / Pool Building

Dice Rolling

	Grid Movement

Hand Management


Line Drawing


Modular Board



	Pattern Building

Pattern Recognition

	Pick-up and Deliver

Player Elimination

	Point to Point Movement

Press Your Luck


Role Playing

	Roll / Spin and Move

Route/Network Building

	Secret Unit Deployment

Set Collection


Simultaneous Action Selection


Stock Holding


Take That

	Tile Placement

Time Track



	Variable Phase Order

Variable Player Powers


Worker Placement

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