Popular Mechanics in Board Games

September 14 2018

New to the entire board game phenomenon? Feeling a little overwhelmed by the vast number of titles being released each month? Having difficulties with finding a game that fits your personal taste and style of play? No problem. The Guild Hall Team has put together a list of the most popular mechanics you will find in modern board games, just for you.

How to use this little guide:

Skim this list and find the mechanics that you find appealing to you or your group of friends. Each of these mechanics is associated with certain games that you might want to consider for your collection. The list will include some examples of the most popular games in that category and a concise description of the mechanic. But wait…. there’s more. This guide is just the start and we will follow up with a series of articles that will take each category and have a more in-depth look at it and at the games linked to it. In this manner, you will have a complete idea of what to expect when choosing a game to add to your collection.

Boardgame Mechanics:

Worker Placement

Players can place game pieces or tokens on individual slots on the gameboard and receive (immediately or later) a certain amount of goods or points in exchange.
Examples of worker placement games: Lords of Waterdeep, Stone Age

Dice Rolling

As the name suggests, players roll dice to obtain certain values or symbols needed to trigger actions or to score points.
Examples of dice rolling games: Age of War, Escape: The Curse of the Temple

Take That

The kind of game mechanics that allow you to attack your opponent directly by stealing goods or points or by lowering their hit points.
Examples of take that games: King of Tokyo, Munchkin

Set Collection

You must collect cards, tiles or tokens in order to achieve certain combinations that will score according to the game rules.
Examples of set collection games: Sushi Go Party, Jaipur, Elysium

Card Drafting

Players will select a card from multiple choices in their hand or on the table leaving the rest as options for the other players.
Examples of Card Drafting games: 7 Wonders, Terraforming Mars, Majesty: For the Realm

Variable Player Powers

Each player has a unique ability that can be used under certain circumstances during the round.
Examples of Card Drafting games: Cosmic Encounters, Forbidden Desert, Pandemic

Area Control

Pieces are placed in regions marked on the gameboard and the player who holds the majority (usually) will win the points associated with that region when scoring is triggered.
Examples of aria control games: Kemet, Dominant Species, Blood Rage

Action Programming

Games where players select in advance the movement and actions of their game pieces and then follow them from start to finish, without any opportunity to alter them.
Examples of action programming games:
Space Alert, Colt Express, Robbo Rally

Story Telling

Games driven forward by a story or by “choose your own adventure” type of system. Players decide on a narrative course and follow the story to the conclusion.
Examples of story telling games: Tales of the Arabian Nights, T.I.M.E. Stories

Push your luck

Players can end their round at any given time and score points or continue to play in order to obtain more points, but they run the risk of losing everything by triggering a turn ending condition.
Examples of Euro Games: Port Royal, Ra

Tile Placement

In this type of games, players will select and place small tiles in contact with other tiles already on the table in order to form certain terrain types or shapes or combinations that will generate points during or at the end of the game.
Examples of tile placement games: Carcassonne, Isle of Sky: From Chieftan to King


Players are on the same side and work together to beat the game. There is usually a time or a round limit to achieve this.
Examples of co-operative games: Pandemic, Shadows over Camelot, Hanabi


Exchanges of goods, points or anything else are the key to success in this kind of games. Players are free or conditioned by rules to offer and receive tokens, coins or all sorts of commodities.
Examples of trading games: Catan, Monopoly

Hand Management

Players start the game with a number of cards in hand and must play them in such a manner that certain game effect or tricks are achieved or triggered.
Examples of hand management games:
Tichu, Twilight Struggle

Pick Up and Deliver

Goods and resources need to be picked up from areas on the board and transported to different areas of the map where they can be exchanged for points or rewards of other kinds.
Examples of pick up and deliver games:
Firefly, Merchants & Marauders

Deck Building

Usually, players start with the same combination of cards in their hand and will try to add to it more and better cards to improve the chances of triggering some special actions or scoring points.

Route Building

Different points on the map need to be connected by placing gaming pieces in such a way that a continuous route is created. Routes that link points will score in accordance to game rules.
Examples of route building games:
Ticket to Ride: Europe, Saboteur, Airlines Europe
Please keep in mind that this is just a selection of the most used mechanics in games and by no means an exhaustive list. Modern board games are more complex than those you could find a decade ago and they will combine in one box several of the mechanics mentioned on the above list. We made a selection that will keep things simple and easy to understand for everybody but remember that for any advice or clarifications you can always rely on our staff at The Guild Hall. The highly trained specialists will help you find the best game for you in a matter of minutes. See you in our store.

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