TABLETOP 101

Types of games

by Raul, Quartermaster @ The Guild Hall

March 05 2019

We live in a golden era of games where we have access to thousands and thousands of wonderful games and accessories. Some core mechanics can be identified in most games and it is easy to find what you want to play using that knowledge. You can find a short description of said mechanics in our Popular Mechanics in Board Games article. But as we know, mechanics are not the only way of distinguishing between games, as many games are built very differently from each other by the very structure they were built on. So, in order to make things a little clearer, we have put together a list that will help you narrow down quicker the number of games that are worthy of your collection.

1. Wargames

A special type of games that try to simulate battles ranging from small skirmishes to large-scale epic confrontations. Players oversee moving armies across the table top and try to win the battle by outmaneuvering the other armies and striking at the perfect moment and with the correct combination of troops. There is a large spectrum of games here that try to simulate things in detail or just use abstract representations to create the feel of you being a general in charge of an army.

Miniature Wargames

Warning – this is a huge hobby that will take over your life. Representing many different eras and settings, historical or fantasy, using different scales of representation and involving a lot of hand painting, wargames from this category rely on 3D miniatures and terrain to simulate the battlefield. You will be expected to put together plastic or metal miniatures using glue, to paint them by hand, to create a play surface with elements of natural terrain and buildings, to deploy your troops and then spend hours and hours fighting your opponent. Usually, this is the most spectacular and “eye candy” of all the games (when done right) but rules are contained in huge tomes and the learning curve is generally very steep.

If you’re interested in miniature wargames here’s a guide to skirmish miniature wargames, you can join the community, and get your minis painted at one of our miniature painting workshop

Examples of miniature wargames: Warhammer 40.000, Infinity, Imperial Assault Skirmish, Age of Sigmar/Nightvault, X-Wing

Hex & Counter

These kind of games put emphasis on realism and detailed rules. Simulation is key here and they can get very complex and complicated. They are played, as the name suggests, on boards that are covered in hexagons, and movement and rules are a lot more exact and strict than in the miniature version. Units are represented by cardboard chits that have necessary combat information written on them. Tactics and strategies are very detailed, and most of the time the games deal with real, historical battles on an enormous scale. The learning curve is usually very very steep. I would say these games are perfect for players who are very passionate about history and historical accuracy.
As a side mention, this category also contains the rare games where battles are simulated with playing cards or with blocks, but they are few and far in between.
Examples of Hex & Counter games: Advanced Squad Leader, Combat Commander: Europe, No Retreat: The Russian Front

2. LCG & TCG

When it comes to card games, there are two very interesting categories. LCG – Living Card Games and TCG – Trading Card Games. These types of games are unique by the simple fact that they are not contained in a single box. Usually, you will receive in the starter box some basic cards to play the game, but the experience is dependent on buying more and more cards to add to your collection. The pleasure comes from always expanding your card pool and being able to have hundreds of options to build your decks, depending on your whim or situation. At the table, you will always use one deck of cards to duel your opponent’s deck (this is the standard format but not the only one), but you will spend hours before that carefully building said deck from the collection you own. Deck building is in itself a mini-game and seeing if you can defeat your opponent’s deck is a stimulating challenge.

LCG – Living Card Games

Examples of LCG: Netrunner LCG, A Game of Thrones LCG, Arkham Horror LCG, Star Wars
Living Card Games follow the same pattern. You buy a Core Set that will give you a basic selection of cards to play with, and after familiarizing yourself with the system and cards, you can start adding expansion packs to your collection. These packs are not randomized, and you will always know what you get inside them. Companies who produce these games will release expansions that are linked between then by a theme or a story making everything that much more exciting. Organized play is a massive thing when it comes to these games, and a community will form very fast around a good system. They can be competitive or cooperative in nature.

TCG – Trading Card Games

Trading Card Games are very similar to LCGs (or LCGs are similar to TCGs, depending on who you ask). The main difference comes from the fact that in this case, expansions to your main collection are published in packs that contain random cards. The well-known “boosters” are the primary product in this case, small packs with a random selection of cards. As the name suggests, the driving force behind this game is the idea of trading cards you don’t need for cards to add to your deck. In Living Card Games, trade is not very well developed as cards are part of scenarios or story arcs or specific factions. In Trading Card Games, on the other hand, the selection is much larger and important cards are harder to obtain, as sometimes opening boosters is luck based. Also, the competitive aspect of the game is essential, and a large community is the basic foundation for TCGs to exist and then thrive. Events and competition are the best place to test out your deck and the new cards you recently acquired, but they are also the perfect place to trade cards with your friends.
Examples of TCG:
Magic the Gathering, You-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon TCG

3. Boardgames

A vast number of games fall into this category. As the name suggests, this genre of games has a board of some sort (or more than one in some cases) that gets placed in the middle of the table within easy reach of all players. Or players have their own individual boards in front of them with many moving parts and components to keep track of points and actions. The games will have miniatures, tokens, wooden or plastic cubes and dice or a combination of all of them.

Euro Games

Board games that have everything to do with economic elements. Commerce, trade, building an economic engine that produces goods and valuables, stock exchange and market manipulation, building an infrastructure, houses and factories, colonies, developing civilizations or empires, all of this are some of the characteristics that belong to this category. Sometimes player interaction is low, but here you can find some of the most complex games ever created for the table top.
Examples of Euro Games: Catan, Concordia, Castles of Burgundy, Raiders of the North Sea

Ameritrash

A name that generally describes games were action and conflict are the focus. If Eurogames bring strategy and tactics to the table and the possibility to win without firing a single shot, Ameritrash games will let you attack your opponents in a more direct way promoting a more competitive and aggressive approach to scoring points. Sabotage, attacks, stealing and destruction of assets, these are all words that fit this type of games.
Examples of Ameritrash games: King of Tokyo, Munchkin, Cosmic Encounters

Party Games

Short and easy rules, quick gameplay and the ability to learn the game as you play. These are the games you bring with you on vacation or when your players are people who aren’t into long and complex games and prefer fast games instead. Perfect to introduce new players to the world of board games or for those occasions when you need to involve a lot of players and complicated rules are just not an option. Very fun and focused on repeat play and not on prolonged game sessions that could lose the interest of some of the involved gamers.
Examples of Party Games: 5 Second Rule (5 Secunde), Ca$h ‘n Guns 2nd Ed., Cards Against Humanity, Imagine, Jungle Speed, Codenames, Activity

Coop Games

A category that stands apart because games found here usually unite the players in a group that attempts to beat the game. You might need to survive a certain number of turns or to explore some dungeon and fight monsters, maybe save the world from apocalypse or fight aliens or supervillains. Players will need to use their unique abilities to complement their partners in order to overcome the obstacles thrown at them by the game and reach the end in one piece. Teamwork is key here and selfishness is heavily discouraged.

Abstract Strategy Games

An interesting category where we have games that don’t rely on a story or a theme or anything flashy in order to attract players. They are mechanic-based games that offer the players the opportunity to use their brain power without any distractions. Usually, these games are straightforward as far as rules go but extremely deep in tactics and strategy. You will need to defeat the game or your opponent using your ability to plan ahead and your capacity to optimize moves and actions to a very high degree.
Examples of Abstract Strategy Games: Azul, Number 9, Patchwork, Cottage garden

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