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Beautiful Mechanics
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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These are mechanics that make we want to shake the originator by the hand and say "well done". They show imagination and flair above and beyond the call of duty.

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1. Board Game: No Thanks! [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:334]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Extortion" Mechanic

Basically you pay money to avoid picking up a card that (usually) counts against your score. The first player to refuse to pay picks the horrible card up and all the payments made to that point.

So many games require you to bid to buy good cards - here you bid to avoid receiving bad cards. How evil is that??!! Prepare to rewire your brain. I predict that this mechanic will find a home in many games in the future. Simple, elegant, beautiful.
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2. Board Game: Canal Grande [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:2181]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "I Divide You Choose" Mechanic

One player gets a set of actions, which he must split into two piles. His opponent chooses one of the piles and plays it, leaving the second pile for the player who did the splitting.

A lot of fun in gaming derives from the agonies of decision making, and no more so than in this game. The mechanism also provides the game balance.

San Marco used the mechanism before Canal Grande. Mr Moon et al, I salute you.
 
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3. Board Game: Merchants of the Middle Ages [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:974]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Social Status" Mechanic

So many economic games have a "rich get richer" problem. Die Handler solves this elegantly with the Social Status mechanic, that is cleverly true to life. Instead of "richest wins" it is "highest social status" wins, with players paying increasing money to climb the social ladder, with increasing upkeep costs required to maintain your new-found status. Can't pay for your giddy lifestyle? Then fall down the ladder and lose!

Age of Steam's income reduction step is similar in effect, but Die Handler is much more thematic. After all, millionaires go bankrupt too!
 
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4. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:280]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Production Line" Mechanic

You have to play cards in your hand in the order that you received them. Sometimes the order will screw you, unless you can trade the problem cards from your hand.

Such a clever and original mechanic, that it is sometimes difficult to explain the game, though once you "get it", it becomes ludicrously simple.
 
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5. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:173]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Sneaky Bid" Mechanic

Amun Re is a game I enjoy, with many mechanics that I've seen elsewhere - except for the province bid mechanic.

All provinces are up for auction simultaneously, and the auction ends when each province has no more than one competing bidder. The twist is that you can't bid for the same province twice in a row - you are forced to bid for something else before you can go back.

Bidding in most games requires you to think of the price you're willing to pay, and that's about it. Amun Re requires you to think of HOW you are going to submit the bid at the price you are willing to pay. Nail-biting and delicious.
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6. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:718]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Seer" Mechanic

For me, Werewolf only works because a character exists who knows a little bit more than everybody else, wants to tell the world what he knows, but can't.

A Russian parlour game - somebody in Russia has a very impressive parlour.
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7. Board Game: Mü & More [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:519]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Look at My Hand as I Bid" Mechanic

Bid for tricks by putting cards from your hand on the table. When trick-taking starts, the cards bid onto the table are played from the table. Furthermore, this is a partnership game, so partnerships can be decided upon based on the cards sitting in front of each person!

It's so clever that I'm too stupid to play it at all well. I just love the idea each time I play it.
 
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8. Board Game: A Game of Thrones (first edition) [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:190]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Simultaneous Action" Mechanic

Diplomacy is a game I would love to play, but finding seven like-minded individuals was never going to happen, and the order system always scared me. A Game of Thrones allows diplomacy and simple order writing through the placement of action tokens on regions. The actions have a simple order of resolution that allow players to make and break alliances on the fly, and voila, diplomacy breaks out. When you read the rules for the first time, you just want to play it.
 
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9. Board Game: Poker [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:680]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Blinds" Mechanic

Poker could be such a dull game without the Blinds - compulsory bets imposed on two of the players. Suddenly players are forced to bet even if they don't have a hand - instantly the game becomes a dynamic bluff-fest. It's amazing what money can do...
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10. Board Game: Discovery [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:6042]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The "Where am I?" Mechanic

You are dropped onto a map but you don't where you are. Move a few steps and your opponent will tell you what terrain you have crossed. Mark the terrain on an acetate sheet and overlay on the map that you have. Eventually, with the right moves you can work out where you are and where you want to get to.

It's a brilliant idea - unfortunately the rest of the game tends to peter out.
 
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11. Board Game: Gang of Four [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1114]
The Seal of Approval
Austria
Vienna
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Beautiful mechanics in this card game too. Every player has 16 cards and tries to get rid of them. The cards can be combined in different patterns (single, pairs, triples, or different five-card patterns). A starting player defines which pattern is to be used, then every player can try to lay down cards accordingly (and possibly destroy higher-valued patters in the process) or pass. But if you pass too long and keep your nifty patterns for the finishing move, you could easily lose the game.
 
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12. Board Game: Neuland [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1348]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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The Action Points Meet Turn Order Mechanic

Neuland has this very beautiful way to combine turn order with action points. It's brilliance was obvious the moment it was explained to me. Players can spend up to 10 action points each turn, moving forward on the blue track shown in the picture. After player quits his or her turn, the turn order pawn moves on, until it meets a player pawn. That player is now in turn and spend another 10 action points. Players can juggle the turn order and take as long turn as they need to. What a brilliant mechanic!
 
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13. Board Game: Fairy Tale [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:524]
Andreas Burger
Italy
Bozen
Italy
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A very intressing Card draw Mechanis...
 
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14. Board Game: Nuclear War [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:1775]
Joe Childers
United States
Dayton
Ohio
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I have always been impressed with having to plan your action an extra turn or two ahead (I forget which).
 
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15. Board Game: Boomtown [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:988]
John Elbl
United States
Boston
Massachusetts
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Pass the winning bid auction mechanic:

The winner of the bid passes it to his right. That player takes half the winnings, and passes the remainder to their right, etc.

Winner picks a cards then the left player gets a selection...

So the person with no choice in the cards received half the winning bid.
 
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16. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:213]
M C
Canada
Lethbridge
Alberta
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The "who shall I be this turn" Mechanic

So simple, yet such a variety of strategies. You pick a different role each turn. Each role has different pros and cons, inluding turn order.
 
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17. Board Game: O Zoo le Mio [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:955]
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Stop poking me! Ow! I mean it! That hurts!
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The "Flagpole" mechanic

Wonderfully simple but has only shown up in very few games - of which I think this is the best known.

Each player's 'rank' for tiebreak is their position on the flagpole - the higher you are, the better your tiebreak position. But if you win a tie, you get bumped to the bottom of the pole.

Makes for excellent depth in the bidding - do you deliberately bid a little higher than you would otherwise, just to try and force a tie so you can bump off the current leader on the pole? Or, alternately, bid a little higher to try and maintain your position? A fantastic mechanic that deserves to be used in other games.
 
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18. Board Game: Crude: The Oil Game [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1230]
Robert Rossney
United States
San Francisco
California [CA]
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This is the earliest game I know of to use this mechanic:

A track determines the price of a commodity. If you sell one unit, you put it on the highest-priced open space on the track, selling it for that price. The next unit sold will sell for the (now) highest price, driving the price down further.

If you buy the commodity, you buy the cheapest one on the track, which sends the price up.

An extremely simple and elegant way of making pricing reflect supply and demand.
 
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19. Board Game: Schoko & Co. [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:2167]
Robert Rossney
United States
San Francisco
California [CA]
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The "reverse Dutch auction" mechanic.

Here's how the auction works in Ambition/Schocko & Co.: A sales contract specifies the number of tons of chocolate (from 10 to 60) that will be bought, and the minimum price per ton. In turn order, each player has the option of accepting the price or passing. If everyone passes, the price goes up.

This continues until the price is high enough for someone to accept, or it hits the maximum value and no one agrees to sell.

The trick is that a fixed number of contracts are available each turn. (How that number is decided is an interesting mechanic, but not a beautiful one.) So if you pass on selling 40 tons of chocolate for 15,000/ton, there's a risk that a) someone else will accept that price, and b) no more contracts asking for that much chocolate will appear this turn.

Note that the price-setting mechanic is similar to the Dutch auction in Merchants of Amsterdam, only a) in that auction, the price is lowered until someone agrees to buy, and b) it's regulated by a timer. You could play Merchants of Amsterdam without using a timer, by letting players accept or pass in player order and lowering the price by 10,000 every round, but it would make the auctions take longer.
 
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20. Board Game: Genoa [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:290]
Robert Rossney
United States
San Francisco
California [CA]
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The "everything is fungible" mechanic.

In Traders of Genoa, practically every resource in the game can be traded as part of a deal. You can trade money, wares, action tiles, cards, and the results of the action that you're trading for. (A typical proposal: "If you move the tower to the Metals space and let me take the action, and you give me a Privilege card of your choice, I'll give you one of the wares I get from the action -- I choose which -- and 30 ducats.")

Interestingly, in another Rudiger Dorn game, Jambo, everything is fungible too. You can trade goods for money (and vice versa), cards for goods (and vice versa), and money for cards (and vice versa). But in Jambo, you can only make these trades if your cards let you, and getting (and using) these cards costs you the other commodity: time.
 
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21. Board Game: Battlestations [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:911]
Jonah Johnson
United States
Van Nuys
California
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first i like the game because of using just D6's. but the mechanic that made me go.......hmmmmmmm, that is a good idea, was how a ship takes damage with shields. you take the power of your ships gun in dice add the power of the targets shields in dice and roll them all together. remove the number of dice equal to the shields level, with highest dice first and you have the damage to the ship.
 
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22. Board Game: Attack Vector: Tactical [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:2988]
Ken Burnside
United States
Milwaukee
Wisconsin
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Mechanics of note:

1) The entire 3-D movement/firing arc/display system. Tilt blocks, box miniatures and stacking tiles allow the full orientation and altitude of the ship to be shown on the map, where it's supposed to be in a wargame. Greatly improves the visualization aspects of playing in 3-D. The firing arc system manages to hide an incredible amount of scary math behind a 3 foot thick plexiglass barrier. The "how long it takes to change facing as a function of time", plus the simple "Draw an arrow from where you're pointing now to where you want to be pointing" mechanism are unlike anything I've seen elsewhere.

2) The use of color coding in addition to numbers/arrows/symbols to layer an incredible amount of information into tables, while still keeping them usable. An example is the thrust chart in this game, or the Range/Angle Lookup Table.

3) The head bending Newtonian reference frame shifting mechanic for seeking weapons. It takes a really nasty simulation problem (launching seeking weapons in a 3-D vector environment) and reduces it down to the target's ship's persepctive "Seekers inbound on bearing 030 + 30, closing at 1.5 hexes per segment. Evasion parameter is 000 - 60 for 4 fuel units."

4) A die rolling mechanic I havn't seen done elsewhere - roll 2 10 sided dice, subtract the smaller from the larger. This is used in multiple places in the game, where the goal is to avoid adding a lookup table for something.
3).

(Percentage breakdown: 0 = 10%, 1 = 18%, 2 = 16%, 3 = 14%, 4 = 12%, 5 = 10%, 6 = 8%, 7 = 6%, 8 = 4%, 9 = 2%)

It also has a number of other neat mechanics, but these are the ones I've never seen in this game.
 
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23. Board Game: Silent Death [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1829]
Bob Core
United States
Cocoa
Florida
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I really like the hit/damage mechanics of this game. Makes it quick and easy.
 
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24. Board Game: Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Series [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1034]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The Dogfight Mechanic

I had forgotten all about this one, and it's fabulous. The game consists of two books showing all the possible views from the respective cockpits of the two players, engaged in a dogfight. Each player chooses a manoeuvre which translates via a table into a new page number for each player. The new page shows the new position of you -vs- your opponent. Get your opponent in the crosshairs before he ducks underneath and gets you instead!!

One of the most portable games going - I played this everywhere, the school bus queue, maths lessons..... Extremely innovative and simple.
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25. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:273]
Chris Spencer
United Kingdom
London
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The Playing Card Battle Mechanic

Friedrich contains one of the simplest but subtlest combat resolution mecahanics devised.

You have a hand of cards similar to normal playing cards, with suits (H,C,D,S) and values, plus jokers (any suit, (almost) any value). When you attack an opponent you play cards of the suit appropriate to the position you are attacking from (some territory is "Diamond" land, some is "Spade" land etc). Your opponent parries by playing cards appropriate to the territory in which his attacked army resides. You can only play cards when the cards (and army strength) you have so far played is less than that of your opponents. If you don't play a card, you lose and retreat.

It's a simple, slightly abstract mechanic that forces long term strategic thinking ("if I use all my Diamonds to win the battle, how will I defend my Diamond territory?") and rewards the tactical retreat. Losing the battle but winning the war is the overarching theme in this game, and it's due mainly to this ingenious mechanic
 
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