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mechanism

A gameplay mechanism (or often mechanic) is a metaphorical term referring to a functional aspect of a game. This is perhaps best explained through examples:

Example

In Candyland, there is one central mechanism that drives the game: You draw a card, then move to the next space whose color matches that card. This could be considered a type of roll-and-move mechanism.

Example

In Amun-Re, there are multiple significant mechanisms, which include:

  • auction of the sites
  • blind bidding in making offerings to Amun-Re
  • resource management in maximizing the efficacy of your funds and income
  • secret agendas from power cards
  • competitive construction of pyramids
  • balanced construction of pyramids

Observations

As with a physical machine comprising many mechanisms, a game with multiple mechanisms is more wondrous and difficult to fully analyze. As a result, repeated plays of such a game will tend to satisfy an adult much more than repeated plays of a game with a single mechanism. On the other hand, a game with few mechanisms will be easier for someone new to games (e.g. young children) to understand. If a game has more mechanisms than a player can deal with, it most likely will result in great frustration and disinterest for that prospective player.

Sometimes elegantly wondrous permutations of play can be produced with few, but well-meshed mechanisms. Such games tend to be easy to teach, easy to play, but not easy to solve.

BGG-Recognized Mechanisms

To do:
  • Create the missing target page for each mechanism with a redirect to the Glossary, e.g. [ redirect=Glossary#name of the mechanism ] (without the spaces before and after the brackets). Add the mechanism to the Glossary, and define the mechanism in the Glossary. Definitions for most of the mechanisms are found when you hover over the name of the mechanism in a game entry.
  • Since most definitions are only a line or two in their respective pages, for ease of access and reference this list should be a table with the definition in the second column.
Mechanic Description Examples
Acting
A game where players must represent another/perform theatrically.
Times Up!
Action Point Allowance System
Players get a set number of points each turn to devote to various actions, at their discretion.
Tikal
Area Enclosure
This term refers to the mechanism that has a player attempting to surround or fence off an area - usually in order to control it, cause it to score, or eliminate it from play.
Go, Boxes
Area Movement
A mechanism used chiefly for war games, movement traverses irregular areas rather than a grid.

Area-Impulse
Area-impulse is a game mechanism. Each impulse, players activate map areas and move units in those areas to accomplish movement and combat. Used in Avalon Hill titles such as Storm over Arnhem, Thunder at Cassino, Turning Point: Stalingrad and Breakout: Normandy.

Auction/Bidding
A game that features players bidding on resources as the main mechanism. Also called a bidding game.
Modern Art, Ra
Betting/Wagering


Campaign/Battle Card Driven


Card Drafting


Chit-Pull System


Co-operative Play
Players work together toward a common goal. In purely cooperative games (e.g., Pandemic), all players win or lose together. Semi-cooperative games may have unknown traitors (e.g., Battlestar Galactica). Cooperative play sometimes coexists in tension with competitive scoring (e.g., Castle Panic).
Pandemic
Commodity Speculation
Players buy and sell resources or company shares in the hopes of predicting price changes and making money.
Acquire
Crayon Rail System


Dice Rolling


Hand Management


Hex-and-Counter


Line Drawing


Memory


Modular Board
The playing area consists of tiles, cards, or other pieces that can be placed in multiple arrangements. Placement may be random (e.g., The Settlers of Catan) or fixed according to a scenario (e.g., Mansions of Madness).
The Settlers of Catan
Paper-and-Pencil


Partnerships


Pattern Building


Pattern Recognition


Pick-up and Deliver


Point to Point Movement


Rock-Paper-Scissors
A kind of unit, move, or strategy is balanced, winning against some alternatives and losing to others. The best play varies, depending on what the opponent chooses.

Role Playing


Roll-and-Move


Secret Unit Deployment


Set Collection
Players seek prescribed combinations of items, such as three-of-a-kind in Poker. Turning in sets typically yields rewards (e.g., victory points in Lords of Waterdeep) or fulfills a victory condition (e.g., in Gin Rummy).
Gin Rummy
Simulation


Simultaneous Action Selection
Instead of taking turns in order, all players choose their moves and then reveal them simultaneously to be resolved.
7 Wonders
Singing


Stock Holding


Storytelling


Tile Placement
Players take turns in laying tiles in positions allowed by the rules. Tiles may constitute a modular board (see above), but not all modular boards are laid by players' choice.
Carcassonne
Trading


Trick-taking
Players lay down cards, typically following the suit of the first card in each round. The values of the cards determine the winner, who collects all cards played in that round (i.e., a trick). A certain number of tricks may be needed to win (e.g., Bridge), or certain cards taken in tricks may give positive or negative points (e.g., Hearts).
Hearts
Variable Phase Order


Variable Player Powers
Players play according to slightly different rules due to that there are different factions or roles in the game.
Cosmic Encounter
Voting
Players vote to determine a group's decision (e.g., which villager to lynch in Werewolf).
Werewolf, Battlestar Galactica
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