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A gameplay mechanism (or often mechanic) is a metaphorical term referring to a functional aspect of a game.

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.

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

  • auction of the sites and 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 and balanced construction of pyramids


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

Mechanic Description Examples
A game where players must represent another/perform theatrically.
Times Up!
Action/Movement Programming

Area control/Area influence

Action Point Allowance System
Players get a set number of points each turn to devote to various actions, at their discretion.
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 and this choice makes the game develop on more than one front.
El Grande, Dead of Winter, War of the ring
Game is articulated through a series of impulses, a mean of activating map areas and moving units in those areas to accomplish movement and combat.
Storm over Arnhem, Thunder at Cassino, Turning Point: Stalingrad, Breakout: Normandy
Players bid or auction on resources to get them and win.
Modern Art, Ra
Players act evaluating cards value, discarding them, making a guess on the result and bidding on it.
Campaign/Battle Card Driven
Cards or campaign text depict events, and the challenge is in making decisions and plan their usage to win.
We the people, Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, Twilight Struggle
Card Drafting
Party evolve by planning, balancing resources, upgrading characters and facilities via decks of cards.
Through the Ages, Mage Knight
Chit-Pull System
Player manages groups of units, resolving simultaneous action and issues of command and control.
Zulus on the ramparts, A victory lost
Co-operative Play
Players work together toward a common goal. In purely cooperative games all players win or lose together. Semi-cooperative games may have unknown traitors. Cooperative play sometimes coexists in tension with competitive scoring.
Pandemic, Escape, Battlestar Galactica, Castle Panic
Commodity Speculation
Players buy and sell resources or company shares in the hopes of predicting price changes and making money.
Acquire, Kanban, Merchant of Venus
Crayon Rail System
Players draw tracks between cities. See also Route/Network building.
Empire builder, Eurorails
Deck/Pool Building

Dominion, Star Realms, Marvel Legendary
Dice Rolling

Roll for the Galaxy, Mice and Mystics
Grid movement

Space Hulk, Forbidden Desert
Hand Management

Androind: Netrunner, Through the Ages

Twilight Imperium, Advanced Squad Leader,
Line Drawing

Telestrations, Pictionary, Cranium

Codenames, Hanabi, Coup, Sleuth, Clue,
Modular Board
The playing area consists of tiles, cards, or other pieces that can be placed in multiple arrangements. Placement may be random or fixed according to a scenario.
Settlers of Catan, Mansions of Madness

Eat poop you cat, Scattergories

The Resistance, Dune, Tragedy Looper, Ultimate Werewolf
Pattern Building

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Pattern Recognition

Quirkle, Ingenious, Ubongo, Jungle Speed, Cathedral, Pentagon
Pick-up and Deliver

Merchants and Marauders, Indonesia, Genoa
Player elimination

Magic: The Gathering, King of Tokyo, Diplomacy
Point to Point Movement

Arkham Horror, Tales of the Arabian Nights
Press your Luck

Goa, Ra, Incan Gold
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.
Sid Meier's Civilization, Yomi, Dungeon Quest
Role Playing

Chaos in the old world, Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Roll/Spin and Move

Monopoly, Marrakech, Formula Dè
Route/Network building
See also Crayon Rail System.
Power Grid, Railways of the World, Food Chain Magnate
Secret Unit Deployment

Letters from Whitechapel, Fury of Dracula
Set Collection
Players seek prescribed combinations of items, such as three-of-a-kind. Turning in sets typically yields rewards or fulfills a victory condition.
Gin Rummy, Lords of Waterdeep

Castles of Burgundy, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Splendor
Simultaneous Action Selection
Instead of taking turns in order, all players choose their moves and then reveal them simultaneously to be resolved.
7 Wonders

Stock Holding

Mombasa, Rapa Nui, Tesla vs Edison

Tales of the Arabian Nights, Dixit, Rory's Story Cubes
Take That

Cosmic Encounter, Saboteur, Bang, Munchkin
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.
Time Track

Horus Heresy

Tikal, Antiquity, Fief
Players lay down cards, typically following the suit of the first card in each round. The values of the cards determine the winner, that collects all cards played in that round. A certain number of tricks may be needed to win, or certain cards taken in tricks may give positive or negative points.
Hearts, Haggis, Rook
Variable Phase Order

Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy, Citadels, Myth
Variable Player Powers
Players play according to slightly different rules due to that there are different factions or roles in the game.
Cosmic Encounter, Dominant Species, Sentinel of the Multiverse
Players vote to determine a group's decision.
Werewolf, Battlestar Galactica, Patchistory
Worker Placement

Agricola, Terra Mystica, Caylus, Caverna, Le Havre, Orleans, Ora et Labora
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.
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