Game Mechanics 101

At the onset of board games exploding into mainstream life, games were simple: roll the dice to move X number of spaces around a square board, then use a specific element to perform some action, like making a guess (Clue) or avoiding bombs (Stratego). Most classic games follow this pattern, whether it is Monopoly, Sorry!, or Candy Land. It took over half a century and some German ingenuity, but board games have finally developed to be more unique and complex. With the surplus of games released each year (thousands in the last 5 years) it is daunting to choose the style and theme that you enjoy most.

Enter the game mechanic. This fancy term refers to the methods used to drive the game. Most games today can be divided into categories such as: dice rolls, cards, and freestyle. While some of these driving factors can be controlled, others are decided by fate. So which type might suit you best?

Dice Rolls

Here we are talking about games where dice rolls help determine the outcome. For example, in Catan, you receive resources to progress your empire of settlements. If you receive no resources from dice rolls, you cannot grow your empire. These types of games rely on the player understanding probability of certain dice results, and also a bit of luck. Modern games use this probability/chance idea from classic games – but – add in multiple strategy components so players have more control over what result the dice rolls would provide. The boards are no longer square and players can move in almost any direction. Modern dice rolling games, while similar to classic games, have boards vastly different than their predecessors – helping to keep them fresh.


Dominion and Hogwarts Battle are two games that utilize cards to determine game flow, and often modern games using cards are ‘deck builders.’ As the name suggests, these are games where players use a central stack of cards to create unique decks for each player that change with each game. A board may sometimes accompany modern card-board games, but these boards serve to provide organization or as a variable board where players are not restrained to forever circling a rectangle. If you like games such as Rummy or Kings Corners, card-based games may be for you. Generally each turn you draw new cards from your unique deck, play what you can, and end by discarding unused cards to your discard pile and drawing a new hand.

Other modern card games, such as Exploding Kittens, Pit, and Fluxx, work differently. These games’ decks have special effects to draw, discard, win points, or play against opponents. These games do not have any board, but still provide a unique experience from traditional games such as Rummy or Poker because these modern card games do not have suits nor traditional numbers of 2 thru King/Ace.


Able to consist of elements of the above two types of games or function completely on its own by rules governing its own gameplay, freestyle games are versatile in what they offer. Examples of these are Codenames, the Forbidden Series, Splendor, and Tsuro. In these games, players decide how the game progresses without relying solely on dice rolls or card draws. In Codenames, players decide which words to guess on a randomized setup; in the Forbidden Series, players travel around a set of tiles to find items and keep the island or desert from beating them; in Splendor, players collect mines and buy gems granting additional abilities; in Tsuro, players literally build the board by laying pathways for their pieces to follow. Freestyle games break all conventions of traditional board games and allow players nearly unlimited control in how the game progresses. These are fun and can be easy or hard, complex or simple. If you want a game that is different than most you have played, freestyle games are the way to go.

With so many options of various game mechanics, deciding which type you would enjoy best is difficult. and you will only know which game type you like best. Game nights such as Decks, Dice, and Meeples’ can provide you with each of these types of games and some that are combinations of these types of games. Our Game Guides have played each and every game in a library of over 100 titles, and can recommend some choices. Come out to play and discover your gaming passion.


Leave a Reply