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.


Terraforming Mars

From the box: “In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable.

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Carcassonne (Big Box)

From the box: “Released to critical acclaim in 2000, Carcassonne has long captivated audiences with its simple yet engaging gameplay. Now you can experience the best the 2001 Spiel des Jahres winner has to offer. The 2017 version of the Carcassonne big box combines the base game along with eleven of its expansions, making it the perfect starter set for anyone who wants to play this bestselling game with as much variety as possible. Including the inns & cathedrals, traders & builders, the Abbot, the River, the flying machines, the ferries, the messengers, the gold mines, mage & witch, the robbers, and the crop circles expansions, the Carcassonne big box includes more than 150 tiles and seven different types of Meeple.”

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From the box: “Players take on the role of ancient Egyptian architects. Over six rounds, they try to transport stone blocks to end up in the most valuable positions at five construction sites, while thwarting their opponents’ efforts to do the same. To win the game and be named the greatest architect, you must get your blocks to the right place, in the right order, at the right time.”

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7 Wonders

From the box: “You are the leader of one of the 7 great cities of the Ancient World Gather resources, develop commercial routes and affirm your military supremacy 2-7 players 30+ minutes playing time”

Dan Says: “7 Wonders is a card drafting game in which, among other things, you are in charge of building your own ‘Wonder.’  There are 3 ‘stages’ of play, each having a hand where each player picks 1 card to play, then passes the hand to the next player.  Like other card drafting games, there are many ways to earn points, some of which are straight-forward, others are more complex.  Add to that the bonuses some of the cards can give you, along with the “engine building” element where certain cards require you to have to ‘build’ them with previously-played resources, and you achieve a level of complexity that’s more than, say, Sushi Go, but still not difficult to pick up.  It’s one where you’re probably best suited using your first couple of plays focusing on learning how the cards interact as opposed to chasing points.  Overall a fun game.”

Amazon: 7 Wonders

Steam Park

From the box: “As owners of a fantastic steam park, you’re to build gigantic, coal-powered rides to attract as many visitors as you can – but building attractions won’t be enough. You’ll also need to manage your employees, invest in advertising in order to attract and please the different kinds of guests visiting your park, and, above all, keep the dirt that your park produces under strict control! Steam Park is an easy-to-learn game with two difficulty levels: one for the less experienced gamers and a more strategic one for those who want a more exciting challenge. In this management game, you’ll have to build your own amusement park and make it the largest and most profitable in the region. By constructing the three-dimensional, wonderful rides designed by Marie Cardouat, you will see your park grow right before your eyes. Choose your strategy! Build Stands to attract more Visitors, or Toilets to keep the Dirt under control. Whatever decision you take, take it quickly: The less time you spend planning, the more time you’ll have to maintain your park. Thanks to a clever, original action-choosing mechanism, winning in Steam Park is as much a matter of being the best as of being the fastest!”

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Rory’s Story Cubes

Loy says: “Looking for something unique and creative? Boy-howdy, have you found it in Rory’s Story Cubes. The box includes a couple of ways to play, but here’s our go-to: roll the dice and start to tell the story. You can tell the whole thing, or players can grab dice and jump in when they want. Or, you can have each person tell a sentence in a round-robin until the story comes to life. It’s not as easy as it sounds – be the one at the table with the best contribution and exercise your vocabulary, your imagination, and your thinking cap! This is a lot of fun as a game, and also works as an ice-breaker, a teaching manipulative, or a tool for overcoming writer’s block. Get your creative on!”

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Ticket to Ride (North America)

Loy says: “Ticket to Ride is an addictive race to make the most profitable and longest train routes before your opponents do. The rules can be learned in five minutes, but gameplay itself is strategically challenging. Each player has a number of secret routes they are trying to establish, while blocking opponents from doing the same. Trains, cards, and routes have to be collected and set in matching colors, adding to the challenge. This is a family fun game that we love so much, we even play it on our phones.”

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