I'm an 18 year-old aspiring designer from Canada, and may I just say, this is exactly the type of community I've been looking for. I have been designing for about 3 years now and so far most of my projects have ended as overcomplicated messes. But I'm learning and am currently working on two projects, an Action-Reaction card game called "Mutually Assured Destruction," and a Beer and Pretzels space adventure called "Exodus."
However I have a question about game design. My first game has a "tapping" mechanic similar to Magic the Gathering where, when a card activates it's ability it is turned sideways to signify that it is used up until your next turn. The other game has a system similar to Munchkin where you flip over Discovery Cards (like the Door Cards of Munchkin) some of which are Adventures (like the Monsters of Munchkin) which when completed give you Equipment (like Treasure from Munchkin). Both games contain numerous other original game mechanics, however is it still a no-no to borrow mechanics like that from other games?
I'm not sure, but I think you can borrow all the game mechanics you want. Especially the ones that you describe, they are used in so many games and are so generic, why can't you use them in yours?
There is a patent on Magic’s Tapping but most people don’t think it would hold up in court.
Use whatever mechanics you like, just try to do it in a unique way so that you are reinventing rather than regurgitating.
"Tapping" in other games is called other things... "Activating" or "Exhausting", etc...
Probably just to avoid an annoying legal issue, even though MtG didn't invest in a lot of secret research to discover the amazing effects of rotating a card 90 degrees.
I don't think any game uses a mechanic which is off-limits.
The key is that things like mechanics can't be the thing that makes a game good or bad.
Mechanics - like ideas in general - aren't the most important part of what makes one game/book/movie/song great or garbage. It is execution. It is effort (the hard part). Ideas and even the most innovative mechanics are just a means to an end.
So if your game used some mechanic I recognized - taken wholesale from another game - the worst I could say is: This game uses similar mechanics to X, Y and Z.