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List of Core Mechanics

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RGaffney's picture
Joined: 09/26/2011

I'm interested in expanding my understanding of games and mechanics. It seems to me that a central idea in Board game design is mechanics. And I'd like to compile a list of the core central mechanics that games can be built around.

Yes, I know there are lists like this one:

and this one:

and this one:

but I don't think any of them do the work of helping us answer the question "what kind of game is this" or "what kind of mechanic could we use for this game" instead they answer the question of "what's a name for a thing that happens sometimes in games" too general. We want to talk big picture here

However: I am interested in oft forgotten mechanics. Ideas that games could be built around but almost never are anymore. So don't let my poo pooing of the lists I found discourage thinking outside the box.

Here's what I have so far:

Hidden Information:
eg: Clue
Based on the discovery of information which is decided upon, but not known by some or all of the players

Incomplete Memory:
eg: Concentration,
Based on the idea of information which is revealed, and then hidden from the player, which must be relied upon later.

Press Your Luck:
eg: BlackJack
Based on the opportunity to keep what you have, or try to get more and risk losing it all

Deck Building:
eg: Dominion
Based on how cool Dominion is

Joined: 01/26/2009
Time to revisit this topic!!!

There has actually been talk of an encyclopedia of game mechanics.

The amount of mechanics is nearly infinite, and most times game specific.

Sure, they can be catalogued and classified, but since several game mechanics fit into multiple categories, there would need to be cross-referencing indexes (indices - sp?) in several appendixes (appendices - again - sp?) to properly capture them all.

I agree, and so do many others here. There should DEFINITELY be a COMPENDIUM OF GAMING MECHANICS.

I believe that first, there needs to be a data architecture framework or there will be no place to begin, and drawing others to your cause to fill in gaps will be TERRIBLY FRUSTRATING AND INEFFECTIVE.

I believe (and ANYONE can feel free to tell me that I am dead wrong about this...) that a good starting point would be to develop at least 2 main indexes (sp?) and then later, once they are both done, cross-reference them to each other, possibly building further sub-indexes.

***NOTE - the fact that some entries will be duplicated SHOULD NOT BE A DETERRENT!! If the work is being done twice then:

1) at least the work is getting done,
2) people's differing interpretations should end up adding insight AND (most importantly) -
3) not all mechanics stay as described:

a) when combined with other mechanics (trick taking combined with resource management or trick taking with race to finish, etc...)
b) when played in a different STYLE of game (euro, RPG, CCG, etc...) or
c) when played in a different TYPE of game (card game, board game, dice game, etc...)

All of this should be indexed in the following ways:


This should be ALL of the different types of games and hybrids.


1) board games (Monopoly, Parcheesi, Chess, etc...)
2) card games (Euchre, Magic: The Gathering, Fluxx, etc...)
3) dice games (Stack, Yahtzee, Liar's Dice, etc...)
4) piece games (Ants in the Pants, Jenga, Marbles, etc...)
5) hybrid category #1
6) hybrid category #2
7) hybrid category #3
8) hybrid category #4 etc...

Then, list as many games in each gategory as possible - finding indexes of games should be pretty easy, and then there may be debate as to which games fit into which category, but that should be lively and fun and shouldn't be too problematic.

Then, list all of the mechanics inherent in each game - this also shouldn't be too problematic, and should require MOST of the actual work (and input from anyone reading this post).

FINALLY, a writeup of how the mechanic affects gameplay FOR THAT SPECIFIC GAME. This could be a single paragraph or an essay - it doesn't matter, but the entries should be compiled and reviewed and ALL SHOULD BE INCLUDED (unless they are deemed grossly off-topic or inappropriate).

EDITING WILL COME LATER!!! This is the building phase - without the input, there will be no output to edit!!



Simply take 100% of the mechanics found in INDEX I), and describe the following:

1) name of the mechanic (this may be open to debate, but should generally be simple - and it may be apparent that certain mechanics in INDEX I) need to be combined or reclassified)
2) brief description (this should be a ONE SENTENCE description of what the mechanic IS)
4) list of games in INDEX I) using this mechanic
5) list of mechanics in INDEX I) that this mechanic commonly interacts within the context of a game
6) other description category #1
7) other description category #2
8) other description category #3 etc...

From here, building sub-indexes related to:

INDEX III) Game Styles (Euro, RPG, CCG, Classic, Traditional, Trivia, etc...)
INDEX IV) Popular Themes (medieval battle, space pirates, zombies, etc...)
INDEX V) Game Theory (what recognizing a mechanic in a new game tells you about the game, how to win, strategy tips that will most likely be pertinent, etc...)
INDEX VI) How these gaming mechanics can be applied to REAL LIFE (how resource management or sacrifice mechanics can help kids learn about money management or making difficult choices, etc...)

There can be many other sub-indexes that will not only be fun to flesh out, but entertaining to read once finished. Getting the framework set up and populated, though, is the key.

I am VERY INTERESTED in this project, and have been for years! I also believe that the two main indexes, created IN THE ORDER LISTED ABOVE, is really the way to go.

If anyone feels that the plan above should be revised in order to attract others, please, feel free to chime in.

Otherwise, would anyone object to there being an Excel file placed in a shared location that all users here had access to add to? If so, then we could (over the course of years, if necessary) have a collaborative communal effort to populate the database with intelligent insights.

The idea would be that someone could go to the Excel file, and EVEN IF SOMEONE HAD ALREADY ADDED TO AN ENTRY, they could also add their 2 cents... having too much information in an entry just means that it is less likely that something will be missed. The entries will all be revised, shortened, and put out for final revision later, down the line once most of the entries have been populated.

This shouldn't be considered an un-accomplish-able (is that a word??) proposition, and should not be considered for publication until ABSOLUTELY COMPLETE, because if that is the case, then nothing will be done.

Many encyclopedias have revisions and edited 2nd and 3rd and 4th and 18th editions, so forgetting a few entries here and there shouldn't be a reason for not completing the project.

Perhaps staring a Wiki??

Any thoughts (NEW OR OLD) from the peanut gallery??

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