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Proper use of the word "tableau"

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BenMora's picture
Joined: 02/13/2012
Wages of War player board with army

Relying solely on context clues within the gaming world, I recently realized that my understanding of the word "tableau" is not correct. I would have told you it's the name for a small board that an individual player uses, as opposed to the big communal board...

Well I looked it up and it's more about an arrangement of things that make up a whole, and in the context of gaming, typically those things determine what a player can do. I also learned that a "tableau building game" often doesn't involve little personal boards, but sometimes it can be that. 7 Wonders is a tableau building game, for instance.

All things considered, do you think the player boards in my game, and the army that you build on top of them, would be considered a tableau? (See image attached and/or video at Simply putting stuff on top of a board is not enough to constitute a "tableau," so the small boards in Stone Age would NOT be considered a tableau. In my game, you construct your army on the board, and the army's melee strength and ranged strength determine whether you can penetrate the castle wall and how many casualties you can suffer.


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
My understanding...

From what Lance Mixter (Undead Viking) used that term to define the "Tradewars - Homeworld" SET-UP. A "tableau of cards" ... and that tableau is comprised of all kinds of decks and cards that serve a purpose for playing the game...

But perhaps in your context "Player's Layout" might be the more appropriate term.

And you can make a distinction with the "Game's Layout" which is the board comprised of the square cards you setup atop the board.

I think this might be more clear - instead of trying to determine if "tableau" is the appropriate term. I think "tableau" is meant to be more abstract... in a context where a "board" is probably not used. Like in "7 Wonders".

Rick L
Rick L's picture
Joined: 08/22/2016
Here's the dictionary

Here's the dictionary definition:

1. a picture, as of a scene.

2. a picturesque grouping of persons or objects; a striking scene.

3. a representation of a picture, statue, scene, etc., by one or more persons suitably costumed and posed.

4. Solitaire. the portion of a layout to which one may add cards according to suit or denomination.

Usually, I've gotten the impression that this refers to board games that use cards or tiles that are arranged to create a board, like Forbidden Island/Desert or Carcassonne (maybe? Edit: no, that's just tile laying), and even an ordered layout like playing Solitaire. But I've also seen the term used to reference games like yours, with individual player boards that are separate from a main board. Seems like the "board game" definition of Tableau is still kind of vague, and can be used more "loosely".

7 wonders uses player boards that have a scene that represents a civilization and its particular Wonder. That fits the dictionary definition #1 above, and kind of relates to #2 & #3.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
From memory In french,

From memory

In french, Tableau means a black board used in class to write stuff on it.

It also mean a painting canvas.

So the global concept seems about placing elements on a large surface. Or have something that you can see in a glance.

In board games, tableau card games seems about placing cards in front of you to create something you can see in a glance.

I Will Never Gr...
I Will Never Grow Up Gaming's picture
Joined: 04/23/2015
Starting with the BGG

Starting with the BGG definition;
"In Tableau Building games, each player has a visible personal array or tableau of components (cards, tiles, player boards, etc.) which they purposefully build or manipulate throughout the game by spending actions and/or resources (including opportunity costs) and which determines the quality, quantity, and/or variety of actions to which they have access throughout the game.
The array is not merely a place to store resources, to plan out actions, to store a puzzle which must be manipulated, or something that impacts VP's. It impacts the quality, quantity, and/or variety of actions which are accessible to a player. This means that some games may include an array or a tableau but not really be a tableau building game."

I would say, as mentioned above, Tableau in the context of board games has a very loose or fluid definition but it does seem to refer to a variety of objects that are used to construct what is, essentially, your personal play area/player board/engine.

You have a single player board however, so I would not necessarily call it a tableau (it's certainly not an array of components, outside of constructing your army on top of it).

Perhaps stick with Player Board as I feel that's going to cause the least confusion.

Alternately you could come up with a thematic name, so long as it's referenced at the start of the rules so there is no confusion as to what players are looking at.

BenMora's picture
Joined: 02/13/2012
Thanks for the input

Thanks for the input everyone! After reading all of it, I am going to stay away from the word "tableau" and called it a "player board" perhaps.

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