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Board Game Terms A-Z(atu) – A is for…

Board Game Terms - A

Starting a new hobby can be hard, it is certainly a learning curve. Your gateway in might be shunned as a bad example of all the hobby has to offer. So when you casually mention the 'm' word (we'll get there!) the warm welcome turns icy. On top of that there's a whole load of jargon to learn, so much that it is almost a new language.

So to help your sort your chits from your meeples, your 18XX from your Castlemaine XXXX, your Geeknson from your kallax, I am here with the A-Zatu list of Board Game terms. This will of course be completely inclusive of all terms and never need updating. Maybe.

A is for...

Abstract Game

Abstract games include everything from Chess to the more recent Azul or the brilliant Onitama. Typically abstract games don't go heavy on any type of theme, but this is not always the case. In many ways most games abstract some elements, but typically the title is reserved for more pure forms of abstraction like the examples above.

Action Point Allowance/Action Selection

Bundled together due to their similarity, both of these mechanics involve the selection of various actions. Designer Kiesling and Kramer championed the action point allowance system. It can be seen in Torres and their 'Mask Trilogy' Tikal, Java and Mexica. Essentially you are given an amount of points which you can use on various actions. Of course not all actions are equal cost, so you can choose to make lots of smaller actions or one or two bigger actions as you need.

Action selection is where you have a choice of actions, you take one and either that stops anyone else taking that action, or they can do the same action but in a less effective way, or all of you have to share the action among you. This can be seen in Happy Pigs and Puerto Rico.

Alpha Gamer

The alpha gamer can be most obviously observed in co-op games, where they attempt to run the whole game because, well, they know best. Sometime this comes from a genuine place of wanting to help a new comer, but often it's just to win the game.

Alpha gamers sometime rear their heads in competitive games too, essentially playing the game against themselves. If you encounter an alpha gamer in the wild, sedate them with a blow dart and call your local sanctuary.


In old wisdom there are two types of board game - Ameritrash and Euro. Euros were generally considered themeless, desert dry and long, whereas Ameritrash were full of theme and dice. Lots and lots of dice. More dice than one anyway.

In more recent times there has, rightly so, been a backlash against the word trash, small board game YouTube Channel 'The Dice Tower' made an effort to change this to Amerithrash. This hasn't really stuck and these days you may hear talk of thematic and Euro.

Of course, this may all be pointless as many 'Euro' games are incorporating 'thematic' elements and vice versa. One might argue that the separation was too general anyway...

Analysis Paralysis

Often shortened to 'AP', Analysis Paralysis is a serious disease for which there is currently no known cure. Often striking the supremely intelligent or the inherently dumb, AP renders its host overwhelmed with options and unable to quickly work out the most efficient method of scoring. This is slightly more acceptable when the victim makes a stunningly brilliant move, but at it's worst AP causes it's target to play a move that isn't even legal. Proposed cures of 'a swift kick to the rear' or 'a slap to the chops' rarely help. Thankfully AP is not contagious.

Area Control/Influence

One of my personal favourites. Area control games are just that, games where you are vying for control of the most, or the best areas, typically on a board. This control can be exerted aggressively like in games like Kemet, or in terms of majority like Ethnos. Alternatively, games like Rising Sun and Adrenaline use it in multiple places. The later applies it to each players damage tracks and the kill tracks on the board.

Area control doesn't need to be a big box affair with one of my favourites being The Cousins' War. The amount packed into this tiny box is incredible and I highly recommend you check it out.


'As-mod-ee' or 'Assmoday' are a veritable giant. The Asda/Walmart of the board gaming world. This ravenous publisher swallows up all other publishers before them. Fantasy Flight Games? Asmodee. Z-man Games? Asmodee. Plaid Hat Games? Asmodee. The deeds to your house? Asmodee.

There is a bit of a split about whether this is good or bad for the industry, but which ever side of the fence you are on, there is no denying that the hunger of Asmodee isn't going away anytime soon.

Auction Games

Whether is is pure bidding goodness as in Modern Art, or part of the larger game play like bidding for player order, or various items as in Cyclades, or Isle of Skye, auctions can be done in a variety of interesting ways. Blind bidding is often a great way of ramping up tension, and auctions that pay the players money force players into making interesting decisions.

Board Game Terms

Let's wrap up this lot of 'A's and in traditional adherence to the accepted alphabet, next time in our Board Game Terms series we will be looking at 'B'!

Nick can also be found at 'Board, Deck and Dice