A mystery box filled with miniatures to enhance your RPG campaigns. All official miniatures and for a bargain price!

Buy Miniatures Box »

Not sure what game to buy next? Buy a premium mystery box for two to four great games to add to your collection!

Buy Premium Box »
Subscribe Now »

If you’re only interested in receiving the newest games this is the box for you; guaranteeing only the latest games!

Buy New Releases Box »
Subscribe Now »

Looking for the best bang for your buck? Purchase a mega box to receive at least 4 great games. You won’t find value like this anywhere else!

Buy Mega Box »
Subscribe Now »

Buy 3, get 3% off - use code ZATU3·Buy 5, get 5% off - use code ZATU5

Introduction To Board Game Mechanisms

mechanisms board games

Hey there everyone. If you are new to the board gaming hobby, you may well have been hearing a lot of terms and discussions about the “mechanisms” or “mechanics” of a game. Whichever word you may hear, these broadly describe how a game is played, using one or more of these, and giving some kind of familiarity between very different games. If you are looking to go deeper into the hobby, it can be a good idea to start by looking at some mechanisms that might interest you and explore similar games. Because most will have more than one mechanism in play, you can get a feel for what you like or dislike. So join us on a journey of discover as we, the humble Zatu bloggers, introduce you to the world of board game mechanisms and give you a small sample of the games we love.

Set Collection – Andy Broomhead

Set collection appears in a lot of games, and has players choosing from a set of cards, tiles or pieces to complete sets of different sizes to score points to hopefully win the game.
My first real exposure to set collection in modern board gaming came through Sushi Go Party! by Phil Walker-Harding. We bought it whilst on holiday and quickly settled into a ritual of playing once or twice every morning before breakfast.

In Sushi Go Party! you start with a hand of cards, choose one and pass your hand to the left, choosing another card from those you receive. You repeat this until you have no more cards to pass and do this for three rounds in total.

What I love about the set collection element is how varied it is. Some Sushi cards like onigiri score you more points for variety, some (like dumplings) scale up to score you more for each one you collect, and things like Tempura mean you have to collect an exact number (or multiples of that number) to score anything.

But Sushi Go Party! goes a little beyond that and really weaves the theme of being in a sushi restaurant into the collection. If you only have one eel car you score negative points. But if you dare to try it again and get used to the flavour, you’ll score a lot more. Having one or two tofu cards scores points but eat too many and you’ll be too full and score nothing.
It’s quick and fun and plays up to eight for a true party feel, and it’s great introduction into set collection.

If you like this, you might also want to consider Azul where you’re collecting variable numbers of gorgeous acrylic tiles to fill out your own wall. Or try Ticket To Ride, a big board game affair where you’re collecting sets of different coloured train cards to build routes across the country.

Worker Placement – Luke Pickles

One of my absolute favourite mechanisms in board games is Worker Placement. It features a lot in modern board games, so there’s a huge wealth of options if you want to try it out. What it boils down to is you (usually) have a pool of workers which you can place out onto a board. On the board are different action spots which let you do certain things. When you place your worker, you do the thing. Quite often, this is gathering resources and completing objectives, and they will block out the action spot to someone else, so timing is everything.

The perfect introduction to the mechanism, in my view, is Lords of Waterdeep. In Lords of Waterdeep, you are taking on the role of lords in the famous D&D city, tasking adventurers to go off and undertake your quests for them. Your workers will gather the adventurers, buy property in Waterdeep to unlock new actions and play cards to activate special abilities. I think it is probably one of the purest worker placement games out there, with only a couple of other mechanisms mixed in, namely resource management and hidden scoring.

If you want a step up, Architects of the West Kingdom is my go-to. Where you would normally place a single worker in an action spot, the spots are largely open, meaning anyone can go there and the actions get stronger as you play them out. Or if you fancy an absolute classic, I’d recommend Viticulture, a game all about making wine that has been so highly rated over the years and has a new co-operative expansion released in the last year.

Trick Taking - Neil Proctor (Board Game Happy)

Trick Taking games, especially Trumps, was one of my first introductions to card games when I was a little lad. The basic rules are one person plays a card of a particular suit (lead card) and all other players must follow that suit and play a card. The person who played the highest card of the lead suit wins the trick and starts the next turn. There is normally a ‘trump suit’ which beats all others and clever use and timing of these cards are the key to winning.

Trick Taking fell out of fashion for a while as a mechanism until a few years ago when a new style of Trick Taking game started to be released. The first of which to make a big splash was The Crew. This introduced cooperative play and limited communication to excellent effect. The game also sneakily teaches new players how Trick Taking works via its missions that start incredibly easily and get harder as they progress.

But the game I would recommend people play if they haven’t tried Trick Taking before is a brand-new game called Cat In The Box. This game turns the mechanism on its head by taking away all the colours from the cards. When you play a number (let’s say four) card you have to declare its colour and place one of your tokens on the spot on the main board for that number/colour combination and no other players can then use it. Sneakily the game makes you play with more cards than there are colours so at some point someone won’t be able to play a card and will cause a paradox ending the round. A brilliant game with amazing components. Highly recommended.

Also recommended is the aforementioned The Crew (and the sequel Mission Deep Sea) and Shamans.

Drafting – Daniel Hilton

Drafting is a simple mechanism that appears in a whole host of games. Probably a lot more than you would think. It can appear in two different forms which makes it one of the most utilised mechanisms. The simplest way to describe drafting is that everyone has access to the same options and they take turns picking and choosing them.

Open drafting is something that appears in so many games (10,347 of them in fact according to BGG). Open drafting is when there are a range of options available to players (be it cards, dice, tiles etc) that can be taken by players. You can’t have set collection or tableau building without drafting coming into play first. This appears in game of all weights and sizes. From cards in Ark Nova, to tiles in Azul, to polyominos in Patchwork, open drafting is everywhere.

Closed drafting is what people most commonly think about when they hear the term ‘drafting’. This is usually done in the form of exchanging hands of cards (or dice, or meeples or potted plants, or car keys, whatever floats your boat) choosing one and exchanging again; following this pattern until all options are chosen. This blog is all about introducing you to a game that will help teach you game mechanics. Considering you have likely played a game that has open drafting, I am going to introduce you to closed drafting.

The game that I will be wafting in front of your face like a freshly baked delicious pie in a Disney movie is Draftosaurus. I think that Draftosaurus is one of the best games to play if you are wanting to try your hand at this mechanism. Not only is it simple enough to learn, it also features the world’s most adorable meeples. Dino-meeples! In Draftosaurus you will be exchanging hands of dino-meeples, selecting one, placing the dino and then exchanging hands. Rinse and repeat until you have a little dino zoo filled with the cutest little meeples! other games to check out that incorporate closed drafting are The Isle of Cats and Atheneum that both also have really interesting themes!

Roll & Write - Favouritefoe

I was so excited when fellow blogger, Luke Pickles, gave me the chance to introduce you to roll and write games. I honestly feel like I’m giving you a key that will unlock a lifetime of pure gaming joy.

But, just like Voltaire said (no, Ben Parker did not get there first!), “With great power comes great responsibility”! Which game to choose? This is a critical moment after all. I could be singularly responsible for turning you off as well as on to an entire genre of absolute smashers!

With that in mind, I’m skipping over Yahtzee (fun though it is) to show you what a simple pen-paper-dice trio can really do. And I am starting us off with Ganz Schon Clever. The concept is simple; each round, somebody rolls 6 different coloured dice and that person crosses 3 corresponding boxes off on their sheet. The remaining players each choose 1 from those left over. The matching coloured zone on the sheet have their own placement rules but they will unlock other boxes when crossed. And that, my friends, is where you will first feel the ecstasy that is cracking a cascading-combo move so common to this genre. Like a house of cards falling, one box checks another and another. Good job too as you’ll need those bonuses to fill up your sheet. Not only that but Ganz also welcomes you to passive rewards, where you get something sweet on another player’s turn.

It’s not the biggest or flashiest game. But I guarantee it will leave you wanting more. Roll and writes often distil heavy game mechs into accessible, flexible, and scalable play. But you need to start gently and build up. So if you like Ganz Schon, there’s the second and third instalment of course. But also, why not try something with custom dice like Lost Cities Roll & Write or an intro to flip and writes like Trails of Tucana.