The variety of modern board games these days is massive. BGG currently has ranked over 25.000(!!!) board games. And the beauty of this is that with each game we get a slightly different take from the designers on different mechanics that make each game unique. Below, I will give you my top 5, explaining why they’re my favourites and giving you some game recommendations to give these mechanics a try!
In deck building, players usually start with a basic deck and part of the objective of the game is adding to that deck to modify and improve it (these days it goes beyond cards, we have this mechanic with dice, chips and other tokens). I am a big fan of it as it gives the player a sense of evolution and development within the game, making it more interesting and less monotonous. Dominion was the first game to introduce this mechanic and since then it has been completely widespread and there are some amazing games that include this mechanic like Dune: Imperium, Great Western Trail and Lost Ruins of Arnak.
In engine-building games, players must develop a system to be able to score points (building a point engine). The system usually starts small and simple but as the game progresses it tends to get bigger and more complex where scoring tends to escalate accordingly to how symbiotic your engine is. It’s not hard at all to become a fan of this mechanic. Starting from nothing and ending up with a massive point engine is something we all love to experience when playing and seeing it unfold turn by turn is highly satisfactory. Great introductory games for this mechanic are Splendor, Wingspan or Terraforming Mars.
Sandbox games are all about letting the player do whatever they want to come out on top at the end. Sandbox games usually present themselves with one or more win conditions that must be met. How to get there is entirely up to the player. This is often followed with a big board with a wide variety of actions for players to take on their turn. I’m a big fan of open world games in general, including video games, so having that on a tabletop, for me, is highly rewarding and I usually have a blast with games like this. Some of my favourites are Merchants & Marauders, Western Legends and Mage Knight.
There are two main varieties of drafting, open and closed. But the general idea is having players pick from a selection of things and then passing that selection of things to the next player. This can be cards, tiles, tokens, etc. In open drafting, this is usually done from a pool of common items publicly available to all players while in closed drafting players only see what’s available when it’s revealed to them, one at a time, meaning that the next players won’t know what the previous players picked. I love all types of drafting games as it allows highly tactical games to shine, not only because you can pick something you really need but you may also deny something from your opponent instead, and sometimes that’s the better move! There are so many games to recommend here but I highly advise Azul, Ark Nova and 7 Wonders Duel.
It’s almost unavoidable to see this mechanic in any list of this genre. And that is because it is one of the most versatile mechanics in board gaming design there is. Worker placement games are basically games where you must take actions on your turn but you’re limited by having to place a worker (may be meeples or pretty much anything else) on that particular action. Often, when another player’s worker is already on a specific space, that space cannot be used by anyone else. Some games also include ways that allow you to get around this limitation, either by using a higher number of works, special types of workers, open locations or bumping other works out of the space. The strategic possibilities are endless and that is the main reason why I enjoy worker placement games. It’s so versatile it allows a huge variety of unique, thematic games to be around that I just love. The number of games I could recommend here is pretty much endless but my top 3 worker placement games to introduce you to this mechanic at the moment are Everdell, Viticulture and Agricola.
And here we are! These are my top 5 board game mechanics. I’d like to leave a small honourable mention to asymmetric games as it’s another type of mechanic I really enjoy that makes games feel less linear and predictable, which is always welcome in my book! Hope you enjoyed this post and that it helps you maybe discover some new games worth of adding to your collection!