How to categorize the game mechanics

Game mechanics, game types and Co. - A hodgepodge of technical terms briefly explained - Part 1/2

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

“The game is a deck building game with action selection elements and a good deal of push your luck.” This description of the mechanics of Clong! sounds like gibberish to you? Then this article is exactly right for you, because we take the most important technical terms of the board game scene and explain them to you.

NOTE: As the size of the article was well above our limits, we split it into two parts. This is the first of them. Part 2 on technical terms from the world of board games can be found behind this link.

Since we started to write about board games, we have asked ourselves again and again which terms from the scene can be left as they are and which are perhaps better explained again in the article. And for almost as long, the plan had existed to kill this question once and for all with an article that takes and explains all these terms. On the one hand, so that you can link them later, on the other hand, so that we can simply show you how diverse board games are and which mechanics can be found in which very interesting games.

Accordingly, at first glance the article will only be a list with explanations and examples, but we hope that one or the other of you will discover games and types of games in it that may not have been on your screens before.

Since many of the terms come from the predominantly English-speaking scene, we will also use the English terms in some cases. If there is an obvious or a common translation, it will of course be given priority.

The terms that we want to present to you can be roughly divided into three categories: types of play, themes and mechanics. Game types are about how the players interact with each other, the topic describes how strongly a game is tied to the topic or the story behind it, and mechanics are the broad field of methods used by the game to achieve the game objective .

Table of Contents

Game types

The most obvious distinction in this category is, of course, the extent to which the players are playing together or against each other in the game.


In cooperative games, the players have a common goal in mind. Survive on a desert island, contain some worldwide epidemics, survive against the zombie hordes long enough to reach the rescue helicopter.

Cooperative games have been popular for many years, and the first two titles on the list of the most popular games fall into this category.

The advantage of this type of game is that there are no against each other and so disputes at the table are at least less likely. If everyone wins, everyone goes home feeling good too.

The so-called problem, however, is Alpha gamer problem - Behind this is the fact that it happens all too often at tables that there is a player who at least believes he is significantly better at a game than the rest of the other players and then tries to explain to them how to behave to have.

As well-known representatives of the cooperative games, the trigger for the renaissance of the genre would be pandemic as well as the most popular game at the moment Gloomhaven to call. But also titles like that Sentinels of the Multiverse or Magic Maze, which made it onto the shortlist for Game of the Year in 2017, are worth a look.


In direct contrast to cooperative games, there are competitive games. With these there is usually only one winner, and the main aim of the game is to be better than the others.

There is hardly any need to explain this type of game, because almost all classic board and card games belong to it. So one might as well be an example chess, monopoly or Skat name, as well as more modern games like The settlers of Catan, Blood rage or Twilight Empire.


Of course, between these two extremes there are also a few games that are somewhere in between. This can happen because you actually play together, but everyone still pursues their own goal that they have to fulfill so that they win in the end, as in Winter of the Dead. Or one or more players may turn out to be traitors as the game progresses. Either because they have been since the beginning of the game, as in The resistance or Battlestar Galactica, or because they became like that during the game like at Betrayal at House on the Hill or Panic Station.

One versus many

As a special form of semi-cooperative games, there are some games in which you select a player at the beginning of the game, who then competes against the others, who in turn play cooperatively and try to defeat the individual player.

The most classic example of this type of game is Scotland Yard, but with games like Descent: Descent into the dark or Star Wars: Imperial Assault there are also significantly newer representatives.

With these newer representatives, it is more and more common that you can replace the individual player with an app and thus make the game completely cooperative.

Team games

The last special form of semi-cooperative games are team games. There are multiple teams of players who cooperate within the teams to defeat the other teams in the game. Double head is a classic card game that works this way - when no one is playing a solo. More modern games fall apart from party games like taboo, rarely completely in this category. Still there are games like Captain Sonar also such. Sometimes there is a special rule on how a game that is actually designed for two people can also be played with two teams of two or more people each. For example in Hero Realms.

Dueling games

Duel games are games that can only be played with exactly two people. Mancalla, Go, chess, backgammon, lady, Onitama, 7 Wonders: Duel, Raptor - the list of such games is long and spans the entire history of board games.

Solo games

A relatively new trend once you get by Solitaire Apart from the card and doll variant, they are solo games, i.e. games that are designed to be played by only one person. The games of the OnirimSeries are examples that are completely designed for solo play. However, many modern games also offer rules for the game alone, so that a considerable part of the currently most popular board games can also be found in this category. Gloomhaven, Scythe and Terraforming Mars for example each offer such a mode.


If the game types were about with whom or against whom you were playing, the topic describes what you are actually playing. The boundaries in this category are fluid, and all game connoisseurs rarely agree on exactly where a game should be sorted. The boundaries have also become increasingly blurred in recent years, so that these terms are slowly but surely losing their meaning.