Five Fun Game MechanismsJanuary 14, 2019
I’m an unabashed omnigamer: I love playing all sorts of games, from centuries-old abstracts (backgammon, anyone?) to the newest worker placement title. But with so many gaming choices nowadays, how do you choose which one to play?
Thankfully, the abundance of choices means lots of different mechanisms powering each game, leading to unique tabletop experiences for your next game night. Here are five of my favorite mechanisms and the board games that use them well.
Worker Placement: Viticulture: Essential Edition
I love worker placement because of its simplicity: take one of your workers, place it on a space and perform that action. Of course, better games make it much more than that and for the perfect blend of theme and mechanism, check out Viticulture: Essential Edition. It’s a masterpiece of a game, as you and your opponents use your workers to grow your wine-making vineyard. Each round is broken into seasons and you place your worker on the action spot that will benefit you most. Of course, other players’ workers can block you, but there are ways around this. It’s a brilliant game that is nice and mellow at the beginning, but intensifies as the game continues into the later rounds.
Deck Building: Baseball Highlights: 2045
While Dominion is the 800-pound gorilla of the deck-building genre, there are a lot of top-notch games that use its core mechanism: each player has a starting hand of cards ad adds more powerful cards to their deck throughout the game. When spring time hits there’s no other deck-builder I’d rather play than Baseball Highlights: 2045. While it can be played by up to four players, it’s the perfect two-player game, as you match wits with your opponent, just like any classic managerial battle. Build your team of futuristic baseball players and use them to score the most runs. You can go heavy on human, cyborg, or robot players or a mix of all, but it’s your well-timed card play that will earn you the championship trophy.
Area Control: Blood Rage
I remember games of Risk during my childhood being all-day slogs that fizzled into a boring mess on the tabletop. Thankfully, modern games use area control in a much more streamlined and engaging way. Blood Rage is one of the best, thanks to epic game play and phenomenal miniatures. Lead your Viking clan to win battles, complete quests, and claim provinces before Ragnorak destroys it all. Of course, you’ll eventually send some of your warriors to Valhalla, but they’ll earn you glory there as well.
Dice Rolling: SteamRollers
I’m a sucker for a roll-and-write game; gimme some dice, a pen, and paper and I’m a happy gamer. The classic roll-and-write is Yahtzee, but modern gaming has seen a resurgence of the mechanism over the last few years. SteamRollers is an excellent title that takes a classic train game and distills it into pen-and-paper form. It’s a pick-up-and-deliver game, meaning you’ll pick up goods at one point on a map and deliver it to another. The catch here is that each player writes their network of routes on their own map, depending on what they do each round with a community pool of dice.
Real-Time: Happy Salmon
There’s nothing like getting the ol’ juices flowing like a real-time game. They’re the perfect choice whether you’re warming up for game night, need a pick-me-up between epic games, or are ending a night with a quick burst of energy for the drive home. My favorite? Happy Salmon. It’s a game I’ve never seen anyone NOT have fun playing; it takes a minute to learn and about a minute to play. Simply take your deck of cards, shuffle them, reveal the top card, and try to match someone else at the table. The best part is the associated actions you have to do with the card: the fist bump and high five are self-explanatory, but I’ll leave it up to you to discover what the Happy Salmon is all about.