What are Game Mechanics? Part Two

Welcome back to part two of this series about game mechanics and how they make everything fun and or tedious in the games you love and loath. This week we take a look at three more tried and true systems that you’re likely to have stumbled upon in your board game ventures.  If you haven’t yet checked out the first entry in this series, I recommend you read that first as it explains what is meant by a game mechanic as well as describing three other types used in modern board games.  Otherwise, you’re all set.  Prepare to be informed!



The definition of a dexterity game can be broad, but at its core, a dexterity mechanic is anything that requires physical body or hand movements combined with varying levels of coordination or nimbleness in order to progress the game. A classic example of this is Tiddlywinks, where players try to flick a token into a cup or container using another token, varying the force and angle to hit their target.  Dexterity games can even be a great way for players to improve their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  

Games that fall use some form of dexterity mechanism are, Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul Kar, Men at Work, A la Carte.



Any game that has players choosing an element from a group of cards, tokens, dice, tiles etc. and using those drafted components to advance their progress. Variations of this mechanic are used across many styles of games, with the drafting element being presented in different ways for each.  Examples of these are drafting tiles from a bag, cards from a selection passed around the players or choosing from a shared pool of dice in the centre of the game space. The mechanic usually results in difficult player choices where there are many desirable options, but by choosing one, the player must give up the others to the remaining players.

Games like Azul, Sagrada, Cubitos, 7 Wonders and Raiders of the North Sea all use variations of the drafting mechanic.


Engine Building

Engine building is a broad category that usually relies on other multiple, overlapping mechanics to define itself within a given game.  At its core, an engine builder is a game where players are selecting options and adding these to a play space be it shared or individual, these options may be cards with different powers or abilities, or perhaps dice with different faces for example. Over the course of the game, this “engine” of powers or abilities continues to become more powerful or versatile as the game continues and more elements are added to it.  A famous example of one style of engine builder is Wingspan, where the more birds players add to their habitats, the more powerful the turns become. 

Circadians: First Light, Everdell, KanagawaScytheSplendor, Terraforming Mars and Wingspan are all examples of games that include engine building.


I don’t want to risk overloading you, so I’ll leave it there for now. But check back soon for the next part in this series. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and I hope you’re making use of the games you have on hand!