The Definitive List of Board Game Terminology

May 31, 2017 By 0 Comments

If you’re new to board games, we’ve compiled this comprehensive glossary of terms with some of our gaming insight to help you get right in the game.



All of the information regarding the game is available to both players, there is little or no luck, and players will alternate turns trying to out-think their opponent. These games generally will not use dice or cards, and they normally have little or no theme. Classic examples of this are Chess and Checkers. Other examples include  Hive, any game from the  GIPFseries, andBlokus.

Area Control: 

Players are trying to maintain the largest presence in a particular region of a game. These regions can be cities, states, countries, etc. Well known examples include  Risk,  El Grande, and  Kemet; but not all games that use this mechanic are military in nature. Also see  Power Grid,  Catan, and  Small World.


Players state an amount they are willing to pay for a specific item. These items can range from units on the board, property, cards, etc. Bidding can happen in turn order or all at the same time. Examples include  Going, Going, Gone!,  Ra, and  For Sale. (SeeBlind Biddingfor a variation on this mechanic.)


Players place bets of resources or money on what they think will happen in the game (i.e. what will be drawn out of a bag, who has the correct answer, or who will win the leg of a race). Examples include  Wits & Wagers,  Camel Up, and  Long Shot.

Blind Bidding:

Similar toAuction/Bidding, with the difference being that all players must choose how much they are willing to wager, and then all players reveal their bids at the same time. Examples include  Revolution!  and the second half of  For Sale.


Players try to trick an opponent into believing they have, or sometimes do not have, something. The traditional bluff comes in Poker when one player bets a lot of money on their hand in an effort to convince their opponent that their hand is better than it really is. Examples include  Liar’s Dice,  Mascarade,  Coup, and  Cockroach Poker.

Card Drafting:

Players choose cards to fill out their deck or hand. Cards are chosen either from one community deck or alternating small groups of cards that are passed from player to player. Examples include  7 Wonders,  Fairy Tale,  Greed, and  Medieval Academy.

Card Game:

In a broad sense, any game where a majority of the game revolves around a deck of cards. Traditional card games include Spades, Hearts, Bridge, etc. Other types of examples include  Red7,  Archaeology: The Card Game,  Tichu, and  Chimera.

Co-operative (Co-op):

These are games in which all players work towards a common goal. Some co-op games have a traitor or the possibility of a traitor. The traitor attempts to sabotage the group in order to win. There is also a variation of co-ops called semi co-ops. In this variation, all of the players work towards a common goal, but only one player will eventually win the game. Examples of true co-ops include  Pandemic,  Forbidden Island,  Sentinels of the Multiverse, and  Ghost Stories. Games with traitors include  Shadows Over Camelot   andBattlestar Galactica. Examples of semi co-ops include  Dead of Winter,  Archipelago, and  Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.

Deck / Dice Building:

Mechanic in which players generally start with the same cards and have the option to use them to buy new cards. There is generally a pool of cards available for all players to purchase from and the purchased cards are placed into the player’s discard pile to be shuffled in later. This mechanic was originally introduced in the gameDominion. Other examples include  Core Worlds,  Legendary  (both Encounters and A Marvel Deck Building Game), and  Star Realms. This mechanic can also be used with dice instead of cards, as dice building can be seen in  Quarriorsand  Dice Masters.

Dexterity Games:

These are games in which a player must use their own ability to move the game components by sliding, flicking, stacking, blowing, etc. These games can require players to get up and move around. Examples include  Crokinole,  Terror in Meeple City,  Coconuts, and Catacombs.

Dice Game:

Any game using dice as part of its main mechanic. Many games in this genre have what is termed the “Yahtzee mechanic.” That is when a player is allowed to re-roll their dice a certain number of times.YahtzeeandFarkleare prime examples of traditional dice games, but newer games include  King of Tokyo,  Bang!,  The Dice Game, and  Zombie Dice.

Hidden Movement:

One or more players move around the board and where they move is hidden from the other players. This is generally used when one character is trying to escape from a city without being caught. Examples include the  Mr. Jackseries,  Letters From Whitechapel, and  Nuns on the Run.

Hidden Role:

When players do not know which characters the other players are or even whose side they’re on. This mechanic is often used to divide players into teams and then force them to figure out who is on their team throughout the course of the game. Can be related to Bluffing, as players are sometimes trying to convince the other players that they are somebody else. This is very common in games where multiple teams are involved. Examples include  The Resistance,  Werewolf,  Coup, and  Saboteur.

One vs Many:

One player is competing against all of the other players. This is generally how most Role Playing Games are played, as there is usually a Game Master or Overlord the characters are fighting. However, there are several board games that use this mechanic as well. Examples include Imperial Assault,  Descent, and  Letters from Whitechapel.

Pick-up and Deliver:

Players are transporting something (usually goods, resources, or people) from one location to another on the board. Think along the lines of how the postal system, FedEx, or UPS work. Examples include  Merchants of Venus,  Cinque Terre, and  Railways of the World.

Player Elimination:

Mechanic in which it is possible, or sometimes required, that players are removed from the game. This is the central feature of some games, where the last man standing is the winner. In other games, it is simply one path to victory. Traditional examples include  Risk  and  Monopoly, but more recent games that use this mechanic generally do not take as long to play. Examples include  King of Tokyo,  Bang!,  Samurai Sword, and  Ca$h ‘n Gun$.

Push/Press Your Luck:

Players are allowed to repeat an action as long as they wish, with the knowledge that they gain nothing if something bad happens. A traditional example would be Black Jack. A player can continue to “Hit” and gain a new card as long as their card total does not exceed 21. When they exceed 21, they go “bust” and immediately lose the hand. Many push your luck games use dice to judge your luck, but not all. Examples include  Martian Dice,  Incan Gold,  Zombie Dice, and  Can’t Stop


Players decide all the ways they would like their character to interact with the board or other characters before they are able to resolve a single action on their turn. One common way of doing this is every player secretly chooses their actions (i.e. turn right, go straight, shoot, etc.). Then each player reveals their actions and performs them in order. Normally, once the actions are selected, there is no changing them as the actions are being revealed. Examples include  RoboRally,  Lords of Xidit, and the children’s game  Robot Turtles.

Racing Games:

Games in which players are trying to move around a track as fast as possible. Movement is usually dictated by either dice or cards. The winner is the person who crosses the finish line first. Examples include  Jamaica,  Hare & Tortoise, and  Thunder Alley.

Real-Time Games:

A player is generally trying to do something as fast as they can, and they are either racing against a timer or other players. A traditional example would be  Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Other examples include  Escape: The Curse of the Temple,  Space Cadets, and  Galaxy Truckers.

Role and Write:

In these games you use pen and paper to mark and save responses or attributes or results from either one or multiple dice. Points are scored at the end of the game based on which results are marked. Examples include Yahtzee, Qwix, and Lanterns Dice.

Role Playing(RPG):

Players usually create a character that they will use for the duration of the story. These stories generally last more than one play session and are sometimes played for years. Getting into character, acting, and making decisions based on how you think your character would are all part of the fun and help to get the most enjoyment out of RPGs. The most well-known game of this kind is  Dungeons and Dragons, but not all RPGs are fantasy in nature. Many have sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, and other themes. Other examples include  A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game,  Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and  Pathfinder. There are also several board games that use character development over time as a main mechanic. Examples of these include  Descent,  Mice and Mystics, and  Imperial Assault.

Roll / Spin and Move:

Mechanic that was widely used in traditional board games. A player will either roll dice, flip a card, or spin a spinner and then move the indicated number of spaces. Traditional examples include  The Game of Life,  Monopoly, and  Candyland. Other examples include  Merchants of Venus   andFormula D.

Set Collection:

Players try to gather like items or cards that can be turned in for a benefit. Used in some traditional card games like Rummy. Other examples include  Ticket to Ride,  Bohnanza,  Morels, and  Archaeology: The Card Game.

Simultaneous Action Selection:

Mechanic in which all players must select and perform what they are going to do at the same time. One way of accomplishing this is by having all players play a card face down and then reveal their cards at the same time. Examples include  Jamaica  and  7 Wonders.

Tile Placement:

Players take turns playing tiles onto the game board. The tiles may have different pictures or are used to form some sort of a path that the players will use. Players usually score points based on the tile that they placed or are forced to move their piece along the newly formed path. The placed tiles can either make up the game board or the player can play them onto their own player board to score points. This mechanic was introduced in the game  Carcassonne, but other examples include  Tsuro,  Voluspa,  Qwirkle, and  Alhambra.


Each player plays a card and whoever played the highest card collects everything that was played. This mechanic is used in several traditional card games including Spades and Hearts. Other examples include  Diamonds,  David and Goliath,  Chronicle, and  Dwarf King.

Variable Player Powers:

Many games use this mechanic in order to add some asymmetry to a game. Players are given, or choose, a character at the beginning of the game, and that character can dictate what they will be able to do during the game. This mechanic allows a game to have very different experiences for a player from one game play to the next. Examples include  Cosmic Encounter,  Bang!,  Coup, and  Small World.

Worker Placement:

Mechanic in which players have a set number of workers that they can use to perform an action. Each action requires a certain number or type of worker in order to be performed. Usually, each worker can only be used once each turn. Examples include  Caverna,  Manhattan Project,  Stone Age, and  Belfort.



Term that comes from the gameCarcassonneand is a combination of the words “my” and “people.” Originally referred to the wooden people that come with the game. The term is now widely used when referring to small figures found in several games. Some alternatives of the name have been used to describe meeples of non-human shapes. For example, “sheeple” refers to sheep figures.

Modular Board:

A game board made up of smaller shapes that players can combine to create an area of play.Catanis one of the most popular Modular Board games. Others include  Hey, That’s My Fish!,  Forbidden Island, and  Memoir ‘44.