What Specific Game Mechanics Make You Say "Cool!"
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Now, I've yet to create a GeekList that really strikes a chord here on BGG... and that is ok. However, I have a BGG goal this summer. So here I go again.

In my enthusiastic, though short, experience in the board gaming world, I have come to love many things about board games, but for many games I come to really enjoy certain specific mechanics or aspects. Now, I am not talking about generic mechanics, i.e. "I like auction games." I am talking about specific game mechanics that really make players say, "Now that is pretty cool...."

So I'm going to start a list, by no means all encompassing, of specific gaming mechanics that really stand out to me. I encourage all BGGers to add their items and tell why they enjoy said mechanic.


Edit: WOW! surprise I just want to say a big THANKS to all the contributors and comments added to this GeekList! This has truly been a lot of fun watching one of my first GeekLists really take off! ONE BIG thumbsup FOR ALL OF YOU!

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101. Board Game: Antike [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:363]
Kevin Peters Unrau
Canada
Kitchener
Ontario
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The rondel mechanism has already been mentioned and while it's a great innovation and has been picked up for other games, the most interesting part of this game for me is the limited victory points. There are other games that limit VPs (even PR) but Anitke also limits the way in which you can achieve them which forces you to diversify your strategy. I'd love to see this picked up in future games.
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102. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:33]
Guillaume G.
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Genève
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Tigris & Euphrates has already been listed for its hidden scoring mechanic but I would like to mention another of its characteristics which makes it a wonderful game: the conflict resolution mode and the way you have to combine visible information with instinct and deduction to make the right decision.

Choosing to attack is one of the most difficult decision you may do in the game. To know if it will be successful, you need to be able to guess what your opponent has in hand. You can do it from looking at the board and considering the colored tiles already played, you can do it also - from the behavior of your opponent. Why did he play in such or such manner? Even when the odds are in your favor and you make a limited bet, there's always this little voice in your head: "what if he had the right combination of tiles to defend himself?". The consequences could be really bad as your position on the board is dictated by the outcomes of conflicts. Nevertheless, your opponent only has a maximum of 6 tiles in hand. How could they all be aligned against you? Still, the doubt remains.

When you're not attacking, you try to avoid being attacked at your weakness. When you have no red tiles in hand, you know that your leaders are taking big risks. But, hopefully this information is not available to anyone but you. T&E offers opportunity to bluff and plays with the nerves of your opponents. You could come very close to an opponent with not enough tiles to defend... You may still stay there for some time and maybe long enough to offset your weakness and strike first efficiently.

I think that the elegant, instinctive, statistical way the conflicts are being solved in Tigris & Euphrates really accounts for the fun of the game. That's probably the first reason why I like this game so much.
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103. Board Game: Pax Britannica [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1851]
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Variable victory points.

In Pax Brittanica, the players have asymmetrical powers/strengths - the British Empire really spans the globe, the French aren't too far behind, but the other European countries don't have as much influence

So how do you make sure the victory conditions are "competitive"? Use a modifier of course! British points are divided by 5, French by 4, and I can't remember the rest, but it meant that the British had to work that little bit harder to keep their massive empire churning out points, but still gave the other players a chance to win.
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104. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:23]
Jean-Michel Petit
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
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Forcing a consume on your opponents

I love the mechanism where you can force your opponent to consume his ressources even though he didn't want to do it. That's a good "take that" effect in a game that is all about subtlety. shake

Cheers

Micquebec

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105. Board Game: Racetrack [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:4588]
Kyle W.
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Up Nort' Der
Wisconsin
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Vector Movement

To anyone that works or studies in the fields of engineering, physics, or mathematics, this remarkably simple movement mechanic is a beautiful thing. It seamlessly blends the interrelated concepts of position, velocity, and acceleration together into a racing game that would fit just as well in the lesson plan of a high school teacher or college professor as it would on a gaming table. Yet, despite that inherent educational value it’s actually fun to play!

You can find variations of vector movement in published games like Bolide and a handful of others, but at the most basic level all you really need to play is a sheet of graph paper and something to write with – draw a pair of curvy lines or loops to make a track, mark the start/finish line, and off you go…

I only wish I had discovered this one back when I was still in college – it would have made so many of those long, boring lectures go so much faster.

Edit: typos
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106. Board Game: The Omega Virus [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:2348]
Kyle W.
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Up Nort' Der
Wisconsin
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Shrinking Territory

Using a map or a parcel of land as the board is a common concept in gaming, but the vast majority use either a fixed area that never changes or they start small and expand outward as the game progresses. Doing the opposite by constantly shrinking the board is a really cool twist that I’ve always liked.

From shutting down an entire sector in The Omega Virus, to the slowly vanishing ice floes in Hey, That's My Fish!, to the inevitable approach of Magdar, it really ramps up the intensity in the later stages of the game as players are forced to compete over an area that is constantly growing smaller and smaller...
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107. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:423]
Kyle W.
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Splitting Profits and Forced Collusion (for lack of a better term)

Ever since I first read about Container many months ago here on the Geek, this game has intrigued me. Buying, selling, and bidding are all fairly common mechanics, but having that extra, overriding rule that you can never move your own product puts a very interesting spin on this game.

Simply put, it is impossible to win unless other players help you. It’s about as far from “multiplayer solitaire” as you can get. The real trick is making them want to help you instead of someone else, and to make sure what they do helps you just a little bit more. It feels almost backwards compared to any other economics-based game I’ve ever played, and makes for a unique experience every time.

Sooner or later I’m going to actually win too!
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108. Board Game: Twitch [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:4468]
N/A
You thought the Roborally dance was nuts... how about adding an element of real time to make it crazy... and make that timer the reaction time of your *opponents* to make it insane?

In Twitch, the first player pitches a relative directional card to the bowl, and the next player is the one *relative to the first player* who must now pitch the next card. If he's too late, another player can play a card of the playing color's color to give him a penalty. If the other player doesn't play in time or plays the wrong player's color, he takes a penalty.

That's right -- there is NO reward, other than a penalty to the player who must play the next directional card -- for playing a penalty card. The fun of the game itself is the reward of this game.

I've seen players holding ONLY the penalty card of a particular player they want to pick on in this game...
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109. Board Game: Mutant Chronicles Collectible Miniatures Game [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:4115]
N/A
I can't tell you how many skirmish miniatures games I've seen that use only point values to select an army. HeroClix at least gets a nominal mention for its "death spiral" of changing stats as a figure takes damage.

But Mutant Chronicles? You receive three gold, three silver, and three brozne "points" to purchase not just figures, but order tokens and command cards. Each turn, you assign an order token to activate one of your figures, and the gold order tokens allow a figure to perform three actions per activation, the silver two activations, and bronze one. The command cards are one-shot effects, and the gold ones are better than the silver, which are better than the bronze.

Hence, you can mix and match more than just army units. Do you purchase an even distribution of all three? How about nothing but gold and bronze figures and silver orders?

Of course, from a collector's standpoint, it's a head-scratcher that the figures cost five bucks and are randomized, while the starter set contains all the tokens and command cards you'll ever need...
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110. Board Game: Warrior Knights [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:592]
Kilian Wolf
Germany
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The action cards!
Each game round you get to play six of them, as do your opponents. However, two each go into the three different piles (which are then shuffled). That means you can plan on actions one and two to come before your other ones, but you can´t count on action one to come before action two. What´s more, you don´t know who will be first, you or the other knights?
You just can´t beat the satisfaction of being the first one to put a recrute token on the board!
That´s not the end of it, though. Each resolved action then goes into either the "wages"-, "taxation"- or "assembly" pile (not your choice, most of the time!), where it possibly triggers another event that can either totally wreck you (Wages!) or save you (Taxation!)

I realize this sounds totally confusing to anybody who has never played Warrior Knights. But after two rounds it becomes very intuitive.
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111. Board Game: Mare Nostrum [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:764]
 
Kilian Wolf
Germany
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Trading!
How simple can it get? I pick a commodity from someone, than he gets to pick one from another, thrust, repeat.
Still, there´s more to it. The Master of Commerce (`That his name?) gets to dictate (yes, sir!) how many items must be traded per player. That way, he can exclude players from trade ("you ain't got eight commodities, you ain't tradin'"), force players to trade scarce resources ("all in") and keep Egypt from getting too many Tax cards.

The downside is that an inexperienced Master of Commerce will make Egypt win in no time... unless someone attacks those sorry tax hoggers.
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112. Board Game: Space Dealer [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1136]
Gareth
Switzerland
Zürich
Zürich
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Real-Time Boardgame
This is an amazing idea where the game lasts a fixed amount of time and, in order to perform any action you must use one of your robot workers (sand timers). The fast and frantic pace really keeps the game interesting (if a little chaotic).

To top it all, you can combine two sets for full, 8 player madness!

The ideal remedy for anyone sick of AP.
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113. Board Game: Evo [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:515]
Alastair Cornish
United Kingdom
Croydon
Surrey
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I love the changing temperature mechanic. Each turn some areas will get hotter, others colder and some inhospitable.

It drives movement, planning and goes hand in hand with the fun evolution of your dinos as you try to carve out a niche for your species.
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114. Board Game: Battleground: Fantasy Warfare [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1113] [Average Rating:6.99 Unranked]
Alastair Cornish
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Croydon
Surrey
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On your turn you get a certain number of command points (based on the size of your force), you can spend these to draw useful command cards OR you can spend them to change a unit's orders or take direct control of a unit (otherwise they move according to simple rules based on their standing / initial orders)

So simple and yet SO AGONISING!
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115. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:275]
Just call me Erik
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Waldorf
Maryland
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Vegas Showdown's Auction is unique: in that all players are bidding on all things at the same time. You not only have to consider how much to play, but what you want in the first place! You may even put an initial bid on something you don't want, just because you know player X will want it, outbid you, and you can move your bid marker to something you need while making him pay for it.
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116. Board Game: Polarity [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1420]
Just call me Erik
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Waldorf
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In most games, you play by a set of rules and relationships of mathematical formulae and numbers to each other, arbitrarily created by a game designer.

In Polarity, you play with Magnetism and Gravity...2 of the most essential forces that bind our universe.

As a friend said...it's fricking floating. How cool is that?
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117. Board Game: Quo Vadis? [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1299]
Just call me Erik
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Waldorf
Maryland
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The idea of everything being negotiable makes this one of my ten-rated games.
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118. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:717]
Just call me Erik
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Waldorf
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The idea of a shared track network makes this game a lot of fun. The trick is to figure out how to get others to do the work for you.
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119. Board Game: It's Alive! [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:1884]
Just call me Erik
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We've seen once around auctions a million times right? Not like this.

The player to the auctioneer's right gets the last bid. Makes it an interesting dillema for the auctioneer when he doesn't have trump. Also makes it easier on your nerves when you bid what you can afford then relax
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120. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:30]
Kent Fletcher
United States
Eagle Mountain
Utah
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In game rule change
I love that the rules of the game can change during the game through use of the political strategy card.
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121. Board Game: Santiago [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:349]
Ben Vögel
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
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I've been on this site for 10 years now, and I'm far from sick of games, but I think I am, to some degree, sick of learning too many new games. I'm also tired of playing 4+ hr multiplayer games, but I'll still happily play really long games 2 player.
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Santiago needs some love on this list.

The auction/bidding mechanism is innovative and really fun. It regulates without feeling restrictive.
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122. Board Game: Kings & Things [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1236]
Wendell
United States
temporarily Arlington VA
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Random Map Set-up: Yes, Settlers of Catan has it. But Kings & Things had it much earlier!

It is a fine mechanic/mechanism/thing, in any case.
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123. Board Game: Medieval [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:3935]
Wendell
United States
temporarily Arlington VA
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Medieval has a couple of interesting mechanics, related to the map. First, the entire map is not in play at first various parts of Europe enter into the game based on when the card is played.

Not random but interesting.

Even MORE interesting to me is how Berg handled the Mongol invasions of Europe. Simple - late in the game huge chunks of the eastern map are simply removed from the game as the Mongols sweep west.
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124. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:280]
Adam Kunsemiller
United States
Indianapolis
IN
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Mischievous Hobbes is Mischievous
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Other then the strict hand order that was already mentioned earlier in this list, I love the using the game cards to keep score mechanic. When I first played this game, I was struck by how nice and contained this is. It just seems so simple and efficient. Playing the game more often, the other thing I like is how this mechanic affects the game. By taking more and more beans out of certain types as you play, and paying attention to these things, there can be a big impact on the end game and which beans are worth focusing on through the shuffles. I also like that this makes the game faster while also making it a bit more interesting.
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125. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
silence means security
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Variable player-turn order is not that uncommon to find in a game, but it is a mechanism that makes me say 'cool'. Found in other games including Citadels, Caylus, and in an interesting way in Imperial, it's impact is greatest in Power Grid. In a tight game of PG you must manipulate turn order if you expect to win.
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