Board Game Terminology

Board Game Terminology

- Board Game Components -

Meeples - A small wooden character representing a player in a board game. The term is credited to have been coined in 2000 by Alison Hansel during a game of Carcassonne when she fused "my" and "people" to describe the wooden figures each player uses in that game.

Dice - Typically in cube form, each side of a die has a value. When dice are rolled the value that is shown face up if attributed to the player who rolled.

D6 - Short for a six-sided die

Modular Board - A game that has a board made up of individual tiles that can be randomly arranged for each game. This allows for unique gameplay every single time you bring the game to the table.

Examples include: Catan | Five Tribes | Instabul

Miniatures (Minis) - Small plastic figures, typically with a lot of detail representing characters or vehicles in a board game. Often miniatures are grey in color, giving players the option to paint them in any fashion they wish.

Dice Tower - Contraptions used to roll dice and prevent cheating. Typically in the shape of a tower, players drop their dice through the top and the dice bounce off various objects within the tower before emerging through the bottom and displaying their value.


- Board Game Genres -

Euro Game - Sometimes called a German game, this type of game refers to gameplay where players are not directly interacting with each other. Euro-style games focus on developing intricate strategies to earn points and downplay conflict (attacking) between players.

Examples include: CatanCarcassonnePuerto RicoTicket To Ride

4x Game - A type of strategy-based board game in which players control a faction and..

  • eXplore - Scouts are sent out to unveil unexplored territories on the map
  • eXpand - Extending your factions territorial control or settling new areas on the map
  • eXploit - Gather and use resources within your controlled areas
  • eXterminate - Attack rival factions and claim their territory for yourself

The term was coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World.

Examples include: Twilight Imperium | Eclipse | Civilization: A New Dawn

Abstract Game - A board game without a theme or with a theme that is very generic. These games are typically limited to two players and have no randomness. The game of Chess is a classic example of an Abstract game.

Examples include: PatchworkSantorini | Azul | Sagrada

Dexterity Game - These are board games that incorporate physical coordination in order to win. Popular dexterity mechanics include flicking pieces with your fingers and balancing items on top of each other.

Examples include: Flick Em Up! | Rhino Hero Super Battle | Junk Art

Filler Game - A board game that is short in length and is very easy to learn. These might be games that you squeeze in while waiting for people to show up to your game night.

Examples include: KingdominoHanabiTsuro

Gateway Game - A board game that is considered a good game to get people who have never played a board game excited to play more.

Examples include: King of Tokyo | Splendor

Party Game - A board game that is suitable for large groups of people and is fun to play for both board game/non-board game enthusiasts.

Examples include: Wits & Wagers | Captain Sonar | Times Up

Co-Op Game - A board game where all players are working together to beat the game. Players either win as a group or loss as a group.

Examples include: Pandemic | Forbidden Island | Dead of Winter | Hanabi

Social Deduction Game - A board game where players are trying to use clues to determine who among them is a specific character (typically a murderer or traitor of some sort).

Examples include: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong | The Resistance | Werewolf

Legacy Game - A board game that is meant to be played over a campaign (series of multiple games) and consists with an underlying storyline. This storyline changes based on the decisions made by players throughout each game, often permanently changing the board or modifying components (ie ripping up a card) in between games. Legacy games are typically meant to be played with the same group of people, however, some Legacy games have been created to easily remove/insert players throughout the course of the campaign.

Examples include: Pandemic Legacy | Charterstone | Seafall | Gloomhaven


- Board Game Mechanics -

Worker Placement - Board games where players place markers (workers) one at a time in different action areas with occupancy limits (typically a max of 1-2 workers per location). Each worker may then take the action associated with the location and is either returned to the player's hand or moved to a different, unoccupied area.

Examples include: Viticulture | Agricola | Stone Age

Area Control - Board games where players compete to control different areas of a board to win the game. The most popular example of this sort of game is Risk.

Examples include: Small World | Twilight Struggle 

Deck Building - Board games where players are obtaining cards to use in there own personal deck.

Examples include: DominionClank!Star Realms

Action Selection - Board games where a player may carry out a limited number of movements/actions from a list per turn. Examples include moving your player token, giving cards to other players, using a special ability, or drawing cards.

Examples include: Pandemic | Dead of Winter | Forbidden Desert

Tile-Laying - Board games where tiles are drawn and placed together based on some sort of criteria. Tiles typically need to build upon the continuation of a path or match a specific color/design. Various outcomes may occur based on how a tile is laid (ie points scored, actions taken, cards drawn, etc...) 

Examples include: Azul | Carcassone | Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

Bluffing - Board games where you need to deceive other players in order to score large amounts of points.

Examples include: Sheriff of Nottingham | Coup 

Hidden Traitor - Board games that are co-operative in nature, however, there is a lingering possibility that one of the players was told to be a traitor at the beginning of the game. The traitor player must secretively work against the other players in order to fail the mission and win the game for themselves.

Examples include: Dead of Winter | Shadows Over Camelot  


- Other Terms -

Kingmaker - A player currently in a losing position who has the power to decide who will win the game

Newbie - Someone who has never played a particular game or a board game in general

P&P (Print and Play) - Board Games (often free) that can be downloaded off the internet and printed. Some assembly may be required or components (ie meeples, dice, etc...) may need to be obtained in order to play the game.

Points Salad - Refers to a board game in which there a numerous ways to score points. Many of these types of games come with a packet of scorecards that make it easy to add up the different ways a player scored their points.

Examples include: 7 Wonders | Five Tribes | Agricola

Replay Value - A board game has a high replay value if players will likely experience new challenges/decisions each time they play the game. High replay value is also attributed to games that do not get stale/repetitive after a few times playing them. 

Turtle - Playing a very defensive strategy (ie hiding in your shell)

VP - An abbreviation for Victory Points which are points you earn by fulfilling various goals/milestones in a game. Victory Points ultimately determine the winner of a game.

GC - An abbreviation for Gold Coins which are typically used as a currency to purchase items during gameplay.

Alpha Player - Typically occurring in Co-op games, Alpha players feel the need to take control of the gameplay and have the final say in every decision that is made. Alpha play usually stems from a very experienced player playing with newer/first-time players.

Expansion - A game you can purchase to add new mechanics, actions, or strategies to the original (base) game. Expansions typically require owning the base game in order to use.

Mechanics/Mechanism - Refers to the systems that move your game from beginning to end. Mechanics can guide how a player obtains cards, scores points, or interacts with other players.

Spiel des Jahres (SdJ) - Currently a series of three awards given out annually from a panel (they call themselves a jury) of board game critics in Germany. Games that receive a Spiel des Jahres award will typically display the awards icon on their box with the corresponding year it was awarded. The three categories of awards are as follows:

  • Game of the Year
  • Connoisseur Game of the Year (games with high play difficulty)
  • Children's Game of the Year

The Spiel des Jahres website maintains a database of all award winners, nominees, and recommended games since 1979. Check it out here!

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