Game Mechanics

Outdoor Dexterity Games: Tossing and Turning on the Lawn



While my focus in most of my articles is on tabletop games, with the advent of summer comes the desire to play outside. There are many such games and activities, but the games of interest here are ones that involve rolling or tossing objects at another/other object(s). I think for most in the US, this is associated with Horseshoes or Bocce, but there are several variations on this theme – more than I realized – that are popular primarily based on the country or region of origin. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Missing Mechanics: Many Hands Make Light Work



I haven’t been a video gamer for several years, so I can only speak about the games that I played – the ones “everyone” played – 10-20 years ago. A common mechanic in video games of that era (think Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires, etc.) was to assign a worker to build something. That’s not so different from Worker Placement in board games, right? Well, maybe…

Mechanics Focus: Card Drafting



In the Low Player Count BGG guild, one of the podcasts that I enjoy, a series of questions was asked about the “card drafting” mechanic. I have incorporated card drafting in Picky Packrats and am working on other designs that have card drafting as central to the game, so I have been thinking about this mechanic already and have some thoughts to share. The link to the BGG glossary entry for Card Drafting, my responses to the questions posed in the BGG guild, and some additional thoughts follow.

So each player starts with a 3 x 3 grid of cards…


Listening to a recent podcast, I heard that a certain game design contest had received quite a few entries for which “a 3 x 3 grid of cards” was a main feature. Those discussing this event sounded derisive to those designers who presented these designs. Now, maybe that was just my impression, but that impression was the seed for this blog post. So let’s take a look at “a 3 x 3 grid of cards” as a game feature. Note: I was not one of those designers entering the contest, so this is not a case of sour grapes; just an observation.

Mechanics Focus: Dexterity Games



The BoardGameGeek Glossary defines Dexterity Game this way: n. A game where the major skill needed is a physical action, such as flicking (Crokinole), balance (Topple), or deft manipulation (Jenga).

General Appeal

Many people of all ages enjoy dexterity games and since they generally require skills that are not necessarily acquired with age, people of all ages can usually enjoy them together. Usually the “smarter” adults can’t stomp on the younger players just because they have more gaming experience. In fact, young players often have the dexterity necessary that can deteriorate with age, so in a dexterity game they may have the upper hand, as it were.

Mechanics Makeover: Dice in a Cup – Round 1b

Design Workbench

This is the second and final part describing the individual mechanics and their attributes – the modifiers. Again, there are three basic sets of mechanics; starting from the bottom up:

  1. Those that affect the die rolls. (Roll Modifiers)
  2. Those that affect the goal or victory condition. (Goal Modifiers)
  3. Those that affect the players. (Round Modifiers)

Picking up where we left off, in this round we will look at the last set. I set these apart from the other two because these only impact the die rolls in a meta sense. They don’t impact the actual rolls, but may impact the choices you make during rolling, since they impact who you are rolling against and who goes first.

Mechanics Makeover: Dice in a Cup – Round 1a

Design Workbench

Since I am starting to report this progress further into the design phase than previously, I will break up the “rounds” a little differently at first to catch up. Here’s how the first few rounds will shake out:

  1. I will catch up on the mechanics and their attributes, which I will call modifiers.
    1. Since there is a lot to report here, I’ll break this round up into two parts.
  2. I will catch up on the gamelets.
    1. Since there is a lot to report here, I’ll break this round up into three parts.
  3. I will catch up on the game created by compiling the gamelets.

Mechanics Makeover: Dice in a Cup – Glossary


In addition to the standard dice game terms, I have derived a few new ones for this makeover and for use in the Challenge Dice game. Not all are used right away, but this way the glossary can be referenced at any time. This may look like a lot of terminology for a simple game, but it is intended to be used intuitively. Defining terms helps that happen.

Mechanics Makeover: Dice in a Cup – General Playtesting


A few words about the playtesting approach are in order so they are not necessary in every posting. While the specific variations in this makeover are relatively simple, a valuable aspect of this makeover is to review the testing approach to a highly variable game.


For playtesting an individual mechanic, I am introducing what I call a “Gamelet.” A gamelet (like an applet compared to an application) is a mini-game in the sense that it does the functions of a game, but in a very narrow sense. A good gamelet will exercise one mechanic in a very limited sense. In this case there are also Attributes that impact the operation of the mechanic. So there is a grid of Attributes and Gamelets to test if each attribute is tested separately.


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