Board Game Terms

4x Games

A type of strategy game where the four Xs stand for explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. These four concepts are the central elements of the game.

Examples of this include Runewars, Twilight Imperium.


A game that has no theme. Abstract games are focused on having solid rules and mechanics.

Examples of this include Chess, Checkers, and Go.

Action Points

A pool, or limited number, of points that a player can spend to take a variety of different actions.

Examples of this include Pandemic.

Alpha Player

A type of player who takes lead or control of decisions, tells other people how to play, and often disregards other peoples suggestions. Most commonly found in Cooperative Games.


Also known as Amerithrash, Ameritrash games are an American style of board game that focuses on theme while also usually having a fair amount of luck involved.

Examples of this include Dune, Battlestar Galactica, and Arkham Horror.

Analysis Paralysis

Often referred to AP, Analysis Paralysis is when a player over-analyses a decision greatly slowing down the game on their turn. Games with a large number of decisions or more complex decisions are more prone to cause AP.

Area Control

A mechanic where you take control of certain areas either by combat or by having a majority of units/points. You are often receive specific rewards or bonuses for controlling certain areas.

Examples of this include Risk and Axis & Allies.

Asymmetrical Games

A type of game where different players have different options, powers, and abilities. These can be as a result of being different teams, roles, or characters.

Examples of this include Mr. Jack and Spectre Ops.


A mechanic where players bid to gain specific resources or game pieces.

Examples of this include Monopoly and Power Grid.


The way rules and mechanics are used in equalizing players. An unbalanced game is one where a specific player, be it by default or by a choice they make, has a clear advantage over the other players. An overbalanced game is one where no matter what choices or actions a player makes they cannot achieve an advantageous position.


A mechanic where players hide either what information they have or what their goal is.

Examples of this include Poker, Liars Dice, and Werewolf.

Card Drafting

A mechanic where players are given an option of what card to take out of a selection.

Examples of this include Ticket to Ride and Sushi Go!.


Stands for collectible card game, a type of card game where you have to buy randomized packs to get cards.

Examples of this include Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!.


A small cardboard game piece. Used for many different purposes in different games.

Examples of this include Smallworld and Catan.

Co-op Games

A Co-op or Cooperative Game is a game where players work together against the mechanics of the game in order to win.

Examples of this include Pandemic and Escape: Curse of the Temple..

Crib Sheet

Also known as Cheat Sheets, Crib Sheets are a reference document that have a condensed summary of the rules and are used as a player-aide. Some games come with Crib Sheets and many people create their own for games.

Examples of this include Smallworld and Pandemic.

Cube Pusher

A term, often negative, about games that heavily rely on little cube tokens as resources or people on the board. These games often have little to no theme so people just see it as you "pushing cubes" around on the board.

Examples of this include Lords of Waterdeep.

Deck Builder

A type of game where players are plating from their own deck of cards but as they are playing they are also adding in more cards into their deck. It is not a deck building game if the deck building is done separately then playing the game.

Examples of this include Dominion and Thunderstone.

Designer Games

A general term used for hobby board games. Refers to games the credit their designers and not just the publisher


A game that revolves around physical skill. Such games usually have the players manipulating game pieces in very specific ways in order to achieve victory.

Examples of this include Jenga, Crokinole, and Penguin Pile-up..

Dice Builder

A type of game where you use dice from a pool to play the game, but as you are playing you are adding more dice into the pool.

Examples of this include Quarriors.

Dice Games

A game with rolling dice is the main mechanic.

Examples of this include Yahtzee, Farkle, and King of Tokyo.


Short for Dungeon Master and Game Master respectively. A person who is moderating or running the game for other players. A DM/GM usually sets up encounters, give the players the information they need, and control the opposing forces of the players.

Examples of this include Dungeons and Dragons.


The time you have in a game where you need to wait to do your next action. Often this is the time in-between your turns but is not always the case.

Economic Games

A game that's focus is around buying, selling, and investing resources or properties.

Examples of this include Monopoly, Aquire, Puerto Rico.

Engine Building

A mechanic or type of game where you build up infrastructure and resources which as the game goes on allows you to build more infrastructure or resources. The long the game goes the easier it is to get more things more efficiently.


A type of game associated with Europe or more specifically Germany. These game often have little to no luck and rely heavily on skill. Eurogames also tend to be less thematic then Ameritrash games.

Examples of this include Catan, Carcassonne, and El Grande..


Additional content released for a game that already exists, usually adding additional pieces, rules, or scenarios.

Family Game

A game that is accessible to a wide age range and has a high player count. A game that can be played with a large diverse family.

Examples of this include Catchphrase and Apples to Apples.


A quick and simple game often played while you are waiting for a heavier game to start or in between two heavier games.

Examples of this include Love Letter and Fluxx.


Stands for "Friendly Local Game Store".

Gateway Game

A game that is a good intro into the board game hobby. Often lighter games that have concepts and mechanics that are used in other, more complex games.

Examples of this include Catan, King of Tokyo, and Dominion.


A term used for a person who prefers older games, or older versions of games even when newer editions are available. Is often used as a term for anyone who plays war games.


Heavy games are games usually with a lot of complex rules, many pieces, and long play times.

Hidden Information

A game mechanic where there is unknown information in the game. Usually each player each has their own bit of information but is either not allowed to share it directly or has reason to keep this information to themselves.

Examples of this include Cluedo and Spyfall.

Hidden Roles

A mechanic where the players all have different roles or characters but they are kept secret from other players. Often the objective of games that feature these is to identify who is who.

Examples of this include Battlestar Galactica, Werewolf, The Resistance.


A player who is in the position of not being able to win the game himself, but has the power to decide between several players who is going to win.

Ladder Climbing

A mechanic or genre of game, usually card games, were one player starts off playing a certain rank or number of cards and then it goes around the circle with each player needing to play a higher rank or more cards then the person before.

Examples of this include Hearts and The Great Dalmudi.


Stands for "Living Card Game". LCGs are a type of card game where full sets of cards are released on a consistent schedule and instead of buying random packs of assorted cards you buy a full set of all the cards released.

Examples of this include Android: Netrunner and Warhammer Conquest..


"Light" games are games with simple rules. These games are usually shorter in length and are often good Gateway Games.


A mechanic or type of game that involves chance. Often these games include some form of randomizer such as dice.

Examples of this include Bingo and Yahtzee.

Mass Market Games

Refers to games made to appeal to large groups of people and are widely known and found.

Examples of this include Monopoly, The Game of Life, Cranium.


A game piece, often wooden, that resembles the outline of a person. Some people use meeples to reference any game piece that is supposed to look like a specific thing. Also has spawned similar terms such as Animeeple, which is an animal meeple.

Examples of this include Carcassonne.


An action or strategy that is made using logic or information not found in the game. For example you might call a bluff in poker because you know your opponent always bluffs when he has a bad hand.


A type of game made up of a very small number of components. Often very light games and very mobile.

Examples of this include Love Letter.


A small model or figure used as a game piece. Games that almost exclusively use miniatures are called Miniature Games.

Examples of this include Warhammer and Arcadia Quest.


A mechanic where players make deals with each other.

Examples of this include Diplomacy and Game of Thrones.


Stands for "Online Game Store".


Stands for "Out of Print" or when a game is not currently being manufactured. This can mean that a game is in between production runs or that is OOP indefinitely.

Party Game

A game that often allows many players to play at once and encourages social interaction. A game you would want to pull out at a party.

Examples of this include Charades, Cards against Humanity, and Wits and Wagers..


Stands for "Play by Email". A way of playing a game were each person takes there turn by sending an email allowing people to play games when they are available and with people who are not nearby.

Perfect Information

A game where all information is available to all players. A game without any information kept secret.

Examples of this include Chess and Checkers..

Player Interaction

A game mechanic where players can take actions that directly affect or interact with other players pieces, resources, actions, or strategy.


A type of game released online that people can print off the rules and pieces they need and play the game.

Point Salad

A term for a game where you have a variety of actions to choose from that all reward you with different number of points. These games usually do not reward players for doing certain actions more or better than other players, just give generic points that determine who the winner is.

Power Creep

A game that has more content for it is published and released the game gets more and more unbalanced. This can be for a variety of reasons but usually just adding in better options make some of the old options you might have had pointless.


A mechanic where you choose a series of actions, and then you watch as those actions are carried out. These types of games often have high amounts of player interaction.

Examples of this include Robot Rally.


Another term for an Alpha Player. When one player takes the lead and tries to control everybody else's actions or choices.

Racing Game

A game whose goal is to reach the end of a track.

Examples of this include Chutes and Ladders, Parcheesi, Formula D.


A component whose purpose is to randomly select or generate something. Most common for is dice but spinners, decks of cards, and more recently apps have also been used.

Role Selection

A mechanic where players choose a role or character they can be. Some games this only happens once at the beginning where others you might change roles every round.

Examples of this include Citadels.

Roll and Move

A mechanic where you move a token a number of spaces based on results of a randomizer. While usually this is determined by rolling dice, it is not always the case and sometimes other randomizers, such as spinners, are used.

Examples of this include Monopoly and The Game of Life.


A component that is shaped like a disc and has different actions printed on it. On your turn you can move the rondel certain ways which is how you select what action you take next.


Stands for "Role Playing Game". These games usually emphasize story where players often play the characters in the story. Examples of RPGs include Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulu.

Examples of this include Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulu.

Rules Lawyer

A person who takes the rules of a game very seriously and makes sure everyone follows the rules to the letter. Some rules lawyers try to use obscure or vaguely worded rules to try and get in an advantageous position.

Semi Co-op Games

A type of cooperative game where one of the players is a traitor. The group is still working together against the game just one player, usually hidden, is trying to sabotage them.

Examples of this include Battlestar Galactica and Shadows of Camelot..

Set Collection

A mechanic where players are trying to complete a specific set of items. Sometimes players are trying to collect a complete set of an item and others they are trying to collect more of a set then other players.

Examples of this include Sheriff of Nottingham and Lords of Waterdeep.

Simultaneous Action

A mechanic where multiple players choose their actions in secret. Actions are then revealed and resolved in a specific order.

Examples of this include Jamaica and RoboRally.

Social Deduction

A type of game where everyone has a hidden agenda or role and the objective of the game is usually to find a traitor or as a traitor not get caught.

Examples of this include The Resistance and Werewolf.


Refers to a game, often a cooperative game, where the optimum path or choices to make has been found and doing these steps practically guarantees victory.


The game can be played on its own, without needing any other products. Often this on expansions that you do not need the base game to play.


The area in front of a player where that player puts cards and tokens as they play them.


Stands for "Trading Card Game". Also referred to as CCG or Collectible Card Games. A type of card game where you have to buy randomized packs to get cards.

Examples of this include Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Tile Laying

A game where players take turns placing tiles onto the table creating the board.

Examples of this include Carcassonne and Tsuro.

Trick Taking Games

A type of card game with short rounds or "Tricks" that the game focuses around. When a round ends the cards are all examined and the winner "Takes the Trick". Often played in many rounds.

Examples of this include Hearts and Bridge.


A game that a player use to enjoy but does not any longer.


A strategy where a player focuses purely on defense and tries to outlast the opponent.


Optional rules or mechanics that players can choose to play or not. Variants are often used to allow players to modify the weight, length, or difficulty of a game.


The complexity of a game. Heavy games are very complex and Light games are very simple. While some games are universally accepted into a specific weight, it is often quite subjective to the player/group.

Word Games

A type of game that focuses on vocabulary. Usually revolves around creating or finding words from a selection of letters

Examples of this include Scrabble and Boggle.

Worker Placement

A type of game where players take turns placing tokens, or "workers", on the board in specific places to gain certain resources or actions. These games often have limited places so a player could be blocked out of actions because another worker is there already.

Examples of this include Lords of Waterdeep and Viticulture.

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