Board Game Mechanic Series – #1: Dice Rolling and Card Drafting

Just yesterday, I had the privilege to introduce the newest addition to our team–Meercat. This, his inaugural post, begins a series that takes a closer look at many of the familiar game mechanics we might experience in our favorite (and less sought after) games. And, with that, I’ll let him take it away!

~ PyroFrog

Board Game Mechanic Review 

Throughout my experience playing board games, I’ve found that there are certain types of mechanics that I’m inclined to play more. Not that I won’t play certain games if they don’t include certain mechanics (I think a good theme can make up for bad gameplay given the right company), but the more I research the more I gravitate towards certain mechanics (and even certain themes).

 

This isn’t a definitive list on why my preferences are the best, but rather, I’m going to discuss the first two of many factors that go into why I seem to like particular games. The review of these two mechanics will make up the first part of my board game mechanics review series. I’m sure there are numerous flaws in my thought process, and I want to stress that there is no ultimate ranking of what is best. I think that it’s healthy to go back through the traits that make up the skeletons of games we most love. I’ve found this to be especially helpful when both searching for new games and when trying to design something new yourself. What game am I trying to make? What are the main mechanics and how will they affect the theme and flow of the game?

Dice rolling:

Does your game need a little bit of divine intervention? Just add Dice! Nothing says "Epic Fail" like snake eyes...
Does your game need a little bit of divine intervention? Just add Dice! Nothing says “Critical Hit!” or “Epic Fail!” like a roll of the dice…

I don’t know why, but I LOVE dice rolling. Is it the movement of possibility in your sweaty hands? Is it the sound of potential success clinking against your dice cup or dice tower? Is it the anticipation of greatness as you inevitably roll “snake eyes” to lose to your greatest frenemy (I’m not bitter)? Whatever it is, there’s something about being able to get a leg up on your opponent through nothing but pure luck, that unfair advantage that has no favoritism or partiality. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes that randomness comes back to haunt you, and that can be extremely frustrating when your lack of rolling ability hurts your own game strategy.

While there are some negative factors of dice rolling in a game, I still think it’s a characteristic that my mind subconsciously looks for when scoping out a new game. Whether it is a game that is dice dependent (e.g. Dice Masters) or a game that relegates this mechanic to a smaller role, this is clearly one of the more commonly used board game characteristics.

Card Drafting:

I’ve also selected Card Drafting as one of my go-to mechanics. This definitely goes hand in hand with dice rolling. Being able to pick up a card (either at the beginning or at different points during the game) that can alter your strategy  brings an element of mystery and fun into the mix. This might not ring true to gamers who are only about the strategy and like being able to control everything, but I think drafting cards definitely adds a bit of intrigue to whatever is being played on game night.

I will say, though, that this mechanic can be a huge disadvantage to people who have a hard time making decisions. The ability to take on new objectives through the drawing of a card can get some people’s blood pumping, but for others, this sounds like a nightmare. I can remember the first time playing Ticket to Ride and not being able to decide which railroad I wanted to build. Instead of different options that led to the same destination (what I was used to), I was faced with various options that would play a large role in how I would fare in the game. This took some getting used to, and since that first game, I’ve grown to enjoy card drafting more and more.

A perfect example of our discussion today is Steampunk Rally, where you draft new parts to add to your racer or to scrap for resources to power it. The resources in question take the form of dice that you roll and assign to the various parts of your machine to activate it. Strategy and Luck!
A perfect example of our discussion today is Steampunk Rally, where you draft new parts to add to your racer or to scrap for resources to power it. The resources in question take the form of dice that you roll and assign to the various parts of your machine to activate it. Strategy and Luck!

These are just two of the numerous mechanics that are used in games that we play every day. Rolling dice and card drafting might not resonate with you as much as others, and I can see how one could love or loath either of these two mechanics. While rolling dice has been more prevalent throughout the years, card drafting can be seen more heavily in Eurogames. Some gamers may not like the randomness of dice or decision making of card drafting, but it is clear to see the popularity that both mechanics have had in the marketplace, both recently and over time. Hopefully, these two items have played a role in your thought process, whether you were looking to buy a new game or design one yourself. We have seen literally dozens of game mechanics that have been used throughout the years, but truly only a handful of them have successfully withstood the test of time.

Do you have any gaming experience with either of these mechanics, either positive or negative? Comment below with your favorite game that includes either of these factors and what you enjoy most about them. Also, let me know if there are any specific mechanics that you would like me to discuss. The next blog will cover the mechanics of both Acting and Press Your Luck.

Until next time.

Meercat
@Meercat

2 thoughts on “Board Game Mechanic Series – #1: Dice Rolling and Card Drafting

  1. These two mechanics were a great choice. Dice rollimg always adds an element and feeling to a game that others just camt posses. Great first post I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Thanks so much! Ya dice rolling is near the top of my list. It definitely brings in more randomness to the game but usually leaves in a lot of room for strategy still.  

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