The 10 Best Game Mechanisms You Aren’t Using, Part 4

My last column included the assertion that I’d only been able to locate one example of each mechanism. Astute Facebook commenter Clark D. Rodeffer rescued minigames from obscurity by pointing out that the GIPF (web) series features them. The series includes pieces called “potentials.” These pieces have special abilities which make them stronger than the rest. To bring a potential into play, you must challenge and defeat your opponent in a different game. That’s right. The game you’re playing pauses while the two of you go play a quick spot of chess or box three rounds or play tiddlywinks or what have you. Darned clever and ashamed I didn’t remember it myself. Well spotted Clark.

5. Changing Roles

Cooperative games have been in fashion for several years now. One flaw many suffer from is a tendency not of the game but of the players themselves: the tendency for one player to take over and organize everyone else. This is natural human nature; we’re a herd species. Unfortunately, few folks sit down at the game table for a round of Being. Told. What. To. Do.

Many cooperative games have addressed this issue with the inclusion of a traitor. You certainly don’t want your enemy bossing you around!

Some players don’t like the traitor solution. They want a fully cooperative game but also want to make their own decisions.

The Engelstein’s Space Cadets addressed these issues in several clever ways. Firstly, the game is played on a timer–no room for analysis paralysis! Secondly, multiple roles must be carried out simultaneously–no time for you to micromanage me, take care of your own business Mister Armchair General! Thirdly–and this really is the best bit–sometimes you have to switch roles.

It is pretty much inevitable that the ship everyone is trying to crew will take damage. This damage sometimes involves changing jobs with another player. So every time you didn’t have a job to do, you had better have been studying the jobs of your neighbors. This game is frantic and nerve wracking without any need for a traitor.

For those of you interested in a similar experience while still providing an opponent to whom one might firmly extend a middle finger, the Engelsteins have also brought us Space Cadets Dice Duel. While I haven’t yet had a chance to play, they were nice enough to give me a quick walk-through at GenCon and it looked great.


4. The Box

It’s remarkable how the obvious can sneak right past us. We talk at length about game components and miss the opportunity to utilize the component every one of our games shares–the box.

Many game boxes are nothing more than a device for transporting the game or clutter during play. But some designers have found ways to make the box part of the experience.

The Little Prince: Make me a Planet uses the box as a scoring track.

Family Business and Tier Auf Tier: Jetzt geht’s rund! use the box as play space.

The game which best exemplifies the box as game mechanism is Thomas Liesching’s Niagara. In Niagara, the box defines the height of the falls and actively participates in the play experience.


How about you? Seen any great box-as-component games lately? Or games with changing roles? Let us know in the comments below.

I’ll be seeing all of you Tuesday, when we move on to discuss the virtues of fetch quests and player elimination.


7 thoughts on “The 10 Best Game Mechanisms You Aren’t Using, Part 4

  1. Cleopatra and the Society of Architects uses the bottom of the box to raise part of the palace. It adds a little, but not really a whole lot to the game.

  2. Kevin says:

    Gentlemen Thieves uses the innerbox top as an area to pick teams, and place tokens. The box insert has a space for the tokens to be distributed from.

  3. Its not the actual game box, but the game I think uses “boxes” in the most interesting way (that is reminiscent of Niagara to me) is Mord Im Arosa. Another game that kind of uses the game box in a creative way is La Boca.

  4. Another crazy game to make good use of the box is Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi – Battle At Sarlacc’s Pit. The inside of the box provides the bowl shape and walls to hold in the concaved Sarlacc pit, which the small sail barge teeters precariously over. Knock off Gamorrean guards into the Sarlacc pit to score points, as well as Nikto and the Fett-man himself! Simple game, but fun use of the box for sure!

  5. Steven says:

    Operation: Maccabee uses the box in a clever way — as a battlefield. You set up 8 toy soldiers in a cirlce (marked inside the lid), and then spin a dreidel to try to knock them over. Tons of fun!

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