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Board Game Glossary, Board Game Terms Explained

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When we first started in the hobby there was a lot of board game terminology being used in reviews and other game sites that we just didn’t understand.  It sounded like an alien language to us sometimes and we decided that we didn’t want our readers to have to try and decipher that alien language.

We try to not use board game terminology when we can but sometimes it is unavoidable, and other times it just slips out, sort of like that first time you cursed in front of your parents.  For that reason, we thought we should make a glossary of common board game terms to make it easier for you to know what we’re talking about sometimes. 

We made the choice to leave out a lot of words because they will likely never be used on our site, but if there are any other terms you want added to this board game glossary just let us know in the comments below. We hope this is helpful to you but we also hope we don’t cause you to need it often when reading our reviews and discussions.  Call us out on it if you do.   

Board Game Glossary

A


Abstract

A game without a theme, or a game where the theme doesn’t really contribute significantly to the game.

Alpha Player

A player who takes over all decisions in a game, usually only happens in co-op or other games where teamwork is required. 

Analysis Paralysis (AP)

When a player overanalyzes their options and takes longer to take their turn than normal

B


Balance

Refers to the balance between players or the balance between winning or losing.  In a balanced game, players should have an equal chance if they had the same skill level.

Broken

A game that is broken is one that just doesn’t work.  It either has a flawed mechanic, or it can too often end in a tie. 

C


CCG

This refers to collectible card games.  Such as Magic or Pokémon.

Cooperative games (Co-op)

Games where players work together as a team towards a common goal and usually either win or lose together. 

D


Deck-building game

This is a game where players will usually have a starting deck of cards and add and sometimes remove cards from it throughout the course of the game in order to make that deck better suited for the game’s objectives. 

Dexterity games

These are games where the main part of how you play relies on physical actions, including stacking, flicking, or anything similar. 

Downtime

The time a player has to wait until their next turn, often specifically referring to when a player has nothing to do or pay attention to.  In some games though, another player’s actions may make the waiting player have to do something or initiate a responsive action, in a way making the “downtime” more engaging for the waiting player.

E


Engine builder

A game where you slowly work towards building a cohesive set of cards, dice, etc causing actions you can take to get better and better as the game continues. By the end of the game if you were successful you’ll typically feel like an all-powerful money, action, or point-generating machine, (at least compared to how you were in the beginning of the game).

Expansion

Extra content that can be added to the original base game in order to provide new content and/or ways to play.

Experience Game

A game where the goal is not winning or losing but instead to have a fun experience.  If you read our Box One board game review, you know we used the phrase “experience in a box” to describe this type of game.

F


Family game

Usually, a lighter, low-complexity game that anybody in the family can enjoy and play.

Fiddly

A game can be mentally or physically fiddly. A game that is mentally fiddly, typically has a lot of minor rules that are significant to the game, and hard to remember or follow thus taking away from the game.  A physically fiddly game just has a lot of components, that are often not well thought out on how they are used or not made well. This requires more action from the players too thus also taking away from the game.

Filler

A quick, low-complexity game to play in between heavier games.

FLGS

Friendly Local Game Store

G


Gateway Game

A game that is good for introducing or attracting others into the “hobby”, usually has simple rules and low complexity in order to be easier for non-boardgames.

GM

Game master, some games have a person who takes this role and they manage/moderate the game, often knowing secret information. Some games have the other player(s) playing against the GM.

H


Heavy

A game that either has a high complexity or requires a high degree of thought to play.

L


Legacy Game

A game that is played over multiple different games and the outcome of the previous game affects the next play, and so on until you reach the end of the legacy campaign.

Living Card Game (LCG)

This is a type of collectible card game, trademarked by Fantasy Flight Games, where each month new expansions/content are released for the game adding new stories, missions, and more.

Light

A low complexity game with simple rules that do not require heavy thinking.

M


Mechanics

The different ways, methods, or elements through which a game is played. Some examples include card drafting, dice rolling, and set collection. For a pretty comprehensive list, you can check out BoardGameGeek’s list of mechanics: Browse Board Game Mechanics | BoardGameGeek

Meeples

A game component that has a human form. Find out more about meeples by going to our “What is a Meeple” page.

Miniatures Game

A game that has miniature figurines as a main component to the game and gameplay.  Often you will be moving these miniatures around on a board adding for a more simulated and thematic experience. 

N


Negotiation Game

A game where players can make deals and trade resources, cards, etc.

P


Party Game

A game typically designed for large groups that focuses less on deep strategy and individual player experience, and more on group enjoyment instead.

Player Interaction

How much players’ actions and moves affect each other when playing a game

Point Salad Game

A game where there is a lot of ways to get points, with points being the main metric for who the winner is.

Press Your Luck Game

A game where you have the option or ability to take consecutive actions in an attempt to get better resources, cards, etc, but if you push too far it can have a negative effect.

Q


Quarterbacking

Another word for an alpha player, one who takes over and makes all the decisions for everyone playing the game.

R


Replay Value

This describes how many times a game can be replayed without it becoming stale or boring.  A game with a high replay value would have more variety in any aspect.

S


Scenario

A specific starting condition or playtype for a game, some games have multiple scenarios to add variety to how you play.

Set-up

The time and requirements needed to arrange the game and get ready to play.

T


Theme

The overall topic of the game, if a game has a strong theme the rules and all components will be directly related to it.

Tile-laying Game

A game where the main mechanism is placing tiles instead of moving pieces on a static board.

Trick-taking Game

A game where players try to take “tricks”, this is usually done by a player playing the highest card in the starting suit or the highest card in a trump suit.

V


Variant

A different way to play a game with either minor or major alterations to rules, can be an official or unofficial.

VP

Victory Points, points that directly contribute to your final score.

W


Worker Placement

A game where the main mechanism is to lay figures(meeples, etc) on a board usually in order to gain resources, cards, or other components.


If you find this board game glossary helpful be sure to share! We hope it allows you to easily understand some of the most common board game terms that are thrown around on this site and others.

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