12 votes

# Board games with unique mechanics?

Currently, I've been playing board games which always have the same kind of (standard) mechanics (worker placement, card drafting, etc), which after a while, starts to feel kind of the same but what changes is the theme.

I'm looking for recommendations on board games which have unique mechanics. It could a completely new mechanic or simply a mechanic which already exists but then the game uses it with a twist.

For example:

• Trickerion use of worker placement but the workers have actually different values.

• Tzolk'in and the use of gears.

## 21 comments

1. [4]
clem
Link
Two of my favorite board games are Codenames and Zendo. I could play Codenames nearly endlessly, while Zendo is a nice change of pace. I see no point in summing the games up when people have...
• Exemplary

Two of my favorite board games are Codenames and Zendo. I could play Codenames nearly endlessly, while Zendo is a nice change of pace.

I see no point in summing the games up when people have already done that for me on Wikipedia:

Zendo is a game of inductive logic designed by Kory Heath in which one player (the "Master") creates a rule for structures ("koans") to follow, and the other players (the "Students") try to discover it by building and studying various koans which follow or break the rule. The first student to correctly state the rule wins.

[In Codenames,]Two teams compete by each having a "spymaster" give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. The other players on the team attempt to guess their team's words while avoiding the words of the other team. In a variant with 2–3 players, one spymaster gives clues to the other player or players.

The basic gameplay of Codenames is wordplay. The fun of it is stretching the meaning of words and making connections between multiple ones. For example, look at this example word list (generated at randomlists.com/random-words) (ignore the emphasis on the top row--that is simply a requirement of tables on Tildes):

book teaching obnoxious adamant four
messy piquant three ski nifty
freezing island zephyr doctor rush
cold sound profit majestic peace
pricey silk unkempt colossal concern

I, as the "spymaster," would give a clue trying to get you to guess certain words while avoiding other words. If I gave you the clue, "winter," you might guess, "freezing," "cold," and "ski." Similarly, if I gave you, "Christmas," I might be trying to get you to guess "freezing," "cold," "pricey," "island" (as in Christmas Island), "rush," or maybe even some other stretches, like "peace" or "profit."

Maybe I want you to guess "cold" but not "freezing"; I'd give a clue like "snap" or "refrigerate." If I gave a clue like "eating," and you were teamed up with my wife, she might help you realize that I want you to guess "obnoxious" (because to me, the sound of people eating is obnoxious) in addition to "messy."

As a former writer, this game is right up my alley. The more knowledge you have of words--and knowledge in general--the more fun this game can be. It's rare that you get to connect more than three words with a clue, but when you connect four or five, and your team actually guesses most of them, it is an amazing thing.

As I've shown with that random word generator, you don't even need to buy anything to play the game. Just generate 25 words, come up with a random way to pick out which words belong to which team (and which word is the "assassin" word; if a team chooses this word, they automatically lose), and you're all set.

I'll stop there and let you investigate Zendo on your own, since I need to get back to work, but I hope that these games have piqued your interest!

9 votes
1. skullkid2424
Link Parent
Thanks for the recommendation on Zendo, it sounds pretty interesting for when I can have people over again. The emphasis on logic reminds me of Hanabi, which is a collaborative game of trying to...

Thanks for the recommendation on Zendo, it sounds pretty interesting for when I can have people over again.

The emphasis on logic reminds me of Hanabi, which is a collaborative game of trying to build fireworks in sequential order. You can't see your own pieces, but players can give clues and then hopefully use the information given to play the right pieces.

2 votes
2. alcappuccino
Link Parent
Zendo does look cool. I'll take a look, thanks!

Zendo does look cool. I'll take a look, thanks!

1 vote
2. [2]
aphoenix
Link
There's a mechanic that I quite enjoy in Dixit and Mysterium where there are cards with art on them and you have to give somewhat cryptic clues to enable your co-players to match to the cards....

There's a mechanic that I quite enjoy in Dixit and Mysterium where there are cards with art on them and you have to give somewhat cryptic clues to enable your co-players to match to the cards. It's explored differently in either game - Mysterium is a bit more constrained, Dixit is more free-form - but it's a cool concept.

5 votes
1. alcappuccino
Link Parent
Played both, but for some reason, Dixit didn't click with me while Mysterium was really fun, especially when you play the ghost. Do you know any other game like this? I've heard about Whitehall...

Played both, but for some reason, Dixit didn't click with me while Mysterium was really fun, especially when you play the ghost. Do you know any other game like this? I've heard about
Whitehall Mystery (or the predecessor Letter from Whitechapel) which even though these are crime board games, here when you play as Jack the Ripper, you also listen to the other players and try to do things depending on what they say. But I know, different theme :)

3. [2]
blender_cuttingham
(edited )
Link
Do you know of a game called 7 Wonders ? If not you should check this out. Its not that hard to learn so you can even play with friends that are not hardcore board games players. There is also a...

Do you know of a game called 7 Wonders ? If not you should check this out. Its not that hard to learn so you can even play with friends that are not hardcore board games players. There is also a "duel" version which is one on one only.

4 votes
1. alcappuccino
Link Parent
I have 7 Wonders and 7 Wonders Duel. Great games :) but disappointed with the Repo Productions customer service. I've been waiting almost a year to get a missing card.

I have 7 Wonders and 7 Wonders Duel. Great games :) but disappointed with the Repo Productions customer service. I've been waiting almost a year to get a missing card.

4. [3]
Deimos
Link
Two that I enjoy: Escape: The Curse of the Temple - a co-op dice game that you play along with a 10 minute "soundtrack" that indicates a few important events you have to deal with (including...

Two that I enjoy:

Escape: The Curse of the Temple - a co-op dice game that you play along with a 10 minute "soundtrack" that indicates a few important events you have to deal with (including finishing the game before the end of it). It's a pretty casual game, but it's fun and frantic. There aren't any turns, you're all just rolling dice as quickly as possible and yelling at each other as you try to discover everything and move around the map and finish all the things you need to do inside that 10 minutes.

Space Alert - a co-op game that also uses a soundtrack (usually one generated by an app, really) where you play through in real-time first and you all plan your actions and movements to deal with the threats attacking your spaceship as they come up. Then after it ends, you reset the board and slowly walk through everything step by step to see what "really happens" and whether the actions everyone planned actually worked out.

Sometimes everything goes according to plan, but this often turns out to be watching the whole scenario go to hell because of things like a player trying to use a weapon that wasn't actually ready to fire because someone else said they would recharge it but forgot to actually do it. So then a shot that should have killed an enemy doesn't work, the enemy unexpectedly does damage to the ship and disables something that other future actions were depending on, and it all starts falling apart. It's usually hilarious to watch it all unfold and be rooting that the rest of your planning still manages to work out well enough to win.

Space Alert is probably my favorite board game overall, but it takes a lot of time to teach people how to play, so it's hard to play much without a consistent group of players.

2 votes
1. [2]
alcappuccino
Link Parent
Oh, I've heard of these two games and they really look interested and I've always wanted to try a real-time game. But I since they use CD's, I've always wondered if the replayability is really...

Oh, I've heard of these two games and they really look interested and I've always wanted to try a real-time game. But I since they use CD's, I've always wondered if the replayability is really low. Aren't the events of the game always the same?

1. Deimos
Link Parent
Escape's soundtrack is always the same, but it's really just a fancy timer. All the players always have to be in a safe position at about 4 minutes and 7 minutes into the game, and you have to be...

Escape's soundtrack is always the same, but it's really just a fancy timer. All the players always have to be in a safe position at about 4 minutes and 7 minutes into the game, and you have to be completely done before the timer runs out at 10 minutes. The game's layout is random (you shuffle a bunch of "room tiles" and reveal them as you explore), so that's what makes each play different.

Space Alert comes with a CD that only gives you a few options for "event sequences", but similarly, it's events like "an enemy ship appears" and the actual ship will be random from a shuffled set. You can also use an app (this is the one I use) to generate random missions instead of the CD.

1 vote
5. [6]
Wulfsta
Link
I would say check out Gloomhaven and Dragoon - very different games but both are enjoyable.

I would say check out Gloomhaven and Dragoon - very different games but both are enjoyable.

2 votes
1. [5]
TheRtRevKaiser
Link Parent
Second the recommendation for Gloomhaven. It's a daunting game but it's so much fun once it starts to click. I would also recommend Betrayal at House on the Hill, specifically Betrayal Legacy....

Second the recommendation for Gloomhaven. It's a daunting game but it's so much fun once it starts to click.

I would also recommend Betrayal at House on the Hill, specifically Betrayal Legacy. Betrayal Legacy has slightly reworked mechanics that are much more intuitive, plus it has an incredibly good legacy campaign that, once you complete it, leads to a unique version of the game that you can continue to play in free play. Your house won't be the same as anyone else's because of the choices and outcomes of haunts from the campaign mode. It's a wild ride, I don't think I've ever been as captivated by a board game as with Betrayal Legacy.

5 votes
1. [2]
archevel
Link Parent
On the topic of legacy games I can recommend pandemic legacy season 1. We played a bunch of regular pandemic and then played through the legacy campaign and it was a bunch of fun. Kind of need a...

On the topic of legacy games I can recommend pandemic legacy season 1. We played a bunch of regular pandemic and then played through the legacy campaign and it was a bunch of fun. Kind of need a dedicated group that knows pandemic fairly well to begin with. At least everyone should have roughly the same amount of experience, otherwise the game tend to become dominated by the ppl that knows it well (true for the non-legacy version too).

I felt like gloomhaven was a bit too slow in the character development side. I loved the idea of it more than this execution.

1. TheRtRevKaiser
Link Parent
One of the guys I game with regularly loves pandemic and has Pandemic Legacy season 1. He really enjoys it, but I never really clicked with Pandemic in general. It's definitely a well designed...

One of the guys I game with regularly loves pandemic and has Pandemic Legacy season 1. He really enjoys it, but I never really clicked with Pandemic in general. It's definitely a well designed game and I know a lot of people love it, it just didn't do it for me. Some of it probably had to do with the problem you mentioned, where one person who knows the game really well can tend to dominate it, but I also just didn't really gel with the mechanics. Not sure why.

I have heard that the Legacy version is really well made. It's a Rob Daviau game, much like Betrayal Legacy, and Daviau definitely gets what makes the legacy format fun.

1 vote
2. [2]
alcappuccino
Link Parent
I really like Betrayal at House on the Hill, even though its rating is not that high on BGG, I always have fun playing the game. It really makes you wonder how many interesting games are "hidden"...

I really like Betrayal at House on the Hill, even though its rating is not that high on BGG, I always have fun playing the game. It really makes you wonder how many interesting games are "hidden" because their ratings are really not that high. I'm actually thinking in making another post regarding underrated board games.

1. TheRtRevKaiser
Link Parent
I think BGG has a snobbery problem sometimes, but I'm a little surprised that BaHotH isn't rated well there because I thought that it was a pretty well loved game. It definitely has some weird...

I think BGG has a snobbery problem sometimes, but I'm a little surprised that BaHotH isn't rated well there because I thought that it was a pretty well loved game. It definitely has some weird balancing at times and the FAQs are ridiculously long, but it's just such a dang fun game. The theme is so strong and the mechanics really work well with it.

1 vote
6. Akir
Link
Bidder Up! is kind of what Monopoly would be if it were actually fun. The rule set is written in a way that it's very complex but easy to play - and in fact there is both a simple and advanced...

Bidder Up! is kind of what Monopoly would be if it were actually fun. The rule set is written in a way that it's very complex but easy to play - and in fact there is both a simple and advanced rulebook for the game. Full disclosure: I've had so much fun with the simple rules that I haven't actually bothered with the advanced rules yet.

Basically, you move pieces around the board to buy up livestock, and at the end of the game the person who has managed to get the most value from their trades wins. The twist is that every animal is sold at auction, and there are multiple types of auctions to go through. And to add yet another twist, the person doing the auctioning has the right to buy out the winner to get the animal for themselves. To make things more complicated, many types of auctions allow you to bluff your way to victory. Every player is constantly evaluating risk and reward.

There are also a bunch of other twists to the gameplay. Animals are only valuable if you manage to get a male/female pair. And because the pairs all have different values, trading with other players can be both highly perilous and advantageous. Even moving around the board has a twist; if you don't land where you want, you can actually spend your money to add or subtract spaces.

It was a really surprisingly good buy, especially because I bought it in the clearance section of a discount store. Also it's published by Ravensburger - I didn't even know they did boardgames until I bought this.

Edit: Actually, I just realized I had already purchased another game by Ravensburger called Labyrinth. It's actually another good one to mention for this thread. Basically you take turns moving around a labyrinth in a dungeon crawl type of experience - the goal is to find a list of treasures. The twist is that you and the other players are constantly shifting the pieces of the maze around, so it's constantly breaking any and all strategies you might make up.

2 votes
7. [2]
crdpa
Link
If you like heavy euros: Barrage and the wheel that trap your resources is quite awesome and drives you insane because you need those resources so much. Lisboa and the price/influence manipulation...

If you like heavy euros:

Barrage and the wheel that trap your resources is quite awesome and drives you insane because you need those resources so much.

Lisboa and the price/influence manipulation is really good. It will take some games for you to start to develop strategies around it because the game is complex and the rules need to be ingrained, but it's worth it.

2 votes
1. alcappuccino
Link Parent
I've heard of both, they really look awesome but I've never played a truly heavy game. So before buying one, I would need to find time (small baby) and a friend with the games :)

I've heard of both, they really look awesome but I've never played a truly heavy game. So before buying one, I would need to find time (small baby) and a friend with the games :)

8. yellow
Link
I can think of a few games that I think are somewhat unique. Not Alone: A game with two teams, one has one player, and everyone else is on the other. The one player has to guess where the other...

I can think of a few games that I think are somewhat unique.

Not Alone: A game with two teams, one has one player, and everyone else is on the other. The one player has to guess where the other players will be going, while the rest have to be not caught and try to achieve certain goals to win sooner.

Cash N Guns: A game where each player tries to get the most loot without dying. Its really fun balancing the risk and reward of each round against just skipping it.

Good Cop Bad Cop: A game of two teams, but you only know your own team at the start. I usually only play games in a group of 4, and at that size this game can feel a bit formulaic, but there are enough unknowns that you don't know which situation you are in (and this can lead to some weird scenarios when players make mistakes). Unlike some other games with secret teams, the two teams are equal.