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  • Writer's pictureJared Neal

Gaming Terminology Glossary

Updated: May 2, 2021

The gaming hobby can have a language of its own at times, and so hopefully this list will help clarify any labels or terms that are used in some of the reviews, which you may not be familiar with.

18XX - is the generic term for a series of board games that, with a few exceptions, recreate the building of railroad corporations during the 19th century, by trading in stocks and building routes.

Abstract Game - an abstract strategy game is a strategy game that minimizes luck and does not rely on a theme. Almost all abstract strategy games will conform to the strictest definition of: a gameboard, card, or tile game in which there is no hidden information, no non-deterministic elements (such as shuffled cards or dice rolls), and (usually) two players or teams taking a finite number of alternating turns.

Action Programming - when you must select multiple actions ahead of time, all to be carried out at the same time. This can be much more complex than selecting a single action on your turn, as often other players will select their actions simultaneously, meaning you have to plan several moves ahead without knowing what might happen.

Alpha Gamer (Quarterbacking) - in a cooperative game, when one player takes charge and tries to tell all the other players what they should do on their turn.

Ameritrash Games - is a term for American style games, which typically share similar characteristics. A game doesn't need to have all these characteristics to be considered an Ameritrash game, however most will contain several of these.

  • strong thematic ties to immerse players in the game

  • use of Miniatures (see below)

  • characters with individually defined abilities

  • a lot of player interaction and conflict

  • a moderate to high level of luck

  • often includes a good amount of dice rolling

AP - Analysis Paralysis - when a player gets so focused on making the right decision, that they end up feeling somewhat frozen with indecision, which usually results in them taking a much longer than normal turn.

Area Control - a game where a goal is to use some player controlled piece, to have the majority of pieces in specified areas on the board.

Asymmetry or Asymmetric Powers - when the different characters/factions a player can choose to play with, have different abilities or powers from other characters/factions.

Balance - refers to how competitive players of a similar skill level can be, while using different strategies or characters in the game.

Bidding - is a mechanism where players each express how much they would give (in some resource from the game), in exchange for some other item in the game, which will have future or immediate value.

Complexity - this refers to how difficult it is to understand the way the actions of the game are performed, and how they interact with each other.

Cooperative (Co-op) Game - a game where players work together, trying to either defeat some common adversary, or to withstand some hardship. The players either win or lose together.

Deck (Bag or Pool) Builder - is a mechanism where players start the game with a basic set of cards or pieces, and add to or improve those items over the course of the game. Typically by using some resource to purchased the new resources, which are then incorporated into their deck, and build up their abilities over the course of the game.

Depth - is a measure of how much there is to “learn” or “discover” in a game, and has more to do with how things in the game link together.

Dexterity Game - a dexterity game is a game that pits players' physical reflexes and coordination against each other, as a determinant of overall success.

Dice Placement - is a game mechanism where dice are used as workers (see worker placement below), and the value or color of the die, either determine where they can be placed, or what benefit you will receive when placing them.

Drafting - is a game mechanism, where you select a card or tile from some pool, that other players will also have access to select from.

Dungeon Crawler - a game where you (and typically a team of allies) are moving through some terrain (often a dungeon), and collecting items and encountering enemies (and often improving the abilities of your character), with some ultimate objective you are trying to complete.

Engine Building - a game mechanism, where you take items throughout the game, which give you the ability to get other items or resources, which give you the ability to reach some win condition. This is very similar to tableau building (see below) and deck building (see above), with the main difference being that engine building is a broader category that includes any mechanic that allows something to build on itself, while the other two are specific to the way that is being carried out.

Eurogame - is a term for European style games, and they share a set of similar characteristics. A game doesn't need to have all these characteristics to be considered a Eurogame, however most will contain several of these.

  • indirect player interaction or conflict, usually over resources or points

  • victory points (see below) are usually used to determine a winner

  • typically no player elimination

  • low luck or randomness, and if present it can usually be mitigated

  • dice are often replaced by cards

  • mechanisms are the primary focus instead of theme

  • plastic and metal pieces are rare, more often made out of wood and thick card.

Filler - a term for games that are shorter (typically 30 mins or less), that are used to fill in the periods of time after playing one longer game, and setting up the next longer game.

FLGS - Friendly Local Gaming Store - a game store that is local to you or the person making the reference.

Gateway Game - a game that doesn't have a high level of complexity, which is ideal for introducing players without much experience with gaming, either to that specific mechanism or gaming in general.

Hidden Movement - a game where one or more players move around the playing space, without disclosing where their character is located.

I Cut, You Choose - a form of drafting, where one player selects a smaller subset of the pool (cutting it), and then offers that to the other play to choose from.

King-Making - a situation in a game, where one player has the power to determine who amongst two other players will win the game. Either by harming one player, or by enhancing the other player.

Mechanic/Mechanism - used interchangeably, the different actions and elements that make up the gameplay of a game.

Meeple - a figure used as a playing piece in certain board games, that looks sort of like a featureless human. Generally used to show that an action spot or area has already been used by the player.

Micro Game - a game that is small in size (may even fit in your pocket), that offers a full gaming experience.

Miniature - pieces that feature high levels of detail, and are used to improve the aesthetics and immersion in certain types of board games.

Multiplayer Solitaire - a game where the player interaction (see below) is very low or non-existent, and players are basically each playing their own game during the bigger overall game.

OLGS - Online Gaming Store - game stores that operate primarily online, which includes Amazon, as well as many other online retailers that are an extension of some local gaming store.

Player Interaction - the ways in which one player's actions during a game, affect the other players past and future actions in the game. This can be in the form of conflict, cooperation, or simply blocking some action or resource.

Point Salad - a game where there are a variety of different ways to earn points, which leads to the game feeling more open.

Roll Playing Game - a role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players act out these roles based on some formalized narrative, either through improvisation, or through a process of structured decision-making regarding character development.

Sandbox Game - a game where players can pretty much go around and do what they want, taking their own defined path to victory. There is typically still a defined victory condition, but it doesn't share the restricted path to victory that most games have.

Semi-Cooperative - a game where players work together for a part of the game, either to avoid overall loss, or to elevate each other to a level where winning is possible, but then ultimately only one player still wins the game.

Snake Draft - a game mechanism, where you go around and each draft an item, and then the last person starts the second round and it goes back in the other direction (ie - player 1 drafts 1st, then player 2, then player 3, then player 3 again, player 2 again, and player 1 again).

Social Deduction - a game that involves hidden roles, where one or more players are on one team and everyone else is on another. The players must work individually or in teams, to try to determine who is on the hidden team, before some time frame runs out.

Solo (Solitaire) Game - a game that either has the option to, or can only be, played by yourself.

Strategic vs Tactical - if a game allows you to take an approach early on that you can follow throughout the game (long term planning), that is considered strategic. If due to changes in the game as you play, you have to change your approach regularly (short term planning), this is considered tactical.

Tableau Building - a game mechanism, where players form some group of items in their player area, which give them additional actions or abilities.

Take That (Mean Game) - a game where the mechanics allow you or require you, to take actions that are directly harmful to the strategy or success of other players.

Tight Game - a game where the actions or resources are limited enough, that it is likely you will either not be able to do something you want to do, or if you make any small mistake you will have a very hard time being competitive in the game.

Tile Laying - a game mechanism, where players place tiles out into some playing area, in order to build some route, collect some resource, or create some pattern, that will lead to the completion of some victory condition.

Trick-Taking - players play cards from their hand to the table in a series of rounds, or “tricks” which are each evaluated separately to determine a winner and to apply other potential effects. The most common way to win a trick is by having the card with highest value of the suit that was led, but many classical card games use the "trump" system (where the certain cards, usually those of a designated suit, will win the trick if they are played.) Occasionally there is a round of bidding to determine this trump suit. In many trick taking games (though not all), players are required to "follow suit", i.e. play a card of the same suit as was led if they have one. If they do not have a matching card, they must play another card from their hand.

Victory Points - points either accumulated throughout the game, or scored at the end of the game, by taking actions or achieving objectives, that determine who wins the game.

Worker Placement - a game mechanism, where a player takes one of the pieces specifically assigned to them, and places it out on the board somewhere in order to take some action.

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