Top 10 – Games with Unique Mechanics
There are a lot of games out there that are based off of other games that feel pretty similar to them. Ascension and Dominion are both Deck Building games, and they really don’t do that much mechanically unique from a lot of other deck building games. But every now and again, there are games that do something different, something that makes them fell mechanically unique. I already did a list of unique themes that you can find here. Let’s see what I can find for unique mechanics.
10 – Potion Explosion
Now, Potion Explosion is not that unique in terms of video games, but for a mechanic in a board game it has something very cool. You are taking/collecting marbles to mix together in your potion. That piece is pretty standard set collection fare that you see in a lot of games, but it has a mechanic where, because you are pulling marbles from a tray and then more marbles drop in, that if you pull a marble and then like colored marbles hit, you take those marbles, and if more like colored marbles hit, you can take those, so you can set-up a big chain reaction of marbles to use on your potions. It’s a simple mechanic to add into the game, but they execute it well with the tray that holds the marbles and allows them to roll. There’s also more strategy than it feels like there would be, but is still a simple game to teach.
9 – Captain Sonar
This one is interesting to have on the list, because I don’t know that it has a single completely unique mechanic, but the combination of trying to figure out hidden movement, breaking down and repairing systems, and navigating all at the same time, and getting systems loaded, there’s just a lot going on in this hectic game. But they work together extremely well. You get that pressure of trying to hunt down the enemy sub and figure out where they are and what they are up to. And if things go poorly and you need to resurface, all of a sudden they have a chance to find you. This game is also interesting because it’s a big group game but doesn’t have a party game feel.
8 – Dice Forge
I believe that there are a couple other games that have done this, but none, in my opinion, as successfully as Dice Forge, and that is dice customization. In this game, which is basically just a seeing who can get the most victory points over a few rounds, you are swapping out the faces on your dice so that you can get more of several different resources, whether it’s to purchase more and better cards that give you points, or if it’s money that you can spend to get more points, or maybe even just more points. The game gives you a number of strategies for it. But the most fun part is popping off the side of a die and replacing it with something better which really then allows you to customize your strategy going forward.
7 – Hats
Hats is an interesting one to put on the list because it’s just a very small card game and all you’re doing in it is collecting hats in front of you and trying to keep what you want for scoring on the table at the Madd Hatter’s tea party. But how it works is interesting because the cards you get for scoring are from the table. So if you aren’t careful, you could set it up that a color of hat you’ve been collecting might not be able to be scored anymore. So it’s a give and take of collecting a variety of hats but also keeping a lot of scoring options open. It can be pretty thinky at two players. Just the play of the table and how you get cards in front of you feels different and unique to me. So many games you use your own hand for scoring, but in Hats, what you have in your hand, you might not use for scoring at all.
6 – Photosynthesis
First the theme is quite unique, growing trees is not that common a theme, but it has one really interesting and cool mechanic and that’s the sun. In this game the sun rotates around the board and there are games that do that with the moon as well, but the sun rotating can determine if you’re tree is going to get any sunlight and give you points to grow your trees more so and eventually remove your biggest tree which will get you points. But the game is played a certain number of rotations of the sun, and there are a number of spots it can be, but the taller the tree is, the more shade it casts, so it’s a balancing act of blocking your opponents trees at times while getting your own to get the sun in a lot of situations or consistently getting energy to use from the sunlight.
5 – Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Not the most unique mechanic anymore, because they’ve come out with two more Crossroads games, though only one of them has been well received. But Dead of Winter is a zombie survival game where you have a main objective, personal objectives, and possibly a traitor, but what makes it unique is that there are Crossroads cards. These cards will only get triggered in certain situations, maybe if you take a certain action or go to a certain place or have a certain character. But that’ll immediately interrupt your turn and you’ll be given a little bit of story and then have to make a decision, it can be something that might help the colony, but most of the time it isn’t and you’ll have to choose between a couple of bad options. It’s a fun mechanic that adds more theme into the game and makes a pretty tough game considerably harder.
4 – Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension
You’ve been sucked through a wormhole and are being pulled into a black hole, so you really need to get out of the 9th Dimension. Fortunately you have a bunch of random elements on the ship that you can use for fuel, unfortunately you’re not sure how well they’ll work. What makes this unique is that the elements do different things, they’re all going to move someone, but some might move you towards the nearest ship, some might push you away, or some might pull ships towards you. And when your ship fires off is completely dependent upon the element that you’re using. The elements fire in alphabetical order, so you might have a card that’ll move you a long ways but it’s later in the alphabet, so you need to use that when you’re confident that it’ll pull you towards a ship that’s ahead of you, and not the wrong way. It’s a simple mechanic but one that works well and causes a lot of tough decisions to be made.
3 – Cartographers
This flip and write does a fair number of things that other flip or roll and write games have done before, or even other board games with the scoring set-up. And combined those by themselves are pretty unique, but there’s one very unique thing that this game does. It causes you to pass your sheet and someone else will write on it. As you are creating your map, monsters might show up, and when they do, you pass your sheet either left or right and that other player puts the monster in the least useful spot possible. And you get negative points if you can’t completely the map around the monsters. Just that screwing over of your fellow players is very interesting and normally roll and writes can be a bit solitaire so this adds in some more interactions.
2 – Xenoshyft: Onslaught
So, in the introduction I gave an example of how a lot of deck building games aren’t that unique. I think that Xenoshyft: Onslaught does something unique in how you can use the cards. In most deck building games, even cooperative ones like Aeon’s End, there are certain steps that you have to do to help the other players at the table. In Xenoshyft, however, you can simply pass them a card while you are setting up your defenses. This means that the person in charge of the armory who can get weapons cheaper can pass the medic a weapon, or maybe someone has six troops in their hand, they can pass an extra to another player to add to their line of troops. Compared to other cooperative deck building games, and actually many cooperative games in general, this one allows you to cooperate and collaborate more on what you are doing.
1 – Betrayal at House on the Hill
Now, this one I’m putting here because of the two halves on the game. There are other games that have multiple distinct parts, Galaxy Trucker for example, but with Betrayal at House on the Hill, you go from a tense cooperative game of exploring a house, mainly tense because you don’t want someone to get too much stuff or too powerful, to a game where it is one versus all as someone becomes the traitor. It does a good job, in my opinion of balancing the tension. There’s less to say on this one, because the mechanic is pretty simple, find enough omens, have a bad enough roll and bad things will happen.
Now, I’m sure I’m missing some that I’ve played and many that I haven’t played that could be unique or do a twist on some more common mechanic. What are some of your favorite games with unique mechanics?
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