Board Game Mechanic – Drafting

Board Game Mechanic – Drafting

Back to our regular schedule for Board Game Mechanics. A board game mechanic is basically one of the key components of the game that makes it work, one of the things in the game that you do over and over again, and this time we’re looking at drafting.

So what is drafting, probably the easiest way to look at it is what is common in the rest of our culture. We have the NFL draft and NBA draft’s that are televised, people draft teams for Survivor or Fantasy Football. When you are drafting you are selecting one thing out of a pool of many things and that one thing is yours and no one else can have it. Game do something similar either with dice, actions, cards, whatever it might be.

There are primarily two types of drafts, the first being, I have a selection of things to pick from, you have a selection, we both pick, we both do our thing, and then we pass selections and repeat until they are all gone. This is how Sushi Go Party! works. You have a hand of cards, you pick one card putting it face down, once everyone has picked, you put them face up at the same time, pass your hand of card and repeat. Once all the cards have been drafted, you score, shuffle the cards back up, and repeat, passing the other direction this time, and then you do that once more back the original direction. It’s very common to draft in rounds like this where it goes one way and then another.

Image Source: Shut Up and Sit Down

The other type of drafting is from an open pool. This is how something like fantasy football works, items are just removed from a general pool. In board games, this is how Sagrada and Roll Player work. You grab a certain number of dice, generally number of players plus one or twice the number of players, so that no one gets stuck with a single item to pick. You roll the dice, that’s the pool to draft from, then one person picks, and so on and so forth until all of the dice, except for one, are picked. Or if you do twice the number of players for the dice, you start selecting down one way and once everyone has gotten a die, the last person to pick a die gets the first pick of it going backwards, so last to first to select their second die.

The big difference between the two is open information and hidden information. With the general pool of things, the information is open, you and everyone else know what is available. But either way can bring up another item that is a part of drafting, which is hate drafting. Hate drafting is the idea that you take something that might not be the best for you, but would have been really good for the next person picking from the pool. It’s a balancing act of taking something that will still potentially help you, but might potentially give your opponent more points. Now, good game balance should generally make it worth it for you, except maybe late game, to take what you need versus what would block someone else. And while hate drafting is certainly a viable move, most of the time as a complete strategy it won’t help you win.

So let’s look at some games that use drafting:

Image Source: Board Game Geek

Intro/Gateway Game

Draftosaurous – I really like this little drafting game that is somewhere between a roll and write game and a drafting game. In it you are drafting dinosaur meeples and placing them on your board to either creates sets or get as many of a type as you can and then passing your fist full of dinomeeples to the next player and getting a new set from another player. So the main thing is drafting and you are just putting the dinomeeples down depending on what was rolled on a die and how it’ll help you with scoring. The roll and write aspect comes from the die roll that tells you were to place stuff, but also that the scoring is very similar to a lot of roll and write games as is the board. It’s a super fast and very fun little game.

Medium Weight

Sagrada – This is just a beautiful game where you are trying to make the best stained glass window possible. In it you are drafting translucent dice and putting them, based off of various color and number restrictions on your board. The trick comes that you can’t have the same number adjacent to each other, or the same colors, so you have to consider where you are placing dice. Now, this would get really hard at the end, but they give you tools that allow you to manipulate the dice, which adds to the complexity of the game. This game just looks great on the table and has a lot of replayability with all of the tools, the different scoring cards, and just how the dice roll.

Image Source: Thunderworks Games

Heavy Weight

Roll Player – Now, I don’t think that Roll Player is a ton heavier than Sagrada, and I could have picked some other games, like Blood Rage that have drafting as a part of the game and a whole lot more going on as well. But Roll Player is my choice because drafting is the biggest part of it. In this game you are building an RPG character by picking dice out of a pool and placing them in for one of your six stats, strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma. You’re also getting to manipulate those dice or already played dice by which score you put them into. Beyond that you are buying skills and traits and getting equipment, all of which can help you score more points. Along with that, based off of your class, you need your stats to be at a certain level, based off of your background, you need certain dice to be in certain place, and based off of your alignment, you can use traits to manipulate it and get it close as possible. The main mechanic of the game, draft a die, place it, and do what it says to do in that stat is very simple, but there’s a lot to keep track of.

Overall, I really like drafting games. Now, I only have one in my three suggestions where that has you pick at the same time, which makes a lot of drafting games very scalable, but there are a lot of out there like that such as Sushi Go Party!, 7 Wonders, and even Blood Rage. What are some drafting games that you like? Does drafting seem like an interesting mechanic to you?

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