There is a lot of confusion when discussin games and gamification whether in education or not. The following glossary presents various ideas, often copied dircetly from other web sites (check descriptions and links) in order to ease the pain of looking for the simple explanation.

Some of the entries presented below will relate to game elements, some to game mechanics, and some will describe concepts necessary to understand what gamification is and how gamification works.

Still other entries are "just" short game descriptions -- it takes knowing good games to implement game-based learning (GBL) and gamification.

It is a work in progress, and it will always remain so. Do not expect those definitions to be final or to be applicable to everything and every time. That is not how games and gamifaction work. Sorry.

Board Game Geek

For a variety of reasons, if you are looking for quick descriptions and examples of various mechanics present in (board) games and gamification, you should have a look at the list of Board Game Mechanics collected at Board Game Geek.


Action drafting [game mechanics]

Players select from an assortment of Actions in a shared pool. The available Actions are limited in quantity, and once a player has chosen an Action it may not be chosen again.

Source: Board Game Geek

Action Points [game mechanics]

A player receives a number of Action Points or Operation Points on their turn. They may spend them on a variety of Actions.

Source: Board Game Geek

Auction: Dutch [game mechanics]

A simultaneous single-bid system in which the lot starts at a very high price, and then is gradually decreased by the auctioneer or other controlling mechanism, until someone agrees to claim the item at its current price, ending the auction. The first bidder to accept the current price is the winner, such that there are no ties. A Dutch Auction is sometimes also called a one-bid auction because of this feature that the first bid made is also the only bid in the auction.

This category also includes the mechanism where items slide down a track, with the cost decreasing as it does so. This is a common implementation of Open Drafting. An alternative but logically equivalent process is Increase Value of Unchosen Resources.

Source: Board Game Geek


Black Stories
50 black stories, 31 crimes, 49 corpses, 11 murders, 12 suicides and one deadly meal. How could that have happened? Black Stories are fiddly, morbid and mysterious riddles for teenagers and adults. The players try to reconstruct the crime by asking, guessing and fiddling about. A spooky card game just right for any party.
Source: Board Game Geek


Catch the Leader [game mechanics]

The game systems advantage players that are behind or disadvantage players that are ahead.

Source: Board Game Geek

Choose Your Own Adventure (games)

  • The classic Choose Your Own Adventure series comes to life in the narrative adventure game Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
  • Will you survive the House of Danger? Gather your friends for a perilous and laughter-filled adventure through the House of Danger itself. Make risky choices, collect items as you explore, and face off against dire challenges. Play again and again to uncover more secrets and different endings!
    Source: Board Game Geek
    • War with the Evil Power Master
      For centuries, the Lacoonian System, an alliance of the most advanced civilizations in the galaxy, has lived in peace, but now the Evil Power Master has returned and is leading a destructive rebellion. The Lacoonian System's Rapid Force crew must band together, follow data and clues the Evil Power Master left behind, and discover his location to defeat him in an epic final battle. Can you restore order to the galaxy?

    Explore a brand new co-operative narrative adventure with the next entry in the Choose Your Own Adventure game series: War with the Evil Power Master! Travel to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, make risky choices, collect items, and face off against dire challenges.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Closed Drafting [game mechanics]
    [compare --> Open Drafting]

    Closed Drafting (or 'Card Drafting') is a means of distributing cards or other game elements to players through an ordered, closed selection process - typically "select and pass".

    A typical implementation involves each player being dealt the same number of cards. Players then select one (or more) card(s) to keep, and pass the rest to their left. This continues until all cards are selected or discarded. 

    An alternative is that only one player is dealt cards, and they take one and pass it until all players have cards. This obviously is strongly biased towards the first player, and needs to be supported thematically and balance-wise.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Codenames is an easy party game to solve puzzles.

    The game is divided into red and blue, each side has a team leader, the team leader's goal is to lead their team to the final victory.

    At the beginning of the game, there will be 25 cards on the table with different words. Each card has a corresponding position, representing different colors.

    Only the team leader can see the color of the card. The team leader should prompt according to the words, let his team members find out the cards of their corresponding colors, and find out all the cards of their own colors to win.
    Source: Board Game Geek


    In Concept, your goal is to guess words through the association of icons. A team of two players – neighbors at the table – choose a word or phrase that the other players need to guess. Acting together, this team places pieces judiciously on the available icons on the game board.

    To get others to guess "milk", for example, the team might place the question mark icon (which signifies the main concept) on the liquid icon, then cubes of this color on the icons for "food/drink" and "white". For a more complicated concept, such as "Leonardo DiCaprio", the team can use the main concept and its matching cubes to clue players into the hidden phrase being an actor or director, while then using sub-concept icons and their matching cubes to gives clues to particular movies in which DiCaprio starred, such as Titanic or Inception.

    The first player to discover the word or phrase receives 2 victory points, the team receives points as well, and the player who ends up with the most points wins.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Cooperative games [game mechanics]
    [compare --> Semi-cooperative games --> Competitive games]

    Players coordinate their actions to achieve a common win condition or conditions. Players all win or lose the game together.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Digital games based learning (DGBL)
    [compare --> Game-based Learning]

    Richard Van Eck touched upon the topic at least twice in his two articles spanning a decade. According to his analysis there truly is no other way but to start teaching students of all ages with digital games (Van Eck, 2006) (Van Eck, 2015). Maybe the education process has not lived up to expectations, maybe teachers and students are not really ready for it, but the time is nigh. On one hand there already are hundreds of thousands of available computer games, video games, console games, mobile games, etc. The industry developed enormously. On the other hand there are educational games, simulation games, serious games, computers are widely available and so is the Internet. Modern teachers use technologies on daily basis, so there is only one more step necessary to allow education reflect the reality – the majority of humankind plays electronic games while learning simultaneously. Previously mentioned Quest to Learn school applies a number of video games. Students in their free time also learn from games like Sid Meier’s Civilisation. The trick lies in finances and planning as we would have to reiterate nearly every single class and lesson we may think of. Benefits are worth it, according to Van Eck, but for a variety of reasons (Sobociński, Restless DGBL? Some (Practical) Comments, 2015), we are not expecting those result in foreseeable future. Still, it seems that a mixture of project-based learning and digital-games based learning can be the real game-changer of education in the new millennium.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Drafting --> Closed Drafting --> Open Drafting


    Educational Games --> Games, Educational

    Educating Games --> Games, Educating

    End Game Bonuses [game mechanics]

    Players earn (or lose!) bonus Victory Points (VPs) at the end of the game based on meeting victory conditions.

    Source: Board Game Geek




    Taking a philosophical perspective, one can follow Ludwig Wittgenstein and state that it is impossible to define what a game is. This term simply has to remain in the field of fuzzy categories as it encompasses such different activities as playing marbles, football, and poker, to name just a few examples. Wittgenstein aptly asked “What is common to them all?” (Philosophical Investigations, 1958, p. 31) and promptly added that “if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. (…) [Y]ou find many correspondences (…), but many common features drop out, and others appear. (…) [W]e see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail” (pp. 31-32). However, Wittgenstein approached games, language, language-games, and other human behaviours from the perspective of actions and meanings which circulate indefinitely in a playful and ever-changing manner shifting their relations according to the momentary needs and immediate environment of interlocutors. If we do not concentrate on language and ‘language-games,’ but on games as such, they take a more concrete form as noted by Johan Huizinga when he claimed that “Inside the circle of the game the laws and customs of ordinary life no longer count. We are different and do things differently” (Huizinga, 1949, p. 12). This is a quintessential element of games as we suspend our disbelief in the impossible, we take on (completely) new roles and follow different rules of conduct, and everyone who is included in the game does exactly the same. As long as we stay in the game, we all behave accordingly. Usually the beginning and the conclusion of a game is marked by a specific rite, as the whole game functions as a ceremony or ritual. According to Wolfgang Kramer games “consist of components and rules and have certain criteria: rules, a goal, always changing course; chance; competition; common experience; equality; freedom; activity; diving into the world of the game; and no impact on reality” (Kramer, 2000). Whether it is a game of marbles, a football match, or a deal of poker, everyone involved knows exactly what to do and what not to do, and under no circumstances can they change those. In addition many games are organised in minute details, there are professionals and tournaments, referees and rewards. Games become defined by organisations and institutions, which develop competitions, and provide medals and remuneration. In this manner we can finally try and agree on what games are, whether talking about chess or Call of Duty.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Games in Education

    In order to understand what games in educational milieu are, it was necessary to see the difference between games and play. There is a lot of playtime in pre-school and in primary education; however, this does not mean that playful activities necessarily translate to introducing games into the learning process. In order to have that one needs to introduce games as such, with all their rules, timings, setting-up, elements like boards and pawns or cards, with referees, scoring rules, win states, etc. Jean Piaget noticed the connection between the child development, learning, and playing games already in 1930s and 1940s, and he stressed the importance of learning through play, through imitation and experience, rather than through hammering in knowledge without application (Piaget, 1945). Nearly a century later, we still need to consider how much we need to introduce games and how much we should concentrate on playful activities. Nevertheless, it must be stated that when we wish to discuss games in education, then we usually refer to play-time of small children, and to games used for short-term gains and practice. For example after teaching children how to add or multiply, simple games can be played like “who can tell me how much it will be when… ?” There is a separate explanation or elicitation stage, a separate practice stage, and a separate repetition or revision stage. It is usually in the last one where children can play games in order to support the retention of what they have learnt. There are also numerous games used as fillers in between the proper, learning activities. They may facilitate the learning process, but they are on the side of it, and do not function as part of the curriculum or syllabus. Or they are not real games, but playful activates conducted voluntarily during the recess. There is a slight exception in the case of Physical Education, but here students play games because they are learning how to play them, and to improve their agility. 

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Game-based Learning (GBL)

    The story is completely different with game-based learning, where, as the name suggests, the (whole) learning process takes place while playing games or even while making them. Here we do not necessarily explain a piece of material or memorise a fraction of knowledge, but we learn how to play a game and then we play it. That seems to be the only goal. In the process of the game, it turns out that some skills are necessary to continue the fun, and this is the driving force behind learning – the wish to keep on playing and even winning the game. In this manner, children can be induced to learn to read if reading is an indispensable part of the game spanning over days or even weeks. Children and even teens may be asked to do simple and more complex calculations, which are necessary to collect certain amounts of tokens in a game. Those tokens may be later exchanged for some other in-game goods at specific ratios and according to particular rules. This is nothing else but introduction to economics. In due process, through playing games, and through mastering them, learners acquire specific skills and knowledge, which correspond with learning outcomes designed for any other “traditional” course. An extreme version of this approach may be found in schools like Quest to Learn (Quest to Learn, 2017). Here it is not only games provided by educators, but also games prepared by students themselves, which aim at ensuring the learning outcomes. Everything that can be translated to games and playing was adapted accordingly. Institute of Play, which supports Quest to Learn, goes as far as to share their expertise in three brochures: Curriculum Design Pack, School Design Pack, and Systems Thinking Design Pack (Institute of Play, n.d.) among other documents. A thing to note, games in game-based learning, can be “normal” games, and they do not have to be educational-games.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Games, Educational
    [compare --> Games, Educating]

     “Normal” games are designed as games which are supposed to be played in our leisure time, for fun, and for the remuneration of their creators. There is a lot we can learn from them and about them, but this is only required as long as we simply want to play those games more efficiently. When students play football in their P.E., this allows them to build up their stamina and coordination – it is a game in education. Educational games are a different breed. They have rules like games, they have elements like games, they require adequate number of players like games; however, their primary function is to address a very clearly defined learning outcome. Educational games actually pretend to be games, as the fun factor is an additive, and not the goal of those creations. Crosswords prepared by teachers may be an example of those. They resemble a game, they have rules, but their sole purpose is to review a certain list of vocabulary. If there are some students who do not like puzzles, they still have to play this game. For them it does not feel like a game, but only as a more graphically advanced learning activity. Here lies the biggest problem of many games designed specifically for educational purposes – they are not that much fun to play… Still, some educational games may resemble modern complex and highly interactive board games as can be seen in the example of World Peace Game (Hunter, 2011), which may take days of a preparation-play-evaluation cycle  (World Peace Game Foundation, n.d.). Here the educational game becomes so massive, that we need to go back to discussing game-based learning. Whether we like it or not, those terms and their referents will inevitably start overlapping at some point.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Games, Educating / Games beyond education
    [compare --> Games, Educational]

    There is also a huge variety of games specific to geographical locations, cultures, traditions, religions, ethnicities, social classes, generations, technologies, etc. Usually we play them from very early age without thinking about their educational value. One of the most impressive groups of games of this type is Mancala also known in its variants as Bao la Kiswahili, Congkak, Kalah, Oware or Toguz Kumalak (Mancala World, n.d.). They have been played for centuries, if not millennia, with two major goals. One is obviously pastime, and the game must have been extremely effective and popular to stand the test of time in so many locations. The other is learning (Mancala World, n.d.). Interestingly enough, games like Mancala support learning basic mathematics as well as logical thinking, cognitive skills, predicting outcomes of actions and behaviours, simulating natural cycles or even understanding agriculture. It is difficult to state that it is solely a game or an educational game, when it can be used easily as a simulation of complex processes. Definitions fall short when Mancala educates even when there is no schooling. On the other spectrum of games beyond education, it is indispensable to mention Sid Meier’s Civilisation in all of its instalments (Moby Games, n.d.). Given enough time, this game alone can support or even create foundations to learning foreign languages, general history of the world, history of social change, warfare, economics, politics, development of sciences and humanities, impact of religious beliefs on the masses, etc. And still, Civilisation, like Mancala, is just a good game. There are many more games which splendidly support education. Honourable mention should go to 80 Days (inkle, n.d.), Detective’s Choice (Delight Games, n.d.), or Monopoly (Parker Brothers, 1997 [1935]), although the last one is a vindictive representation of social strife and “the unfairness of the prevailing economic system” which “serves only to empower landlords…” (Q, 2013). Those games will be played by students even without the support of educational institutions. They truly surpass education while supporting it simultaneously. Minecraft is another example, but with multiple versions, modifications, and paid educational servers (Mojang, 2017), it can be seen as a game, playful activity, educational game, game beyond education, or as a ready-made digital-game-based learning-environment on its own.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski


    Although the previous description of games for change may already hint what gamification is and can do, so far only games and various approaches to their usage – entertainment and education – have been addressed directly. Gamification is actually not a single entity presented above. Gamification does not refer to games, to games in schools, to games in education, or even to learning. Gamification is concentrating on something smaller then games, but using it for great purposes. According to Gabe Zichermann “gamification engages users and changes their behaviour with the best ideas from games, loyalty, and behavioural economics” (Designing Gamification Level 1 (Basic), 2013). This neat definition manages to encompass many various approaches to gamification as well as a number of goals posted in front of it, but it is still too vague for gamification freshmen. It focuses on creating engagement, but does not explain how this can be done. Lee and Harper perceive gamification as “the use of game mechanics, dynamics, and frameworks to promote desired behaviors” (Lee & Hammer, 2011). In their article they referred to education, and this definition reflects quite well what happens when we gamify school and academic course. There are elements of games, but not games, and the focus is on changing behaviours, not on providing entertainment. 

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Gamification [Growth Engineering]
    Gamification is "the application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming environments to make difficult tasks more palatable."
    Read the whole article for the discussion and presentation of examples --> Source: Growth Engineering


    In HINT, your teammates have to guess what you are trying to tell them. Along the way you both mime, draw, hum and talk about everything from 'European Capitals' and 'Movie Villains' to 'Fictional Vehicles' and 'Pizza Toppings'. You must be both quick and creative, but beware! There is always one forbidden word that you may not use. An entertaining party game for everyone that gets the hint.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Hot potato [game mechanics]

    A single item is bad for players to have, and players strive to pass it to other players or avoid it so they are not holding it at game end or some other defined time.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    I Cut, You Choose [game mechanics]

    A method of drafting where one player divides a set of resources into different groups; other players have first choice of which group to select.

    This mechanism can also be used to divide more abstract resources, like turn order. Many games use the so-called "pie rule" or "swap rule" to minimize first player advantage, e.g. Hex. In this game, the first player makes the first move of the game, and then the second player can choose to switch sides (taking over the first player's color as well as that first move), or to let the first player stay with that color and first move, and the second player then makes their first move in response to the first player's move. After that, turns continue as usual.
    Source: Board Game Geek



    King of the Hill [game mechanics]

    Games with a king of the hill mechanism reward players with points or other advantages for occupying a special position on the board. How long can you hold your ground?

    Source: Board Game Geek





    Once Upon a Time

    Once Upon A Time is a game in which the players create a story together, using cards that show typical elements from fairy tales. One player is the Storyteller and creates a story using the ingredients on their cards. They try to guide the plot towards their own ending. The other players try to use cards to interrupt the Storyteller and become the new Storyteller. The winner is the first player to play out all their cards and end with their Happy Ever After card.
    The second edition, published in 1995, features an expanded card set.
    The third edition, published in 2012, features multiple changes, including new artwork by Omar Rayyan, a new card set, and a simplified rulesheet.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Ooga Booga

    We return to ancient days, when man lived in caves and woman lived in adjoining caves and their language consisted of little more than grunts and gestures. Primitive though we may have been, we still dreamed of ruling over everyone else as leader of the clan!

    In Ouga Bouga players need to repeat a series of guttural noises, then add to the chain. At the start of each round, players are dealt three cards face-down and those cards remain hidden; each card shows a "word" and associated illustration – "Miti" for woolly mammoth and "Atrrr" for fire. The first player of the round lays a card in the center of the table, makes the noise, then points at another player, saying "Ha!" That player must add a card, repeat both sounds in order, then choose someone other than the player who chose him. Some cards have actions and add a gesture such as sticking out your tongue or pounding the table.

    A round ends one of two ways: (1) A player is accused of messing up, with accusers pointing at him and saying "Ho!" If the accusation is correct, the player "scores" all cards in the center, plus one card from each accuser; if not, then the accusers split the cards among themselves. (2) A player adds his third card to the pile and correctly repeats all the sounds, ending with "Ouga Bouga!" As a reward, he distributes the cards in the center, as well as any penalty cards previously collected, among all the players.

    After a round ends, every player refills his hand to three cards and another round begins. If not enough cards remain, the game ends and the player with the fewest cards wins.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Open Drafting [game mechanics]
    [compare --> Closed Drafting]

    Open Drafting is used in games in which players pick cards (or tiles, resources, dice, etc) from a common pool, to gain some advantage (immediate or longterm) or to assemble collections that are used to meet objectives within the game.

    Games where cards are simply drawn from a pile are not drafting games; drafting implies that players have some sort of choice and the ability to draft a card another player may want thereby denying them something they may have wanted. 

    This is distinct from Closed Drafting, the mechanic of "select and pass".

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Paper-and-pencil [game mechanics]

    The game is developed using paper and pen to mark and save responses or attributes that, at the end of the game, are used to score points and determine the winner.
    A game that merely keeps track of score on a sheet of paper does not use a paper-and-pencil mechanism.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Play and playful activities are different. There is also a similar suspension of disbelief, and children can become fairies, dragon hunters, or trains. However, here rules are fluid and identities, as well as behaviours, may change instantaneously. More than that! The beginning of any playful activity may be quite vague just like its ending, which is visible when children state “This is no fun. I’m out’a here!” They mark that the play has just finished a minute before, and the final stages were already falling short – playful activity became an activity, and as such player(s) lost their volition to continue that any longer. In a proper game such behaviour is unheard of as games have rules, settings, equipment, and specific timings; hence, no one can just leave the game or enter it at their will. There are rules to be followed. In play and playful activities there are rules as well, but they are much more flexible and democratic, and there is no obligation involved. Huizinga depicted play as “voluntary activity. (…) Play can be deferred or suspended at any time. It is never imposed by physical necessity or moral duty. It is never a task. It is done at leisure, during free time” (Huizinga, 1949, pp. 7, 8). He stressed it even more by adding that it is “a free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious,’ but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it” (p. 13). Consequently, playful activities have rudimentary and/or ad-hoc rules, and there are no tournaments with valuable prices to win. Fun and engagement are the reward. What is of primary importance to educators (and gamification designers alike) is discovering this hidden path to engagement and taking students (and users) down the rabbit whole, because they want to do it – not because they have to. 

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Player Elimination [game mechanics]

    A player can be removed from the game, no longer participating.
    In some such games, all of an eliminated player's material is removed from the game as well; in other such games this material may remain in play as neutral material, e.g., an eliminated player's armies and cities on a map might disappear, or might be become neutral armies and cities.
    In most games, an eliminated player cannot win, but this is not necessarily true, e.g., in some games with victory based on scores, an eliminated player's score is still eligible for victory.
    In most games with player elimination, a player is eliminated involuntarily. But in some games a player can choose to drop out (with hope that their score suffices to win.
    In some games, player elimination is possible, but rare in practice and does not happen in a "typical session."
    In some games, player elimination is common. In the extreme case, all players but one (the sole surviver = eventual winner) are eliminated during a session. In many player elimination games, typically some players are eliminated but multiple other players are not.
    Player elimination does not include two-player-only games where the goal is to defeat the opponent, e.g., chess.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Press Your Luck [game mechanics] --> Push Your Luck

    Prisoner's Dilemma [game mechanics]

    Each player has a choice between Cooperating or Defecting. Total payoff is maximized if both players Cooperate, but if one Defects and the other Cooperates, the Defector will score more individual points.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Project-based Learning

    Project-based learning is to some extent similar to (digital) game-based learning. Just like introducing games does not mean applying game-based learning, also introducing projects does not entail project-based education. If projects are supposed to function as part of the education process, they should not lie aside of it. This means that a significant amount of material to be learnt and to be practiced must disappear from “normal” lessons. Also grading of presentations or tests would need to be shifted to grading project deliverables. Only then can projects fill the gap and have enough teaching hours. Only then will students start learning those abandoned but significant amounts of materials and put them to practice. Project-based learning should be based on the information gap and problem-solution relations. The missing knowledge should not be provided by the teacher during “traditional” lessons, but must be requested by students who are trying to solve specific problems, reach adequate solutions in order to deliver verifiable results. For example students may be asked to prepare modern versions of classical paintings (Malanchini, 2012). While they sift through classical art, they learn about styles, perspective, symbolism, philosophy, techniques, history, biographies, etc. While re-inventing selected masterpieces they inevitably refer to contemporary culture, technologies, and so on. In due course they learn everything which would be expected of them in history classes, graphic design, world literature, and others. This is an example of a well-designed project-based learning, where the project itself encourages (and makes) students learn what they need, and then checks the results in a practical fashion. However, project-based learning does not need to stop at individual instances and classes, as proved by the Tinkering School, where students spend their time failing on daily basis in order to succeed in the long run (Tinkering School, n.d.). In game-based learning, the need to play games was the driving force. In digital-game-based learning, the ease of accessing information and the skills in using modern technologies supported the learning process. In project-based learning, the internal need to do something interesting, something new and different, something that stands out or even operates on its own pushes students to acquiring knowledge and skills.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Push Your Luck / Press Your Luck [game mechanics]

    Players must decide between settling for existing gains, or risking them all for further rewards, in a game with some amount output randomness or luck. Push-Your-Luck is also known as press-your-luck.

    Many gambling games, such as Black Jack, make an intensive use of this mechanic. This system is also used in many TV games, where the winner can either leave with his gains, either answer one more question at the risk of losing everything he won so far.
    This system is also very efficient in board and cardgames, since it generates a high tension, and some anguish when rolling some more dice or drawing one more card. It’s even trickier when all players are aboard the same ship, not knowing if, or when, it will sink. Time to leave or not?
    In Jeopardy, you focus on progessing and maximising your results. But the stakes are rising. If things go wrong, you lose it all. Great risks bring great rewards - or utter defeat!

    You need to weigh up the potential gains and losses. Rolling specific numbers or reaching certain totals may catch you out. You see disaster looming - but can you escape? If you get greedy and your luck fails, you are out. You need to make the right decisions and be lucky, too.

    Source: Board Game Geek



    Rondel [game mechanics]

    The available Actions are represented as pie wedges in a circle. Each player has one or more tokens on Rondel’s wedges. On their turn, they may move their token around the Rondel and perform the Action indicated by the wedge where they stop. It is typically more costly to move further around the Rondel.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    RPGs, LARPs, ARGs

    There is also another group of games, which originated aside of education, thrived successfully away from the academia, and eventually started reshaping grass-roots learning and schools. Starting roughly in 1970s with Dungeons and Dragons (Gygax & Arneson, 1974), the role-playing games (RPGs) scene gained momentum and transformed both gaming and reading communities en masse. In any variant of RPGs, whether played as table-top games or modern video games, the focus falls on the story and the characters created or adopted by players, who interact with each other, and who influence the plot by their actions and choices. The boom of RPGs, together with yet-another revival of fantasy and SF genres in fiction, gave rise to live-action role-playing games (LARPs) already in late 1970s. Here players not only imagine and describe their actions, but also dress up, act out, and eventually organise whole camps for dozens or even hundreds of deeply immersed players. All actions and behaviours are strictly guided by the theme, rule books, specific features of individual characters, story-line, etc. In one of the most lavish enterprises, a real battleship was used for a 5-day long LARP recreating the experience of a famous science fiction TV series “Battlestar Gallactica” (Projekt Exodus, 2017). Finally alternate reality games (ARGs) find players in the real world, usually assisted by modern technologies, who interact with other players and characters in real time and real locations. Their actions influence the development of the story, and unlock specific zones and subplots. Due to immense immersion, RPGs, LARPs, and ARGs are highly engrossing, emotional, and create unforgettable experiences. When themes or individual tasks coincide with world history, politics, economy, etc. players willingly invest their time and efforts into mastering necessary knowledge and skills. Those games, unjustly patronised, can have an astounding and long-lasting positive effect on students and the whole learning process. In Polish schools, teens relived the tensions of WW2 by impersonating the resistance, civilians, and occupying forces. Preparations and analysis took weeks, but a simple one-day long gameplay allowed thousands of students to experience the hardships of a war-torn country. A ‘simple’ game opened students’ eyes when discussing history, literature, social sciences, politics, psychology, stereotypes, etc. In Denmark, Østerskov Efterscole goes as far as preparing the whole curriculum based on LARPs. For example, during the Roman Republic Week in German classes the “teacher, representing a gothic warlord, presents [students] with territorial claims for his tribe, and they have to negotiate in German” (Østerskov Efterscole, n.d.). Eventually, whether in a table-top format, RPG, LARP, ARG, or with the help of digital games, immersive and story-driven approach opens new possibilities to games and gamification in education.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Rory's Story Cubes --> Story Cubes


    Selection Order Bid [game mechanics]

    Selection Order Bid is a form of multiple-lot auction in which players are not directly bidding on the lots themselves, but the order in which they’ll draft the lots. As the bid increases, players may pass and accept a later place in the order. In some cases, players must pay their entire current bid (an all-pay mechanism), and in others they may recover some of their bid.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Serious Games

    The topic of games in education and training is far from finished. There is a whole branch of games and game studies relating to serious games, which can be viewed as an extreme version of educational games or another name for video simulation games. The general public does not encounter them that often as they are usually prepared for large companies, military and intelligence institutions, hospitals, local and domestic administration, etc. Even CIA does not frown on serious board games as it seems that one of the most effective ways of practicing analytical skill is playing serious games (Machkovech, 2017). They may resemble traditional board games with a board, tokens, cards, envelopes, and time constraints (Hall, 2017) but the training overshadows entertainment. In relation to the general public, serious games can be used for a variety of reasons like teaching entrepreneurship, sciences, recruitment, or consequences of drinking and driving (Serious Games Institute, n.d.). The difference between educational games and serious games is how serious the outcomes may be to individuals and the public. Serious games can literally save lives by preventing disasters, they develop skills at most vulnerable professions, and from the perspective of the serious goals, the fun factor may be hugely underdeveloped.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Semi-cooperative games [game mechanics]
    [compare --> Cooperative games --> Competitive games]

    A game in which players are cooperating and competing with each other throughout the game, while trying to complete a common objective. To be classified as semi-cooperative, there must be two possible end states:

    A) One or more (but unlikely to be all) players win

    B) No players win

    A game where players sometimes cooperate and sometimes compete but one always wins is not semi-cooperative. It is a Competitive game with a Negotiation mechanism.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Set Collection [game mechanics]

    The value of items is dependent on being part of a set; for example, scoring according to groups of a certain quantity or variety.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Simulations (Games)

    Another type of games may also do the similar trick, and just like project-based learning, create a new and effective setting for education. The majority of users probably associates simulations with playing games as pilots or racing drivers. However, there is more to it. The famous game The Sims (The Sims, 2017) refers to the simulation of everyday life, and this is the gist of this type of games. They mirror a specific aspect of life or profession and replicate their most important elements. There is no need in repeating reality word-by-word as the goal of simulations is different. They are designed to create a safe environment for problematic situations: how to fly in dangerous weather conditions, how to drift on snow, how to deliver supplies to earthquake survivors, how to outmanoeuvre invading forces, how to invest money, how to convince your spouse to redecorate the living room, etc. In real life consequences can be dire, but in simulations it is extremely safe to learn on mistakes. For this reason, they have been used extensively in military schools, medical departments, corporate onboarding, wedding preparations, or even in enhancing competences of national administration. In Lords of the Valley (Lords of the Valley, n.d.) government officials act (as the word ‘play’ does not reflect the level of responsibility and engagement) as farmers, factory owners, towns-folk, NGOs, banks, and various governmental institutions. In the course of the simulation individual players have to cope with unpredictable weather conditions and flooding. They need to decide how much they want to invest in their own backyard, how much to set aside, and how much to share with others in maintaining dams and irrigation systems. The simulation is difficult and usually ends up in a disaster. But this is exactly its purpose. Actors have to find out that while living in a society, they have to cooperate thinking of mutual benefits. The additional lesson for the government administration is the decision-making process and response time. It is better to make mistakes and act rather than to be too reluctant; disasters do not wait for relief to arrive. Explaining those relationships is possible, but simulations (and serious games) allow involved parties to live through the experience, make mistakes in a safe environment, and then repeat, and repeat, and eventually spread good practices.

    Source: Necessary Definitions for Understanding Gamification in Education. A Short Guide for Teachers and Educators by Mikolaj Sobocinski

    Simultaneous Action Selection [game mechanics]

    Players plan their turn simultaneously and secretly. Then, they reveal their plans at the same time.
    Source: Board Game Geek


    Spyfall is a party game unlike any other, one in which you get to be a spy and try to understand what's going on around you. It's really simple!

    Spyfall is played over several rounds, and at the start of each round all players receive cards showing the same location — a casino, a traveling circus, a pirate ship, or even a space station — except that one player receives a card that says "Spy" instead of the location. Players then start asking each other questions — "Why are you dressed so strangely?" or "When was the last time we got a payday?" or anything else you can come up with — trying to guess who among them is the spy. The spy doesn't know where he is, so he has to listen carefully. When it's his time to answer, he'd better create a good story!

    At any time during a round, one player may accuse another of being a spy. If all other players agree with the accusation, the round ends and the accused player has to reveal his identity. If the spy is uncovered, all other players score points. However, the spy can himself end a round by announcing that he understands what the secret location is; if his guess is correct, only the spy scores points.

    After a few rounds of guessing, suspicion and bluffing, the game ends and whoever has scored the most points is victorious!

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Superfight is party game of super powers and super problems. The game is all about arguing with your friends about ridiculous fights.

    The core deck contains 500 cards. 160 characters (white cards), and 340 powers and weaknesses (black cards). Players use a hand of three white cards and three black cards, and choose one of each to beat the player next to them. Then they get a random black card before fighting. Players then argue their case for why they should win, and the table votes.

    Note: Superfight went through a major reprint in late 2014. The rules and about 30% of the cards were refined to improve the game after it sold out of its original print runs. The Cards Against Humanity/Apples to Apples mechanism has been replaced by a table vote and one-one one battles, but the battle royale and villain rulesets keep the old single-judge mechanism if the table prefers it.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Story Cubes / Rory's Story Cubes

    Here's a game that's enormous fun and will sharpen your wits and hone your imagination. The 54 images were designed by Rory O'Connor of Ireland, a trainer in creativity and creative problem-solving. They can be used to arrive at answers or decisions in an indirect and ingenious way.
    Originally Rory had put the images on the faces of a Rubik's Cube, and players would turn the Cube to scramble the images, then choose one side to play with. Kate Jones of Kadon Enterprises suggested putting the 54 images on 9 separate cubes, to allow for quicker ways to generate more varied combinations, including conceptual puzzles. Rory readily agreed, having considered the 9-cubes idea himself earlier. At a creativity conference held at Kadon headquarters in May 2004, a prototype was whipped up, and in 2005 Kadon launched the cubes version of Rory's Story Cubes.
    Each jumbo 1" cube has 6 images or icons, with a total of 54 all-different hand-inlaid images that can be mixed in over 10 million ways. You roll all 9 cubes to generate 9 random images and then use these to invent a story that starts with "Once upon a time..." and uses all 9 elements as part of your narrative.
    Play it as a game for one or more players, or as a party game for three or more. Or play it as an improv game where each player contributes part of the story, picking up where the last one left off. Win award points for speedy delivery, inventiveness, imagination, drama and humor.
    Full instructions include several other ways to use the cubes to solve problems, break up writer's block, enhance your imagination and heighten your ability to find unifying themes among the diverse images. Interpret or get at the meanings of your answers more quickly. It's fun, easy, and mind-stretching.
    As a puzzle the cubes will really give your imagination a work-out. You'll practically feel both sides of your brain dancing. The challenge: Fit the 9 cubes into a 3x3 square. Now examine the cubes in any one row and turn them so their tops have something in common. Do this for all 3 rows. Explain your choices, or challenge another player to identify the element they share. More than one answer may be right, and there are thousands of possible combinations.
    Rory's Story Cubes are recommended for all ages over 8, though it's fun to watch a younger child create combinations with the cubes and make up stories.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Take That [game mechanics]

    Competitive maneuvers that directly target one opponent's progress toward victory, but do not directly eliminate any characters or components representing the opponent. Such mechanics include stealing, nullifying, or force-discarding of one opponent's resources, actions, or abilities. A take-that maneuver often results in a dramatic change in the players' position of power over a relatively short period of time.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Tech Tree / Tech Track [game mechanics]

    During the course of the game, new Actions become available to specific players, or existing Actions are improved. These are often themed as Technologies, but do not need to be.

    Sometimes this is expressed as a Tree, where gaining one Tech unlocks multiple other Techs. Or it can be a track, where advancing along the track unlocks upgraded or new Actions.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition

    Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition is an engine-building game in which players control interplanetary corporations with the goal of making Mars habitable (and profitable). You will do this by investing mega credits (MC) into project cards that will directly or indirectly contribute to the terraforming process. In order to win, you will want to accumulate a high terraform rating (TR) and as many victory points (VP) as you can. Players raise their TR by increasing global parameters: oceans, oxygen, and temperature. TR also determines each corporation's basic income, and, at the end of the game TR counts as VP. Additional VP and production capabilities are awarded for building project cards and other actions taken during the game.

    The game is played in rounds, and each round the players will choose one of five phases, which determines which activities will take place during that round. This means every round is different, but can consist of building new project cards, taking general and project-specific actions, producing income and resources (plants and heat), or researching to draw more project cards. Every player will take all the phases selected for the round, and will receive a special bonus during the phase that they selected. To speed up the game, players should resolve each phase simultaneously!

    The game board has tracks for oxygen, temperature, and terraform rating, as well as a place for all of the ocean tiles that will be flipped over the course of the game. The game ends when there is enough oxygen to breath (14%), oceans enough to allow Earth-like weather (9), and the temperature is well above freezing (+8°C). It will then be possible, if not comfortable, to live on the surface of Mars!

    The winner is the player with the most VP at the end of the game.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Timeline is a card game where each card depicts a historical event, invention or discovery on both sides, with the year in which that event occurred, invention or discovery was made on only one side. Players take turns placing a card from their hand in a row on the table. After placing the card, the player reveals the date on it. If the card was placed correctly with the date in chronological order with all other cards on the table, the card stays in place; otherwise the card is removed from play and the player takes another card from the deck.

    The first player to get rid of all his cards by placing them correctly wins. If multiple players go out in the same round, then everyone else is eliminated from play and each of those players are dealt one more card for another round of play. If only one player has no cards after a bonus round, he wins; otherwise play continues until a single player goes out.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Traitor game [game mechanics]

    A traitor game can be seen as a kind of team game, or as a cooperative game with a betrayal mechanism. The traitors typically win by triggering a failure condition for the players. For this mechanism, a traitor game is characterized by traitors that begin the game with hidden identities, or are assigned them during the game.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Trick-taking [game mechanics]

    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.

    Cards are played sequentially, not simultaneously.

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Turn Order: Claim Action [game mechanics]

    In each round there is a First Player, and turns are taken clockwise from the first player. There is an action that may be taken to claim a place in the turn order (typically, but not always, first) for the next round, with play proceeding clockwise from the First Player. If no one takes the action, turn order remains unchanged.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Turn Order: Time Track [game mechanics]

    In this Turn Order mechanism, there is a linear “Time Track” with many spaces. Each player has a marker on the track, which indicates where they are “in time.” Markers farther on the track are further forward in time.
    The player with the marker lowest on the track (furthest “back in time”) takes the next action. Different actions have different costs in time. The player’s marker is advanced a number of spaces according to the cost of the selected action. Then, the next lowest marker on the track takes an action.
    It is possible that the same player takes multiple turns in a row.

    Source: Board Game Geek


    Unlock! (series)
    Escape Adventures

    Unlock! is a cooperative card game inspired by escape rooms that uses a simple system which allows you to search scenes, combine objects, and solve riddles. Play Unlock! to embark on great adventures, while seated at a table using only cards and a companion app that can provide clues, check codes, monitor time remaining, etc.

    Unlock! Escape Adventures includes three separate scenarios for you to explore.

    An included ten-card tutorial allows you to learn how to play without reading the game rules.

    Note: Unlock! requires a free application to be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. Once downloaded, an internet connection is not required during game play.

    Source: Board Game Geek



    Word Slam

    "EAT, YELLOW, CIRCLE — do you mean pancakes? Or pineapple rings? Oh wait, the CIRCLE is DIVIDED? So something that you eat that is yellow and semicircular? Uh, is it, maybe…a banana?" "Yes, the answer is banana! One point for the Blue Team!"
    In the communication game Word Slam, two teams compete against one another simultaneously. In each round, one player on each team tries to get their teammates to guess a hidden word or phrase using only the 105 explanatory cards available in the box. Speaking and acting is absolutely forbidden for the storytellers! They must tell their stories using only 105 cards, each with one word on it: a noun, verb, adjective, or preposition. A player can use as many explanatory cards as desired, and whichever team guesses correctly first scores a point. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins!

    Source: Board Game Geek

    Worker Placement [game mechanics]

    It is a stylized form of Action Drafting. Players place tokens (typically the classic person-shaped "meeple") to trigger an action from a set of actions available to all players, generally one-at-a-time and in turn order. Some games achieve the same effect in reverse: the turn begins with action spaces filled by markers, which are claimed by players for some cost. Each player usually has a limited number of tokens with which to participate in the process, although these may increase as the game progresses.
    There is usually a limit on the number of times a single action may be taken. Once that limit for an action is reached, it typically either becomes more expensive to take again or can no longer be taken for the remainder of the round. As such, not all actions can be taken by all players in a given round, and "action blocking" occurs. If the game is structured in rounds, then all actions are usually refreshed at the start or end of each round so that they become available again.
    From a thematic standpoint, the game pieces which players use to draft actions often represent "workers" of a given trade (this category of mechanism, however, is not necessarily limited to or by this thematic representation). In other words, players often thematically "place workers" to show which actions have been drafted by individual players.
    Source: Board Game Geek

    Worker Placement: Different Types [game mechanics]

    Workers can differ in abilities, or can be upgraded and downgraded, or are valid for placement in different areas and buildings.
    Source: Board Game Geek




    Zone of Control (ZOC) [game mechanics]

    Spaces adjacent to a unit impact the ability of opposing units to move or attack.

    This is a very common mechanism in wargames. There are many variations, including "Locking ZOCs", where units are frozen and cannot leave, "Soft ZOCs", where units can move from ZOC to ZOC, but at some penalty, and others.

    Source: Board Game Geek