In most hobbies, there is jargon. A way of speaking that can sound like a different language to the uninitiated, but makes perfect sense for those that are a part of it. Board gamers throw around terms like worker placement, alpha player, and analysis paralysis, and take for granted that everyone knows what we’re talking about.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we decided to look at some commonly used terms and genres in the hobby, and give you a brief description. This will be an ongoing series, so if there’s a gaming term you want defined, reach out to us in Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday.
A Rules Lawyer is often used as a pejorative term to refer to someone who adamantly sticks to the letter of the law in a set of games, while completely ignoring the spirit. Usually, this is done to give them some sort of advantage during the game. Rules Lawyers can crop up in pretty much any competitive gaming environment. Board games have been designed with them in mind, and entire chapters of books have been written on how to deal with them. It’s important to keep in mind that these are not bad people. They simply want to win the game and they will use the ‘law,’ or rules, to their advantage to do so.
A Push-Your-Luck (PYL) game is one where the very mechanic of the game entices you to test the boundaries of good decision making. A well designed PYL should make the balance between enough accomplishments on a turn and busting razor thin. Typically, they involve some sort of random element, like rolling dice or drawing cards. The goal may be progressing along a track, or acquiring wealth of some sort, and during a turn, you’re going to be faced with a choice: keep going, or bank what you have so far and call it a day. Adding to your calculations will be the fact that you can see how well your friends did on their turn. Joey might’ve had a poor round, alleviating the pressure on you a bit, but then on Monica’s turn, she might really clean up. Now there’s added incentive for you to push that envelope a little further. PYL games are typically light-hearted fun that will make you scream and shout, no matter what results you come up with!
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If you are new to the board gaming hobby, this is a term you’re going to get to know pretty quickly. Gateway Games are used to introduce new players to modern games. They will include mechanics that may feel a bit foreign to someone who may have only played roll and move games, but those mechanics will be presented in a very easy-to-digest way. Whenever a new, accessible game is published, gamers can be quick to call it the next great gateway game. That is not a negative term, by any means. Essentially, when you think of a game as a gateway, you could see yourself playing it with a friend or family member that has not yet become a part of the modern board game scene. Gamers love finding new gateway games because it’s just another opportunity for us to convert someone to our flock. We remember the game that hooked us into this addictive hobby and we love the idea of converting someone new.
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Trick-Taking Games are centered around a set of hands, or tricks, that you play with cards or tiles. Each round, the winner of the trick is determined, often by playing the highest, or ‘trumping’ the other cards played. Trick-Taking games can be played individually, but many of them, like Tarot and Euchre, will rely on partners. Victory in these games is usually either determined simply by which player, or team, took the most tricks, or on a point-based system, where certain tricks are worth more, depending on what was played into them. These sorts of games have been around for hundreds of years and definitely remain popular today. The good thing is that although Trick-Taking Games all have their own style and flow to them, they have a lot in common. Many of the rules and strategies are transferable from one to the other. So learning one opens up a whole new world of games for you.
Those are just a few terms and classifications that we use in modern games. You might have known each one of them on the list, but keep in mind what is was like for you when you were first starting out. We’ll be back in the future with definitions for more gaming terms. As always, we want to know what you think. Reach out on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday to share your thoughts.