Many years ago, I attempted to create my own encyclopaedia of game mechanisms by playing/reading the rules of all the board games I owned (which was a considerable number, and has only increased since then) and noting each separate mechanic on a card, and then attempting to sort them into categories on a Roladex.

I’m not sure whether I would have foregone that piece of work, if this book by Geoff Engelstein and Isaac Shalev had existed back then, because it was extremely instructive, but I would definitely have used the book as a starting point for my exploration of mechanics.

Simply put, this book is an invaluable resource for any game designer, and I have found myself dipping into almost daily since I got it. Like the best sourcebooks it is easy to find what you require. The mechanics are categorised into chapters, by the purpose they serve inside a game and each mechanism is referenced by an id which indicates its category and order within the chapter – which I have found useful as a shortcut to reference them within game design documentation.

While, as any game designer knows, there is often ambiguity about what category any specific mechanism should fit into, I think the authors have done an excellent job both in categorising a mechanic by its primary effect or purpose and in selecting the categories they will include in the book.  There are 13 chapters each with between 10 and 20ish mechanics, ranging from the very broad  – Chapter One is entitled ‘Game Structure’ and the very specific – Chapter 10 deals with ‘Movement’.

So, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all mechanics. This, in any case, would be an impossible task. Take for example STR-10 (Game Structure mechanic 10) – Legacy Games. A few years ago this term had not been coined. So new mechanics are being discovered or invented all the time. In the introduction to the book the authors state where the lines have been drawn. First and most obviously, the title suggests that we are looking at the mechanics of tabletop games, but even within that, they state that e.g. wargaming, miniatures gaming and classic and collectible card games are only referenced in passing, and that whole categories such as narrative, dexterity and pantomime are equally lightly touched upon.  Maybe these will form the basis of a further book, or furnish an opportunity for other authors to produce a similarly comprehensive work.

My very favourite thing about this book, are the…

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