Single-mechanic exemplars

In the Compound Games thread, I said:

Do other people feel this way? What would you say are the best games that rely as far as possible only on a single mechanic?

I’d argue for Flash Point as a fine example of the Pandemic-alike (you do your turn, then things get worse in the overall game state), for me a better one than actual Pandemic. (And unlike Aeon’s End it doesn’t also have deckbuilding, though they both also have variable player powers.)

Star Realms is a good one for deckbuilding, I think.


Sushi Go is my favorite exemplar for drafting


Obviously the number one trading game is Bohnanza.


I gravitate towards games which focus on a small number of mechanics because I play mostly with people who aren’t “boardgamers”. However, some genres benefit from a more focused ruleset.

The Resistance is a good example. Social deduction games benefit from being simple/accessible because they’re usually high player count and rely on secret information. Playing complex games for the first time usually generates questions. How do you ask questions in a social deduction game without outing yourself?

Meanwhile, the property games we play often have a lot of different mechanics going on, but they’re easy to learn because we can grasp some of the basic mechanics from references to real life.


Days of Wonder at their best seemed to make games focused on a central mechanic (Smallworld, Ticket to Ride, I want to argue even Five Tribes fulfills this requirement)

Iwari seems pretty much JUST area majority.

I still like Carcassonne for tile laying all these years later.

I usually go for a mix of mechanics—I think a small number of mechanics is fine for giving depth to a game without adding complexity for complexity’s sake. But I think if you put in more than 3 major mechanisms… a game needs to be really good to pull that off.


I think most of my preferred games are a combination of two or more mechanics… I cannot think of a straight forward social deduction game that I prefer over others that include other mechanics. I definitely prefer Unfathomable (Battlestar a la Cthulhu) over something more simplistic like Coup. My favourite auction game, for example, includes trick taking (High Society). I think they get “Hybrid vigour”…

1 Like

Having just played Iwari, I think El Grande blows it away. You could say EG has an auction for turn order but it’s pretty pure imo

I don’t know if I personally prefer more mechanically simpler (or more focused) games, but the people I play with largely do. so I always lean towards that kind of game. Like, I’ve never played Battlestar Galactica but have played a ton of The Resistance (Avalon) because I felt like my players would bounce off the former while we loved the latter.

Go seems like an obvious example.

I’m struggling to tell what a “single mechanic” means, especially given the example of Flash Point.

I might hazard a guess at Innovation for melding and splaying. I’m sure there are “purer” games using a standard deck of cards, but I especially like Innovation’s use of the mechanic.

1 Like

Yes, some mechanics by themselves could be tricky as well. I cannot see a game with drafting only as a mechanic being very attractive.

But isn’t that exactly what Sushi Go does?

1 Like

Almost. Sushi Go does drafting perfectly.

It, however, has a but too much complexity in it’s scoring to consider it a drafting-only game. It’s really a drafting game with set collection

1 Like

I feel like a lot of dexterity games fit the bill nicely here. It’s not always the case—hodgepodge/kitchen sink designs might even outnumber the clean ones by this point!—but so many of them revel in their simplicity. Flicking and stacking are intrinsically fun activities that take well to simple-but-hard challenges; moreover, complexity and a long play time are (typically) things to avoid.

My current favourite “pure” flicker that isn’t Crokinole is Set & Match. Just a mat with scoring zones mirrored on each side, and a felt-lined puck. The rulebook is surprisingly robust, mainly because it’s also explaining the game of Tennis, but in the end you serve the disc to your opponent who sends it back, repeating in a tug of war till someone scores. I’ll play this for the rest of my life.

Pardon? There’s no trick taking in High Society.

Higher card wins? Isn’t that trick taking?

To me, trick taking is:

  • everyone starts with the same number of cards, which is how many tricks there will be
  • each trick, everyone plays exactly one card
  • someone leads, and everyone else must follow suit if they can do so
  • “best” card wins (typically highest trump > highest lead suit > anything else)
  • the winner takes (literally) the trick, and leads the next one

High Society currency cards have no suits, bidding can be multiple cards at a time, and continues around the table repeatedly until all but one player has passed, and the thing you’re taking is a card from a separate deck; so it’s not really in that category to my mind.

(For this thread I would suggest High Society as a pure auction game.)


Someone insisted that For Sale is a trick taking. The whole club and BGG said no. The latter rejected his proposed change to label FS as trick taking.

“Genres don’t have edges as much as they have landmarks. If you can see lots of landmarks from one genre, that’s probably the one you’re in. But there are places where you can see landmarks from several genres.” — dcarson, GURPS forum

I think there can be games that deviate from some of Phil’s points that still feel like trick-taking games to many people, and others that don’t – categorisation is applying hard lines to squishy things.

Air, Land & Sea for lane duelling perhaps?

1 Like

I’d nominate Sumeria for pure area control. You have pieces that go on areas or move between them. Then count up who has control of areas. Scoring does come from triangle scoring of tokens won through area majority so maybe not as pure as I first thought as that could arguably add in set collection if we’re not counting Sushi Go as pure drafting


@lalunaverde reminds me of Diamant/Incan Gold: ruthlessly strips off everything that isn’t about pushing your luck.