BoardGameGeek (BGG) is a singular repository of gaming information, knowledge and wisdom that has been serving the modern board game hobby since 2000. I consult it regularly and have used its database to manage my own game collection. I also used it when I was writing my 2016 book on gamified instruction, particularly with regard to the game mechanics that BGG identified and organized content into. While there are more than 85,000 games, even now, there are just 51 mechanics. Since every mechanic offers something to the teacher who wants to use games in the classroom, I'm going to use this section of Game Level Learn and my own contributions to it to assess games from each of these 51 mechanics. Next up?
Area Enclosure games are games where the players use their pieces to wall off and take control of territory on the game board or map. This makes them distinct from Area Control games, where the zones are generally already printed on the board. There are few games that are better at teaching spatial awareness than Area Enclosure games. They call on a player's logic, reason and perception in ways other mechanics don't. Often abstract, these kinds of games are sometimes great starter games for players who have given games like chess a try, but are looking for something new.
Android: Mainframe (BGG Rank: 1704)
In Android: Mainframe, players take on the role of powerful cyber criminals in the Android universe. The player's goal is to establish greater control over the mainframe of the fictional corporation at the heart of the story than the other players. Players accomplish this goal by taking actions on their turn. This is a fun game, accessible and with a small level of mechanical complexity. It's a decent introduction to the Android universe's core concepts.
Blokus (BGG Rank: 472)
Super accessible, Blokus is a game of abstract strategy where players have to get rid of as many of their pieces as they can while their opponents have the same goal. The trick? You can't place one of your pieces so that it is adjacent to another of your pieces. There's way more gameplay in this than you might suspect. Playable by pretty young children, particularly if they've got a little bit of game experience.
Go (BGG Rank: 101)
Surely Go ranks as one of the most elegant, perfect game designs of all time. It also ranks as one of the oldest (at least three thousand years old, at a minimum). In Go, two players use white stones, black stones and a straightforward set of rules to attempt to capture areas of the board. One of the definitive examples of wildly interesting emergent play coming from a straightforward rules set. Well deserving of its reputation for being a brain burner.
Mexica (BGG Rank: 506)
All of the games in the Masks Trilogy are well-regarded and rightly so. They are thoughtful, fun and engaging designs with great art. Mexica is probably my favorite. In it, players are working to create and control the city of Tenochtitlan. The ancient capital of the Aztec Empire was noteworthy for being built on an island in a lake. The game uses this water/land relationship in the game mechanics. One of the best Area Enclosure games and one of the best Action Points games as well. I was delighted to see it come back into print. Go get one straight away!
Through The Desert (BGG Rank: 400)
This is a great game representing this game mechanic, but there are few games at which I have less skill. Maybe I'm being hypnotized by the pastel camel figurines in my edition, but there's really nothing I can do to keep from finishing dead last. In my most dreadful play, my partner managed to secure something like two-thirds of the board for himself (and he wasn't just playing me, he was playing one of our most clever friends...we both got skunked). Having said all of this, this game is an old classic, diverting and particularly on point with its mechanic.
[Cover image from: https://boardgamegeek.com/image/13630/through-desert?size=original]
Next Week's Mechanic: Area Movement