51 Mechanics: Hand Management


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?

Hand management is a very popular mechanic because it presents a high level of strategic challenge. The games below offer very different takes on that challenge, but even at its most basic level, hand management games are ones you should be playing if you are a teacher interested in gamifying education. The reason is straightforward. The better you are at playing these games, the better you will understand them and be able to use their unique strategic depth to inform your own teaching.

Gloomhaven (BGG Rank: 1)

Very possibly the most fiendish example of hand management I've ever played. Gloomhaven is a legacy (which means the game is meant to be played once as a campaign) dungeon crawler in which the characters undertake short adventures to accomplish a goal of some kind. Characters in dungeon crawlers inevitably have hit points. In this game, the hit point concept is captured by your hand. As you play, you lose access to cards in your deck (and you lose their abilities as well). Run out of cards before the scenario ends and you become "exhausted." When everyone exhausts, you've lot. Getting the hand management right is a brain burner. Such a great game...and so much stuff!

Love Letter (BGG Rank: 206)

Proof that a hand management game can work even if you've only got one card! Love Letter is a fast playing game of social deduction in which you are continually trying to assess the strength of your card's position against the rest of the cards in play. Strategically straightforward, but not easy.

Rhino Hero (BGG Rank: 599)

Ever build a house out of playing cards? That's the basic idea of Rhino Hero. You have a small hand of cards that dictate the way the tower of cards you're building needs to be constructed. Every now and again, you have to place a rhino figurine on the tower you've built...and when it doesn't collapse, you get to carry on! A great game for all ages and the idea of building something from cards based on the cards in your hand is an accessible way to understand this concept for everyone.

Terraforming Mars (BGG Rank: 5)

The constructing of the hand is the order of the day in Terraforming Mars. Cards doing different essential tasks in the terraforming effort are available for you to reserve and then buy if you are so inclined. The cards you reserve and choose to buy and most importantly in my experience DON'T buy makes the difference between a winning strategy and a losing one. Because so much of this game is hand management, its high level of complexity is nevertheless fairly manageable. Don't hesitate to play this. It's a dynamite game.

Ticket To Ride (BGG Rank: 122)

One of the classic gateway games, TTR's hand management mechanic centers on collecting railroad cards with the same colors so as to be able to build colored routes across the map you're playing on (Ticket to Ride has dozens and dozens of maps at this point). Super easy to teach and related intimately to the critical set collection mechanic, TTR's hand management requirements are definitely a gateway experience for less experienced teachers. Play this first if you haven't played other games like this!


Cover Image: [https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/3865925/gloomhaven?size=large]