Board Game Jargon & Terminology
people are familiar with a lot of board game terms, but if you're new to
the hobby, some board game terminology and boardgames jargon might as
well be a foreign language. We've tried to include as many definitions
of board games as you might reasonably be able to expect from a
comprehensive board game glossary. If we left out a term or two, please
contact us so that we can update this page.
Board Game Terms and Definitions
- Abstract board game
- A board game without a theme. For example,
checkers is usually considered an abstract board game,
Monopoly is a thematic board game.
- Abstract strategy game
- A board game for two players without any random elements. A
subcategory of abstract board games.
- Action points
- In some games, players get to take actions based on a limited
number of points each turn. These points are called action points.
- American style board games usually feature lots of luck and a
theme or storyline.
- Area control board game
- A board game in which players receive points for the amount of
area they control. Examples include go and
- Auction board games
- A type of board game in which players bid on in-game resources.
Monopoly uses some auction mechanics, although it isn't
primarily an auction board game.
- Beer & pretzels board game
- A game with strong random elements and usually a humorous or
- Risking something of value in order to win something else or
lose what's being bet.
- To pretend you have better items than you do. The classic
example is the game of
which is both a betting and a bluffing game.
- The surface on which you
play a board game. Also referred to as the game board.
- A game mechanic where one player removes the other player's
piece from the board.
and checkers both feature strong capturing elements.
- Card drafting
- When players are able to choose cards that are face up.
- A collectible card game. The classic example is Magic the
- A piece of cardboard used as a game piece, commonly found in
older war games.
- Crib sheet
- A piece of paper with a summary of the game rules, intended to
be used as a reference during the game.
- A stack of playing cards.
- Designer game
- See German game.
- Dexterity game
- A game in which a physical skill is used. The classic board game
or table top game example is Jenga.
- A polyhedron with numbered sides that generates random results
in a game. The six sided die is the most commonly used, but
games popularized the use of different sided dice. The plural is
"dice," and the singular is "die."
- Economic board game
- A game with some type of investing, buying, or selling aspect.
The classic example is Monopoly, but
Puerto Rico is a newer and more interesting example.
- Educational board game
- A game which is designed to teach something.
- See German game.
- Another product in a game line which offers new rules,
scenarios, and/or equipment.
- Family board game
- Games that are intended to be played by families or groups of
- Someone who plays games.
- Gateway game
- A simple game that's useful for introducing new players to the
- A nerd. Board game enthusiasts are often considered
geeks. Sometimes geeks have limited social skills because of their
near obsession with whatever they're geeky about.
- German game
- Simple games from Germany that feature really nice production
values and a lot of abstract player interaction.
- Someone who plays war games.
- A six sided shape, called a hexagon, that's often used on
game boards, especially in war games.
- Historical simulation board game
- A game which recreates a historical event or series of events.
- To move over another game piece or game square. In
checkers, jumping is also how capturing is done.
- A game with simple rules and strategies.
- The random element of a game.
- Mass market board games
- Games sold by large retailers like Walmart. These are usually
manufactured by Hasbro and Mattel. The classic example is
- The rule that covers a certain aspect of gameplay in a board
- Non-game reasons for taking certain actions. My stepson always
attacks me, no matter what game we play, for metagame reasons.
- Miniatures game
- A game that uses metal or plastic miniatures to represent
soldiers or other military units. Steve Jackson's game
is a good example; the miniatures in that game represent tanks.
- When players of a game make deals.
Diplomacy and A Game of Thrones both have strong
- See geek.
- Out of print. No longer being produced.
- Party game
- A game for lots of people that emphasizes social interaction.
Apples to Apples is a good example, as is charades.
- Abbreviation for play by email, which is one way of playing
board games and other types of games.
- Perfect information game
- A game that lacks any hidden information. Chess and go are
examples of perfect information games. Poker is the opposite of a
perfect information game.
- Usually the in-game representatives of the players in a board
game, but sometimes game pieces represent equipment or other items,
like money. Also referred to in various situations as bits,
counters, meeple, movers, pawns, or tokens.
- To play an unpublished game with the goal of finding flaws in
the rules or mechanics.
- Race game
- A game where each player tries to be the first to complete their
travel. A classic example is
- See luck.
- Replay value
- How much fun a game is when played multiple times is its replay
- Roll and move
- A game mechanism where players roll a die or dice
then move their pieces based on the result.
- Abbreviation for roleplaying game, a type of game that
emphasizes storytelling. The players portray characters in the
- The rules for setting up a game. Many games have a single
scenario, like Monopoly, while other games, like
Arkham Horror, have multiple scenarios.
- A game where a player can determine a strategy that will
always win or at least tie. Tic tac toe is the classic example of a
- Also called a square, a space is a unit on a game
board, usually with a distinct border.
- The plans or tactics that a player uses to try to win a game.
- A short term strategy, as opposed to long term strategy.
- Thematic board games
- Games with some type of detailed storyline or detailed setting.
Cosmic Encounter is a good example of a thematic board game.
- The topic of a game. For example, Arkham Horror has a
theme, while Cosmic Encounter has a
science fiction theme.
- Tile laying game
- A game in which players lay tiles down to form the game board.
- Train game
- A game about railroads and trains.
- To use an extremely defensive strategy. The term comes from
first person shooter video games, where players hide "in their
shells" and then pop out to shoot their opponents.
- A version of a game with different rules and/or gameplay.
- Victory conditions
- What someone has to do in order to win a game.
- See betting.
- War game
- A game with a military or combat theme that features combat
between opposing forces.
- Word games
- A game which uses words as a game mechanism.
is the classic example, and Unspeakable Words is a new,
clever type of word game with some additional mechanics.
Our goal is to create the most comprehensive listing of board game terms
and definitions online. Which terms did we miss? Contact us, and we'll
expand the page.