A Beginner’s Guide to Board Game Terms

Board game words are hard. This list of definitions is here to help you understand what fancy board game terms actually mean.

The board gaming community can be challenging to break into. If you’re new to the hobby you may be confused by some of the terms and acronyms being used. Well, let me assuage your fears and equip you to enter even the geekiest of conversations.

Study this list of definitions for common board game speak, so you can stop feeling foolish and jump into geekdom head first. These aren’t the type of definitions you might find in a board game glossary, but here is what gamers actually mean when they use these terms.

Alpha-Player – Someone who enjoys playing games alone…but with friends.

Ameritrash – A game whose flavor text is more developed than its mechanics, which primarily involve rolling dice, reading, rolling more dice, and praying something good (or interesting) happens.

Analysis Paralysis (AP) – Describes when someone makes the most obvious move on their turn, but only after considering every other possible move for their current and all future turns.

Broken – A word used to describe any strategy that worked better than yours.

Crunchy – A way of describing a game with many small pieces that need to be stored in bowls, thus making it similar to breakfast cereal.

Dexterity Games – Games for kids and people who don’t know how to play real games. I think most of them involve throwing pieces around or something.

Downtime – The amount of time you have between turns to talk and get a snack instead of planning your next turn.

Eurogame – A game where you silently move bits around on personal player boards. Player interaction consists of occasionally uttering a complaint that someone made your plans less efficient, forcing you to recalculate your entire turn (see analysis paralysis).

Expansion – A piece of a game that comes out after the “main” game and actually makes it fun.

Fiddly – A game that, much like a fiddle, is extremely unpleasant for everyone when someone inexperienced tries to play it.

Grognard/Wargamer – Someone who insists their gaming taste is superior to yours because the games they like are more complicated and obscure.

Kingmaker – The jerk that decides you don’t get to win the game.

Legacy Game – A game that lets you live out the fantasy of spending lots of money on something, using it once, and breaking it on purpose.

Living Card Game – A massive card game with a monthly payment plan.

RPG – An acronym for “really popular game” coined during the 80’s Dungeons & Dragons craze that served as a way of categorizing any popular video or board game whose genre wasn’t clearly defined. It was originally believed to stand for “role-playing game” until people realized that this applied to every game ever made.

Shelf of Shame – A caption used on an image of your game collection to humbly brag about the number of board games you own.

Theme – A subject arbitrarily pasted on to a game to make the mechanics easier to understand.

Train Game – A game about trains.

18xx –  Originally written as “18x”, these are games about trains that take 18x longer than regular train games. 18xx was a common typo that eventually stuck.

Victory Points – A unit of measurement used to calculate your relative intelligence compared to that of your friends.

  • Note: Any game that does not include victory points or a similar measurement to determine a winner is not a real game/ This includes co-op games and any game that can end in a tie.

Worker Placement – A synonym of action selection, rondel, dice drafting, or any other game mechanic that involves actions and pieces according to most reviewers and BoardGameGeek users.

Congratulations, you are now an educated gamer. Go get your game on!


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Reid Conley


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