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Board Game Geek’s Most and Least Popular Game Mechanics

5 Minute Read
Feb 25 2019

We all THINK we love a good Worker Placement game, but how popular is it REALLY?!

Board Game Geek’s database of games is unparalleled. As of right now they have over 105,000 games listed with each one belonging to different families, categories, and designers. But their list of game mechanics will be our focus today.

Mechanics versus Categories

If you take a look at any game entry on BGG, you’ll see a variety of labels tacked on to try to give users a better understanding of the game at a glance.

BGG currently has 84 known categories and 51 mechanics. But what’s the difference between the two? If you spend far too many hours every week browsing through Board Game Geek, like I do, the distinction between Categories and Mechanics will be clear and obvious. But for the normal folks out there, here’s a rough idea.

Categories are more like what type of game it is. What’s the general theme and tone of the game? While categories don’t technically tough on how the game plays in any way, there are usually some assumptions to be made.

Categories can be pretty broad.

They can touch on the theme of the game.


Or they can sometimes creep a little too close to mechanic territory

And some might need a little more clarity on what they mean.

So categories can be pretty all over the place. But not mechanics.

Mechanics are straightforward, direct, obvious, strong, rugged, clean-cut, chiseled…


Wait, sorry. What were we talking about?

If you’ve been around the gaming block a few times, game mechanics are much more distinct in what they are: Deck Building, Press Your Luck, Area Control, that sort of thing. Strictly speaking, it’s a technique used to interact with a game in some meaningful way and are a direct cause of gameplay.

Now that we understand that, lets do the fun part of this article.

The Least Popular Mechanics

I thought it would be fun to have you try and guess what the least popular mechanics would be. But they are so unusual, I don’t think you could if you tried. So, go for it if you want, but don’t say it’s because I told you to.

You may ask yourself, “how did I decide the least popular mechanics?” Then you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” The answer is the same as it ever was. By seeing which has more things than the others. You see, every thing on BGG has a page with linked items, even each mechanic. So, I went to each of the mechanics and see how many linked items it has, then used that to make my ordered list!

Easy peasy, time consumey.

#3: Singing – 29 Pages

Shoutout to MoonlightMiracle, the only BGG fan of Singing.

Rather than counting how many linked items it has exactly, I opted for the lazy route, seeing how many pages of items each has. At the top of the bottom, Singing has 29 pages of linked items. With each page having 10 items, we can say there are anywhere between 290-299 games with a Singing mechanic.

Now, I will tear it up at a karaoke bar, but maybe we should make sure that’s where non-professional singers can safely practice their “art”.


#2: Area-Impulse – 24 Pages

Area-Impulse may seem confusing, but that’s only because the description for it makes no sense. If you’ve played Twilight Imperium, it might be more obvious how this one works.

Basically it’s just a more different way of doing unit activation which is about players going back and forth activating certain units. I’d explain it, but I don’t get it either.

#1: Crayon Rail System – 14 Pages

Poor Crayon Rail System. There is still a place in the gaming world for more crayon rail systems. The downfall, I think, is that all the other route building games out there use tokens to build their routes, which is more sustainable. Still, there are lots of fun things you could do when you have full control of your crayon rail. Just probably don’t expect much gameplay balance.

The Most Popular Mechanics

I’ll be honest. I was surprised at some of the results here. Granted, the top 3 most popular mechanics are super obvious in retrospect, but there were other mechanics I thought would place higher than they did. So, let’s go over those first. For comparison, the highest mechanic has 2,446 PAGES of linked items! That’s about 24,460 games!

So, when I tell you that Area Control has 441 pages, Trading only has 361 and Worker Placement has a mere 208 pages, that might seem weird. But consider that these are all pretty new mechanics. In the dark ages of gaming, before The Saviors lifted us from The Chaos, there was only turmoil and…

#3: Hand Management – 1430 Pages

I was somewhat surprised by this one until I realized probably every game that has cards uses this mechanic in some form or another. It would be pretty tough to have a game with cards that didn’t require hand management in some way. Actually, that would be an interesting design challenge…. hmm….

#2: Roll / Spin and Move – 1480 Pages


When I mentioned the dark ages, this is specifically what I was referring to. Nearly every board game released prior to 1989 used this mechanic and it’s awful. I feel confident is saying this is the worst game mechanic.

I could go on about how and why this is a bad mechanic from a game design standpoint. But I’ll save that for the comments.

#1: Dice Rolling – 2446 Pages

Yeah. That makes sense.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I know you’re curious, so here:

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