Game mechanics

Before, I used to do “related games” in my Finnish game reviews by hand. That’s boring and when you add a new review, deciding where to add the new game as related game is tedious. So, that needs automation. But how? I decided to do a two-part tagging system: theme and mechanics.

I did the theme part months ago. It was fairly easy, though took some time as I had about 170 reviews by then. Still, fairly simple, and the results were decent and in some cases quite good (tags like “Catan” or “abstract” worked quite well).

It took me until now to start on the mechanics. That’s a lot harder. You can see it in the Geek, where the mechanics listed for game are usually missing or at least not quite good enough. And consider that I have now almost 200 reviews to tag… Well, some mechanics are easy, like “roll and move, “set collection, “auction, “trading” and so on, but others are much more complicated.

Take, for example, speed games. I first tagged these as “reaction games, which describes something like Halli Galli, but doesn’t feel right for Ricochet Robot. So, I changed it to “speed games, while keeping “reaction games” for the likes of Halli Galli and Snorta! I had also tagged these as “simultaneous, but the simultaneous action in Sunda to Sahul is different from the simultaneous action in Diplomacy or Race for the Galaxy. So, one remains “simultaneous, while the other becomes “real time”.

What about “modular board”? Catan has modular board, but what about Carcassonne or Tikal? The way I see it Carcassonne doesn’t have a modular board, while Tikal does. The difference is that in Tikal, you actually play on the board that is grown, while in Carcassonne, you just lay tiles. Carcassonne is “map building”.

Is “hex based” a good tag? Perhaps within wargames, but I don’t think the fact that Catan is hex tiles and Tikal has hex tiles makes them really like each other in an interesting way.

It’s not simple, tagging the games like this, but at least I have a clear goal: I want tags that help link similar games together. That helps a lot and gives me ways to tune the system, as I can work the tags until I see similar games grouped together.

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