The CUDO Plays blog has never done a book review before, but this book it something special.
Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms is the first truly well-organized and educational resource explaining the many different common mechanics of modern tabletop games. In the past, when competitors would ask if there’s a list of all game mechanics, we at CUDO Plays would point them to the big list of mechanics tags over at BoardGameGeek. However this list is all user-generated, is not in any kind of hierarchy or organized structure beyond alphabetical order, and contains a bunch of overlapping terms. Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design on the other hand has broken out concepts into 13 overarching categories that are easy to find an understand.
Though the book does not set out to be a COMPLETELY COMPREHENSIVE list of game mechanics (which is probably impossible), it nonetheless contains all the big genres you know and love if you’re a seasoned tabletop gamer, plus a bunch of concepts you might not have heard of at all.
The authors, Geoffrey Englestein, and Isaac Shalev, are both seasoned game designers with lots of experience in the industry and they do an excellent job explaining complex concepts. Not only that, but the write-up for each concept contains helpful and charming icons, explanations of why you might use a certain mechanic, and a list of games that have each mechanic.
There really has never been a resource like this. Though I wouldn’t recommend reading this book cover to cover (in the same way that you probably wouldn’t read an encyclopedia all the way through), whether you’re designing your first tabletop game or your 50th, Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design has something to teach you.
Though the book is rather expensive, a copy is now available through the University of Illinois Library for anyone to check out. (well okay, it’s not available right when this post is happening because I have it checked out, but I’m gonna return it soon, I promise! )