5 Strange or Head Scratching Tabletop Game Mechanisms

Your uncle Geekly had an issue staying on task with this write-up—perhaps he needs a mind recalibration. When thinking of some of the oddest game mechanisms in tabletop, the first four came to mind right away as unique at this point, but the fifth mechanism has made its way in plenty of games and it always made me scratch my head. So here are 5 game mechanisms that are strange or head scratchers.


We’re not talking about Bezier Games trivia game Terra, this is Days of Wonder’s Terra that’s a semi-cooperative game where players try to save the world. A self-destruct button available to all players rests within reach of everyone at the table. While the main goal is to earn a collective win by saving the planet in Terra, the player with the most points gets a solo win. What’s keeping someone with no chance of winning from pressing that button? Good old, uncle Geekly comes from a long line of sore losers. I don’t suspect we’d ever win a game.

Mamma Mia!

While Terra has a questionable game mechanism, Mamma Mia’s is just off. Gamers play cards face up from their hands to a discard pile. Once all the cards in the deck have been played, the deck is flipped over and players gain the points indicated on the cards. It’s a simple twist to a common game mechanism, but it’s difficult to wrap your head around it or come up with a good strategy. It almost makes you want to say, Mamma Mia, here I go again.

Filthy Rich

Ah! It wouldn’t be a strange tabletop game mechanism list without including Richard Garfield. Filthy Rich may be the oddest game in Garfield’s repertoire. It’s played with a binder and 4 pages of Ultra Pro card protector pages (the kind you use to showcase collectible cards). Players add cards that represent billboards in their binder and score points if the numbers on their cards get rolled. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of another billboard game, let alone one that uses a binder. I’m half tempted to use my Magic cards.

Graphic Novel Adventures

It’s too bad this one’s only available on Kickstarter and the campaign finished several months ago. Van Ryder Games’ five graphic novel series combines elements of escape rooms and choose your own adventure stories with comics. These books could start a new trend, and there’s also no way that comic book and gaming stores won’t carry them in the next six months or so. Be on the lookout.

Witch of Salem

Witch of Salem represents a game mechanism that doesn’t make sense in any game: keeping information to yourself in a cooperative game. In Witch of Salem, players deal with forces of evil coming through gates and if I find out whether the evil originates from a specific gate, I can’t tell you that it’s coming from that gate, even though we may be on the same space and I can save my teammate the trip. Why wouldn’t I tell them? We’re working together.

Shadows Over Camelot does a similar thing with cards and the values on them. The cards range from 1-5, but players can’t say what’s in their hand and this leads to people saying things like “I have a big card in my hand.” That would be a 5. “I have a middle card.” That’s a 3. “I have a below middle card.” Two. That’s a two. Why not just say, two?

I could’ve added more than these five, but your uncle Geekly wants to hear your thoughts. Are there any other mechanisms that make you scratch your head? Let us know in comments.

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