The Mechanics of Play - Drafting

What are game mechanics? Think of game mechanics as the backbone of the game, the structure that provides what actions and moves a player takes, to follow the flow of the game. There can be one or many mechanics, depending on the style and complexity of the game. Game designers use these elements to shape how the player interacts with his goals and vision for the game.

To kick off our series of mechanic types, let’s talk about drafting. Although you typically draft cards, drafting can technically be done with nearly anything. I found BoardGameGeek to have a good description of card drafting: “Card drafting games are games in which players pick cards from a limited subset, such as a common pool, to gain some advantage (immediate or long term) or to assemble hands of cards that are used to meet objectives within the game.”

In a game like Sushi Go, players start with a hand of cards, decide which one they want to keep, and then pass the remaining cards to a player to the left or right of them (receiving a new set of cards to choose from). Sometimes it’s easy to pick your favorite card, other times, the struggle can be real. I remember my first game of 51st State, trying to decide what cards to keep when I didn’t fully understand their meaning. The good news is, once you figure out the most advantageous cards, it can potentially tip the scales of victory!

One of my favorites drafting games would be Azul. As an artisan, you’re decorating the walls of a royal place by drafting beautiful, colorful tiles from a common pool. But just as fun, is the chance to draft awesome dinosaur meeples (in this case without even looking at them) in the adorable Anakama game, Draftosaurus (pictured).

Keep in mind, simply drawing cards from a deck is not card drafting. But in the case of Ticket to Ride, where there’s a selection of several cards to choose from (potentially taking a card another player may want) is the… well, the ticket! In some cases, games may require you to pay a cost for picking a card - but that doesn’t matter - if there’s a choice of cards, you’re still drafting. Even in Splendor (still my all-time favorite), you’re trading a gem in order to draft a particular card on the table.

So there you have it. Drafting explained. So the next time someone says the game they are offering to play has drafting in it, you’ll be ready to play!
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