Tabletop games Wargaming

Glossary of board games

This page explains commonly used terms in board games in alphabetical order. For a list of board games, see List of board games. For terms specific to chess, see Glossary of chess. For terms related to chess problems, see Glossary of chess problems.

A

active
See in play.

B

bit
See piece.
Black
Used often to refer to one of the players in two-player games. Black's pieces are typically a dark color but not necessarily black (e.g. in English draughts official play they are red). See also White and White and Black in chess.
board
See gameboard.

C

capture
A method that removes another player's piece(s) from the board. For example: in checkers, if a player jumps an opponent's piece, that piece is captured. In some games, captured pieces remain in hand and can be reentered into active play (e.g. shogi, Bughouse chess).
card
A piece of cardboard often bearing instructions, and usually chosen randomly from a deck by shuffling.
cell
See hex and space.
checker
See piece.
counter
See piece.
currency
A scoring mechanic used by some games to determine the winner, e.g. money (Monopoly) or counters (Zohn Ahl).
custodian capture (or custodial capture)
A capture method whereby an enemy piece is captured by being blocked on adjacent sides by opponent pieces. (Typically laterally by two sides as in Tablut and Hasami shogi, or laterally by four sides as in Go.)

D

deck
A stack of cards.
The five Platonic solid polyhedrals, from left: tetrahedron (d4), cube (d6), octahedron (d8), dodecahedron (d12), icosahedron (d20)

die/dice
Modern cubic dice are used to generate random numbers in many games - e.g. a single die in Trivial Pursuit, or two dice per player in backgammon. Role-playing games typically use one or more polyhedral dice. Games such as Pachisi and chaupur traditionally use cowrie shells. The games Zohn Ahl and Hyena chase use dice sticks. The game yut uses yut sticks.
disc
See piece.
displacement capture
A capture method whereby a capturing piece replaces the captured piece on its square, cell, or point on the gameboard.

E

Equipment for Ludo: four Ludo pieces, a die, a dice cup, a Ludo board

enemy
An "enemy piece" refers to a piece in the same army or set of pieces controlled by the opponent; or a piece controlled by the partner of an opponent in a multiplayer game.
equipment
Refers to physical components required to play a game, e.g. pieces, gameboard, dice.
exchange
For games featuring captures, the capture of a piece followed immediately by the opponent's recapture.

F

friendly
A "friendly piece" refers to a piece in the same army or set of pieces controlled by a player; or a piece controlled by a partner in a multiplayer game.

G

game equipment
See equipment.
Surakarta gameboard and initial setup

game piece
See piece.
gameboard
The (usually quadrilateral) marked surface on which one plays a board game. The namesake of the board game, gameboards would seem to be a necessary and sufficient condition of the genre, though card games that do not use a standard deck of cards (as well as games that use neither cards nor a gameboard) are often colloquially included. Most games use a standardized and unchanging board (chess, Go, and backgammon each have such a board), but some games use a modular board whose component tiles or cards can assume varying layouts from one session to another, or even during gameplay.
gameplay
The execution of a game; or specifically its strategy, tactics, conventions, or mechanics.
gamer
A person who plays board game(s). See also player.
gamespace
A gameboard for a three-dimensional game (e.g., the 5x5x5 cubic board for Raumschach).

H

handicap
An advantage given to a weaker side at the start of a game to level the winning chances against a stronger opponent. Go has formal handicap systems (see Go handicaps); chess has traditional handicap methods not used in rated competitions (see Chess handicap).
hex
In hexagon-based board games, this is the common term for a standard space on the board. This is most often used in wargaming, though many abstract strategy games such as Abalone, Agon, hexagonal chess, GIPF Project games, and connection games use hexagonal layouts.

I

in hand
A piece "in hand" is one currently not in play on the gameboard, but may be entered into play on a turn. Examples are captured pieces in shogi or Bughouse chess, able to be "dropped" into play as a move; or pieces that begin the game in a staging area off the main board, as in Ludo or Chessence.
in play
A piece active on the main board, not in hand or in a staging area.

J

jump
To bypass one or more pieces or spaces. Depending on the context, jumping may also involve capturing or conquering an opponent's piece. See also Capture/eliminate.

L

leap
See jump.

M

man
See piece.
meeple
See piece.
move
See turn.

O

odds
See handicap.
orthogonal
A horizontal (straight left or right) or vertical (straight forward or backward) direction a piece moves on a gameboard.

P

pass
The voluntary or involuntary forfeiture of a turn by a player.
Simple wooden pawn-style playing pieces, often called "Halma pawns"

Wooden meeples from the Carcassonne board game

pie rule
Used in some two-player games to eliminate any advantage of moving first. After the first player's opening move, the second player may optionally swap sides.
piece (or bit, checker, chip, counter, disc, draughtsman, game piece, man, meeple, mover, pawn, player piece, playing piece, stone, token, unit)
A player's representative on the gameboard made of a piece of material made to look like a known object (such as a scale model of a person, animal, or inanimate object) or otherwise general symbol. Each player may control one or more pieces. Some games involve commanding multiple pieces, such as chess pieces or Monopoly houses and hotels, that have unique designations and capabilities within the parameters of the game; in other games, such as Go, all pieces controlled by a player have the same capabilities. In some modern board games, such as Clue, there are other pieces that are not a player's representative (i.e. weapons). In some games, such as mancala games, pieces may not represent or belong to any particular player. Mancala pieces are undifferentiated and typically seeds but sometimes beans, coins, cowry shells, ivory balls, or pebbles. See also Counter (board wargames).
player (or players)
The participant(s) in the game. See also gamer.
point
See space.
polyhedral dice
See also die/dice.

R

replacement capture
See displacement capture.
rule
A condition or stipulation by which a game is played.
ruleset
The comprehensive set of rules which define and govern a game.

S

space
A physical unit of progress on a gameboard delimited by a distinct border, and not further divisible according to the game's rules. Alternatively, a unique position on the board on which a piece in play may be located. For example, in Go, the pieces are placed on grid line intersections, called points, and not in the areas bounded by the borders, as in chess. The bounded area geometries can be square (e.g. chess), rectangular (e.g. shogi), hexagonal (e.g. Chinese Checkers), triangular (e.g. Bizingo), quadrilateral (e.g. three-player chess), or other shapes (e.g. Circular chess). See also Movement.
square
See space.
staging area
A space set aside from the main gameboard to contain pieces in hand. In Ludo, the staging areas are called "yards". In shogi, pieces in hand are placed on "komadai".
stone
See piece.
swap
See exchange.

T

token
See piece.
trade
See exchange.
turn
A player's opportunity to move a piece or make a decision that influences gameplay. Turns to move usually alternate equally between competing players or teams. See also Turn-based game.

W

White
Used often to refer to one of the players in two-player games. White's pieces are typically a light color but not necessarily white (e.g. backgammon sets use various colors for White; shogi sets have no color distinction between sides). White often moves first but not always (e.g. Black moves first in English draughts, shogi, or Go). See also Black and White and Black in chess.
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Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy