CMON Feature Friday: Board Game Dictionary #4

Last year, we brought you a series of articles that sought to define some of the terms that are casually thrown around by the astute board game hobbyist. Some of our readers might be familiar with many of those terms, but it’s always good to explore what they mean for the uninitiated. Insider terms like these give us a shorthand vocabulary to talk about the hobby with. It can make it easier for us to share ideas and get our points across.

For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we have a new list of terms for your reading pleasure. Check them out and let us know if there are any terms you would like covered on a future article.


When we talk about games, we’re usually referring to the parts of a game when we’re actually doing things: rolling dice, placing bets, trading cards, all of that good stuff. The best games keep players engaged throughout, either making the turns occur simultaneously, or having the other player’s turns so important and impactful that you have no choice but to pay attention. In a perfect world, every game would be like that, but inevitably, most games have some downtime. This is the time between your turns, when you have nothing to do in the game. Now, a little bit of downtime is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and prepare for the next round. However, some games are plagued with downtime. You take a turn, then must wait 15 minutes, or in some cases much more, before going again. This can be compounded if you’re playing with people that suffer from analysis paralysis. Downtime can take you out of the narrative flow of a game. It can make you not care about your next move as much. Designers and publishers want to produce games that have complex mechanics and interesting decisions, but it is a tightrope to walk between including those elements and making a game that maintains the flow enough, so that none of the players ever complain about downtime.

Point Salad Games

Point Salad might sound like a delicious option at a vegetarian restaurant, but in fact, it’s a term used to describe certain types of games. A Point Salad Game is one that has such a wide variety of ways to earn points, it can become unfocused and lack a defined strategy. It’s tough, because the opposite is having a game with only one viable strategy. A game can become solved, and players simply race to execute the same thing. What you’re hoping for is something in between the two, with enough depth of mechanics that there are multiple paths to victory, without giving you so many options that a few clear strategies can’t be defined. Having a Point Salad Game is not a terrible thing. It can give people lots of possible avenues to explore. It just might never be considered a masterpiece of design. 

Alpha Player

This is a term that usually comes up in cooperative games. It can also be known as Quarterbacking. The Alpha Player is usually the person that knows the game the best or is the most experienced player in the group. In the confines of a cooperative game, they will inform other players of their optimal move(s) to achieve the shred goals for the group. While this may be intended as being helpful, it take away all of the decision making and fun for the other players. It’s as if the Alpha Player is making the decisions for all the actions in the game and might as well be playing solo. It can be tough to exercise restraint if you’re the Alpha. You may be able to see the game state on a whole other level and just genuinely want to help the group. Sometimes, you have to let a few bad decisions go by for the overall fun that everyone will experience. Most people would prefer to be engaged in the game and win or lose as a group, rather than to sit back and have no involvement, but definitely win. If you realize you’re being an Alpha Gamer, take a step back, offer your opinions and advice when requested, but overall be a team player.

We will continue to bring you gaming terms in the coming weeks, so if there is one you’d like defined, just let us know. Reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday and let us know your favorite board game terms.

CMON Feature Friday: Board Game Dictionary #4

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