close menu
The New Gamers’ Glossary: Words You Should Know

The New Gamers’ Glossary: Words You Should Know

To help all you bold and brave novices first venturing into the canyons of tabletop gaming, we here at Geek & Sundry put together this lexicon to help you find your way.
Go forth & game on!

Styles of Games

Adventure Game

A style of game which features exploration, exotic locations, and often combat against non-player foes.

“I was exploring this ruined temple, and it was fun, and the game ended when I got ripped apart by a rabid yeti, but that stuff happens in an adventure game.”

Role-Playing Game

A game in which the players take on the roles of characters, often in different times and places. Game Masters or Dungeon Masters lead the game, and groups will normally meet for multiple sessions. The characters the players control persist from session to session, and change over time by improving, growing, and even dying. The games may use boards and pieces, but do not have to as the majority of the game plays out in the space of the imagination.

“I prefer role-playing games to video games because in a role-playing game, I have total control over my character.”


A style of game which originated in Germany which is of short duration (usually less than an hour), with rules that are easy to learn but belie a complexity of strategy beneath. Settlers of Cataan is the example of a Eurogame.

“My wife wouldn’t play D&D with me, but she is really into Eurogames.”


Short for collectible card game; a card game which is sold in randomized packs, which has some rare cards which are very powerful, and common cards which are less so. This leads to purchasing a large number of cards in order to seek out rarities, and on the secondary market, some cards can sell for $30,000!

“That CCG is so addictive that Alejandro spent this semester’s tuition on rare cards.”


LCG is short for Living Card Game. A living card game is similar to a CCG, but instead of releasing cards in blind booster packs with rare cards, all the cards you will ever need to play the game come in the core game set. A living card game provides all the fun of a collectible card game without the attendant mania.

“I spent $3,000 on Magic: The Gathering before I found I could have as much fun playing Android: Netrunner for $40.”

Social Deduction

A style of game in which players must read social cues and recognize bluffs to win objectives. These games are all about lying and social interaction. The games usually have one or more players who are traitors, and the rest of the group is trying to discover who the traitors are. These games are addictive and highly engaging because there is usually no down time. All players should be paying attention to the social cues of other players at all times.

The Resistance is a social deduction game and it’s a ton of fun, but it’s not the sort of game I’d play on a first date.”

Deck-building Game

A game in which the primary point is to acquire cards which will allow the player to win. In CCGs, decks are built before the game starts, and many players consider the deck-building process to be one of the primary joys of such games. Deck-building games take this process and make it the focus of the game itself. Dominion and the DC Comics Deck-Building Game are both great (and in one case, somewhat obvious) examples of this type of game style.

Terms that Describe Games or Mechanics

Cooperative, adjective

A game in which the players cooperate to achieve a goal, usually playing against the game itself.

“I prefer cooperative games because I have anger issues so bad that when I lost a game of dodgeball in grade school, I tried to eat the other team.”

Elegant, adjective

An elegant game is one with simple, clear, and effective rules. An elegant game is usually the opposite of a crunchy game. It is easy for a game designer to lard more rules onto a design, but deciding which rules are the most important, and how to simplify them, is what delineates design elegance. Settlers of Cataan is a renowned Euro game that is exemplary of elegance.

Crunchy, adjective 

A game which has a lot of rules or math. Crunchy games are often trying to simulate events or systems, such as trench warfare or far-future starship combat. The complex math or rules in these games set a high bar to entry for newbies.

“That game was so crunchy we had to do trigonometry at the table just to figure out who went first.”

Broken, adjective 

A game where one faction, class, character, or type is too powerful compared to the other choices and leaves the rest of the game unbalanced. The game becomes no fun to other players.

“The summoner is a totally broken class in Pathfinder because it can summon SIX monsters a day at first level!”

Other Important Terms

Dungeon Master/Game Master, noun

Dungeon Masters (DM) or Game Masters (GM) are individuals who run the roleplaying game for other players by representing the world and all the people in it. The DM/GM also has a social role in the gaming community, as she is usually responsible for choosing a location for game and, most importantly, inviting other players. The term Dungeon Master is specifically related to Dungeons & Dragons, and most other games and systems will use Game Master or a similar term to describe the person in this function.

Synonyns: Keeper, Director, Moderator

“Being a Dungeon Master is challenging, rewarding, and I really believe it prepared me for every challenge I’ve faced in life.”

Dungeon Crawl, noun

A facet of many adventure games and role-playing games. In a dungeon crawl, players explore a geographical location and encounter obstacles, enemies, traps, and usually find items which aid in the exploration. The dungeon crawl began as the primary activity of Dungeons & Dragons, but has gone on to be featured in a number of other board games, such as Descent.

“The dungeon crawl remains a staple of gaming because it turns geography and architecture into story at the table.”

What other words do you need to know? Let us know below!

Special thanks to Rob Wieland, the Nerdist’s Michael Walsh, and Sean Higgins.

Images courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Use Critical Role’s Resurrection Rules in Your Own Campaign

Use Critical Role’s Resurrection Rules in Your Own Campaign

Magic: The Gathering 101 – Deck Building Fundamentals

Magic: The Gathering 101 – Deck Building Fundamentals

Which Corps Are You In? Unleash Your Inner Lantern

Which Corps Are You In? Unleash Your Inner Lantern