Holding the Upper Hand: Advantage Tokens and Game Dominance


Board games captivate millions, merging strategy, chance, and social interaction. Within many games, a key feature enhances gameplay: special tokens or benefits that can decisively influence the outcome, offering players various strategic advantages.


Background on Special Tokens

Historical Roots

The concept of providing players with game-altering benefits has ancient origins, evident in games like Senet from Egypt and the Royal Game of Ur in Mesopotamia. These early versions laid the groundwork for what we now recognize as game-enhancing tokens in modern gameplay.

Evolution in Contemporary Games

As board games have advanced, so has the incorporation of these tokens. Today’s games use them in numerous ways, from boosting resources in Settlers of Catan to unlocking unique abilities in Gloomhaven, adding layers to game mechanics.


Understanding Special Tokens

Their Role and Impact

These tokens grant players benefits ranging from additional resources to strategic advantages, significantly affecting gameplay and adding complexity.


Tokens can vary greatly, some allowing extra actions, others providing protection against adverse effects, and even altering game rules to the player’s benefit.


Strategies for Utilizing Tokens

Starting Strategies

Gaining these tokens early on can be crucial. Players aim to grasp game mechanics swiftly to gather tokens, laying a strong foundation for later stages.

Adjusting Strategies Mid-Game

As the game unfolds, tactics for acquiring tokens must adapt to the changing landscape, making the most of accumulated tokens and strategic positioning.

Endgame Tactics

In the game’s final phases, the focus shifts to maximizing the impact of collected tokens, predicting and countering opponents’ moves to secure victory.


Psychological Effects of Tokens

Confidence and Strategy

Possessing tokens can embolden players, encouraging bold moves, while also potentially intimidating opponents into cautious play.

Decision-Making Challenges

However, the array of choices tokens provide can lead to overthinking, slowing down the game. A balance between swift decision-making and strategic use of tokens is essential.


Tokens in Popular Board Games


Settlers of Catan uses development cards as tokens for various advantages. In Ticket to Ride, destination tickets act as tokens that can turn the tide of play. Carcassonne leverages meeples to control the board strategically.


Ensuring Fair Play

Design Challenges

Incorporating tokens without compromising game balance is crucial. They should enhance the game without making it unbalanced.

Player-Driven Balance

Feedback mechanisms that let players influence token availability and impact help maintain a dynamic balance, keeping the game fair and engaging.


Social Aspects of Tokens

Cooperative vs. Competitive Dynamics

Tokens can either encourage teamwork in cooperative games or intensify rivalry in competitive scenarios, impacting the game’s social environment.

Negotiation and Strategy

Negotiating over tokens can add depth to games, with alliances and betrayals providing a rich layer of interaction.


Advanced Gameplay Techniques

Bluffing and Strategy

Using tokens for bluffing can lead to unexpected victories, with deception playing a key role in advanced strategies.

Dynamics of Alliances

The strategic exchange of tokens within alliances, and the timing of betrayals, can dramatically affect the game’s outcome.


Future Directions

Digital Enhancements

Technological advancements could introduce dynamic token features in digital and app-assisted board games, offering new gameplay possibilities.

Community Involvement

Player innovations and expansions continue to shape how tokens are used, ensuring games remain engaging and evolving.



Far from simple game pieces, these tokens are central to the depth and strategy of board games. They not only enrich the gameplay but also influence social dynamics and challenge strategic thinking. As board games evolve, the integration and function of these tokens will continue to be a focal point, sustaining their appeal and intrigue at the game table.

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14th February 2024