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A friend and I have been developing a game but we've had some difficulty establishing the specific genre we think it should fit in.

Our game design uses printed cards to be distributed CCG-style in randomized, rarefied (common/uncommon/rare/etc.) sealed packs and starter boxes, but these cards are used to represent the unit stats, leaders, equipment, special abilities, and so-on for a tactical table-top based game (think Magic The Gathering meets Mage Knight 2.0).

Are there specific ways to determine how we should identify our game that are identified by the industry as a whole, or do we simply need to pick our 'closest match' and try to clarify how we cross genres in the actual description of the game?

Is there an industry standard set of definitions between game generes? If so, what is it based on (game mechanic, distribution mechanic, production medium, etc)?

For example, in the automotive industry, pretty much all cars get categorized as either "coupe", "sedan", "truck", "van", or "SUV", but then they try to identify themselves as something more specific (e.g. "Crossover Hybrid SUV"). I imagine there are pretty simple and standard concepts of why something is a sedan instead of a coupe, so I'm hoping there are similar ways to identify the root 'type' of a game.

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    I wouldn't consider Board or Table Top to be genres at all. But based on your description, I would consider your game a CCG. The fact that the game play involves tactical positioning of the cards is a gameplay detail, but I don't think it changes the category of the game. There are plenty of CCGs that have positional elements to card play. – bwarner Apr 16 '15 at 17:51
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    The title asks if there are definitions to three categories, the body asks how to determine which category a certain game falls under. – Joe Apr 16 '15 at 23:37
  • @Joe: I intended the game I described as merely an example of something I felt might cross multiple categories. My ideal answer would either be to determine that there are common identifiers (similar to the BGG Mechanics List) that can be used to differentiate between the three, or that there are not industry-common identifiers and trying to shoe-horn a cross-category game into a specific niche is counter-productive. – David C Ellis Apr 17 '15 at 18:19
  • Then that's the question you should ask. As it is, your question asks "how we should identify our game", etc. – Joe Apr 17 '15 at 18:47
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Your game is a CCG.

What you do with the cards - the actual mechanics of the game - is irrelevant here. A game's "type" is metadata. It's defined, roughly speaking, by the central piece of "equipment" needed to play it: a board, a table, minis, role playing, dice, an AV system, or, in your case, cards. Subtype, if any, usually describes the central mechanic. For example, Dominion and Magic the Gathering are both card games, but Dominion has a single showpiece mechanic which can be easily described (deck building), while Magic doesn't.

Is there an industry standard definition between “Board”, “Card”, and “Table Top” game genres?

Not that I've ever heard of. As you can see just from looking at this page (the comments, boardgames.stackexchange.com, etc.) these terms are somewhat nebulous and different people take them to mean different things.

Are there specific ways to determine how we should identify our game that are identified by the industry as a whole

Perhaps surprisingly, yes, there is an industry standard practice for supplying this sort of information about your game. Call it whatever you think succinctly, accurately and interestingly describes your game. For example, Netrunner self identifies as a "living card game"; Dominion, as a "deck building game"; Ra, as an "auction game"; Power Grid, as an "economic game".

do we simply need to pick our 'closest match' and try to clarify how we cross genres in the actual description of the game?

How you identify this aspect of your game is solely a question of marketing, and it's entirely up to you. Don't waste words trying to explain how your game straddles common genres in the industry. From a marketing perspective, it's boring, invites arguments, and most importantly, doesn't advance the idea that the game is worth buying and playing. Talk about the actual game itself and why it's cool and fun instead. The gaming community will naturally figure out which of the "traditional" labels fits best.

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    So if I read you correctly, you would focus on the distribution mechanism (in this case, collectible card game) as the overall "category" for finding a distribution channel, but then use a clear label such as "Mini-less Tactical Skirmish Game" for collateral or other marketing-related purposes, correct? – David C Ellis Apr 17 '15 at 18:14
  • You raise a great point: say different things depending on who you're talking to. Just call it a CCG when talking to publishers or distributors. They will immediately understand this and it gives you a knowledge base to work from. Then it's the time when discussing how your game is different from other CCGs and crosses game categories is appropriate, because it's a good hook to get them interested. As a tagline for marketing, printing on packaging, etc., "tactical card game" / "tactical skirmish game" has a nice ring to it. I'd leave off "mini-less" as it's unnecessary and a bit confusing. – Esoteric Screen Name Apr 18 '15 at 0:30
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Just my opinion, and not meant to be perfect, so take it for what you will...

table top

I think of this as a game playable around a table. The table is typically 'kitchen table' or 'dining room table' sized.

Players are typically, though not always seated during play. Any moving about the table is incidental to the game. For example, there's a table top racing game where you have to move around to better aim your piece. Billiards would also fall under this definition. Musical chairs would not, as the game is all about moving around.

Table top games are not athletic.

board

A subset of table top games played on a board or matte of specific, predefined size. Examples would be xwing, or monopoly. Warhammer, to my knowledge, is designed to use arbitrary sized play space, so it would not seem to fit this definition. Billiards doesn't count, as it's played directly on the table, nor do card games, unless those card games include a board, in which case they'd be in both categories.

card

A game that is played primarily with cards and comparison thereof to the opponents' cards as the primary mechanic. Other devices, like tokens, are incidental to the use of cards. Games like Magic The Gathering, Solitaire and Poker. Ticket To Ride would not be a card game because cards are not the objective of the game, but rather an incidental tool to play the game.

  • I think your definition of board games is one that a lot of people would agree is technically true, but that relatively few people would use strictly. Most people will simply use "board game" as a sloppy catchall term for tabletop games which might or might not have a board. For example, most people would lump Carcassonne in with board games despite it being of fairly variable size and not being played on a board. – Cascabel Apr 16 '15 at 22:31
  • @Jefromi, I'd argue that you are constructing the board as you play Carcassonne. Or perhaps that the shape and size ate that of the table. But that would contradict my 'of a specific shape and size' statement. But that's why I mentioned that the answer wasn't meant to be perfect. It would take hours or days to come up with a rigorous definition. – atk Apr 16 '15 at 23:13
  • Sure, I'm just saying that I think the answer is imperfect in a way that results in way way fewer things being called board games than happens in practice. But I definitely agree that they're fuzzy terms and the OP's attempt to define them might not be too productive. – Cascabel Apr 17 '15 at 0:30
  • Games that have a fixed set of custom cards (e.g. Dominion) or pieces (e.g. Carcassonne) can also be considered board games. – ikegami Apr 17 '15 at 14:59
  • @ikegami to an extent, yes. However, that verbiage would include Poker as a board game, since it has a fixed number of pieces. – atk Apr 17 '15 at 16:15

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