Designer’s glossary: A+B mechanics

Designer’s glossary: A+B mechanics

A+B mechanics also enabler-payoff mechanics
\ eɪ plʌs biː \

noun

A+B mechanics are mechanics which are made of 2 distinct and separate parts, namely the enabler (A) and payoff (B). These are mechanics which require both parts to be combined to have any meaningful effect or benefit.

Now, A+B is mostly a sliding scale, i.e. the individual usefulness of the two parts can vary, however in the general sense, it’s necessary for both parts to work together for the mechanic to do anything. While conditionals are the most common form of A+B, that also is on a sliding scale, for example the case of the payoff simply being stronger if you have the right resources or effects provided through the enablers.

Antonym: self-enabling mechanics


The enabler can have value by itself, and more often than not can be used in isolation. However, that is not usually the case for the payoff, which needs the setup that the enablers provide, and lacking that it either does very little, or in some cases, nothing at all. The key thing with designing A+B mechanics is to be aware of the ease of use of each individual part, as well as the availability. As an example, in card games, the player is going to have a bad time if they have a payoff card in their hand that they can’t make good use of because they didn’t draw any enablers, or vice versa—having all the enablers but not being able to ‘cash in’ the reward from any payoffs.

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