The question is not whether boardgame/designed mechanisms evolve or not. It’s clear and documented that they do. Designers have on numerous occasions attributed an evolutionary lineage to their game mechanisms (e.g. — Keller/Odendahl 2014, Friese 2012). The bigger questions are these...
When new/novel mechanisms sometimes seem to spring seemingly from nowhere is there in reality a evolutionary string of roots that lead up to the birth of that mechanism?
... and ...
The larger question for me is — Do the mechanisms embody deeper ideas or concepts that evolve in a similar manner? Richard Breese hinted at such a possibility when he wrote of his attempt to minimize “luck factors,” —
“1995 was the year of Klaus Teuber’s seminal game Settlers of Catan. I enjoyed Settlers but was not fond of the luck factors inherent in the dice rolling. I wanted to achieve the same effect but without the dice, just by placement of workers on the board. This became the central mechanic to the second ‘Key’ game Keydom, published in 1998, which is now recognized as the first worker placement game, as kindly acknowledged by Uwe Rosenberg... (Breese 2013)."
1) My interest is not in the mechanisms themselves but rather in the process — i.e. how a designer combines new/existing ideas to generate novel ones. I do study the artifacts and experience of playing boardgames — but, only as they are a reflection or outcome of a design process. My focus is on board game designers but has also included other types of designers.
1) One mechanism may be a compilation/integration of other smaller mechanisms — e.g. drafting cards in various forms is a mechanism and may be incorporated as a sub-mechanism of deck building.
2) board game design is at it’s core the design of complex systems (and humans are an integral part of that system). As such, a study of boradgames, game designers and processes provides insights that may be of value or have equivalencies to IX/UX design.
I use an anthropological toolset that includes interviews (audio/video recording as well as text based), participant observation, various types of fieldnotes and ethnographic video/photography.
Keller, M. Odendahl, A. (2014). La Granga. Germany. Spielworxx.
Friese, F. (2012). Copycat. Germany. 2F Spiele.
Breese, R. (2013). UK Games Expo Magazine(?). UK