Types of Players: A Look at Bartle's Taxonomy

This week I want to touch on the different types of players and what they might see as fun in a game. As a note this is loosely based on Bartle’s Taxonomy (which you can read here) which is a good framework but as some have pointed out is not the be all end for developing games with players in mind.

Bartel’s Taxonomy Briefly

For those of you who don’t know what Bartle’s Taxonomy was the observations of Richard Bartle in online games where he found that there were loosely 4 player types:

  • Clubs (aka Killers) - These players like to dominate and win

  • Spades (aka Explorers) - These players like to explore the game and world of the game

  • Diamonds (aka Achievers) - These players like to collect and set goals for themselves

  • Hearts (aka Socializers) - These players play to interact with one another

Now these groups also interact with each other in interesting ways and designers can try to control the ecosystem of the different groups but that is mainly for Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games. The way that designers would do this is by implementing different kinds of mechanics, achievements, etc. to cater to different types.

Bartle in Boardgames

For boardgames I would like to propose that these four types that Bartle made are useful but that there is a fifth type of player: the Joker - these players like randomness and chaos. Now while this player can be destructive to a game they also can be useful in making sure their is balance between certainty and allowing for competition. With MMOs the designers can try to balance the ecosystem of players on a massive scale throughout the gamespace that cannot be done in a single play session of a boardgame. However, what can be done is that different aspects of the game itself can appeal to the different kinds of players.

Appealing the Different Types

  • Clubs (aka Killers) - These players like to dominate and win so providing ways for these players to have an advantage to being in the lead definitely appeals to these players. Limiting randomness and having a way to close out the game are things Killers like.

  • Spades (aka Explorers) - By having multiple possible strategies or intricate subtleties in a game  Explorers will find multiple ways to investigate the game and be satisfied.

  • Diamonds (aka Achievers) - Providing achievements for collecting sets of items or being the first to something (like the Longest Road in Catan) appeal to Achievers. Basically in games providing acknowledgement for collecting or trying to have the most of something is what Achievers like.

  • Hearts (aka Socializers) - Providing for players to interact with each other is the simple way to appeal to Socializers.

  • Jokers  - Dice, cards, randomness, providing for a flexible and fluid situation is the way to a Joker’s heart.

Now there are games out there that definitely cater to different types of players. As a player it is important to think of the games you like and what about them you liked since it could indicate what kind of player type you are.


As a designer it is important to note that no one fits into one of these types perfectly and almost without exception are comprised of multiple types. Also it should be noted that some of these types contradict each other (Killer and Joker) and were initially conceived to understand why people play MMOs and what they get out of it.


While Bartle’s Taxonomy does not translate directly to the fun of a game it provides for a nice framework to understand why different elements are in a game or when designing a game keeping the rough types of players you want to play your game in mind. As always this is something to think about and I hope you enjoy this Morning Table Talk. Have a great day!