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Subject: How far can we push the "Abstract label" onto a game? rss

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everlong205 wrote:
However, if you removed theme and just had you collecting sets of random shapes then it would become abstract. And it would be the same game (absent theme).

So for you, "abstract" is not at all a property of the game rules or "mathematical essence" of a game, but simply a property of a specific physical manifestation of a set of game rules?

I.e. (just to be clear) for you Chess with traditional pieces is an "abstract game", but Chess with Simpsons or Civil War pieces is not an "abstract game"?

Sort of similar to how Chess might be called a "wooden game" (if the pieces are wood" or a "plastic game" if the pieces are plastic?
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Or take a game li,e wizard kings, or any block war game. We recognize them as war games, but if you stop and think about them they could just as easily e abstracts. The pieces are just blocks. They don't have to represent elves and wizards. You could simply have no pictures on them and simply have numbers representing how Ra they can move and how many times they can be turned before you take them off the board. All the rules we think of as mechanicssignifying fantasy or war elements don't hae to represent those things. You could simply say that a flyer is like a rook in chess and moves a certain way across the board. Totally abstract. Yet, most people would think of it as a wargame, because the designers popped a theme on top of it and made those abstract movements represent concrete things.

Abstract simply means lack of theme. Something like yinsh or tamsk. Whatever the strategy, what makes it abstract is that it's theme less. But someone could pop some concrete pictures on the pieces and suddenly it's a wargame.
 
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russ wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
However, if you removed theme and just had you collecting sets of random shapes then it would become abstract. And it would be the same game (absent theme).

So for you, "abstract" is not at all a property of the game rules or "mathematical essence" of a game, but simply a property of a specific physical manifestation of a set of game rules?

I.e. (just to be clear) for you Chess with traditional pieces is an "abstract game", but Chess with Simpsons or Civil War pieces is not an "abstract game"?

Sort of similar to how Chess might be called a "wooden game" (if the pieces are wood" or a "plastic game" if the pieces are plastic?

No, because most games have math as their essence. And as for abstract game rules what would be abstract? As for strategy how would you define an abstract mechanic versus a non abstract mechanic? Is set collection for example abstract? Well it depends on wht you're collecting in the game.
If you go down the list of all classifications of game mechanis (ie. set collection, worker placement, pickup and deliver) I could see a designer making an abstract game or a non abstract game. Therefore you can't really base a games abstractness on any mechanic. It has to be based primarily on theme or lack thereof. Some games have themes that match their mechanics very closely, and some are obviously just tacked on.
 
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Russ Williams
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Sorry, but I'm still not sure I understand what your answer is to this:

Is Chess with traditional pieces an "abstract game" and Chess with Simpsons or Civil War pieces not an "abstract game"?

It sounds like you're saying "yes, the appearance of the Chess pieces determines if you're playing an abstract game or not". Right?
 
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russ wrote:
A sort of silly meta-philosophical question: if a "simulation" game is defined not by lots of fiddly detail but rather (naturally) by simulating people doing stuff, e.g. Agricola simulates farming, Acquire simulates stock investment and corporate mergers, etc, then what prevents us from saying that every game X is a simulation which simulates people playing X? E.g. can Chess not be viewed as a game which "simulates" 2 people playing Chess? I guess by definition simulations cannot be self-referential.

Yet it seems somehow strange that we consider it "valid" for a game to simulate all kinds of human activity, both pragmatic (e.g. farming and business, etc) and personal (e.g. socializing, families, tourism, etc), yet the specific human activity which gamers all have in common - playing games - is in some sense not considered a "valid" thing for a game to simulate!

Actually, I sometimes regard wargames that way. I always have. I remember trying to explain it to a friend back in high school. I said, "We're not commanding real-life armies in this game; we're doing what students at military academies do to learn about and prepare for war. This wargame simulates the sand-table exercises practiced at West Point and Sandhurst."

My friend would have none of it, but it made sense to me.
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Such a heated debate over so little. All games ARE ABSTRACTIONS to one degree or another. If it's not real life, it's an abstraction, get over it!
 
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Wargamer204 wrote:
Such a heated debate over so little. All games ARE ABSTRACTIONS to one degree or another. If it's not real life, it's an abstraction, get over it!

It's true that all games are abstractions. What's being discussed here, however, is whether all the games in this list are rightly called Abstract Games (as opposed to Customizable Games, Children's Games, Strategy Games, Family Games, Thematic Games, Party Games, or War Games).

Many of us skim through the list of Abstract Games and see some titles that make us shake our head and think, That's not an abstract game. It's some other kind.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Wargamer204 wrote:
Such a heated debate over so little. All games ARE ABSTRACTIONS to one degree or another. If it's not real life, it's an abstraction, get over it!

It's true that all games are abstractions. What's being discussed here, however, is whether all the games in this list are rightly called Abstract Games (as opposed to Customizable Games, Children's Games, Strategy Games, Family Games, Thematic Games, Party Games, or War Games).

Many of us skim through the list of Abstract Games and see some titles that make us shake our head and think, That's not an abstract game. It's some other kind.


Yup. Someone feels my pain.
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russ wrote:
Sorry, but I'm still not sure I understand what your answer is to this:

Is Chess with traditional pieces an "abstract game" and Chess with Simpsons or Civil War pieces not an "abstract game"?

It sounds like you're saying "yes, the appearance of the Chess pieces determines if you're playing an abstract game or not". Right?

I would say neither are abstracts since even traditional chess has as its theme war and includes knights and kings and queens. However a game like Othello would be since it has pieces that don't represent anything.
 
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PSchulman wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
Wargamer204 wrote:
Such a heated debate over so little. All games ARE ABSTRACTIONS to one degree or another. If it's not real life, it's an abstraction, get over it!

It's true that all games are abstractions. What's being discussed here, however, is whether all the games in this list are rightly called Abstract Games (as opposed to Customizable Games, Children's Games, Strategy Games, Family Games, Thematic Games, Party Games, or War Games).

Many of us skim through the list of Abstract Games and see some titles that make us shake our head and think, That's not an abstract game. It's some other kind.


Yup. Someone feels my pain.

In the top 10 Through the desert and Torres I wouldn't consider abstract games. Hive is a bit more debatable.

In fact, here's the definition the geek uses:

Quote:
theme-less (without storyline)
built on simple and/or straightforward design and mechanics
perfect information games
games that promote one player overtaking their opponent(s)
little to no elements of luck, chance, or random occurrence


Of those, the only one that really is adequate is the themelessness. I can think of plenty of games for example, that have simple or straightforward mechanics, have perfect information, have little to no luck and involve one player trying to beat another tht wouldn't be considered abstract games at all. Many games share those traits in fact.
And some of those are pretty hard to quantify. Like simple and straight forward mechanics for example. Blokus, and checkers definitely. Trough the deser, less so. But both are simpler than say advanced civ.

Is Tigris and Euphrates an abstract game for example? Relatively simple rules, tile laying, wars are settled through an abstract means. It could just as easily be about collecting cubes and laying down colored tiles. Except for the theme, Tigris IS an abstract. It even has the grid. But it also has rivers, and monuments, and leaders. I can't therefor call it an abstract game.its certainly not a simulation game, but does that make it abstract?

Most euros are closer to abstracts than to simulations, but I wouldn't consider rthrm abstract. But they don't really adhere that closely to a theme. Goa for example could be about anything or nothing. If you consider chess to e abstract, why wouldn't Goa also be abstract? If you consider Goa to not be an abstract, why would Chess be an abstract?
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everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
It sounds like you're saying "yes, the appearance of the Chess pieces determines if you're playing an abstract game or not". Right?

I would say neither are abstracts since even traditional chess has as its theme war and includes knights and kings and queens. However a game like Othello would be since it has pieces that don't represent anything.


OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?
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russ wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
It sounds like you're saying "yes, the appearance of the Chess pieces determines if you're playing an abstract game or not". Right?

I would say neither are abstracts since even traditional chess has as its theme war and includes knights and kings and queens. However a game like Othello would be since it has pieces that don't represent anything.


OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?

Yes. We know it as Othello, because that's how it was introduced to us,but if it has football as its theme then it's not an abstract any more. A good example of this is street soccer.
The thing is a lot of games have tacked on themes that are at best loosely themed. How closely does a game have to adhere to its theme to not be abstract though? I can think of plenty of Reiner knizia games that have a theme, but are basically mechanics wrapped around that theme and not realistic representations of that theme. So many euros are like that.

If those aren't abstracts, then Othello themed as a football game wouldn't be either. Look at the game acquire. It's about businesses, but how realistic is it as a business game. It's actually a tile laying game. You could separate out the theme and sim.y make it about joining colored tiles together. Then it's really just an abstract. Or take manhattan. Is it REALLY a realistic interpretation of creating a city, or is it just a game about putting tiles on a grids and scoring grids based on who has the most colors in an area. Mechanically both are pretty abstract, but because they are themed, I can't really call them abstracts. And it's hard for me to come up with an idea of mechanics that are more or less abstract than others. They're all abstract. So if the definition of a game is abstract depending on how closely it simulates it's theme, then a lot more games would be abstract than we are saying are abstract.
Having no theme is the best example of a definition of an abstract game that you can find.
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everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?

Yes. We know it as Othello, because that's how it was introduced to us,but if it has football as its theme then it's not an abstract any more.

Was it ever? If it was introduced to you as Othello, there's an allusion to the Shakespearean play, which must be the game's theme in some sense. The name was chosen presumably because the character Othello can only see things in black and white, giving Iago a chance to take advantage of him; so the black/white pieces in the game supposedly reflect the story. (Or maybe just the fact that Othello is black and Desdemona white, though that seems less likely.)

But if you'd discovered the game in its earlier years, you'd have known it as Reversi. What would its theme be then?

Did the new name Chinese Checkers change Halma to something less abstract, just because the game was now associated with a country (a country that never knew the game until it was imported there later)?
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?

Yes. We know it as Othello, because that's how it was introduced to us,but if it has football as its theme then it's not an abstract any more.

Was it ever? If it was introduced to you as Othello, there's an allusion to the Shakespearean play, which must be the game's theme in some sense. The name was chosen presumably because the character Othello can only see things in black and white, giving Iago a chance to take advantage of him; so the black/white pieces in the game supposedly reflect the story. (Or maybe just the fact that Othello is black and Desdemona white, though that seems less likely.)

But if you'd discovered the game in its earlier years, you'd have known it as Reversi. What would its theme be then?

Did the new name Chinese Checkers change Halma to something less abstract, just because the game was now associated with a country (a country that never knew the game until it was imported there later)?

An allusion is not a theme. If you called Othello "Othello vs iago" and had pieces that looked like othello or iago, then it would no longer be an abstract. Mechanically it would still be the same, but there is a theme attached. It's just REALLY loosely themed.
Think of the game En garde. It's about fencing. But is it really? It could just as easily be about moving cubes on a line and the person who wins gets his cube furthest past the zero space. It just so happens that the mechanic works well with a fencing match, or a tug of war or two wizards battling, but we think of it as a fencing game only because a theme was applied.
 
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everlong205 wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?

Yes. We know it as Othello, because that's how it was introduced to us,but if it has football as its theme then it's not an abstract any more.

Was it ever? If it was introduced to you as Othello, there's an allusion to the Shakespearean play, which must be the game's theme in some sense. The name was chosen presumably because the character Othello can only see things in black and white, giving Iago a chance to take advantage of him; so the black/white pieces in the game supposedly reflect the story. (Or maybe just the fact that Othello is black and Desdemona white, though that seems less likely.)

But if you'd discovered the game in its earlier years, you'd have known it as Reversi. What would its theme be then?

Did the new name Chinese Checkers change Halma to something less abstract, just because the game was now associated with a country (a country that never knew the game until it was imported there later)?

An allusion is not a theme. If you called Othello "Othello vs iago" and had pieces that looked like othello or iago, then it would no longer be an abstract.
Think of the game En garde. It's about fencing. But is it really? It could just as easily be about moving cubes on a line and the person who wins gets his cube furthest past the zero space. It just so happens that the mechanic works well with a fencing match, or a tug of war or two wizards battling, but we think of it as a fencing game only because a theme was applied.

Then it sounds like you just made Russ's point: "football Othello" is still abstract. It's obviously not about football, even if you stamp football-team images on the game pieces.
 
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Abstract Games » Forums » General
Re: How far can we push the "Abstract label" onto a game?
Patrick Carroll wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?

Yes. We know it as Othello, because that's how it was introduced to us,but if it has football as its theme then it's not an abstract any more.

Was it ever? If it was introduced to you as Othello, there's an allusion to the Shakespearean play, which must be the game's theme in some sense. The name was chosen presumably because the character Othello can only see things in black and white, giving Iago a chance to take advantage of him; so the black/white pieces in the game supposedly reflect the story. (Or maybe just the fact that Othello is black and Desdemona white, though that seems less likely.)

But if you'd discovered the game in its earlier years, you'd have known it as Reversi. What would its theme be then?

Did the new name Chinese Checkers change Halma to something less abstract, just because the game was now associated with a country (a country that never knew the game until it was imported there later)?

An allusion is not a theme. If you called Othello "Othello vs iago" and had pieces that looked like othello or iago, then it would no longer be an abstract.
Think of the game En garde. It's about fencing. But is it really? It could just as easily be about moving cubes on a line and the person who wins gets his cube furthest past the zero space. It just so happens that the mechanic works well with a fencing match, or a tug of war or two wizards battling, but we think of it as a fencing game only because a theme was applied.

Then it sounds like you just made Russ's point: "football Othello" is still abstract. It's obviously not about football, even if you stamp football-team images on the game pieces.

If it has football pieces then it is about football.now, it would be hard for me to see football out of that mechanic, but if a company was able to fashion a football game out of it, then it's a football game. It may not be a simulation of football, but football condensed to its most basic level. Still a football game.
I could for example see a game like chess that is themed as football. So the king would be the quarterback, the pawns would be representational of blockers. You'd probably have to change some mechanics to get it to be footballish but it could still largely be chess, and also be football. Would that be abstract? No. Games take concrete things and turn them into mathematical game mechanics, which are abstractions of those events. So how close do they have to adhere to those things before they become abstract?
Any game that wasn't a simlation would then be an abstract.But is that how we look at games.
Twilight struggle would then really be an abstract. It's not realistic depiction of the cold war. All the text that gvies it theme could be ignored completely and you could just look at the mechanics a d it's a pretty abstract game.
As is almost every other game that isn't an outright simulation. Even those are abstractions, but there at least the abstractions are meant to be closer approximations of things like movement or combat.

How about Napoleon at morengo. Is that a wargame or an abstract game? It has wooden sticks. How is tht not abstract? The only thing that makes it not abstract is the theme, and the mechanics which closely match the theme. But if you just called it Morengo, it could be a game about moving sticks on a geometric board and even have the same mechanics. Would it not then be an abstract?
 
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This is starting to sound like if you put a picture of a busty Victorian woman kissing a pirate on the cover of Crime and Punishment, it turns Crime and Punishment into a romance novel. Or if you a picture of people having a pie fight on the book's cover, it turns Crime and Punishment into a slapstick comedy.
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russ wrote:
This is starting to sound like if you put a picture of a busty Victorian woman kissing a pirate on the cover of Crime and Punishment, it turns Crime and Punishment into a romance novel. Or if you a picture of people having a pie fight on the book's cover, it turns Crime and Punishment into a slapstick comedy.


My point exactly. Reread all the posts and what was accomplished? You managed to waste time and electricity! Go get off this post and play a game (though preferably a miniatures wargame)!!!angry
 
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russ wrote:
This is starting to sound like if you put a picture of a busty Victorian woman kissing a pirate on the cover of Crime and Punishment, it turns Crime and Punishment into a romance novel. Or if you a picture of people having a pie fight on the book's cover, it turns Crime and Punishment into a slapstick comedy.

Which game mechanics are not abstractions? And how close does one have to adhere to a theme to make it Thematic and not atbract? If a game isn't an outright simulation does it make it an abstract even if it has a theme?

Games without themes re clearly abstracts, but it becomes a lot more problematic when game that have themes are also abstract.because then you get into a question about how closely something has to match its theme before it ceases being a themed game and becomes an abstract game. And you're really talking about simulation games versus games that have themes but aren't actually trying to simulalate that theme as strongly.
I would argue that there is no mechanic or strategy that would only be found in an abstract game, so you can't really define a game as an abstract solely on is strategy or it's mechanic.

Therefore it has to be based on its theme or lack of theme. But there are many games that exist as abstracts but then have a theme tacked on, are those not abstract any more? I guess they could be both. But I could also see taking a game we don't consider an abstract and removing all the thematic elements and boil it down to its basic mechanics and instead of using concrete objects just use shapes. And then those games are just abstracts. Right? How many euros are ostensibly about the renaissance, but if you took away the graphics would at their core just be mechanical abstractions that could take place in any time period or in no time period? Most of them? So then again, the only distinction is tht the manufacturer stuck a theme on it as opposed to putting it out themeless.
since all mechanics are abstractions how are you separating mechanics or strategies that would or,wouldn't be defined as abstract if you remove the theme from the equation.

And comparing books to games is problematic since books by being written are about something, so have a theme by default. Thus, it wouldnt be accurate to put a picture of pie throwing on the cover of crime and punishment, since it's about crime and punishment not about pie throwing.

Game Mechanics are not about something,they are just mechanics. If you put a theme on them, then they become about something concrete. Hence they are no longer abstract. When you put a theme on a game though, how strongly does it have to adhere to that theme to be considered about that thing? I guess that is the difference that a lot of us are having about what defines an abstract game or not abstract game. I would argue that abstract games aren't about anything really. A tacked on theme still makes it about that thing, it's just not trying to simulate that thing as close as a game that is going for maximum realism.if you argue that games that just have tacked on themes are really abstract, then you should really put 50 to 75 % of euros into the abstract column, which makes no sense.
 
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everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
russ wrote:
It sounds like you're saying "yes, the appearance of the Chess pieces determines if you're playing an abstract game or not". Right?

I would say neither are abstracts since even traditional chess has as its theme war and includes knights and kings and queens. However a game like Othello would be since it has pieces that don't represent anything.


OK, so if someone publishes, e.g., "Football Othello" with the faces of players from a real-life football team on the white sides of the disks and the faces of players from a different real-life football team on the black sides of the disks, is that no longer an abstract game because of the (loose) theme and physical representation?

Yes. We know it as Othello, because that's how it was introduced to us,but if it has football as its theme then it's not an abstract any more. A good example of this is street soccer.
The thing is a lot of games have tacked on themes that are at best loosely themed. How closely does a game have to adhere to its theme to not be abstract though? I can think of plenty of Reiner knizia games that have a theme, but are basically mechanics wrapped around that theme and not realistic representations of that theme. So many euros are like that.

If those aren't abstracts, then Othello themed as a football game wouldn't be either. Look at the game acquire. It's about businesses, but how realistic is it as a business game. It's actually a tile laying game. You could separate out the theme and sim.y make it about joining colored tiles together. Then it's really just an abstract. Or take manhattan. Is it REALLY a realistic interpretation of creating a city, or is it just a game about putting tiles on a grids and scoring grids based on who has the most colors in an area. Mechanically both are pretty abstract, but because they are themed, I can't really call them abstracts. And it's hard for me to come up with an idea of mechanics that are more or less abstract than others. They're all abstract. So if the definition of a game is abstract depending on how closely it simulates it's theme, then a lot more games would be abstract than we are saying are abstract.
Having no theme is the best example of a definition of an abstract game that you can find.


I might disagree. Let's see:

Themed Chess sets might exist but I think of them as simple merchandising/curious/funny items. You see, Chess started as a game about war, lost its theme and is no more associated with it. But because the pieces have different abilities it is easier to associate with concrete things (i.e a king, queen, bishop etc) They could be called 1s,2s,3s,4s,5 and 6 for all I care. You see, the only reason for beig easy to make Star Wars Chess sets or Simpsons Chess Sets are is fact the game is Abstract.

The same is valid for Othello. The name Othello is, imo, a mnemonic tool or what the designer thought it resembled the game (black and white = good and evil = dual nature). If called Reversi, more of a mnemonic tool yet, because you explained the mechanics with the name alone! He could call the game Influence or Cold War and not change anything. He could call the game Salvation or Damnation and make heaven and hell pieces for instance but the very nature of the game is unchanged. This is because the game is abstract. Or maybe because it was marketed without a theme, so now I can't see the game not being abstract even thought has a theme. My opinion could be different if the very first game was market as I said above.

You said yourself: how far a theme is entangled with the game to be called themed or not? Some posts on this thread made me change a little bit of my definitions of abstract games. I still think the abscence/relevance of theme is important but there are other factors which I found difficult to explain. There's the feel of the game, there are mathematical properties in its core (I think).

2- Mechanics generally present in abstracts:

Area Control/Area Influence
Piece Placement
Point-to-point movement
Modular Board
Pattern Recognition
Area Enclosure
Tile Placement
Pattern Building

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How closely is caylus really related to castle building? All the buildings have names that correspond to the goods they give you, but that's just a tacked on theme. I could see caylus being a completely abstract game. Instead of resources that signify real things they could just be different shapes. Instead of buildings that have real names and give you actual resources they could just be tiles that give you colored objects which you then use to put your colors in a grid (castle)and the person with the most of their color gets extra points or can put out newtiles without one of the resources which will give you more resources.
It makes sense that the game is about castle building because the mechanics fit the theme. But at heart, if you took all the graphic out and removed concrete things from the game that are tied into the theme, how different is it than say Ingenious? Not that different. There might be slighty different mechanics, and one might be more complicated, but would one be less or more abstract?
Goa is the same way. You're just bidding on tiles, then using cards which hae ships or workers on them to buy spices. But all of tht theme is the only thing that separates Goa from being a pure abstract. The spices could simply be colored cubes, the victory track could simply be five regions that you move random cubes down which give you points based on where our cubes are at the end of the game. Most games are basically abstract games if you just look at the mechanics. So wht makes Goa not be an astract. Because it has ships and is about shipping? yes actually.
 
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While all games are essentially abstract, I'd also argue that even the most abstract game is about something. It might be very difficult to say just what it's about, but if the game isn't about something (or doesn't at least have the potential to be about something), it's not meaningful to us human players. And if it's not meaningful to us human players, it won't be played or discussed--and, in fact, it wouldn't have been created in the first place.

Even pure mathematics is about something. We just don't know what all it's about until we start applying it. But then we refer to it as applied mathematics.

By the same token, we don't know what abstract games are about until we start applying themes to them. But the moment we do that, we stop seeing them as abstract.

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Patrick Carroll wrote:
While all games are essentially abstract, I'd also argue that even the most abstract game is about something. It might be very difficult to say just what it's about, but if the game isn't about something (or doesn't at least have the potential to be about something), it's not meaningful to us human players. And if it's not meaningful to us human players, it won't be played or discussed--and, in fact, it wouldn't have been created in the first place.

Even pure mathematics is about something. We just don't know what all it's about until we start applying it. But then we refer to it as applied mathematics.

By the same token, we don't know what abstract games are about until we start applying themes to them. But the moment we do that, we stop seeing them as abstract.



What Patrick said, now drop this thread and play some games, dagnab it!!!
 
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Or take dominion. What is it really about? If you simply took the pictures off of the crds and didn't call them things like witch or thief, the cards are simply cards that describe game mechanics. You could just call the card "+1 buy, +1 action" or "take card from person on your left" card. But would you describe dominion as an abstract? So there's an example of a game with the most basic tacked on theme that only really has text on the cards to add flavor but are not really representational of those things. Why is it not an abstract?

Or take magic. It's simply a card game where you use five or so colors to allow you to flip cards tht do various effects like take additional turns, or give you more of the same colors. And the sole purpose of the game is to use those cards to get your opponent to lose points and go from 20 to 0. Why is magic not an abstract?

The only thing that spares those Ames from astracts is that dominion is about some fantasy setting and magic is about wizards fighting. The theme makes them not abstract, not the mechanics.

In fact, one of the things I don't like about magic is that even though cards have names on them, I still just think of them as their symbols. Like a forest, doesn't really have any significance as a forest, it's just "green" and monsters are just stats and effects.
 
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Last point:
Quote:
The same is valid for Othello. The name Othello is, imo, a mnemonic tool or what the designer thought it resembled the game (black and white = good and evil = dual nature). If called Reversi, more of a mnemonic tool yet, because you explained the mechanics with the name alone! He could call the game Influence or Cold War and not change anything. He could call the game Salvation or Damnation and make heaven and hell pieces for instance but the very nature of the game is unchanged. This is because the game is abstract. Or maybe because it was marketed without a theme, so now I can't see the game not being abstract even thought has a theme. My opinion could be different if the very first game was market as I said above.

I actually agree with this and thin its one of the reasons defining games as abstract is so problemtaic. How you first play a game determines what you think the game is. If it was first played as an abstract, you'll view it as the same game if you pop a theme on it later. But what if the first version of chess had been star wars chess? Would it still be considered an abstract?
Or what if the first version of caylus was themeless, if a theme was added later would you still view it as abstract?
 
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