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

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John Reiners
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All are disk flicking games, yet two of them are not abstract. However, if you simply made the elk in elk fest not look like an elk it would be (unless you made it look like something else). It's not the mechanic then that makes the game abstract since you can use that same mechanic in an abstract way or an expression of a simulation.
 
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everlong205 wrote:
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?


Yes and yes, at least by me (and I suspect many others in this thread).

As stated above, I personally think anything that can be 100% rethemed without changing anything is abstract. Chess passes this because you can call the pieces whatever you want (and many publishers do) and it doesn't matter to most players. Puerto Rico fails this because the the way the ships work doesn't make sense with a different theme.

I think you could make the argument for chess not being an abstract if people teach the game mechanics using the theme, which some people do. On the other hand, and I'm a bit out of my element here, but don't some see Go as a war game too and explain it in those terms?

The reason I like my definition is that I find it useful. I find some of the other ones put forth in this thread useful, but to be honest, I don't find this one useful, because you've got 2 copies of the exact same game (Chess, Othello vs. Football Othello, etc.) and they're classified differently because of the artwork.
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Quote:
As stated above, I personally think anything that can be 100% rethemed without changing anything is abstract. Chess passes this because you can call the pieces whatever you want (and many publishers do) and it doesn't matter to most players. Puerto Rico fails this because the the way the ships work doesn't make sense with a different theme.

But you are changing things. You're changing pieces. How about wallenstein changing to shogun. Very few changes. Neither abstract.
And I could see puerto Rico as an abstract. Simply have a grid to put cylinders and don't call them ships. It would work as an abstract game. Don't call the roles things like governor. It would work fine as an abstract. I think people would like it more with a theme pasted on, but you could certainly play it as an abstract. If it were simply a mechanic ships wouldn't have to make sense, since we are talking about abstract games. Wht does that mean when you're talking about non tangible things.
 
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Russ Williams
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Wargamer204 wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
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!!!

Hey, I just spent an hour in an intense game of Coerceo, which I think is abstract by all reasonable definitions.

But I'm not sure what it's "about" other than trying to eliminate the opponent's pieces.
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Stoic Bird
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everlong205 wrote:
Quote:
As stated above, I personally think anything that can be 100% rethemed without changing anything is abstract. Chess passes this because you can call the pieces whatever you want (and many publishers do) and it doesn't matter to most players. Puerto Rico fails this because the the way the ships work doesn't make sense with a different theme.

But you are changing things. You're changing pieces. How about wallenstein changing to shogun. Very few changes. Neither abstract.


You're changing the art on the pieces. The pieces themselves have no functional, in game difference. I haven't played Wallenstein or Shogun, but my impression is that the map (at least) is different, which will have an impact on the game state. Playing "themed" chess should be no different than playing unthemed chess in the game.
 
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russ wrote:
Wargamer204 wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
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!!!

Hey, I just spent an hour in an intense game of Coerceo, which I think is abstract by all reasonable definitions.

But I'm not sure what it's "about" other than trying to eliminate the opponent's pieces.


Eliminate the other player's pieces? It's a wargame of course!cool Now get into some real abstract gaming with some minis!
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Wargamer204 wrote:
russ wrote:
Wargamer204 wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
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!!!

Hey, I just spent an hour in an intense game of Coerceo, which I think is abstract by all reasonable definitions.

But I'm not sure what it's "about" other than trying to eliminate the opponent's pieces.


Eliminate the other player's pieces? It's a wargame of course!cool Now get into some real abstract gaming with some minis!


No minis for abstracts I fear.
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John Reiners
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VolcanoLotus wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
Quote:
As stated above, I personally think anything that can be 100% rethemed without changing anything is abstract. Chess passes this because you can call the pieces whatever you want (and many publishers do) and it doesn't matter to most players. Puerto Rico fails this because the the way the ships work doesn't make sense with a different theme.

But you are changing things. You're changing pieces. How about wallenstein changing to shogun. Very few changes. Neither abstract.


You're changing the art on the pieces. The pieces themselves have no functional, in game difference. I haven't played Wallenstein or Shogun, but my impression is that the map (at least) is different, which will have an impact on the game state. Playing "themed" chess should be no different than playing unthemed chess in the game.


How about Knightmare Chess? Is that an abstract?
I would agree by the way that having Chess rethemed as a Civil War game doens't change the mechanics but it would change how I would classify it it would still be a war game.
Just like for example debellus antiquitatus. I played that once at a miniature convention and was surprised by how un wargamey it was. It was almost like chess. That bening said, they still used miniatures and they still called it a war game. If they just used wooden sticks instead of minis it would abstract the idea even further, but it would still be a war game. just a very abstract wargame. Chess strikes me as the same.
 
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John Reiners
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What about the game Kingdoms by Knizia. That has been rethemed multiple times. First as a marketplace game in Auf Heller und Pfennig, then it became Kingdoms, and then Beowulf the board game.
Are all of them abstracts? Because one game is ostensibly market based, one is ostensibly themed with a fantasy theme and one is about Beowulf.
How much they are about their subjects is debatable and clearly the theme is tacked on, but i would argue that tehy are not abstracts because they have a theme tacked on. If Knizia just decided to release the game system without any artwork on it, it would rpobably be an abstract.
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?
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everlong205 wrote:
What about the game Kingdoms by Knizia. That has been rethemed multiple times. First as a marketplace game in Auf Heller und Pfennig, then it became Kingdoms, and then Beowulf the board game.
Are all of them abstracts? Because one game is ostensibly market based, one is ostensibly themed with a fantasy theme and one is about Beowulf.
How much they are about their subjects is debatable and clearly the theme is tacked on, but i would argue that tehy are not abstracts because they have a theme tacked on. If Knizia just decided to release the game system without any artwork on it, it would rpobably be an abstract.
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?


I do consider Kingdoms an abstract. I haven't played Beowulf, but it's not a straight port like Auf Heller was (which is why it has a separate entry in the database), and my impression is that they added thematically inspired changes to the game board. If that's so, I wouldn't consider Beowulf an abstract, even though it's very similar to Kingdoms.

I guess another way to put my opinion is that if the theme drives the mechanics, even a little bit, it's not an abstract. That is, if it's equally convenient to explain the game without mentioning any thematic concepts, it's an abstract; otherwise, it's not. I would not want to try to explain goods in Puerto Rico without calling them goods; I can easily explain bishop movement in Chess or scoring in Kingdoms without once mentioning the theme.
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everlong205 wrote:
I would agree by the way that having Chess rethemed as a Civil War game doens't change the mechanics but it would change how I would classify it it would still be a war game.

I think we only see chess as a war game because we've been taught to. Teach chess (or shogi, or xiangqi) to a little kid who has never heard of the game being associated with battle, and he might never make that association on his own. Except for the knight (which is sometimes called a horse anyway), the names of the game pieces don't sound like military units. Nor do their movements in the game seem much like military maneuvers.

Chess is a war game to us only because that association has been passed down to us through the generations. In a few hundred years, it might be known as the geometry game, all its military roots having been forgotten.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
I would agree by the way that having Chess rethemed as a Civil War game doens't change the mechanics but it would change how I would classify it it would still be a war game.

I think we only see chess as a war game because we've been taught to. Teach chess (or shogi, or xiangqi) to a little kid who has never heard of the game being associated with battle, and he might never make that association on his own. Except for the knight (which is sometimes called a horse anyway), the names of the game pieces don't sound like military units. Nor do their movements in the game seem much like military maneuvers.

Chess is a war game to us only because that association has been passed down to us through the generations. In a few hundred years, it might be known as the geometry game, all its military roots having been forgotten.


Though its ancient roots might be obscured, and its movements bear virtually no resemblance to modern war, it is and always will be a WARgame. The essence of a wargame is battling your opponent's forces and taking them (capture is a war term after all). And for the record, it is generally played with miniatures!!!
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Well, this Web page makes a pretty good case for chess being a wargame.
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VolcanoLotus wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
What about the game Kingdoms by Knizia. That has been rethemed multiple times. First as a marketplace game in Auf Heller und Pfennig, then it became Kingdoms, and then Beowulf the board game.
Are all of them abstracts? Because one game is ostensibly market based, one is ostensibly themed with a fantasy theme and one is about Beowulf.
How much they are about their subjects is debatable and clearly the theme is tacked on, but i would argue that tehy are not abstracts because they have a theme tacked on. If Knizia just decided to release the game system without any artwork on it, it would rpobably be an abstract.
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?


I do consider Kingdoms an abstract. I haven't played Beowulf, but it's not a straight port like Auf Heller was (which is why it has a separate entry in the database), and my impression is that they added thematically inspired changes to the game board. If that's so, I wouldn't consider Beowulf an abstract, even though it's very similar to Kingdoms.

I guess another way to put my opinion is that if the theme drives the mechanics, even a little bit, it's not an abstract. That is, if it's equally convenient to explain the game without mentioning any thematic concepts, it's an abstract; otherwise, it's not. I would not want to try to explain goods in Puerto Rico without calling them goods; I can easily explain bishop movement in Chess or scoring in Kingdoms without once mentioning the theme.

When I teach a game I have a tendency to read the rule book and include the beginning part that goes through the theme. And my group almost invariably says to get on with it and get to the game mechanics and rules.So the theme is rarely mentioned. It's simply how do you play, what is this piece for, how do you win etc.We rarely refrence the theme at all. And take Tigris & Euphrates. That is usually considered barely themeless and pasted on. But someone once described how all the elemnts are actually tied into the theme of civilization buidling and it made sense. It's still more abstract than a simulation but that doesn't make it an abstract.
 
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everlong205 wrote:
What about the game Kingdoms by Knizia. That has been rethemed multiple times. First as a marketplace game in Auf Heller und Pfennig, then it became Kingdoms, and then Beowulf the board game.
Are all of them abstracts? Because one game is ostensibly market based, one is ostensibly themed with a fantasy theme and one is about Beowulf.
How much they are about their subjects is debatable and clearly the theme is tacked on, but i would argue that tehy are not abstracts because they have a theme tacked on.

I would agree that they are not abstracts, but for me it is because they have randomness and hidden information. (Going by the traditional "combinatorial/perfect information" meaning of "abstract game".)

The different themes/skins make little difference to me. (Other than about aesthetic enjoyment during play, e.g. I like Kingdoms the least as its graphic design seems both uglier and harder to read, in my opinion.)

(FWIW they are not the same game in any case: they have significant rules differences. The original Auf Heller und Pfennig is the most clean/elegant, and closest in spirit to an "abstract game" in that sense. Beowulf introduced a fair amount of chrome, including a couple of controversial powerful special tiles.)

Quote:
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?

Giving a game the title "Beowulf" and slapping some Beowulf-inspired art on it doesn't suffice to make it a game about Beowulf.
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Wargamer204 wrote:
Though its ancient roots might be obscured, and its movements bear virtually no resemblance to modern war, it is and always will be a WARgame. The essence of a wargame is battling your opponent's forces and taking them (capture is a war term after all).

I'm guessing we could get a similarly controversial thread about "How far can we push the "Wargame label" onto a game?"

If battling your opponent's forces and taking them (independent of any simulation of real-world war) makes a game a wargame, then I guess I played a wargame last night when I played Coerceo. I'm not sure I should tell my wife - she enjoyed the game, but she thinks she doesn't like wargames!
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John Reiners
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russ wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
What about the game Kingdoms by Knizia. That has been rethemed multiple times. First as a marketplace game in Auf Heller und Pfennig, then it became Kingdoms, and then Beowulf the board game.
Are all of them abstracts? Because one game is ostensibly market based, one is ostensibly themed with a fantasy theme and one is about Beowulf.
How much they are about their subjects is debatable and clearly the theme is tacked on, but i would argue that tehy are not abstracts because they have a theme tacked on.

I would agree that they are not abstracts, but for me it is because they have randomness and hidden information. (Going by the traditional "combinatorial/perfect information" meaning of "abstract game".)

The different themes/skins make little difference to me. (Other than about aesthetic enjoyment during play, e.g. I like Kingdoms the least as its graphic design seems both uglier and harder to read, in my opinion.)

(FWIW they are not the same game in any case: they have significant rules differences. The original Auf Heller und Pfennig is the most clean/elegant, and closest in spirit to an "abstract game" in that sense. Beowulf introduced a fair amount of chrome, including a couple of controversial powerful special tiles.)

Quote:
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?

Giving a game the title "Beowulf" and slapping some Beowulf-inspired art on it doesn't suffice to make it a game about Beowulf.


It does and it doesnt. This gets into the whole problem of how much a game has to reference its' theme to actually be considered ABOUT that theme. Is Ra really ABOUT Egypt? Not really. How much does Amun Re actually reference Egypt? There are pyramids and the Nile but those are just markers that could signify anything. This would therefore make a lot of games that I wouldn't consider to be abstracts to be abstract.
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everlong205 wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?

Giving a game the title "Beowulf" and slapping some Beowulf-inspired art on it doesn't suffice to make it a game about Beowulf.


It does and it doesnt. This gets into the whole problem of how much a game has to reference its' theme to actually be considered ABOUT that theme.

Agreed, it is a nebulous spectrum. E.g. (to return to the classic example) different people disagree about whether Chess is "about" a medieval battle. Or whether Hive is "about" bugs attacking a queen bee.

Having played the specific Beowulf game, it doesn't feel to me like a game about Beowulf any more than Chess feels like a game about a medieval battle or Hive feels like a game about bugs. I.e. it's pretty much just arbitrary art/skinning applied to the underlying mechanisms.

It does get interesting in cases where the theme is a bit more deeply injected into the game. E.g. consider the (relatively unusual in my experience) case of Boomtown. Originally it was Boomtown, about the old west, with various special action cards that made thematic sense in the context of the old west, then it was rereleased as Piraci, about pirates, with the exact same special action cards making thematic sense with pirates. So in one sense the theme is obviously arbitrary, yet in another sense it's sufficiently integrated into not only the art but the mechanisms (even though it's not the only theme which is consistent with those mechanisms!) that it seems reasonable to say "it's a game about pirates" for the recent edition and "it's a game about the old west" about the original edition, even though mathematically they're the same game.

EDITED to fix quote nesting
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russ wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
Quote:
But how is a game about Beowulf an abstract game?

Giving a game the title "Beowulf" and slapping some Beowulf-inspired art on it doesn't suffice to make it a game about Beowulf.


It does and it doesnt. This gets into the whole problem of how much a game has to reference its' theme to actually be considered ABOUT that theme.

Agreed, it is a nebulous spectrum. E.g. (to return to the classic example) different people disagree about whether Chess is "about" a medieval battle. Or whether Hive is "about" bugs attacking a queen bee.

Having played the specific Beowulf game, it doesn't feel to me like a game about Beowulf any more than Chess feels like a game about a medieval battle or Hive feels like a game about bugs. I.e. it's pretty much just arbitrary art/skinning applied to the underlying mechanisms.[/q]

Quote:
It does get interesting in cases where the theme is a bit more deeply injected into the game. E.g. consider the (relatively unusual in my experience) case of Boomtown. Originally it was Boomtown, about the old west, with various special action cards that made thematic sense in the context of the old west, then it was rereleased as Piraci, about pirates, with the exact same special action cards making thematic sense with pirates. So in one sense the theme is obviously arbitrary, yet in another sense it's sufficiently integrated into not only the art but the mechanisms (even though it's not the only theme which is consistent with those mechanisms!) that it seems reasonable to say "it's a game about pirates" for the recent edition and "it's a game about the old west" about the original edition, even though mathematically they're the same game.

The game could work in both genres, but you could also probably remove a genre completely and still have a workable game. The mechanics themselves don't require a theme to function. And that's true for most games. But if you did that, wouldn't' that then be an abstract?
So how strictly does a game have to adhere to its theme to be a Pirate game or a Western Game.
Take Corsairs. It's a pirate game, but all it really is is a tile game that has symbols that are pirate related. They could instead be circles, diamonds, and squares and different colors. It's not really ABOUT pirates in any sense, except it references pirates. But how is Kingdoms different? Or how about Titan Arena. Is it REALLY a fantasy game, or is it just a game about laying down cards that have special effects on them and it also has fantasy art on it. All of those would then be abstracts, which makes no sense.Galaxy is a sci fi game, Titan Arena is a fantasy game. Or, they're both abstracts with an extremely light theme pasted on top. But if those are abstracts, then go down the list of Euros and you'll find that most games are in fact abstracts with the tiniest bit of theme pasted on top.

If there was a range of gaming where on the far left was a pure abstract, and on the far right was pure simulation, most games would probably be closer to the left side than the right side of the scale. And how far along that scale would you have to go before it changes from an abstract to a game about the subject. Like how many points would a game have to reference the subject before it ceases being an abstract and becomes about that subject. It's totally subjective.

Whereas a game like Dvonn doesn't really have a theme that is loosely applied or strictly applied. That is the only example of an abstract then that isn't subjective.

You say take a game "where the theme is a bit more deeply injected into the game."
What is that "bit more". Is it measurable in any real sense? We have games that are completely about their subject. Like say Warhammer. If it was a bit less thematic would it cease being about the game. How much less would it have to be about the subject to cease being a fantasy game. Is Space Hulk the card game an abstract? How much is it really ABOUT Space Hulk? Barely at all. It might reference the subject more than a Space Hulk themed kingdoms game (if there were such a thing) but it references its subject a lot less than Space Hulk actually does. Does that mean that we can't call Space Hulk a sci fi game>
The distinction seems to be, which games are simulations of their themes and which games just reference their themes. If just referencing your theme makes you an abstract, then most games, certainly most Euros are abstracts since they're not outright simulations.

For example: How is Navia Drapt an abstract? and how is Goa not?
 
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What we need is Pandora for games.

Then, if a lot of players like Chess, Hey That's My Fish, Zertz, and X, then X is an abstract.
 
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Further thoughts on the "Pandora" comment. (And of course I am talking about the music site, not the Smurf infested planet from the movie.)

If you did do that sort of "like" network, I think what you would find would end up with something first described a few pages ago. Within the games generally described as "abstract", you would find a couple of clusters of games, with significant overlap.

One set would be the "geometric" games, in which the layout and arrangement of the pieces really matter, and especially games like Blokus or Twixt, where creating those geometric layouts is the point of the game. The second cluster would be "perfect information" games. The "perfect information" games would have a lot of overlap with "not quite perfect information" games, i.e. games in which mental skill and calculation dominate, but which might have some elements of luck, hidden information, or multiple players. In other words, a lot of people who like Hive, Chess, and Zertz would also like Backgammon, Stratego, and four player Blokus.

As for theme, I don't think it really matters. The only place where I think it comes in at all is that many games have a certain fantasy element to them. We pretend to be generals, wizards, or billionaires, and that is part of the fun of the game. To an abstract player, the fantasy element has very little appeal, and might be seen as a distraction.
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