Boardgames To Go

Mark Johnson's occasional and opinionated podcast, Boardgames To Go, now has its own blog on Boardgamegeek.
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BGTG #125 - Boardgame Themes for Grown Ups (with Greg Pettit)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
Microbadge: I love old-school German-style gamesMicrobadge: Parent of a transgender childMicrobadge: Spiel des Jahres fan

mark wrote:

Boardgames To Go has now officially relocated to BGG! The podcast feed for the MP3 files hasn't changed, but you might need to unsubscribe and resubscribe (in iTunes, or whatever) once to make your podcast downloader recognize the new source. Also, the old blog will be maintained for its seven years of archives.

From now on, though, you can keep up with this new blog here on BGG with the rest of your BGG subscriptions.


My friend Greg Pettit joins me on the podcast to officially kick off Boardgames To Go’s relocation to its new home on BGG by returning to our previous discussion about game themes, a favorite topic! Two years ago, in episode 104 we talked about Greg’s notion of two aspects of game theme:

• Narrative--the part of theme that includes the game's subject matter & physical production, telling its story

• Metaphor--the other part of theme that includes the game’s mechanisms, and how naturally they represent how the setting works

It was a great discussion, and many people chimed in with comments on the blog, as well as my BGG forum post.

This time I wanted to concentrate on the narrative part, the story. Specifically, I wanted to challenge the label that “thematic” games are just those ones about dragons and spaceships, and then go on to explain why I don’t like those themes, and wish for more “grown-up” games about history, economics, and—yes, trading in the Mediterranean Sea. A particular example is the interesting case of Vinci and Small World. Both are essentially the same game, from the same designer. The real differences are the theme: one is about the historic rise & fall of civilizations on a map of Europe, while the other is a territorial battle game between fantasy races on a fictional world. (Greg points out notable difference in the marketing muscle and publisher support behind these two games. Hmm.)

Board Game: Vinci
Board Game: Small World

Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep

As you’ll hear, it turns out I had a lot of issues wound up in this discussion, and it was a challenge to my polite nature to share my honest opinions. I never want to offend anyone, yet I do want to have this discussion. And Greg was there to extract it from me. In fact, his alternate title for this podcast was, "On the Couch with Mark Johnson: Why Do You Hate AmeriTrash?"

Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
Board Game: Pergamon

At the end the episode, we close with two open questions. I’d love to hear my listeners’ responses to them. First is to offer your own suggestion for what the category of games like Descent, Arkham Horror, and Battlestar Galactica should be called. I don’t like BGG’s current label of "thematic," don’t think Ameritrash is right, either, and offered other suggestions such as heightened, fantastic, or geeky.

Second, I’d like you to think about the narrative themes (subject, story) of the games you enjoy playing, and analyze why you enjoy them. Is it because of the exciting, escapist subject matter about space empires or the undead? Perhaps it’s the chance to be exposed to something interesting in history and learn a tiny bit about it? Or maybe it’s just that the gameplay is competitive & challenging, and the narrative subject of the game doesn’t play a major role. You can guess what type of person I am, and I’d like to learn who you are.


From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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