Blending Theme and Mechanics is Most Important!
suPUR DUEper
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Recently two geeklist have come out, each declaring that either theme or mechanics is more important.


Mechanics are More Important Then Theme
Theme is More Important Than Mechanics


The reality is that the best designs are have both..... Why take one without the other?

Feel free to add your favorites!

P.S. In case my wargaming friends stop by, let's not go past the "borderline" wargames (e.g. Twilight Struggle and Here I Stand) into the traditional hex and counter variety.
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1. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:5]
suPUR DUEper
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TS uses the card driven format which forces agonizing decisions between playing ops and firing events
Incorporating the Space Race
Plotting coups, realignments, and wars
Managing Def Con so you don't blow up the globe.

It also has amazing theme. It incorporate the salient events of the Cold War into the game. It also mirrors the strategies that were often employed by the historic participants (i.e. following your opponent into new regions just because they are going there).
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2. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:178]
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Incredible 6 player game.
- overlays the religious struggle on the political conflict
- grants each power asymmetric goals and abilities
- includes a ton of events from the period
- integrates all of the following in a very manageable package: land warfare, sea battles, sieges, piracy, burning books, publishing treatises, Henry VIII's marriages, religious debates, cavalry, mercenaries, etc.

Enormous player interaction, dripping with theme, tight mechanics.
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3. Board Game: High Frontier [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:808]
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A Sandbox game.

-Start off with some traditional euro mechanics (auctions, a single action on your turn, hand management).
-Create a gorgeous, huge map.
-Throw in a ton of science for theme and realism (you know, simple stuff like: calculating the thrust and mass of your rocket, calculating fuel requirements, planetary gravity, slingshotting around a planet, thrusters, robonauts, refineries, prospecting a site, radiation belts, solar winds, etc.,etc.)
-And here is the key: make the game truly open ended. You and the other players forget that you are playing a game and instead are so immersed in the experience that you celebrate each other's triumphs and console failures as you collectively push to explore and colonize further and faster on successive playings.
-The game gives you a framework and some basic tools. Joy is experienced as you explore the countless ways the tools can be combined to achieve radically different outcomes.

High Frontier is the greatest game I have ever played.....
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4. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:201]
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Some really creative mechanics:

Two boards: the city for your buildings and the countryside for your resource gathering.
Buildings with special abilities (think Puerto Rico)
Cities throw off pollution into the countryside.
A starvation level that gradually ratchets up over time
The ability to pick your own victory condition.

The result is not only a race against the other players but also of survival as the game keeps trying to kill you off.

You get the benefits of a Euro with the very thematic approach to gathering resources, managing pollution/disease, and avoiding starvation. Graves in your city and pollution in your countryside are probably pretty representative of the Dark/Middle Ages....
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5. Board Game: Space Alert [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:155]
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Space Alert allows you and a few friends to assume the roles of a crew aboard a science ship. It drops you into a hostile part of the galaxy and in real time feeds you threat information that you are forced to respond to.


Great mechanics:

Soundtrack providing the real time tension
Programming your moves (think Roborally)
A combination of varied threats, tracks, and soundtracks to keep the system unpredictable and replayable.
Cooperative


Great theme:

Attacking/defending against a wide variety of aliens
Lasers, missiles, fighters, shields, robots, elevators, computers
Managing energy consumption
Responding to internal/external threats
Taking damage
Frenetic pace
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