Fawkes's Favorite German Games with Excellent Theme, or, How to Relate Mechanisms to Theme When Teaching a German Game to Help the Players Better Understand How the Game Works
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
Recommend
53 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
I've been harping a lot about themes in German games lately. Ever since I found out that explaining the rules to games using the theme elements works far better than using generic terms, it's become evident that for many games that people have been saying have "pasted on" themes, the mechanism-to-theme ties have been far stronger than advertised.

Once players have learned the game with the theme integrated, so many mechanisms that are seemingly difficult to grasp become easy. Why? Because the theme takes care of explaining why certain actions can be done, and why results happen the way they do.

Finally, this tie produces interesting strategies that may have not become readily apparent if the game was taught as an abstract. You come full circle when you realize that the designer may have started with the theme and pasted the mechanisms on the theme, rather than the other way around.

Ever had that experience with a game? Add it here.
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: teaching [+] [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
This is where it all started. I was taught this game by a friend who talked about "red, green, blue and black", and "internal and external conflicts", and "groups of tiles with and without leaders" and "black leader, red leader".

I put the kibosh on that after having trouble teaching the game.

Not tiles. Aspects of civilization within a region or kingdom. Farms, Markets, Settlements, and Temples. Not "red leader" (what is this, Star Wars?) or "green leader" but Priest, Trader, King and Farmer. Take the rules a step further and use the terms "war" and "revolution" instead of "external conflict" or "internal conflict".

All of this has made teaching the game easier. When a leader loses a war, he and all of his influence within his kingdom are lost. A new leader emerges within that player's dynasty, and this leader is sent into the kingdoms to rebuild influence. The tiles in hand are a dynasty's stored influence, which are used to develop influence within a region or kingdom, or to influence wars or revolutions.

Victory points are civilization influence points, and the dynasty that has influenced the kingdoms of Mesopotamia the most evenly in the four aspects, over the course of the hundreds of years played through in the game, wins.

On a related note, check out this SR by Joe Gola:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/57518

I completely agree with Joe that it is entirely believable, and even quite probably, that Knizia started with the theme of the rise and fall of civilizations in Mesopotamia, and the greed of humans, and built the game and mechanisms around that.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Torres [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:402]
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
"Hello friends, you're in for a treat. Today, I'll be teaching you Torres, a Spiel des Jahres winner from the acclaimed duo of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.

Each of us is a prince or princess! Our kingdom has recently been beset by natural disasters, which have ruined the towers that serve as our nation's defense. It is up to us to ensure that the builders are able to reconstruct the towers, and the Knights that serve us must protect the towers as they are built! Whichever of us has the knights guarding the greatest towers at the end of the third day hence garners the most prestige, and our father the King will hold a great festival in his or her honor in addition to making him or her the heir to his throne!

By the way, our father is skittish, as you know, and he will be looking favorably on whichever one of us has a knight guarding the entrance to his tower bedroom at the end of each day. He'll be touring the towers, so it might be a different tower each night!

These are your dougthy knights. (Hand them the fat little Knight pawns.) They're all a bit rotund and had one too many feasts - we haven't had a war in a while thanks to the towers - so this little tower-guarding activity should whip them back into tip-top shape! Good luck, and may the best sibling win!"

(PS: I took out the stupid part about wizards, and the depressing part about our father the King dying at the end - wholly unnecessary!)

The rules are expressed as simple either commanding a knight (onto the board, or on the board) or commanding the Royal Builders. (I try to avoid using the words "Action Points", but that isn't always possible.) Gaining the King's Bonus is simply a reward for guarding the castle where this King is resting at the end of the day, on the floor where the King commands. The Master Cards give rewards for disciplined knights who can maintain orderly formations while tending to their normal guard duties.

The theme is strong in Torres. Very, very strong.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: Java [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:720]
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
Java is another game that's really strong in theme.

Each player is a Javanese noble who has been commanded by the King to develop the land. He commands his team of developers (each developer marker is a team of people, not a single person). Developers carve out terraces, build villages and palaces, and irrigate the terraces. The higher the terraces controlled (and presumably built) by the developers, the greater the grain yield, and the greater the influence over the village that benefits from that grain yield. You, the Javanese noble, elect to hold festivals in the palaces. The theme elements in Java aren't as grandoise as that of E&T, but they work extremely well in the context of the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:107]
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
"Hello and welcome to Goa. Goa was a city in India renowned as a critical port in the spice trade of the Indian Ocean during the Age of Exploration. Each of us plays a rich and powerful Portuguese lord who controls a spice trading company, that in turn hires exporers in the vein of Vasco de Gama. We seek spices, and these spices will bring us fame, fortune and power.

At the beginning of each turn, we auction items that have come into the possession of our respective companies. You may purchase the item for yourself, or you may allow another company to purchase it from you!

After the auctions, you can invest your money in several things. You may commission explorers, decree taxes, harvest spices, recruit colonists or order ships built. Each will give you the resources to do other things in the game. Shrewd management of your resources will give you more influence and the ability to increase the yields in each of the activities that you may undertake. Whoever is able to manage his spice trading and exploration company the best will win the game!"

You get the drift eh? Use the theme, it helps the players remember the mechanisms, acclimates them to the correct game terms, and generally makes the game a lot more fun and distinct from all the other auction/action games out there. This way, even if the game runs sort of like The Princes of Florence, the players will believe they're out in India trading spices and not sitting in an Italian Palazzo auditioning jesters.

I'm not even going to discuss Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, Amun-Re, Taj Mahal or Traders of Genoa, as those games have themes so strongly linked to the theme so as to be obvious to the teacher and players. If you need help though, I'm always happy to outline how to relate mechanisms of these games to their theme. meeple
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Pueblo [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1008]
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
Very strong theme in this game. I tried to write this review the way I explain the game to players:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/59911

Hopefully that can give you an idea of how I try to leverage the theme even in a game labelled as "abstract strategy" here on the Geek. (I respectfully disagree, by the way - Yinsh and Dvonn are abstract strategy, not Pueblo.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:133]
Deleted User
msg tools
badge
Avatar
Now on to my great frustration.

I've never been able to do anything with RA's theme. I can't even identify who the players are. Are the players Gods? Not likely, since a Anubis wouldn't need to call RA down to help him. Are the players Pharoahs or Kings? Maybe, and that would make the Suns the strength of the Pharoah's influence with the Gods (or RA, specifically), but then are the Pharoahs asking RA to award the bounties to them? Are the disasters part of the price exacted by the Sun God?

If anyone has any ideas how to apply theme to mechanisms here, I could really use them.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
Michael Lewis
United States
Unspecified
flag msg tools
If I understand the point of this list, then isn't Tikal pretty much the definition of what he is getting at.

BTW: I'm with the folks who think you're pasting on more theme than is there. Even though the Pubelo theme seems to work with me for some reason, don't know why.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
8. Board Game: Leapfrog [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:5868]
Steve Oliver
United States
Alameda
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Richard, this is a great list. I agree completely with your point: a theme can be "pasted-on" but as long as it helps explain the purpose and actions of the game, it serves it's purpose. And if the theme IS the game, then all the better.

My most recent experience was the other night at family game night playing LeapFrog with 5 children. This game has so much theme, it's even in the game title! The game is all about leaping your frogs, that's it. In three races. Use your number tokens. You have 6 of them. The number shows how far you can jump, or how often you can be jumped. If you land in the dinner plate in race #3, you're eaten! BTW, I hope it's OK that this game is from Scotland
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.