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John Rogers
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To what degree is the topic represented in game play? I'm looking for an immersive experience regarding the culture/history of pre-columbian civilizations such as the Incas.

For reference I'm looking for something closer to the Phil Eklund end of things ala Pax Porfiriana, not so much the traditional euro treatment such as Inca Empire (a networking game with an Incan theme).

Thanks.
 
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Kentaro Sugiyama
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I have played the game 14 times. It is a traditional Euro (i.e., resource collection-->buy workers/tokens-->move up a track-->collect cards) with theme that is loosely tied to mechanics. The board is sort of a gigantic rondel, which dictates what action will occur on a player's turn: collection of resources, buying of tokens, pseudo-worker placement, resource trading, and triggering movement of your pawn in a separate, looped track to collect cards and resources. End game VPs are mainly from multiplier/workers and cards. The hidden card collection aspect drives temporary semi-cooperation with hidden agendas--either keep Machu Picchu hidden or let it be conquered by the Spaniards.

Immersive? Despite my dry description above, the game makes me feel like a Prince of Machu Picchu, and I do feel torn as to whether to protect it or let it be conquered; there is great tension in the game because the other players are also secretly making their own decision. But, as a cultural/history lesson, this is not.

For disclosure, I am not fully familiar with any of Phil Eklund's designs, other than having read the rules to High Frontier. That in of itself is enough to convince me that this is nowhere close to the level of intricacy and detail Eklund has in his games.
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David Larkin
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It's got llama meeples
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Peter Schell
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"Princes..." includes a separate 7 page booklet about the history and themes of the game.

Another game with a strong non-western historical theme tied well to game play is Aloha: The Spirit of Hawaii
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John Rogers
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hinotori wrote:
Immersive? Despite my dry description above, the game makes me feel like a Prince of Machu Picchu, and I do feel torn as to whether to protect it or let it be conquered; there is great tension in the game because the other players are also secretly making their own decision. But, as a cultural/history lesson, this is not.

For disclosure, I am not fully familiar with any of Phil Eklund's designs, other than having read the rules to High Frontier. That in of itself is enough to convince me that this is nowhere close to the level of intricacy and detail Eklund has in his games.


Kentaro,

I see that you own Agricola (which I find rather representative of its topic) and Samurai (which I find rather abstract). Where is Princes' theme when compared with these two?

Thanks.
 
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John Rogers
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peterschell wrote:
"Princes..." includes a separate 7 page booklet about the history and themes of the game.


The designer includes a similar booklet in Imperial as well. Which I find interesting, though it has little correlation to whether the game is topically immersive or not.

peterschell wrote:
Another game with a strong non-western historical theme tied well to game play is Aloha: The Spirit of Hawaii


Thanks. I'll check it out.

 
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Kentaro Sugiyama
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John Rogers wrote:

Kentaro,

I see that you own Agricola (which I find rather representative of its topic) and Samurai (which I find rather abstract). Where is Princes' theme when compared with these two?

Thanks.

Hi John,

Without hesitation, Princes' theme is closer to Agricola than Samurai. Agricola's mechanics make me feel like a farmer, albeit a poor one, with so many things to do, but so little time. Princes is like that. Also, it's about as brain-melty and convoluted as Reef Encounter, which I see you own.

Samurai is like Go with hexes, with a pasted-on theme, where the board happens to be shaped like Japan. At no point do I feel like a samurai--Shogun is perfect for that. With experience, it starts to feel more like Chess, building up move versus counter-move, until it all cascades and implodes like a house of cards when one player makes a mistake.

I don't think you could do a better job at picking such polar opposites with regards to theme integration than Agricola and Samurai.
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John Rogers
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hinotori wrote:
I don't think you could do a better job at picking such polar opposites with regards to theme integration than Agricola and Samurai.


That was the idea. So it's similar to Reef Encounter in topic integration as well then?
 
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Kentaro Sugiyama
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John Rogers wrote:
hinotori wrote:
I don't think you could do a better job at picking such polar opposites with regards to theme integration than Agricola and Samurai.


That was the idea. So it's similar to Reef Encounter in topic integration as well then?

I wonder if you and I are using the meanings of "topic" and "theme" interchangeably? For clarity, using popular definitions of these words, I understand "topic", to mean "the subject of," while "Theme" is "the central message of." These definitions could be extended, possibly incorrectly, to board games in general. I personally use "theme" as more the degree or quality of the "experience" I have with the game--the reaction I have, the feelings that are invoked, that convince me that the game is appropriately "simulating" the "topic" of the board game.

So, topic-wise, Princes is about the Incas, and more specifically "the internal struggle within the Incan royalty to protect or betray the last city of the Inca." The theme or experience that the game invokes is exactly that: a struggle between the players on collectively making that decision through their independent actions. Am I devoted enough to raise enough priests (a slow process) to protect the city, or am I lured by the lust for gold such that I willingly accelerate the game to end?

Topic-wise, Reef Encounter is about the ecosystem of a coral reef. The object is to feed your parrotfish as much coral, preferably the most dominant ones in the reef. The theme or experience, through the mechanics of the actions I take, convince me that the game is simulating, albeit, abstractly, the life-and-death struggles that I assume happen within a coral reef. I say "assume" because before Reef, I didn't even have a clue on the complex relationships between larvae, polyps, coral, shrimp, and parrotfish!

Although both games have convoluted paths to victory, I would say that Reef represents the topic more faithfully, since the mechanics and actions tie more meaningfully with the larvae, polyps, coral, shrimp, and parrotfish. However, in my opinion, Princes does a better job in the intangible experiential aspect.

As for Agricola being the polar opposite of Samurai, I take that back. I'd use Antiquity for that! Agricola represents the topic of medieval farmers trying to survive (and thrive!), while Antiquity represents the topic of a city trying to survive. So, both have similar topics of survival in medieval times. However, Antiquity is more detailed in the resource collection aspect--chopping down trees to clear way for fields, planting of seeds, harvesting, and eventual pollution of the land, compared to going to an action space in Agricola and getting X resources. Thus, I would think Antiquity is more immersive than Agricola in terms of theme, although they share similar topics.

Samurai represents the topic of daimyo asserting control or "favor" over samurai, priests, and farmers, but the mechanics could have easily represented other topics; the theme is replaceable, but the experience invoked by the actions would have been just as generic, because they are less meaningful.

edit: typo
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John Rogers
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hinotori wrote:
John Rogers wrote:
hinotori wrote:
I don't think you could do a better job at picking such polar opposites with regards to theme integration than Agricola and Samurai. :D


That was the idea. So it's similar to Reef Encounter in topic integration as well then?

I wonder if you and I are using the meanings of "topic" and "theme" interchangeably? For clarity, using popular definitions of these words, I understand "topic", to mean "the subject of," while "Theme" is "the central message of." These definitions could be extended, possibly incorrectly, to board games in general. I personally use "theme" as more the degree or quality of the "experience" I have with the game--the reaction I have, the feelings that are invoked, that convince me that the game is appropriately "simulating" the "topic" of the board game.


We will go with the definitions you gave as all that is important in this particular case is that we are speaking the same language and understanding one another.

hinotori wrote:
So, topic-wise, Princes is about the Incas, and more specifically "the internal struggle within the Incan royalty to protect or betray the last city of the Inca." The theme or experience that the game invokes is exactly that: a struggle between the players on collectively making that decision through their independent actions. Am I devoted enough to raise enough priests (a slow process) to protect the city, or am I lured by the lust for gold such that I willingly accelerate the game to end?


This sounds great. I went ahead and ordered it based upon your thoughts. I'm not expecting Phil Eklund immersion level (though one can hope) but am expecting something along the lines of Agricola/Reef Encounter immersion levels.

hinotori wrote:
Topic-wise, Reef Encounter is about the ecosystem of a coral reef. The object is to feed your parrotfish as much coral, preferably the most dominant ones in the reef. The theme or experience, through the mechanics of the actions I take, convince me that the game is simulating, albeit, abstractly, the lift-and-death struggles that I assume happen within a coral reef. I say "assume" because before Reef, I didn't even have a clue on the complex relationships between larvae, polyps, coral, shrimp, and parrotfish!


My wife and I quite enjoy Reef Encounter. It is a classic example of an immersive euro in that when looking at the big picture it does indeed tell the story it sets out to tell. On a more micro-level some of the mechanics work better than others in terms of theme (parrot fish guarding reefs good: stock gathering and manipulation fun but more abstracted). Either way, it does a good job overall.

hinotori wrote:
Although both games have convoluted paths to victory, I would say that Reef represents the topic more faithfully, since the mechanics and actions tie more meaningfully with the larvae, polyps, coral, shrimp, and parrotfish. However, in my opinion, Princes does a better job in the intangible experiential aspect.


Could you elaborate a bit more on the bold?

hinotori wrote:
As for Agricola being the polar opposite of Samurai, I take that back. I'd use Antiquity for that! Agricola represents the topic of medieval farmers trying to survive (and thrive!), while Antiquity represents the topic of a city trying to survive. So, both have similar topics of survival in medieval times. However, Antiquity is more detailed in the resource collection aspect--chopping down trees to clear way for fields, planting of seeds, harvesting, and eventual pollution of the land, compared to going to an action space in Agricola and getting X resources. Thus, I would think Antiquity is more immersive than Agricola in terms of theme, although they share similar topics.


Antiquity is much more detailed while also being bigger in scope (cities vs a single farm). I personally prefer Antiquity but my group prefers Agricola. Both are good designs though.

hinotori wrote:
Samurai represents the topic of daimyo asserting control or "favor" over samurai, priests, and farmers, but the mechanics could have easily represented other topics; the theme is replaceable, but the experience invoked by the actions would have been just as generic, because they are less meaningful.


Yep my thoughts exactly.
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Kentaro Sugiyama
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John Rogers wrote:
We will go with the definitions you gave as all that is important in this particular case is that we are speaking the same language and understanding one another.

I would be curious to hear what your definitions of "topic" versus "theme" are.

John Rogers wrote:
hinotori wrote:
So, topic-wise, Princes is about the Incas, and more specifically "the internal struggle within the Incan royalty to protect or betray the last city of the Inca." The theme or experience that the game invokes is exactly that: a struggle between the players on collectively making that decision through their independent actions. Am I devoted enough to raise enough priests (a slow process) to protect the city, or am I lured by the lust for gold such that I willingly accelerate the game to end?

This sounds great. I went ahead and ordered it based upon your thoughts. I'm not expecting Phil Eklund immersion level (though one can hope) but am expecting something along the lines of Agricola/Reef Encounter immersion levels.

I'm honored. Let's hope it meets your expectations. Yes, the immersion level will be around Agricola/Reef Encounter levels. Up until this thread, I hadn't completely articulated the topic for Princes so clearly and vividly, at least for me.

John Rogers wrote:
hinotori wrote:
Topic-wise, Reef Encounter is about the ecosystem of a coral reef. The object is to feed your parrotfish as much coral, preferably the most dominant ones in the reef. The theme or experience, through the mechanics of the actions I take, convince me that the game is simulating, albeit, abstractly, the life-and-death struggles that I assume happen within a coral reef. I say "assume" because before Reef, I didn't even have a clue on the complex relationships between larvae, polyps, coral, shrimp, and parrotfish!

My wife and I quite enjoy Reef Encounter. It is a classic example of an immersive euro in that when looking at the big picture it does indeed tell the story it sets out to tell. On a more micro-level some of the mechanics work better than others in terms of theme (parrot fish guarding reefs good: stock gathering and manipulation fun but more abstracted). Either way, it does a good job overall.

Princes took a number of plays to see the big picture. At first glance, it was a resource collection/conversion Euro. But, the internal/external struggle posed by a "traitor" mechanic convinced me there was so much more here, and there was indeed a "story" to be told.

John Rogers wrote:
hinotori wrote:
Although both games have convoluted paths to victory, I would say that Reef represents the topic more faithfully, since the mechanics and actions tie more meaningfully with the larvae, polyps, coral, shrimp, and parrotfish. However, in my opinion, Princes does a better job in the intangible experiential aspect.

Could you elaborate a bit more on the bold?

In Reef, the actions I take have immediate effects and reprecussions: larvae turn into starting coral, stronger coral patches overtake weaker coral, shrimp guard coral, and parrotfishes eat coral; you get immediate feedback as to how well you are doing in the game--you can keep track of the number of coral eaten by the other players' parrotfishes and there are indicators all around. The mechanics make intuitive sense and map directly to expected behavior or results.

In Princes, you get resources, trade them in the market, place your inca workers, engage a priest or virgin, make sacrifices, and race your scout up the mountain path to get sacrifice cards, then rinse and repeat. However, you really don't have any idea of how well you are doing because scoring is dependent and driven by what is on the sacrifice cards, which are also hidden from the other players. Sure, there are some indications, like the number of sacrifice cards others have relative to yours, or if they are concentrating on developing inca workers or priests/virgins, but you don't really know until the end of the game. For the first number of plays, there may be no idea of why you are doing any of these things or how they all interrelate, except that you have the remotest sense that they are important. The mechanics don't make intuitive sense, and they don't map directly to expected behavior or results. At least, that is how I felt for my first number of plays.

With more plays I started to contemplate the agonizing decision of whether to keep Machu Picchu hidden or let it fall to Spanish conquest. I could get a sense of which way to go with the sacrifice cards that I was getting (each card has a number of gold statues, where the top-two players with the most will have their base score doubled or tripled in the case of a Spanish conquest), although here too, I had a choice to "morph" my hand by discarding previous cards (when the scout reaches the summit, you draw 3 cards into your hand and then discard any 2 cards). From their actions, I could start to get a sense if other players were thinking the same thing and then we would start to collude in quickening or slowing the pace of the game, while at the same time undermine efforts of the other "side", one-up my unspoken fellow collaborators and then possibly, quietly switch teams! While there is a "traitor" aspect to this game, there is no card that tells you that you are one--you get to decide based on how well you are doing in collecting gold statues. The psychological drama posed by this mechanic alone is why I find this game so compelling, and why I feel it does a better job from an intangible experiential aspect.
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hinotori wrote:
John Rogers wrote:
We will go with the definitions you gave as all that is important in this particular case is that we are speaking the same language and understanding one another.

I would be curious to hear what your definitions of "topic" versus "theme" are. 


I think of topic in terms of research, detail, and simulation in mechanical representation and narrative fidelity (the why behind what I am doing). I think of theme in terms of feeling, similar to how you described that intangible effect you get in PoMP.

I think a lot of people regard theme as art work, cool bits, and ostensible topic. While I appreciate good production values, I find that they alone cannot support a design.
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