CARL SKUTSCH
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I've been thinking about themes lately. So, of course, I had to make some polls.

By theme I mean what you mean by theme. Clearly, everyone has different ideas about what theme means but each individual has their own idea and I figure it'll be fine if you go with that. As long as the sanctity and integrity of the poll are maintained.

(I apologize if I didn't include your favorite theme. A pet peeve of mine is poll questions that have too many answers so I tried to limit my list to the more likely themes. If I left off a theme it's purely because of my own blindness.)

Poll
When you play games with themes, how important is that theme to you?
Not important at all. I care about the mechanics, not the theme.
Slightly important. Sometimes theme can affect my enjoyment of a game.
Moderately important. A good theme can make enjoy playing more and/or a bad theme can make me less likely to play.
Very important. I really focus on theme when picking my games.
      451 answers
Poll created by skutsch


Poll
Do you think theme flows or can flow from mechanics?
I think theme, when it is there, is just tacked on. Any set of mechanics can have a wide variety of themes tacked onto them.
I think some mechanics are more easily flavored with certain themes than others.
I think that while some games have tacked on themes, others (wargames, for example), have themes that flow directly from the mechanics.
      268 answers
Poll created by skutsch


Poll
Are there some games that you just won't play because of the theme?
No, there are no themes that will keep me from playing a game.
Yes, there are a few themes that will keep me from playing a game.
Yes, there are a lot of themes that will keep me from playing a game.
      280 answers
Poll created by skutsch


Poll
What kinds of themes would would make you less likely or unwilling to play a game?
Themes that seen to exploit women (overly explicit art etc.).
Themes that ignore or downplay historical crimes (slavery, Nazism).
Themes that offend my religious beliefs.
Themes that involve violence or conflict.
Themes that are just too boring.
There are no themes that would make me less likely to play a game.
      256 answers
Poll created by skutsch


Poll
What are your favorite themes?
I have no favorite themes, they are irrelevant to me.
I have no favorite themes, I dislike them all equally.
I have no favorite themes, I like almost all of them equally or close to equally.
Economic
Stock manipulation
Politics
Urban planning
Science Fiction
Cyperpunk/Hacker
Post apocalyptic
Anime
Fantasy
Horror
Zombies
Cthulhu
Steampunk
Pirates
Civilization
Exploration
Western
Modern
20th century
19th century
17th to 18th century
Renaissance
Medieval
Ancient
Trains
Racing
Science
Sports
Bluffing
Espionage
Mystery or Crime
East Asian (Japan, China, Korea)
South Asian
Middle Eastern
African
Latin American
North American
European
Story telling
Fighting (Hand to hand, dueling etc)
Wargames
      247 answers
Poll created by skutsch
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Asaf Fabbi
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I filled out your poll but because I think my perspective on it comes across in a good example through one of my reviews, I would also like to refer you to it. See my link below.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1431242/gold-west-aka-eu...
 
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G Strobel
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The only theme I won't play is Zombie. I just don't get it and I think it's way overdone.
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Daniel B-G
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I find that there aren't many themes that will make me enjoy a game more, but there are definitely quite a few that make me enjoy the game less. They aren't specifically connected to a category of themes (e.g. Mediterranean Traders), it's more to do with the overall composition.

If a game includes detail, I want it to be right (Fief: France 1429 gives me serious rage with it's ahistorical approach). The inverse is not true though, if the game has abstracted certain things I'm OK with that, even if they are offensive (like slaves in Puerto Rico).

If a game's premise is artificial (a recent example is Trickerion: Legends of Illusion) I take umbrage. Typically it will have the form "you have been brought together in a contest with a specific rules and will be assessed on it". That causes a complete collapse of interest. Typically, this will only apply if I learn from the rulebook. If I learn from another person this doesn't tend to be a problem.

If a game doesn't make sense of what it's attempting to portray, the experience deflates. Good example, Resident Evil deckbuilder and Thunderstone. Often argued to be more thematic than Dominion, I'm of the opinion they are less, as what you are doing makes no sense. "I don't have that shotgun I picked up a moment ago because I have a really huge backpack and I can't find it right now".

Finally, if a game poorly positions itself, I tend to struggle with it. Dungeon Bazaar I found annoying because it made itself out to be fun and silly, but it was far too calculating and complex to be enjoyable. There was a poor match between the theme and the mechanics.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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DAAAN wrote:
If a game's premise is artificial (a recent example is Trickerion: Legends of Illusion) I take umbrage. Typically it will have the form "you have been brought together in a contest with a specific rules and will be assessed on it". That causes a complete collapse of interest. Typically, this will only apply if I learn from the rulebook. If I learn from another person this doesn't tend to be a problem.

Yah, those contest games really put me off. I didn't list "contest" as a theme because a) it didn't occur to me and b) if it had occurred, I wouldn't have considered a theme but merely a placeholder for an actual theme. They seem so artificial and pasted on that I immediately lose interest when I discover that's the premiss.
 
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I really like it when the rule book matches the theme of the game, like galaxy trucker and dungeon lord. Vlaada Chital (sorry if I misspelled that) is my favorite game deisgner for that reason. He really puts a lot of thought into the theme and tries to integrate it into the game.
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This theme thing has already been discussed to hell and back, so might as well be argumentative. I would like to put you on notice that Bluffing, Storytelling, Anime and Wargames are not themes.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Kiraboshi wrote:
This theme thing has already been discussed to hell and back, so might as well be argumentative. I would like to put you on notice that Bluffing, Storytelling, Anime and Wargames are not themes.

Bluffing and Storytelling are more mechanics than themes, true. I put them in because I felt they were particular styles of game that some people preferred and they could fit in my very broadly defined theme list.

Wargames tell very specific stories about very specific battles/wars. They are dripping in flavor and theme. In the same way that Arkham Horror tries to capture the feeling of facing a horror from beyond the ken of man, Paths of Glory tries to give one the feeling of being the supreme commander of the horrors of trench warfare.

And Anime, of course Anime is thematic. That hair, those eyes, it reeks theme! Who do you think you are saying Anime is not thematic?!? (I notice that you list yourself as an Anime fan, which may give you some expertise; but you also list no games, so you clearly don't know how games and theme work )
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skutsch wrote:
Kiraboshi wrote:
This theme thing has already been discussed to hell and back, so might as well be argumentative. I would like to put you on notice that Bluffing, Storytelling, Anime and Wargames are not themes.

Bluffing and Storytelling are more mechanics than themes, true. I put them in because I felt they were particular styles of game that some people preferred and they could fit in my very broadly defined theme list.

Wargames tell very specific stories about very specific battles/wars. They are dripping in flavor and theme. In the same way that Arkham Horror tries to capture the feeling of facing a horror from beyond the ken of man, Paths of Glory tries to give one the feeling of being the supreme commander of the horrors of trench warfare.

And Anime, of course Anime is thematic. That hair, those eyes, it reeks theme! Who do you think you are saying Anime is not thematic?!? (I notice that you list yourself as an Anime fan, which may give you some expertise; but you also list no games, so you clearly don't know how games and theme work )

Yes, wargames are thematic. No, "wargame" is not a theme. The theme would be "war." There's more to a wargame than just having a theme about war.

Anime is literally-speaking any animation, but it also refers to a Japanese pop-art style. You could draw something in an anime style with the theme being any of those you listed.
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Jordan Booth
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skutsch wrote:
A pet peeve of mine is poll questions that have too many answers

I can relate, but this made the polls a bit awkward for me as I ended up answering that there are many themes I won't play, but then when asked about specific themes it is to say which ones I DO like? Why not include both like and dislike polls with the same list of themes? Also the 4th poll is way too broad so that I could only pick "boring themes" because every other category included themes I like and themes I don't ("violence and conflict" includes zombies but also every other game with any form of combat.)
 
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Daniel B-G
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This is part of the problem with the theme topic. Some people use it to describe a trait (anime/wargame) others use it to describe a topic (exploration/racing)

My favourite example is Dominion vs Thunderstone. Dominion's theme works better. I can understand why as my estates grow, I become less efficient. That makes sense. I don't understand how that works in Thunderstone. That being said, I do understand how people reach that point.

The people who think that Thunderstone has a richer theme do so because they focus on the "phenomenal" theme. I am more interested in the "essential" theme.
 
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John
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Q4 (What kinds of themes would would make you less likely or unwilling to play a game?) I answered yes if that would ever be a reason for me not playing a game - e.g. I said yes for "Themes that involve violence or conflict." - I play some games that have some violence or conflict, but in general I'm less likely to play a game the more violence it has in it and there is certainly a level of violence where I would refuse to play a game.
 
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For me themes I like aren't that closely tied to specific genre such as SciFi - though I prefer certain genre to others it's as much how the theme is implemented as what the theme is. I like fantasy, lots of fantasy games have really boring themes.
 
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I don't buy, play, own:

Zombie

Anime fighting (yomi, battlecon). This just isn't really our thing.

War so far, other than political (twilight struggle and other political games are the exception)

Paranormal, darker fantasy art, gore

Games where I feel slavery is a main topic (at times it offends me and often it does not interest me in game form)

Religious subjects and or allusions (not interested in this topic in this form). Anything with brimstone, hell, demons, angels, etc...


I am less likely to buy, play, own

Western

Scifi

 
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J C Lawrence
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In general I ignore theme. The first thing I do when playing any game is to strip off any thematic trappings and reduce the game to an algebra. Despite and partially because of this, almost all the games I play feature trains and stock market systems and are set in the 1800s.

So far the only game whose thematic choice has left me uncomfortable is Twilight Struggle.
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Murray MacPherson
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Zombies, Cthulhu or anything just plain boring would go straight to the bottom of my want to play list.
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clearclaw wrote:
So far the only game whose thematic choice has left me uncomfortable is Twilight Struggle.


I'd be interested to hear why.
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It mostly has to do with being set during the period of the invention of modern marketing (Edward Bernays et al) and ignoring that sea change.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Take note, I checked off

Themes that seen to exploit women (overly explicit art etc.).
Themes that ignore or downplay historical crimes (slavery, Nazism).

yet I own Barbarossa. Awkward.
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Dave K
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Love 'em even if a few games get scuttled from time to time.
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In general theme is just "icing on a cake" to me. It's nice when there's a good theme, or when the mechanics and the theme line up, as that can make a game easier to teach. However, I won't enjoy a mechanically flawed game even if the theme is interesting, and I won't dislike a game if it's a solid design just because the theme is absent or dull.
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1. Somewhere in between slightly important and not important at all. Voted for slightly important

2. Aren't they are all true? I voted for some mechanics are more easily flavoured with some themes than others.

3. I voted for "there are no themes that would keep me from playing a game". Actually that's not quite true. I wouldn't play Juden Raus even if the mechanics were good but that is such an extreme example that it didn't seem worth taking into account when casting my vote.

4. I couldn't vote for this one. Themes aren't completely irrelevant to me but I don't have a favourite. I am slightly drawn to games with orignal, quirky themes. World war II is a minor turn off, because it has been done to death, in just about every type of media I can think of.
 
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Pas L
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The fifth poll just screams "I use the word theme differently to you".
 
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CARL SKUTSCH
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clearclaw wrote:
It mostly has to do with being set during the period of the invention of modern marketing (Edward Bernays et al) and ignoring that sea change.

Seriously or making a funny? It's just I know that you ignore theme so I'm wondering why you'd pay attention to the subject matter of this game (or, rather, what's missing from the subject matter) rather than merely look at the mechanics.

It was a J.C. joke, right? They're subtle so I don't always get them.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Buckersuk wrote:
3. I voted for "there are no themes that would keep me from playing a game". Actually that's not quite true. I wouldn't play Juden Raus even if the mechanics were good but that is such an extreme example that it didn't seem worth taking into account when casting my vote.

Huh, disgusting that there ever was such a game. Thanks for making me aware.
 
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skutsch wrote:
It's just I know that you ignore theme so I'm wondering why you'd pay attention to the subject matter of this game (or, rather, what's missing from the subject matter) rather than merely look at the mechanics.


Think of it more as a crowning problem.

Twilight Struggle is a CDG and thus automatically uninteresting. That's simple, I can (and do) simply ignore the game.

But I am asked to play it...the primary claim is that thematic binding is the primary source of its interest. (Ditto Churchill more recently) Okay, if I ignore the mechanisms and consider the thematic binding, then the very first thing that stands out is that it explicitly relies on and yet entirely ignores the greatest travesty of the period. A bit of (un)intentional satire or cultural negligence perhaps? Ehh, not so much. Instead the sense is of listening to a holocaust denier or anti-vaccinator, except this time the largest rewriting of culture and morality in centuries, but in the form of a game. Yeah, these are very silly people being criminally stupid in all three cases. And I don't like that if I also need to operate with the game thematically. I am uncomfortable with that. Not a terrible thing, not an impossible thing, not something I can't do, but something that is not as comfortable a thing as it could be.

Specifically: a game whose thematic choice has left me uncomfortable.
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