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Subject: Abstract gamers: Why? rss

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Pauly Paul
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Narrow Gate Games wrote:
venrondua wrote:
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Themes can be distracting or just a turn off. I'm a middle aged professional and you want me to sit down and pretend I'm a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers?? There are some games that I won't buy just because the theme seems silly, childish, etc.

Themes can also go in and out of fashion: zombies, steampunk,...
I'm a middle aged professional and absolutely would want to be a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers. You're speaking of personal preference, age and "professionalism" doesn't come into play.
Fair enough.

I guess my point WAS about personal preference. You may want to be a dwarf, I may want to be a zombie, someone else my want to be a chef, or a bank robber, or an astronaut, or an insect, whatever. So, we may each search for certain games with that theme, AND avoid games that have other themes. So, the wrong theme (according to each person's preference) may mean that game doesn't get purchased, played, etc.

So, pasted on theme's that are pasted on for marketing purposes may be "hot" for a year, but then risk falling out of style.

Absolutely. I mostly took issue with the tone, that seemed to apply that only children (or the immature?) would like a themed game (like a dungeon crawl) and that is why abstracts are better.
 
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My wife and I seem to go through abstract "phases." For instance, we might play something like Gipf or Dvonn frequently over a 2 or 3 week period, but then not play again for more than a year.
 
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fogus wrote:
I find myself often driven into a rage by the disconnect of Euro mechanics with their "theme."
That sounds more like a personal problem than a flaw with the games.
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Thunkd wrote:
fogus wrote:
I find myself often driven into a rage by the disconnect of Euro mechanics with their "theme."
That sounds more like a personal problem than a flaw with the games.
Definitely. My understanding is Eurogames are particularly designed to avoid creating emotional responses.
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RingelTree wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
fogus wrote:
I find myself often driven into a rage by the disconnect of Euro mechanics with their "theme."
That sounds more like a personal problem than a flaw with the games.
Definitely. My understanding is Eurogames are particularly designed to avoid creating emotional responses.
Nonsense! There's nothing quite like converting cubes to points more efficiently than your opponents. Why, I might even allow myself a brief quirk of the lips if I make a particularly efficient play. And perhaps, if I'm feeling particularly overcome with emotions, I'll push my score marker to the next spot with an ever so slightly more exuberant finger tap. Good times!
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Thunkd wrote:
That sounds more like a personal problem than a flaw with the games.
Not true... just look at this guy and try not to feel anger:

Board Game: Caylus


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nycavri wrote:
Why do you enjoy them so much? why not remove a smidgen of luck from your hobby and convert to abstracts? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with euro gamers either, I'm just curious about what you find in theme-light euros that you don't find in perfect information abstract games?
But... there are euro games with no luck and perfect information.
Not to mention there are abstracts that have neither.
 
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Thunkd wrote:
fogus wrote:
I find myself often driven into a rage by the disconnect of Euro mechanics with their "theme."
That sounds more like a personal problem than a flaw with the games.
cool

Of course it's not a personal problem.

My brain, used to contemporary art, will follow trains of thought and associations from whatever one throws at it. Games with theme disconnect make my brain feel like bumping into a wall, because it says "door", but there's nothing to open. Severely annoying - because there is an impression of an invitation. Theme is an invitation, to go into it and do whatever there is to do (make sense of rules, immerse, create narrative, depends on the game in question and what function does it give to theme). With theme disconnect games it's like trying to read a book which is just a stage prop - an impression of a book, but can't be opened or read.

However if a game makes it obvious there is no point to its theme and it's just "window dressing" to some mechanics in a box (Torres, Hansa Teutonica) then I don't have this issue, because I can tell there is no invitation to go into the theme.

RingelTree wrote:
Definitely. My understanding is Eurogames are particularly designed to avoid creating emotional responses.
I'd say this is a side effect, not the aim, but ok.
(Or it was a side effect with German games (casual, family games), but might have become the aim when american hobbyist interpreted this games in ways of competitive focus which gave rise to what are nowadays called euro-games. But, maybe this is a bit too much detail).

Still when a theme is used in euros, it's used to make rules intuitive, to help them make sense. So that the game is easier to learn and flow of the game make sense helping with lighter rules overhead. Power Grid for instance - the flow of the game makes sense (Buy powerplant, buy fuel for power plant, invest into a distribution network, burn fuel in power plants to supply your network and earn money. Without a theme, it would be quite complicated)
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sgosaric wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
fogus wrote:
I find myself often driven into a rage by the disconnect of Euro mechanics with their "theme."
That sounds more like a personal problem than a flaw with the games.
cool

Of course it's not a personal problem.
If I see someone "in a rage" because the theme of the game and the mechanics don't mesh... yeah, that guy's got problems that didn't come out of a game box.
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Thunkd wrote:
If I see someone "in a rage" because the theme of the game and the mechanics don't mesh... yeah, that guy's got problems that didn't come out of a game box.
When I see someone who misses the part of the post that says "just kidding" I assume that they didn't read the whole post. So where does the problem come from again?
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Two problems for you.

First, there are cards. All cards have a number on one side and a letter on the other. Four cards show A, B, 1, 2. Which two cards will you check the reverse of in order to test the hypothesis that if a card has a vowel on its letter side then it has an odd number on the other?

Second, in a bar there are four people. You can see that one is drinking whisky and one is drinking lemonade, but you can't see how old they are. You can see one is about 15 and one is about 40, but you can't see what they are drinking. Which two people do you go and check further?

Which was easier for you? What does that say about theme?
 
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plezercruz wrote:
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Themes can be distracting or just a turn off. I'm a middle aged professional and you want me to sit down and pretend I'm a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers?? There are some games that I won't buy just because the theme seems silly, childish, etc.

Themes can also go in and out of fashion: zombies, steampunk,...
I don't know about that. In my experience, theme helps you put game mechanics in a context that makes sense, allowing you to play the game with an understanding of what is going on.

I'll offer one recent example:

I own a copy of Scandaroon. The best way I can describe it is that it's a card game on which every card has a point value and one or more powers. Unfortunately, it is almost completely unthemed. To make matters worse, the powers on the card are depicted with a symbology that would make Race for the Galaxy seem transparent...you constantly have to look at the player aid card to know what your cards do.

The fact that the game is unthemed makes it somewhat unintelligible. The card powers appear at first glance to be completely random and just thrown in for the hell of it, but they're not. There are four suits in the game, and they all have their "power set." Swords, for example, are offensive and allow you to make others discard, which is a very thematic mechanic, but it's underdeveloped. In many ways, Scandaroon has cards which fit the Magic: The Gathering motifs (Red=offensive, White=defensive, Blue=game manipulation, Green=card buffs)

I rethemed the game (printed my own cards in a Pokemon theme for the kids), assigning the various powers to factions which make sense, and the game really pops. It goes from a bland and soulless abstract to a game where the fire Pokemon make your opponents discard and the electric Pokemon benefit from the presense of other electric Pokemon and the earth Pokemon are difficult to dislodge and the water Pokemon are "fluid" and can draw/disard for better advantage.

With the theme, Scandaroon, plays VERY well. Without the theme, arguably it played just as well, but nobody I ever showed it to understood it or cared to try.

Pete (thinks a good theme makes gameplay far more intuitive and fun)
Now I want that Pokemon retheme.
 
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venrondua wrote:
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
venrondua wrote:
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Themes can be distracting or just a turn off. I'm a middle aged professional and you want me to sit down and pretend I'm a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers?? There are some games that I won't buy just because the theme seems silly, childish, etc.

Themes can also go in and out of fashion: zombies, steampunk,...
I'm a middle aged professional and absolutely would want to be a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers. You're speaking of personal preference, age and "professionalism" doesn't come into play.
Fair enough.

I guess my point WAS about personal preference. You may want to be a dwarf, I may want to be a zombie, someone else my want to be a chef, or a bank robber, or an astronaut, or an insect, whatever. So, we may each search for certain games with that theme, AND avoid games that have other themes. So, the wrong theme (according to each person's preference) may mean that game doesn't get purchased, played, etc.

So, pasted on theme's that are pasted on for marketing purposes may be "hot" for a year, but then risk falling out of style.

Absolutely. I mostly took issue with the tone, that seemed to apply that only children (or the immature?) would like a themed game (like a dungeon crawl) and that is why abstracts are better.
Sorry about the tone. I was trying to be just a little bit sarcastic to prove my point. The fact is I have some favorite themes, and some I avoid. My favorite themes are just as "childish and silly" as the ones I don't like.
 
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Abstracts create an entirely different experience, and typically have a much greater depth of play available to them. They also embrace simplicity and generate hours from nothing, seemingly.

I need more abstracts, because one always needs more abstracts.
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There's a certain excitement when played with a timer. See Magnus Carlsen play with 30sec against 3min....and lose on time.

 
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It still really bugs me how the word "theme" is used so casually in board gaming to mean everything from setting, flavour, story, plot to whatnot...


(edited because i can neither spell nor type)
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dennisthebadger wrote:
It still really bugs me how the word "theme" is used so casually in board gaming to mean everything from setting, flavour, story, plot to whatnot...


(edited because i can neither spell nor type)
I always took it to mean artwork . I'm always amused by how little imagination some players have, that they need to be spoon fed 'theme' to be engaged.
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Thunkd wrote:
Well, I'm not an abstract only gamer by any means, but about 1/3rd of my gaming time is devoted to one particular abstract, Go, so I feel I have a little bit of perspective from which to answer your question.

Quote:
what you find in theme-less abstracts that you don't find in theme-light euro games?
Depth.

Most Euro games are designed so that you can sit down, learn the game, and be fairly proficient at it on your first play. Sure, the best players in the world will still own you, but the path to getting on par with those players is fairly short.

Comparatively, the first time you play Go, you will be quite horrible. Fortunately, Go has a beautiful handicapping system that allows for new (horrible) players to compete against better more experienced players. But there's a lot you have to learn to become a better player. And you could easily spend your entire lifetime devoting yourself to Go and always be improving and getting better and always knowing there are better players that could trounce you.

You can argue that I'm under-representing how much time and effort that it takes to get good at Euros... but like I said... I play Euro's 2/3rds of the time and Go 1/3rd of the time and there's absolutely no comparison. There is almost infinite depth in Go, while I've never run across a Euro that I thought had even a fraction of the same depth.
This makes me want to ask the hardcore abstract gamers something: How often do you actually find this sort of depth among your abstract games?

I play abstracts and enjoy them a lot, but while I love a good abstract I don't think I've ever found a modern abstract that actually felt like it had this sort of depth that games like Go and Chess are famous for. Which is not to say that there aren't any, of course, but how many are there? Is that really a reason to love abstracts in general or just a few specific games?
 
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grendelsbayne wrote:

This makes me want to ask the hardcore abstract gamers something: How often do you actually find this sort of depth among your abstract games?

...I don't think I've ever found a modern abstract that actually felt like it had this sort of depth that games like Go and Chess are famous for... how many are there?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_complexity#Complexities_o...

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Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Themes can be distracting or just a turn off. I'm a middle aged professional and you want me to sit down and pretend I'm a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers?? There are some games that I won't buy just because the theme seems silly, childish, etc.

Themes can also go in and out of fashion: zombies, steampunk,...
Middle-aged professional here, too, and I'm the exact opposite.

If you tell me we're playing a game where I can be a dwarf in a dungeon with special powers I'll be the first one at the table.
 
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gmc14 wrote:
grendelsbayne wrote:

This makes me want to ask the hardcore abstract gamers something: How often do you actually find this sort of depth among your abstract games?

...I don't think I've ever found a modern abstract that actually felt like it had this sort of depth that games like Go and Chess are famous for... how many are there?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_complexity#Complexities_o...

Thanks for the link. It's a very fascinating comparison, though I have no idea really how to translate any of those numbers to 'depth', except that Go seems be either first or second in almost every category, and always far above the average, while Chess looks only average from these measurements.
 
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grendelsbayne wrote:
I don't think I've ever found a modern abstract that actually felt like it had this sort of depth that games like Go and Chess are famous for.
I can't help you with modern abstracts. I've played a few that were interesting, but the only two abstracts I've ever fell in love with were Chess and Go, primarily because of their depth.

The closest modern abstract I can think of that may have a similar depth is Khet, the laser game. It feels a lot like Chess though.
 
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kroen wrote:
I have no problem with gamers that have huge collections with an abstract sprinkled here in there. Hell, I enjoy dabbling into abstract myself occsaionaly. My question is for gamers that have their bulk of their collection comprised entirely of abstract games: Why do you enjoy them so much? why not add a smidgen of theme to your hobby and convert to euro? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with abstract gamers either, I'm just curious about what you find in theme-less abstracts that you don't find in theme-light euro games?
I find that abstract games are usually the easiest to teach and most often have the least amount of rules. This can be less intimidating to people that don't game very often. Having a good collection of abstract games can provide more variety when hosting non-gamers, yet you want to provide games as a form of entertainment.
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grendelsbayne wrote:
I play abstracts and enjoy them a lot, but while I love a good abstract I don't think I've ever found a modern abstract that actually felt like it had this sort of depth that games like Go and Chess are famous for.
It's hard to know the depth of modern games as it takes many (hundreds? thousands?) years to build a deep historical record of their possibilities. That said, I've found/played/researched a good set of modern abstracts that seem to have great potential for similar depth including (but not limited to): Slither, Yinsh, Gipf, Emergo, Havannah, Catchup, Arimaa, Oust, Homeworlds, and Ayu.
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