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Subject: Theme ratings of top 112 BGG games (1-5 scale) rss

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CARL SKUTSCH
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EDIT: The newest data (at 406 votes) is on page 2 of this thread (HERE). I didn't want to invalidate anyone's comments on data so I left this post with the old data.

The data is from the poll at Definitive analysis of theme in the top 100 (+) games. There are 335 votes in that poll (as of this post) and I don't think the relative positions of games will change very much with more votes. (If needed, I built an automatic database converter so I can update it very quickly.)

What does it mean? I dunno. What does the "weight" rating mean? Or the overall game rating? Everyone has their own idea of what theme is about. (There are those who see Go as quite thematic and see no theme in Twilight Struggle. No, really, there are, and they walk among us.) So take this list and put whatever meaning you want into it. Whatever you think, someone out there agrees with you (and twice as many disagree with you).

Enjoy.

4.61 War of the Ring (2nd ed)
4.52 Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
4.48 Twilight Struggle
4.43 Star Wars Rebellion
4.42 Battlestar Galactica
4.39 Star Wars Imperial Assault
4.37 Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures
4.34 Dead of Winter
4.33 Robinson Crusoe
4.24 Twilight Imperium (3rd ed)
4.22 TIME Stories
4.20 Eldritch Horror
4.20 Descent (2nd ed)
4.06 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
4.03 Space Alert
4.00 Here I Stand
3.94 Combat Commander: Europe
3.93 A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd ed)
3.92 Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
3.89 Chaos in the Old World
3.89 Android Netrunner
3.89 The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
3.87 Paths of Glory
3.86 Memoir '44
3.81 Forbidden Stars
3.80 Mage Knight
3.75 Battlelore (2nd ed)
3.75 Dungeon Petz
3.73 Galaxy Trucker
3.64 Commands & Colors: Ancients
3.62 Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
3.60 Runewars
3.56 Arcadia Quest
3.53 Viticulture (all)
3.51 The Gallerist
3.50 Agricola
3.49 Food Chain Magnate
3.49 Blood Rage
3.47 Mage Wars Arena
3.47 Pandemic
3.46 Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
3.42 Eclipse
3.39 Alchemists
3.39 Scythe
3.33 Kemet
3.32 Railways of the World
3.30 Cosmic Encounter
3.28 Dominant Species
3.28 Age of Empires III
3.22 Village
3.20 Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
3.18 Summoner Wars (all)
3.17 Caverna
3.16 Shogun (all)
3.16 Brass
3.13 Fields of Arle
3.13 Imperial
3.08 Suburbia
3.05 Power Grid
3.02 Steam
3.01 Castles of Mad King Ludwig
2.99 Nations
2.98 Age of Steam
2.86 Le Havre
2.81 Stone Age
2.77 The Resistance: Avalon
2.77 Puerto Rico
2.76 The Voyages of Marco Polo
2.75 Tzolk'in
2.75 Lords of Waterdeep
2.74 La Granja
2.74 Mombasa
2.74 Ore et Labora
2.68 Imperial Settlers
2.63 Ticket to Ride (all)
2.62 Concordia
2.60 Race for the Galaxy
2.55 Istanbul
2.49 Star Realms
2.46 Tigris and Euphrates
2.45 Roll for the Galaxy
2.45 Goa
2.44 7 Wonders Duel
2.44 Troyes
2.44 The Prince of Florence
2.43 7 Wonders
2.42 Orleans
2.40 Russian Railroads
2.40 El Grande
2.37 Bora Bora
2.37 Caylus
2.34 Terra Mystica
2.27 Trajan
2.23 Patchwork
2.21 Jaipur
2.21 Keyflower
2.12 Hansa Teutonica
2.10 The Castles of Burgundy
2.07 Five Tribes
1.80 Dominion (all)
1.65 Splendor
1.58 Codenames
1.35 Tichu
1.21 Go
1.14 Crokinole
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Anthony Ferrise
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I think this is a really good list - and seems pretty accurate (at least to my opinions).

Thanks for doing this!
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Jake Blomquist
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Thanks for compiling this. I still say that a bunch of games ranks here make absolutely no sense to me. First of all, what's with the spread on the Uwe Rosenberg games? I'd say Agricola and Caverna are similarly thematic, maybe Agricola gets the edge, but by .3? And also both Fields of Arle and Ora et Labora definitely feel more thematic than either of those to me.

Terra Mystica is also about a point too low, and Eclipse definitely feels significantly more thematic to me than Through the Ages (and don't get the wrong idea here, the latter is definitely the better game).

I also think Sherlock Holmes is a bit overrated to me. It mostly goes along well and I feel relatively immersed, but then we run into some weird inconsistency or something and it takes me right out of it. The fact that you just go to a place and get what the writer decided you get is a great way to break immersion. I know it has to exist for balance reasons, but a lot of the times it feels like we want to go to a place to ask a particular question, and then we just get some other stuff and leave. Don't get me wrong it's a lot of fun and incredibly ambitious, but because their reach exceeded their grasp a bit I can't see calling it 'dripping' with theme.
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The Apostle Green
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Thanks for compiling this, Skutsch! I'm surprised at the discrepancy between TI and Eclipse -- they have a lot more similarities than differences in their mechanics, and I personally don't see how one incorporates theme more successfully than the other.
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Alison Mandible
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I can only think that Agricola got a boost from people who are used to having to defend its thematicness against skeptics. More thematic than Alchemists? Than Summoner Wars? Yeah no.
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Jacob Schoberg
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This is next level skutsch (revised edition). No longer just the polls, but now data extrapolated from polls.

Next, skutsch legacy.
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jay
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I normally don't mind theme, but man some of those 4+ games are Just too heavy themed for me to enJoy.
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grasa_total wrote:
I can only think that Agricola got a boost from people who are used to having to defend its thematicness against skeptics. More thematic than Alchemists? Than Summoner Wars? Yeah no.


Nah yeah.

Quote:
3.39 Scythe
3.33 Kemet
3.32 Railways of the World
3.30 Cosmic Encounter
3.28 Dominant Species


Two of these are way too high for me, and one is moderately high. I expect others might feel that same, but for entirely difference choices of the 5.
 
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Jake Blomquist
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lamaros wrote:
Quote:
3.39 Scythe
3.33 Kemet
3.32 Railways of the World
3.30 Cosmic Encounter
3.28 Dominant Species


Two of these are way too high for me, and one is moderately high. I expect others might feel that same, but for entirely difference choices of the 5.


I'm curious which for you. I've only played one (Kemet) and that I've only played once a while ago, so I don't really have an informed opinion on these five. That said from what I know of the rules Dominant Species seems like it would be the most thematic.
 
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Jake Blomquist
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Oh yeah, and Brass is way too low here, that's a very thematic game.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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emodiu5 wrote:
This is next level skutsch (revised edition). No longer just the polls, but now data extrapolated from polls.

Next, skutsch legacy.

I gotta get tattoos? Even more than I already have? Would they be the results of my polls or the number of thumbs my posts get? Or...

Poll
I think Skutsch should get a tattoo of...
...nothing at all. Skutsch is beautiful as he is.
...a happy Agricola scene, with sheep, pig, and cow animeeples.
...the Concordia box cover.
...the Soviet 5th Guards 4pt Armor unit from EastFront.
...the screaming face of a tortured 18xx gamer being forced to play Fortress America.
...Kevin Bacon.
...a sparkly unicorn being ridden by a cute wombat.
      39 answers
Poll created by skutsch
 
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Andrew J.
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Interesting how the highest themed games are licensed properties -- I bet they get a boost from people having experience with books/movies and filling in the gaps in the game. Not saying they're bad games at all, just that the theme gets a lot of help from the rest of the IP.
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Jacob Schoberg
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skutsch wrote:
emodiu5 wrote:

Next, skutsch legacy.

I gotta get tattoos? Even more than I already have? Would they be the results of my polls or the number of thumbs my posts get? Or...
]


We won't know until we open the envelopes!
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Jason
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aaj94 wrote:
Interesting how the highest themed games are licensed properties -- I bet they get a boost from people having experience with books/movies and filling in the gaps in the game. Not saying they're bad games at all, just that the theme gets a lot of help from the rest of the IP.

I find Warhammer universe games to be thematic, and I know very little about the universe. I have a lot of experience with movies and comics with superheroes, and Legendary feels pretty theme-less to me. (Though, the only superhero board game that even looked thematic to me was HeroClix.)

I would imagine that many game designers acquire a license and then attempt to infuse the game with mechanics to fit that theme.
 
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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VaultBoy wrote:
aaj94 wrote:
Interesting how the highest themed games are licensed properties -- I bet they get a boost from people having experience with books/movies and filling in the gaps in the game. Not saying they're bad games at all, just that the theme gets a lot of help from the rest of the IP.

I find Warhammer universe games to be thematic, and I know very little about the universe. I have a lot of experience with movies and comics with superheroes, and Legendary feels pretty theme-less to me. (Though, the only superhero board game that even looked thematic to me was HeroClix.)

I would imagine that many game designers acquire a license and then attempt to infuse the game with mechanics to fit that theme.

I agree with both of you!

Generally, I think having an IP to work with gives you an edge up in feeling thematic. War of the Ring gets big boost because it's about my beloved Lord of the Rings. However, I also like Forbidden Stars, even though I know almost nothing of the 40k universe. So, for me, an IP helps but is not required.
 
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jblomquist wrote:
lamaros wrote:
Quote:
3.39 Scythe
3.33 Kemet
3.32 Railways of the World
3.30 Cosmic Encounter
3.28 Dominant Species


Two of these are way too high for me, and one is moderately high. I expect others might feel that same, but for entirely difference choices of the 5.


I'm curious which for you. I've only played one (Kemet) and that I've only played once a while ago, so I don't really have an informed opinion on these five. That said from what I know of the rules Dominant Species seems like it would be the most thematic.


From most to least theme:

Railways of the World - income system is a little unintuitive and arbitrary (unless you frame it as profit ramping up then being cut into by inefficiencies?), but establishing transport routes and building track feels like establishing a company in competition with others. Card deck feels like government subsidies. I feel like I'm the owner of a railway company.

Dominant Species - feels like you're competing as a somewhat unique species to out proliferate the others. cardplay and scoring is a bit of a stretch.

Big gap

Scythe - systems are dry, but mostly coherent as the development and expansion of a nation/group. scoring system feels entirely arbitrary however, and the mechanics of themselves aren't evocative beyond what the game tells you they are meant to mean. The setting doesn't carry through to the play much at all.

Cosmic Encounter - I guess if you consider it as a game of gods messing about with alien life forms to compete in some cosmic game? kind of makes the theme "playing a SF game for gods", though. The setting is just odd, doesn't feel like it plays (essentially a negotiation game with asmetric powers).

Kemet - no sense of place or time, arbitrary scoring, combat and movement, doesent cohere into a single experience. This just feels like a point scoring efficiency system with a coat of paint, I feel no connection to any of the thematic trappings (setting) given to it.
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Josiah Fiscus
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4-4.99 Strongly integrated theme, complexity is prioritized over simplicity for the sake of immersion, likely designed "theme-first"

skutsch wrote:

4.61 War of the Ring (2nd ed)
4.52 Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
4.48 Twilight Struggle
4.43 Star Wars Rebellion
4.42 Battlestar Galactica
4.39 Star Wars Imperial Assault
4.37 Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures
4.34 Dead of Winter
4.33 Robinson Crusoe
4.24 Twilight Imperium (3rd ed)
4.22 TIME Stories
4.20 Eldritch Horror
4.20 Descent (2nd ed)
4.06 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
4.03 Space Alert
4.00 Here I Stand


3-3.99 Theme shines through, but certain mechanical aspects don't entirely fit the narrative for the sake of simplicity
skutsch wrote:

3.94 Combat Commander: Europe
3.93 A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd ed)
3.92 Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
3.89 Chaos in the Old World
3.89 Android Netrunner
3.89 The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
3.87 Paths of Glory
3.86 Memoir '44
3.81 Forbidden Stars
3.80 Mage Knight
3.75 Battlelore (2nd ed)
3.75 Dungeon Petz
3.73 Galaxy Trucker
3.64 Commands & Colors: Ancients
3.62 Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
3.60 Runewars
3.56 Arcadia Quest
3.53 Viticulture (all)
3.51 The Gallerist
3.50 Agricola
3.49 Food Chain Magnate
3.49 Blood Rage
3.47 Mage Wars Arena
3.47 Pandemic
3.46 Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
3.42 Eclipse
3.39 Alchemists
3.39 Scythe
3.33 Kemet
3.32 Railways of the World
3.30 Cosmic Encounter
3.28 Dominant Species
3.28 Age of Empires III
3.22 Village
3.20 Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
3.18 Summoner Wars (all)
3.17 Caverna
3.16 Shogun (all)
3.16 Brass
3.13 Fields of Arle
3.13 Imperial
3.08 Suburbia
3.05 Power Grid
3.02 Steam
3.01 Castles of Mad King Ludwig


2-2.99 Certain mechanics fit the theme, but the game overall is largely about the mechanics, theme is primarily a mnemonic device
skutsch wrote:

2.99 Nations
2.98 Age of Steam
2.86 Le Havre
2.81 Stone Age
2.77 The Resistance: Avalon
2.77 Puerto Rico
2.76 The Voyages of Marco Polo
2.75 Tzolk'in
2.75 Lords of Waterdeep
2.74 La Granja
2.74 Mombasa
2.74 Ore et Labora
2.68 Imperial Settlers
2.63 Ticket to Ride (all)
2.62 Concordia
2.60 Race for the Galaxy
2.55 Istanbul
2.49 Star Realms
2.46 Tigris and Euphrates
2.45 Roll for the Galaxy
2.45 Goa
2.44 7 Wonders Duel
2.44 Troyes
2.44 The Prince of Florence
2.43 7 Wonders
2.42 Orleans
2.40 Russian Railroads
2.40 El Grande
2.37 Bora Bora
2.37 Caylus
2.34 Terra Mystica
2.27 Trajan
2.23 Patchwork
2.21 Jaipur
2.21 Keyflower
2.12 Hansa Teutonica
2.10 The Castles of Burgundy
2.07 Five Tribes


1-1.99 Basically an abstract:
skutsch wrote:

1.80 Dominion (all)
1.65 Splendor
1.58 Codenames
1.35 Tichu
1.21 Go
1.14 Crokinole
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Chris L
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lamaros wrote:


Railways of the World - income system is a little unintuitive and arbitrary (unless you frame it as profit ramping up then being cut into by inefficiencies?), but establishing transport routes and building track feels like establishing a railways company in competition with others. Card deck feels like government subsidies. I feel like I'm the owner of a railway company.


Actually the income system makes a lot of sense if you stop looking at it as a pickup and deliver game. What picking up a cube really represents is the signing of contracts to deliver goods between cities for the rest of the game. Your company then transports goods behind the scenes and this then provides net profit each round. As you sign more contracts income (and profit) goes up. Unfortunately as time goes along, there is increased competition so the contracts need to be renegotiated and your company's profit begins to fall. I also envision that unions begin to take hold which increase costs so your net profit declines. You could also view it as having an aging infrastructure and equipment which require increasing repair costs, eating into profits.

I think it's a very thematic game.
 
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igelkott255 wrote:
lamaros wrote:


Railways of the World - income system is a little unintuitive and arbitrary (unless you frame it as profit ramping up then being cut into by inefficiencies?), but establishing transport routes and building track feels like establishing a railways company in competition with others. Card deck feels like government subsidies. I feel like I'm the owner of a railway company.


Actually the income system makes a lot of sense if you stop looking at it as a pickup and deliver game. What picking up a cube really represents is the signing of contracts to deliver goods between cities for the rest of the game. Your company then transports goods behind the scenes and this then provides net profit each round. As you sign more contracts income (and profit) goes up. Unfortunately as time goes along, there is increased competition so the contracts need to be renegotiated and your company's profit begins to fall. I also envision that unions begin to take hold which increase costs so your net profit declines. You could also view it as having an aging infrastructure and equipment which require increasing repair costs, eating into profits.

I think it's a very thematic game.


I agree with that, but it's more of a stretch to rationalise - 'We signed three new contracts this year, what happened to profits?' 'They went down!' 'What? But our competitors invested in infrastructure and didn't sign anything, and theirs stayed the same!'

You can find a way to make sense of it, but the rationale is more of a reach.
 
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Olaf Slomp
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skutsch wrote:
emodiu5 wrote:
This is next level skutsch (revised edition). No longer just the polls, but now data extrapolated from polls.

Next, skutsch legacy.

I gotta get tattoos? Even more than I already have? Would they be the results of my polls or the number of thumbs my posts get? Or...



Maybe it involves ripping up parts of you, instead of adding stickers... you may need to worry a little...
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happyjosiah wrote:


1-1.99 Basically an abstract:
skutsch wrote:

1.80 Dominion (all)
1.65 Splendor
1.58 Codenames
1.35 Tichu
1.21 Go
1.14 Crokinole


Or a party game... I wouldnt call Codenames an abstract. Just happens to be the only party game high in the BGG listings.
 
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jblomquist wrote:
Thanks for compiling this. I still say that a bunch of games ranks here make absolutely no sense to me. First of all, what's with the spread on the Uwe Rosenberg games? I'd say Agricola and Caverna are similarly thematic, maybe Agricola gets the edge, but by .3? And also both Fields of Arle and Ora et Labora definitely feel more thematic than either of those to me.

Terra Mystica is also about a point too low, and Eclipse definitely feels significantly more thematic to me than Through the Ages (and don't get the wrong idea here, the latter is definitely the better game).

I also think Sherlock Holmes is a bit overrated to me. It mostly goes along well and I feel relatively immersed, but then we run into some weird inconsistency or something and it takes me right out of it. The fact that you just go to a place and get what the writer decided you get is a great way to break immersion. I know it has to exist for balance reasons, but a lot of the times it feels like we want to go to a place to ask a particular question, and then we just get some other stuff and leave. Don't get me wrong it's a lot of fun and incredibly ambitious, but because their reach exceeded their grasp a bit I can't see calling it 'dripping' with theme.


All personal opinions. The nice thing of this list is that it gives something of a majority opinion, which is the first attempt to do this for theme if I am correct. It doesn't mean that you have to agree with every outcome, the poll shows that opinions about each game can vary a lot (heck, there is somebody that considers Crokinole dripping with theme), but the scaling works very well to create a insight into majority opinion.
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Olafslomp wrote:
happyjosiah wrote:


1-1.99 Basically an abstract:
skutsch wrote:

1.80 Dominion (all)
1.65 Splendor
1.58 Codenames
1.35 Tichu
1.21 Go
1.14 Crokinole


Or a party game... I wouldnt call Codenames an abstract. Just happens to be the only party game high in the BGG listings.


Codenames is a party abstract (even though it tries to be themed). Not the same category - Spyfall is one example of a party game with a strong theme that is not abstract (I don't appreciate it, but the rules require you to roleplay - doesn't get much more thematic than that)
 
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Olafslomp wrote:
jblomquist wrote:
Thanks for compiling this. I still say that a bunch of games ranks here make absolutely no sense to me. First of all, what's with the spread on the Uwe Rosenberg games? I'd say Agricola and Caverna are similarly thematic, maybe Agricola gets the edge, but by .3? And also both Fields of Arle and Ora et Labora definitely feel more thematic than either of those to me.

Terra Mystica is also about a point too low, and Eclipse definitely feels significantly more thematic to me than Through the Ages (and don't get the wrong idea here, the latter is definitely the better game).

I also think Sherlock Holmes is a bit overrated to me. It mostly goes along well and I feel relatively immersed, but then we run into some weird inconsistency or something and it takes me right out of it. The fact that you just go to a place and get what the writer decided you get is a great way to break immersion. I know it has to exist for balance reasons, but a lot of the times it feels like we want to go to a place to ask a particular question, and then we just get some other stuff and leave. Don't get me wrong it's a lot of fun and incredibly ambitious, but because their reach exceeded their grasp a bit I can't see calling it 'dripping' with theme.


All personal opinions. The nice thing of this list is that it gives something of a majority opinion, which is the first attempt to do this for theme if I am correct. It doesn't mean that you have to agree with every outcome, the poll shows that opinions about each game can vary a lot (heck, there is somebody that considers Crokinole dripping with theme), but the scaling works very well to create a insight into majority opinion.


Sure, absolutely, and I appreciate that (or at least find it sufficiently interesting). And my comment wasn't trying to change any minds necessarily, just sort of use this as an opportunity for discussion. I guess I'm curious in a few cases why things came out the way that they did.

In some cases I have a pretty good idea, Terra Mystica has sort of become shorthand on this site for 'efficiency euro' being one of the most popular, visible ones, and so I suspect a lot of people rate it low because of that context. 'It's a dry efficiency euro, it must have no theme.' But a lot of the others I legitimately can't figure out, and I was hoping a discussion might start about some reasons people voted the way that they did, or would have if they didn't vote.
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
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jblomquist wrote:
Thanks for compiling this.
You're welcome! Thanks for the appreciation!
jblomquist wrote:
First of all, what's with the spread on the Uwe Rosenberg games? I'd say Agricola and Caverna are similarly thematic, maybe Agricola gets the edge, but by .3?
I hear ya. For me, Agricola just feels themier than Caverna. In Agricola I really sorta think of myself as a farmer trying to build the best darn farm ever. In Caverna I just think I'm try to buy engine maximizing rooms.
jblomquist wrote:
Terra Mystica is also about a point too low, and Eclipse definitely feels significantly more thematic to me than Through the Ages (and don't get the wrong idea here, the latter is definitely the better game).
Terra Mystica is, for me, just a bunch of strange arbitrary creatures wandering around a strange arbitrary map. I like it but it doesn't feel like some fantasy universe. Through the Ages has HISTORY! Pictures of real people! Theme!!! It may help that I've barely played it. I may become less thrilled by its theme with more plays.

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