$15.00
$20.00
$5.00
Recommend
1 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Too Much Theme?) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
If you watch a video review or read a written review there is a pretty good chance that the reviewer will mention the game's theme. Not only will they mention it, they will likely discuss the game's ability to produce a thematic feel and if it can't, it will be considered dry and often times the overall perception of the game will be lower than had it produced a thematic feel. I can't say I'm not all for a game giving off a nice thematic feel or creating a thematic environment as I play but where I am confused is this... Thematic gamers are constantly calling for theme but if a mechanism feels too realistic it is also received negatively. One example of this would be a game that feels like a simulation, another example would be how Dead of Winter leaves a hole for players to play the "If I can't win, no one will" card. Do I like this in a game that wouldn't really have this situation thematically? No. Do I find it thematic in Dead of Winter? Yes. Too thematic? No.

A couple questions:

1) When do mechanisms become too thematic or realistic?

2) Is it hypocritical to ask for thematic mechanisms but complain if they feel too real? Typically if they are punishing...



Thoughts would be appreciated.


If you would like to check out my reviews, please check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason
United States
Ogden
Utah
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
1. They become too thematic when they invoke the theme, but are fiddly, overly-complicated, or simply not fun.

In your example, I don't see a problem with all players losing in Dead of Winter due to a player tanking the game. I think that's richly thematic, because the zombie genre is about how people are selfish and worse threats than the zombies. It would not be surprising for someone to get everyone else killed. But, I can understand that some people won't find that fun.

A situation where the zombie theme would be taken too far, would be having a 1 in 6 chance of being killed or turned into a zombie after any zombie encounter. An 83% chance of player elimination doesn't sound fun. It's pretty thematic, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to play the game with these rules.

2. No. If theme (or realism) is taken to the point where the game is not enjoyable to play, then it's a bad game.

There's a difference between theme and realism. Realism is a fun killer. Bang! isn't fun if the deputy shows their card to the sheriff. The sheriff should know who the deputy is. Neuroshima Hex sits far outside of realism. It's a battle where everyone slowly shows up and doesn't fight until someone shouts "Go!"

Theme, on the other hand, sits outside of realism. Capturing theme is about highlighting the fun and interesting aspects with game mechanisms and components. Game designers that add poor mechanisms simply because they're thematic are designing a bad game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Thank you for the comment. I can't say I disagree too strongly but is it fair to say that fiddly mechanisms make a game bad? Fiddly and over-complicated mechanisms seem like an issue that is to each their own. I'd be surprised if the majority of gamers didn't dislike these kind of mechanisms but there's definitely a market for realistic games, albeit, a smaller one. I guess as I think about my questions and your answers I am starting to wonder if maybe games don't need a high level of theme at all, just a high fun factor and yet Eurogames don't emphasize theme but just playing mechanisms doesn't seem all that fun when I'm doing it. What do you think is an ideal recipe for a good game when blending mechanisms with theme?

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Jennette (Metal Meeple)
United States
Louisville
Kentucky
flag msg tools
Dice Tower Contributor - Keep on rockin' and rollin' dice!
badge
Check out my band at www.morningaugment.com and podcast www.meeplecore.com
mbmbmbmbmb
From my experience I feel that when a mechanism becomes too thematic or "real" it usually is overpowered in some way.

Take Heroscape as an example. For the most part all the units are balanced. However, if some of the mechanisms tried to be overly thematic or "realistic" then anyone with a gun would absolutely demolish ancient units such as the romans or samurai, etc. They wouldn't stand a chance. Especially against the futuristic Men In Black style guys (which I forget what they are called now, agents?). This wouldn't be balanced however so maybe the ancient units get more armor or hp, etc. Which calms down the realism and offers balanced design.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
reinfire13 wrote:
From my experience I feel that when a mechanism becomes too thematic or "real" it usually is overpowered in some way.

Take Heroscape as an example. For the most part all the units are balanced. However, if some of the mechanisms tried to be overly thematic or "realistic" then anyone with a gun would absolutely demolish ancient units such as the romans or samurai, etc. They wouldn't stand a chance. Especially against the futuristic Men In Black style guys (which I forget what they are called now, agents?). This wouldn't be balanced however so maybe the ancient units get more armor or hp, etc. Which calms down the realism and offers balanced design.



I feel like your example is entirely reasonable but mostly for a theme that is nowhere near realistic. There are off the wall themes that definitely cannot be lived, there are realistic themes that could certainly be lived, and then there are themes that seem to have transcended the line drawn between these two types of theme and seem to have been given life, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and even zombies to a degree. In the latter two types of theme a gun should completely overwhelm a knife or stick. However, when a game like Heroscape, takes a wildly unrealistic theme and creates scenarios that require alterations I'm not sure that the mechanisms make the game more thematic at all. They seem to strictly allow a game to function with a balanced feel. I don't like the idea of including that aspect of game design into theme. You are ENTIRELY right that it calms down the realism and offers balance but I feel like it mostly helps the balance and essentially detracts from the accuracy of the theme.


It is almost as if once a theme becomes popular enough that it has been given a background story or accepted expectation that fantastical themes can receive realistic treatment when assessing theme and mechanics. Where I get stuck is that when a game has a realistic theme to begin with or one that can be treated as such, is that if it offers a portion of the game that is "too" realistic, it is disliked. It was mentioned above that when the mechanism becomes too fiddly or complicated it becomes too real but in the case of Dead of Winter (and the poster above said it wasn't the case for him in DoW) the mechanism under scrutiny is neither fiddly or complicated, just realistic, and it is still widely disputed and disliked.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
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.