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Subject: Gameplay, Theme, or Graphics? rss

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Dustin Crouch

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Running an informal survey spawned from a conversation with my gaming group. Which is more important to you in a board game.

1. Complete and balanced gameplay that is fun but maybe not so great on graphics and lacks a depth of theme.

2. Amazing immersive theme, but maybe the gameplay is lacking.

3. State of the art graphics and miniatures but shallow gameplay and gaps in the theme?

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Andrew J.
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I would pick 1, though I always go for theme wherever possible. Glory to Rome is a good example -- I would definitely say it's not a thematic game (by a long shot), but I love the way it looks and the theme feels appropriate to the mechanics. There's a big building emphasis in the mechanics and that meshes well with the 'rebuilding Rome' idea.

As another example, I'd put Escape: The Curse of the Temple as a number 1 (though some may say it's a 2) -- the mechanics are great and fun, and I love the realtime stuff, and it all fits nicely with the theme of escaping from a template, though, for me, the mechanics are still the main thing.
Really thematic or miniature games don't grab me -- I prefer solid mechanics to plastic pieces.
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Chris Graves
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This is a hard one for me, between one and two. You take the Flying Frog games or Betrayal at House on the Hill that have GREAT theme, but you could argue the mechanics are a little weak..however, these games are plain fun! If I'm stuck with one winner, though, I have to go with gameplay. As far as good components and lacking theme and gameplay, not a chance.
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maf man
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1>2>3
Great gameplay because its a board GAME. If I want theme or graphics over gameplay I'd go with a book or video games.
If the theme is good enough my imagination can paint a better picture than art can. Specifically minis for me, great art on tokens lets my imagination go further than a mini for much less cost.

...reading the responces, I may be giving a factor of "fun" to #1 that other are not, so take my opinion with that grain of salt. There are games out there that can be mechanically complete and balanced but are completely lacking in fun because those mechanics are so dry and bland
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Larry L
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There is no simple answer. 2. I suppose

I grew up in an era of simple graphics and amateur art so that isn't a turn off for a game. If the art is too gaudy and intrusive, then that is a problem.

A game that is too abstract, too removed from theme, tends not to be fun for me. So 1 is a bit misleading. On the other hand it doesn't have to be perfectly immersed in theme either.
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K S
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mafman6 wrote:
1>2>3
Great gameplay because its a board GAME. If I want theme or graphics over gameplay I'd go with a book or video games.
If the theme is good enough my imagination can paint a better picture than art can. Specifically minis for me, great art on tokens lets my imagination go further than a mini for much less cost.

...reading the responces, I may be giving a factor of "fun" to #1 that other are not, so take my opinion with that grain of salt. There are games out there that can be mechanically complete and balanced but are completely lacking in fun because those mechanics are so dry and bland

+1
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Phillip Harpring
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#1 is most important once I'm already in a position to play the game (either I or a friend own it), but #2 is more likely to get my attention in the first place. Re: #3, I really like artwork, which plays into #2, but miniatures tend to be a turnoff for me because they drive the price up past my comfort zone and I'm not a painter.
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(ɹnʎʞ)
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1>3>2

It's the game design which makes or breaks the game, everything else is nice bonus (I'm saying this a fan of thematic/Ameritrash games).

Having said that, I don't want to miss nice components and at least some theme in my games. It's 2016, damnit.
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J C Lawrence
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dustinc109 wrote:
1. Complete and balanced gameplay that is fun but maybe not so great on graphics and lacks a depth of theme.

2. Amazing immersive theme, but maybe the gameplay is lacking.

3. State of the art graphics and miniatures but shallow gameplay and gaps in the theme?


Well, immersion is a problem and something to be avoided. Miniatures are irritating and unacceptably distracting. That just leaves gameplay -- the reason I'm doing anything with the game in the first place.
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Chris Mcpherson
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Gameplay
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Chris Ley
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This survey is skewed.

You placed the word fun in option 1, but not in the other two options. And use the term lacking and shallow in the other two. Wording makes a difference.


Which is more important to you in a board game.

1. Complete and balanced gameplay that is boring and maybe not so great on graphics and lacks a depth of theme.

2. Amazing immersive theme that is fun, but maybe has complex rules.

3. State of the art graphics and miniatures that are amazing but low on theme and fiddly game play?

FYI, this isn't an example of a better survey, but just how wording would skew answers.



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Dustin Crouch

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Excellent point Chris! That wasnt intentional by any means... I guess we can't hide biase regardless of effort. Thanks for the updated verbage.
 
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Larry L
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Invasion81 wrote:
This survey is skewed.

You placed the word fun in option 1, but not in the other two option. And use the term lacking and shallow in the other two. Wording makes a difference.


Which is more important to you in a board game.

1. Complete and balanced gameplay that is boring and maybe not so great on graphics and lacks a depth of theme.

2. Amazing immersive theme that is fun, but maybe have complex rules.

3. State of the art graphics and miniatures that are amazing but low on theme and fiddly game play?

FYI, this isn't an example of a better survey, but just how wording would skew answers.





Thanks! You got to exactly the issue I couldn't quite pin down.
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Asher Kennedy
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dustinc109 wrote:
Running an informal survey spawned from a conversation with my gaming group. Which is more important to you in a board game.

1. Complete and balanced gameplay that is fun but maybe not so great on graphics and lacks a depth of theme.

2. Amazing immersive theme, but maybe the gameplay is lacking.

3. State of the art graphics and miniatures but shallow gameplay and gaps in the theme?



Why not all three? Having one or two of these does not mean that you can't have the third.
 
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Brian Franzman
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If I had to choose, I would go with #1. If the game's not there, no amount of chrome (theme, art, miniatures, etc) is going to make me come back to it. I'm not a huge fan of abstract gaming, but compared to something that's all fluff and weak play, I'd take it.
 
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HenningK
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1, and it's not even close. Theme and components can heighten my enjoyment of a game, but they are not worth it to me if the gameplay isn't great.
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Ron Olivier, Sr.
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It HAS to be gameplay for me. That being said, I especially like games that have gameplay and theme or gameplay and great artwork/components. Of course, if it has all three then it's complete nirvana.
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Larry L
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Nine of my top 10 games I've heard people complain about the game play: often balance issues, or too much "swing" in the random elements. Most of those nine I love a great deal for the theme-- although the connection to theme isn't heavy in all of them either. Cosmic Encounter has especially thin theme.

The exception to both game play and theme is poker.

edit: Thinking more about Cosmic Encounter (I have the original edition).
Theme is weak. Gameplay is unbalanced. Components are thin cardboard and cheap art. Nonetheless it is a fantastic game. What is this top 3 list missing?

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maf man
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RingelTree wrote:
Thinking more about Cosmic Encounter (I have the original edition).
Theme is weak. Gameplay is unbalanced. Components are thin cardboard and cheap art. Nonetheless it is a fantastic game. What is this top 3 list missing?


HA! great example for my thoughts. I'd say that even though its unbalanced it has great gameplay and weak theme/components. Perhaps #1 should be split into:
fun and entertaining gameplay
well designed, from a strategic balanced view, gameplay

though then you kinda get some gray area because depending on the game the fun gameplay could be directly related to the theme, in some people's mind (aka I don't think like that but my wife does)
 
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April W
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After careful consideration between 1 and 2, I think 1 has the slight edge. I have often turned down games that look awesome in theme but lack depth. I dislike pure abstract, but I suppose with some imagination I could make do. Still, theme is pretty important to me as well. Can I have both?
 
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James Arias
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For me it's a balancing act across all 3. If either the components stink or the art stinks or the gameplay stinks I won't buy it.

Exception is Intruder which I picked up for "research" (and actually had fun playing).

Good art also includes cartoony stuff. E.g. Monkey Burger from TGC is one of my favorite card games and its artwork isn't as polished as other titles, but is still funny.
 
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Look on my works ye mighty and despair
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I'd argue that for a game's setting to be truly immersive it needs good mechanics that incorporate that goal into the gain.

So bad mechanics and strong theme are mutually incompatible.

Artwork will potentially get my attention for a game, but it doesn't matter much to me after that initial phase. I also don't think it has anything to do with how immersive a game is, apart from on the most superficial and trivial level.

Abyss is absolutely beautiful. One of the prettiest games I've ever played. It's also utterly unimmersive.
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:
I'd argue that for a game's setting to be truly immersive it needs good mechanics that incorporate that goal into the gain.

So bad mechanics and strong theme are mutually incompatible.



Was limbering up the fingers to type out something along these lines.

If the gameplay is lacking, then the theme is not going to be immersive.
 
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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Why do I have to choose?

Ok, fine, it's your post. Since I have to choose I'll choose #1, gameplay. The most important thing is does the game allow me to make skilled decisions that matter. If it doesn't, I'm not very interested. However, I also want some kind of decent theme. My top games all have good game play. Most of them have a decent theme (Concordia is the themeless one). One of them has miniatures (and my Agricola is pimped out with animeeples and vegimeeples and wood and such). All six of the games are good looking.

Sekigahara
Agricola
The Gallerist
Polis Fight for the Hegomony
Forbidden Stars
Concordia

I don't want to play a game without great gameplay but I also don't want to play a game that looks unattractive. Luckily, there are plenty of great games that provide both gameplay and looks.
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Jason
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Gameplay is more important than theme which is more important than art. There are plenty of games that offer all three, so having to settle on only one would mean I'd likely skip the game entirely.
 
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