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Subject: Why isn't this considered an "Abstract" game? rss

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I love Carcassonne, but I'd be the first to admit that the "theme", such as it is, is as light as they come. What are the players supposed to be - town planners? Gods? Dukes of the South of France?

Looking at the top 100 Abstract games, there are several games on that list which seem to me to have as much or more theme than Carcassonne, such as

Patchwork;
Santorini;
Hive;
Through the Desert;
Qin;
Kahuna.

Now the status of some of those as genuine abstracts is clearly somewhat disputed as most of those games have had only 45-55% votes in the Abstract column (just enough to make them show up in the Abstract subdomain). Yet only 1.9% of people have voted Carcassonne as abstract, suggesting almost nobody considers it to fall into that category.

I wondered what it is people feel about Carcassonne that makes it "not abstract"?
 
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Stephen Eckman
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Figaro123 wrote:
Yet only 1.9% of people have voted Carcassonne as abstract, suggesting almost nobody considers it to fall into that category.

That poll only allows me to choose one category, so it is no surprise that Family is winning out. If people could choose more than one category, there might be more Abstract votes.
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Most games are shades of this or that. Even Chess might not be abstract and you wouldn't be totally incorrect calling it a war game. Heck, Go IS considered a wargame by grandmasters.

In the end, I'm going to go with people are not calling it abstract because it has cute little drawings of animals on the tiles.

Really.
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Many euros are in various respects highly abstract even if they nominally include a theme. Still, the theme here lies in the picture generated when the tiles fit together, namely a stylized version of a medieval countryside. So while the game mathematically would be completely isomorphic to a genuinely abstract clone which did not create a picture as such in play, I think in practice the picture aspect is part of the appeal of the game.
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Because it comes with the original "euro-mini", which keeps it from being completely abstract....


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whac3 wrote:
Many euros are in various respects highly abstract even if they nominally include a theme. Still, the theme here lies in the picture generated when the tiles fit together, namely a stylized version of a medieval countryside. So while the game mathematically would be completely isomorphic to a genuinely abstract clone which did not create a picture as such in play, I think in practice the picture aspect is part of the appeal of the game.


I do agree, but in that case surely the same applies to a game like Through the Desert or Qin. It's the inconsistency I don't understand.

I don't think there's any game you couldn't boil down to totally isomorphic, abstracted components, so in that sense all games have a "pasted on" theme. Though that's a different question entirely. I guess what counts as "thematic" is when the mechanics of a game evoke the theme; something which I don't feel really happens a great deal in Carcassonne.

steckman wrote:
That poll only allows me to choose one category, so it is no surprise that Family is winning out. If people could choose more than one category, there might be more Abstract votes.


Could be - unexpanded Carcassonne is probably lighter than those other games. Still, it seems a bit odd that it would allow only one vote; after all, surely a game like Go is both an Abstract and Strategy game. Why should the categories be mutually exclusive?
 
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Abstract, all games are abstract.
In fact 99.99% of our language, thinking and communication are simply abstractions we use to summarize and symbolize often into some vague communication. Frankly we spend a lot of effort to pretend we understand each other. Consider this recursive missive itself. "consider" "recursive" "missive". We mostly play with words/symbolic conceptual manipulation not the real or concrete.
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Geosphere wrote:
Most games are shades of this or that. Even Chess might not be abstract and you wouldn't be totally incorrect calling it a war game. Heck, Go IS considered a wargame by grandmasters.

In the end, I'm going to go with people are not calling it abstract because it has cute little drawings of animals on the tiles.

Really.
It has roads, castles, and fields but no animals-- at least not in my copy.
 
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whac3 wrote:
It has roads, castles, and fields but no animals-- at least not in my copy.


Ooh, ooh, can I be pedantic too? laugh

There's tiny little animals on some of the base game tiles. At least in the old artwork.

https://boardgamegeek.com/image/115467/carcassonne?size=orig...
1st and 3rd tiles bottom row.
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OlympicCough wrote:
whac3 wrote:
It has roads, castles, and fields but no animals-- at least not in my copy.


Ooh, ooh, can I be pedantic too? laugh

Yes you can.

N.B.: The poster I'm responding to is an on-line friend. We have such exchanges going both ways often.
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Just my 2 cents, but I think Carcassonne isn't an abstract game because it's heavily themed. The objective being completion of map features like cities, roads, and farms, and then claiming of those features in a developing town of Carcassone.

Chess, Go, and Dominos by contrast are not themed. There are pieces given movement and capture rules. However, those pieces exist outside of any meaningful narrative or real world context. They are abstracted.
 
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Carcassonne is not perfect information game.

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hsiale wrote:
Carcassonne is not perfect information game.


Neither are many abstracts like backgammon, pachisi, etc.
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whac3 wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Most games are shades of this or that. Even Chess might not be abstract and you wouldn't be totally incorrect calling it a war game. Heck, Go IS considered a wargame by grandmasters.

In the end, I'm going to go with people are not calling it abstract because it has cute little drawings of animals on the tiles.

Really.
It has roads, castles, and fields but no animals-- at least not in my copy.


Obviously, they left your copy for greener pastures.
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Geosphere wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Most games are shades of this or that. Even Chess might not be abstract and you wouldn't be totally incorrect calling it a war game. Heck, Go IS considered a wargame by grandmasters.

In the end, I'm going to go with people are not calling it abstract because it has cute little drawings of animals on the tiles.

Really.
It has roads, castles, and fields but no animals-- at least not in my copy.


Obviously, they left your copy for greener pastures.

I knew I should have bought those river tiles.
 
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Krsnaji wrote:
Abstract, all games are abstract.
In fact 99.99% of our language, thinking and communication are simply abstractions we use to summarize and symbolize often into some vague communication. Frankly we spend a lot of effort to pretend we understand each other. Consider this recursive missive itself. "consider" "recursive" "missive". We mostly play with words/symbolic conceptual manipulation not the real or concrete.


Yes.... but that doesn't really help nor answer the question in any way, does it?

rican919 wrote:
Just my 2 cents, but I think Carcassonne isn't an abstract game because it's heavily themed. The objective being completion of map features like cities, roads, and farms, and then claiming of those features in a developing town of Carcassone.

Chess, Go, and Dominos by contrast are not themed. There are pieces given movement and capture rules. However, those pieces exist outside of any meaningful narrative or real world context. They are abstracted.


Certainly games like Go and Dominos (and to a very slightly lesser degree Chess, which is at least vaguely themed around medieval combat) are archetypical abstract games, but if you look again at my original post you can see I'm not comparing Carcassonne to those kinds of games. Take a look at the Abstract games subdomain of BGG and you'll see that whilst many of the games are in the Go/Dominos mold, there are plenty which seem to me to be themed to a similar level as Carcassonne, such as the examples I gave in the OP:

e.g.
Hive; which is about rival nests of insects fighting each other.
Through the Desert; which is about desert caravan tribes making pathways and controlling territory and Oases.
Qin; which is about the settling of the Chinese interior

What is it that Carcassonne has that none of the above games have, that makes it not an abstract whilst they are?
 
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I think steckman has it right - the choice is between overlapping, fuzzy categories (e.g. abstract vs family), so people are simply putting it in the bin that seems to be the "best" description (in the 3 or 4 seconds that they're devoting to the choice). In cases where the categories aren't well-separated, people aren't really saying it's not abstract - they're just saying that it fits another category better.

I'd probably pick family over abstract for Carcassonne as well. It just seems like a better description, if I only get to pick one.

It occurs to me that I'd probably pick abstract over family for Hive, although I don't have any good rationale for doing so. "Seems to fit better" reasoning doesn't have anything to back it up.
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steckman wrote:
Figaro123 wrote:
Yet only 1.9% of people have voted Carcassonne as abstract, suggesting almost nobody considers it to fall into that category.

That poll only allows me to choose one category, so it is no surprise that Family is winning out. If people could choose more than one category, there might be more Abstract votes.
This.

It's absurd, that Kolejka is not considered a "thematic game", as a game can hardly be any more linked to it's theme, and deliver it while playing, then in this game. Yet, because everybody can only vote one category, and it is also a game good to interest a whole family, most people voted for "family game".

Also, "abstract game" is not a category on the geek, but "abstract strategy game". Yahtzee is as abstract as a game can be, but not a strategy game. And while Carcassonne certainly rewards more skill than Yahtzee, it is mostly tactical, not really strategic.
 
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Figaro123 wrote:

rican919 wrote:
Just my 2 cents, but I think Carcassonne isn't an abstract game because it's heavily themed. The objective being completion of map features like cities, roads, and farms, and then claiming of those features in a developing town of Carcassone.

Chess, Go, and Dominos by contrast are not themed. There are pieces given movement and capture rules. However, those pieces exist outside of any meaningful narrative or real world context. They are abstracted.


Certainly games like Go and Dominos (and to a very slightly lesser degree Chess, which is at least vaguely themed around medieval combat) are archetypical abstract games, but if you look again at my original post you can see I'm not comparing Carcassonne to those kinds of games. Take a look at the Abstract games subdomain of BGG and you'll see that whilst many of the games are in the Go/Dominos mold, there are plenty which seem to me to be themed to a similar level as Carcassonne, such as the examples I gave in the OP:

e.g.
Hive; which is about rival nests of insects fighting each other.
Through the Desert; which is about desert caravan tribes making pathways and controlling territory and Oases.
Qin; which is about the settling of the Chinese interior

What is it that Carcassonne has that none of the above games have, that makes it not an abstract whilst they are?

Perhaps the question should really be why the other games are considered abstract, rather than why Carcassonne is not? My opinion of this most closely matches rican919's. Euro's are known for having pasted on themes, some more so than others (and some not so much). I mostly play Hunters & Gatherers, and the very fact that the same game can be re-themed in such a way and with the basic concept still intact says the theme was pasted on. But still, you are building a town, and you can see that you are.

I don't know Through the Desert or Qin so can't comment. Hive I'm only vaguely familiar with, but yeah, I'd call that an abstract. This is something hard to describe, but it "plays like" an abstract, and I think that's an important point. I would categorize Hey That's My Fish as an abstract, because it plays like one. It has a theme too, but plays like an abstract. It's more of a feel. Carcassonne to me does not play like an abstract, even though I'm mostly ignoring the theme while I play. I ignore the theme in a lot of games.
 
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EricTheFed wrote:
I think steckman has it right - the choice is between overlapping, fuzzy categories (e.g. abstract vs family), so people are simply putting it in the bin that seems to be the "best" description (in the 3 or 4 seconds that they're devoting to the choice). In cases where the categories aren't well-separated, people aren't really saying it's not abstract - they're just saying that it fits another category better.

I'd probably pick family over abstract for Carcassonne as well. It just seems like a better description, if I only get to pick one.

It occurs to me that I'd probably pick abstract over family for Hive, although I don't have any good rationale for doing so. "Seems to fit better" reasoning doesn't have anything to back it up.


In that case, how come Patchwork shows up in both the Family Game (2nd) and Abstract game (1st) subdomains? Is it because there are a relatively similar number of votes in each category?
 
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Figaro123 wrote:
EricTheFed wrote:
I think steckman has it right - the choice is between overlapping, fuzzy categories (e.g. abstract vs family), so people are simply putting it in the bin that seems to be the "best" description (in the 3 or 4 seconds that they're devoting to the choice). In cases where the categories aren't well-separated, people aren't really saying it's not abstract - they're just saying that it fits another category better.

I'd probably pick family over abstract for Carcassonne as well. It just seems like a better description, if I only get to pick one.

It occurs to me that I'd probably pick abstract over family for Hive, although I don't have any good rationale for doing so. "Seems to fit better" reasoning doesn't have anything to back it up.


In that case, how come Patchwork shows up in both the Family Game (2nd) and Abstract game (1st) subdomains? Is it because there are a relatively similar number of votes in each category?

Yes, there's a threshold of percentage and/or total votes to appear in each category. If two categories each receive 35+% (40? not sure exactly where the cutoff is) of votes, it will appear in both lists.
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