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Subject: The "is theme important" throwdown thread. rss

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David C
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have had many threads out there, regarding theme:

http://www.geekdo.com/thread/366972/page/1

http://www.geekdo.com/thread/345783/page/1

What I need is...
1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay. EDIT: Changed to "A story where having a theme, or not having a theme, broke the gameplay".

I'll start.

1.) Theme making me want to purchase a game. One of my gaming partners is way into the fantasy theme. I wanted something Richard Borg. While I like WWII, I thought the fantasy theme allowed more actions, but more importantly, would prove engaging for a certain gaming pal. So, I choose battlelore over command and colors and Memoir '44.

a.) Every niece and nephew wants to play stone age. They say "it looks cool".

b.) Anyone take their wife to a game store? "this just looks good!"

c.) Martian Rails. I want it. I don't know why, I just do.

2.) Garden Competition I'm just not man enough, I'm sorry. I do have Tulipmania 1637 on my "want to play" list. EDIT: Don't get me wrong, I'd still play garden competition if it came up. It's just that I might hold my nose while I do it.

3.) Arkham Horror

4.) Can't think of one. I'm trying to think of a game that was heavy-handed with its chrome...
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David C
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Martian rails... I'm a sucker for an art-deco alternative future.

This is me playing bioshock:



...and I hated bioshock, but I couldn't stop playing.
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1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

Les Vins de France: The Game of French Wine & Food was a game I wanted strictly based on theme. I'll even say that with this game, the theme is the game. There's really not a lot of substance to the game, and yet I rate it a 7 - all theme baby!

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

I haven't encountered this yet, although a friend of mine has Ca$h 'n Gun$, which is a game I have no interest in because of the theme...

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

cf. my comments on Les Vins de France: The Game of French Wine & Food above.

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.

Can't think of one off hand.
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MSV Burns
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bippi wrote:
Martian rails... I'm a sucker for an art-deco alternative future.

This is me playing bioshock:



...and I hated bioshock, but I couldn't stop playing.


Awesome gif! I remember thinking, "Wow, I guess you can say that on TV now."

Oh, and I don't think I want to play any Bioshock with you, either... shake

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Rauli Kettunen
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1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

First time I saw Marvel Heroes in my FLGS, I knew "it must be mine" (to quote Igor Olman). Upon hearing that Middle-Earth Quest was coming, same deal. I'm a Marvel and M-E fan, have been ever since I could read really. Theme is the #1 issue when deciding about a new game.

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

Perennial whipping-boy, Agricola. Don't want to touch that game with a 20' pole.

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

I'll second Arkham Horror.

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.

Can't think of any, will keep an eye on what people reply to this as I have a hard time picturing what exactly is meant by this. Abstract Euros?
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Russ Williams
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bippi wrote:
What I need is...
1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.


How is this an "is theme important" thread? It sounds more like an "agree with me that theme is important and give examples to show that theme is important" thread.

Theme can be important if a game is attempting to seriously simulate something, especially for motivating why the rules are the way they are. E.g. most wargames would be worse if the themes were removed or changed. (I'm imagining Conflict of Heroes rethemed as somehow simulating buying stock in hotel chains, for instance. It would be nonsensical and make it quite hard to understand/remember the rules...)

But to respond to your 4 questions:

1. An attractive (to me) theme can indeed attract my attention to a game (e.g. I'm more likely to read reviews of wargames about WW2 or the US Civil War than about certain other periods), but ultimately the game itself (gameplay, strategy, number of players, playing length, etc) are the important factors for making a decision to play or purchase it. The old me often bought games based on an interesting theme, and the old me ended up with many shelves full of many unplayed or barely played games. The new me doesn't care about theme when it comes to actually deciding whether to play or buy a game.

2. An unattractive (to me) theme can make a game less attractive (e.g. I was recently looking at a wargame about the Falklands War, a theme which doesn't particularly grab me), but ultimately the game itself (gameplay, strategy, number of players, playing length, etc) are the important factors for making a decision to play or purchase it.

3. I don't recall a game that was otherwise bad, but which I somehow enjoyed because of the theme.

4. I don't recall any themeless game which I felt I didn't enjoy simply because of lack of theme. The only game I've rated 10 (Go) has no theme. Most of the games I've logged the most plays on have little or no theme.
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I love the Game Can't Stop.

My theory of life is...DON't STOP.

Now, I have to stop, gotta get some sleep...
 
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J C Lawrence
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bippi wrote:
1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.


I'm not sure I bought Wongar because of its themeing around the Australian Aboriginee Dreamtime, but I kept it because of it

Quote:
2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.


While I had no interst in ever playing 1960: The Making of the President, strong association of the time period and aspects of the game with Edward Bernays certainly killed any possible interest I may have conceived of having.

Quote:
3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.


Umm nope, can't think of one. Fairly sure I don't have such a story.

Quote:
4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.


A game of, I think, Castle in which the other player insisted in reading all the card aloud, role role-acting the cards as they were played, and inventing stories around every game event, which he'd then relate in exhaustive detail. It made playing the game a painful chore.

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Russ Williams
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clearclaw wrote:
Quote:
4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.


A game of, I think, Castle in which the other player insisted in reading all the card aloud, role role-acting the cards as they were played, and inventing stories around every game event, which he'd then relate in exhaustive detail. It made playing the game a painful chore.

I'm confused - that sounds like the presence of theme caused the problem for you. If it had been a themeless game, then there would be no flavor art/text on cards nor roles to play.
 
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Daniel
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Well, to me a game's theme/background story is one of the most important things I base my decision on when buying it. Except for little fun-games or abstract games, where this is no so important and can be neglected, like chess, Reversi, Zambeln, Monopoly, etc.

I just like to immerse in a different world while playing and a nice theme helps a lot. Since I'm a huge fantasy / horror / sci-fi lover, these games appeal most to me.

But: even if the theme is appealing, the gameplay/rules are also important - bad gameplay or faulty rules may make me decline.


1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

Well, there are many games I bought because of the particular theme, like Munchkin, Doom, Descent, Space Hulk, War of the Rings, The Island of Dr. Necreaux, Zombies, Martians, plus many roleplaying games as well!

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

Hmm... every Wargame set in the real world, e.g. WWI+II wargames, Napoleonic, Civil War games, all that stuff.

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

I'll second Arkham Horror, too. Plus Munchkin, since non-roleplayers (probably) won't get all the in-game jokes, and it's more fun with people who KNOW. And War of the Rings (if set in another world, I most certainly would not have bought/played it).

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.

Haven't played any game like that.
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David C
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russ wrote:

How is this an "is theme important" thread? It sounds more like an "agree with me that theme is important and give examples to show that theme is important" thread.


Point taken.

I just got kind of sick of the other discussion threads where people describe how theme can make or break a game...or it doesn't matter what-so-ever. Even in my fledgling gamer status, I can think of games that wouldn't make it to the table because of theme, or games that would be bought, because of theme/box art.

...and I was sure I wasn't the only one.
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Runcible Spoon
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1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

I like fantasy themed games so BattleLore won out over Memoir '44 and Commands & Colors: Ancients.

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

I don't like WWI or WWII stuff, so this rules out a large portion of war games. A specific example from above would be Memoir '44.

I know it seems silly since BattleLore, Memoir '44 and Commands & Colors: Ancients are all related but that is the point of the thread right? How does theme influence your preferences?

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

Lord of the Rings.

I can think of a lot of games where theme seems to dictate a person's gut level reaction about whether of not they want to play, but theme didn't make the gameplay. This seems especially true for non-gamers that see things like Ticket to Ride or for people that like a fantasy themed games such as Small World

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.

Hmmm...I can't think of any where the theme broke the game, but games without much theme (chess, go) don't usually appeal to me all that much.
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Judit Szepessy
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1. I like those boardgames that recall certain periods in history. For this reason I bought Kingsburg and Pillars of the Earth (I had read the book previously). Mind you, if my imagination is triggered I like games with a "pasted on theme" as well. I enjoy Lost Cities not only because of the good gameplay but because I get immersed in another world.

2. I see how popular Agricola is but I am really not into farming as a theme. However, if opportunity arrives I am sure I will try this game.

3. Guillotine is just an easy filler but as I love the artwork and the period the game stimulates we play it often.
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M.J.E. Hendriks
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1.) Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization - Just love the theme! Just had to have it.

2.) Space Hulk - just not interested... at all.

3.) Arkham Horror, Fury of Dracula.

4.) Vikings --> We're Viking who farm and get robbed by other Vikings? What?!? Mykerinos --> The more excavations you have in one area, the better. What? You want to get lucky with your excavations? Nah, not important, just make sure you have at least 1 more than the next player.
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David C
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Mr Mjeh wrote:


4.) Vikings --> We're Viking who farm and get robbed by other Vikings? What?!? Mykerinos --> The more excavations you have in one area, the better. What? You want to get lucky with your excavations? Nah, not important, just make sure you have at least 1 more than the next player.


I didn't think there would be ANYONE who could have added to #4, but you raise a point, and I bet there are going to be a bunch of people saying, "come to think of it..."
 
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J C Lawrence
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russ wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Quote:
4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.


A game of, I think, Castle in which the other player insisted in reading all the card aloud, role role-acting the cards as they were played, and inventing stories around every game event, which he'd then relate in exhaustive detail. It made playing the game a painful chore.

I'm confused - that sounds like the presence of theme caused the problem for you. If it had been a themeless game, then there would be no flavor art/text on cards nor roles to play.


You're right. I brain-borked. Somewhere I invereted the question in my head. (I guess last night's game of 18GL took more out of me than i thought) Sorry.

I have no answer for the original question. I'm not sure I can conceive of how I could have an answer for that question.
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Russ Williams
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Mr Mjeh wrote:
4.) Vikings --> We're Viking who farm and get robbed by other Vikings? What?!?

How is Vikings lack of a theme?

Historically vikings did have farms and sometimes attack each other, so I'm not sure what the What?!? is about.
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M.J.E. Hendriks
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russ wrote:
Mr Mjeh wrote:
4.) Vikings --> We're Viking who farm and get robbed by other Vikings? What?!?

How is Vikings lack of a theme?

Historically vikings did have farms and sometimes attack each other, so I'm not sure what the What?!? is about. :)


It's all about expectations. Vikings also used the bathroom and ate. Should I make a game about Vikings eating two meals a day?

Bllrggh, that's the worst, and I mean the WORST argument in the history of arguments. There's BILLIONS of people who had farms and sometimes attack each other - why make it about Vikings? It's totally nonsensical. I was truly hoping for an argument against this at some higher level.

It is beside the point whether they did or did not farm.
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clearclaw wrote:
russ wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Quote:
4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay.


A game of, I think, Castle in which the other player insisted in reading all the card aloud, role role-acting the cards as they were played, and inventing stories around every game event, which he'd then relate in exhaustive detail. It made playing the game a painful chore.

I'm confused - that sounds like the presence of theme caused the problem for you. If it had been a themeless game, then there would be no flavor art/text on cards nor roles to play.


You're right. I brain-borked. Somewhere I invereted the question in my head. (I guess last night's game of 18GL took more out of me than i thought) Sorry.

I have no answer for the original question. I'm not sure I can conceive of how I could have an answer for that question.


And you're right - the reason you can't answer the question, and people aren't answering the question, is that "breaking the gameplay" is too strong. What is meant - or at least, how I interpreted it - is that a game that has no theme ruined the game for you - caused you to dislike it. The verb "breaking" is too strong and makes one think of "a broken game" which of course has nothing to do with theme.
 
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David C
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I changed the question #4 to "having a theme or not having a theme" breaking gameplay...
 
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Justin Fitzgerald
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1.) Too many to count really. Virtually everything by FFG.

2.) I put Agricola off because of theme. There are also hundreds of other games I've haven't played because of their soulless Euro nature like St. Petersburg or Notre Dame.

3.) Hecatomb, Middle Earth Quest, Arkham Horror, Call of Cthulhu CCG, to name a few.

4.) Virtually any game could be improved with a decent theme. I couldn't really state a specific example but I avoid games without a nicely applied gimmick, particularly when they're abstracts. That said, I like games like Khet, which are abstracts with well-selected (but pasted on) themes.

For me, a great deal of my enjoyment of the game comes about because the game is attractive. I love games like Evo with bright artwork and despise games like Notre Dame with dull, soulless art.

In addition: Much like a good movie, the theme should be engaging enough to cause you to suspend disbelief and enjoy the game and stop picking at logical inconsistencies. Games without themes can't have logical inconsistencies. The trick is finding the balance in between.
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Russ Williams
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Mr Mjeh wrote:
It's all about expectations. Vikings also used the bathroom and ate. Should I make a game about Vikings eating two meals a day?

I bet most of them actually didn't use a bathroom, or even have a bathroom.
 
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M.J.E. Hendriks
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russ wrote:
Mr Mjeh wrote:
It's all about expectations. Vikings also used the bathroom and ate. Should I make a game about Vikings eating two meals a day?

I bet most of them actually didn't use a bathroom, or even have a bathroom.


True. I meant to say pee, but then thought I'd have people falling over me with "thumbs down", so edited it. ninja
 
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1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

Tannhauser a mediocre game with any other theme that I will spit out and tell about how lousy it is. With it hellboyish theme however I love it. The game is obviously flawed but i love the theme and fluff SO much!

2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

Agricola, a game about farming? you are shitting me. There couldn't be anything less appealing then playing a farmer. Hell I'd rather play an abstract.

3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.
Arkham Horror, this is a perfect story telling game. And Dune this is a prime examble how theme is game and game is theme (in other words: how well integrated the theme is in the gameplay)

4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay. EDIT: Changed to "A story where having a theme, or not having a theme, broke the gameplay".

Couldn't think of a theme that breaks gameplay, there are plenty of themes I don't like tho and therefore won't play them but I doubt they break the gameplay.
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bippi wrote:

What I need is...
1.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you want or purchase a game.

Lots of examples from my forty-odd years as a wargamer. In wargames, the "theme" is almost more than just a theme; it's sometimes called the subject of the game (because so many hardcore wargamers regard their games as educational). Latest purchase was Lock 'n Load: Heroes of the Blitzkrieg, which I enjoy because it facilitates my vicarious experience of up-close tactical WWII combat and covers a part of the war I haven't heard or read too much about.

Quote:
2.) A story or two of your own, where theme made you not want to play a game.

Pandemic. Something yucky about all that disease stuff.
Agricola. Something boring about all that farming stuff.
Bohnanza. Something silly and boring about that bean-farming stuff.
American Idol Board Game. 'Nuff said.

Quote:
3.) A story where having a theme made the gameplay.

Again, Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes. Yeah, it's interesting to puzzle through the game challenges. But what really makes the game is imagining how the events in the game might've looked in real life. To me, it's mainly about make-believe, and secondarily about problem-solving challenges.

Quote:
4.) A story where having no theme, broke the gameplay. EDIT: Changed to "A story where having a theme, or not having a theme, broke the gameplay".

Can't think of an example offhand. There are themeless games I dislike, but I'd probably still dislike them if they were themed. There are themed games I dislike, but I'm not sure I'd like them better without a theme.

I suppose any of the games I listed under question 2 above might be better if rethemed.
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