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Subject: The 122nd Edition of Blott's TGIF Poll rss

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Ben Lott
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If you want updates on when new TGIF polls are posted, or want to look at the results of past polls go to The TGIF Poll Subscription Thread.

Poll: The 122nd TGIF Poll
Do you put effort into experiencing the theme of a game when playing?

(Choose the answer that comes the closest to describing your opinion)
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Always. Even when the theme is loosely pasted on, I try to see how it's connected to the mechanisms.
12.1% 30
Usually. There are some games where the theme is so disconnected that I just ignore it, but I try every other time.
38.7% 96
Sometimes. If the theme makes sense with the mechanisms I will pay attention to it, if not I won't.
39.5% 98
Rarely. There would have to be some significant thematic elements for me to see the theme when playing.
6.9% 17
Never. I tend to completely disconnect the theme from a game and concentrate solely on the mechanisms.
2.8% 7
Voters 248
Of the Top 20 Most-Rated Games on BGG, how much do you see the theme while playing?

(Note: If you have not played the game, don't vote in that row!)
  Pure Theme Greatly Thematic Somewhat Thematic Loosely Thematic Virtually Invisible Theme Vote Count
Catan 0.4% (1) 10.1% (25) 42.3% (105) 33.9% (84) 13.3% (33) 248
Carcassonne 0.0% (0) 4.9% (12) 24.3% (59) 47.3% (115) 23.5% (57) 243
Puerto Rico 0.9% (2) 17.9% (39) 44.0% (96) 28.9% (63) 8.3% (18) 218
Agricola 5.5% (12) 51.4% (112) 31.7% (69) 7.8% (17) 3.7% (8) 218
Power Grid 3.3% (7) 28.6% (60) 45.2% (95) 18.1% (38) 4.8% (10) 210
Dominion 0.9% (2) 1.8% (4) 12.9% (29) 35.3% (79) 49.1% (110) 224
Ticket to Ride 1.3% (3) 13.3% (31) 42.1% (98) 29.6% (69) 13.7% (32) 233
Citadels 0.5% (1) 17.3% (34) 37.6% (74) 30.5% (60) 14.2% (28) 197
Pandemic 16.2% (37) 54.4% (124) 20.2% (46) 5.3% (12) 3.9% (9) 228
Lost Cities 0.5% (1) 2.0% (4) 7.4% (15) 22.8% (46) 67.3% (136) 202
Race for the Galaxy 2.1% (4) 15.3% (29) 39.7% (75) 25.4% (48) 17.5% (33) 189
Bohnanza 3.7% (7) 6.8% (13) 22.5% (43) 38.7% (74) 28.3% (54) 191
Arkham Horror 63.0% (104) 27.9% (46) 4.8% (8) 1.8% (3) 2.4% (4) 165
Tigris & Euphrates 0.6% (1) 9.5% (16) 20.7% (35) 32.0% (54) 37.3% (63) 169
Caylus 0.6% (1) 8.8% (14) 32.7% (52) 33.3% (53) 24.5% (39) 159
Risk 7.5% (17) 24.3% (55) 39.4% (89) 23.5% (53) 5.3% (12) 226
Ticket to Ride: Europe 2.0% (4) 13.2% (27) 41.7% (85) 30.4% (62) 12.7% (26) 204
San Juan 0.0% (0) 4.9% (9) 33.9% (62) 35.0% (64) 26.2% (48) 183
Small World 7.9% (15) 36.3% (69) 36.3% (69) 11.6% (22) 7.9% (15) 190
El Grande 0.6% (1) 9.4% (15) 35.0% (56) 37.5% (60) 17.5% (28) 160
Total Voters 255
This poll is now closed.   261 answers
Poll created by Blott
Closes: Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:00 am


#3. Is there a game that you did not expect to like because of the theme, but then you were pleasantly surprised?

Any discussion is encouraged.
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Tom P
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#3 - Arkham Horror because Horror/fantasy themes don't appeal much, but this is a very good game and lots of fun.
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Joe Huber

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Blott wrote:
#3. Is there a game that you did not expect to like because of the theme, but then you were pleasantly surprised?


Not that I can up with - when I give a game a try in spite of the theme, I'm nearly always disappointed. (When I give a game a try _because_ of the theme, I'm sometimes disappointed, but by less.) But honestly, if the theme isn't to my taste, I'm likely just to avoid the game altogether; I haven't had enough exceptions to make it worth spending the time. And I don't believe I own a single game which I actively dislike the theme of.

Since I gave one of my highest marks to the theme for Euphrat & Tigris, a note of explanation - the theme of the rise and fall of civilizations is very well depicted for me by the mechanisms. It's not that playing tiles feels thematic, so much so as the grand sweep of the game feels thematic.
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Randy Cox
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Interesting. I was all set to say, "theme doesn't matter," and I still think that. But as I read through the list of 20 games (where I only voted that 3 had any sort of theme at all, of those I've played) I began to realize that I certainly don't see the theme of the game's setting.

Nothing new there.

But then I started thinking, "Well, the theme of Ticket to Ride, to me, is connecting nodes on a graph." In terms of that theme--connecting stuff--TtR is highly thematic. But in terms of something about choo-choos, no. So, I appropriately voted that it's invisible to me.

But it did make me think about just what "theme" is vs "setting."

As to games I liked in spite of the theme, I can't think of any. If the theme (setting?) rears its head enough to be noticeable, then if I dislike that setting/theme, I don't like the game. Can't make a game about beating children workable. No can do.
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Our #1 game, Louis XIV, I had totally discounted because of the theme----seeking favors in the French court. However, the mechanics and depth of this game blew us away and we always enjoy playing it. Subsequent to owning and playing this, I actually did some reading about the period and educated myself about the pre-French Revolution and French Revolution era. It actually helped me play the game better!!!!!!!! And no, the theme is not extremely integrated.

I guess I'm a mechanics person then, not a theme person. I do enjoy abstracts and card games a lot.
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huber wrote:
Since I gave one of my highest marks to the theme for Euphrat & Tigris, a note of explanation - the theme of the rise and fall of civilizations is very well depicted for me by the mechanisms.
Interesting. I gave this one the very opposite rating--it has no theme. It's just putting stuff on a board and collecting colorful doodads and using those doodads to calculate a final score.

Of course, if that's the theme (doodad collecting) then it does its job well. :)
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I don't see a theme when I play carcassonne (I just see random tiles being joined) but I do when I play Pandemic, I feel that I must save the world from outbreaks, so I guess it just depends on the game I am playing!
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#3 - Nope. Theme can help make up for slightly lacking gameplay or kill my interest in an otherwise good game. A better question for me would be to ask if I've ever disliked a game that I expected to like because of the theme.
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#3. Yep, Puerto Rico. I held off buying it as I thought the theme was completly dry and boring. But, I had the chance to try before I bought and was completely sucked in (and found I did enjoy the theme, too). It is one of my favorite games now.

I'm a bit weird. I definately pay attention to theme in games I want to play. But when playing, I don't think a ton about the theme unless it pushes itsself at me or helps with the play of the game. I think about Princes of Florence (which I played recently). I don't feel like, nor do I think about being someone creating works of art. I'm playing the game for mechanics. On the other side, I'm not big on SF or fantasy, whatsoever, and normally avoid those games based on the theme.

So, theme matters to me but not in a way that it matters to many (I think).
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huber wrote:
Since I gave one of my highest marks to the theme for Euphrat & Tigris, a note of explanation - the theme of the rise and fall of civilizations is very well depicted for me by the mechanisms. It's not that playing tiles feels thematic, so much so as the grand sweep of the game feels thematic.
Quoted for Truth!

It feels like you have a bird's-eye time-lapsed view of the fertile crescent. Sure it doesn't have plastic goober, but it does really capture the ebb and swell, the clash and retreat of civilizations. I find it kind of poetic.

It also makes me want to think deep thoughts about the meaning of civilization... except that I'm usually too busy trying to figure out my next move.
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Randy Cox
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Wow. In the early voting, I'm very surprised.

- I'm surprised that over half of respondents actively look for theme in any old game and almost 90% "see" it

- I'm amazed that 12 of these 20 (almost all "Euro") games rate on the positive of theme (using a 5, 4, 2, 1, -5 scale for the choices).

- I'm bamboozled that Ticket to Ride is currently 9th out of these 20 games in terms of "theminess." It even has quite a few "greatly thematic" responses. Wow.
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Well, of those in the Top 20, I see and 'feel' very little theme (but a little).

But, I do try to infuse theme whenever possible. Heck, I make people read the cards and give speeches in Rocketville.
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Joe Huber

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Randy Cox wrote:
huber wrote:
Since I gave one of my highest marks to the theme for Euphrat & Tigris, a note of explanation - the theme of the rise and fall of civilizations is very well depicted for me by the mechanisms.
Interesting. I gave this one the very opposite rating--it has no theme. It's just putting stuff on a board and collecting colorful doodads and using those doodads to calculate a final score.

Of course, if that's the theme (doodad collecting) then it does its job well.


The _goal_ of E&T isn't very thematic, I agree. But the flow of the board is fascinating to me. There's a _story_ being told there, visually.

But I must admit - I'm not naturally inclined to focus too much on the doodads...
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Quote:
Is there a game that you did not expect to like because of the theme, but then you were pleasantly surprised?


For me, that would be either Stone Age or Valley of the Mammoths. I never liked the prehistoric theme, but I enjoy both games.

On a side note, I was surprised to find that I also liked Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga. Not because of the theme - looting and pillaging is a great theme - but because the game just didn't live up to it's name. Very little fire or axe, but the theme of seasonal migration played out very well.
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Quote:
Tigris & Euphrates 0.0% (0) 12.5% (5) 22.5% (9) 27.5% (11) 37.5% (15)

Virtually invisible theme? I voted for greatly thematic.
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1 - I'm usually the one who's sitting there trying to make those logical connections. I'll often try to teach a game while using the theme as a reference, so looking for theme when playing just comes natural.

2 - Of the ones I've played, Pandemic is easily the most thematic with Small World coming close behind. Dominion was the only one I rated as having a virtually invisible theme (I'm still not sure why that doesn't bother me in this game.) Most of the others I rated as only loosely thematic.

3 - I'm really not big on gambling, and so I was totally turned off when I first saw Vegas Showdown. Surprisingly when I played it, it became one of my favorite games of all time!



Just to help out Randy in his debate against Ticket to Ride, here's the quote from the front of the rulebook:

Quote:
On a blustery autumn evening five old friends met in the backroom of one of the city’s oldest and most private clubs. Each had
traveled a long distance - from all corners of the world - to meet on this very specific day; October 2, 1900 ; 28 years to the
day that the London eccentric, Phileas Fogg accepted and then won a £20,000 bet that he could travel Around the World in 80 Days.
When the story of Fogg’s triumphant journey filled all the newspapers of the day, the five attended University together. Inspired by
his impetuous gamble, and a few pints from the local pub, the group commemorated his circumnavigation with a more modest excursion
and wager - a bottle of good claret to the first to make it to Le Procope in Paris.
Each succeeding year, they met to celebrate the anniversary and pay tribute to Fogg. And each year a new expedition (always more
difficult) with a new wager (always more expensive) was proposed. Now at the dawn of the century it was time for a new impossible
journey. The stakes: $1 Million in a winner-takes-all competition. The objective: to see which of them could travel by rail to the
most cities in North America, in just 7 days. The journey would begin immediately!
Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure. Players compete to connect different cities by laying claim to railway routes on a
map of North America.


So the theme is actually trying to travel to as many cities as possible, not trying to create a viable network of trains. So how closely does Ticket to Ride match the theme offered in the rulebook?
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crazylegs wrote:
#3 - Arkham Horror because Horror/fantasy themes don't appeal much, but this is a very good game and lots of fun.


Seconded! I mostly went along with playing because it was a highly rated game on BGG, and didn't expect to be sucked in like I was. I barely slept that night, not out of fear, but because my mind was absorbed with the coolness of the theme. I had to own the game ASAP, and later bought a book of Lovecraft's stories. It's a game that's more fun when people get into the theme.

And although the theme isn't there much, I like to force players to get into the theme of Modern Art. Don't just start an auction, SELL me that painting!
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Blott wrote:
#3. Is there a game that you did not expect to like because of the theme, but then you were pleasantly surprised?

The most recent example was Pret-a-Porter, a new economic worker placement Euro game about the fashion industry from Portal Games! It was quite interesting and good, and the art of models in various styles of clothes works well with the theme. I felt like I was running a fashionable clothing company, and it was fun!

(I would link to the game entry, but it's sadly still stuck in the submission queue. http://www.planszomania.pl/ekonomiczne/2803/Pretaporter.html has some photos and an overview in Polish.)

Presenting your latest dress designs at the fashion shows in Paris and London is a rather different theme from usual for Portal Games, better known for games about post-apocalyptic zombies and cyborgs and mutants fighting each other.
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Blott wrote:
Just to help out Randy in his debate against Ticket to Ride, here's the quote from the front of the rulebook:

Quote:
On a blustery autumn evening five old friends met in the backroom of one of the city’s oldest and most private clubs. Each had
traveled a long distance - from all corners of the world - to meet on this very specific day; October 2, 1900 ; 28 years to the
day that the London eccentric, Phileas Fogg accepted and then won a £20,000 bet that he could travel Around the World in 80 Days.
When the story of Fogg’s triumphant journey filled all the newspapers of the day, the five attended University together. Inspired by
his impetuous gamble, and a few pints from the local pub, the group commemorated his circumnavigation with a more modest excursion
and wager - a bottle of good claret to the first to make it to Le Procope in Paris.
Each succeeding year, they met to celebrate the anniversary and pay tribute to Fogg. And each year a new expedition (always more
difficult) with a new wager (always more expensive) was proposed. Now at the dawn of the century it was time for a new impossible
journey. The stakes: $1 Million in a winner-takes-all competition. The objective: to see which of them could travel by rail to the
most cities in North America, in just 7 days. The journey would begin immediately!
Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure. Players compete to connect different cities by laying claim to railway routes on a
map of North America.


So the theme is actually trying to travel to as many cities as possible, not trying to create a viable network of trains. So how closely does Ticket to Ride match the theme offered in the rulebook?


It's funny that's not the quote from Around the World in 80 Days, which would be more appropriate.
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I like theme in a game... some of my favourite games are heavily themed.. Space Alert; Pandemic; Arkham Horror. I'm not a fan of abstracts, but some games work ok with a very loose theme.

Of the ones on the list, Arkham Horror is my most heavily themed game, with Pandemic a close second... and contrary to most people, I think Dominion has more theme than it is given credit for. Certainly with a lot of the action cards, they have tried very hard to tie-in the mechanisms with the card names (and hence their 'flavour')... hmm perhaps I should try adding some descriptive flourish to my actions next time I play Dominion...


Blott wrote:
3 - I'm really not big on gambling, and so I was totally turned off when I first saw Vegas Showdown. Surprisingly when I played it, it became one of my favorite games of all time!
The title and artwork definitely give the wrong impression. I probably would never have tried the game if it weren't for you, Ben. Now I own a copy, and both my wife and I enjoy it.

Another example might be Samarkand: Routes to Riches.. I thought the camels in the desert and the marrying into families to get influence would put me off, but it was ok... in fact I couldn't really shake the feeling that underneath it was a train game instead!
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The biggest surprise to me in the poll results so far is that both Ticket to Ride games are trending toward "somewhat thematic." Along with Lost Cities, these were my only "theme virtually invisible" answers.

My default mindset is to look for nifty connections between theme and mechanics.
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Cosmic Encounter would be my unexpected surprise.

I'm not an Ameritrasher [regardless of what anyone says, the genre does exist and FFG coffin games are perpetuating it], whether it's "buckets o' dice" or "clever card-based combat mechanic" [TM by FFG] or lots of plastic minis all over the board and awkward rules for distinguishing and using them, it just doesn't appeal to me.

After Through The Desert which I love, I bought up quite a few of the other FFG SilverLine games thinking I'd find a few more great abstract-y Euro-y games, but most were just mediocre. The only ones that will maintain a permanent place on my shelf are Through The Desert, Drakon, and possibly Cave Troll. I've traded off quite a few others, and more are potentially on the trading block.

I picked up Cosmic Encounter in the $15 B&N sale on a whim just because I had driven halfway across town and didn't find anything else [literally] on sale, gaming-wise. I kept it unopened for quite awhile, strongly considering trading it, and generally just stared with contempt at its card-driven combat, presumably meta-game laden gameplay, presumable emphasis on "super-cool alien powers" theme over gameplay, and inclusion in the FFG line of big boxes of crud.

On a whim, I brought it to a new game-group I was attending and tried it out. It was completely different from what I expected. The card combat was not unnecessarily complicated, the alliances were actually internal to the game rather than part of the meta-game, and the game was about incentives and economies rather than stupid wacky take-that gameplay of just waiting to see who got the better cards.

It's a game that's unlike much of anything else.
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#3. Founding Fathers was an unexpected surprise for me considering the theme. Same with Die Macher. I expect Magnum Sal and Labyrinth: The War on Terror will fit this category as well.
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#3 - Ca$h 'n Gun$ was something I was wary of as I didn't think pointing guns at my friends sounded like a particulalry good idea... but it turns out it is! Even more fun with my Mother in Law... devil
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Quote:
Game that you did not expect to like because of the theme, but then you were pleasantly surprised.


Mayfair actually had two of those this year. I didn't expect to like Nuns on the Run or Lords of Vegas, though only partially because of theme. However I really like Lords of Vegas. Even more shocking than that, my son really likes both those games; He thought he'd hate Nuns on the Run, but he really enjoyed it, and Lords of Vegas is one of his favorites.
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