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Subject: What game offers the best combination of mechanics and theme... rss

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Jason Hinchliffe
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Now, I'm not talking about what game has the most mechanics, and the biggest narrative. I mean what game brings you solid, clear, non-luck based gameplay and manages to combine it with a rock solid theme that is both deep and engaging, and adequately disguises the mechanics.

Criteria are as follows:

- Offer deep and variable gameplay with a multitude of strategic options, that the player designs (in other words, he's not choosing from a menu, but rather utilizing the mechanics of the game to craft his own strategy), either cooperatively, and/or competitively.

- The mechanics fit clearly within the theme, so that you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.

As a result of this, favourites like Puerto Rico (amazing mechanics, bullshit theme) and Arkham Horror (amazing theme and narrative, broken mechanics according to what I've read) are not winners here.

Obviously, this is inspired by the recent theme vs. mechanics threads, to pay homage to those games which manage to excel in both areas.

If you disagree with my criteria, please feel free to outline your own. I just wanted to give a general feel for the thread.
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Space Alert hands down.

Quote:
- Offer deep and variable gameplay with a multitude of strategic options, that the player designs (in other words, he's not choosing from a menu, but rather utilizing the mechanics of the game to craft his own strategy), either cooperatively, and/or competitively.


It's amazing what can become of a whopping 6 actions (A,B,C,Blue,Red,and Fight with Battle Bots). Toss in the threat decks, and different sound tracks and you will be unlucky to have the same game twice.

Quote:
- The mechanics fit clearly within the theme, so that you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.


A game in progress sounds like this:

"Ok guys let's go!

We've got a Juggernaut coming at Red, Fred hit the screen saver and then swing over to red and fire the laser. I'll back you up with laser fire from the lower deck."

"I'm already at the Central reactor preparing for the Ninja that's coming into lower blue at t-4, you're own you own with the jugger."

"But, Fred.. you.. Alright fine, Sandy - red laser on t-3"

"There's a Psionic Satellite coming down white man, I can't go no where - fire the Pulse cannon on t-7 would ya?"

"But, the Juggernaut guys.. the jugger - oh shi- there's a Stealth Fighter going to rip blue to shreds on t-9; we gotta-"

"No time, I don't think I handled the ninja and Sandy's dead. Can you back me up on t-5?"

... time passes

"Alright that's a game guys I think we did-- wait, did anyone ever deal with the juggernaut?"

And the Juggernaut rips the ship apart at t-5 and everything planned post that was a waste
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Curt Carpenter
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You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.
 
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The Other Tom
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clockwerk76 wrote:

Criteria are as follows:

- Offer deep and variable gameplay with a multitude of strategic options, that the player designs (in other words, he's not choosing from a menu, but rather utilizing the mechanics of the game to craft his own strategy), either cooperatively, and/or competitively.

- The mechanics fit clearly within the theme, so that you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.


Thebes is 1 for 2! shake

But on a different note I personally liked playing Dominion for a while with several expansions but it felt very much like a mechanical game. But then I found Thunderstone and finally felt like I was playing Dominion with a purpose and quite honestly I think the theme is very engaging. This coming from someone who doesn't didn't play fantasy/sci-fi games at all. Then I gave Thunderstone a chance...I don't see Dominion holding much of a future any longer in my collection.

So based on your criteria above - I would say Thunderstone meets that criteria for myself personally.

Starting with weak heroes I am unable to defeat hardly any monsters. As the game progresses I can recruit newer and better heroes along the way. They then through battle experience can become stronger and more powerful.

Who knew a game with just cards could create a dungeon crawl atmosphere?
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Chris Parker
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Railways of the World - for me the mechanics in this game are deeply tied to its theme. Do you spend money on laying track, upgrading your engine, where to build your network. You start out like a small operator and slowly build your network into a rail empire. The game has a great story arc to it and everything you do makes sense - your options and the decisions are the same as what a rail baron would face (or at least it feels that way!).

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Chris Sauder
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2 come to mind immediately for me.

Middle-Earth Quest

Battlestar Galactica

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Jack Smith
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I would second Battlestar Galactica. I didn't like the theme much but liked the mechanics so I bought it. As a result I watched every episode and realised how well the game played out to the theme. I even noticed characteristics from how we sometimes played.
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Goran M
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War of the Ring (First Edition)

Not to go into much details, mechanic elements such as growing number of dice, variable powers, asymetrical play, card management fits the theme rather nicely.
 
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curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.

An oft-heard criticism that doesn't make the game any less fun to me But I agree, it's probably not for everyone.
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Jason Hinchliffe
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curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.


Really? A game that effectively disguises its mechanics in its theme is a simulation? So I suppose when I'm moving my troops in Small World that's a simulation?

I think you are taking this to extremes.
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Curt Carpenter
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haslo wrote:
curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.

An oft-heard criticism that doesn't make the game any less fun to me But I agree, it's probably not for everyone.

Sorry, my comment was to the OP's wished for game, not in response to Space Alert.
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Curt Carpenter
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clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.

Really? A game that effectively disguises its mechanics in its theme is a simulation? So I suppose when I'm moving my troops in Small World that's a simulation?

No, just the opposite. Small World doesn't pass this test:
Quote:
...you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.
Small World is pure mechanics. You don't "do" much of anything that is thematic.
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Jason Hinchliffe
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curtc wrote:
clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.

Really? A game that effectively disguises its mechanics in its theme is a simulation? So I suppose when I'm moving my troops in Small World that's a simulation?

No, just the opposite. Small World doesn't pass this test:
Quote:
...you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.
Small World is pure mechanics. You don't "do" much of anything that is thematic.


You move your troops. The theme of the game is new races in a land expading and replacing old races.

Besides, I didn't wish for anything. I simply asked gamers to name what games THEY thought offered the best combination of solid theme and mechanics. My criteria were only put out as a guideline.

This isn't a request for recommendations based on my personal desires, but rather an open question to other gamers ot share their thoughts.
 
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Jason Hinchliffe
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Candi wrote:
Space Alert hands down.

Quote:
- Offer deep and variable gameplay with a multitude of strategic options, that the player designs (in other words, he's not choosing from a menu, but rather utilizing the mechanics of the game to craft his own strategy), either cooperatively, and/or competitively.


It's amazing what can become of a whopping 6 actions (A,B,C,Blue,Red,and Fight with Battle Bots). Toss in the threat decks, and different sound tracks and you will be unlucky to have the same game twice.

Quote:
- The mechanics fit clearly within the theme, so that you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.


A game in progress sounds like this:

"Ok guys let's go!

We've got a Juggernaut coming at Red, Fred hit the screen saver and then swing over to red and fire the laser. I'll back you up with laser fire from the lower deck."

"I'm already at the Central reactor preparing for the Ninja that's coming into lower blue at t-4, you're own you own with the jugger."

"But, Fred.. you.. Alright fine, Sandy - red laser on t-3"

"There's a Psionic Satellite coming down white man, I can't go no where - fire the Pulse cannon on t-7 would ya?"

"But, the Juggernaut guys.. the jugger - oh shi- there's a Stealth Fighter going to rip blue to shreds on t-9; we gotta-"

"No time, I don't think I handled the ninja and Sandy's dead. Can you back me up on t-5?"

... time passes

"Alright that's a game guys I think we did-- wait, did anyone ever deal with the juggernaut?"

And the Juggernaut rips the ship apart at t-5 and everything planned post that was a waste


This sounds unlike anything I gave played, and like copious amounts of awesome.
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Chris Parker
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clockwerk76 wrote:
Candi wrote:
Space Alert hands down.

Quote:
- Offer deep and variable gameplay with a multitude of strategic options, that the player designs (in other words, he's not choosing from a menu, but rather utilizing the mechanics of the game to craft his own strategy), either cooperatively, and/or competitively.


It's amazing what can become of a whopping 6 actions (A,B,C,Blue,Red,and Fight with Battle Bots). Toss in the threat decks, and different sound tracks and you will be unlucky to have the same game twice.

Quote:
- The mechanics fit clearly within the theme, so that you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.


A game in progress sounds like this:

"Ok guys let's go!

We've got a Juggernaut coming at Red, Fred hit the screen saver and then swing over to red and fire the laser. I'll back you up with laser fire from the lower deck."

"I'm already at the Central reactor preparing for the Ninja that's coming into lower blue at t-4, you're own you own with the jugger."

"But, Fred.. you.. Alright fine, Sandy - red laser on t-3"

"There's a Psionic Satellite coming down white man, I can't go no where - fire the Pulse cannon on t-7 would ya?"

"But, the Juggernaut guys.. the jugger - oh shi- there's a Stealth Fighter going to rip blue to shreds on t-9; we gotta-"

"No time, I don't think I handled the ninja and Sandy's dead. Can you back me up on t-5?"

... time passes

"Alright that's a game guys I think we did-- wait, did anyone ever deal with the juggernaut?"

And the Juggernaut rips the ship apart at t-5 and everything planned post that was a waste


This sounds unlike anything I gave played, and like copious amounts of awesome.


Agreed - sounds far more exciting than "got wood for sheep?"
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Jason Hinchliffe
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boardkiwi wrote:
clockwerk76 wrote:
Candi wrote:
Space Alert hands down.

Quote:
- Offer deep and variable gameplay with a multitude of strategic options, that the player designs (in other words, he's not choosing from a menu, but rather utilizing the mechanics of the game to craft his own strategy), either cooperatively, and/or competitively.


It's amazing what can become of a whopping 6 actions (A,B,C,Blue,Red,and Fight with Battle Bots). Toss in the threat decks, and different sound tracks and you will be unlucky to have the same game twice.

Quote:
- The mechanics fit clearly within the theme, so that you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.


A game in progress sounds like this:

"Ok guys let's go!

We've got a Juggernaut coming at Red, Fred hit the screen saver and then swing over to red and fire the laser. I'll back you up with laser fire from the lower deck."

"I'm already at the Central reactor preparing for the Ninja that's coming into lower blue at t-4, you're own you own with the jugger."

"But, Fred.. you.. Alright fine, Sandy - red laser on t-3"

"There's a Psionic Satellite coming down white man, I can't go no where - fire the Pulse cannon on t-7 would ya?"

"But, the Juggernaut guys.. the jugger - oh shi- there's a Stealth Fighter going to rip blue to shreds on t-9; we gotta-"

"No time, I don't think I handled the ninja and Sandy's dead. Can you back me up on t-5?"

... time passes

"Alright that's a game guys I think we did-- wait, did anyone ever deal with the juggernaut?"

And the Juggernaut rips the ship apart at t-5 and everything planned post that was a waste


This sounds unlike anything I gave played, and like copious amounts of awesome.


Agreed - sounds far more exciting than "got wood for sheep?"


LOL. I like trading. If I can get someone to cough up wood for sheep early in the game I feel like I've pulled off a coup. But I understand your point. I've been hearing a lot about this game and perhaps it's time I went and gave it a try. Sounds like a hoot over a few beers.
 
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Also not for everyone (and way OOP), but my favorite game in this regard is Gunslinger. I usually don't care about theme (or like Westerns), but this one tells a great story while having really interesting mechanics, all in a relatively short time period.

For example, I once played a 7 player scenario with a pile of gold in the middle of the board (we were splitting the loot after a bank robbery). Six of us drew our guns and started aiming, while one fellow dropped to the ground and started crawling at the money. The rat aiming at me fired a wild shot, and I managed to hit him in the leg, slowing him down enough for me to finish him off before he got another shot in. Meanwhile, a sharpshooter closer to the loot had taken out the crawler and one other guy, while still another guy was shot dead by the woman he'd left mortally wounded as he made a dash for the money. It was just me and the sharpshooter, but he only had one bullet left. He decided to grab one of the dropped guns for the extra ammo, and I managed to get behind him. The extra time it took him to turn around was all I needed.

Was it dishonorable that I was going to shoot a man in the back? Maybe. But I was 20 victory points richer for it.
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High Frontier

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Neil Christiansen
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Dune and Brass come to mind.
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There are plenty of gamey elements in Greed Incorporated, but I really enjoyed the way that as corrupt executives, you were actually coming up with dodgy deals to massage earnings and drain money from the companies you were running.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.

Really? A game that effectively disguises its mechanics in its theme is a simulation? So I suppose when I'm moving my troops in Small World that's a simulation?

No, just the opposite. Small World doesn't pass this test:
Quote:
...you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.
Small World is pure mechanics. You don't "do" much of anything that is thematic.


You move your troops. The theme of the game is new races in a land expading and replacing old races.

I'm baffled how Small World meets your criteria (I won't requote) and Puerto Rico doesn't. Unless "theme" is meant to imply fantasy.
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Kelly Bass
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What comes to mind is Swashbuckler.

Drunken pirates in a tavern brawl. Simultaneous action selection, but for the next several actions. It does seem like your character is too drunk to react to the changing situation around him. All you can do is laugh when someone tries to do something and is horribly out of step with what is really going on in the scene.

Okay, not a deep game, but the actions seem simple and intuitive. The results are staggeringly hilarious.
 
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Jason Hinchliffe
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curtc wrote:
clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
You're not describing a game. You're describing a simulation. And it doesn't sound fun to me.

Really? A game that effectively disguises its mechanics in its theme is a simulation? So I suppose when I'm moving my troops in Small World that's a simulation?

No, just the opposite. Small World doesn't pass this test:
Quote:
...you don't think of it as a mechanic, but rather an organic extension of what you are purportedly doing.
Small World is pure mechanics. You don't "do" much of anything that is thematic.


You move your troops. The theme of the game is new races in a land expading and replacing old races.

I'm baffled how Small World meets your criteria (I won't requote) and Puerto Rico doesn't. Unless "theme" is meant to imply fantasy.


Because in Small World I'm moving troops. If I were the leader of a small expanding civilization, I would be ordering my troops around and directing my expansion. In Puerto Rico, I am choosing roles. If I were the leader of a Colony (and I'm not sure exactly WHAT I am in that game) I don't "select roles" to do things. I'm not sure why a craftsman is producing corn, or the mayor is responsible for procuring what would essentially be slaves from a slave ship.

That's why I'm saying it's not simulation or fantasy. Yes, Small World is basically one simple mechanic, but that mechanic meshes perfectly with the theme. Puerto Rico has amazing mechanics, but the theme of the game really only serves to act as a memory device for sorting it all out, and much of it doesn't really fit.

Of course, this is my opinion. You may not agree with the extent to which PR fulfills or doesn't fulfill these requirements, but I think I've been pretty clear about why I feel the way I do. I'm not saying you have to agree with me, but I'd be baffled if you still didn't understand my position.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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clockwerk76 wrote:
curtc wrote:
I'm baffled how Small World meets your criteria (I won't requote) and Puerto Rico doesn't. Unless "theme" is meant to imply fantasy.

Because in Small World I'm moving troops. If I were the leader of a small expanding civilization, I would be ordering my troops around and directing my expansion. In Puerto Rico, I am choosing roles. If I were the leader of a Colony (and I'm not sure exactly WHAT I am in that game) I don't "select roles" to do things. I'm not sure why a craftsman is producing corn, or the mayor is responsible for procuring what would essentially be slaves from a slave ship.

In SW you choose a race to play. In PR you choose a role to play. How is the former more thematic than the latter? If anything, I can suggest that in PR you're actually choosing who to take out for a beer, and thus gain slight favor from. I don't know how to suggest anything such that choosing what race you are makes any sense thematically.
 
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