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Subject: What is the best theme for games? rss

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tom brown
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Ive been thinking about this for the last couple of days. Whether theme makes any real difference to a lot of games.

example 1. carcassone. It could be the inside of a spaceship, or building cities on the moon. Would this make the game worse or better? and would it sell worse or better?

example 2. Hive. insects? really? if Hive had a theme that was more pop culture, like manga zombies or WW2 units, would it be a better or worse seller? And would it make the game more fun.

Also, what are the most overdone themes? My girlfriend shudders at the mention of wizards, and I am particularly bored of medieval planning permission.

What themes would be better for what games? What are everyones favourite themes and what is everyones most hated themes?

 
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Brook Gentlestream
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Anything can be made better by making it sci-fi!


I've found games with real-world themes (bugs? real estate?) appeal more to casual players.
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Jeff Hinrickson
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Theme has very little to do with a game being good, it just gives the game depth. Many games could be themed many different ways but still have the same mechanics.

I don't put to much emphasis on theme being that my preferred style of game is a good Euro, and we all know that most Euros have pasted on themes.

A game that I believe has slightly over done the theme, but is still a good game, is Earth Reborn.
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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jjloc wrote:
Many games could be themed many different ways but still have the same mechanics.


I wish more games would do this. If Puerto Rico was a space colonization game, I would have bought it ages ago. If would be nice to have different thematic options for my favorite games.
 
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Manchuwok
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My favorite unexplored themes:

Driving a garbage truck
Tax evasion
Outhouse installation in state parks
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Ziegreich
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How about a game where you have to find a theme for a game?
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chris lake
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hmm, a pickup-deliver game based on refuse. That could be interesting.
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Andrew Meadow
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Here is what I want for themes:

quelling a prison riot (similar to Pandemic)
motorcycle gangs (I imagine that it's a cross between Formula D and Stone Age)
Adventurers for Hire (send them on dangerous missions that result in treasure or death)
Rock Band Superstardom (join a band and choose a route to financial or artistic success, whichever is more satisfying for you "as an artist")
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p55carroll
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Sex and violence are a couple of perennial crowd-pleasers. Just don't take them beyond the bounds of decency (which vary from one community to the next).

Alternatively, avoid sex and violence as themes. Most anything else is safe, and you can be as creative as you like without offending anyone.
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Patrick OLeary
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Theme is important for me in gaming, but the rules come first.

Either way, I'm tired of farming.
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I think whatever theme fits and is interesting to the target market. Pandemic and several other games could get rethemed (as you mention) and still work out.

I would probably pick a space/futuristic theme myself, but you can be pretty creative. Sometimes a creative theme is a big selling point of the game (such as with Shootin' Ladders: Frag Fest).
 
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Remus Rhymus
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I'm partial to zombies trading and shipping goods in baroque era mediterranean locations.
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Dave Maynor
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For me and my family, there are a few real winners....

1) Anything Zombie related. Maybe horror in general, but for gaming zombies specifically.

2) Ninjas. And Samurai, but Ninjas more so for gaming I think.

3) Superheros. Now the problem with this one is... they really need to be licensed to work well. But anything Marvel or DC is bound to be a good draw.
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Aaron Morgan
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Funky Disco wrote:
Rock Band Superstardom (join a band and choose a route to financial or artistic success, whichever is more satisfying for you "as an artist")


There have been a few in recent years.

And one more coming in a few months.
 
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Andrew Meadow
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EitherOrlok wrote:
Funky Disco wrote:
Rock Band Superstardom (join a band and choose a route to financial or artistic success, whichever is more satisfying for you "as an artist")


There have been a few in recent years.

And one more coming in a few months.


I did not know this... are any of these any good?
 
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Aaron Morgan
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Funky Disco wrote:
I did not know this... are any of these any good?


I liked Umläut: Game of Metal. It's more of an RPG, but card driven, with no GM.
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Jenny Nguyen
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Theme is important to a degree. I'm drawn to box art based on theme but I can get over my dislike of sci-fi (or ugly games) when the game itself is clearly exceptional. That's not to say I would reject a game based entirely on my disliking its theme. The game play is ultimately what is important.

I'm fairly over the whole medieval, dress wearing merchant theme.
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Gláucio Reis
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lordrahvin wrote:

Anything can be made better by making it sci-fi!

This. (Except if it's Fantasy.)

lordrahvin wrote:
If Puerto Rico was a space colonization game, I would have bought it ages ago.

Me, too. For a long time, I actually had this idea of a homemade version called "Puerto Espacial Rico". Instead of just cultivating stuff, I thought it would be fun to have products from different Sci-Fi universes - dilithium crystals, naquadah, the spice and so on. But eventually I realized I didn't like the game that much.
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Matt Riddle
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I think in general theme can not hurt a good game, but it can help a game. look at Belfort. decent game, people like the nerdy theme in a euro.
Hansa Teutonica is souless, generic theme and a great game.

Cargo Noir is a below average game, with a fantastic theme (and awesome boats)
 
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tom brown
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remus wrote:
I'm partial to zombies trading and shipping goods in baroque era mediterranean locations.


I think everyone i know would have something to hate about that game!

Im very happy everyone has contributed to my discussion. I think the problem with pandemic is the gameplay not the theme. It may be I havent played it with the right people, but even if we were destroying some dark overlord by stopping cubes i dont think i would like it more.

Dave Maynor brings out a good point with licensed themes. If something has a star wars, LOTR, batman, or something similar, then it is bound to get noticed by fans of those themes, and will probably get more attention than better or similar games because of theme. carcasonne on coruscant? catan in gotham city?

 
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J C Lawrence
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One of my standard lines when teaching games is: This is a game about money. As in all Good Games, money is the only thing that matters. Now for the rules...
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lordrahvin wrote:

Anything can be made better by making it sci-fi!


I've found games with real-world themes (bugs? real estate?) appeal more less to casual players geeks.


FTFY.
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Paul Rice
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In terms of commercial success it seems like fantasy themes, and themes based around popular franchises like Tolkien's books, or Battlestar Galactica seem like real winners. Of the two themes I'd say popular franchises is the more successful theme, as commercial juggernauts such as Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit demonstrate.

As for personal preferences, in theory I prefer sci-fi themes, but in practice there are very few sci-fi board games that I enjoy.

Instead I find the themes I most enjoy are historically inspired games where the gameplay/rules are tied well to historical events. Inca Empire, and Conquest of Paradise are two games that immediately come to mind that seem like excellent examples of what I am talking about. Twilight Struggle for an example from more recent history.

Whether themes make any real difference to a lot of games, my answer is yes. It's true, as is so often pointed out, that a lot of euro games have "pasted on" themes, but it still matters in the sense that in a competitive marketplace companies will need every marginal advantage they can get a hold of. While the theme might not be important in terms of the gameplay, it is an important tool for a publisher to signal quality to consumers.

I would imagine that most people on this website will feel like medieval farmers are the most overdone theme, but I think that might just mean they've been playing Agricola too much. ;-) That being said, although I don't personally mind it, the Eurocentrism of the board gaming universe is overdone. WWII is understandably overdone. There are lots of games about the Roman Empire, but comparatively few of the other global empires. A fantasy themed game will have to do something special for me to pay attention to it.

Although it isn't a concrete concept, I can't muster up any interest in a game that has a "quirky" theme. There are too many to list off, and I'm not sure that it would really elucidate the concept, but it is a I-know-it-when-I-see-it theme.

Under-utilized themes would include most non-Lovecraftian pulp fiction (detective/film noir, westerns, cops vs. gangsters/criminals). War themed games include such a wide scope of games that it is proper to consider war games to be a genre unto itself, but why no (or rare enough that I'm unfamiliar) games about non-violent struggles? A game about the civil rights movement strikes me as an excellent theme. I would also like to see more games about political competition in the vein of Die Macher, although this might be difficult to reproduce successfully since German politics translates well into "game-ness" (possibly good alternatives might be Italian politics, or 19th century American municipalities). The Italian Renaissance is a common theme, but less so the Elizabethan era in Britain, which also has a lot of literature that is rich for mining. There is probably a promising game that can be developed that revolves around scientific discovery.
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Pater Absurdus
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Theme is often what attracts me to a game and when a theme is boring it may lead to my putting off trying it. I wasn't thrilled about trying Power Grid at all. Now I love it but if it had a zombie, post-apocalyptic, or fantasy theme I would have been interested much faster.

Any theme based on farming or trading of non exotic goods is really dull for me. That is particularly true if it is set in the 15th-19th centuries.

More cyber punk, steam punk, and other interesting themes would be appreciated!
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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quelf elf wrote:
lordrahvin wrote:

Anything can be made better by making it sci-fi!


I've found games with real-world themes (bugs? real estate?) appeal more less to casual players geeks.


FTFY.


I wasn't trying to joke. Bugs and real estate may not sound very appealing to a geek, I suppose, but what about games involving horse racing, car racing, art dealing, or firefighting?

These are all games I've acquired recently and I find the real-world themes kind of refreshing. I've also found it a lot easier to convince certain people to try these games, who otherwise had been hesitant to try Dominion, Battlestar Galactica, or Defenders of the Realm.

I'm now considering designing a survival horror game where the goal is to raise a teenage son to maturity. Two player co-op, with a possible traitor mechanic. One way to win, so many ways to lose.
 
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