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Subject: DEATH TO THE WORD "THEME"!!! rss

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Joey V

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What is with all these game designers and gamers referring to the word "themes" as if complex tabletop games were just some simple buy-and-trade system of math, with an iPod-style zebra skin case stretched over it? Games are capable of so much more than that! How many people these days actually read or care about the backstory of a game? Often they don't care because the backstory is not integral to learning or playing the game.

I love games but I can't stand instructions like "draw two cards. pick one and discard the other" or "place two tokens on any development you have in play" -- We should be able to read the backstory, then an EXTREMELY simple paragraph mentioning how the world of the story is represented by the board, cards, and chits. Then we should pretty much be able to play. The turn should be logical based on the backstory. I like the concept of trade-offs because everyone knows life features trade-offs. Like in Merchant of Venus where you can have a fast ship, or a ship that carries larger cargo loads.

Also, I want a game where the characters and story are deeply integral to the game mechanics, to the point where it would be difficult to translate the game to another theme. I'm so sick of fantasy that at this point I'll happily take a Japanese deck-building game about French Maids over Dominion any day, but either way, it's just a SKIN over a simple system. Where's the originality? I'm new to games but people I've met seem to take it for granted that the themes aren't super relevant to their enjoyment. Whereas for me, I used to play role playing games, where it wasn't so much a theme stretched over the system-- it was the STORY and CHARACTERS FIRST and some minor mechanics and math to make it work on a table and have some sense of structure. I know there are a bunch of complex older games that are like this. I haven't played "1960" for example, but it seems like the story and characters were picked out first and then the mechanics built as needed.


What games have awesome stories deeply integrated into the mechanics? I particularly love Sci-Fi and space combat, but I'll take anything at this point! THANKS I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!!
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TS S. Fulk
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http://www.boardgamegeek.com/wargames/browse/boardgame

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thematic/browse/boardgame


Those two should have lots of games that had a subject in mind when designing the game.

Two "Euro" designers seem to go subject first: Martin Wallace and Vlaada Chvatíl. Vlaada's rules make sense because of the story and most rules books are hilariously written in character.

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Derry Salewski
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You've met the wrong people and are playing the wrong games.

Play an a RPG . . .

Or, there's a whole category of 'thematic' board games here. Go explore.
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Brook Gentlestream
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As much as I want to go point by point and disagree with most of what you say, I think I'll just do you a favor and point you in this direction:

Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game

Have fun.
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Joey V

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ok thank you i'll look into those. i definitely have been playing the wrong games, that's why i posted here!
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Ayumi Hakase
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Check out the upcoming Mice and Mystics. It's storybook driven.
And the rules are posted online.

Upcoming Mage Wars with its backstory on worlds and schools of magic might also work for you.

Agreed that Chivatil's games are nicely done.
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Christopher Scatliff
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You may also want to go to www.fortressat.com to find your (our) brethren.
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cannibalkid wrote:
Also, I want a game where the characters and story are deeply integral to the game mechanics, to the point where it would be difficult to translate the game to another theme.


If 30 years of being a hobby gamer has taught me anything, it's that no matter how heavily integrated a boardgame's mechanics are with it's theme, playing it will be nowhere near as immersive as playing an RPG. So when I want I want to be immersed in stories and characters, I play an RPG, and I'll look to boardgames for the things that boardgames do well.

The Battlestar Galactica recommendation is a good one, by the way.
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David
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I have to agree with the others: You're looking in the wrong place...

You're looking for a way to immerse yourself in a story. That's not what boardgames are about. But RPG's are.

Boardgames are about experiencing the challenges and mechanics of a game. That's what they focus on and that's what they are good at. That's why people play them - to figure out if Builder-Mayor or Mayor-Builder is the better opening in Puerto Rico, if you go all money or action-chains in Dominion. You don't play DnD to figure out if its better to give certain characters a long sword or a short sword.

Now there are games (like others have said) that try to incorporate a bit more of the theme into the game play: Thematic games.

You might just not be the type for board games. Just like others aren't the type for RPG's. I for example watched the Fiasco episode on TableTop and wondered for half an hour if there's every going to be a game in that episode. All I could think was: why does he get a white die, why does he give it to her, why - if I'm watching actors act - am I not catching up on one of my TV show, why would ANYONE want to do this?
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RJD
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Kempeth wrote:

Just like others aren't the type for RPG's. I for example watched the Fiasco episode on TableTop and wondered for half an hour if there's every going to be a game in that episode. All I could think was: why does he get a white die, why does he give it to her, why - if I'm watching actors act - am I not catching up on one of my TV show, why would ANYONE want to do this?



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Enrico Viglino
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The term is quite fitting for euros.

Not so much about games which are actually ABOUT something.
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Daniel Kearns
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Read. A. Book.
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Enrico Viglino
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Freedom in the Galaxy. Enjoy.

Characters, epic scope, and no euro-style bs.
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Alex Berry
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calandale wrote:
Freedom in the Galaxy. Enjoy.

Characters, epic scope, and no euro-style bs.


Will we be getting the Calandale Treatment soon?
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Enrico Viglino
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Tuttle757 wrote:
calandale wrote:
Freedom in the Galaxy. Enjoy.

Characters, epic scope, and no euro-style bs.


Will we be getting the Calandale Treatment soon?


No promises, but it's been on my 'to do' list since the
very beginning. I really want to try out the tactic my
wife taught me (it was too late for her once she discovered
it).
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Adam Kazimierczak
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As a roleplayer first and boardgamer second, I agree that a thin veneer of theme is sometimes worse than no theme at all for a game. But boardgaming is much more accessible for the masses than table top RPGs, and I love a good romp through a competitive game like Agricola or Hansa Teutonica to get my game on.

I guess it depends on your expectations. I think Twilight Imperium delivers the thematic epicness for me, while D&D 4th edition feels like it's crossing the line into a mini skirmish/board game. You may like some of the more character driven adventure games like City of Chaos that tell a story with a beginning, middle and climax.
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Matt Brown
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Games with scenarios have better chances of telling an overall story. War games work here since they have a historical background to work with. Earth Reborn has characters that interact in a way due to a story line.
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William Boykin
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Death to 'theme'.

Long Live Ameritrash!!!!!!!

Darilian
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Joey V

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GUYS THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR WISDOM. I'm checking out the Fortress site and Freedom in the Galaxy, etc.

This post was borne out of my inability to understand Race for the Galaxy's rules. Winning these Eurogames with "Victory Points?" I mean, seriously, what the heck is a victory point in real life? in real life you win by surviving and conquering, and death is the way you lose. victory points are a bunch of b.s.
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TS S. Fulk
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cannibalkid wrote:
GUYS THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR WISDOM. I'm checking out the Fortress site and Freedom in the Galaxy, etc.

This post was borne out of my inability to understand Race for the Galaxy's rules. Winning these Eurogames with "Victory Points?" I mean, seriously, what the heck is a victory point in real life? in real life you win by surviving and conquering, and death is the way you lose. victory points are a bunch of b.s.


Which is why I use the derogatory term VP-fest instead of Euro most of the time. laugh laugh laugh laugh
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Enrico Viglino
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VP's predate euros. They can be an excellent means of
assessing goals which cannot easily be defined. For example,
in a wargame, moving the front incrementally - instead of just
stating a person must own X, Y, and Z to win, a more flexible
indication of advance can be obtained.

Most eurogames don't bother to use them that way though,
because, in the end, there's nothing really being represented.
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Matt Brown
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My problem with euros is their lack of ability to create dynamic gameplay which leads to water cooler type stories that are remembered over the years. "Hey, remember that one time you won because you were able to trade two gold for a wood? Yeah, that was awesome." No. No it wasn't.

I will be on my deathbed and able to recall my days of playing D&D and telling stories of having a player facing fire elementals wanting to turn into a snowball and be rolled at them, throwing a backpack at a dragon to see if it would choke on it, or being in one of the nine planes of hell and having his character flipping off a statue while the rest of the group yelled "NO!"

"Remember the one time when you guys faced off against the evil group I made specifically to take you guys on?"

"Yeah, and that one assassin was mowing down our group one by one and getting closer to my character, but I was locked on fighting and taunting the wizard only to switch over and use psionic attacks on the assassin and take him out. Later that powerful artifact crown, which was on your wizard, had to roll saving throws and rolled a 1, you paused and mentioned it would blow up if you rolled a second 1 but the odds were so low, and then you rolled a another 1 and the crown cast everything on the wizard." Yes. Yes, I remember that. It was one of the few times I genuinely out thought the DM.

Euros are like abstract art. I see the beauty. I just can't explain it.
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J C Lawrence
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cannibalkid wrote:
What is with all these game designers and gamers referring to the word "themes" as if complex tabletop games were just some simple buy-and-trade system of math, with an iPod-style zebra skin case stretched over it?


Which is fairly accurate. Games are math. My interest in a game is in how the numbers work, and what those number systems require of the players. The theme is something that makes explaining or remembering the number systems easier, but is otherwise ignored.
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Christopher Scatliff
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clearclaw wrote:
The theme is something that makes explaining or remembering the number systems easier, but is otherwise ignored.

Ignored? Perhaps by you. Theme drives everything for me. It drives my desire to play the game. It drives my enjoyment of the game. It drives the decisions I make during the game. In almost every case, the numbers are invisible to me, by choice. When I play a game, I ride the theme. If that leads me to success, hooray. If not, oh well, at least the ride was fun.

I may be in the minority here, but let's be clear that you in no way speak for me on this issue.
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J C Lawrence
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tscook wrote:
Detaching any model from its basis leaves you with an empty simulacrum, I'm surprised you're thinking you're learning anything.


I'm not interested in the simulation or what is being modeled, empty or not, or whether anything is being modeled in the first place, let alone how well. I'm interested in the math and what that math requires of the players in order to play the game well (ie win).
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