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Subject: Should Twilight Struggle also be #1 Thematic game? rss

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birchbeer
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How many Twilight Struggle fans would agree that TS should be considered as a thematic game, along with being a war game and strategy game?

I've been thinking for some time that it should, especially given that its primary basis is in fact on real historical events surrounding the Cold War, and the utilization of those events creates a thematic 'story' of sorts that is integral to the game mechanics. This is, by definition, thematic.

But it is not listed there because it has not received enough votes for that category.

Looking at the sub-categories for games that people get to vote on (for those who don't know, this is different than ratings), it's interesting to note the poll vote results that TS is categorized under:

Total votes: 577
Strategy Game: 299 (56.7%)
War Game: 182 (34.5%)
Thematic: 43 (8%)

The problem with this poll voting is that you are only allowed to checkmark ONE choice. And frequently a game will overlap two or three categories.

Clearly, TS is an extremely popular game with nearly 12,000 ratings, and is the undisputed king in terms of its #1 rating overall as well as in the strategic and war game categories. Three-for-three!

Odd as it may seem, its sheer strength is its own weakness! It is precisely BECAUSE it is so popular as BOTH a strategic game and war game, people will select one of those two options first rather than 'thematic', which they likely WOULD select if they had the option to do so.

If it were a WEAKER strategic game the thematic basis would likely become the primary selection in such polls; especially given that the heavily researched and tested Cold War theme is easily one of the most ingenius integrations into game mechanics we've seen in a board game. What a testament that such depth is overshadowed by the other features!

I'm not sure how many more votes it would take to get TS placed on the Thematic list, but given that only 577 votes have been cast it shouldn't take too many more (maybe 50?).

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David F
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Wargaming 'snobs' hate it when I say this: 'wargames' are a subset of 'thematic games'. Predominantly 2-player and highly detailed/complex with a focus on history, but with theme and simulation being the focus. One might have come before the other, but just look at the shared Avalon Hill heritage. And from my perspective, there is a tremendous overlap between 'thematic' and 'wargames', with complexity being the primary reason when there is lack of crossover.

So yeah, your case for TS being thematic is the history and the narrative, and I agree, but anything remotely 2-player and historical is snapped up by 'wargamers' as one of their own. From my perspective, it's overlap of gaming categories, not the poll choices (and I've written extensively about how I don't like BGG's game categorization).
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Derek McKay
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selwyth wrote:
Wargaming 'snobs' hate it when I say this: 'wargames' are a subset of 'thematic games'.


Yeah, I would say it is the other way around.
 
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Olav Riediger
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I am no expert for these categories and stuff. But I remember when I first encountered TS and had a look at it here at BGG, I was a bit astonished, that it is categorized as a wargame at all. Just my humble opinion, though. For me it is "strategy" or "thematic", but not "war".
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Derry Salewski
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Thematic was code for ameritrash. Thy don't just mean games with a theme. They mean the theme is plastic dudes crawling around a dungeon rolling dice and blowing shit up.
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Najimbe wrote:
selwyth wrote:
Wargaming 'snobs' hate it when I say this: 'wargames' are a subset of 'thematic games'.


Yeah, I would say it is the other way around.


Thematic games are a subset of wargames? Sense, you're not making any.
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Derek McKay
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turbothy wrote:
Najimbe wrote:
selwyth wrote:
Wargaming 'snobs' hate it when I say this: 'wargames' are a subset of 'thematic games'.


Yeah, I would say it is the other way around.


Thematic games are a subset of wargames? Sense, you're not making any.


Thanks for your input Yoda. May the Force be with you.
 
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Derek McKay
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I have never sat down to play a game with someone, and have them say, "I have this great new Theme game, do you want to try it?" Most people say I have new war game, Euro game, abstract game, or etc. They may follow up and say, thematically the game is pretty tight, or the game's theme is integrated well with the mechanics.

So yes thematic games are a subset of war games.
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birchbeer
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scifiantihero wrote:
Thematic was code for ameritrash. Thy don't just mean games with a theme. They mean the theme is plastic dudes crawling around a dungeon rolling dice and blowing shit up.


That's sounds like the Soviet KGB to me...
 
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birchbeer
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out to lunch wrote:
It has no business being listed as wargame that's for sure. With that being said I voted "thematic" but I could as well have gone with "strategic". The trouble with these categories is that they're not mutually exclusive. Most wargames are thematic and strategic.


Right, which is why they need to allow for more than one category selection when you vote.
 
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Derry Salewski
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Najimbe wrote:
I have never sat down to play a game with someone, and have them say, "I have this great new Theme game, do you want to try it?" Most people say I have new war game, Euro game, abstract game, or etc. They may follow up and say, thematically the game is pretty tight, or the game's theme is integrated well with the mechanics.

So yes thematic games are a subset of war games.


Do you just not play them? I mean what are people calling the zombie games they show you? the space battle games? The tolkien games? No one's ever focused on the theme of a game before with you?

And . . . yeah. Go look up 'subset' please. Then come back.

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Derek McKay
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Yeah! Screw that guy! Oh wait...
 
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birchbeer
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Najimbe wrote:
I have never sat down to play a game with someone, and have them say, "I have this great new Theme game, do you want to try it?" Most people say I have new war game, Euro game, abstract game, or etc. They may follow up and say, thematically the game is pretty tight, or the game's theme is integrated well with the mechanics.

So yes thematic games are a subset of war games.


True, but some games are overtly thematic, e.g., they set out from the beginning to build the game around the theme.

Imagine the game as being like a person or persona. Most games could be packaged in some other pseudo-theme and still be a game; but a truly thematic game would cease to be more than the sum of its parts if its underlying theme were removed or markedly altered.

War of the Ring is probably the ultimate example of this. The game is integrated throughout. You could transfer the battle and movement mechanics to some other game, but without the theme it loses its persona completely.

I would argue that Twilight Struggle is the same in this manner. The Cold War theme is integral to it's persona. But not just because you slap some Cold War decals on the box; it's the litany of historical event cards that drive the theme.

By comparison, fantastic games like Eclipse and Dungeon Lords both operate within a theme of sorts (space and dungeons), but they are not thematic games except in name. Indeed, I'll bet a creative person could use their respective mechanics and switch their themes around to create equally good games (Cloaking Lords, Alien Catacombs, or some other goofy combination).

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Jack Francisco
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Can we just agree that it's awesome?
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Jeff Dunford
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Some have already hinted at this, but I'll clarify my views on categorization of boardgames on BGG.

BGG uses a code that "Thematic" == "Ameritrash", for whatever that's worth. If "Thematic" meant "has a theme that matters in some way" (e.g. designed with theme in mind, rather than some game mechanics combined in a new way and then had a theme slapped on it that seemed to suit the game mechanics... or not), then all games would fit into one of two categories: Abstract and Thematic. Within each of these categories, you could further categorize based on various criteria: Intended audience (e.g. children's games, games for adults/teens, family games, party games - and even then there would be overlap); Strategic vs Tactical; Co-operative (incl solo), team-based, or competitive (note that some games come with scenarios for all three of these play modes); etc. Instead, BGG has a mishmash of categories at different levels of a logical hierarchy, and thus they must overlap in most cases. Many games are both strategic and thematic (e.g. require strategic thinking and have a strong theme that the game was designed around; note that these are certainly not mutually exclusive). And all games have an intended audience (e.g. thematic family game; abstract children's game).

My guess is that BGG categories are based on styles of gamer and what the average person might be looking for when they first find BGG. There are many on BGG who only play war games, so a category was made for wargamers. There are (especially new) gamers who want lighter games to play with their families, so categories were made for family, children and party games (which often all mean the same thing, as King of Tokyo demonstrated by winning the Golden Geek award in each of those categories this year). There are hardcore Euro gamers who know to avoid the "Thematic" section and head straight to the "Strategy" games, aware that those terms are misnomers. And we all get confused to some extent when voting for Golden Geek awards because we don't know which category to put our favourite games in, so we put them in several categories and hope that's OK.

In the end, game categorization on BGG is sloppy and somewhat arbitrary. With that, I recommend that we focus our efforts on enjoying games rather than categorizing them.
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Jack Smith
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I feel categorising is largely useless except as a very rough guide to people new to the hobby. Even then it can be highly misleading.
 
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Halfinger wrote:
I feel categorising is largely useless except as a very rough guide to people new to the hobby. Even then it can be highly misleading.


Except that ratings are actually very important to game sales. This is why BGG does ghost ratings to counteract the barrage of fake "10" ratings that game designers/publishers will generate in order to have their game(s) shoot to a high spot as quickly as possible.

From my own perspective, even though I KNOW that ratings are subjective and likely inaccurate, I will still look into games that are highly rated on a particular list (like thematic, which is how I was drawn to War of the Ring). The sheer volume of games out there requires a filtering system, and for better or worse BGGs seems to be the only game in town.
 
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