Whether theme or flavor, the package a game comes wrapped in can greatly affect its enjoyment. Abstract games can be fun, but even Reiner Knizia gussies up the packaging with pictures of times and places (most of the time, anyway). So that brings us to today’s question: what theme grabs your attention? Answer in the comments!
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that theme usually doesn’t matter to me in a game as long as the game itself is fun. I say this, but there are themes that appeal to me. Most notably, I like novel themes that make me think about things differently. My own master of theme is James Ernest as his themes are usually quirky and cause an enjoyable narrative to permeate his games. Good examples of this are Kill Doctor Lucky and especially The Unexploded Cow (which is also now available as a free print-and-play game!). I’m also a sucker for medieval stuff (yes, I am the reason glowering Renaissance men keep appearing on game boxes; sorry!).
I’m looking at my board game shelf right now. Apparently the theme that appeals the most to me is “things in space” followed by medieval fantasy. Oh man do I love space. Or really any sci-fi thingummy in general. You know, if you pretty much take any idea, and then put it in space… it becomes that much more awesome. Imagine your favorite game. Or just any game you like. Let’s say… Tobago. Yes, that’s right, deductive treasure hunting. Now it’s in space. Awesome! Or how about Dominion. You’re still building an empire. But it’s a space empire. Dude. Sweet. Imagine Shadows over Camelot… but in a futuristic reality where each Knight of the Round Table commands a starship, spreading justice across the galaxy. I’m totally geeking out. I think I’m a little obsessed with space. Have you played Portal 2? The audio track of the “Space” core was my ringtone for a while.
Don’t forget! Each comment made today before midnight (central time) counts as an entry in our Dominion: Hinterlands giveaway. This is your last chance for an extra entry!
I generally side on theme not mattering too much as long as the game mechanics are solid. I may be stepping into game mechanics a little too much but I love empire building games. This might be kind of vague and not as obvious as Fantasy or medieval but it’s something that really grabs me. Whether it’s small scale (Agricola) or big (Civilization), I enjoy the concept of building something.
As far as setting goes I generally enjoy fantasy or ancient civilizations. Sci-fi and space are good too but generally I prefer the action to take place on good old Earth.
I’m preferential to history themes, not so much medieval though. I also like games by Stefan Feld, more of a collection than a theme. Plus I’m usually a sucker for themes I’ve never seen.
Like Ben, I’m also a fan of Stefan Feld, but also gravitate toward Martin Wallace games as well.
Concerning theme, It’s a secondary aspect to me so long as the game is enjoyable. My preferred themes are Steampunk (cliche, I know), Film Noir, and Gladiatorial Rome. If someone could combine all 3 of those into a game… I’d be eternally happy.
There was also a quote from TC Petty in one of our interviews where he kind of “poo-poo’d” games with Space and Fantasy elements because they’re so overdone. Seeing one of those themes isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but I definitely judge it a little more harshly (consciously or otherwise) because of that choice.
My favorite games are heavy in theme. They also have mechanics that work with and make sense for that theme. My usual theme of choice tends to be fantasy or sci-fi. Lately I have been excited for disasters involving volcanoes. Survive!, The Downfall of Pompeii and Eruption.
I actually find it refreshing when games have a more modern theme. I guess I’m thinking of Pandemic and the diseases-taking-over-the-world theme, but there’s a lot of others. Fantasy and sci-fi are great too, but modern themes stand out to me more since they’re a little more rare in games.
I don’t think it’s themes as much as aesthetics for me. It needs to look nice, thoughtful … appropriate for what it’s trying to do.
I replay games because I like the mechanics, but I do consider theme when purchasing the game. My games are mostly either space/SF or medieval – with a dash of word games.
I guess I would have to say that the majority of my games have Medieval Fantasy themes, though a theme alone won’t reel me in. In 90% of cases I am looking to buy a game with specific mechanics (love co-op – THAT is my trigger) and that get lots of love from the community. The other 10% of the time it’s an impulse buy 😉
My kids and I go with themes that promise adventure or conquest. This would include space, vikings, pirates, medieval empire stuff, and war games. It would not include farming, stock trading, buidling railroads, or running electricity to cities.
I largely agree with FarmerLenny. If I had to pick a theme, though, Zombies/Horror really tickles my fancy. But I’m just as happy to play a merchant and ship off cubes.
Most of my games are of the medieval theme but I agree that mechanics are a more important than theme. Without mechanics the game doesnt properly entertain the gamers.
Trains, Space, and Pirates that’s all I need.
I wouldn’t say theme is ever decisive for me in deciding to buy a game or not – I’d happily put another Medieval, castle-building game on my shelf if it did something new mechanically.
However, an unusual theme can get me looking at a game I might not have otherwise. Drum Roll is recent example, as is Last Wish. Still not sure I will get either, but I don’t think I would even have noticed either if they had more run-of-the-mill themes.
Last Wish? I mean Last Will.
I think pretty much any theme works for me. If I can attach a tangible real-world thing to whatever I’m doing in-game, it feels more purposeful. Move that red piece to the green piece? Bleh, ok, I guess. Ship a barrel of coffee on a boat? YES.
Honestly, I dont always look at what the theme is as much as I look at how heavy it is. While I might be more inclined to pick up a Sci-Fi or Fantasy game first, I will always be more drawn to games that have theme so thick you can cut it with a knife.