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Abstract Game and Theme

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dr_Edge69
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I was wondering if some of you are like me and are unable to like a game that has no theme?

Do you think that adding a theme even if it's only to hide that it's an abstract game, really had some value to the game?

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
Abstract Game and Theme

It's funny you should say this.
The game I am putting up for the GDW next week is an entirely abstract game*. At the moment it has a thin theme attached, but I'll have to change it because there's already a game out there with the same name and one of my hopes is that someone can suggest something appropriate!

But it may be that it doesn't need any sort of theme - I only gave it one because I too find it hard to engage with a game that doesn't have something you can hook into. It makes me wonder if my liking for the Mystery Rummy series of games isn't so much the clever concepts it adds to Rummy, but the fact that a theme is attached?

[*not to mention a tile-laying game as well. I'm obviously in tune with the zeitgeist here ;-)]

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Abstract Game and Theme

Cake with cream and strawberries is yummy, but sometimes I just prefer to eat plain cake, if it is good cake, of course.

I feel the same about games and themes. A good theme makes a good game more enjoyable, but I can still enjoy a good game without a theme.

- René Wiersma

Anonymous
Abstract Game and Theme

I tend to design games with theme first, then the mechanics, but I don't mind playing a well designed game with a transparent or no theme at all. I often view them as more of a mental puzzle than anything else. I enjoy the feeling that I am getting better at solving that puzzle (that is, beating my opponent).

On the other hand, I also will play poorly worked games if I love the theme (Dark Cults comes to mind).

Now then, did someone mention cake? :wink:

Anonymous
Abstract Game and Theme

Theme is certainly important, IMO, but not a necessity. I can point to a myriad of games that are quite enjoyable yet have no theme whatsoever: Blokus, Zertz, Einfach Genial, and on the computer side of gaming Tetris is another great example of themeless abstract strategy.

Of course, I have a slight bias, as one of my own game designs is a themeless abstract strategy game (which has been rejected by several of the larger European publishers, mind you! :chagrin: ).

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Abstract Game and Theme

I have to say that I do enjoy a good theme, and many times a theme will drive the games mechanics I use in my games.

Once I start fleshing out a game, I try to abstract it as much as possible, since the theme might not be the best fit. Or depending on the audience it might not go over to well with others.

An RPG system I helped co-develop, started off with the usual fantasy setting, but we have built it abstract enough, that friends have already created a cyber-punk/old west variations.

As for me, I will play anygame at least once, be it abstract or themed.

Anonymous
Abstract Game and Theme

Here is my take

Games with no theme are fun if you are good at them and you win.

Games with theme are fun alot more because you can enjoy the social aspect. Plus themes are just cool and very rarly take away from a game.

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Abstract Game and Theme

galeninjapan wrote:
Games with theme are fun alot more because you can enjoy the social aspect.

I agree with this statement very much, but I would have to say that any game that can offer good social aspects, be it themed for not is fun for most players.

In my opinion, social interaction is a giant part of most games and I also think this can help make or break a game. Even with unthemed games if the people playing are having fun.... they are having fun.

rkalajian
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Abstract Game and Theme

Although right now i'm suffering from a game that has TOO much theme. One of the games i've been working on has a huge history, involved characters, and just way too much for me to handle. I'll most likely have to strip a lot out to make the game enjoyable.

Just my take :) Theme good, too much theme, bad.

Anonymous
too much theme? or too much detail/rules...?

rkalajian - what do you mean by too much theme?

I can understand too complicated or too much detail, or too long, but how can a game have too much theme?

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
My two cents worth...

This is an interesting topic - because I just went through this. We've had a card game in playtesting for the past several weeks that I designed to be an abstract game (like Uno or bridge).

In playtesting, the feedback I got was generally good, but not stellar. People liked the mechanic and the game, but failed to get excited about it. The fun factor was minimal.

I added an animal theme, one that I thought was both appealing to kids and also unobtrusive enough to not turn off adults.

Playtesting results dropped from "interesting game" to "why would I play this?"

Ouch.

So, I dumped the animal theme and went with one of the 6 Classic Themes that Always Work (Pirates, Western, Ninja, Giant Robots, Murder Mystery, or Dinosaur). In this case, I selected Western because it seemed like the most natural fit.

Again, I tried to keep the theme unobtrusive enough to not turn off "purists".

Suddenly, the playtesting ratings went from "interesting game" to "when does this hit the market?".

So, I guess the point of this long and rambling message is to test your themes. In my case, if the Western version of this game makes it through the rest of the playtest cycle and then "hits" in retail, I'll look at making versions for the other 4 of the Classic 6.

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