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Themes waiting to be used

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sedjtroll
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Here's a quick list of themes I remember seeing on these boards- on people's journals, in the GDW, the Collaborative Game Design project, and in other various threads. The purpose is to see what genres and themes are popular (or have been "done too death"), and which themes have some interest but haven't been fully explored... and what themes and genres have not been looked at much (or at all).
GENRES:
Fantasy- of course, there's always room for games of a Fantasy Genre
RPG (Role Playing)- Some of the Pirate ideas leaned toward this type of thing (an RPG Board game). Some of the Doomed Civ contest entries did as well. All For One could arguably go in this genre.
Racing- Speed racer/Shifting Gears in the GDW (either car racing, or maybe re-themed to some kind of animal racing), Hover Racers, Racing + fighting games in various threads
Sports- various approaches from a real-time card game version of Tennis to a board game fantasy sim (Blitzball from the GDW), to Flatball (Ultimate Frisbee board game)
Party Games- Not too many of these. One was advertised last week, and I posted another in a Journal.
Combat- Guard Duty and Conquistadores from the GDW, dragon's Hoard, Space Ace,

THEMES:
Pirates- perhaps spurred by the recent blockbuster Pirates of the Carribean. Why hasn't there been a game based on that movie yet??? One might lump All For One (Scurra's Three Musketeers thing) in this category
Adventure- Pride and Provenance (from the GDW), Spielunker (from the CGD project), Everest (GDW) could all fit this theme
Business- 8/7c, Citybuilder, in a way the Humanitarian Aid game (from the CDG thread... a good name for that game would be Succor btw)
World/Civilization Building- Urban Construct, Gheos, City Builder, and jwarrend's Civ Lite game.

FAVORITE MECHANICS:
Some of our collective "favorites"...
Tile Laying- Urban Construct, Speilunker
Auction- 8/7c, Pride and Provenance
Budgeted Action Points- Everest, many various from journals (can't think right now)
Resource Management- Tyrant, ...

Ok, brain is out of gas. Feel free to add to this list, or make any comment you feel is appropriate.

Is there a Genre, Theme, or Mechanic yout hink is "underrepresented" in this community? Is there one you'd like to see more of? Is there one or 2 that are obviously at teh forefront of everyone's mind, or that is common to many people's designs at some point in time?

- Seth

Torrent
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Themes waiting to be used

I'll put my suggestions for themes later. I just wanted to point out that there seems to be a Pirates of the Carribean game coming out. It is listed on http://www.citizengames.com/ and I found it through Gamewire. I don't know if it is exactly the movie based, but it adds to the idea that Pirate games really popular. Not just among us but in the rest of the gaming community as well.

One theme/mechanic (you decide) that I saw missing is the Pickup-and-Deliver. There are lots of Train games and Dirty Business in GDW.

Andy

jwarrend
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Themes waiting to be used

Seth,

Cool design topic! Minor correction, my GDW game was called "Profit and Provenance".

I don't know how much I'll add to your list, so much as to expound on what my observations have been of discussion on this board and of my own approach to design.

I think that some "themes" that seem very common include fighting, arena combat, and territorial-conquest style wargames. I think I've seen several journals or forum posts by people who are designing one of those games.
I've also been surprised by how many of the games, particularly those in the civ contest, involve the players being "gods". My guess is that this is primarily useful as a thematic device -- it's easy to justify moving these pieces around if you're a "god". This seems common to a lot of games, not just this board.

Personally, I tihnk that several themes/mechanics have been done to death in the gaming world. These include:

"Medieval merchants" -- we're merchants in medieval/renaissance Europe, trying to make money by pushing commodities around in some way
(examples: Medieval Merchant, Traders of Genoa, etc)

"Area majority" -- we drop cubes on the board in different territories, and get points based on who "controls" each area. (Examples: El Grande, Web of Power)

"Trains" -- we're laying track and speculating on stocks to make mucho money. (Examples: 18xx series, Union Pacific, Age of Steam)

"Egypt" -- we're in Ancient Egypt, farming along the Nile, making sacrifices to the gods, etc (ex Amun Re, Ra, etc)

"Pirates" -- we each have a pirate ship, and we're sailing it around trying to pillage and plunder (ex: there's a barrage of games this year -- winds of plunder, Mutiny (I think), Pirates of the Caribbean)

Note that all the games above are, as far as I know, good games, and the genres are popular precisely because they're interesting to people -- they evoke experiences people find enjoyable. Ironically, I find that it's fun to try to jump into heavily saturated genres and try to design a "better" game than others have done -- for example, right now I'm working on a "better" Civ game. What I find, though, is that to pull this off, you can't just have a variation on a theme -- you need to have a totaly new approach to the design. For example, in my pirate game, instead of each player having his own ship, there are several ships that all players can use. This is just different enough that it might salvage the game even in the preponderence of pirate games out there. If I tried to make a "we each have our own ship" game, I'd be dead in the water (no pun intended!)

As far as mechanics, I find that I don't have favorite mechanics so much as principles that I'll use repeatedly. I find that it's easy to tell which of my designs came when based on what principles the games are built around. Often, my games emerge at the crossroads of an older principle I'm working on and a newer one I'm exploring. For example, my "bidding game" came at the heels of a principle "players have some information to guide their bidding -- it isn't completely blind" and at the leading edge of a new principle, "all players can access the different 'moving pieces'". The pirate game came at the tail end of the latter concept, and anticipated soem mechanics I'm subsequently trying to incorporate into other games.

So, for me, I find I don't have "tried and true" mechanics (I don't think) so much as a dynamic chain of game design concepts around which I incorporate specific mechanics as needed.

Interesting topic. I look forward to hearing others' thoughts on the subject!

-Jeff

zaiga
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Themes waiting to be used

Another theme that is becoming overused is that of building temples in pre-Colombian America (Maya, Santiago, Tikal, Mexica, Pueblo).

Other overused themes: World War II, the American Civil War, SF/Space-conquest.

A theme that I haven't seen much in boardgames is that of "Arabian Nights" or "Prince of Persia". It might be nice to do an area-majority, city-building, tile-laying, auction game with a Persian setting... :wink:

- Rene Wiersma

SVan
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Themes waiting to be used

I would like to see more arabian games, myself, and more egyptian games. Actually any ancient culture would be nice to see, if they haven't been done lately.

Not a lot of games on Native Americans. I mean there is New England, but it didn't seem to a drop of N. Americans in it. I'm not really thinking Cowboys & Indians (which would be interesting also) but something that deals with N. Americans in a way that is different but cool.

I agree with Seth, that there is always room for fantasy games. Unique ideas, seem to hold people's attention much more than anything else.

Overused ideas? If the game is good and unique it doesn't really matter to me if it's the 20th railroad game, or the 1st plant eating game (or something original.) Although settling or conquering is becoming used a lot these days...

trnardo
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Themes waiting to be used

jwarrend wrote:
Seth,

Personally, I tihnk that several themes/mechanics have been done to death in the gaming world. These include: [...]

"Pirates" -- we each have a pirate ship, and we're sailing it around trying to pillage and plunder (ex: there's a barrage of games this year -- winds of plunder, Mutiny (I think), Pirates of the Caribbean)
What's funny here is that, of your three examples, only one exists in print form. Winds of Plunder is available for pre-order from GMT Games, but won't exist in printed form unless it draws sufficient P500 orders to print it. Pirates of the Caribbean has been put on hold by Citizen Games, possibly permanently.

That said, there were still a number of pirate-themed games released this year, aside from Mutiny: Dread Pirate and its Front Porch clone, Master and Commander; Barbary Coast War; Tortuga; and the Days of Wonder remake of Piratenbucht, Pirate's Cove.

jwarrend
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Themes waiting to be used

Oh yeah, how did I forget Pirate's Cove? That was one of the original examples I was thinking of, I must have forgotten to mention it. At any rate, you've definitely helped me make my point -- pirate games have been done to death! Not that this is in any way a bad thing, as a good pirate-themed game can be fun to play. For me, it's more a question of "what genres/themes should I consider exploring" from a design standpoint? For me, this year's plethora of pirate games was a real bummer because I've been tinkering with a pirate-themed game myself!

Winds of Plunder, from what I've heard, does sound like quite a good game. How is the process going? And do you feel that Pirate's Cove (probably the biggest of the bunch, I'm assuming...) will affect the success of Winds at all? Were you aware it was going to be coming out at the time that the Winds project began?

-Jeff

trnardo
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Themes waiting to be used

At the time Winds of Plunder was handed off to me (August 2002), GMT had no idea that a remake of Piratenbucht was in the works. I found out about Pirate's Cove about a week before "Winds" went on GMT's P500 list.

At the moment, I think we're feeling a small effect from "Cove". It's a pirate-themed game, it looks fantastic, and it's available *now*. But the games do play much differently. I think "Winds" is feeling a larger effect from the impact of its limited run size (about 3000 copies) on cost.

Developmentwise, the process is going quite well. We've had two separate rounds of blind test groups play the game, and reaction has been quite positive. The playtesters were instrumental in addressing a few major game balance issues, enhancing the Action card deck with new cards, and checking the clarity of the rules.

Productionwise... well, until the game gets more pre-orders, there's not a lot of work that will take place on that front. However, GMT does plan to have someone work on a bit of preview art for the game, so people can have a better visual feel for the final product. I'm hoping to start discussions with the preview artist early next year.

FastLearner
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Themes waiting to be used

Fantasy Flight has Mutiny! coming out this month, fyi: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/mutiny.html

OrlandoPat
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Will everyone please stop making pirate games?

I second the call for no more pirate games!

I designed one last year that was (IMHO) killer. I even reserved the website (www.piratedays.com). However, given the plethora of pirate games released, we're sitting on it. Until there's a break in pirate games by "the big boys", it just doesn't make sense to do anything.

The problem is that some of these pirate games just aren't moving very well, and I'm worried retailers will get skittish about carrying any more.

Back to your question, though, I'd throw "Old West" into the theme mix...

phpbbadmin
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Re: Will everyone please stop making pirate games?

OrlandoPat wrote:
I second the call for no more pirate games!

I designed one last year that was (IMHO) killer. I even reserved the website (www.piratedays.com). However, given the plethora of pirate games released, we're sitting on it. Until there's a break in pirate games by "the big boys", it just doesn't make sense to do anything.

The problem is that some of these pirate games just aren't moving very well, and I'm worried retailers will get skittish about carrying any more.

Back to your question, though, I'd throw "Old West" into the theme mix...

Pat,

Care to share what was unique about your pirate game?

-Darke

zaiga
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Themes waiting to be used

Is this thread already a year old? I remember posting my message in this thread as if it were yesterday. I must be growing old. Anyway...

Quote:
What I find, though, is that to pull this off, you can't just have a variation on a theme -- you need to have a totaly new approach to the design. For example, in my pirate game, instead of each player having his own ship, there are several ships that all players can use. This is just different enough that it might salvage the game even in the preponderence of pirate games out there. If I tried to make a "we each have our own ship" game, I'd be dead in the water (no pun intended!)

Interestingly, the new game Karibik is exactly the game you describe; a pirate themed game where all players can use the six pirate ships. Just to show that even "original" ideas are not truly original. There's always someone else on this globe that comes up with the same idea as you do. It's so hard to be truly original when designing board games. It's my second biggest frustration when it comes to board game design.

- René Wiersma

jwarrend
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Themes waiting to be used

zaiga wrote:

Interestingly, the new game Karibik is exactly the game you describe; a pirate themed game where all players can use the six pirate ships. Just to show that even "original" ideas are not truly original. There's always someone else on this globe that comes up with the same idea as you do. It's so hard to be truly original when designing board games. It's my second biggest frustration when it comes to board game design.

Dang blast it, this keeps happening! First "Maya" rips off my great semi-blind bidding system, now Karibik rips off the last vestige of originality in my pirate game. What's next, a civilization building game playable in 3 hours? Oh, wait...

-Jeff

IngredientX
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Themes waiting to be used

Here's a period of history that's untapped by almost every genre: The Weimar Republic. It was a critical time in a critical place, and its period of political unrest, economic instability, and thirst for nationalism lead directly to Hitler's ascension to power.

I can understand why Germans wouldn't really want to touch this period of time; I'm sure it strikes a cultural nerve.

Perhaps the material might be too intense for a game, but it's certainly worth considering.

Anonymous
Themes waiting to be used

jwarrend wrote:
totaly new approach to the design. For example, in my pirate game, instead of each player having his own ship, there are several ships that all players can use. This is just different enough that it might salvage the game even in the preponderence of pirate games out there. If I tried to make a "we each have our own ship" game, I'd be dead in the water (no pun intended!)

One possibility is to serve on a ship and work your way up. Maybe you cause a mutiny, maybe you make it to first mate and take over a captured ship. (Maybe you get thrown overboard and swim to an island?) Seems like there are several ways you could make a pirate game work, where you are vying for control of ships rather than each person has his or her own. Watch Pirates of the Carribbean (the movie) for bunches of examples of this. ;-)

Scurra
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Themes waiting to be used

jwarrend wrote:
Dang blast it, this keeps happening! First "Maya" rips off my great semi-blind bidding system, now Karibik rips off the last vestige of originality in my pirate game. What's next, a civilization building game playable in 3 hours? Oh, wait...

Well I wouldn't hang about with Disciples then. I bet there'll be a whole host of Bible-based games flooding the market soon. Oh, wait... ;-))

kungfugeek
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French Aristocracy

Hi all -- long-time lurker, first-time poster (apologies if i do something moronic).

I was watching a movie that I thought would provide an interesting theme for a game, and this thread brought it to mind. I can't remember the title of the movie or why I was even watching it, but it was about the French aristocrates before the revolution, and it told the story of a commoner who needed to get an audience with the king so he could ask for some money to build a hospital for poor people or something.

Anyway, the whole plot of the movie revolves around how difficult it is to see the king. You have to know the right people, say the right things (they talked a lot about "wit" -- who had it and who didn't), go to all the right parties, wear the right clothes, have the right religious beliefs, etc. One mistake and you're out for life.

One character -- an aristocrat who had lost his home and money -- was waiting in the antechamber to see the king for days with nowhere to eat or sleep. He fell asleep in a chair and one of his enemies snuck up and stole one of his shoes. Later, the King's secretary-type dude woke up the aristocrat and told him he could now see the King, but when the aristocrat saw that one of his shoes was missing, rather than face the humiliation, he ran out of a window and killed himself.

See where I'm going?

Another character -- a speaker of some kind -- was giving a speech for the King and some of the other rich folk. Everyone loved the speech but right at the end of it the speaker made a joke about proving that God doesn't exist. The King and his entourage immediatly got up and left the room. Just like that, the speaker was out of the King's graces forever.

The main character had a lot of work to do. He had to get a loan from a Banker, had to forge some documents proving Heritage, had to be groomed by a rich mistress, had to socialize with the rich and prove that he was "witty", etc. He climbed the social ladder and was very close to making his move, but he had to attend a ball. During one of the dances at the Ball one of the bad guys tripped him. All the aristocrats laughed and just like that, he was out for good.

I think the movie still happened to have a happy ending, somehow.

Ever since then I've been trying to turn that kind of goal -- to climb the ultra-petty social ladder just to get an audience with the king -- into a game. Kind of an anti-Guillotine. :) So far no luck but I thought I'd throw it out here and see what you all thought.

phpbbadmin
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Themes waiting to be used

Kung Fu,

Before your requests hijack this thread, why not start a new thread or journal? It might be best so you don't have non related replies in with replies about your game idea.

-Darke

kungfugeek
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Darkehorse wrote:
Kung Fu,

Before your requests hijack this thread, why not start a new thread or journal? It might be best so you don't have non related replies in with replies about your game idea.

-Darke

Yeah, sorry about that. I got kind of carried away. I guess my only point was that games where you climb the social ladder using charm and political connections (as opposed to games where you build a civilization using resources and armies) may be a little underused. Honestly, I didn't even think of the French aristocracy thing as a game idea, just a theme that could be used in some game. Oh, well.

PS -- Thanks for getting me set up, darke!

phpbbadmin
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Themes waiting to be used

Oh don't get me wrong, I think your idea for a theme *is* great and underused, and it's probably a good idea to run with it. It reminds me of a similar thread where we discussed making a game from the dark WWII comedy, "Life is Beautiful". Gotta get enough points to win the tank.

At any rate, I think you have a decent idea on your hands...

-Darke

PS - You're welcome!

kungfugeek wrote:
Darkehorse wrote:
Kung Fu,

Before your requests hijack this thread, why not start a new thread or journal? It might be best so you don't have non related replies in with replies about your game idea.

-Darke

Yeah, sorry about that. I got kind of carried away. I guess my only point was that games where you climb the social ladder using charm and political connections (as opposed to games where you build a civilization using resources and armies) may be a little underused. Honestly, I didn't even think of the French aristocracy thing as a game idea, just a theme that could be used in some game. Oh, well.

PS -- Thanks for getting me set up, darke!

Brykovian
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Themes waiting to be used

My suggested area -- Schoolyard Games (like those played by school children during their daily recess) ...

Based upon a recent design I've tried to pull together for a boardgame version of the children's schoolyard game "Dare Base" (link to journal entry), I think that whole area seems under-utilized ... lots of fun times playing various versions of tag, and kickball, dodgeball, kick the can, capture the flag, etc.

I've even started a GeekList (link) to see what games already exist on the topic ... not much out there, it seems.

-Bryk

sedjtroll
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Brykovian wrote:
My suggested area -- Schoolyard Games (like those played by school children during their daily recess) ....

I've even started a GeekList (link) to see what games already exist on the topic ... not much out there, it seems.
Does Lunch Money qualify? ;)

- Seth

Anonymous
Themes waiting to be used

Brykovian wrote:
I've even started a GeekList (link) to see what games already exist on the topic ...

Looks like your geeklist on the topic is getting some interesting feedback! Not much in the way of the types of games you're talking about. Seems like a lot of older spinner based games. You could really break open the market.

Hedge-o-Matic
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What about computer-based boardgames? Simulations of web-based businesses, hackers, spammers, virus writers...

Johan
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...or BGDF – The game.
A card game/or board game (probably a CCG) where the players should try to have as long threads as possible with new interesting quotes/replies and without get the thread blocked (or removed) by an administrator ;).

// Johan

zaiga
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Themes waiting to be used

Or a game about designing a boardgame and trying to get it published. First player to get his design published wins. If two or more players manage to get their designs published in the same turn, the player who makes the most money off his design wins.

phpbbadmin
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Themes waiting to be used

zaiga wrote:
Or a game about designing a boardgame and trying to get it published. First player to get his design published wins. If two or more players manage to get their designs published in the same turn, the player who makes the most money off his design wins.

How about just whoever makes the most money? If you got your game published earlier than others, than you would have the opportunity to make more money over the long run, but you might have to cut corners and make a skimpier game. Perhaps even have each player run a publishing company with the goal of having the most successful product line.

-Darke

zaiga
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Themes waiting to be used

I don't know, Horse. Your idea sounds pretty complicated. I was thinking standard roll-and-move-do-what-the-space-you-land-on-tells-you here. Besides, trying to make the most money isn't really an original idea, is it? Getting a design published should be the goal of the game, and it must be really hard to pull it off. Perhaps you must land on a particular space on the board and then roll two sixes? You don't want the game to be over quickly, although you could get lucky sometimes and get your first design published, just like in real life. It would be nice to come up with a variant that allows for self-publishing (=cheating), to make it even more realistic.

phpbbadmin
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Themes waiting to be used

zaiga wrote:
I don't know, Horse. Your idea sounds pretty complicated. I was thinking standard roll-and-move-do-what-the-space-you-land-on-tells-you here. Besides, trying to make the most money isn't really an original idea, is it? Getting a design published should be the goal of the game, and it must be really hard to pull it off. Perhaps you must land on a particular space on the board and then roll two sixes? You don't want the game to be over quickly, although you could get lucky sometimes and get your first design published, just like in real life. It would be nice to come up with a variant that allows for self-publishing (=cheating), to make it even more realistic.

I love your dripping sarcasm. 'Horse'. LOL.

-Darke

Brykovian
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lol @ rene!! :D

It might be interesting to have each player play the role of *both* designer and publisher ... except that as a publisher you can only publish games from the other players (in their designer role).

You get points both for having your designs published and for making money with the games that you promote as a publisher.

-Bryk

Hamumu
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Themes waiting to be used

This actually bears an odd similarity to a game I just playtested with my family to incredible success (can't wait to test more!). Mine's about artwork. In each round, all but one player draws a picture, then they all present their picture to the one player who didn't draw (the Critic), who ranks the pictures 1-N (N=# of artists) secretly. Then the artwork is auctioned off to the players by the Critic, and play continues with a new Critic, until everyone is a critic once. Then, everybody unveils how they ranked the art, and the winner is the player whose art collection (what they bought at auction, not what they created) is the most critically acclaimed!

Similarly, each player could make up a game pitch, maybe everybody gives a secret score to the pitches or something (you have a set of 10 Quality tokens with values from 1-10, so you can use each token once only). Then, as publishers, they vie for the rights to the different games, and the actual worth of the game is unveiled after its bought, based on how many Quality points it had assigned to it. A game of guessing which pitch is going to be liked most by the most people, which effectively makes it a game about being a publisher's purchasing agent!
Then you could expand that with some rules about how the game actually ends up selling so that really good games actually turn out to be flops sometimes or something, and some games are just quick fads while others last years and years. Maybe some kind of supply vs. demand curve so you can set prices or something. I don't know, I see potential... Ooh, I just came up with an even better element... royalties! Time to get designing.

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