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The Importance of Theme in European Game Design

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compman's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008

With the new site upgrade just happening recently, and in the interest of "kicking off" the Design Theory forum with some discussion, I thought I would take the initiative and get the ball rolling by posting an article I wrote on my personal board gaming blog a few months ago. I've received a few comments on it there so I thought it would be something worthwhile to post here. Thanks again to the BGDF staff for the new look and feel of the website.


I have recently had some major epiphanies as a game designer - specifically with respect to the importance of theme. In fact, one might say that these epiphanies of mine represent critical conceptual breakthroughs in my personal journey towards becoming a better game designer (I'm afraid that many more will occur over the years as I continue to learn how much I don't know). To communicate my new found understandings to the fullest extent possible, let me first back up and paint a big picture by beginning with two basic premises:

1. There are many people out there designing games.

I attend a monthly meeting with a group of local people who get together and playtest each other's game prototypes as well as discuss various issues in the realm of game design. On a larger scale, on the Board Game Designers Forum website and on the game design forum on Board Game Geek, there are many many people having conversations about game design. There are also many more people out there unfamiliar with these venues who are also trying to design games on their own (either with a serious intent on making quality games or simply out of curiosity). My point here is that there are LOTS of people out there trying to design games.

2. Very few people out there are designing really "good" games.

With this second premise, I automatically introduce the question of "What really represents 'good'?" In my game evaluation criteria I introduced on my blog, I mentioned six specific areas of evaluation that an evaluator can rank on a scale of 1 to 7. These six areas are:


Many game designs are simply in the early stages of their development and, thus, have not "matured" yet into good games. They are still in the "the - game - stinks - but - has - the - potential - to - be - good - after - lots - of - refining" stage (for more actual specifics - sans humor - on my scale of the various stages of game design click here). However, even with refining, many game designs still don't truly progress into the "6" or "7" ranges with respect to the categories outlined previously. They simply remain average or mediocre games. True, the first challenge is to get a game out of the lower ranges (i.e. to try and get the game to a point where it's not fundamentally broken or completely a chore to play) but many game designers don't progress their designs to a truly great level (myself included). Why is this?

A quote from Adam Smith applies here. Before writing "Wealth of Nations", Mr. Smith wrote a book entitled "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". In that book, he makes the following statement that is applicable to our current discussion:

"In all the liberal and ingenious arts, in painting, in poetry, in music, in eloquence, in philosophy, the great artist feels always the real imperfection of his own best works, and is more sensible than any man how much they fall short of that ideal perfection of which he has formed some conception, which he imitates as well he can, but which he despairs of ever equalling. It is the inferior artist only, who is ever perfectly satisfied with his own performances. He has little conception of this ideal perfection, about which he has little employed his thoughts; and it is chiefly to the works of other artists, of, perhaps, a still lower order, that he deigns to compare his own works."

It takes a lot of work to make something truly great. And, lots of work equals lots of time. Also, to get something to a truly great level, one must be willing to listen to harsh criticism - not with the intent to be defensive - but with the intent to learn. We also must be able to have a correct set of standards in our minds so as to be able to properly apply our own set of criticisms to our game designs - lest they languish in the realm of mediocrity.

My recent epiphanies concern the development of theme in European game design and how many of us are "lazy" in our theme development. We allow ourselves to be satisfied with sub-par themes. This relates to the "Integration" category in my game design criteria but it deals with issues greater than just integration within the game's inter-relating parts. First, let's explore why theme is so important and then we'll look at why many of us justify our own "theme laziness".

From the standpoint of potential publishers, manufacturers, and game players, they need a reason to play your game. They need a solid answer from within themselves to the question "Why should I take a look at this person's game?" For many game designers, their internal rationale concerning the answer to that question goes something like this:

"I designed this game - isn't that reason enough? I've nurtured this little game design since it was just a baby and I know in my heart just how awesome it is."

Unfortunately, other than in the case of automatic "yes men" such as immediate family and friends (who will usually just offer you encouragement on your game design instead of actual useful, critical feedback) others out there who are making decisions with respect to which games to look at and which ones not to (as well as which games to invest in financially and which ones not to) will not find such rationale as providing a sufficient enough reason to spend their time listening to you pitch your game - much less sitting down to play your game.

Game designers must master the critical art of empathy - the ability to look at their game design from a removed perspective and not merely from the "eye glasses" of their own experiences and biases. So, what kind of "reasons" for trying a game or are worth appealing to in other people?

In a previous article I wrote on the theory of what makes for "fun" in a gaming experience, I detailed some of the many specific reasons why someone may derive enjoyment out of a game. I listed 17 different motivations or purposes that people apply in their rationale for why they are participating in a game or what they are trying to get out of a game. Also, in another previous article, I detailed a variety of mechanics that can be used in the process of designing a game.

It must be kept in mind that game mechanics are a means to an end. They are used as vehicles to help convey a fun experience to an audience. Unfortunately, we as game designers are often misguided in our perception of mechanics because many of us have inferred the wrong things from games we have seen that have been published out there in the realm of European games. These incorrect inferences we make can cause us to begin the process of designing games with the completely wrong approach. What type of inferences am I talking about? Well, let me present a quick scenario and then I'll discuss how it relates to our topic.

Imagine working at a lower level job where there are a lot of rules and restrictions in place. In that setting, you find that occasionally you work alongside the owner's son. You notice that the owner's son doesn't always follow these small rules and restrictions that your manager strongly emphasized to you when you began the job. You also notice that the manager doesn't criticize the owner's son for breaking these smaller rules. In your mind you make the inference "if it's okay for him to do it then it's okay for me to do it and the manager must not have been too serious about those rules in the first place". Then, you start letting yourself lapse in your adherence to these rules and, almost immediately, your manager says "Hey, do you want to get fired? You had better shape up!" Shocked, you wait until your shift is over and you approach your manager. In a very honest and genuinely curious fashion you ask your manager why he reproved you. He responds "because you were breaking the rules". You then reply "but so was the boss's son". Your manager then drops his head, rubs his eyes, puts his hand on your shoulder, looks you in the eye and, almost as if explaining a concept to a very young child, explains "but he's the boss's son".

The point of this story is that we as game designers look at many of the games that have been published out there and infer the wrong kinds of things from them (much like how the main character in my story didn't understand that different rules apply based on who you are in a given scenario). Unless your name is Knizia, Kramer, or Seyfarth, mechanical game descriptions alone will not be enough in most cases to sufficiently inspire potential publishers to look at your game. Without the benefit of name recognition, you have to reach out to their imagination and give them a "reason" for looking at your game and that can most easily be achieved by developing an interesting theme.

The ironic thing is that theme is often an afterthought in the minds of those who are trying to design European games. It's looked at as a required necessity - but not a priority - and, if the game must have a theme, it's slapped on. This type of theme-being-an-afterhtought type of thinking is justified by inferences designers make based on other games that have been published by major publishers that employ themes which are, quite honestly, pretty lousy.

Here's an example of what I mean. Take the 2006 Spiel des Jahres winner: "Thurn and Taxis". It was designed by Andreas Seyfarth - the famous designer of the top rated game "Puerto Rico". What's the theme of Thurn and Taxis?


Now, I want you to imagine yourself - someone who is not on a first name basis with a publisher - trying to pitch your game to a publisher by saying, "Hi. You don't know me but I've designed a game I was hoping you would look at. It's about...... delivering the mail......"

Doesn't sound very interesting does it?

If you were to only be allowed to describe your game's theme and you weren't permitted at all to describe the mechanics, would your game sound interesting to play? Would you want to play it? Honestly? Further, would a complete stranger want to play your game based on the theme alone? If not, then good luck trying to get a publisher to look at your game.

Many game designers who are trying to design European style games are studious with respect to their mechanics but lazy with their themes. They think their mechanics are what will sell their game, that the theme isn't that important, and then they justify their rationale by citing plenty of examples from the field of published games where the themes are uninteresting or where there is no connection at all between the theme and the mechanics of the game. I'm here to tell you that, from my perspective, if you're not the boss's son, you have to play by the rules. And, if you're not Andreas Seyfarth, you're probably not going to sell your game based on it being about delivering the mail.

This my friends is the water in which we swim. The theme of one's game is really its best selling point unless one is a well recognized designer. We must invest more time in developing a theme that is interesting and that naturally invites others to want to play our game. Unfortunately, most of us don't invest enough time or creative energy in this process. I would also contend that, even if most designers consider theme to be important, they don't have the acumen to truly see what makes for an interesting theme and what doesn't. For example, does your game have a generic "business" theme? If so, can you see why that immediately saddles your game with baggage? A theme needs to reach out and capture the imagination of your potential audience. Does "business" really do that? In very few cases it does but not for many people.

A theme needs to engage the imaginations of the players - but don't take my thesis too far in the other direction either. A game's theme doesn't have to be an in-your-face epic of explosions, space aliens, massive planetary wars or galactic conflicts to be effective. It may simply be an amusing little story about ants in a colony - but it must appeal positively to a person's imagination in some way such that they will want to play your game.

I would also contend that, unless our intention is to design a purely abstract game, we must select a theme as early on in the process of designing a game as possible so that the theme can serve as a guiding light to help us determine which mechanics should be in the game and which ones should not.

Further, if someone says, "Hey, that sounds like an interesting game. I'll try it." and then sits down and is introduced to a series of mechanics that really don't reflect the theme at all, you're going to disappoint and perhaps even annoy the people who decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. If your theme is a "stretch" - meaning something like "yeah that bidding mechanic 'could' represent ants gathering food - but it's really abstract" then your game's ability to inspire people's imagination will immediately lose its momentum.

For many people to really appreciate a theme, they need to feel a sense of what their "role" is in the game and it needs to "make sense" to them. If a person is asking themselves "Why would I do this if I were in that position? If my goal is to build walls in a certain way, why is the fictional person in the 'story" of the game awarding points in the manner that they are?" There needs to be a sense of empathy that can easily be evoked from the players. If there is a "king" that awards "points", can the players easily see how, if they were the "king" in the game, that the way the king is awarding points is by using a system of judgment that, if the players were in the same situation, would seem reasonable to them as well? Just pulling an example out of thin air, does it make sense to the players that the king is awarding points because of how many different horses a player has ridden in a given week? I know that may seem silly but it's not too far removed from the logic many designers of European games settle for when determining their theme.

So, is there a lack of connection between the mechanics and the story your game is trying to tell? If your theme appeals to a potential publisher's imagination in a positive way, they may listen to you pitch your game. But then, afterwards, if they don't feel a connection between the theme and the mechanics as you pitch your game, if they can't visualize the "story" of the game, they will probably not try your game. (For a good discussion on theme summarizing a game, check out Jonathan Degann's article over at the Journal of Board Game Design.)

Even if a game is a "good" game with an interesting story, getting noticed is yet another step (if a game is designed in the forest and no publisher is around to see it, did it really get designed)? The fact of the matter is, many game designs out there are simply not original enough to break out of the baggage that naturally results from our pre-existing gaming environment. In other words, someone designing, say, a role-playing game with a fantasy theme is not designing their game within a cultural vacuum. This world we live in is a world where Dungeons & Dragons already exists. Were it not so, a fantasy based role-playing game would maybe have more traction in getting noticed. As it is, natural comparisons will be made between any fantasy based RPG and D&D. Unless the new game offers something that has here-to-for not been seen, it's unlikely that the game will "win" the natural comparison that will be made by many out there in the audience of potential game buyers as well as potential game publishers and manufacturers between the game design in question and an already existing industry standard. (The irony in this process is that it's likely the ideas for many of the games being designed by aspiring designers were conceived of and nurtured within a realm of experience with the industry standard games the resulting game designs will be ultimately compared with.)

One final thing to consider with respect to theme and European game design is how Eurogames tend towards a certain standard of "simplicity" in the rules. Usually, to evoke a theme more and more, there is an assumption that there needs to be more and more rules to help flush out that theme. Another one of my epiphanies is that this is not necessarily the case. Are the mechanics in the game "Hey, That's My Fish!" thematic? Yes they are. Are they simple? Yes they are. The point is that the mechanics in "Hey, That's My Fish!" don't ask the player to make a huge leap in logic so as to accept a real stretch in associating the mechanics with the game's story. A game doesn't have to have tons of rules to be thematic. It just needs to be "true" to its story and its story needs to be something others will consider worth taking the time to experience.

Addiso's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Thanks for the article

Thanks for the article compman , it was a nice read. I can only agree with the importance of "theme coherent mechanics" and that theme is a major selling point not only to publishers but for the actual market. Theme usually gives off the first impressions of a game, and sets up the expectations of the would be player.

mistre's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Great insights

I think you make some excellent points about theme and why many aspiring designers tend to ignore it in favor of developing the mechanics.

If what you say is true, then my design "Castle Raiders" should have an above-average chance of being published as the theme really shines through while playing and draws players in. It's shortcoming has always been trying to simplify the mechanics. But I guess that is a topic for another post...

compman's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Thanks. Regarding the market,

Thanks. Regarding the market, I manage a FLGS and, from my experience, the theme of a game is often the difference in someone giving a game a second look on the shelf or not, them picking the game up and looking at the back of the box or not, and often it's the difference in the customer actually buying the game or not. I don't think it's too far of a stretch to say that some of the same dynamics apply when it comes to pitching games to potential publishers.

Brett Myers
Joined: 07/31/2008
Regarding the market,

Hi, Mike. I am a former FLGS owner, myself. I have to disagree, somewhat, with your assertions about theme and marketing. In my experience, the biggest factor in getting a customer to pick up a game and look at the back of the box is... the front of the box. The trappings of theme will certainly play a role in that - the name of the game, the font used in the title, the picture on the cover, etc., but if a customer walks into your store looking for a pirate game and he has to choose between the one with the pretty cover and the one with the ugly cover, he is always going to pick up the prettiest cover first. The back of the box has to bring it home, though.

Your comment about Thurn and Taxis is off base, too. Trust me, if the publisher didn't think a game about a famous historical family and the postal service they created and maintained for two and a half centuries would sell, it would have been changed or rejected. Why do you think there are so many Euro games about Medieval Europe or Renaissance Italy? It isn't because all the big name designers are into historical themes. Publishers publish games with historical themes because games with historical themes sell well.

Look at it from the proper cultural perspective. TnT means nothing to the average American, but call it Pony Express, put a young man on a galloping horse on the cover and you have a game people might pick up off the shelf. A game about building postal routes. The Pony Express was only around for about 18 months in the early 1860s, but look how much cultural significance it has in America. Compare that to TnT, a family and an institution which survived for centuries.

Now, I'm not saying TnT was published solely because of the theme - I'm sure there are plenty of designers with TnT games in their notebooks or on their shelves. TnT was published because it is (1) a good game with (2) an appealing theme - in that order. The fact that the designer has had at a hit game gets him in the door, but that just means the publishers will take a look at whatever he is showing that day. If they like a game but don't like the theme or already have a game with a similar theme, they won't hesitate to ask the designer to change the theme (or do it themselves).

compman's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
One has to remember that I am

One has to remember that I am an American speaking from an American standpoint about games that are primarily European in origin. I don't think it's too far of a stretch to say that there are some differences (some stark, some subtle) between the tastes of European audiences and American audiences. Thus, I think your comment about the Pony Express striking more of an emotionally resonating tone with your average American customer is spot on.

Also, when speaking about the theme and a customer picking up the game or not - I was thinking that the box cover and the theme were both part of that packaging (even though I didn't spell it out that way). So, in that respect, I again agree with you that the font, the images, etc. are all part of the package of trying to sell the game. Some great games are laden with really bad packaging and they don't sell well while somewhat lesser quality games sell purely because of their packaging (and, in some cases, simply because they have a catchy name).

MusedFable's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I completely agree. I don't

I completely agree.

I don't know what else to say other than you hit the nail on the head.

Grudunza's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Great article. Thanks for

Great article. Thanks for sharing that, Mike! One thing that I'll comment on is this...

Further, if someone says, "Hey, that sounds like an interesting game. I'll try it." and then sits down and is introduced to a series of mechanics that really don't reflect the theme at all, you're going to disappoint and perhaps even annoy the people who decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. If your theme is a "stretch" - meaning something like "yeah that bidding mechanic 'could' represent ants gathering food - but it's really abstract" then your game's ability to inspire people's imagination will immediately lose its momentum.

In one sense I agree, and the kinds of games that I like the most have a strong connection between mechanics/theme, but I'd also add that a lot of very successful games have only a loose connection between the mechanics and theme, or have those things that are a "stretch". In fact, the more I observe about games as a very fledgling designer, the more it seems like even the games that have the best integration between mechanics/theme usually have at least one or two elements where the mechanic won out in order to make it a better "game", even though the theme gets lost temporarily (or has to be imagined very creatively in order to work with that mechanic).

compman's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Something that occurs to me

Something that occurs to me as an important clarification I didn't make in my original post that I want to make now is that my example of Thurn and Taxis is specifically about its potential (as well as the potential of other games as well) to mislead us as aspiring designers into thinking that theme is less important than it actually is when it comes to the point of us trying to "pitch" or "sell" our game designs to potential publishers. It's not necessarily a criticism that Thurn and Taxis is specifically a bad game or that its theme isn't acceptable. It's just that trying to pitch a theme like the one Thurn and Taxis has is perhaps not the best choice when trying to interest a potential publisher in one of one's game designs when one is still trying to establish one's name. In a way, it's all about delivery (pardon the pun).

There's also some difference in European and American audiences and European and American publishers. I remember Reiner Knizia in a podcast interview with Derk and Aldie in one of the old "GeekSpeak" episodes discussing how American and European companies had some differences with respect to theme. He mentioned how he pitched a game with an Egyptian theme to an American company and the company said something to the effect of "We already have an Egyptian themed game. Thanks anyway." He then pitched his game to a European based company who said something to the effect of "We're not interested in the theme but we like the mechanics. So, let's take a look at the theme and see what we can do with it." The thing is, this anecdote comes from a well recognized designer's experience so that has to factor into one's inferences from it.

Joined: 07/29/2008
more perspective

I agree with your general assertion of the importance of theme in games, however that theme is devised--whether it's the first step in the design (I want to design a game about building a castle) or fit to some innovative mechanics (I have a great dice mechanic, and this theme would probably work well with that).

I believe that in the same Knizia interview, he rebuffed his critics who often claim that his games have "pasted-on themes." In fact, he said, he often starts with a theme. But the mechanics are so important, the theme gets abstracted in order to make the game better to play (easier to learn, better tempo, more fun, etc.).

So theme is often the starting point for game design, and it is often what drives design decisions as well--even for German game designers. I really don't agree that designers are "lazy" with regards to theme, and Andreas & Karen Seyfarth certainly weren't with their SdJ winner. In a market saturated with train games, this theme stood out to the publisher and to the market in Germany. It's also no wonder that the prototype "East India Rails" was changed by the publisher to "Portobello Market"--again a non-train game with the similar mechanics of connecting/route building.

In closing, I think that most would-be designers are more challenged by finding original mechanics for their games, than trying to find interesting themes. At least that's my experience.

compman's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
I don't believe that the

I don't believe that the Seyfarth's were lazy with their theme either. Again, I didn't post my article to criticize Thurn and Taxis. What I tried to say was that we (meaning the field of people who are aspiring designers) often infer the wrong things from games that we see getting published. There are many designers (meaning the field of people who are aspiring designers) who are lazy with their theme development (myself included) and who excuse themselves in that respect by focusing on mechanical development and telling themselves that theme isn't that important. When publishers don't know you, you have more of a job to do in terms of "selling" them on your game. When they do know who you are, you have more flexibility (hence the little story in my original post). So, I was exaggerating about Thurn and Taxis for the sake of dramatic effect and to make a point that we have to do a better job of coming up with a theme that is more likely than not to appeal to someone even if they don't know who we are and who isn't in the position to want to naturally give us the benefit of the doubt.

Actually, regarding Knizia, I'm beginning to see the thematic roots of his games more and more. I used to be of the mindset that he just threw together a theme on top of his mechanics but I actually believe the guy now when he says that he starts with theme first. He just simplifies his games so much that, once he has a final product, it appears to have originated the other way around (i.e. it appears that he started with mechanics first).

Joined: 07/29/2008
Yes, and I also agree that

Yes, and I also agree that the German game publishers do often emphasize mechanics over theme when looking at a submission. From their perspective, they can always make the theme work or find another theme that works, but the mechanics present a bigger problem during development, if they are not working smoothly. I guess you should be pitching your game ideas to German publishers rather than American ones!

Only once has a German publisher rejected a proposal from me specifically because they couldn't sell that particular theme, in their opinions. Another publisher, though, sent me a contract for the same game within a couple of months!

What this (and your Thurn & Taxis example for American audiences) proves is that how a particular theme resonates with a publisher is highly subjective, while the mechanics are more objective. As you mentioned, some publishers will even turn away a very good game because they already have something with a similar theme. The nice thing about the abstraction of themes in typical Eurogames is their flexibility with theme.

It may not even be a bad thing to offer alternative themes to a game submission. I actually did this with the soon-to-be-released card game "Circus Maximus" from Pegasus Spiele. The theme is ticket scalping in ancient Rome, thus my title "Scalpus Maximus." When I couldn't sell the idea to an American publisher, however, I changed the theme to scalping tickets at a tournament of knights and called it "Ritter-Markt," since "scalping" doesn't translate at all to German.

As it ended up, Pegasus like the mechanics and were willing to do either theme, so I chose the original one and they simply changed the name.

compman's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Since you bring up the

Since you bring up the subject of publishers re-theming a game, I thought it apropos to post a link in this thread to Faidutti's geeklist from a couple of years ago where he discussed publisher decisions to re-theme games:

...and to post a link to Doug Faust's statistical comparison between games and their re-themed counterparts:

Edit: I fixed the link to the Faidutti list.

InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Art and Theme, then rules and component quality, then mechanics.

Just my 2 cents here...

"[W]hen speaking about the theme and a customer picking up the game or not - I was thinking that the box cover and the theme were both part of that packaging (even though I didn't spell it out that way). So, in that respect, I again agree with you that the font, the images, etc. are all part of the package of trying to sell the game."

I strongly believe that the art on the box (and the components) and the theme are what sell a game. The clarity of the rules and component quality are what draw the player into playing the game the first time. Good mechanics are what create a satisfying game experience and make players want to play the game again.

Unfortunately for designers, good mechanics are what take the most work to design, and are least likely to be noticed by most consumers (especially for mass-market games). T'be honest, the best mechanics are transparent – they don't call attention to themselves and go unnoticed.

Joined: 07/29/2008
selling theme to publishers?

I agree with InvisibleJon, which brings us back to the question most pertinant to this site of aspiring game designers: how important is theme when pitching a game to a publisher?

Again, from my experience the mechanics are what the publisher looks at the most, then the theme and how the two work together. As far as the art and components, you can make a real spiffy prototype, just to give the publisher a vision of what the game could look like, but that's really their job and they usually don't need a lot of help imagining the final product.

For the record, I like to make nice prototypes simply because it's more fun for me and for my playtesters, even though many of the other Berlin designers I know get published with fairly basic prototypes.

Joined: 09/07/2008
Great article, compman. I

Great article, compman.

I have to basically agree with everything you had to say. I can understand where some people are coming from when they say that game mechanics can still make a good game with a boring theme stand out, but I also agree that a good theme does nothing but help solid game mechanics and greatly increases the chance of the game being noticed (whether for publication or for potential customers).

I have much more experience playing video games than board games, so the comparison I have is the old graphics vs gameplay debate. People who really know video games will always argue that gameplay is more important. However, those same people will also say that graphics help to sell the experience to them. Basically what it all comes down to is this (an old quote from a designer I can't remember the name of): "Good graphics draw you in, but good gameplay is what keeps you playing". I'd say it's the same for a theme. A good theme draws you into the game, and if the game is fun, the game mechanics keep you playing. However, if the theme is somewhat boring, you could still end up loving the game so long as the game mechanics are good and you gave the game a chance to be fun. That's what it all comes down to though: a good theme causes more players (and publishers) to give the game a chance to be fun.


benshelmars's picture
Joined: 10/03/2008
What's Important?

Thanks, your article to me is so important, not because I want to get my game published (although that would be nice from a personal point), but because for me Game Design is an Art, not that I am an Artist.
There are several reasons I watch a movie or read a book. There is usually only one reason I remember them, they have touched me in some way and usually profoundly changed me or my outlook. True Art in my opinion, does just this.
And this is what's important.

Joined: 09/14/2008
I have to say

If I see something with a pirate theme or another overdone theme I tend to be very skeptical, as quite often I have found that they have no interesting, new or original mechanics and are relying on kids thinking pirates are cool or whatever. I am probably far from the norm in this respect, but I generally refrain from buying board games unless I have played them before and found them interesting, or unless they look like they have new and interesting mechanics (or are at least unneccessarily complex).

Probably your comments on what sells are very true for the magority of people and of course that is what counts :)

I have never seen a board game with an ugly box, except ones that my parents bought second hand for me as a kid, and certainly those were interesting and sold at least once.

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
What an exquisite article! I

What an exquisite article! I don't have much to add and am beginning to design games myself. I haven't been in it for vary long. lol six weeks, but am skilled and experienced in other creative fields. I take much delight in the ideas you share.

On the quote from Adam Smith "In all the liberal and ingenious arts, in painting, in poetry, in music, in eloquence, in philosophy", and game design and anything, I would say "how big is the creator's mind?" Vary simple! A big mind intuitively always achieves big results. It may not sell to everyone, but those who have the eye to see it's value, it radiates golden light 1000-fold to those people. Small-minded people want to imitate the great works of a master, and are quick to judge one piece as being too much like another. But, the small-minded entity, can not see that the work they are judging perfectly expresses the idea the creator had for the work. The small mind, can only judge and make comparisons because the small mind does not know what makes great works or great creators because the small mind is not the great creator. The great creator has a big mind, and has a vast assortment of knowledge, ideas, and potentials to develop their works, even if it has commonalities to other works. Whatever expresses what the creator wants to say best, makes a perfectly fine work.

That is my three cents.

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