The importance of theme

As I play modern boardgames with greater frequency I am finding depth of theme to be important to me. For example, although I believe Terra Mystica is well-designed, the theme fails to stick for me. I'm mentally left with a set of rules to ungrounded abstractions. It feels as if the game mechanics came before the theme.

By contrast, Brass: Birmingham's theme feels very strong to me. As I plan moves I find myself thinking in terms of  canals, rails, coal merchants, and so forth.

Which games do you enjoy because you find the theme immersive?

5 points by CardiganSweater - updated 12 months ago | 14 comments | report | subscribe

Skyw3rd 16 months ago | 4 points[-]

Theme (along with component quality) is very important to me. 

Scythe is the best example I can think of when it comes to theme bringing the game to life. If those hexes were just solid colors. If those workers and mechs were just cubes and larger cubes, it wouldn't be the same at all. The theme makes me want to play Scythe more and more.

walterbd 16 months ago | 3 points[-]

So true! the theme in that game is so well pulled together! I think some games manage to pull off theme without specialized pieces though. Its hard to talk about the game Fog of Love without sounding like you are talking about a real relationship, which is a real testament to how the design fits the theme. And games like Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure have cubes that represent noise but i'm never saying "oh no i have so many cubes down" i always say "oh no i'm making so much noise!!!"

rancidmike Supporter16 months ago | 3 points[-]

I think Viticulture does a pretty good job of incorporating theme with rules, which makes the rules easier to remember.

walterbd 16 months ago | 3 points[-]

I think a really great example can be seen in Catan, as overused as that might seem. I;m always thinking in terms of goods and roads and buildings, not hexes i have and cards i need.

trentellingsen Supporter16 months ago | 3 points[-]

Two games that stood out based on theme were Imhotep and Reef. They're both so simple but it feels like the theme really brings the gameplay enjoyment up quite a bit.

jasondeutsch 16 months ago | 2 points[-]

I think I love Eldritch Horror for the theme. Looking at just the gameplay I don't know how much I would really like the game, but there is just something about the sense of adventure and the impending doom that brings this game to life. 

FirstJohn318 16 months ago | 2 points[-]

Theme can help a game a lot. I hate terra mystica because it just feels so drab but the space version Gaia project holds my attention a little more. Still not a fan of the mechanics of the game. Which brings me to my second point. The mechanics of a game draw me much more than theme does.

Iantully 16 months ago | 2 points[-]

I think Villainous has an excellent theme! The game is light enough for my wife and me to break out when we don't want to spend the timing setting up Gloomhaven or Spirit Island, while thematic enough to constantly keep me engaged. I had incredibly low expectations for the game and it constantly surprises me with how much fun each character plays.

FireLordDodo 16 months ago | 2 points[-]

I'm new to the hobby but Spirit Island, which i just picked up, is the game that fits this category for me. In a lot of games you are the settler's, builders, etc. This game flips that on its head and you are the protectors. Also towards the end of the game you really feel like a powerful spirit that is protecting the island. When I played earth it truly felt like I was rock solid and could defend a lot of locations. This game is really fantastic on it's own but the theme, for me, makes it one of the best games I've played.  

benbernards 16 months ago | 2 points[-]

Viticulture and Takenoko were the first that sucked me in for theme. So, so, so good. 

Markus 16 months ago | 2 points[-]

For me gameplay, meaning interesting mechanics, always come first, but I think a good theme can elevate a good game with clever mechanics to a great game. There's two reasons for that: one is obviously immersion - if there's an interesting world I feel like diving into there's an immediate connection. The other is intuition - mechanics that just "make sense" go a long way towards explaining the rules and for players to remember them.

ihavenolife 16 months ago | 1 point[-]

theme is more important than other things in board games in general, i mean gameplay is designed around the theme of the game, and that makes board game become boardgame.

walterbd 16 months ago | 1 point[-]

I think sometimes the theme is based on the way the game plays. maybe thats what makes the theme more forgettable?

nonameforme 16 months ago | 1 point[-]

yes. i mean if you need a real feeling playing the game, you need a good environment to play the game. theme sometimes to me is more important than anything eles. thinking you have a good job but you have to go to afreeca to do it, then it's not so enjoying anymore right? i have been asking a friend of mine in apknite, he is a game developer to see if he can make mods that upgrade or change some of the current themes