Published on July 7th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich1
BoardGameHour Replay: Unusual Themes
There was a lively discussion last Monday during #boardgamehour as gamers discussed unusual themes in games. If you want to view the full replay, visit their Nurph channel for past chats. We have a collection of tweets from the chat as well as my personal views.
What Makes a Game Unusual?
Defining what makes an unusual game is very difficult because ‘unusual’ is very subjective. Kittens in a Blender is a perfect example of a game that is deemed unusual by ALL gamers and I would like to use this game to help define what unusual means. Games that are unusual have a theme that is rarely or never seen before in a tabletop format. The theme could be odd, very ambitious, from a different perspective or simply crude.
Mechanics on there own can be diverse and aren’t necessarily perceived as unusual- there are the occasional disagreements of how the mechanics of a game relate to its theme. If you need a good example of what I mean, a couple gamers feel Kinezia games feel like that. His games can be very sound mechanically but not thematically. Theme is just as important to a game as mechanics because both add to the experience of playing a game.
“Pasted On” Themed Games
First, what does “Pasted On” even mean? Based on your responses, ‘pasted on themes’ is also a subjective term that is commonly associated with games that don’t feel complete or games whose theme feels like an afterthought. A “pasted on” theme is also viewed sometimes as a money grab as @SarcasticRobot says. I don’t mind games that try to expand their audience by creating “re skins” of gameplay using different characters or licenses. Some of my favorite games are those by Cryptozoic, a company who has created a lot of licensed games recently and show no sign of stopping. Their classic deck building games feature a similar mechanics system applied to multiple games: DC Comics, Lord of the Rings and Street Fighter.
How do you prevent gamers from pushing a re-themed game away? Communicate with them. Be open and active as to why as a designer you chose a particular theme and the community will understand. On the flip side, gamers should be more accepting of designers’ push to make their games more wide reaching. We can grow the hobby by creating games that can attract more people to gaming. By creating games for more, diverse people this will result in more, unusual themed games and less of the same (zombies, Cthulhu, steampunk, etc).
Who Makes Good, Unusual Games
If you’re looking for a game that is a bit different or want to follow designers that are constantly innovating and expanding the game market you should really check out:
— Across the Board (@Board_Crossing) June 30, 2014
— Board Game Replay (@BoardGameReplay) June 30, 2014
— Sen-Foong Lim (@SenFoongLim) June 30, 2014
What Unusual Themes Do We Want to See?
The gaming community is one full of ideas and are not shy with telling designers and game developers what they want. If you’re a designer looking for ideas or a gamer who wants to see what others want in their games, we have quite the spread of quotes below. Here are a list of themes that you want to see in games. Have another theme you want to see? Please let us know in the comments!
Want more game ideas? Luke and I wrote articles about licenses that deserve a good board game. Luke’s Article. Nicole’s Article. Also please join us every Monday for #boardgamehour chats on Twitter from 11am-12pm PST.