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Published on July 7th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich


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 chatsWe 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).


galaxy trucker

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:


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 ArticleAlso please join us every Monday for #boardgamehour chats on Twitter from 11am-12pm PST.


About the Author

Nicole Jekich

came from humble beginnings as a Boise suburbanite with a love of Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She attended an open board game day three years ago and is now an avid gamer and fantasy artist. Her interests are primarily in Dungeons & Dragons, dice placement and Roman-themed tabletop games. Nicole is also a fan of playing games that let her release her inner barbarian. Her favorite game currently is Far Space Foundry.

One Response to BoardGameHour Replay: Unusual Themes

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