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Subject: Which top games are the most/least thematic, finally determined, once and for all! (POLL) rss

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CARL SKUTSCH
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I did this poll more than a year ago and it ended up being one of my favorite polls. I asked how thematic the top 100+ games were and folks answered. I crunched the results and each game ended up with a 1-5 rating on how thematic it was (Theme ratings of top 112 BGG games (1-5 scale)). So then we knew, definitively (!!!) that Eldritch Horror (4.26) was more thematic than Blood Rage (3.54).

Well, it's been more than a year and a lot of things have changed--bunches of new games in the top 100--so I thought it was time to come up with a new theme rating for these games.

Wait, what is theme, how do you judge a game's level of theme? I have no clue. There is no BGG consensus as to what makes a game thematic. Here are two recent and very different BGG definitions of theme:

Quote:
To me (and I suspect most Thematic Gamers), 'Theme' is 'The game's ability to tell a grand, dramatic story, like in an adventure book or movie'.
Quote:
Theme is a source of convenient nouns and verbs used in the rules for aspects of the game.

Another way of describing theme (stolen from another post) is "the topic of the game." Then one could say that a game is thematic a) to the extent that its mechanics reflect and describe that topic, and b) to the extent that its components reflect and describe that topic. The Lords of Waterdeep has kinda thematic mechanics (sending adventurers off on quests) but those cubes?!? Isle of Skye has thematic components (pretty hills and mountains and whiskey!) but some strange mechanics (so you're a Scottish laird and you bid on and mold the land as you see fit with your godlike powers?!?). Twilight Struggle has both thematic mechanics (using your military and political power to gain influence over countries around the world) and thematic components (a real world map, cards that have actual historical events).

People will disagree on pretty much every point I've made. Where I see theme, they see nothing, and vice versa.

To sidestep debate, just rate theme according to your idea of what is thematic. Please rate the following top 100+ games on their level of theme. When the poll is done I will create a 1-5 "thematic rating" much like the 1-5 "weight rating." Might be useful, at the very least I think some folks will find it interesting (I know I will).

EDIT: I really appreciate folks voting on this one. Last time I got over 400 votes. It'd be great if we could at least match that this time. Thanks!

Poll
How thematic are these games? (Please don't rate if you haven't played the game.)
  Dripping with theme Fairly thematic Mildly thematic Pasted on theme No theme that I can see
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Through the Ages
Gloomhaven
Twilight Struggle
Star Wars Rebellion
Terraforming Mars
Terra Mystica
Scythe
7 Wonders Duel
The Castles of Burgundy
Caverna
Great Western Trail
War of the Ring
Puerto Rico
Agricola
Mage Knight
Blood Rage
Arkham Horror the Card Game
Mansions of Madness
Star Wars Imperial Assault
Mechs vs. Minions
Power Grid
Orleans
Eclipse
Viticulture
Concordia
Food Chain Magnate
Robinson Crusoe
Brass
Le Havre
Tzolk'in
Android Netrunner
A Feast for Odin
T.I.M.E. Stories
Codenames
The Voyages of Marco Polo
Keyflower
7 Wonders
Caylus
The 7th Continent
Twilight Imperium
Eldritch Horror
Race for the Galaxy
Lords of Waterdeep
Dominant Species
Patchwork
Five Tribes
Roll for the Galaxy
El Grande
Dead of Winter
Dominion
Fields of Arle
Star Wars X Wing
Clank
Battle Star Galactica
Mombasa
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Russian Railroads
Trajan
Tigris & Euphrates
Troyes
Pandemic
Santorini
Crokinole
Descent
The Gallerist
Castle of Mad King Ludwig
Kemet
Stone Age
The Resistance Avalon
Alchemists
A Game of Thrones the Board Game
Arcadia Quest
Kingdom Death: Monster
Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
Forbidden Stars
Ore et Labora
Star Realms
Suburbia
Nations
Commands & Colors: Ancients
Ticket to Ride
Railways of the World
Chaos in the Old World
Istanbul
Paths of Glory
Cosmic Encounter
Combat Commander Europe
Captain Sonar
Steam
Goa
Lord of the Rings Card Game
Jaipur
La Granja
Age of Steam
Hansa Teutonica
Zombicide Black Plague
Splendor
The Princes of Florence
Village
Tichu
Go
Anachrony
Memoir 44
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
Imperial Settlers
Pandemic Iberia
Mage Wars Arena
Grand Austria Hotel
Shogun
Galaxy Trucker
Hannibal Rome vs. Carthage
BattleLore
Lewis & Clark
Age of Empires III
Dungeon Petz
Cyclades
Summoner Wars
Yinsh
Ra
Imperial
Yokohama
Space Alert
Runewars
Carcassonne
Above and Below
      365 answers
Poll created by skutsch
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Fascinating. The first person to take the poll (besides me) went down the list and rated almost every game a "no theme that I can say". (The exceptions, which they rated "dripping in theme" were Yinsh, Crokinole, and Tichu.) I wonder if they mean that they simply see no themes in any games, or that they thought it'd be funny, or that they simply object to polls on religious grounds? I'm going to guess it's religious reasons because that's a lot of buttons to click just for a joke.
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James C
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My results are in. Close the poll.

Edit: hah. I didn't realize there was so many when I started... but I don't give up.

Edit 2: and be fair, I did put dripping with theme for a few like Go and Yinsh.
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Ron
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Someone voted 'No theme that I can see' for Kingdom Death: Monster. Without sarcasm, I'm genuinely interested in the reason for that.

skutsch wrote:
Fascinating. The first person to take the poll (besides me) went down the list and rated almost every game a "no theme that I can say". (The exceptions, which they rated "dripping in theme" were Yinsh, Crokinole, and Tichu.) I wonder if they mean that they simply see no themes in any games, or that they thought it'd be funny, or that they simply object to polls on religious grounds? I'm going to guess it's religious reasons because that's a lot of buttons to click just for a joke.


Ah, explained. I did go through the list to see if someone did just that, but saw some games had no 'No theme that I can see' ratings. These are all abstracts with one 'Dripping with theme' rating, so I guess it's indeed a troll.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Wormaap wrote:
Someone voted 'No theme that I can see' for Kingdom Death: Monster. Without sarcasm, I'm genuinely interested in the reason for that.

Note my first comment on the thread. Somebody thought it would be funny to just go down with a bunch of "no theme" votes, except for Tichu, Crokinole, and Yinsh. Oh my, what knee slapper that person is, hilarious.

Edit: A heads up, BGG moderators frown on the use of the "T" word. Just a warning!
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Bryan Thunkd
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SuperGLS wrote:
hah. I didn't realize there was so many when I started... but I don't give up.
I don't start. (I scan ahead, see how much effort it's going to take and decide it's not worth it.)
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Bryan Thunkd
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skutsch wrote:
Wormaap wrote:
Someone voted 'No theme that I can see' for Kingdom Death: Monster. Without sarcasm, I'm genuinely interested in the reason for that.

Note my first comment on the thread. Somebody thought it would be funny to just go down with a bunch of "no theme" votes, except for Tichu, Crokinole, and Yinsh. Oh my, what knee slapper that person is, hilarious.

Edit: A heads up, BGG moderators frown on the use of the "T" word. Just a warning!
And your warning just labeled someone... without explicitly breaking the rules. Clever!
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Thunkd wrote:
SuperGLS wrote:
hah. I didn't realize there was so many when I started... but I don't give up.
I don't start. (I scan ahead, see how much effort it's going to take and decide it's not worth it.)

What if I promise to "like" the next 100 snarky posts you make?
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Zenith Splendor
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This is a good idea. I look forward to seeing the results.
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Martijn Broeren
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skutsch wrote:
Fascinating. The first person to take the poll (besides me) went down the list and rated almost every game a "no theme that I can say". (The exceptions, which they rated "dripping in theme" were Yinsh, Crokinole, and Tichu.) I wonder if they mean that they simply see no themes in any games, or that they thought it'd be funny, or that they simply object to polls on religious grounds? I'm going to guess it's religious reasons because that's a lot of buttons to click just for a joke.


I guess it's the same persons that rates games a 1 'for balancing reasons'...? shake

I haven't played that many games of the top 150 so I was quickly done with the poll. I did notice that the FFG games are the ones dripping the most with theme imho.
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Andrew J.
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I may be alone in this, but I do see a ton of theme in Tigris and Euphrates -- it's hundreds of years of civilization compressed into a game, but the rise and fall of different civilizations with different strengths/weaknesses seems very thematic to me.
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skutsch wrote:
Wormaap wrote:
Someone voted 'No theme that I can see' for Kingdom Death: Monster. Without sarcasm, I'm genuinely interested in the reason for that.

Note my first comment on the thread. Somebody thought it would be funny to just go down with a bunch of "no theme" votes, except for Tichu, Crokinole, and Yinsh. Oh my, what knee slapper that person is, hilarious.

Edit: A heads up, BGG moderators frown on the use of the "T" word. Just a warning!


I didn't realize BGG moderators frowned upon Tichu...

In all seriousness: that was a long poll, but interested in further results!
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Tomáš Sládek
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I'm curious about the next 400 responses, but so far, man...
Agricola is fairly thematic while Ora et Labora, Fields of Arle and Caverna are pasted on themes? They're nearly the same games!

And Galaxy Trucker or Forbidden Stars as pasted on theme, my jaw dropped...
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Borghal wrote:
I'm curious about the next 400 responses, but so far, man...
Agricola is fairly thematic while Ora et Labora, Fields of Arle and Caverna are pasted on themes? They're nearly the same games!

And Galaxy Trucker or Forbidden Stars as pasted on theme, my jaw dropped...


It's because a significant proportion of BGGers use the second quoted definition of theme:

Quote:
Theme is a source of convenient nouns and verbs used in the rules for aspects of the game.
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Tomáš Sládek
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:

It's because a significant proportion of BGGers use the second quoted definition of theme:

Quote:
Theme is a source of convenient nouns and verbs used in the rules for aspects of the game.


Can't say I understand how one would rate according to that quote. Which games' nouns are most convenient? I.e. which cause the least amount of confusion as to what they refer to and represent?

That just leads into the definition that skutsch omitted, even though imo it's the most significant one:
Quote:
the ability of the game to immerse you into its fictional world
This blends together
a) telling a story
b) worldbuilding
c) mechanics that fit into the game's world

But by that account, both Forbidden Stars and Galaxy trucker are in no way lacking in theme, since the actions you take in game correspond pretty well with the set theme.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Borghal wrote:
Abiezer Coppe wrote:

It's because a significant proportion of BGGers use the second quoted definition of theme:

Quote:
Theme is a source of convenient nouns and verbs used in the rules for aspects of the game.


Can't say I understand how one would rate according to that quote. Which games' nouns are most convenient? I.e. which cause the least amount of confusion as to what they refer to and represent?

That just leads into the definition that skutsch omitted, even though imo it's the most significant one:
Quote:
the ability of the game to immerse you into its fictional world
This blends together
a) telling a story
b) worldbuilding
c) mechanics that fit into the game's world

But by that account, both Forbidden Stars and Galaxy trucker are in no way lacking in theme, since the actions you take in game correspond pretty well with the set theme.

Go with whatever works for you. As I said
skutsch wrote:
To sidestep debate, just rate theme according to your idea of what is thematic.
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Pete
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Some of those games don't even last as long as the poll.

Pete (whines a tiny bit)
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Mike Jones
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Every game should take the time to paste a theme onto it.

I enjoy a good theme when teaching a game, it helps teach it.

All my favorite games have great pasted on themes.
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Tomáš Sládek
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Guantanamo wrote:
Every game should take the time to paste a theme onto it.

I enjoy a good theme when teaching a game, it helps teach it.

All my favorite games have great pasted on themes.


If a game's development begins with theme, is it still pasted on?
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plezercruz wrote:
Some of those games don't even last as long as the poll.

Pete (whines a tiny bit)

Yeah, come on! There are better ways to waste time on BGG!

Soleia (jibes Pete just a little)
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Brett Jordan

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I had to rate Battlestar Galactica "Dripping with theme" because there was no "As much theme as Battlestar Galactica" option.
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Am shocked that the vast majority considers Terra Mystica no better than a pasted on theme. Picking dwarves means you live in mountains and dig tunnels, the alchemists transform gold, the mermaids build towns in water. That's deserving of mildly thematic, no?
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In the non-culinary sense, of course.
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Borghal wrote:
I'm curious about the next 400 responses, but so far, man...
Agricola is fairly thematic while Ora et Labora, Fields of Arle and Caverna are pasted on themes? They're nearly the same games!

And Galaxy Trucker or Forbidden Stars as pasted on theme, my jaw dropped...


Well, as one data point, I rated Fields of Arle as having more theme than Agricola. My reasoning was that Agricola is generic medieval Europe, whereas Fields of Arle is a specific location and time, and a lot of its mechanics are in service to that.

Something as simple as animal breeding - so far, everyone I've taught Agricola to is mildly surprised to learn that although 2 sheep make 1 lamb, 4 sheep do not make 2 lambs. To explain why I have to go back to game balance, the game is tuned to reward versatility vs specialization. There's no thematic explanation that I can see.

In Fields of Arle, every pair of animals housed together with room for a baby breeds, just as one might expect.
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Brad Miller
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Looking at the results, having voted, but not yet reviewed the comments...

There is very little surprising in these results.
 
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aaj94 wrote:
I may be alone in this, but I do see a ton of theme in Tigris and Euphrates -- it's hundreds of years of civilization compressed into a game, but the rise and fall of different civilizations with different strengths/weaknesses seems very thematic to me.


You're not alone. And aside from the rising and falling - the ideas embedded in the game are what make it for me; the four spheres - agriculture, religion, trade, population, all mechanically different (need rivers for agriculture, trade gets you extra points for connecting centres....) but all equally important; the dependence on religion to gain power and keep it within a kingdom, the way winning an external conflict is dependent on the strength of your particular spheres, the institutional power reflected in large scale building projects, and the cost of them. Every single abstracted detail has a thematic basic. It's a refreshing non meier-esque take on civilisation. And on top of that, the head space of balancing your competing interests with the competing intrtests of your dynastic rivals is also a big part of it. To me, very close to what thematic should mean.
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