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Subject: Obvious theme or Unique theme? rss

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Luke Denby
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Should I stick with the most obvious theme for a game to ensure for the smoothest thematic explanation of the mechanisms or is there something else that could work?

So I'm working on a game where the theme is generic fantasy. There are a 10 different great houses (think Game of Thrones with House Stark, House Lannister, House Greyjoy, etc...) that have cards played to different regions to add strength to each houses claim to that region. When a region is scored the houses that are present in the region move up or down on a power track.

The twist is that the weakest house that was present in a scored region & the second strongest house form an alliance (Imagine House Stark teaming up with Greyjoy to stop Lannister) So moving forward the cards of both houses have their totals combined permanently for following region scoring.


My issue is that the theme of Great Houses battling for the most power is so bland. I've toyed with several other themes that work for the "play power cards to an area" part but the alliance/mergers is much trickier.

Can anyone think of other themes where it makes sense for different groups to be contesting several items and also allow for those groups to merge with each other?

There is a reason so many games have generic themes, it lets players use mental shortcuts to explain and understand mechanisms. But I just think there is some theme out there that I'm not thinking of that could work just as well but be more unique (making movies, different restaurants, evolution?)

Thanks for any assistance!

*edited to add more clarity*
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R.T. Sloan
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We'll the house of Parliament comes to mind. Joining to form coalitions is pretty much the norm.
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Eric Miller
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lukedenby wrote:

Can anyone think of other themes where it makes sense for different groups to be contesting several items and also allow for those groups to merge with each other?

Thanks for any assistance!

One that comes to mind is Piers Anthony's Xanth. Behind the scenes are a number of "demons" working to take over the world. I can't think of specific examples where the demons may have "teamed up," but it would make sense to me.
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Luke Denby
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sloan66 wrote:
We'll the house of Parliament comes to mind. Joining to form coalitions is pretty much the norm.

Forgive my ignorance but how many houses are in Parliament?

I'm going to edit my post to reflect that the game has 10 factions/houses in the game. After the end of the game that could be reduced down to 5 based on the alliances/mergers.

That said the idea of different political groups merging to become the modern larger parties of today could be interesting. Or maybe all the different wrestling federations that used to exist before WWE started gobbling things up.
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Oh, most countries have multiple parties, and some even function with none of them close to majority.

That said, I'd go for something more amusing, like restaurants or ticket sales, or well, anything other than the original theme. If there is no battling at all, it should use a peaceful theme.
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Dan Renwick
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You could do clans, tribes, or religious orders, or any combination of those. Orders of Templars, orders of inquisitors, a proto-Democratic parliament, like during the English civil war, a peasant’s uprising.

Another thing that sprung to mind was a noble family of ‘Princes’ fighting between themselves, rather than houses, like in Roger Zelazny’s Amber series.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Amber
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Jan
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You could also go with an economic theme with different companies competing for revenues in the regions and the merge being like a friendly takeover.

Edit: Typos (need a coffee)
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Arvid
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As long as the theme isn't offensive and as long as it integrates well with the mechanisms I wouldn't care if it's original or not.
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Rob Stevenson
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lukedenby wrote:
[q="sloan66"] Or maybe all the different wrestling federations that used to exist before WWE started gobbling things up.

Do that one, that's what I want to see! Something that combines the merger mechanism of Indonesia with the (what I find) fascinating story of wrestling's territories would be ace.
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Ian S
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Perhaps steal the process from the European parliament, when the disparate countries and parties plot and scheme to get their preferred (or more normally their least disliked / someone they feel they can 'influence')

The high politicking appears to be when the senior officials are elected, and this is fortunately in the news as it's that time in the cycle now.

It seems to fit your ambition of avoiding the dominant houses sweeping up the positions - historically the smaller nations have often been well represented in leading roles, on the basis that "at least they're not French, German or even worse those constantly whining British ;~)"

If you can get the same dynamic going, you may find the smaller houses having an advantage.

One way to do this is for the biggest house to be put up first - if they aren't voted in, the 2nd biggest house has a go, and so on, but if it gets to the smallest house and they AREN'T voted in, then GAME OVER. That should focus minds on finding a suitable non-threatening candidate.

Regards
Ian
 
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Al Walker
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A spacey sci-fi theme where each house is a different race and it's a case of vying for control of the cosmos. Sometimes you have to agree to share a plant/star system and other times it's obliterating the opponent's chance to expand etc
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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I like the idea of clans or tribes. You retain the political aspect but steer away from generic fantasy.

With research in libraries and archives you could have something quite deep, just ensure you remain respectful of the depicted cultures
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Andrew van Laar
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What about doing a theme similar to the book series Redwall? Basically they are animals who talk and act like humans but they war and have politics and its quite riveting. Would make for some unique artwork as well and have the potential for some dry humor too.
 
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Katharina Schrempf
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I think, a unique theme is always a plus. I wouldn't have picked up Everdell, if the designer had stuck with the original idea of generic medieval cities. People certainly wouldn't have payed that much attention to Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein, if it weren't for the theme.

Of course, if you are confident, you have unique mechanics or a unique twist on old mechanics, then you might get away with generic fantasy. Otherwise I would put a bit more effort in it.

I like the idea of demons trying to take over the world. Also, the clan/tribe idea can work as well as political factions in space. Those are safe bets, mixing the familiar of political alliances and just putting them in a different setting.
Lately I see the trend of sticking with fantasy, but using anthropomorphic animals instead of people. It seems to be very mass-appealing.

If you want something more crazy, you could use Languages as your houses, trying to dominate areas and combining themselves with other Languages.

You could try an evolutionary theme with just one species, e.g. birds or apes, or ants. Ants wage pretty big wars.

You could even do something like Reverse Pandemic and use viruses to take over certain countries and evolve (check out the video game Plague Inc.).
 
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Jesse Ames
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lukedenby wrote:
Can anyone think of other themes where it makes sense for different groups to be contesting several items and also allow for those groups to merge with each other?

Spacefaring corporations have descended upon a newly discovered asteroid rich in valuable metals/minerals. But these metals/minerals are limited, and difficult to extract. Sometimes it works best for two (or more) corporations to pool their resources to aid in the extraction, then split the dividends based on whatever mechanic.
 
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Jeff Warrender
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It sounds like after a merger, the two merged entities stay merged for the rest of the game. Now I can think of all sorts of potentially gameplay concerns I'd have about this but I assume you have or are in the process of working this out.

But I don't think the generic theme actually works that well. Do great houses that align because of a shared interest in one area stay aligned in perpetuity? You're kind of sort of modeling marriage alliances but it's not a perfect fit and I think people looking to a great house influence game will expect intrigues and reversals, and if the merged entities don't ever un-merge, this theme actually doesn't work that well.

You want, rather, some sort of entity that agglomerates. I guess corporations that buy out smaller corporations are the best example of this but that's not that much less generic than your starting point. So, coming up with a quirky rationale for what these corporations are and why they're merging would help.
 
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John Breckenridge
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Instead of houses, players are mid-level workers in a faceless corporation - rumor has it there's a promotion coming, so everyone tries to get in on the important projects. When a project succeeds the one who did the most on it gets the credit, and that causes others to team up into a workgroup. If that workgroup ends up on top, those inside it have to fight it out for the one promotion.

Could be interesting if the corporation is more of a parody than played straight.
 
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Luke Denby
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jwarrend wrote:
Do great houses that align because of a shared interest in one area stay aligned in perpetuity? You're kind of sort of modeling marriage alliances but it's not a perfect fit and I think people looking to a great house influence game will expect intrigues and reversals, and if the merged entities don't ever un-merge, this theme actually doesn't work that well.


As players don't control any one house but instead are trying to manipulate influence I found it more successful (and fun) to only allow for players deal with permanent mergers instead of splits. Even though betrayals would be interesting I think it might bump up the play time and complexity for what I'm targeting. Right now I'm shooting for a Arboretum card game feel.

Right now I'm loosely working off the history of professional wrestling. This allows for numerous organizations at the start of the game that slowly consolidate over time along with some very colorful characters to be used in the art.


I've made enough advances in the game using this theme that it seems likely to be the one I keep.
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Glenn Ford
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Annoyed I got to this late because I think the golden age of wrestling is a cool theme and don't want to talk you out of it, that said I'm going to give my opinion because I read the thread and I have it in my head now. On the wrestling, I'd be a little wary that this is a game of negotiation and business and having the wrestling in there might make people think it will have action and violence. That said Book It seems to have done it successfully so I could be wrong.

For me, unless the theme is integral to the game, and here its clearly not, its about how it works as an elevator pitch. Usually for me that's how it grabs people at a convention or similar and there I find its best to be niche, but not too niche. I find that a general theme with one or two tweaks is a good idea, sci-fi is too generic, sci-fi horror narrows it down, sci-fi survival horror and people have a good idea of the films you're talking about. I'd say that low fantasy political machinations is a fairly reasonable niche personally, some people will like it and no one will be disappointed by what they get.
 
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Luke Denby
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GlennFord wrote:
On the wrestling, I'd be a little wary that this is a game of negotiation and business and having the wrestling in there might make people think it will have action and violence.

That is a legitimate concern I hadn't really thought of. I think correct positioning of a wrestling theme would be a lot more important to ensure there isn't an expectation this is a straight fighting game.

I consciously wanted to avoid a title like "Action Slam Wrestling!!!"
so right now my working title is "Gorilla Position" which is a term in professional wrestling that refers to the place where the production sit directly behind the scenes. I could see needing to tweak the name (or add a subtitle like "Gorilla Position: The wrestling federation management game") to ensure that players have an idea of what they would get going into the game.

That said I imagined the art focusing on vibrant wrestling personalities and splashy venues as opposed to the suits running the show behind the scenes.

Still thanks for the good food for thought that i'll need to mull over now...
 
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lukedenby wrote:
Should I stick with the most obvious theme for a game to ensure for the smoothest thematic explanation of the mechanisms or is there something else that could work?

So I'm working on a game where the theme is generic fantasy. There are a 10 different great houses (think Game of Thrones with House Stark, House Lannister, House Greyjoy, etc...) that have cards played to different regions to add strength to each houses claim to that region. When a region is scored the houses that are present in the region move up or down on a power track.

The twist is that the weakest house that was present in a scored region & the second strongest house form an alliance (Imagine House Stark teaming up with Greyjoy to stop Lannister) So moving forward the cards of both houses have their totals combined permanently for following region scoring.


My issue is that the theme of Great Houses battling for the most power is so bland. I've toyed with several other themes that work for the "play power cards to an area" part but the alliance/mergers is much trickier.

Can anyone think of other themes where it makes sense for different groups to be contesting several items and also allow for those groups to merge with each other?

There is a reason so many games have generic themes, it lets players use mental shortcuts to explain and understand mechanisms. But I just think there is some theme out there that I'm not thinking of that could work just as well but be more unique (making movies, different restaurants, evolution?)

Thanks for any assistance!

*edited to add more clarity*

1. Birds.
Mixed-species foraging flocks:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed-species_foraging_flock

2. Meerkats.
Meerkat clans spend their day foraging through their environment. They ravage a particular area (they love insects, and scorpions; they're omnivores though and will eat almost anything), then go to the next area. Within a clan there are hierarchies and there can be competition over food, shifting alliances, etc. Clans are territorial though and will fight other clans. However, sometimes those are even fluid - for example I saw a case where 3 roving males encountered a clan and joined it. Lots of opportunities both intra and inter-clan for the dynamics you describe.
 
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