....but expect a lot more as I've had an idea.....
So last weekend I went down to Stabcon South (It's called that because it's in Southampton and it's run by people who really like Stabcon. Which is in Manchester and if you want to know why that's called Stabcon you'll need to ask the people that make it happen) and played a bunch of games.
One the Sunday we played a game called Forge War which made me think about 'theme' and games.
In Forge War you play a blacksmith, mining metals, to equip hero's with weapons, to send them out to defeat quests and gain victory points. Which to do well involves a lot of timing and finesse as quests are multi stage and increase in difficulty as each stage falls.
Two of the players (including myself) felt that it had rather had a theme fail - because we'd been expecting a game about being a blacksmith making and selling weapons to hero's. Where as from my perspective it would have taken but a tiny twist of the game to make us wizards directing a team of hero's. Theme wise this would have fitted my head fine - that's a thing that wizards do, it's not a thing blacksmiths do (in a fantasy land, with dragons).
However one of the other players was fine with the theme - they saw nothing odd about a blacksmith equipping there own team of adventurers and sending them out.
So based on this I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about theme (which are not all linked to the above - this just seems like a good time to write them down).
Theme is a pretty important concept in board games - with people attacking or defending games based on theme. A common complaint about a game is that the Theme is just pasted on.
Theme is evocative. It seeks to invoke in you a particular feeling above and beyond the mechanics.
Mechanics invoke theme. If you are taking actions in the game which seem counter to your expectations - then no matter how mechanically good it is - it won't invoke theme.
Words, and art invoke theme. In Lord of Waterdeep you get cubes which represent warriors, wizards, clerics, and thieves - if you called them something else (like Ninja's) you'd be invoking a different sort of theme.
Expectations define theme. If the game matches what you think should happen that sets the boundries of how a game does or does not invoke theme. If the game has a world war II tiger tank on the front cover and I get a stock mechanic then my expectations will not be met.
For me the mechanics are the most important bit - so much so that I originally called Mechanics Major Theme, and Words and art , if they match then I feel a game is themed. Take Caverna it's a game about dwarves developing there home. So the classic worker placement mechanic fits really well for me, I go get stuff, I make stuff, things grow and develop. The dwarf stuff on the other hand - some what skin deep. Stuff is named sort of dwarvish but you spend half your time growing pumpkins and raising sheep....
Heck I like Battle Line a game allegedly about the battles of Alexander and Darius - which is so little about the battles of Alexander and Darius it was originally released as game about battling Scottish Clans. But it's game play of slowly trying to build up strong formation (groups) of cards in key places, trying to scupper your opponents plans (even at the cost of some parts of your plans) for me invokes feelings of being a classical general.
I originally called mechanics the major theme, and words and art the minor theme because that's how it works for me. But I've avoided that here simply because there might well be other people out there. People who think that Ra is a game with a good well developed theme - because the art is really Egyptian......
So most of this conversation about the theme of War Forge took place as part of a drive; and as part of that we talked over what a game would look like that was the game we thought we were going to play. You are a blacksmith - sell weapons to hero's to profit.
This rather enthused me and for the first time in a long time I appear to have a game design on the go. In fact I was so enthused that last night we did a play test of the crafting and selling system which did not utterly suck but in fact seemed to be broadly what we wanted. I need to rework the entire deck and the card mix - but that's frankly as expected......