Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Expanding my collection, part three: Theme

I've purchased many of my recent games with theme very much in mind. I don't know that this strategy will actually expand my game group or get many more people interested in trying new games, but it seems to me like it has that potential.

Talking Points

In general a variety of strong and interesting themes enables me to talk about games much more often in casual conversation, especially at work. Here is an environment where people know nothing of the eurogame movement, or the huge variety of modern board games. Sometimes it's possible to sell a game primarily on mechanics: "Carcassonne is a board game where the players build the board as they play!"

However, if the person with which you are conversing has little to no interest in board games, chances are no discussion about mechanics will sell them on trying a game. Much more interesting in conversation is: "I have a board game about World War II, one player is the Axis and one the Allied forces. You pick a particular historical battle then are able to fight it out and attempt to rewrite history!" Mechanics here don't really enter into the discussion at first, as they don't really mean much to non-gamers.

Inverse Theme Selection

Sometimes what a theme isn't strikes me as more important than the theme itself. For instance, when it comes to fairly geeky people, science fiction and fantasy themes are often a plus; such a person may even be sold on a game because of a strong theme in one of these categories. The population at large, however, who already considers the board game hobby a bit on the geeky side, may very well be completely turned off by one that also has a sci fi theme!

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the cooperative game Pandemic. When looking at the cooperative category of strategy games, I found that the vast majority (perhaps every single one besides Pandemic!) had themes related to science fiction, fantasy, or horror. While I personally love these themes and for the right group they would certainly shine, I opted for Pandemic for its thematic accessibility.

I Could Be Wrong...

The bottom line: I'm betting some added emphasis on theme in my game selection process will ultimately yield more game nights and more people in my social circles interested in playing games. Only time will tell, however. Perhaps the line between people who like games and those that don't is more stable than I think and a little thematic honey will do little to attract more interest. I suppose it doesn't hurt to bet a little on theme, now does it?

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