Example of Play

Commentary on Games Design

Guest Post: Game Themes (mostly Trains)


IzzychuGuest Post#1: IzzyChu

Hello! Welcome to the first in what we hope will be a series of guest post here at Example of Play (put another way,  Sam and I need some time to get material together so in the meantime: ringers) .  First up is IzzyChu with a perspective on theme from a teenager’s point of view. Given that the majority of games blogs are the opinions of doughy dudes in their mid-twenties to post-middle thirties, like us, I thought that a change in perspective would be interesting.  -Matt

Game themes*

*and why I won’t leap to play your game about historic Sweden.

Is it just me, or do so many game designers pick the dullest, most uninteresting themes? Take literally every train game for example. Now, I’m sure some people enjoy ticking off a Krauss-Maffei ML-4000 Diesel-Hydraulic when they go to Ohio, but I don’t. In fact, my experiences on trains are pretty boring. So I automatically associate the train game with being bored because I’m always bored on trains.


My experiences with trainsTrains2

The thing is, you can ask Matt to play pretty much any game, but he still doesn’t find train games very fun. I don’t play them at all. Pretty much. Okay, there’s some exceptions. For example TRAINS is OK. It’s just a card game though, and I think it would still be more fun if it had a more interesting theme.   String railway, too. Again, would be more fun if under a different theme.

I’m not saying that everyone should hate train games and you’re wrong if you don’t, my point is why create a game about something that general people don’t find very interesting? Because of this, only gamers that actually liked trains would play big train games like Ticket to Ride,which isn’t as big an audience as it could have if it Trains3was about something that the general gamers enjoyed too. This is why Agricola isn’t played as much as it should be. It’s better than it sounds! A lot better….

“Hey, want to play a game about medieval farming? It’s great fun!” Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? So, what about games with good themes? Which stand out as unique?

Sushi Go! – Sushi restaurant!

Botswana– Plastic animals! Yay! Collect all the lions!

R- Eco- Recycling?!! Certainly unique, if not exciting.

Tenakee– Totem pole building! Yeah!

Now, I’ve been thinking about creating a game for a while. If I did, it would have an interesting theme, because I don’t like, Trains, historic Sweden, ancient postal services, or planning shipping routes. Sorry. And so, I present…


-the extremely well researched board game with top quality illustrations and made with extremely high-tech graphical software (totally not MS Paint) Alpaca1 1 person plays the light alpaca, 1 plays the dark alpaca. Each turn you roll the dice. The 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are movement numbers- how many hexes you can move your counter through. The last hex you walk on you flip over. If it was dark alpaca territory, flip it to light alpaca territory or vice versa. The House icon means that you put a red house token on the tile you’re standing on. The tile now cannot be flipped. Once you have 10/16 tiles in your colour, you win immediately! Would you rather play Alpacalypse or explore historic Sweden? Honestly?


10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Game Themes (mostly Trains)

  1. Pingback: Today in Board Games Issue #190 - Stonemaier Treasure Chest - Today in Board Games

  2. Thanks for this. Sometimes when it comes to theme it’s easy to forget the person looking at the box.

    I really like Alpacalypse, it reminds me a bit of “Hey That’s My Fish”. I made a PDF of some components for the game: http://www.metalsnail.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Alpacalypse.pdf

  3. Just wondering, what drawing software do you use? I’m trying to get better at drawing on my computer, and I love your illustrations.

    • I used The GIMP for the logo cards, and Inkscape for everything else. The first is best for high detail sketching and drawing, the latter is best for low detail iconography and graphic design.

      Both of those are free to download open source programs available for MacOs, Windows and Linux.

      • Thanks Robin, it is a lovely job. What hardware do you use? I have a feeling my bank account will be subject to assault, but nonetheless…

      • Honestly, for the graphic design stuff I just use a ten year old corded optical mouse. Inkscape will run on just about any computer.

        For my illustration work, I use a 12″ cintiq, which was $1000 when I bought it four years ago. But Bamboo tablets work fine and ring in around $100.

        Third option is something like an asus eeeslate (you’ll probably want an older one with Windows 7 from ebay) that’s a full computer with a Wacom tablet built in, super light with excelent battery life, you can probably get one for $800.

  4. ack! splutter!!! W-H-A-T!!!!
    You don’t like trains!!!! – What is wrong with you man!
    Everygame I play I think, hmm… this would be so much more fun with a train theme. Can you imagine a world in which instead of assembling the best farm you were building the best railway terminus. Or when the next Mac Gerdts rondel game uses a railway turntable instead, how cool would that be!

    pah – philistines!

    hmm… next Mondays choice – 1846

  5. Pingback: Metal Snail Idea Workshop » Alpacalypse

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