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How important are thematics and illustrations?

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How important is a theme for a board game?
-Can a theme just be used as a frame for the gameplay in or is it always an important part of the player's experience?
-How necessary is an original theme or excellent executed illustrations for a successful game, both in game enjoyment and in commercial view? Is a lousy illustrated game really less enjoyable, or is this aspect not that important if the gameplay is flawless?

Thanks in advance!

EDIT by Evil Steve: Removed spam links

[Edited by - Evil Steve on September 30, 2010 2:56:33 AM]

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What sort of board game are you talking about?

[ "Animal Chess" ]
[ "Areoplane Chess" ]
[ "Marble Chess" / "Jump Chess" ]

Would a theme enhance the experience of Chinese Checker?

I think of the three examples here, "Beasts Chess" needs a theme the most, because the chess pieces are not the same. Having the theme helps the player remember their ranking.

The theme of "Areoplane Chess" serves to give it an identifiable name. If there is no theme, it might be difficult for players to remember its name.

"Marble Chess" is the most themeless game of the three. It seems fine because its chess pieces are marbles, which is also used in its names and helps make the game easy to refer.

I think for the casual gamers, the theme should help the player understand the rules of the game. A gameplay that is flawless doesn't necessarily mean that it is intuitive to learn. The theme can make that happen.

Also, it seems that unless you have an appropriate name for the abstract gameplay, even naming a game would be a problem.

So the theme of a board game has certain functions.
But how important is it?
How important is it for a game to be easily understood?
How important is it to have a name easy to remember?

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Wyvern is an example of a CCG which died. It's always a matter of speculation why a game dies, but I think bad art and confusing/boring thematics strongly contributed to it's death.

Overall I think the answer to your question depends on the type of board game. A simple game like Reversi would not be benefited by adding a theme because there aren't enough mechanics to attach much thematic content to. On the other hand for a game where players' pieces travel around a board, or where decks of cards are used, good theme and art can more than double the game's appeal.

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