Most games out there try to incorporate a particular theme. Whether it be Puerto Rico with its adorable barrel-meeples for trade, or the classically impossible-to-assemble Mouse Trap, games with relevant and well-executed themes are often more engaging and whimsical.
Because I happen to work with some lovely game enthusiasts, I decided to interview my coworkers to see what they thought the best themed games were.
This is what we have to say, but I'd love to hear your opinion as well! What game do you think best incorporates its theme?
Pick by: Daniel Ray
Mice running through a castle, working together. Does it get better thematically? It genuinely feels like you’ve been turned into a mouse. Particularly salient to the theme are some of the games warrior-obstacles, such as the castle's nefarious mouse-guard: Brodie, the cat. Also, there are cheese cards, which is just cute.
Pick by: Bobby Stickel
In Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, you take on the role of an amateur detective competing against Holmes to solve crimes. First off, this game has no board, dice, or minis. You have everything a detective in the early 1900s would have—and nothing more: several copies of the London Times, a map of the city, a local directory, hand-scrawled notes, statements from witnesses, and your wits.
Whether you play this game solo or team up with other ‘Baker Street Boys,’ you are at the mercy of limited real-life resources and your skills of deduction in order to piece together suspect, motive, and proof.
I can’t think of a game that ties the theme so closely with the player experience. You need to either BECOME a detective they way it was done at the turn of the century, or fail to solve the crime.
Truly an understated game, or to be more accurate, an exercise in logic and deduction. Pipe, violin, and opium not included.
Pick by: Lenny Knoedler
I love Survive: Escape from Atlantis for so many reasons... First of all, it's playable both in both cooperative and uncooperative fashions, so if you have a group that particularly enjoys aggressiveness or vice versa, you can adjust gameplay accordingly (i.e. you can help out the kiddos, and leave your spouse to get eaten by Serpent Monsters and Sharks, because true love takes no prisoners).
And its theme? Well the components are solid and the mechanics fit the theme in my opinion. Your pulling away a tile each turn to simulate Atlantis slowly sinking and swimming for the nearest boat or “safe” island before your meeples get eaten, or sucked up by a whirlpool. It’s a hoot!
Pick by: Sally Neumann
Tokaido's getting a lot of press lately about how beautiful it is, how elegant its mechanics are, all that jazz. But what I find particularly striking about the game is how well it incorporates the theme of a leisurely journey throughout the mountains of feudal Japan.
I mean, to be fair, no: I have never taken a leisurely journey throughout the mountains of feudal Japan. But I imagine, you know, IF I HAD, it would be a little something like this: moseying through the trail, casually dropping coins in local temples, exchanging pleasantries with fellow travelers, and gleefully purchasing local fare from smiling peddlers.
After my legs had tired and I'd weakened from hunger, I'd be forced to stop at an inn, and take a break before furthering my journey-- just as players must in the game.
In my clearly empirical opinion, Antoine Bauza has done a stunning job incorporating the look and feel of a simultaneously relaxing and competitive historically Japanese vacation.