Each week, a question is presented to the various writers of Mighty Meep. This question might be insightful or relevant to the tabletop community… Or not. Sometimes these things are simply unavoidable. We would love to hear your answers as well, either in the comments below or by shooting us an e-mail!
Does a new coat of paint make a game worth buying again? This week we talk about re-themed board games.
Ben: I don’t really enjoy rethemed games at all. I received Star Wars Monopoly as a birthday present a couple years back, but that’s the only rethemed game I own and I don’t plan to buy any more. I also don’t care for a theme change without any rule or mechanics changes. I love expansions to games, but rethemed games are just a marketing gimmick to make more money, I don’t like them.
Jen: The theme has really got to fit the game. You don’t make a successful My Little Ponies Risk because war is rarely magic. However, if you find a theme that works with a game, it can be a good fit. You can make Anything Trivial Pursuit (although please don’t ask me to play it).
It’s easier to retheme RPGs, as long as you can come up with a rules system that appeals to those players. There’s a Doctor Who RPG and they did a great job realizing most of the people participating would be new to RPGs so the system is easy and focuses on the flavor of Doctor Who. For example, determining initiative order is based on what you’re going to do — if you’re going to try to talk your way out you go earlier than the guy with the gun.
As for re-theming games on my own. I’ve got two ideas that have been percolating for a while. Medici, an auction mechanic game, would be so much better if you were acting as a buyer for a mall and deciding which goods to have shipped. And Walnut Grove, one of my current favorites, is pretty much an analog for running a game store and the narrow margin of success.
Neal: I have a tendency to steer clear of re-themed games because more often than not they feel very contrived. I also feel it is more common that a re-themed game doesn’t make any real additions or improvements. Those things to say that one of my favorite games I own is in fact a re-theme. I liked Munchkin when I first played it as it was full of familiar tropes with a fun and care free attitude about them. In some ways though it was too familiar and didn’t captivate me enough to buy my own copy. Then Munchkin Axe Cop came out and I was sold beyond reason. As it is Axe Cop is a completely over the top web comic written by a 5 year old and illustrated by his 29 year old brother. Once you couple that concept with a game that is already over the top its easy to achieve a combined greatness that makes for a truly amazing re-themed game. I’m not sure if I would buy everything Axe Cop when it comes to games, but I can’t say I wouldn’t either.
Matt: I’m guilty. I have purchased a few of these re-themed money grabs. I even bought Nintendo Monopoly and Donkey Kong Jenga. Why did I buy it? I already own a copy of Monopoly and I don’t play it. At least with Donkey Kong Jenga I didn’t already own a copy. I have been tempted to pick up Doctor Who Yahtzee or Risk and I’m not a big fan of either games. What is wrong with me? Why are we tempted to buy mediocre games with cool themes? I think it’s like any board game. A cool mechanic can only take a game so far but slap on a good theme and the game becomes a lot more fun. When we pick up Plants Vs Zombies Risk or KISS-Opoly we are hoping deep down that the theme will make the game better or bring new life into an old favorite. Does this work? Maybe, it really depends on how much you like the game to begin with. I HATE Monopoly and my copy of Nintendo Monopoly, while cool looking, still sits there after fifteen years and has never been played.
Unless it’s Monty Python. That makes every game better.