board game theme

The Importance Of The Theme To Board Games

You might think that a board game theme doesn’t matter that much. After all, people who truly enjoy board games will play no matter what, right? But the truth is that the theme of a board game can impact the experience and willingness to play.

If you’re interested in whether themes are relevant or not in a board game, you’ve come to the right place. This article will answer your question and more. Let’s dive into it.

What Is a Board Game Theme?

A theme means the subject the game is built around. It could be very abstract, like colors or shapes, mainstream like Monopoly, or story-driven. There’s something for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy, as there will be something that suits your taste.

As that website states, themes are also a great way to discover other board games you might enjoy. If you love mystery or role-playing, the chances are that you’ll have a great time playing other games that fit into that same category.

Does the Board Game Theme Matter?

Some people claim it does, while others say it doesn’t. The former are the ones who actually play the game. As they state, everyone has “their thing,” meaning some like Harry Potter, Star Wars, dungeons, or any other topic.

With board games being so versatile, everyone can find something that matches their nerdiness. And, let’s be honest. You probably prefer to play something that relates to you than a random game you don’t connect with.

That said, let’s take a look at the reasons why the theme matters.

1) It Resonates with You

Since we already discussed this reason, we won’t go over it again. But having an emotional connection with a game will result in a higher chance of playing it.

2) Theme Is what First Draws People to the Game

The theme is part of the marketing. It happens with other products like books. Although you’ve heard the “don’t judge a book by its cover” before, it’s still the first thing you see.

It’s difficult to ignore the theme’s first impressions we receive. If you like movies like Star Wars or Star Trek, you’ll probably be more attracted to space-related themes. On the contrary, if you prefer video games like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, maybe a cute farming board game will catch your attention.

3) Storytelling Matters

As humans, we enjoy narratives. Everything can be turned into a story, and board games are no exception. If you play for the sake of playing, it can be fun for a while. But sometimes, you want the bigger picture, something more appealing. And themes help create that story ambiance.

Take zombies as an example. Zombies constitute a theme usually linked to a story. Why? Because people would get bored quite quickly if the mechanic of the game was simply killing the undead over and over. Instead, create a character players connect with and give them a background. The difference can be massive.

4) Each Theme Creates a Unique Experience

Take Monopoly or Cluedo as an example. It’s safe to say they are generic games: you buy lands and buildings or solve a mystery. But the theme can vary greatly: Fortnite Monopoly, The Simpson’s Cluedo, etc. You get the idea.

Every time the theme changes, it feels as if the game was entirely new – when, in reality, it’s identical. This helps marketers sell the same product every year. But it also brings excitement to the table because no one likes to play the same board game for years on end.


Note that even when the theme and ambiance are key in creating a great board game, not every player is a big fan of themes. Some claim that they are boring and don’t add any value to the game. They believe that the only factor that matters is mechanics – if the mechanics are fun, the experience is fun, and that’s it. For more info about theme and mechanics, you can read our another article – “Theme Vs. Mechanics: Which Is Better For Board Game Designers?“.

You can’t make everyone enjoy the same things. Some players will never be as attracted to the theme as mechanics, but that’s okay. As we stated previously, there’s a board game for everyone, no matter what you like!