Beth and I are pretty much euro-game players these days, but that does not mean that we do not appreciate games that have theme. After all, my favorite game of all-time is Arkham Horror and hers is Elder Sign. We tried to put a mixture of games with different themes on them on the list. Here we go. . .
Mansions of Madness, Second Edition was published in 2016 by Fantasy Flight Games. The game was designed by Nikki Valens with artwork provided by multiple artists including Cristi Balanescu, Yoann Boissonnet, Anders Finer, and Tony Foti.
This was the first game that sprang to my mind when Beth and I decided to compile this list. Now, I know that some people do not want apps incorporated into their board games, but man, the second edition of Mansions of Madness is so much better than the first edition! That is largely due to the game moving forward with the help of the app.
The app handles the placement of places to investigate, items to pick up and use, the monsters and bad guys who want to attack you, as well as providing text to read and music and sounds that add to the ambiance – and the feeling of the horror theme comes through. As far as I am concerned this game deserves to be number one on this list.
Freedom: The Underground Railroad was published in 2012 by Academy Games. It was designed by Brian Mayer. The artwork for the game was done by Jarek Nocon and Steve Paschal.
We tried to go off the beaten track a bit with our second pick. I believe this is the first game I ever Kickstarted. It is probably not a game that springs to the minds of most people when discussing thematic games. But it is there. . .
The players in this cooperative game set in the mid-19th century play abolitionists who are struggling to help the slaves escape from plantations in the South. Every round more slaves arrive at the slave market and are placed on to the plantations. The players have to raise the money, plan the routes the slaves can take and all the while they must deal with sometimes devastating events and the slave catchers who are patrolling, trying to catch the slaves before they escape. This game was so disturbingly thematic for me that I had to sell it. It became all too real. Yeah, I really get into my games.
Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game was published in 2018 by Portal Games. The game was designed by Przemyslaw Rymer, Ignacy Trzewiczek, and Jakub Lapot. The artists for the game were Aga Jakimiec, Ewa Kostorz, and Rafal Szyma.
Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is another game that integrates an app, but not nearly as much as Mansions of Madness, Second Edition does. However, the app is extremely well done.
In this game, the players are working together cooperatively as a squad of police officers trying to solve various crimes that end up encompassing a story arc composed of 5 cases. When we played through the cases, we had one person who manned the laptop, one person who read the cards, and one person who was in charge of a brainstorming board, as we threw ideas back-and-forth trying to solve the crimes. I have no idea if this is how real police officers work, but it certainly felt like it could be! I loved that the cases were all tied together in some fashion, but I have to say, we would make really lousy detectives in real life! By the way, there is another Detective game out there now, L.A. Crimes, if you cannot get enough.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was originally published in 1981 (I actually had that version of the game!), but was recently republished by both Ystari Games and Fantasy Flight Games. The game was designed by Raymond Edwards, Suzanne Goldberg, and Gary Grady. There have been several artists who have worked on the game including Bernard Bittler and Arnaud Demaegd.
I cannot include Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game without including this classic detective game. Yes, they both use crime as the theme, but the game play for the games is very different.
In Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, the players read the case from a casebook and try to figure out the answers to certain questions that they will be asked when they feel that they have them. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is also trying to answer the questions and trust me, he will invariably win. The game has a map of London so that players can see where places are in relation to each other. There are newspapers that they can peruse to pick up clues. There is a London directory for players to look up businesses and their locations. The players are following in the great detective’s shoes! For a wonderful video review of this game, I highly recommend the one put out by Shut Up and Sit Down a few years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-63xEB31dA.
Even though Beth and I play euro games a lot, that does not mean that we cannot appreciate games with theme. We either own or have owned all of the games that we will be writing about, so obviously we like theme in games too.
What are your favorite themes? What are the games that bring those themes to life? Comment below and let us know!
As always, for these and thousands of other games, check out Board Game Geek here.