Board Game Extras – Theme Matters! (Part 4)

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. . .


Obsession Cover


Obsession was published in 2018 by Kayenta Games. The game was designed by Dan Hallagan, who also provided the artwork for the game.

This game is set in Victorian England and each player plays a family, each of which has a unique ability. The players will be renovating estates, hiring maids, footmen and other servants, entertaining the local gentry, and trying to expand their influence and prosperity on their respective estates. There are a new young gentleman and lady that have arrived in the county and making a good impression on them is a top priority for your family. You had better put your best foot forward!

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you need to play this game. It is dripping with the Victorian theme – you cannot miss it. You need to try to make your estate more prosperous, marry into the correct families if possible, and entertain the local gentry. Doesn’t that sound like Downton Abbey in board game form? Give this one a try. It has a great theme and the game play is spot on.

Spirit Island

Spirit Island


Spirit Island was published in 2017 by Greater Than Games. The game was designed by R. Eric Reuss. The artwork for the game was done by a fleet of artists, including Jason Behnke and Cari Corene.

In Spirit Island, the players play the spirits of an island that is being invaded by humans. The spirits do not want the humans on the island and fight back against them. They use their special abilities – each spirit has unique ones – to fight back. They try to take out the humans towns and cities as well as the humans themselves. The islanders offer some help to the spirits, although some of the time it is not the kind of help the spirits actually need.

I love the fact that Spirit Island turns area control on its head, as normally the game would have the “colonists” taking over the island. The unique abilities that each spirit has and the fact that some of them are fast and some are slow makes it really feel like you are the spirit on the island trying your best to scare off the invaders and keep them at bay. This is a terrific cooperative game and highly recommended!

Near and Far

Near and Far Cover


Near and Far was published in 2017 by Red Raven Games. The game was designed by the multi-talented Ryan Laukat, who also did the artwork for the game.

In Near and Far, the players have options as to the way they want to play the game – there is an “arcade” mode, which is basically a one-off game; there is a character mode, in which the characters can play through a campaign with a single character and tell their story; or they can play through a traditional campaign. In any case, the players explore the world that is set before them in the atlas of 10 maps.

This is a storytelling game, a genre of game that Beth and I very much enjoy. As the players are exploring the various lands in the game, they are also telling the story of what the players discover in their travels. There is a storybook that helps engage the players in the story itself. This was one of my favorite games from 2017!

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island


Robinson Crusoe Cover


Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island was first published in 2012 and published again in a revised edition several years later. The game was designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek. There were several artists for the game, including one of my favorites, Vincent Dutrait.

The scenarios that come with the game help set up the story telling possibilities of this game, but the stories themselves come from the players based on the events that happen throughout the game. There are a bunch of scenarios that come with the game and Portal has supported the game throughout the years. Depending on the scenario that the players choose, they may be just struggling to survive what the cursed island throws at them, or rescuing another survivor, or tracking down Dr Livingstone.  The game has 2 expansions, one of which just came out, Robinson Crusoe: Mystery Tales.

I love this game! It is in my top 10 games of all time. I love the story telling aspects of the game. I love how wrapped up I get in the scenarios, in the decisions that I have to make from turn to turn, the events that shape the game, and the stories that I can tell throughout. This is a tough game to win – just as surviving on a cursed island would be, I imagine.

Theme Matters!

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.

This is the last entry in our Theme based posts. We had several other games such as Dinosaur Island and Forbidden Desert on our list. We could have gone on for quite a while, in point of fact. Board game designers are reaching out for different themes and very much appreciated by us. If you missed the first post in the series, you can check it out here. Let us know what themes we missed!

What are your favorite themes? What are the game 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.

Stasia and Beth

6 Replies to “Board Game Extras – Theme Matters! (Part 4)”

  1. Charlotte

    Love both Near and Far — in my top 10 — and Spirit Island. I have to say that I find Spirit Island to be more of an optimisation puzzle than a thematic game, but for me that’s not so negative.
    In Near and Far, I also always get into this racing rush, but there I notice the theme of the lovely world more.

    1. Charlotte

      I think a lot of people are disappointed by Near and Far because it is being advertised as a story-telling game, though. I don’t think that it is. It is a very tight racing euro game with a lovely game world and some really nice stories as flavour.
      I think when you say “story-telling game”, some players will be disappointed that they’re being whupped by someone who has an efficient way to get their artifacts and tents out while they were trying to make a good story.
      Don’t get me wrong, I still love the thematic trappings of the game, but those are on top of a euro game.

      1. Beth and I embellish the stories quite a bit while we are playing, especially when we play the character mode, so for us it is far more of a story telling game than it might be for other people. I understand your point though!


    2. I have only played Spirit Island one time thus far, but I really got into playing the spirit that was playing and tying his character thematically to the actions he was doing. I have not played it enough to see the “optimisation puzzle” end of things. Maybe that will come in time for us?

      Near and Far, on the other hand, I have played quite a few times and Ryan Laukat’s artwork certainly does not hurt the theme, does it?


  2. Paul CatWeazle

    Ugh. Euros. 😜
    But yes you are quite right. There is only one thing worse than no theme… and that is a tacked on theme!
    Euros with no theme just become puzzles. Puzzles are fine! Don’t get me wrong. But board games – I think – are meant to be that little bit more.

    1. Luckily these days euro game designers are working to incorporate theme better into the games they design. I think that Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy is a perfect example of that!



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