POLL RESULTS: Familiar Themes vs. Familiar Mechanics

Earlier this week I asked which mix of familiar or unusual mechanics and themes you preferred. I asked mainly because Reiner Knizia once advised on Twitter that a design shouldn't be too unusual. To do so would turn off too large a section of your audience. Basically, if you're designing a game for the larger hobby market, he advised either making the theme unusual or the mechanics unusual, but not both.

That seems to hold true for a significant portion of poll respondents. Here's the breakdown of 82 responses.

Unusual Themes + Unusual Mechanics         35      43%
Familiar Themes + Unusual Mechanics         34      41%
Unusual Themes + Familiar Mechanics         11      13%
Familiar Themes + Familiar Mechanics         2        2%

What are we to take from these responses? Bear in mind that it's a very tiny sample from an admittedly skewed pool of respondents. Most respondents want unusual themes AND unusual mechanics, which is surprising.

I expected the #2 response to be much greater given Knizia's advice. After all, unusual mechanics may be easier to learn if you're familiar with the basic premise of the game. But no, it seems the respondents prefer lots of novelty in both categories. If they must sacrifice some novelty it would be in theme, not mechanics.

A smaller subset would rather have an unusual theme and familiar mechanics. I imagine those respondents would be amenable to themed expansions of a game franchise, take for example the numerous Fluxx or Munchkin expansions. I'm curious!

And by far the fewest respondents favored total familiarity. I imagine those respondents have a handful of genres they really like and explore those games very deeply, perhaps pursuing complete mastery?

So, how did you respond? What do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.