If you take a look at themes in games, you can easily spot patterns that influence what themes you are likely to see with particular game design patterns. Large area control games lend themselves to warfare or direct conflict style games. Games with resource management or worker placement often have economic stories attached to them. In addition, the theme’s time frame and scale usually match the game design.
Some games break this mold and pair grand themes with small gameplay. Very few games take a small theme or a very localized theme and attach to it a very complex game.
Grand Themes + Small Game
There are quite a few games that utilize epic themes for very short or simple games. They abstract much of the gameplay and just allow the grand narrative to take focus. Here’s a quick list:
- Cold War: CIA vs KGB (also Star Wars: Empire vs Rebellion)
- 7 Wonders (also 7 Wonders: Duel)
- Machi Koro
- Pandemic: The Cure
- Age of War