Picking a Theme for Negotiations: SCI-FI or Medieval?

When I think about negotiations, I mostly think of Medieval settings.

Maybe it’s because of my unconditioned love for the Wars of The Roses(subject I’ll cover on a future post), or maybe ’cause I grew up playing Dugeons and Dragons with a group of folks a bit older than me who where mostly focused on a vivid personification of their Playing Character, rather than being entertained by the mere die-roll side of the adventure. And – even though we have Star Wars, Star Trek and Dune – lately the series of a Song of Ice and Fire nourished my lust for diplomacy and intrigue with its medievality.

Yet a realistic Medieval setting (a-la Wars of the Roses) may have a few limitations. Especially if one wants to tie a game mechanic strictly to the theme.

Let’s take the SCI-FI Rex Final Days of an Empire/Dune, for example. The mechanic used during the bidding phase allows for the Universities of Jol-Nar (Atreides in Dune) to peek at the card being bid upon, while all the other players are blind-bidding on that card, and they must trust (or anyway consult) the Xxcha to know if it’s a good time to bid on the card or not.
Aside from the fact that this mechanic boosts negotiations (as I explained why in this review/comparison of a few negotiation games here on BGG), it can also easily become thematic since in a SCI-FI themed game the Universities of Jol-Nar/Atreides’s special powers may allow them to know what other races don’t know (but don’t ask me why the other players wouldn’t know what they are bidding upon, anyway).
The point is, in a Medieval setting one would probably miss the chance to use such a fun mechanic to purchase cards, in favour of a more realistic one. Eg. by selecting which card you are going to use that round out of the many you already have as in Warrior Knights or in AGOT (the cards represent the capability of your House); or by purchasing cards from a face-up market as in Archipelago (here you buy new technologies, influence personas), or simply to draw cards from a deck as in Fief (what religious/political influence does your house manage to find?).

In Rex, Jol-Nar’s knowledge of every Strategy Cards purchased at the table is justified by thematic reasons.


Another cool mechanic Rex/Dune has, is the one that allows to deploy units right onto any regions on the map, and it makes total sense (again), cause space ships are flying all above the map, and you can drop units anywere. In a Medieval themed game, having Knights fall from the sky onto enemy territories wouldn’t be much thematic.

A solution could be to shift from a stark Medieval setting, to a Fantasy Medieval settings (see what I did there), and your units might be justified to be teleported around the map by powerful mages or by using Teleport Towers(as in Kemet), or maybe brought to distant lands by flying mounts?

In Dune, the capability to deploy units anywhere makes sense, if you are flying all over the place with your space ships

But now I’d like to hear from you:

When talking about Negotiation games: what is the setting you like best? Why?

Would you mind missing a chance to deploy/play a good mechanic for the sake of a more realistic/historical flavour?

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