One of the small things I like, especially as a game designer and player for whom theme is not very important, is that all the candidate mechanisms being considered for this map can be neatly plugged in against Romania’s history and various political systems. With a very little work it could be hard bound to a very specific period of Romania’s history. Ultimately I likely wont directly consider theme until the rather late days of the rules writing, and then I’ll pull it out for the introduction, flavour text and any nouns and verbs I’ll need for the rules changes. The result will be a rather heavily themed game, one with all primary mechanisms consistent with and tied in against the theme..
I really like that. I like that the game can be designed in themeless terms and then retroactively themed in a consistent and supportive manner. I find it pleasing. I’ve done this for all my other Age of Steam maps (published and prototype). Let’s see how well it pulls out with this more public design process!