Then and Now
For most people boardgames were something that probably found a place in their life as a child, a way for parents to entertain their spawn on a rainy day while on holiday, or on a chilly winter night. For many people that might be the last time they’d think about board games until they had children of their own, well not anymore. In recent years board games have seen a HUGE resurgence, hundreds of games are released every single year and board game cafes are now commonplace amongst the hustle and bustle of most cities. If you’re thinking about stepping into the world of boardgames then there’s a question you will eventually ask yourself, what kind of ‘Gamer’ am I?
Well that, my friends, is what this post hopes to help you figure out. Let’s take a little look at the possibilities.
Casual / Mass Market
That’s right! Up first it’s those mass-market games we all love to hate. Monopoly, Cluedo (Clue to our American friends), Trivial Pursuit, and a whole host of similar products. I know, they’re shit aren’t they… or so you’ll hear many more ‘discerning’ gamers pronounce. After all, it’s easy to give the finger to Mr Monopoly and all of his cheaply rehashed buddies. Hell, as a ‘boardgamer’ I can agree there’s nothing more annoying than the following conversation:
Boardgame Noob: “I hear you play board games, I love board games!”
Me: “Oh nice! What’s your favourite?”
Boardgame Noob: “Probably Monopoly, but it just takes so long to play doesn’t it!”
Me: “Sorry I must be going, my planet needs me…”
I’m going to put it out there: I, too, dislike Monopoly. It’s a dull game that is far too easy to win if you know what to do. It also involves little decision making, is very slow, and almost entirely luck based. HOWEVER, I do have fond childhood memories of playing the game with my brothers and hey, if a game can give you that, what else can you really ask for?
So, why do people shit on these games? Well, honestly… because it’s easy. They’re cheaply produced, have hundreds of slightly different versions (I played Rick and Morty Cluedo recently, and my god was it bad), but most importantly they have held the spotlight away from games that are far more deserving for far too long.
I’m not going to talk much more about these games. All I will say is that if you enjoy them, then why not broaden your horizon a little maybe visit your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) and get some recommendations? You’re clearly interested in board games and trust me, you’ll be amazed at the possibilities that lay ahead.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to plan out a strategy and work towards it over a number of turns while moving a shit ton of small tokens around a board, then euro games are most likely for you!
Eurostyle games are often focused around the construction of a city, or other economical work; who can transport the most goods, or build the most glorious of railways. The clever balancing of resources and your time is key in many of these games.
Removing a lot of the luck elements, such as dice rolling, featured in Mass Market and Ameritrash games (we’ll get to those). Eurostyle games often reward players who can think several turns ahead, building towards large combos that reward them in dozens of victory points… in whatever form those take.
Putting mechanics ahead of the action, Eurostyle games could, in the past, have been accused of being a little bland and samey artistically. However, recent years have seen beautiful artwork adorning new euro releases and new editions of old favourites.
Eurostyle games can often be seen as somewhat more abstract, with the ‘narrative’ of the game presented to add little more than a reason to the things you’re doing. In all honestly these could often be switched out for a dozen other settings without changing the gameplay. This isn’t a negative by any means, these games are just more mechanically focused and for many, many people that is exactly what they want from a board game: something our player and a group of friends can bring out once every few weeks and actually see their skill level improving.
Dubbed with a less appealing name, Ameritrash games are normally very focused upon their narrative. Indeed, theme is key in the world of Ameritrash. Zombies, beasts from the depths of hell, and adventuring into the heart of some forgotten land are all the kind of experiences you can expect to find here.
If that sounds exciting to you then you’re not wrong. Ameritrash games are all about pushing your luck and saving the day. Often seen as less of a thinking person game and a little bit more Michael Bay (but not shit). Luck often takes a prominent role due to the amount of dice rolling or similar activity that might be present. These games also regularly include direct combat with other players, why blast a zombie when that sawn-off would fit so comfortably in Paul’s mouth?
Some would argue that an Ameritrash game offers less lasting appeal than a Eurogame, as with narrative playing such a crucial role, once you’ve experienced the game fully is there much else to see? For some Ameritrash games, I can see this point. Indeed, a game of Tainted Grail with its 30-hour campaign may not be one you jump back into again, right? BUT, in my opinion Ameritrash is more about the experience and the stories you and your friends can tell after the fact. Also, completing that 30-hour campaign is going to take some serious time.
Ameritrash games, however, can be accused of (and often rightly so) being bloody expensive with a ton of unnecessary components which only further drives up the price. Do you need 70 zombies with your new copy of Zombicide? Probably not, but it looks cool doesn’t it!
Which do I prefer?
There really is no ‘better’ between them. However, if we are talking about which type of games I see making their way onto the table more often then for me, its definitely Ameritrash games. Why? Well, quite simply for me, my friends and my family, we all like something that tells a story. We like being thrust into a situation, thrown up against the masses with little chance of survival, or creeping through the abandoned spaceship only to have someone you believed to be a friend trap you with the very creature you’ve tried to escape….cheers, Dad.
Yes, luck will often have more of a hand in these kinds of games, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over my years as a Gamer it’s that winning really doesn’t matter. For me, I would rather lose a game and make sure we had a fun experience than grind my opponents (or teammates) under my boot. I will quite happily throw myself to the lions if it leaves everyone sat around that table with a fun story to tell.
I’m in no way saying that I don’t enjoy Eurostyle games, I own many and have had a great time with most of them. Ameritrash games just excite me in a way that a Eurostyle very rarely manages, even if buying another one does often mean trying to house another box that is the size of a wardrobe whilst gazing at 50 more miniatures that will never see a lick of paint.
The most important thing to do is get out there, play some games and find one you love…
Preferably not Monopoly.