Board Games 101 – Eurogames vs. Ameritrash


In this series I want to get into the various terms and slang that is common among the board game community.  Some of the stigma associated with this in-crowd language I feel can be a barrier to any new players.  I want to dissolve these feelings so everyone can see that there is a chair for anyone at the table.

We will start the series with two of the most common board game terms that you may hear.  I personally feel that the terms are a bit dated because most modern games have adopted the best qualities of both but I digress.  These terms are used to describe the mechanics of a game and the general feel of the game.  Games were put into one of these two categories to help gamers pick out a new title.  These terms are Eurogame and Ameritrash.


What is a Eurogame?


The idea of this genre of game was widely defined by games that were published from the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s in Germany.  They often credited the designers which is now common place which earned them the name a designer game.  Since then the design elements have crossed over and are designed on a global scale.  Eurogames have evolved since their conception which makes them harder to define but that topic is going to have to wait.  Let’s now break down the characteristics of a Eurogame.


  1.     Theme is present but the mechanics don’t hinge on them.  What this means is that the focus of the game is playing the mechanics and not playing for the narrative that the theme provides.    This allows the mechanics of the game to be unrestricted by the loose theme.  Often the mechanics can conflict with the theme and break the illusion of a narrative.
  2.      Players will never be eliminated from play.  If a player starts the game then that player will play all the way to the end.
  3.      There is little to no luck or randomness involved with the game play.  Dice are uncommon in Eurogames.  Other forms of randomness are usually controlled through a players decision before the random event as opposed to before.
  4.      The designer of the game is clearly labeled on the box.  This isn’t mutually exclusive to other genres of games now but it was a key feature in designer board games of the time.
  5.      Game play is very simple and straight forward.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the game is simple but the rules are simple to pick up once explained.  There are very little rule exceptions


Examples of an Eurogame


Ticket to Ride




The Castles of Burgundy




Puerto Rico



What is an Ameritrash Game?



Obviously, as the name implies, this is a board game that has an American style of play.  The name itself was originally conceived by fans of the traditional Eurogame that didn’t care for the style.  Over time the fans of these styles of games adopted the term oddly enough.  What this means is Ameritrash style of game is the basic polar opposite of a Eurogame.  Let’s break down the characteristics of an Ameritrash game.


  1.     The theme is highly evolved and immersive.  All the game mechanics revolve around the theme and are intended to accentuate the atmosphere.  Typically there are characters that the players can embody to bring this further along.
  2.      Players are in direct conflict.  Fighting is very encouraged in Ameritrash.  A common term that is associated with Ameritrash games is “screw your neighbor”.  Whatever can be done to have players messing with each others plans will probably be employed in these games.
  3.      Luck and Randomness is at a high level.  Often dice are used to inject this but also game mechanics like card draw or blind picking.  This is to the benefit of new players who can rely on that but is often an annoyance to Eurogame lovers.
  4.      Player elimination is very common.  It isn’t always the case but is common due to the fact most Ameritrash games have been associated with war or adventure themed games.  Player elimination goes hand in hand with these type of themes.
  5.      The play time is remarkably longer.  When your building a thematic world and have some more involved rules then the game can tend to drag out.



Examples of Ameritrash 


Arkham Horror


Battlestar Galactica


Cosmic Encounter


King of Tokyo






I hope this helps in your dive into the hobby.  In the next installment we will be looking into the differences and meanings of streamlined and clunky.

Happy Gaming!


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