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Subject: The universe of tabletop gaming rss

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Gene Lin
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Something I wrote up for fun for my large public gaming group - let me know if you have any feedback.

Euro: Euro games are typically based around a set of mechanics (e.g., worker placement, drafting, area control). The appeal of Euro games tends to be the relative simplicity and elegance of the rules, the relative lack of luck, and the suitability for multiplayer play. One criticism of Euros has been that the thematic elements are "tacked on", that is, for many Euros any theme could have been used with the same mechanics. Also, there are a limited number of mechanics so after some time, it is hard to come up with truly fresh games.

Ameritrash: Broadly defined, these are games that prioritize theme over mechanics (e.g., the mechanics are designed around the theme). Some prefer these games over Euros due to the thematic elements. Some prefer Euros as Ameritrash games tend to have a greater luck element, tend to be less balanced, and the rules are often longer and less elegant.

Wargames: These could be considered a subset of Ameritrash. One primary appeal of these games is historical interest. The key balance issue in these games is between rules density and versimilitude. Some prefer simpler games (e.g., Command and Colors), but these have less versimilitude. The most realistic games are extremely rules-heavy (e,g, Advanced Squad Leader). For the most complex wargames, it could be argued that computer wargames, which automate the complex rule systems, are a reasonable competitor. In general though, wargames tend to be the most complex games in this list.

Miniatures gaming: This includes fantasy and SF games such as WarHammer and Warhammer 40K, and historical miniatures. This genre of gaming is typically the most expensive and time-consuming to get involved with due to the cost of the minis and the painting necessary (but the painting may be plus for some). A few companies offer prepainted minis. The appeal of these game is often the visual impact - a large miniatures game with well-designed terrain can have tremendous visual appeal. Compared to wargames, mini games typically have simpler rules and often less strategic and tactical depth. But for many, a well-painted mini is much better than a small cardboard counter.

Collectible card games: These include true collectible card games like Magic with random cards in each pack, and the Fantasy Flight "living card games" where the cards in each pack are known. The appeal of these game for most is in deck construction. They tend to require a reasonable investment as a substantial number of cards is needed to build decks. This genre of gaming is known for the availability of competitive tournaments. For the competitive player, these games may require constant investment and study as new cards are released all the time; this may be a disincentive to some and appealing to others.

Tabletop RPGs: These can roughly be separated into story-driven and rules-driven. On one side are story-driven systems such as FATE (and the various diceless "story games"), and on the other side are heavy rules-driven systems ("crunchy" games with "min-maxing" are often terms applied to these systems). One of best known of the rules-driven games is Pathfinder. The new 5th edition DnD tries to strike a balance between the 2 poles

Party games: Hopefully self-explanatory
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Mike Em
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Just nitpicking but FFG's LCG actually stands for "Living Card Game", more a reference to the staggered releases of their small and deluxe expansion boxes.

I think Party games might be another big category to include!

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Gene Lin
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Thanks - party games were included at the end - didn't say anything about them though.
 
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Michael Carter
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Economic games. That can include games like Container, Indonesia, Imperial, Acquire, train games like Age of Steam, Chicago Express, Paris Connection, Winsome Games in general, or 18xx games like 1830, 1889, 1860, 1862, etc. Often they are confused with Euro games, but there is a significant difference.
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Gene Lin
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Michael,

I've played almost all the games you've listed, and considered them roughly "euros". Can you say specifically why you think they are a different category?
 
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Michael Carter
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Euros today are more about optimizing actions and feature indirect player interaction. Economic games are about as cutthroat as they get. Economic games are all about influencing player incentives to get people to work with you. Euro gamers wouldn't be able to handle getting a crummy company dumped on them in 1830. Economic games are more focused on simulating some aspect of economic theory while Euro games are more focused on just being games. It's hard to say that the theme is pasted onto an economic game.
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J C Lawrence
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The 18xx as euros? Really? They seem very distant to me given their length, aggressiveness, player elimination, unsuitability for families etc.
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Gene Lin
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clearclaw wrote:
The 18xx as euros? Really? They seem very distant to me given their length, aggressiveness, player elimination, unsuitability for families etc.


I'd argue that Through the Ages has all those qualities as well .
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What about abstract strategy?

If I were making a list like this I would mention that the classification isn't meant to strictly partition games into one type or another. The boundaries are fuzzy and there are lots of intermediate types.

I don't think wargames are a subset of Ameritrash. These trends in game design have separate origins and influences, even if they share a greater adherence to their theme as against Euros. Making that claim suggests that wargames are derived from Ameritrash, but it's not so.

I don't think that Euros have less chance influence than other categories, especially not the light euros that a novice reading this introduction is likely to play. Takenoko is just as random as the dice-chucking Ameritrash games if not more.
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Tahsin Shamma
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I think if your are defining the broad categories of games most new players will encounter, this should work fine. The only thing I would include is abstract games as mentioned.

You can also mention that this list is not exhaustive and that more categorization can be found on BGG to cover all the other permutations.
 
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Mindy Basi
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How about some more common examples for each category?

You also haven't included co-ops and hidden role games.

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Michael Carter
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dante21 wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
The 18xx as euros? Really? They seem very distant to me given their length, aggressiveness, player elimination, unsuitability for families etc.


I'd argue that Through the Ages has all those qualities as well .


 
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1 Lucky Texan
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elimination vs non-elimination?
 
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Michael Debije
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Wargames are not a subset of Ameritrash.
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Gene Lin
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Thanks for the helpful comment everyone.

I realize the wargames are not a subset of Ameritrash relative to their audience or the designers, but I find it hard to define wargames easily otherwise. The way I defined Ameritrash, a wargame is an Ameritrash game which typically covers historical wars. But I will take this out.
 
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Russ Williams
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mlcarter815 wrote:
Euros today are more about optimizing actions and feature indirect player interaction. Economic games are about as cutthroat as they get. Economic games are all about influencing player incentives to get people to work with you. Euro gamers wouldn't be able to handle getting a crummy company dumped on them in 1830.

"Euro" is too nebulous. Plenty of canonical euro games have "cutthroat" screwage, e.g. Carcassonne (steal someone's city, or play a tile making it unfinishable), Caylus (move the provost back and destroy someone's plan and invested workers), Power Grid (block someone in so further city building is too expensive for them; buy extra resources to make someone else unable to afford resources, or even locked out of the resource), etc.

The idea that a euro player couldn't handle somebody messing with their plans or destroying their position seems pretty dubious to me, and a mere caricature or patronizing stereotype. This seems to be mixing up "serious strategic" euros with "light family" euros. (And many of them can be played in both modes, e.g. Carcassonne.)

Quote:
Economic games are more focused on simulating some aspect of economic theory while Euro games are more focused on just being games. It's hard to say that the theme is pasted onto an economic game.

This seems a much more convincing distinction to me; 18xx and other similar games are more simulation-oriented, often with some specific fiddly rules/exceptions to reflect some real-world thing (but then economic games are often rather abstracted compared to typical wargames - i.e. "simulation" is certainly a spectrum rather than a binary property).

clearclaw also mentions the much longer playtime of 18xx, which seems a good pragmatic distinguishing feature between them and typical euros.

But player elimination is not a distinguishing feature. There are some euros with player elimination. And 18xx - the classic example of long serious economic games contrasted with euros - doesn't really have "player elimination" in the usual sense of that term (i.e. that someone is eliminated but the remaining players keep playing): a player's bankruptcy causes the end of the game in 18xx, just as someone losing triggers the end of the game in many quite short simple games, for example High Society, Trans America, Cockroach Poker - I see no difference in that regard with 18xx. Am I missing something?

===

To the OP:
Yeah, abstract strategy games are missing. Go, Chess, Shogi, Checkers, Othello, GIPF, Trax, etc, i.e. abstract games of no randomness and no hidden information. There are many classic/ancient and modern games of this sort.
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J C Lawrence
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The 18xx ending on a bankruptcy is a mixed bag. Increasingly many don't (eg 1817, 1846 etc).
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Andi Hub
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dante21 wrote:
Thanks for the helpful comment everyone.

I realize the wargames are not a subset of Ameritrash relative to their audience or the designers, but I find it hard to define wargames easily otherwise. The way I defined Ameritrash, a wargame is an Ameritrash game which typically covers historical wars. But I will take this out.


Wargames are to Ameritrash what economic games are to Euros.

Take this statement as food for thought, since I actually do not know enough about wargames to really back this up. But I have the impression that both wargames and economic games are a bit more serious and involved than your "average" Ameri/Euro game. As games are so diverse, there are a lot hybrid games (for either combination), so for some games it is really hard to put them in only of these categories.
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Russ Williams
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clearclaw wrote:
The 18xx ending on a bankruptcy is a mixed bag. Increasingly many don't (eg 1817, 1846 etc).

Then "player elimination" seems even more dubious as a distinguisher.
 
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Greg
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I guess it depends why you want a categorisation system? I find that there are a lot of different ways to define games and a lot of overlap between them. If it's for a gaming group I'd be tempted to break it down by mechanic rather than design theme, I find that a player encountering a new game for the first time has an easier time figuring out if they want to play "A cooperative deckbuilder point salad with player elimination" than "A euro game with classic design sensibilties"
 
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Rob Harper
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x_equals_speed wrote:
"A cooperative deckbuilder point salad with player elimination"


The mind boggles!
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Richard Massey
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dante21 wrote:
Also, there are a limited number of mechanics so after some time, it is hard to come up with truly fresh games.


I can't agree with this (and not just because of the grammar )

Why is there a limited number of mechanisms?
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Stephen Williams
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russ wrote:

"Euro" is too nebulous. Plenty of canonical euro games have "cutthroat" screwage, e.g. Carcassonne (steal someone's city, or play a tile making it unfinishable), Caylus (move the provost back and destroy someone's plan and invested workers), Power Grid (block someone in so further city building is too expensive for them; buy extra resources to make someone else unable to afford resources, or even locked out of the resource), etc.


So, your position is that having any amount of direct player interaction qualifies a game as "cut-throat?"

I respectfully disagree. Being able to screw with your opponent does not make a game cut-throat. What makes a game cut-throat is when not screwing with your opponents is probably a losing strategy.
 
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Russ Williams
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Stewi wrote:
russ wrote:

"Euro" is too nebulous. Plenty of canonical euro games have "cutthroat" screwage, e.g. Carcassonne (steal someone's city, or play a tile making it unfinishable), Caylus (move the provost back and destroy someone's plan and invested workers), Power Grid (block someone in so further city building is too expensive for them; buy extra resources to make someone else unable to afford resources, or even locked out of the resource), etc.


So, your position is that having any amount of direct player interaction qualifies a game as "cut-throat?"

I respectfully disagree. Being able to screw with your opponent does not make a game cut-throat. What makes a game cut-throat is when not screwing with your opponents is probably a losing strategy.

Ah, yet another definition of cut-throat. I like it.

Most games of Carcassonne I've played, it has always proven to my advantage to mess with my opponents instead of happily letting them complete cities etc. So by your definition, Carcassonne remains cut-throat. Or do you believe that a player who refused to do anything to hinder opponents has just as good a chance to win Carcassonne as a player who is willing to hinder opponents?


More generally: if it's a competitive game (players are trying to win individually), and you have the ability to hinder opponents, then I find that you typically improve your probability of winning by being willing to hinder opponents.

Can you give a counterexample? I'm having a hard time imagining any interactive competitive game where a player who's intentionally not exercising any option to hinder opponents would not be at a disadvantage to a player who is willing to hinder opponents. (Analogous to any other arbitrary reduction in possible moves: e.g. a chess player who refuses to move his rooks onto black squares, or who refuses to capture pawns with bishops, is surely non-trivially hurting his chances of winning compared to a chess player who does not arbitrarily restrict himself like that.)

Reducing your possible choices so that you ignore other players is generally unhelpful to your success, whether we're talking 18xx or Carcassonne.
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Greg
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polyobsessive wrote:
x_equals_speed wrote:
"A cooperative deckbuilder point salad with player elimination"


The mind boggles!


I wish I'd been describing a particular game there, but I'm not sure I've played one that fits that description. I can imagine how you might go about designing it - a game for conventions and parties where players are frequently eliminated and added to the game mid flow in which the participants are trying to collaboratively build a good deck despite the constant outflow of people who knew what was in the deck and inflow of people who have no idea. The twist is that the cards you presently hold restrict your ability to communicate ("No utterances over three words" "No verbs" etc.) so there's a tension between playing cards to make it possible to communicate what you know before being eliminated and playing cards that will actually aid the deck in the long run.
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