Recommend
44 
 Thumb up
 Hide
110 Posts
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »   | 

Thematic Games» Forums » General

Subject: The real definition of Thematic game (aka Ameritrash) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Don´t expect an easy answer on this (for complex questions, there are complex answers)

This answer is not from me, is from Jeremy Kalgreen. Jeremy, i´m very impressed, this is THE ANSWER.

Please read it completely.

Everybody who likes Thematic games should read this. It´s amazing!

The original post is from this thread: The Whimsical Nature of Ameritrash.

Jeremy Kalgreen
United States
Columbus
OH
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Quote:
Hello hello,

I think it's about time I threw in my hat on the subject of defining 'Ameritrash'.

I come from an art background, and we see a lot of similar confusion when it comes to defining art movements. A lot of times people want to break an art movement down into 4-5 exact unbreakable hard and fast rules. But in reality every rule has it's exceptions and every rule is bled in another genre here and there, so a lot of newcomers to art history tend to become frustrated and assume it's all just made up gobbletygook.

The problem is that when people try to define 'Ameritrash' they tend to use expressions of the quality 'Ameritrash' instead of trying to define the core of 'Ameritrash'. It's like if I were to ask 10 people to define 'dog' using one quality. I might get responses like: 4 legs, fur, floppy ears, wagging tail and so forth. Then the contrarians would go through each quality one at a time and find counterexamples or bleed examples: I knew a three legged dog once, so that means he stopped being a dog? Cats have four legs too, so do they qualify as dog? What about hairless breeds, are they not dogs? And thus the contrarians would assume the label of "dog" must be meaningless.

So to solve this dilemma we need to pan out a bit and attack the problem one level up.

Let me start at the very beginning. When we talk about Ameritrash vs Euros first of all we are not talking about the geographic location of the game's design or production. Ameritrash games can come from anywhere, Euros likewise. So why do the names have a geographic component? Because these labels are about one thing, Design Philosophy, and these design philosophies are movements. While these movements have their roots geographically, they have both spread well around the globe, but the names remain fixed on the geographic heart of movements they represent.

Ok, so what exactly is the design philosophy that drives Ameritrash vs. Euro games? When a designer is making a game he or she has a series of choices to make, and often these choices are something of a zero sum game. You can't have it all, so to speak. And as a designer you need to have priorities as to what you feel is most important, and are willing to build your choices around. Each side has it's "Core Priority" that really defines it's design philosophy.

The Ameritrash 'Core Priority' is Drama.
The Eurogame 'Core Priority' is Elegance.
The Wargame 'Core Priority' is Realism.

When a designer is working on a game it's is largely a balancing act between these three qualities (among others of course). And while all can coexist to some extent, as design for a game fleshes out eventually these qualities will begin butting heads.

All three genres have games about war, but each of them realizes these scenarios through the lens of their core priority. Let's say you are designing a game about war, you have most of the mechanics fleshed out but are trying to decide about weather to include any mechanics related to supply lines.

As an Ameritrasher you would be asking yourself weather by adding Supply Lines to your existing mechanics you would be bogging the game down making it less emotional and dramatic, which would not be a sacrifice you are willing to make, but if they could include it in a simplified stylized manner that would heighten drama (i.e. Fortress America) they would be happy to do so.

A euro designer would be asking themselves if ther is way any way to include the mechanic seamlessly and elegantly into the core game, or would feel tacked on and add needless complexity.

A wargame designer, on the other hand, would be willing to sacrifice both a certain amount of elegance and a certain amount of "edge of your seat" drama if it meant fulfilling their core priority of realism.

So how does this all relate to the traditional definitions of Ameritrash? Well the conventional definitions try to list off expressions of this design philosophy, but since every game is different, every game expresses this core priority differently. Certain mechanics and qualities tend to gravitate to certain design philosophies, but there exists no mechanic or quality that exists solely within one genre and not another, there is always some bleed. Likewise there is no single quality or mechanic that is present in 100% of the games from a single genre.

But there are trends, and these trends will provide you your best clues as to what genre the game resides in. But keep in mind they are just that: clues. The clues to what genre a game is isn't the same thing as a definition of the genre. So let me take a moment to examine some of the qualities or 'clues' traditionally applied to Ameritrash:

How does Conflict relate to the core priority of Drama?

This one is any easy one, there are few things in life more dramatic then conflict. Love perhaps, but good luck create a board game that evokes that particular emotion. When you have your back to the wall, battling tooth and nail outnumbered by your enemies and still crushing them under your boot heel, that's dramatic. As such, to any designer trying emphasize the core priority of drama conflict is about as common as a quality can get.

How do Dice relate to the core priority of Drama?

Dice adds uncertainty, uncertainly is a fantastic tool for heightening drama. When I see a table full of players jumping to their feet in anticipation, or bursting out in cries of joy (or into yelps of obscenities) 9 times out of 10 dice are somehow involved.

How does Theme relate to the core priority of Drama?

These helps draw people emotionally into a game. The game ceases to be a simple multiplayer puzzle and instead becomes a world, and a world you are directly invested in. It's about feeling like you are commanding a legion and not pushing around cubes, manning a post apocalyptic battle car and not just moving a tile around a tabletop, it's pretty much inseparable to drama.

Those were your three examples, but I'll look to some other threads for the more common examples.

How do Nukes relate to the core priority of Drama?

Is there anything more dramatic in this day and age then potential for nuclear hellfire? It would be a earth shattering civilization changing event. Even if a single small nuke went off tomorrow and it was lobbed at Luxembourg or the like, it would be a major historical turning point. Now tat is dramatic.

How do Excellent Titles relate to the core priority of Drama?

Ameritrash titles tend to be dramatic titles, it's the first and most evocative step in establishing a theme. From the moment you hear titles like Chainsaw Warrior, or Fortress America your imagination is gearing up in way manner that "Hey, that's my cube!" just doesnt match.


How does Chrome relate to the core priority of Drama?

Chrome is all about being evocative of the theme, and heightening the sense of immersion in the game. It also subtly plants the idea that there are a wealth of possibilities and anything could happen during the game. Robartin put it best:

"Rules that might occur in 2 out of every 400 games. Still, when they happen they are damn cool because they're straight out of the freakin book! Who doesn't remember the game where Jonathan Harker actually killed the Count?"

That's Drama!

How do Plastic Minis relate to the core priority of Drama?

The toy factor! Again, a fantastic way to maximize the sense of immersion in a game's theme. If I'm pushing a cube, I'm pushing a cube. But when I've scooting a fully armed and operational War Sun across the table I can practically taste the power at my fingertips. The more you can get your players emotionally invested in the game, the more dramatic the experience will be for them. Plastic minis are fantastic in this regard.

How does Player Elimination relate to the core priority of Drama?

This is a fantastic dividing line between what kind of game player you are. The sense of having it all on the line, and fighting for your life is far more dramatic then everyone staying in till the end and we count up points. And the sheer joy of matching wits and strategies against your most challenging opponent, then in one deft move finally crushing them and wiping them off the board is the kind of drama that just can't be understated.

How does a Long Playing Time relate to the core priority of Drama?

Again this is about emotional investment. When playing a disposable 45 minute mini-game you just haven't invested yourself in the same manner as someone heading into the 4th hour of their drawn out head to head conflict, it's just basic human psychology. If I've poured 3 hours of brain crunching into my plans and strategies I'm just far more invested in the outcome then if I was just dropping in for a quick filler. The more invested I am in the outcome, the more dramatic the game becomes.

How does Imbalance, Kingmaking, Ganging up, and the like relate to the core priority of Drama?

In the end Ameritrash games are about the people playing the game, and most importantly playing the game against each other. An Ameritrash should never feel like a thinly veiled puzzle masquerading as a game, or multi-player solitaire. With a multi player puzzle, where each player is basically try to solve the game, not beat the other players, balance is very important since the other players have comparatively little they can do beat down someone if things are unbalanced in that player's favor.

With head to head open ended conflict based games this is much less of an issue. In reality it's often times less about playing the rules of the game, but instead playing the minds of the other players. Trying to avoid drawing their ire, trying to look as weak as possible while making your position as strong as possible, often times the meta-game is the game, and that is inherently more dramatic then playing against the board. Ganging up, Kingmaking and Imbalance all just tend to come part and parcel in these type of games, and thank god for that.

Welp, I think those are most of the common qualities I see used to define 'Ameritrash', hope that helps answer your question. And I just have to say that I've only been here a few months myself, but without members like Robartin and Barnes I'd probably never have stuck around. Thanks much for making BGG a better place guys!
51 
 Thumb up
0.38
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think it's much, much simpler than two dozen paragraphs.

If you want juveniles to buy the game, you include plastic figures. If you want juveniles to play the game, you keep the rules dealing with the plastic figures simple. If you want juveniles to play it more than once, you keep a decent amount of randomness in the rules dealing with the plastic figures.

If you don't care whether or not juveniles play the game, you don't have to bother with the expense of plastic figures, you can up the ante on rules complexity, and move more towards rewarding skill, with decreased rewarding of lucky rolls.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I´m not really sure, but i think you did not read it.
If you didn´t, i understand your position then.

DarrellKH wrote:
I think it's much, much simpler than two dozen paragraphs.

If you want juveniles to buy the game, you include plastic figures. If you want juveniles to play the game, you keep the rules dealing with the plastic figures simple. If you want juveniles to play it more than once, you keep a decent amount of randomness in the rules dealing with the plastic figures.

If you don't care whether or not juveniles play the game, you don't have to bother with the expense of plastic figures, you can up the ante on rules complexity, and move more towards rewarding skill, with decreased rewarding of lucky rolls.
19 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Much verbiage, but not necessarily of much help.

For all its volume, the piece strikes me as simplistic. To define the "wargaming" paradigm solely in terms of "realism" is to overlook the old, but still-valid, summation of these games' appeal as expressed by The Avalon Hill Game Company's advertising slogan: "Now YOU are in command!"

Anyone who has been in, or even close to, combat will affirm that wargames are far from combat. Anyone who has ever been responsible for issuing orders on which peoples' lives depend knows that no vicarious experience of such responsibilities based on mathematical or other systemic models even remotely reproduces the real-world experience.

In short, the fantasy of tabletop "command" is just that--a willing suspension of disbelief enacted in order to pursue a pastime that in some way brings gratification to the participant.

The writer provides an example, in the form of representing logistics, to illustrate a difference between Amerit---- and wargames. Yet this example itself disproves the argument. The attempt to represent supply considerations in a game is a design nod to real-world considerations ("realism"), yet some wargames have no supply rules at all (but still do not fall under most of the purported definers of "AT").

I am one of those annoyed by the use of the AT term, not out of any territorial parochialism or perjorative interpretation, but because I find it useless in identifying or defining its subject (as the writer notes, there is no true geographical limitation on such games's sources).

Somewhat ironically, I find the entry title to be the best term applicable to the genre: "Thematic games."

In the end, none of this verbiage, mine included, matters--what matters is the games we play and the satisfaction derived by gamers from whatever genres they enjoy. I can appreciate the desire to express some philosophical perspectives on such aspects of our hobby, but very much doubt that we will ever achieve either consensus or a statement that will stand as the "last word" on the subject.

I hope these comments will not spark a tempest-in-a-teapot verbal argument as I have no interest in insulting anybody; I simply disagree with the OP's point of view on this particular essay, to which he is certainly entitled.

Lastly, to return to the cited essay: are not all games, in the end,"about the people playing the game?" This truism is not restricted to players of thematic games.

13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Cain
United States
Tacoma
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
The Evil-Do That I Do-Do
Avatar
mbmbmb
DarrellKH wrote:
I think it's much, much simpler than two dozen paragraphs.

If you want juveniles to buy the game, you include plastic figures. If you want juveniles to play the game, you keep the rules dealing with the plastic figures simple. If you want juveniles to play it more than once, you keep a decent amount of randomness in the rules dealing with the plastic figures.

If you don't care whether or not juveniles play the game, you don't have to bother with the expense of plastic figures, you can up the ante on rules complexity, and move more towards rewarding skill, with decreased rewarding of lucky rolls.


And if you want juveniles to say "fuck you" write something like this.

LA
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You´re right. The final word should be how satisfying a game is for ourselves. And that is a practical question.

Sorry, I know nothing about wargames. But in thematic games drama is the real sustantial thing (drama as discribed by Jeremy Kalgreen did, please don´t take the word from context), and i´m admitting that this thread explains how i enjoy games. What a game should have for me to be satisfying. And i thought other thematic games fan should know about it.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I enjoy the repetition.
18 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hungadunga wrote:
I enjoy the repetition.

Now, now, you know that'll never fly here.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Damo
Australia
Hobart
Tasmania
flag msg tools
Look Up! Stay Alive!
badge
http://australianmuseum.net.au/Drop-Bear
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just.Let.This.One.Go.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Dog Boy wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
I enjoy the repetition.


I second that motion, about three minutes worth.


Sorry, I don´t understand...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Leo Zappa
United States
Aliquippa
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Whilst tis a noble effort, I am forced to reply thusly...

19 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
luckacs wrote:
Dog Boy wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
I enjoy the repetition.


I second that motion, about three minutes worth.


Sorry, I don´t understand...


Wait, what does that mean? BGG's most commonly used catch phrases, Item 4.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Oh! I get it. Sorry.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
desertfox2004 wrote:
Whilst tis a noble effort, I am forced to reply thusly...



Agreed.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mi Myma
United States
Fountain Valley
California
flag msg tools
Why is there no Word Games Forum or Subdomain?
badge
There should be a Word Games Subdomain, or at least a Word Games Forum!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think he's pretty much right. Although he seems to ignore or downplay the non-combat AT games, like Monopoly, and other (better) money-related games. Using his criteria, I haven't been able to think of a game that gets put into the wrong category.

Well, there's one I've thought of that, under his classification, seems to bridge the gap between AT and Euro - I'm the Boss - drama, conflict, dice, and yet also elegence and negotiation (and short).

And of course, he doesn't deal with the other categories of party games, dexterity games, and abstract games.

I still don't like the label "thematic games." "Dramatic Games" would work a whole lot better. And "strategy games" as a label for euros is also silly. "Elegant Games" is better.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
"strategy games" as a label for euros is also silly. "Elegant Games" is better.

I use the term "Elegant Games" to describe wargames.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
I think he's pretty much right. Although he seems to ignore or downplay the non-combat AT games, like Monopoly, and other (better) money-related games. Using his criteria, I haven't been able to think of a game that gets put into the wrong category.

Well, there's one I've thought of that, under his classification, seems to bridge the gap between AT and Euro - I'm the Boss - drama, conflict, dice, and yet also elegence and negotiation (and short).

And of course, he doesn't deal with the other categories of party games, dexterity games, and abstract games.

I still don't like the label "thematic games." "Dramatic Games" would work a whole lot better. And "strategy games" as a label for euros is also silly. "Elegant Games" is better.


Thanks! I was feeling so stupid for the repetition. But this guy Jeremy Kalgreen did it. And i´m with you for the Dramatic and Elegant names, they described much better that kind of games.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
aug_aug
United States
Mountlake Terrace
Washington
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Whether, not "weather"...sorry but I can't read a whole 4 page essay and take it seriously with typos.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
luckacs wrote:
Thanks! I was feeling so stupid for the repetition. But this guy Jeremy Kalgreen did it. And i´m with you for the Dramatic and Elegant names, they described much better that kind of games.


What about Lovely Games, Thrilling Games, and Sensation Games? Don't leave them out.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Gaete
Chile
Santiago
RM
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
What about Lovely Games


Sorry, but lovely? I don´t know any lovely games. Can you explain them to me please.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
luckacs wrote:
Quote:
What about Lovely Games


Sorry, but lovely? I don´t know any lovely games. Can you explain them to me please.


Lovely games are between Elegant and Dramatic, I think. Their Core Priority is loveliness, which is sort of a dramatic elegance.

But they are not thrilling or sensational.

8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mb
I do believe that I have put this in the much BETTER realm for comparisons with:

EuroGAME~ "simplistic & infantile methodologies; for these of WHOM are likewise!"

AmeriTreasure~ "F***, YEAH!"

I too, also shall indulge in those sometimes, for when I've regressed into such 'stages'...

robot
20 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
luckacs wrote:
Quote:
What about Lovely Games


Sorry, but lovely? I don´t know any lovely games. Can you explain them to me please.

Well, they're all lovely.

The good ones, anyway.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Damo
Australia
Hobart
Tasmania
flag msg tools
Look Up! Stay Alive!
badge
http://australianmuseum.net.au/Drop-Bear
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Eldard wrote:
luckacs wrote:
Thanks! I was feeling so stupid for the repetition. But this guy Jeremy Kalgreen did it. And i´m with you for the Dramatic and Elegant names, they described much better that kind of games.


What about Lovely Games, Thrilling Games, and Sensation Games? Don't leave them out.


Pure, irrelevant, non-informative descriptions.

There is no need to classify games past the basic, "It's not a wargame, it's something else" category.

I can't believe I'm saying this, "Thematic" is as good as it gets.

p.s. Grogs Ameritrash = F***K, YEAH! is priceless.

5 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hunga Dunga
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Damjon wrote:
There is no need to classify games past the basic, "It's not a wargame, it's something else" category.

We'll still find the occasional game that make not clearly make the cut one way or another, but categorization doesn't get better than this.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.