Eurogames (also known as German-style Board Games) are a
particular variety of board game. If the phrase ‘board game’ conjures
up Monopoly or Risk in your mind, that the wrong image. Eurogames are a
relatively recent phenomena that’s a whole new class of games which I
really enjoy. (Sadly I don’t get to play often enough as many of my
gaming friends are in Europe which is a long way from Boston.)
Eurogames are called that because the center of activity in
developing them is in Europe, more precisely Germany (hence they are
often called German-style boardgames). The Eurogaming community
developed a style of board games which are thoughtful, but not
overly complex. Good Eurogames can be learned and played in a couple
of hours. yet are interesting enough to play repeatedly.
A large part of this is a focus on good and clever
mechanics. Die-roll movement (such as Monopoly) is something you
don’t see. Much of the interest in Eurogames is the varied mechanics
people come up with to make an interesting game.
Eurogames are sometimes abstract, but usually have some kind of
theme. (Settlers of Catan is settling an island, Puerto Rico is
developing a colony.) However the theme is usually pretty loose, and
there’s no attempt to create a good simulation. In that way
Eurogames are different to simulation games. The latter were usually
long and complex, Eurogames don’t hesitate to sacrifice realism in
order to get a game that works well. Some people dislike this,
arguing that the theme is “pasted on”. I find the theme tends to add
flavor to the game, but I also appreciate the fact that mechanics
and playability are put first. Those who are bothered by imprecise
simulations would find this much more off-putting.
A key element of Eurogames is that you can usually learn and
play a new game in an evening. There is some
variation in complexity, but even the more complex games (like Puerto
Rico) play in a couple of hours and are fun on your
A big problem with many older board games, like Risk and
Monopoly, is that players are eliminated before the end. This
leaves people disengaged from events. Worse still the climax can
easily be a drawn out attrition where it’s clear who will win
eventually, but it takes a while to finish the last opponents
off (*cough* Monopoly *cough*). Eurogames avoid these problems
by working hard to keep everyone engaged to the end, often by
increasing the tempo as the game goes on so that things move
slowly at the beginning (so you can learn while playing) but
finish fast to get a close and exciting climax.
Eurogames tend to have indirect conflict. Rather than attacking
another player’s position (as in Chess or Risk), you concentrate on
building up your own position while competing for resources. While
there can be blocking of other players, it’s usually a minor
part of the mechanics. As a result it’s no surprise that war themes are
rare in Eurogames.
Games can easily drag if you have to wait a long time while
other people make their move. So Eurogame mechanics try to
reduce waiting time by keeping lots of short rapid moves.
Several games have simultaneous moves, or at least look for ways
to allow you to do most of your decision making while others are
having their go.
There’s a lot of variation in randomness between different
kinds of Eurogames. Some (eg Agricola,
Puerto Rico) have only trace elements of
randomness, others introduce randomness through mechanisms like card draws
(Race for the Galaxy) or tile draws (Carcassonne). Greater randomness increases the luck
element in a game, but can also increase the variation that
makes repeated play enjoyable as well as making it more
enjoyable for the less skilled at the table. On the whole,
however, I find that even those games with greater randomness
will see more capable players winning more often.
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