Friday, 16 March 2007

Why I Love the Term Ameritrash

I was about to post something about the old AH gangsters game, but when I headed over to the Geek this morning I noticed way too many AT posts by people wanting to change, discontinue the use of, or simply stating their dislike for the term Ameritrash. So I am going to defend it a bit.

First, let me start of by saying that I do not agree with the whole Us vs. Them attitude that seems to have been so popular on BGG over the last few weeks. I know that a few individuals (AT and Euro based) managed to move what really were personality conflicts into the debate, stealing the thunder of Ameritrash for issues that were completely unrelated to games. Personal pissing matches spring up on internet forums all the time, and well I guess that's human nature, but I for one do not want anything that happened on BGG to stain what for me is a legitimate attitude toward games.

The attitude that all aspects of games, the length, the rules complexity, the mechanics implemented, the diplomatic meta-game; all of this are in and of themselves worthless when not coupled with and respectful of Fun. Games are entertainment, and when one aspect of a game's design interferes with that entertainment, they are a failure. This is as true for over reliance on conflict, as it is for over reliance on game mechanics.

Ameritrash was a group of guys saying "Hey, we know that the current trend in games stresses streamlined play over open interaction, but let's not forget about these other games who manage to provide great entertainment in the past." It was a questioning of the mantra of Euro games design that wrote off certain game mechanics, player elimination as an example, or forced game length under 120 minutes. A call for designers to include older styles of play in their design and not simply push out yet another tile laying game with an auction and area control scoring.

The simple truth is that Ameritrash games design is dead. It’s moment was in the past, and designing games that are 100% AT for the future is not viable. No one wants to buy Risk++. The point is that there were good aspects to these games and these aspects should not be forgotten in favor of the current hot trend in game sales. The future of game design has to get past the Euro style, no one wants to buy Caylus++ either, It too has become nearly as stale as Ameritrash was in the late 80's. We will all be better off if designers look back and select the better elements of both Euro and AT, think of new ways to mingle them and produce games that are innovative.

This is what the original intent of the Ameritrash label was. It is time that we get back to that, and over the notion that AT all about returning to the past or pissing off Eurogamers. We are gamers who love games, and have concerns about the current direction of game development.

So the term Ameritrash is not about attitude, it is about respecting where game design has come from, where it is now and where it needs to head in the future.

-Malloc

33 comments:

robartin said...

Ameritrash game design is dead? Far from it! Sure, you might not get your old Avalon Hill style rulebooks any more, but Ameritrash game design is alive, kicking ass, and taking names.

Nexus Ops, Twilight Imperium 3, Descent - the list goes on and on. Sure these games may have some Euro sensibilities but they are Ameritrash through and through.

No, my friend - old style Ameritrash may have been in the past, but new Ameritrash is the future of board gaming.

pbwedz said...

Sorry, I still don't like the term. When I first saw it on BGG, I thought it would be about all the different version of Sorry and Monopoly that are out there.

I think a better name can be found.

And I disagree that people don't want to buy Risk or Caylus. Caylus is still a great game and Risk has it's market too...

HavocIsHere said...

Don't you think that Fantasy Flight tries just what you sugest, i.e. mixing the best of both "schools"?

Malloc said...

new Ameritrash is the future of board gaming.

My point is that to simply rehash games that were produced before would be no better than the same old same old we see with euro's.

And I disagree that people don't want to buy Risk or Caylus. Caylus is still a great game and Risk has it's market too.

Did I say they were not good. (Actually I think caylus is garbage but I am in the minority here)

My point is that to continue to push out games that have the same 5 ingredients, taco bell style, stacked slightly differently will lead to stale games.

Fantasy Flight tries just what you sugest, i.e. mixing the best of both "schools"?

Indeed, and I would say they are one of the more progressive game companies around right now.

I will restate that AT was a celebration of what was good about past designs, yet being ignored by current designers.

-M

robartin said...

FFG definitely does try to mix both styles. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

This is apparent in games like Fury of Dracula, where FFG decided to get rid of player elimination. This was a bad choice and waters the game down. Warrior Knights is an example of a game that is such a compromised design that it fails to remain cohesive. It simply feels cobbled together from too many different parts.

On the other hand, FFG did a good job incorporating Puerto Rico's roles into TI3 (ISC aside). Railroad Tycoon is an example of a Euro that was "trashed up" American style and was generally very well received.

I think it's important that companies like FFG recognize that there are a lot of bona-fide Ameritrash fans out there who don't demand that all new games adhere to the strict rule of law established by Euro games and Eurogamers. Some of us don't mind luck, player elimination, and asymmetry. These are things that can provide interesting challenges of their own.

pbwedz said...

No one wants to buy Risk++... The future of game design has to get past the Euro style, no one wants to buy Caylus++

You said no one wants to buy these games and made points based on that. Clearly there are people who want to buy both games.

Risk is in plenty of stores. Caylus is coming out with a limited edition and gets its share of play on BSW...

pbwedz said...

This is apparent in games like Fury of Dracula, where FFG decided to get rid of player elimination. This was a bad choice and waters the game down.

Actually, I think this is a nit. In my FoD games, people are not often killed anyway. YMMV

Killing a player in FoD has a big enough minus attached to it. I think removing a player would just throw a game to the Drac player in many cases...

Michael Barnes said...

My bottom line on the Ameritrash term is this. These are games that the larger hobby community- many of whom had grown up playing these types of games- chose to figuratively (and sometimes literally) discard in favor of Euro-style family games. They were thrown away.

AT design is _far_ from dead and it is critical to the SURVIVAL of the hobby. Have you ever wondered why there's rarely anyone under 20 years old at game events? Because the community, the publishers, and the designers have spent the last 10 years focusing on appeasing middle-aged gamers who "don't have time" for long games and feel like they've "outgrown" fantasy/sci fi themes. Fortunately, companies like FFG are picking up the banner and the result is that you _do_ see young people playing their games.

It's crucial to young people into the hobby or else all these middle agers are going to be DEAD and there won't be a hobby left. AT games are a perfect fit for kids brought up on video games, blockbuster sci-fi movies, and so forth.

From a design perspective, AT games might rehash old ideas but hybridized systems that bring in the better elements of Euros are really what's driving the industry right now- those are the best-selling games, those are the games getting played the most outside of insular hobby communities. Not YSAHPAHN or PORTOBELLO MARKET.

The last couple of years have been PHENOMENAL for wargame design...I know that's not really an AT point, but I expect to see some of those innovations start showing up in AT titles.

Malloc said...

No one wants to buy Risk++... The future of game design has to get past the Euro style, no one wants to buy Caylus++

You said no one wants to buy these games and made points based on that. Clearly there are people who want to buy both games.

Risk is in plenty of stores. Caylus is coming out with a limited edition and gets its share of play on BSW...


My bad, by Risk++ and Caylus++ I am refering to non exsitant games that are simply redone versions of risk and caylus. the ++ is throwback the computer language c and its upgraded version c++. Sorry for the confusion.

-M

Malloc said...

My point around the Term DEAD is that to simply re-release games with the same old AT titles in it would be no better for the hobby than continuing to push out games that rely on an auction mechanic at the start of each round.

AT games day in the sun is over. FFG is not releasing classic AT games, they are picking up the parts of AT that are worthy of reuse, and fusing them with the best of euro design.

If we stick our collective heads in the sand and say all games have to be like those designed by MB in the 80's then we are no better than eurosnoots who say all games have to be designed like PR and Caylus.

AT games are awesome, I will continue to play them whenever I can, but what I really would like to see is more of thier desing elements included in new games.

-M

Malloc said...


No, my friend - old style Ameritrash may have been in the past, but new Ameritrash is the future of board gaming.


We are saying the same thing my friend.

-M

Michael Barnes said...

My point around the Term DEAD is that to simply re-release games with the same old AT titles in it would be no better for the hobby than continuing to push out games that rely on an auction mechanic at the start of each round.

Agreed 100%. Design innovation is really critical, as is variety. I love seeing a classic game reprinted but I'm a lot more excited by a fresh, new design. Unfortunately, since the design paradigm has shifted so much to the Euro style, most designers getting published are doing that sort of thing.

AT games day in the sun is over. FFG is not releasing classic AT games, they are picking up the parts of AT that are worthy of reuse, and fusing them with the best of euro design.

I disagree here. Some of their games are practically already classics! These are the games that 20 years from now people are going to be talking about and remembering. Of course, only time will bear that out but I'm pretty confident about making a prediction.

As far as repetition and homogenity, Look at some of the more distant AT classics- A&A, SHOGUN, FORTRESS AMERICA...every one of them can be said to be RISK derivative. It's rare to see something REALLY different and cutting-edge (like COSMIC ENCOUNTER or MAGIC). But those too, are the games that shift paradigms.

The sum of it is that I think we're on the same page- old is good, but new can be better.

Shellhead said...

Barnes: It's crucial to young people into the hobby or else all these middle agers are going to be DEAD and there won't be a hobby left.

This is the exact same crisis facing the comic book industry right now. DC and Marvel abandoned the younger readers to focus on the middle-aged ones with more money to spend. In the process, the Big Two are losing an entire generation of fans, and possibly the entire future of their industry. To make matters worse, DC and Marvel have responded to the crisis with more of the same, churning out decompressed, over-priced, crossover-laden crap targeted at the same middle-aged fans.

I am hopeful that companies like FFG and Days of Wonder and maybe even Asmodee can help lead the game industry back towards the AmeriTrash fun, and away from the dry efficiency evaluations of the Euros.

pbwedz said...

My bad, by Risk++ and Caylus++ I am refering to non exsitant games that are simply redone versions of risk and caylus. the ++ is throwback the computer language c and its upgraded version c++. Sorry for the confusion.

Ah, get it. It's been awhile since I looked at C++...

Hm, I would think a new version of Risk would do well. There has been a few version published over the years.

Die Säulen der Erde is similar to Caylus on a high level and is doing well. I would think a Caylus++ would still do well in the market.

So even now that I get your point, I still can't agree. :)

robartin said...

Killing a player in FoD has a big enough minus attached to it. I think removing a player would just throw a game to the Drac player in many cases...
Without getting too off topic here, FoD has been a seminal game since the 80's even with its inclusion of player elimination. The new edition got rid of player elimination because it's become such a bad word among the Euro crowd.

Speaking as someone who has played the original multitudes of times and the new one quite a few, getting rid of player elimination has not improved the experience. There is still plenty for an eliminated player to do even after they are killed off. It's a cooperative game after all! Even Knizia realized that you need some kind of real threat in a cooperative game. Lord of the Rings, arguably his masterpiece, features player elimination.

I guess my point is that while it's a good thing to modernize game designs, AT designers should not necessarily look to the rules governing Eurogames as a mantra. These are two very different genres whose fans are looking for different things out of their games.

bourbaki said...

I am waiting for Caylus#.

pbwedz said...

The new edition got rid of player elimination because it's become such a bad word among the Euro crowd.

Really? Was that a comment from the designer?

Speaking as someone who has played the original multitudes of times and the new one quite a few, getting rid of player elimination has not improved the experience. There is still plenty for an eliminated player to do even after they are killed off. It's a cooperative game after all! Even Knizia realized that you need some kind of real threat in a cooperative game. Lord of the Rings, arguably his masterpiece, features player elimination.

Ok, but I didn't argue that point. I only said that with the way the game is published today:

1) PE does not happen a lot in FoD in my games at least.
2) PE, IMHO, would throw the game to Drac in many cases when it does occur.

Michael Barnes said...

I hear that CAYLUS X is going to be more "in your face" with a "get bizay" attitude...

Wargamer66 said...

Michael Barnes said...
I hear that CAYLUS X is going to be more "in your face" with a "get bizay" attitude...

Dude, Philip the Fair stole from Jews and expelled them from the France, he is already edgy.

Giving it a Vichy retheme might update it though!

Mr Skeletor said...

I too must voice my disagreement here.
The problem is M you speak of game design as a rigid thing set in stone with strict guidelines. It isn't Design by it's very nature is a moving, flowing and evolving thing. Just because modern ameritrash doesn't use resolution tables and or player elimination or pinches some idea off Euro designs doesn't mean it's no longer ameritrash - it's the sum of all its parts that counts.
It's like claiming Rock is dead because someone threw synthesizers in.

Malloc said...

Mr. Skeletor

what I was saying is that AT is not about re-hashing onld games. It is about designing new games that use mechanics that are taboo in euro design.

I would love to see a new game use a CRT if a table would make combat more interesting. I would love for a game to have player elimination and not drag players who are out along or constantly slow down the leader.

By Dead I mean that with the exception of FGG amd sometimes DOW most designers are locked into the euro design mindset.

-M

Bobcore said...

So it's OT, but just wanted to say I'm glad to find an alterate to the stupid shitheads on BGG who felt it was their personal goal in life to SHIT on every post with anyone attributed to the "Ameritrash" label. Maybe now I can get the straight poop on the games I got and am looking at. And yes, I said SHIT! I might even say cunt to if you push me.

hughthehand said...

Wow....GREAT discussion, with a ton I agree with.

I'm probably one of the few eurosnobs here, and I wholeheartedly agree with malloc on this: I DON'T WANT TO BUY CAYLUS++.

I really enjoy Caylus. Pillars of Earth is also great. Now I've been there done that. I will continue to play them, and love them. But...DON'T do it again. Create something unique, don't rehash or add on. There is only so much of the same shit I can take.

I was about to quote one of Michael's paragraphs from his first post on this, but really I agree with the whole f'ing thing.

Especially how he explains this: "Have you ever wondered why there's rarely anyone under 20 years old at game events?"

I'm not an AT fan, but he has a most valid point. Back in the day I was playing A&A, Talisman, Risk..blah blah blah. But can I picture myself playing Caylus or PR back in my highschool days? Hell no. I was into what AT is all about. My tastes have changed now. And don't take that as me saying "I'm grown up and I my game choices are far superior than yours."

They are not. I just prefer euros now. Plain and simple.

I also think AT's day in the sun is most definitely NOT over.

Days of Wonder is trying its damndest (is that a word)in creating some great cross overs. Cleo and the S. of A. being one. I hadn't thought of it as AT until someone gave me a clear position on why it is more AT than euro.

If anything I think AT is really just getting started.

On a side question: Since DoW have been doing mostly AT type games, what is your guys take on their upcoming Colosseum? If anything this game seems a radical departure from what they have been doing. This game looks all euro to me, and judging by the designers' past, it only seals the deal. Thoughts?

hughthehand said...

oh ya...I LOVE the term Ameritrash. I wish we eurosnobs had a kewl name.

Michael Barnes said...

Have you guys seen that joker on BGG talking about how AT seems to be a "post-Euro" phenomenon and he's arguing that AT should stand for "Archetypical games"? Hang on a second...had to turn off my bullshit detector.

At any rate, after all the dismissal and discrediting is done from the Eurosnoot camp, what remains as fact is that AT stands to really change the hobby, breaking it out of the Eurogame stagnation it's been in since at least 2002-2003. When I hear the sorts arguments against leveled against AT over BGG, it just reminds me of how trad-rockers used to say that The Ramones couldn't play their instruments or that the Velvet Underground is just noise...yet here were these street urchins making music that would define the next 30-40 years of rock n' roll- in many ways by going back to the well and stripping it down and away from the "elegance" and "sophistication" of 70s soft rock, disco, and the post-hippie singer/songwriter morass. So yeah Hugh, AT is really just gettin started...I think there's going to be some really interesting things happening over the next couple of years in game design- both in Europe and the US, and around the world.

Coliosseum- a really pretty game, isn't it? After BATTLELORE everyone thought they were getting away from this kind of thing...strangely, it isn't nearly as family-friendly as their other Euro issues. Read between the lines and although the rules and mechanics are different you're doing the exact same thing you do in PRINCES OF FLORENCE...just because you're putting on spectacles doesn't mean it's all that different from building works. It's fundamentally the same game with new rules and a new theme. And really awesome looking components.

I'd rather play CIRCUS MAXIMUS.

hughthehand said...

Unfortunately I have not played PoF. Sad for a euro gamer isn't it? So I'll have to check both of them out. I only read a little on Colosseum, but the designers are at the top of my favorite list, that is why I brought it up.

Anyway...you need to start a metal post. I just typed something here on another thread mentioning Testament. I recall you saying you are really into metal.

We must discuss!

Michael Barnes said...

One of my first concerts as a whelp was Testament with Nuclear Assault and Savatage.

Oh, there'll definitely be something exploring the links between AT and metal soon...count on it!

Regarding PoF/COLOSSEUM...just play COLOSSEUM...you'll feel a lot less like a cranky old man while you're playing it, if only because there's more colors in the game than brown and darker brown.

TheRankO said...

Holy crap! With that kind of crazy talk, Hughthehand is giving Eurogamers a good name. He even used the word "shit"!

It's almost enough to make one go back to BGG...

bohemian said...

You gotta admit, it's the cross polination that's going to strengthen both genres. Give me the theme of AT and the streamlined, intuitive rules of the Euros and I'm sold. This is where a game like Memoir '44 (and, presumeably, Battlelore) really succeeds.

hughthehand said...

I'm with you on your first sentence, depends on the theme in your second sentence, and not so sure on the third.

MM44 yes. Battlore...way more AT than MM44. I'm not sure if the euro fans, like myself, are playing because of shiny eye syndrome or because the game really is great. Time will only tell. I think once the expansions start rolling out is where you will see the true fans, and I think they will mostly be AT peeps.

And yes I said shit. You should see one of my other posts here...I said fuck multiple times. I broke a sweat just typing it.

Here is probably another weird thing about me. There are quite a few of the "classic" euro games that I have not played. Here are a few:

Princes of Florence
El Grande
Tigris & Euphrates (sp)
Goa
Traders of Genoa

All of which I do want to play, just haven't yet.

Michael Barnes said...

What the FUCK is wrong with people in this hobby? It's like it's dominated by overgrown manchildren can't bear irony or satire because they got picked on throughout their formative years...so now we've got these people who just can't stand the literalist, completely non-ironic negative connotations that the word "trash" has.

Robartin just sent me some of these..."Amerifun", "AmeriCool", "Ameriexperience", "Amerijewel"...I'm pretty convinced the hobby's going completely in the toilet if somebody doesn't do something. Anything.

If you feel the need to offer an "alternative" name, chances are you're just not getting it.

Back to the punk thing..."punk" was a derogatory term...do you think Iggy Pop or Stiv Bators ever said "Gee guys, I don't like the negative connotation that word has..."

Of course, now that the word refers to everything from Green Day to Avril Lavine...

Ken Bradford said...

"We're gonna take you back
through the pages of the past
Just another lonely boy
I could laugh and play
and live in any other way
Then the devil took my soul
The fortune and the fame
I knew I was not the same
and I know I'd never return

Looking at the sky
I know I would never die
And forever shining through
Wish the sky would say
that blue would turn to grey
and I know I'd be there

Life was like a fantasy
taken by reality
Does anyone remember me
You once knew me
Flashes of the day
I knew I was here to stay
But no one stays the same

Turn the pages back in time
through the chapters in my mind
Life's too short to leave behind
It's to late know
Life was like a fantasy
taken by reality
Does anyone remember me
You once knew me

Flashes of the day
I knew I was here to stay
But no one
knows my name"

pbwedz said...

Days of Wonder is trying its damndest (is that a word)in creating some great cross overs. Cleo and the S. of A. being one. I hadn't thought of it as AT until someone gave me a clear position on why it is more AT than euro.

I agree about DoW and I think they are putting some great games out there.

But CatSoA an AT game??? What was his position? I would consider it an Euro much more than AT.

No PE, min use of dice, simple rules and short lenght. Where is the AT parts?

I really consider it a simple version of Ticket to Ride. Just take TtR, remove the board and dest. cards and just build trains for points and you are more than half way to CatSoA.