Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Impossible Dreams


CNN ESPN ABC TNT but mostly B.S.
Where oxymoronic language like
"virtually spotless" "fresh frozen"
"light yet filling" and "military intelligence"
have become standard.

- "Television, the Drug of the Nation" by the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy


Let's name-check some games. Tempus. Mare Nostrum. Antike. Vinci. What do these games have in common? They're all civilisation building games that clock in at on or around a two-hour play time and don't burden the players with excessive rules. They are examples, and not the only examples, of what's become something of a design grail - the "civ-lite" game, a fast playing yet satisfying game that includes the basic blocks of the classic Civilisation - economic management, technology trees, exploration and warfare.

None of these games gets raved about. Indeed of the four (and I think I've picked the four most popular games in this category) only Antike matches (actually slightly exceeds) the original Civilization in terms of rank on boardgamegeek. Not that boardgamegeek rank is a particularly good determinant of quality, as I've discussed before but it's interesting to note that Antike is exactly the sort of game BGGers tend to go for while Civilization isn't. Yet they both rate reasonably well, which to me speaks volumes about how good Civilization actually is. Another classic empire-building game that no-one would accuse of being civ-lite, Twilight Imperium, ranks a good 40 places above them.

The reason that none of the civ-lite games has made a massive impact on the collective conciousness of the boardgaming community is that while they might be good games in their own right, they are seen by most as failing when it comes to being a civilization game. They're just not right it seems, they're missing some indefinable component that makes a great empire-building game. So the designers go back to their drawing board and gamers wait with baited breath for the next attempt at this semi-mythical game style.

I reckon that what's missing from these games is far from indefinable, indeed I'd go so far as to say it's blatantly obvious. They're missing two things - a sense of epic scale and the feeling of micromanaging aspects of your growing empire. In order to get these two things you need firstly to be playing a long game and secondly be playing a game with enough rules to make micromanagement an aspect of the game play. In effect what I'm saying is that the goal of the civ-lite game is oxymoronic, impossible - you can't have a game that feels like Civilization unless it's approach Civilization in terms of length and complexity. To go back to my opening quote the games are attempting to be "light yet filling". Hence Twilight Imperium works, Tempus doesn't.

While I was at pains in my last post to emphasise that I thought the basic approach to designing eurogames - that they should extract maximal play from minimal rules - was highly laudable it seem to me that in the rush onto the euro bandwagon we've forgotten things. We've forgotten, primarily, the awesome sense of satisfaction that can be achieved from winning a long battle, full of cunning twists and turns. Now that I have a family I don't find much time to play games and I'm really, really glad that when I get the chance to game I can pull a couple of euros off the shelf and get a satisfying game experience in whatever short space of time is available to me. But I still find myself yearning to have the chance to sit down and get completely absorbed in a six, seven or eight hour marathon of a classic like Titan or Diplomacy. Eurogames have never scratched that itch and they never will.

What I'm driving at here is a rejection of all those people who say that the fast yet absorbing games that come out of the euro movement have made older, longer and more complex games obsolete. There's something in more drawn out, difficult games that attracts gamers, call it a sense of scale, a momentous feeling that euros can't and won't ever capture. Indeed I think this is the reason that in recent years we've seen something of a backlash with the release of games like Twilight Imperium and Descent that can be played for hour after hour after hour - and the eventual resurrection of the ameritrash movement. We must make a distinction here between long games which are filled with meaningful decisions and requirements for strategy and long games which eventually tend to boil down to luck. The recognition that the latter style had come to dominate gaming in the late eighties and their subsequent removal and eventual replacement with long games which include euro-style mechanics to keep play interesting is something else that we can and should thank the euro movement for.

I'm not sure that many of the gamers who complain about games on the basis of length and complexity aren't really trying to do anything other than convince themselves that these games are bad just because they no longer have time to play them. Personally I've had to admit to myself that I'll probably never, ever get to experience Twilight Imperium - but it doesn't mean I don't want to, and it makes me sad to think that that's the case. C'est la vie.

92 comments:

mads b. said...

I think Gheos is a fine example of a civ-lite game that both plays fast and gives a good feel of empire-building. I know it's a quite abstract game about gods vying for power and not really a game about building a civ, but somehow it feels like one anyways. I think the thing Gheos does right is that it focuses on one aspect of civ-building - the changing lands, migration and constant shift in power. Thus it gives me a nice feeling of really being a god trying to help and punish civilizations even though it's still very abstract.

Michael Barnes said...

"Civ-lite" is impossible, and games like GHEOS and TEMPUS only serve to support the argument that it just can't be done without a sense of scope...this is why THROUGH THE AGES really succeeds for me where these others have failed- and it's _still_ a 3-4 hour game that can hardly be called "lite". But it does have the feeling of progress and growth that pretty much define the genre. Here's the catch- it's actually pretty damn "Euro" too, what with its core mechanics centered on card drafting, resource management, and efficiency planning. But it also has an epic span, conflict, and a feeling of development that is missing from "Civ-lite" games.

Do we even _need_ a "Civ-lite" game? I don't think so...I'd rather play a game of Tresham's masterpiece over 4-5 sessions than a 90 minute game of TEMPUS. A Civ game _needs_ a long enough playtime to impart a sense of historical narrative and development- these Eurofailures abstract things down to the point where the civ theme is meaningless. TEMPUS is probably the most egregious offender here with its nameless, pointless technologies. Contrast it to 7 AGES, which wasn't entirely successful but it nonetheless features a great deal of detail and specificity (the Jesus chit is a particular favorite).

Haven't talked about MARE NOSTRUM yet so I may as well while I'm here...it's actually probably the closest thing out there to recapturing (and refining) the classic CIVILIZATION. It doesn't have the huge "all of history" feeling but it does have a lot of similar trade and development mechanics...it's one of the best games of the past 10 years, don't let the Euro crybabies who played once and lost trick you into thinking that the game isn't "balanced" or that it's "broken".

Patrick H said...

I took a hiatus from board gaming for most of the 90's and well, most of the newest century as well. Having said that I am unfamiliar with short games as the ones I used to play were either wargames (which can take hours just to get an idea of who is coming out on top) rpg's, miniature wargames and you classic AT dicefests.

All of these games typically would eat up plenty of time on the clock and in some cases would take a couple of days. There were some games which were shorter however I never felt as though I was making enough tough decisions.

Fast forward and take a look at TI3 - this is a game I would love to try out but at this point in life just trying to get enough time to break open a box of anything to play quickly is hard. I will probably be able to set aside some time for Tide of Iron which I will pickup when in comes out and gather some old friends for some tank blasting grog-lite fun. The point I'm making is that any game that attempts to evoke strong theme and really immerse the player in a world where a titanic struggle is the main focus truly does need to wind the clock.

Unfortunately with time being a factor these types of games may not get as much play from me as they might have 10-20 years ago. I would be more satisfied if I picked up TI3 and played it twice with 3-5 others than playing something less involved many times more. I might spend the same on more frivolous one off entertainment in one night that it would cost for the box of TI3 thus justifying the expense just for a couple of nights in my opinion.

Time factor is essential to achieve scale and scope - nothing like watching the sun go down and your less hardy opponents getting tired and sloppy.

Beware my StormMeeples.

Michael Barnes said...

Oh yeah...I can't believe Thrower quoted Disposable Heroes...wow!

Of course, being the music snob here I prefer the earlier version on the Beatnigs record...

Ken Bradford said...

This is a dangerous thing...I have been guilty of it myself and have struggled with it in the past. Looking at days-upon-days-upon-weeks long wargames and wondering, "Who has TIME for that?!"

At the same time, being indignant when someone asks the same question about Twilight Imperium. Eventually, the hypocrisy hit me.



It's like Carlin says....everyone driving slower than you is an moron, and everyone driving faster than you is a idiot.


"Why won't this moron get out of the way!"

*ZOOOM*

"Did you see that idiot?!"

Matt Thrower said...

Oh yeah...I can't believe Thrower quoted Disposable Heroes...wow!

I'm firmly of the opinion that somewhere around 95% of all hiphop is quite unbelievable garbage, but the remainder hits harder than anything else out there. Wu-Tang, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill are particular favourites.

A blog post from me about the use of unusual music as theme songs for AT games - including hiphop - is in the pipeline.

Patrick H said...

The thing is I don't think that wargames have ever tried to put a timer on the games. The struggles being simulated either were, or were intended to be epic. As such they are meant to be played out until completion. If it took a whole day then you were lucky.

With the board game mentality there is a definite concern on time that as a wargamer I just don't get. I do realize that the majority of gamers don't subscribe to this but you start to see where it goes with immersion when you attempt to play out a game of TI3 or any of the aforementioned games. If you try to "get in a couple" or "It's gotta finish by supper" or the hated "my girlfriend/wife will be calling in a couple of hours" with an epic game then you are just asking for trouble. This is where the most negative comments stem from that I have read about over at that other site (well also the dice...).

It is an oxymoron to try to trim down epic into "lunch time fun in a box".

Shh quiet... the meepleshirts are coming...

Patrick H said...

Ice Cube still rocks.

Malloc said...

Ahh the old holy gail.... Civ Lite.

Matt

once again I think you nailed it. Do we need a Civ-lite? Or, should we be making plans to play a longer, better game.

I know that 4 hour games are completely doable. Most game sessions I attend are at least this long. So thos who say they don;t have time for a medium length game are folling themselves. Also the Idiots out there who claim that playing 4 60 min games in that time is better, should go see someone about the ADD. They have medication for that these days.

All I can say about the big games and having a familiy is that you have to work for it. That means scheduling a weekend in advance. I find that if i di this I can get games like CIV and TI3 ont he table. My B-Day TI3 games was a good example. It takes more work but it can be done. And all of a sudden my game group of 40 min euro lovers has one of those eye opening moments about what a good game is. All of them are asking to play again. This week we even have them ready to try out Titan! Civ itself has been mentioned. Good times on the horizon.

But it takes effort, at least to get the ball rolling.


-M

robartin said...

Part of the problem is this "I don't have time" mentality.

Everyone has time once or twice a year to treat themselves to a long, rewarding game. It's simply a matter of whether you choose to rake the leaves on a Saturday or blow it off and do something memorable with your day. Yes, I am a parent so I understand the demands that places on time, but come on. Every gamer can find one day in an entire year to devote to one of these great games.

One day spent playing Diplomacy or Civilization with good friends is worth ten days playing a bunch of short games you'll never remember.

Shellhead said...

Reason #35 Why I Won't Play Boardgames with EuroGamers anymore:

Pathetic attention spans.

Give me one good, solid game that can only be played in an afternoon, or even a full day of gaming, and I will totally get into it.

But if I have to sit through an afternoon of 45-90 minute games, it's actually very annoying. Bad enough that we're wasting time on set-up and clean-up of each game. Bad enough that we waste even more time choosing the next game because so many EuroPlayers communicate in a passive-aggressive manner.

But the breaking point is that we need to teach somebody the rules to at least half of the games, because of the short life-cycle of the typical EuroGame. If their games are so great, how come they only play each game a few times before discarding it for the next Euro fad? Yeah, I'm looking at you, Pillars of the Earth.

I'm hosting another boardgame day this coming Sunday, and I'm sorely tempted to push hard for a game of Divine Right. That's right, at least 8 hours of cardboard empires rising and falling, gaining and losing allies and smiting the barbarians. Hell yeah.

Michael Barnes said...

The time issue is just bullshit, straightforward...I'm sick of people saying they "don't have time" to play a 3 (or even 2) hour long game but then they'll play PILES of Eurogames in one night. I can't believe I still hear this argument from people who game 7-8 hours a week. This kind of thinking has really done a number on game design since everyone feels like they have design these 45 minute long games now.

The problem, ultimately, isn't really time...it's commitment. Most gamers, for all their supposed "sophisitication" and their desire to play "sophisiticated" games want instant gratification- they don't want to take the time or make an effort to play longer or more complex games (like Civ-style titles). They want the truck stop hooker, not a soul mate. They want to open a brand new game and be playing it in 10 minutes, done in 90. Next!

Like Malloc's fabled birthday game shows, if you get a bunch of like-minded folks together, say "here's the rulebook", and sit down with a little work (if you can call it that) in preparation for the game it's no big deal. And the rewards are GREAT.

Manolito said...

I'm often surprised that many people who find 3-4 hours games too long are often the same people who play four or five euros in the same evening or encounter ! This is one of my "concern" about euro. When I buy a game, i expect it too last, I expect to play it again in 10 or 20 years and still don't feel like i'm through with it.

I was recently disappointed by "Jenseits von Theben", which looks like a good game. And it's not bad, really. But they "managed" to keep it "simple", "playable in 1 hour" and "rules can be explained in 5 minutes". So that the game seem like very poor compared to the great heavy, thematic game it could have been... You play it once, twice... OK, you're through with it, you know that all the games will be the same... I don't think i'll ever meet that problem with "Arabian tales" or "Arkham Horror" that I know for 20 years or so ! Yet, "Jenseits..." is sold about 40 euros (the money), and you could buy some seriously "heavier" game for that price !

STILL I must say that I'm not a fan of "too long" games. Four hours is OK, but, if once you really know the rules well, games still last 6 or 8 hours, I must confess that i give it up. I feel like it's Ok to spend one afternoon or one evening playing a game. But more... It becomes a bit creepy to me ! I guess that's why I'm not too much in wargames. Great Battles of History is a loveable game, but it can really last much too long for me !

Anyway, I agree with this text : I expect my games to be heavy, I want to be taken away in one long epic game... That's one more reson why I love the so-called ameritrash games !

Matt Thrower said...

Four hours is OK, but, if once you really know the rules well, games still last 6 or 8 hours, I must confess that i give it up.

I concur - around 3 hours is my ideal game time. Enough to generate some epic feel but not enough to require extended chunks of commitment that I don't have. That said I'd also agree with Robartin that it's entirely worthwhile to arrange a couple of big sessions in the year just to fit in the monster games.

Shellhead said...

Most multi-player boardgames end with one winner and several losers. Is it possible that the EuroPlayers can't handle the possibility of commiting to a long game and then losing? By playing a bunch of short games, they increase their chances of winning at least one game that day. Even if they don't win any of the short games that day, perhaps the losing streak is obscured by the sheer variety and quantity of games played.

Manolito said...

Yeah, I guess europlayers don't sound like very good sport most of the time.

All the "game balance" and "too much luck/dice" stuff seem to come from this. "Ho, I lose a "Mare Nostrum" game, that's because the greek player is not strong enough." Or "I'm concerned about the action dices in "War of the ring" because they ruined MY very precise long term strategy that, i'm sure, would have led me to complete victory"...

It seems to me that ameritrashers are more about enjoying the immersion in a fantasy world or in an adventure with epic proportions. I'm a game fan, and yet, I just don't give a damn about who wins or does not win... I guess it must come from my role playing game background...

Michael Barnes said...

Is it possible that the EuroPlayers can't handle the possibility of commiting to a long game and then losing?

I've heard this argument in person as well as on BGG over and over again- "what fun is a 4 hour long game if you lose?" Nonsense.

Manolito is a rare type of gamer these days...he wants games to have _longevity_...he understands that the great games are great 20 years from now. He also makes a good point about length- some games _are_ too long.

It's really a function of the game's depth, immersion, and complexity...this is why I despise most 2-3 hour Euros, yet I'd gladly do a 2-3 hour game of TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS or ARKHAM HORROR. The thing is, Euros are ironically best when they're 45-60 minutes- beyond that and the time commitment has outstripped your return on investment. Some games are worth 4 hours, others aren't. A game with no narrative or atmosphere is _never_ worth 4 hours.

As far as hip hop goes...you'll get a lot more gamers listening to Enya than Public Enemy, I'm afraid...yes, believe it or not there is good hip hop- Public Enemy, NWA, Ultramagnetic MCs... If you've heard it on the radio in the last 15 or so years, it's not good hip hop. If it's from New York 1981, it's more than likely good hip hop.

I can't imagine most gamers listening to NWA..."Straight Outta Compton" might make their asthma flare up.

TheRankO said...

Excellent observations all around.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but personally I'm not a big fan of this new "menu" approach to boardgaming -- describing games as "openers," "closers," "fillers," etc. These terms -- which almost make me as nauseous as the word "meeple" (gak) -- seem to be part and parcel of the quantity-over-quality approach to gaming that is predominant these days.

Anonymous said...

Why is the Ameritrash 'movement' considered a 'backlash' rather than a 'development'?

Seems to me that eurogames reopened the market and ameritrash type games are a natural expansion of the market. Why do you guys insist on referring to the genres as being in opposition? Seems to me that they're quite symbiotic.

Patrick H said...

"Ameritrash" games came first.

Nonamnon said...

There are some fantastic comments here.
The 'lack of commitment' argument is really the best remark I have read concerning this.
I, too, fail to understand why so many people will watch hours upon hours of television, drool over so much of the dreck they call movies these days, and yet balk to spend those hours locked in combat with one another. It is a travesty, really.
I am often guilty of playing the quick Euros, and admittedly enjoying many of them, but that often stems from the crowd I have on hand.
When I can pull from my stable of hardcore gamers, then the TI3's, the Dune's, etc come to the table.
And those are glorious days.

Michael Barnes said...

Yeah...I don't get this "openers"/"closers"/"fillers" business either...I particularly don't get "fillers". If we have 15-20 minutes between games, do we HAVE to fill it with gaming, let alone some half-assed little bottom-burp of a game? We usually have (shudder) conversations between games- USUALLY NOT EVEN ABOUT GAMES OR GAMING!

All this talk about how little "time" gamers seems to have is further baffling, because if your time is in such short supply that you have to carefully ration it out to make room on the schedule to play 30 minute games then for gods' sake don't waste it on gaming! Go outside, spend time with your family, have a good cup of coffee or read a book. You'll get a hell of a lot more out of those pursuits than playing TICKET TO RIDE.

Patrick H said...

I agree 100 %. These days it's more a problem of finding the people and the time without having to make a serious pitch.

Patrick H said...

After having invested some serious hours being involved and immersed in a struggle involving treachery and varying degree's of violence in epic proportions - down time was where we would spark one up and pop a few cans and discuss what went wrong. Sometimes this would take hours.

I was presented at my last game meet with just such a situation where I was involved in a "short" game merely to pass the time before the next "short" game and was utterly disappointed. As a matter of fact I went home early because the game I wanted to join had started while attempting to understand card ranking of this "Lite" game.

If anything I have a more solid understanding of what "Lite" gaming really is now - a fucking waste of my time.

Hell, to me Zombies!! is a lite game and that usually chews up 2 hours.

This is not to say that short games have no legs just that if you really want an engrossing experience you have to pay for it with time (and cash for all the really cool components).

Anonymous said...

Is Chess ameritrash or euro? How about Go? Mancala?

Hmmm... Abstracts with a pasted on theme, very few rules... Sorry, looks like euros came first.

Ken Bradford said...

Go and Chess are abstracts. Even Euros try to achieve more theme than they do.

Patrick H said...

I think you are missing the point. Let's not get into a pissing contest of where chess originated and in which century. By your argument then craps is the natural father of AT dicefests and poker is the father of euro-card fun (excpet the luck factor has graciously been watered down).

Think Axis and Allies and now your heading in the right direction.

Malloc said...


Is Chess ameritrash or euro? How about Go? Mancala?

Hmmm... Abstracts with a pasted on theme, very few rules... Sorry, looks like euros came first.


Incorrect!

Pure Abstract games are not considered EuroGames. I would also lump in newer abstract games like the GIPF Project games and even some of the Ice house games.

These things are essentially themeless, and are pure mechanics. The flip side of this would be lumping comflict sims into AT.

So when someone here speaks of Euros they are refering to the style of games develpoed and made popular in the 90's. Not Ancient abstract games that have been passed down through the ages.

Now you may agrue that Euro's have more in common with Abstracts than anything else, but There are certain things found in both chess and Go that are very anti-euor. Like direct conflict and player elimination.

-M

Manolito said...

Eurogames such as we mean it today exist for a long time too... "Scotland Yard" was spiel des jahres 1983 for instance and was famous in Europe then.

I don't think it's very important to know who came first...

Patrick H said...

"I don't think it's very important to know who came first..."

Not unless you are between the sheets.....

Billy Z. said...

You know, when I sit down and give it some due consideration, I think this whole 60 min, 4 page rulebook,
cute wooden components business conjure up the idea of built-in obsolescence I associate with GW's current marketing strategy.

I can honestly say that some of the best years of my life were spent playing GW's greatist hits. I remember the time I skipped a full day of classes in college 'cause me and the guys at the FREE ZONE (gaming club) organised a fifteen player game of Talisman 2nd Ed, with all the expansions, that degenerated into one of the most bloodthirsty, cuthroat, insult filled sessions of gaming KNOWN TO MAN.

My ass still gets a bit sore when I think about all the reamings I took, and yet I cherish the memory to this day

I even remember passing on highly probable sex with my then new girlfriend/now current wife so I could "squeeze" in a five mission Space Hulk campaign a friend had designed. The very thought of passing up on nookie to play ANY Euro would have me shit myself laughing.

What's become of GW? They've become 40K selling pimps who understood that if you build it, hype it up, and strike from your army books in a few years... they WILL buy it.

How are most Euro's any different? For the life of me I can't undrstand what would drive someone to have 200+ collection of games, 90% of which is filled with Euro's that don't see the table more than once or twice a year because, " oh...well, THAT's just a differnt version of THIS-- but I just had to buy it!*giggle*"

Let's face it, the inconvenient truth about most Euro's is that their lack of involvement and scope generally guarantees that they will be forgotten as soon as the next "gamers game" comes out.

If the price of a memorable gaming experience is figuring out a system where an 6+ hour game can be played over a period of a few days, or even weeks-- I'm perfectly willing to pick up the tab every time.

Billy Z.

Matt Thrower said...

Seems to me that eurogames reopened the market and ameritrash type games are a natural expansion of the market.

Absolutely. Euros allowed designers to re-invent ameritrash games and for that, we owe them. I said as much in the original post.

I can't speak for others on the site but my personal beef with Euros is the way that you could be fooled into thinking that short, simple, mechanical games were the be all and the end all of the gaming hobby nowadays. I think it's about time some people starting singing the praises of longer, more complex, more organic and random games from the rooftops. That and perhaps more importantly pointing out that a small number of the best games from 10, 20 years ago are still well worth playing today. That's what my blog posts are all about - drawing attention to what's good about ameritrash style games and pouring scorn on some of the ideas that are seen as "good" by the Euro movement. The best games are the best games regardless of the philosophy behind their design - for me they include euros and AT and wargames and miniatures games. But reading a lot of modern gaming comment you'd think that euros were all there was and that anything older than ten years was trash. We're here to balance the scale.

On the whole "filler" etc thing, I actually find that food terminology quite helpful. A good game night for me is a 4-hour job. A half-hour of idle chitchat, followed by a quick, fun Euro like TtR:E as an appetiser then on to the main course - some 2-3 hour ameritrash game. Dessert is some short, mindless but exciting dice or card game such as Zilch (know as Farkle in the states, I believe).

mtlawson said...

About 10-15 years ago, I used to play Civ all the time. There were three of us who were regulars, and once in a while there'd be a couple more people who would play. There were no time constraints (no kids), so we could game all night.

Nowadays, we have managed to get some Civ in, but we had to be clever about it. One guy in particular used to spent waaaay too much time making decisions, so we decided to put a timer on each phase of the game. With that, our game turns improved and we were able to get more turns in.

When we know we won't have enough time, we play for an X amount of time (4 hours, for example). Of course, we end up playing a couple of extra turns anyway, but at least we try.

One alternative that I've not been that fond of has been to remove the Civil War calamity. I'm not fond of it since it's one of the calamities that brings a leader back to the pack, but it does shorten the game a bit.

Michael Barnes said...

The "planned obsolesence" is one of the main reasons Euro design is "stuck" now- over the past 10 or so years the genre has grown exponentially in popularity. And guess what that means? Higher demand. Higher demand for new product, which means the publishers are willing/able to produce more, which puts more strain on designers, who then have the additional pressure of acceding to percieved public demands for simpler, shorter games- even when the best sellers are games like WORLD OF WARCRAFT and TI:3. And the linchpin for all this success is games that have no depth or longevity. Feeding the fire is the "gotta catch 'em all" crowd that buys this shit. Which come to find out, is a pretty small percentage of people, but apparently enough to keep Rio Grande Games in business. So what we have is an industry based on middle-aged people buying what amounts to glorified childrens' games, playing them a few times, and then going out to buy the next one.

At some point, this will stop. It's stopping now. An insider that I had at the Gathering told me that some of the most vocal complaints about abstraction, lack of depth/complexity, and replayability were coming from _German game designers_.

I think even Days of Wonder has seen the writing on the wall- that's why they made the smart decision to market BATTLELORE as a system. You go into it knowing that it's not a one-time purchase, you're buying into a serial publication. So when COLLISSEUM comes out and flops once all the Euroheads realize that it's just PRINCES OF FLORENCE with a new theme they've got something to fall back on (along with TICKET TO RIDE). Does anyone even play SHADOWS OVER CAMELOT anymore, let alone CLEOPATRA?

What we've got right now is very much a games market built on gluttony- quantity over quality. It's the same thing that happens in any entertainment industry once popularity hits a certain point.

Taking it back to CIVILIZATION...you know, Frances Tresham hadn't had a game out in YEARS so he's likely pretty much missed this boom period altogether...he did REVOLUTION back in 2005 and you know what? It was a better, richer, and more sophisticated game than any given number of Hans Im Gluck titles...but it was also 4-6 hours long and extremely complex (not in rules, but in terms of decisions and strategies). And even I have trouble getting folks to play it. In fact, I've only played it once but that one play was one of the most satisfying games I've had in years.

Oh, and the game didn't sell worth crap...put a cute pirate on a box and I can sell 20 copies...put the Dutch Revolt on the box...zero. Sometimes I feel like the Beanie Baby crowd has moved on to board games.

Ken Bradford said...

NOT BILLY SPARKLES WROTE:

My ass still gets a bit sore when I think about all the reamings I took



TMI! TMI! CEASE AND DESIST~!





For the record, I still like Shadows Over Camelot, that was a big hit for my theme-hungry Ameritrash friends and still is. Cleopatra was definitely a misstep though--pretty bits with a boring "Build this!" theme.

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

I'm a bit late coming to the party so be kind please:

Agree with the Civ-lite discussion - the only one I like that was mentioned is Vinci, and I think that's because it's more a wargame with each people having different attributes to use to take out your opponents ... basically a direct conflict game.

I too seem to really enjoy longer games that you can put a lot of yourself into (immerse yourself) when playing and you don't really care who won sometimes. Only a few recent euro-ish games do that for me - Age of Steam, Power Grid, and Puerto Rico with a good crowd.
We had a 7.5 hour game of Blood Royale a couple of years back with four of us where we all got into it thoroughly and had a blast (rolling for extra children to try and kill the Queen in childbirth so to end the marriage contract that is stopping you from smiting someone!) and never noticed the time passing. And a game of Silverton that went for 6hrs with six of us that was enjoyed by all as we surveyed and built up our routes, mined our commodities and sold them on the market (using the spreadsheet aid on a laptop beside us to represent the stock exchange) and edged towards the cash finish line.
But then you can play with the wrong crowd who are just too quiet and slow and makes it excruciating playing that long game you have been looking forward too.

I'm lucky at the moment as our quite small gaming group has 3-4 of us who want to play longer games and a couple of the guys can host (grown up kids) so currently we have a long session every 3rd weekend with the odd stray bonus one thrown in. This has had the follow-on affect that I'm slowly selling off (or trading away) my euros that I no longer get any 'oh yeah' feeling to play again (becoming a large number) ... and picking up minis or conflict/theme based games instead :-)

Does it come back to a difference between people on this blog and dedicated eurogamers - we love games to be immersed in for the experience, while others may enjoy beating the puzzle wrapped inside the eurogame packaging ?

Jack Hill said...

My take on the long game is that they often don't really need to be that long.

Vinci is clearly a Euro take on History of the World. It loses the theme, but stays as a decent game. The Hasbro/AH History of the World IS an improved version. Carefully shaving off the excess without damaging the crunchy goodness.

Civ itself is old and actually kind of clunky. For such a long game, it is pretty hard to catch a leader unless someone completely falls on their sword. The trading round feels perhaps a bit out of place, especially when that Civil War card is floating around.

Mare Nostrum is IMHO an improvement on Civ. Attacking is more viable, trading still works, and the tech and resource tree is entirely functional. With the expansion, the theme works well.

I suspect the ratings difference between the two is because Eurogamers played Mare Nostrum because it was published by Eurogames. And it is a seriously AT style design.

Eurogames back catalog contains a lot of games that aren't very Euro. Serenissima is all trading and outright piracy. (With a nasty endgame flaw that needs some tweaking.)

Valley of the Mammoths is a work of art, being of insanely random length, arbitrary chaos, political incorrectness, and nekkid cavepeople.

There are a couple of odd empire / risk games that you would swear were American in origin. Except for all of the French words on the rules and things.

MWChapel said...

Michael,

I agree with you on Through the Ages. That just scratches that Civ itch for me. And that's considered by most euro-freaks a game that is too long and too much downtime. I disagree, and have not tired of playing it yet. Out of all of the recent "CIV-LITES" TtA is the only one that comes close to what I picture as one.

Manolito said...

Duccio Vitale and people from "Eurogames" were clearly influenced in the 1980s-1990s by american games. Bruno Faidutti (La vallée des mamouths) and Serge Laget ("Mare Nostrum") were huge fans of "Dune", "Civilization", "Cosmic Encounters", "Junta", "Warrior Knights", etc. These were THE boadgames back then... The guys from ludodelire (Full Metal Pla,et) and Eurogames were VERY influenced by american games made by Avalon Hill or english games made by Games Workshop, because nobody cared about german games back then ! German games only became important at the end of the 90s.

Eurogames "commercial hit" was then the brutal "Cry Havoc" light wargames (published originally in english by rexton), which are very american style ! Yet, it's true that at the end of the 90s, this generation of fench designers started to mix american and european things, creating something new, rather hybrid, like "Citadel" or "Mare Nostrum" : games with real themes, with luck, but using german mechanisms...

To me "Mare Nostrum" owes MUCH to "Dune" (6 civilizations, each one with special rules, rules for fight are quite light...). I'm not very fond of the "ressources" system anyway, that i find a bit boring (receiving and discardint the same cards every turn : boring !). But I have not played it much yet, so, I can't really tell...

Someone talked about Games Workshop : what happened to them is that, a long time ago, these guys were giving us hours and hours of gaming funtime for reasonably priced boardgames (Talisman, Dungeonquest, Battlecars (I love Battlecars so much more than Car wars), Warrior Knights, Space Crusade, etc.).

Then, their boardgames started to get more and more expensive, some of them were really badly made (Mighty Empires, Dark Future). I think i defintively gave up when "Blood Bowl III" was sold for about 500 francs (90 us dollars of today !) And then they gave up boardgames little by little to make only their mini games which became the opposite of what games Workshop used to be : insanely expensive games that you'll never have the chance to play because it takes much too long to paint your minis which are much too expensive to be bought anyway ! I think Games Workshop and Magic the gathering did much, much harm to the "ameritrash" market. In the early 80s, role playing games, wargames and boardgames were almost utopias : you could have hours and hours of fun with rather cheap games made of cardboards and papers... Magic and Warhammer were just the opposite... No wonder that euros arrive as a breath of fresh air then !

not billy sparkles said...

Ken Bradford said...
TMI! TMI! CEASE AND DESIST~!

TMI!?!?

That's nothing!

There was this one time where (a 9+ hour Civ session ended badly) when Warren went apeshit, pulled out Tickles, his pet gerbi---...

Ummm... yeah...you know what?

Never mind.

BACK OUR TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING!

Billy Z.

P.S: For those of you that are interested, I still have some pictures and stock footage of "the incident" that I'm selling at a low, low price.Call me. BZ

Patrick H said...

Magic and Warhammer were the death knell for me and gaming.

Malloc said...


Michael,

I agree with you on Through the Ages. That just scratches that Civ itch for me. And that's considered by most euro-freaks a game that is too long and too much downtime. I disagree, and have not tired of playing it yet. Out of all of the recent "CIV-LITES" TtA is the only one that comes close to what I picture as one


It is a shame that this game is not available here in the states for areasonable price. I wish I had someone pick it up for me at Essen, because I would love to try it. Any game that both Chapel and Barns rate well has to have something good in there. Thats like getting a good rating from Fire AND Ice.

-M

Michael Barnes said...

That's really a great point, Manolito- that Euros _were_ a breath of fresh air in the mid-late 1990s.

Some Michael Barnes history for you. Back in the early to mid 1990s, most of my board gaming was pretty sparse- my gaming time was taken up more by running epic CALL OF CTHULHU campaigns, piddling around with WARHAMMER 40k...and of course, playing MAGIC. Sure, we still did board games...AXIS AND ALLIES, TALISMAN, CIV- you know, the classics.

But eventually, as my friends all started into college/jobs/relationships time did get limited and 17-hour long games of DIPLOMACY were pretty rare. MAGIC was starting to lose its luster due the appearance of the nefarious Mr. Suitcase and the disappointment of both FALLEN EMPIRES and ICE AGE.

Enter the Euro.

We needed a new game to play. It was 1996, I had about $75 in my pocket, and I was at a Game Keeper. I picked up that terrible Gamewright HONOR OF THE SAMURAI and a game called SETTLERS OF CATAN that I knew nothing about- the guy at the store said it was like CIV. I thought it looked stupid.

So my gamer friends and I gave it a shot despite the lack of death and mayhem, and it was that breath of fresh air- here was a fairly easy yet deep and interactive game that avoided the capitalist crush of GW and WotC and the density of AH style rules...and we could play it a couple of times in a night. And we did...over and over again. I ordered the full German language set from the very young Funagain Games because the expansions weren't even in English yet and that probably extended the game's life another _year_ for us.

Now, over 10 years later and long after the excitement and exoticism of "German Games" has long since withered...there _still_ isn't a Euro as great and replayable as SETTLERS. There still hasn't been a single title that has really delivered on the Euro promise of offering all the pleasure and none of the pain like that game has (MARE NOSTRUM comes within a hair of it). What we have instead are a bunch of flash-in-the-pan "classics" like PUERTO RICO and CAYLUS. Can you imagine playing these games every sunday night for 2 years? Why would you when eventually you're pretty much playing the exact same game every time? Why would you when one session is almost completely interchangeable with another?

The reason that games like MAGIC, WARHAMMER, and classic AT games have had so much longevity is that they offer a lot of variety and a lot of that variety is dependant on the personalties, intellects, and creativity of the people you play with...most Eurogames offer an experience that could easily be duplicated by a number-crunching computer program.

I still believe that there is something of a "generation gap" between gamers...I'd bet most of us here- and indeed most gamers who prefer AT titles- have been gaming most of our lives and our hobby involvement predates SETTLERS. Contrast that to the influx of "newbie" gamers who get indoctrinated by one of these self-proclaimed game evangelists who snobbishly assume that anything more complex than CARCASSONNE is beyond the capability of a "non-gamer". Of course they're going to think a 2 hour game is too long, of course they're probably not going to have ever played CIVILIZATION.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine playing these games every sunday night for 2 years?

And this is the issue. You guys are looking for a game like this, I'm not. I get about two hours of gaming a week, if I'm lucky, usually playing a number of different casual gaming friends. We all have a good time, and the next week we might play the same game, or we might play something else, but it's all very laid-back and more about the social aspect than the depth of rules. Settlers is great, Ticket to Ride can be fun, Mission: Red Planet is a big hit lately, all of them 60 minute, rules light games that people can learn easily and have a good time with. Civilization is NEVER going to make it with this crowd. And a market that changes in the way you guys seem to want it to, ALL AMERITRASH ALL THE TIME, is going to lose our money.

We're looking for something different than you guys are. The problem is, you guys are equating this difference with some sort of deficiency on our parts, and it's just not true.

BagpipeDan said...

I like Antike. I think it's pretty damn epic while still being simple :(

Matt Thrower said...

There still hasn't been a single title that has really delivered on the Euro promise of offering all the pleasure and none of the pain like that game has

Oh I don't know about that. Citadels, Ra and Wallenstein/Shogun all look like they deliver the goods to me. My initial fumblings with RRT and T&E suggest they;ve got the potential to join that elite club.

That's still a fairly poor return on the hundreds, if not thousands of Euros published in the last decade though. Of course there's quite a number I've yet to play :)

Michael Barnes said...

Oh, whatever...look, how many times to we have to say WE LIKE EUROS TOO?

The problem, come to find out, is that Euros have pretty much dominated the hobby board game industry and community for the past several years and now the balance is being redressed. There needs to be BOTH 20 minute color-matching games and 4-hour long 4x space empire games. I have never stated otherwise and to my knowledge none of the writers here or followers/supporters of the AT ideal have made any comments to that effect.

It's absolutely fine to look for something different than what we look for...but we reserve the right to make fun of you for doing so- and that is completely reciprocal. How many times has an AT fan over at BGG been denigrated for "playing with dolls" or for enjoying games "marketed at teenagers"?

I think what you're really missing "Anonymous" is that there is a "hardcore" gamer, a "causal gamer", and even a "hardcore casual" gamer. And those three distinctions are found amongst fans of Euros and AT games alike. Me? I'm "hardcore casual". I'd say it's like "chaotic neutral" but I'm sure that would be lost a lot of gamers cutting their teeth on Euros.

Michael Barnes said...

Oh I don't know about that. Citadels, Ra and Wallenstein/Shogun all look like they deliver the goods to me. My initial fumblings with RRT and T&E suggest they;ve got the potential to join that elite club.

I dunno Matt...I love CITADELS, RA, WALLENSTEIN...even RRT. But I still feel like they fall short of what SETTLERS (particularly with expansions) gave us- that phenomenal sense of a paradigm shift that those games just can't muster. Those are games I'll break out every once and while but I'd still play SETTLERS every week. T&E...I'd still rather play ACQUIRE.

Thaadd said...

My .02 on the long games -
Take a food break 3 hours in. You will hate your other players less with passible levels of bloodsugar.

Pick people who understand how to balance boring silence and ChattyCathy tabletalk.

Don't try to force people to play. (I'm particularly bad with that). Glazed eyes on page 4 of the rulesbooklet is a good clue on this. Give them an easy out, or YOU will end up paying for it for the next 6 hours.

My preferred time length is actually about 3 hours. My regular boardgame group makes a nice roast or the like - we put it in at the beginning of the night, and it's done about the time we need to get up and move around some. Much cheaper than pizza, really.

I'm not a big one for the smaller games, but I'll happyily use them as a gateway to getting new players, then blow away someone's SO with TI3 or the like. (However due to GenCon I have now played enough Blue Moon City to last me a lifetime... 3 days straight, nearly all day. Oy.)

Anonymous said...

"Oh, whatever...look, how many times to we have to say WE LIKE EUROS TOO?"

Well, maybe it's the presentation of that sentiment:

"Why I Won't Play Boardgames with EuroGamers anymore:

Pathetic attention spans. "

"so many EuroPlayers communicate in a passive-aggressive manner. "

"Let's face it, the inconvenient truth about most Euro's is that their lack of involvement and scope generally guarantees that they will be forgotten as soon as the next "gamers game" comes out."

"What we have instead are a bunch of flash-in-the-pan "classics" like PUERTO RICO and CAYLUS. Can you imagine playing these games every sunday night for 2 years? Why would you when eventually you're pretty much playing the exact same game every time? Why would you when one session is almost completely interchangeable with another? "

"So what we have is an industry based on middle-aged people buying what amounts to glorified childrens' games, playing them a few times, and then going out to buy the next one. "

These are statements out of context, granted, but I think it illustrates what certainly comes across as the prevailing attitude about euros here.

TheRankO said...

I still believe that there is something of a "generation gap" between gamers...

And not just one generation gap, Michael. I'm about ten years older than you (I'm guessing), so Settlers remains a real Johnny-come-lately for me. In my mind, next to a game like Junta or Magic Realm, there's not a vast difference between Settlers and (for example) that abysmal bore-fest Notre Dame -- except that Settlers has dice going for it. (I did, however, play Starfarers for the first time last weekend -- now, THAT game is fun.)

But (if it has to be repeated over and f'ing over again for the likes of Anonymous) even with a bigger generation gap than most of you F:ATers I like some Euros, too: Citadels... Shogun... even Puerto Rico. Call me crazy, but the games just have to be good.

Michael Barnes said...

Well no shit, chief! Did you come here expecting a bunch of people patting each other on the back just for being into games?

If you did, you're in the wrong place...the folks here are critical of Eurogames and aren't particularly concerned with offending sensibilities if that's where someone else's involvement with the hobby lies. It's straight talk, and if saying "I think this game/style of game sucks" over saying "well, it's not my cup of tea" doesn't suit you then there's other sites that will cater to you.

So yeah, there is a prevailing attitude here and there's nothing wrong with that, no more than there is with you feebly attempting to challenge the majority here.

Call it "aggressive-aggressive" if you want...

Aldie said...

That's it Barnes, you're out.

Anonymous said...

I guess all I'm expecting is that you guys back up what you say. You don't, and it's my fault for having expected more, I guess.

Michael Barnes said...

Aldie- nice try. BANNED.

Anonymous- piss off. If you can't even give your name then how are you going to call us out for not backing up what we have to say? Further- you haven't bothered to really say _anything_ yet other than the typical "but I like these games" statement.

Patrick H said...

If the last 50 or so posts are not backing up a point then what does?

I thought the post was about trying to cram epic into a short story and how that fails but maybe I'm not euro-sensitized....

Michael Barnes said...

That is what this thread is about...condensing the epic battle between Ameritrash and Euro games into a 90 minute game...how'd I wind up as a wooden cube? :-(

jr said...

The weird thing is that I've almost started thinking of Settlers as not even a "Eurogame" anymore-- I think of the Euros as the VP calculation stuff like El Grande, Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, etc. Settlers seems just like another family game like Monopoly, I'm the Boss, etc. with dice, negotiation, etc.

That's sacrilege, I know, since Settlers was the first "Eurogame" that most people learned of.

From manolito's note that French games were often very Ameritrash, and seeing that many Italian games are either more Ameritrash-esque (e.g. Nexus games like War of the Ring) or Abstract (Colovini games), maybe "German games" was a better term than "Eurogames"...

Jack Hill said...

jr:

The VP calculation thing has gotten very old. And god save us from majority bonuses. But folks here seem to hate a lot of things that don't really fit that model.

Even the Americans are getting in on that fun.

The big problem is that the German industry is SO focused on the Spiel des Jahre. Winning it sells 100k copies of your game. Lots more than an expected 5k-10k sales.

That means that you really need to make games that target the 1hour, 2 -4 pages of rules and rather simple to play.

But you get the weird fringey companies that are not aiming at SdJ. They are doing some groovy things.

But even a lot of the Eurogamers haven't quite worked out that there are SdJ-aimed games and games for gamers.

Look at Friedemann Friese's games. He's totally not trying for SdJ. Not with a game where you collect shrunken Bert and Ernie heads, or try to have sex with all of the people at the table.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a bang-on post. I am usually a Euro player, and the fact that I'm married, have three kids and a career to worry about makes those days of 12 hour Civ games a distant memory. But there is something really satisfying about winning an intense, complex game. However, it can be a painful experience when you're doing poorly, as well.

ubarose said...

Fillers have their place. For example, tonight we were going to do a 5 player 90 minutes game, but my brother showed up late. We had a beer and started talking about the pickled punks museum with the 8 legged cow fetus and the two headed snake, and the time my brothers tossed a jellyfish and it landed on a girls thigh, and about Napoleons man parts and if they were pickled or dried, and the next thing we knew it was 10:30 p.m. and we only had time for a 1/2 hour game. So we pulled out Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.

So, it's not just the time commitment, it's also about herding together several players and getting them all on the same page, and not pulling the beer out right away. If you want to play a war game, you just need to find one other person willing to make a commitment. If you want to play a Civ game, you have to find 4 or 5 other people. I think Thaad has the right idea. You have to plan a day and include a nice dinner. A fully stocked bar, a comfortable guest room and the promise of homemade waffles in the morning also helps. However, even with a fully stocked bar, it's hard to convince people to play a 8+ hour game. I think 4 hours is about the limit.

I would like to see a 4 hour Civ game that scaled well with 2-4 players. The 2 player part is really important.

Mr Skeletor said...

Rome wasn't built in a day. It takes a whole weekend.

This time problem is bullshit. If you guys learned to keep it in your pants you wouldn't be so pressed for time.

Finally could posters pretending they are other people (I'm looking at you aldie) kindly fuck off.

Michael Barnes said...

Ubarose, you gotta try THROUGH THE AGES...it is _the_ 2-3 hour, 2-4 player scalable Civ game you're looking for...don't pay the exorbitant prices ($150+) for it right now...grapevine says it's been picked up by a US company! It's really a tremendous game. You'll dig.

Which ties into this comment:

But you get the weird fringey companies that are not aiming at SdJ. They are doing some groovy things.

Agreed 100%. There are some really neat indie games coming out of Europe- needless to say Czech designer Vlaada Chavtli's titles (TTA, PROPHECY, GRAENLAND) are really intriguing, very maverick designs far removed from the appease-the-judges SDJ fare. I don't much care for the Eggertspiel or Cwali titles but at least they're doing something different and as mentioned Friedmann does some cool stuff even if he does rely a little too heavily on tried and true Euro mechanics- at least his themes are nuts, even if fucking everyone at the table while strung out on heroin boils down to an auction.

Manolito said...

I think that it's true that, when I read posts by some eurogamers on BGG or the french trictrac.com forum, it really seems that they come from another planet. I've been gaming for 25 years and there's these guys, who are around for five years, who tell me that the games i've loved for years are crap because there's "too much luck", because "Dracula can't win" (which mean : "I've lost playing Dracula"), because "this game is not well blanced" (meaning "I've lost and it pisses me off"), "this game is too long", etc...

And one of the most annoying thing in it all is that these eurogamers sometimes spread lies about games. For instance : when there's luck in a game, it means that you don't really make choices. Luck decides for you. That's so not true at all !!! And of course you have the excuse : "in games with luck in them, you can lose or win on a simple dice roll" ; which happens very rarely in games, but eurogamers keep talking about this on and on, as if it happenned all the time !

Of course, all eurogamers are not like that ! I would even say that most eurogamers are not like that. Most of people playing these games are open-minded, willing to be involved in any kind of good games. Fortunately !

As far as generations are concerned I notice that many young players these days seem very interested in heavy american style games : War of the Ring, Arkham Horror, Marvel heroes, Twilight Imperium are much discussed and appreciated by a younger audience. I think there's a crowd of young players who are not too attracted to minis or card games these days, but who are still fond of fantasy, horror and adventure ; they enjoy these games and don't really care about euros...

As far as "european games" go : since the success of "Settlers...", french publishers and designers have started to produce games in the german style (Tilsit, Days of Wonder). Ystari is more "german style" than many german publishers ! Yet, Asmodée, for instance, produce games with a definitive "american" touch : Viking Fury, Mall of Horror... So everything is not so simple... But, yes, it's true, this genre come frome Germany, and it's just been imitated in the other countries, after the success of "Settlers"... In France, when we talk about "Puerto Rico" or "Tigris + Euphrat", we defintively call them "jeux allemands", not european games...

not billy sparkles said...

Hmmm... the only civ games I have ever played are Civ itself and TI3-- and I'm not sure I'd count that as a civ game

If you guys could only add two civ games to your collection, what would they would they be?

Why?

Billy Z.

Fellonmyhead said...

Another article that hits the spot, Matt; it's a pity it has to be spoiled by the subsequent euro-bashing.

Why? Because most eurogamers actually agree with what is being said. The concept of Civ-Lite is oft discussed; well I think we have it already in one of the games mentioned. It's just that expectations are too high.

In simpler words Civ-Lite does not equal Civ and never will.

hmocc said...

It's not just a question of Euro-bashing. I see it as crap games bashing.

For instance, Michael finds Settlers to be a good game whereas I find it pointless and boring. On the other hand he think TtRide (which I like) is rubbish and will say so, like he praised Settlers.

And what goes for Michael goes for the rest of the people here, I think.

In the end it all boils down to which games each of us considers good or bad, and why.

An this is directly influenced by everyone's gaming experiences and the people they play games with.

Regarding the Civ-lite genre, I guess attempts will be made, some more successful than others. I really like Mare Nostrum, but I haven't yet played other favourites like Antike, Vinci or Through the Ages.

Like I also haven't played Civilization or Diplomacy because it's bloody difficult to find the right crowd and time to do it properly.

Albert said...

Barnes... I don't even need to read your prose with my monocle fit to see you've got to be eating too much mayonnaise to compare this empty shell of a game with Camelot.
That being said, I agree that DoW is expert at making seemingly themed games that are totally pointless. Cleopatra IS the game you caricature, collecting various euro systems into a gratuitous exercise of boredom. If it gets a SDJ, than go ahead with your pickles.

Manolito: a factor about longevity is how many times you play the same game.
I do not know about the majority of gamers (after all, some people are just playing chess for all their lives), but after 20 or so games of anything except light and fast fillers, I am bored. So sure I am bored with PR, and I am not with TI3, simply because I played TI3 three times only because it takes that much time.
Here is how a typical game evening happens; first player arrives at 7, we play a game of hive or two; a second arrive at 7h30 and we play a game of Talluva or another 40 minutes game.
Finally at 8h30 everybody is there and we can play, but one of the player says he must leave early, so a 3 hours games is the limit, so we'll play one or two 1-2h euros.
Playing a game like TI3 requires that I warn everybody that we will do so, and that every body must reread the rules before coming. It needs more involvment for sure, which is surely not a "bad" thing, but which limits the number of times I lift that lid.
Yes, it is easier to play a few quick euros (or a nice nexus ops) that a single, longer game be it euro or not.
Back when I was a student, we would play marathon games like civ, spend 6 hours playing a silly Talisman game, but now it is not that easy anymore.


But back on the civ subject.
What civ-lite games are lacking IMO is caracterisation of the races/people you play.
There where many antique examples cited, so I'll stick to that; when there is no difference between playing the greeks and the egyptians other than positional advantage and very minor strength variation, it is not a civ game but a light strategic wargame.
I like them though, but I do not despair seing a light civ being published.
My problem with games like civilisation is that I am pretty sure I will not find players for an 8 hours marathon, it is already hard enough to find players for a TI3.
Splitting a game between sessions is not that easy.
I'll check Through the ages and see if it is a good 3-4 hours compromise, but I would really like a 2 hours games with a strong civ theme.

simon mueller said...

I'm 21 years old and I'm from Germany. I'm interested in old AH strategy games (wargames) and my best friend is an Ameritrash fan, so that's the two type of games we play with our other friends. We think Euros (with a few exceptions) suck.

It's no big secret in Germany that the "Spiel des Jahres" is coupled with a huge commercial success for the awarded company. You can actually read in the newspapers, how German game companies publish games for the sole reason to win SdJ. Most "new" Eurogames are designed to be something like Settlers, or TtR or generally "SdJ current year -1".

In my oppinion Ameritrash games and modern American wargames are meant to be something better: Nexus Ops the better Risk, TI3 the better Civ, Tide of Iron the better ASL, Bitter Woods 4th the better Battle of the Bulge. And that, I think, are improvements and those games will get played and will not be stuffed in a collection of 300+ games.

simon mueller said...

oh uh, I'm sorry fellow grognards, nothing's better than ASL ...

Patrick H said...

While I agree with Simon that ASL is one of a kind - who has the time to set up and play that sucker anymore. Also finding someone to play with was always a problem.

I like to get different people involved in gaming and Squad Leader (I actually never bought ASL)was more of a solitaire experience or I had maybe two people I could play with once in a while. This is the problem with heavy hex and counter wargames.

Tide of Iron I think will hit the spot although I see that their armor rules will need to be re-worked. It's just too simple right now.

Michael Barnes said...

Whoa...lots of good stuff to respond to-

Manolito strikes again!

And one of the most annoying thing in it all is that these eurogamers sometimes spread lies about games.

This is absolutely true. For all of their rhetoric about "all games are good/why do we need to categorize games/I just like games", I see this happening a lot. The thing is, comments like what you said are usually made by folks who might have tried to play an AT-style game once or twice and then decide to let the entire world know via the internet that the game is broken since they had a couple of bad die rolls. It's like this notion that CIVILIZATION and similar older/longer games are now somehow "unplayable"...just bullshit.

I notice that many young players these days seem very interested in heavy american style games

This is a signficant statement, and it's something I notice all of the time as well. I _rarely_ see anyone under 20 years old playing Eurogames- the market/player base is practically dominated by middle aged, middle class white men. The themes and mechanics in Eurogames appeal to that demographic it seems. Set up a game of TI:3 and a game of CAYLUS with high schoolers and it doesn't matter if TI:3 is three times as long or more complex- they'll go for it over a game that looks and plays like a flowchart. The reason this is significant is that the game industry HAS to appeal to younger generations in order to survive- it's a little extreme in concept, but it's not entirely impossible given the rise of MMORPGs and the mainstreaming of video games that this could be the last generation of hobby board gamers. Unless young gamers are actively courted and marketed to. How fucked up is it that games about cute penguins are marketed to 45 year old men, who in turn scoff at people buying games like CLUE and MONOPOLY? Sure, you can say that they're "family" games all you want but the reality is that the majority of these titles aren't played by families- they're played by middle-aged men on a day off from their families.

If you guys could only add two civ games to your collection, what would they would they be?

Agh...ADVANCED CIVILIZATION (ha- 2 in one there!) and TI:3 with SHATTERED EMPIRE expansion.

it's a pity it has to be spoiled by the subsequent euro-bashing.

Quit yer bitching...why is it a "negative" to be up front about what you like and don't like? That doesn't make any sense. Are you "surprised" that we're critical of Euros here or something? Come on, by now you know the tone and tack of AT-style discussion. Straight talk.

What civ-lite games are lacking IMO is caracterisation of the races/people you play.

This is a great point. Of course, COSMIC ENCOUNTER and DUNE are the touchstones for this type of game and the lack of this kind of concept is a HUGE part of what makes games like TEMPUS and ANTIKE fail- of course, the Eurogamer demands complete and total balance so special powers, abilities, and asymmetry would muck that up, wouldn't it?

You can actually read in the newspapers, how German game companies publish games for the sole reason to win SdJ.

Good comments all around Simon...but this was particularly compelling. Could it be that the Eurogame business is as commerical and heartless as say, the film or record industry?

TheRankO said...

...the market/player base is practically dominated by middle aged, middle class white men. The themes and mechanics in Eurogames appeal to that demographic it seems.

I have to throw the bullshit flag on that one, Barnes. The majority of Euro players I've met are well under 40. Predominantly male, yes, middle class, yes, white, yes, but hardly middle-aged. Most of the 40+year-old gamers I know play tabletop historical minis and/or Ameritrash-style games, with just a smattering of Euros.

But maybe it's just different in the desert.

Michael Barnes said...

I dunno man...in these parts (the desert), most of the Euro crowd is older...I suppose it could vary, but by my observation middle aged folks here are more likely to be die-hard Eurogamers and us young, sexy folk play the AT stuff. Generally.

Ken Bradford said...

I don't know...all the cranky old gamers I meet are wargamers.

Michael Barnes said...

Hey, I said "middle aged", not old...

Yeah, those old dudes are CRANKY...I used to have this one customer who was an OLD TIME wargamer...he'd come in with this huge box of old, hardcore wargames (stuff like PANZERBLITZ) and try to hook people into playing him...he almost always wore this white-turned-brown shirt with a kitten and an American flag on it. Cranky.

TheRankO said...

I think I may have figured it out. Most of the gamers I know who around my age (I'm 41) were, like me, gaming long before the so-called Euro boom -- whether it was Avalon Hill or Games Workshop boardgames, miniatures, RPGs, or wargames. I'm guessing these guys you're talking about are post-Settlers gamers who got into it in their 30s.

Or perhaps they're really not that much older than you, sir... ;-)

Patrick H said...

I bought Panzer Leader when I was 12 and was pretty cranky then. Come to think of it I don't have many memories before that - did this purchase turn me to the dark side? Did my love of wooden bits die that day.

Oh the hell with it you &#*&%*@!! I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!

Long live Grogitrash!!

Jack Hill said...

I suspect that BGG skews a bit younger than you suggest.

What you say does seem correct for new gamers. Younger ones so seem drawn to AT games, and older ones towards the simpler Euros.

There's also a gender gap. Women generally prefer the less vicious Euros. Probably at this point, the word "nurturing" and a discussion of psychological makeup should ensue, but....Ew.

It does seem as if maybe a third of the folks I know who played AH games years ago have completely jumped ship. But when I think about those folks, I really can't see them playing an AT game at all without whining. A lot.

not billy sparkles said...

jack hill said...
There's also a gender gap. Women generally prefer the less vicious Euros. Probably at this point, the word "nurturing" and a discussion of psychological makeup should ensue, but....Ew.

Yeaaaahh.... I'm not so sure about that one. My wife, who abhors anything that's "too geeky" will totally get into a game where she can screw an opponent, and then point her finger at them and laugh... god is she sexy when she does that.

Come to think of it, most chicks I know are that are willing to play AT are a special breed that aren't afraid to sling some mud around with the boys.

Quick little story, a few years ago a friend of mine owned a hobby store that he kept open after hours for some of the best game nights I ever experienced. You had your regular crowd, but every now and then a new face would show up.

So, we were all sitting there one night, breaking out Robo Rally, when in walks one of the guys with the hottest fucking girl you ever laid eyes on. I mean, she was intimidatingly beautiful.

Now I'm thinking to myself," you horse-toothed jackass! You brought a girl that hot to play a game of Robo Rally with these goons? Haha! This'll be the last time you see her!"

The game gets started and I look at my program cards and realise that if chickee-poo does what I think will what I think she will there is a possibilty that I can push her in front of the industrial lasers at the end of this turn. Of course I went for it! I'll be damned if some guy, other than me, gets to have a girl that fucking pretty!

So, everything goes according to plan and Betty-Boop's bot gets blistered. As I'm sitting thre thinking to myself, "Let's see you get some action now hotshot," all the guys are looking at me, smiling and shaking there heads as if to say, "Billy, you ASSHOLE." At which point hot chick looks at me and says:

Billy... YOU COCKSUCKING FUDGEPACKER!

*SIGH* My friend was a lucky bastard. God bless the girls and women who can hang with the boys on game night.

Billy Z.

Patrick H said...

My wife loves when her monster mutates from one of my cruise missles.

Michael Barnes said...

You know what this blog needs? A post detailing "Games my gf/wife will enjoy so I can justify not getting my lazy ass off BGG long enough to lose some weight and to make myself feel better about hiding credit card charges to Funagain.com". Then we'll have come full circle.

Jack Hill said...

Actually, we need a list of wife-friendly games that don't suck.

Fortunately, my wife hates Lost Cities.

Rliyen said...

When my wife was pregnant with our son, she was mostly bedridden in the last trimester. So, since she couldn't hop on the PC, I pulled out Car Wars - the card game.

Man, she took to that like a fish to water. "Missile in the rear!" became the common battlecry.

Shellhead said...

Here in the Twin Cities, there are some visible demographics at the local game shops that host in-store games.

The war-gamers are 50+.
The euro-gamers are mostly 30-55 years old.
The AmeriTrash gamers are 20-45 years old.
The current CCG players are 15-30 years old. (There were older CCG players, but they seem to have dropped the card gaming)

I have seen zero overlap between the current Euro players and the current CCG players.

Michael Barnes said...

There you go. Hard numbers. Can we get a figure on which segment is more likely to wear fanny packs?

Ken Bradford said...

The CCG market is experiencing some severe burnout. I was an avid CCGer from 94-2005...which puts me in the 20-31 range, and fits your profile.

Eventually the money thing--plus the hassle of chasing down packs, AND the "burn" of collecting so many games over the years that eventually flame out--grinds up the CCG crowd into dust. The "cool" properties hook them in young, but the market chews you up over time.

Michael Barnes said...

The same thing could happen to the board game market...which could be a much worse economic situation since a $50 retail game is quite removed from a $3 booster pack.

TheRankO said...

The war-gamers are 50+.
...
The AmeriTrash gamers are 20-45 years old.


Crap! Only four years before I have to trade in Siege of the Citadel for Whistling Death!

I'd better hurry...

Ken Bradford said...

Well, looks like we'll have to go all "Children of the Corn" on your ass.



Wait, should this be posted under the "AT is Gay" entry?

Fraser said...

In effect what I'm saying is that the goal of the civ-lite game is oxymoronic, impossible Couldn't agree more.

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