Tuesday, 3 April 2007

It Looks Like a Duck, Quacks Like a Duck....Part I

I'll admit it.

I succumb to the natural human tendency to want to categorize things. Types of movies, genres of music, you name it...

The fun part is, of course, when you have something that straddles genres, or even better, transcends them. For example, how do you classify the song "Farewell Myth" by Made in Mexico (and featured in Guitar Hero I?) The song is filled with strange, off-tempo rythms, a meandering lyric line, and quickly changing drum patterns. I suppose that makes the song stand out, and it has many strong reactions from Guitar Hero players (some love it, others hate it with a passion).


Some players are resistant to classifying board games, claiming such pigeonholing is "divisive". They also claim (rightfully) that we all play different types of games, so what's the point classifying them?


I don't want to retread Robert's great and humorous post on metal, but his point is valid...such classification serves mostly to facillitate conversation. Language is all about finding common terms to more easily convey ideas to one another. Words have meaning because people agree to assign that meaning to them. Sometimes that meaning has a negative, hateful history--look at how just a few words can ruin the career and personal reputation of someone like Michael Richards. His words were hateful, and infused with the power of collective history; they were more than just words, they were poisonous daggers loaded with the insipid, wretched context of things that have come before.


Words.


But sometimes, words can be co-opted, can be changed. Let's take "Ameritrash", for example. Though I've read several people proclaim that there was never any bias towards American-style games (and on a large macro sense, they're probably correct), there was a vocal minority who would slam such games every chance they got. When I took a first stab at trying to pool these games together under a common banner, I tried to co-opt a negative post I had read, where someone bashed an American-style game as "Ameriplasty trash". I ran with the "Ameriplasty" part, and months later Robert Martin leaped on a post proclaiming Michael Barnes to be an "Ameritrash apologist".


Words.


These words were meant to demean, to marginalize, to push aside. A ludicrous gesture, considering the fact that to outsiders, we are all involved in a childish hobby. "Boardgames?" someone will ask inquisitively. The tone is there....shouldn't you have grown out of childish hobbies such as these?


So Robert took that terminology, spun it around, and boom--it stuck. "Ameritrash". Whatever your reaction to the term is--it's clear that when something came forth to help pull these games together, it actually did gamers a service. I realize that some folks (even those who profess to really like AT-style games) don't like the term, and it's true that something less negative could've served, but the term sprang from perceived derision of these styles of games, and for whatever reason...it stuck.


But hey--that's a good thing. Regardless of what the term is, what it has done is to facillitate conversation between gamers. Now I can sum up in one term what it used to take a small paragraph to convey. Instead of, "games that have heavy theme, random elements, often have plastic bits, usually sci-fi or fantasy, blah blah blah", I can just say, "Ameritrash".


The term is of course still under refinement. Much was made of the fact that it was difficult to classify some games as Ameritrash (never mind the fact that other genres often suffer the same problems of classification--such as wargames--especially when faced with particular games that have elements from multiple genres). And as the gaming industry moves toward more and more hybrid-style games, it's possible that the term itself will only be relevant in terms of what particular titles borrow from that particular aesthetic.


Personally? I like Euros...at least some of them. I will gladly play Carcassonne, Ra, even Ticket to Ride (DON'T SHOOT ME, BARNES~!)...as people say, we are gamers. Some will play certain types to exclusion, but to me that is fallacy. It would be just as silly to dismiss a game for being "Euro" as it would for those who bashed games for being "Ameriplasty Trash". It's obvious that game designers certainly are taking a larger view of all of this, pulling the best elements from other game genres to improve the overall gaming experience.


The bloated, six-hour Ameritrash game fests from the 80s have given way to the same style games that can be played in 1-3 hours, and those who do stretch toward 6 hours have given us more to do than just push our piles of plastic at each other, toss the dice, and hope for the best. Production quality has increased to the point we're paying the same or LESS for games now...with better bits...than what we would get fifteen years ago, and that's including inflation!


Look at some Euro designers who have turned to the heavier themes of Ameritrash games to try to shake off that "dry" moniker and appeal to a broader--or at least different--audience. Take Runebound, designed by none other than Martin Wallace...it's hard to say that the game is anything but Ameritrash, but it has refinements to the game that attempts to pull it towards a cleaner system than the older Ameritrash fantasy games (such as Avalon Hill's Wizards or Wizard's Quest).

Look at Reiner Knizia, who may put out some straight Euro pap at times, but it's obvious he too has an eye for trying to come at the Ameritrash aesthetic from a Euro perspective. Euprhat and Tigris is obviously the Euro take on a civ/wargame, and it has been followed by other attempts to do the same.

Take a game like Vinci, which is a game that itself likes to try to defy strict classification (it has civ-building, but it's abstract; it has combat, but it's deterministic; it has randomness, but a point-balancing system to that randomness; it's about conquest but uses a Euro VP system).


As games evolve, I think that the "heart" of the market, the lion's share of development, is going to continue to move towards the hybrid theory of design. Euros will incorporate more theme, Ameritrash games will look for cleaner rules and shorter playing times, wargames will move towards more accessibility...and all of us, I think, benefit.


But whatever idea you may have of the term "Ameritrash", it does serve its purpose. It takes a genre of games and allows us to use shorthand at points to make conversation easier. Plus, for gamers and game designers to begin to see these type of games as falling under a genre or umbrella may make them easier to quantify, to evaluate, and most importantly to take them as a group and search out the best elements of them for moving forward while cherishing the history of them all the same.



Next Time: In Part II, I'm going to take a stab at laying out the common elements that many Ameritrash games share, and look at a few examples to see where they pass or fail such categorizations.

59 comments:

alan richbourg said...

Nicely put, Mr. Bradford.

BagpipeDan said...

I just don't get why you guys can't stick with the clearly defined terms like "euro game" and "war game." Terms that everybody can agree on and no dispute is ever raised over. You had to come in with your crazy nomenclature and mess up such a simple system. Is it elegant and sane? Euro. Anything else? War Game.

TTR- euro game

Runebound- war game

Puerto Rico- euro

Don't Break the Ice- war

Hansa- euro

Rise and Decline of the Third Reich- war

It's the easiest system ever with absolutely no ambiguity. A shame on your for unecessarily muddying the waters!

Ken Bradford said...

Oh, definitely...if you break my ice, there WILL be war.

Robert said...

"Full Contact Los Mampfos" is definitely a war game.

Michael Barnes said...

"But why do we have to classify things?"

pbwedz said...

Look at some Euro designers who have turned to the heavier themes of Ameritrash games to try to shake off that "dry" moniker and appeal to a broader...

Look at Reiner Knizia...


Sorry, I have to disagree from this point. The games you are naming: Euprhat and Tigris and Vinci are 8 to 10 years old and pre-date the 'AT movement'.

Hasn't people been complaining about the 'lack of theme' in E&T for years?

Runebound might be valid, but I haven't played that game.

I have to agree with BPD. I think the 'war game' description scoops up a lot of the AT games. It would be interesting to find the top 50 AT games on BGG's list and count the war games.

Clearly there are some that don't fit. (e.g. Fury of Dracula)

Ken Bradford said...

The "AT Movement" began in the 80s with Axis and Allies.

Euros big breakthrough on these shores was Settlers of Catan, in 1995/96.

E&T and Vinci were both released close to the turn of the century.


Yes, there was time for these things to influence their design.


I could've used more recent examples, as Reiner went on to design LOTR, LOTR: The Confrontation, Blue Moon, and others, but E&T was the example I wanted to use of a war-esque Euro.

Ken Bradford said...

Also...yes, many wargames are AT. But many AT games are not wargames, unless you really broaden the scope (such as someone who suggested Space Hulk was a wargame, an assessment I cannot really agree with).


Game of Thrones? Tide of Iron? War of the Ring? Twilight Imperium? Sure.

Fury of Dracula? Betrayal at House on the Hill? Monsters Menace America? Descent? No way!

BagpipeDan said...

My comment was actually sarcasm, but obtusely so. I wanted to see if anybody agreed with it (I'm glad people did take me seriously, because that's funny). The hint to the sarcasm is this: think of how the debates break out when someone calls Memoir 44 a wargame right next to Rise and Decline. Two categories of board games really aren't enough. There are such a myriad of games if you want to properly categorize games you're going to need more than "euro" and "war." Obviously no system will completely work, but I think Ameritrash is fine for general usage.

(I myself love the 5 star system, but I'm crazy I guess...)

Anonymous said...

Does this blog serve any other purpose than for you guys to pat each other on the back? Just wondering.

BagpipeDan said...

Does this blog serve any other purpose than for you guys to pat each other on the back? Just wondering.

It allows me to call you a cowardly, panty-wadded fuckface (am I allowed to say that here?) who was probably part of the bitch brigade that forced these kinds of things (discussions about classification of games that might break from your dear, precious "norm") off of BGG.

Also I think I'm allowed to curse at you here. What's the ruling on that?

Ken Bradford said...

Yep. Go me!

pbwedz said...

The "AT Movement" began in the 80s with Axis and Allies.

Hm, I guess I don't consider the Movement as that old.

Sure you can point to A&A, Fortress America and the other two games that came out, but the 80s to me was still the time of Flattop and other Avalon Hill games. I wouldn't put the 'AT Movement' until later.

And I still think T&E or E&T has no AT influence. No cool bits, no dice, pasted on theme, etc.

pbwedz said...

Fury of Dracula? Betrayal at House on the Hill? Monsters Menace America? Descent? No way!

I agree (and said FoD as an example).

However, if I had to guess a percentage... 75% wargames. It would be fun to figure out what the percentage really is.

Ken Bradford said...

E&T has confrontation. The pasted on theme is arguable, some see the theme realized strongly, some don't. The randomness is in the tile draws--and combat is determined by how many of said tiles you've drawn (randomly) and held on to.

You fortify positions, entrench defenses, attack other players directly (placing a leader, connecting kingdoms) and indirectly (by connecting two other kingdoms), even suffer "casualties" (loss of tiles for the losing side).

It's a Euro, no doubt. I'm not trying to rope it in. I'm only trying to show it has some AT roots. It's far more confrontational than "you build your stuff over there, I build my stuff over here, and let's compare scores at the end."


As far as AT in the 80s--Axis and Allies, Broadsides and Boarding Parties, Fortress America, Shogun/Samurai Swords, Space Hulk, Talisman, Blood Bowl, Buck Rogers, Heroquest...when a lot of people on here talk about the original "heyday" of AT, this is exactly the period they're referring to.

pbwedz said...

My comment was actually sarcasm, but obtusely so. I wanted to see if anybody agreed with it (I'm glad people did take me seriously, because that's funny).

I've played enough WW on BGG to have got it BPD. :)

I still agree. When I think of AT, many more wargames come to mind than non-wargames. Clearly AT is more than just wargames, but not that much more in my book.

Ken Bradford said...

I just pawed through the top 400 on BGG and here are the "non-war" Ameritrash stuff I've identified. Many feature conflict but not in a sense that wargamers would claim them, and a couple are borderline Euros with heavy, heavy AT sensibilities.


Blood Bowl
Roborally
Descent
Space Hulk
Shadows Over Camelot (that's an iffy one)
Arkham Horror
Fury of Dracula
Magic: The Gathering
Runebound
Netrunner
Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit
Dreamblade
Cosmic Encounter
Battlestations (borderline RPG, though)
Doom: The Boardgame
Warhammer: Quest
Marvel Heroes
Junta
World of Warcraft: The Boardgame
Star Wars: Epic Duels
Wiz-War
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Bootleggers (borderline Euro)
Mall of Horror (borderline)
Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

pbwedz said...

E&T has confrontation...

Yea, but what wargame allows you to take over you the other person's troops. Combat has no dice. (randomness by tile draw is far from AT in my book)

Sorry, I think saying that E&T has AT roots is a bit strong. I don't see it.

As far as AT in the 80s--Axis and Allies, Broadsides and Boarding Parties, Fortress America, Shogun/Samurai Swords, Space Hulk, Talisman, Blood Bowl, Buck Rogers, Heroquest...when a lot of people on here talk about the original "heyday" of AT, this is exactly the period they're referring to.

Hm, well I only played 3 of those games, so I guess I missed that boat. For me, the 80s was still the time of Avalon Hill. If that was AT's 'heyday' it was overshadowed by AH. YMMV.

Ken Bradford said...

AH was king...but primarily to wargamers. I wasn't a wargamer, and didn't play much AH.

When I researched AH for the article last month, I was surprised to find that only about half of AH's published titles were wargames. That was surprising to me.

Besides, AH did get their hands in the AT pie with the aforementioned Wizards, Wizard's Quest, and I believe a handful of other war-ish fantasy titles.

Many include such titles in the AT pantheon, and I'm not one to argue.


As far as the differences in E&T versus AT...yeah, it *is* different. That's what makes it a Euro. ;))

BUT

I totally see the influences there, that's all I'm sayin'. The game is about destruction, dominance, building, and more destruction.

Fellonmyhead said...

Well here we are again, talking semantics. I dislike the use of the term "Ameritrash", but if it means something to you, the minority, I'll use it.

And your point about A&A starting the trend, Ken; are you sure? I mean, the original Nova edition may have borne a lot of the hallmarks of Ameritrash but it was a boxed wargame with chits and tables.

Regardless, I think the origins of what you call "Ameritrash" probably started at the close of the Golden Age under companies such as Ideal, MB and Parker with games such as Tank Battle, Broadside, Risk and so on. Naturally, if you actually meant by "Movement" a group of people then I'm afraid it only started last year.

Sure, folk have been playing the games for years, but none of them ever felt they needed a separate identity from that of "gamer"; I for one still don't but I do accept your wanting this - the same way I respect those who want to call themselves Jedi, Trekkie, Goth, Emo, Grognard and Trainspotter - as long as I'm not labelled with any of them, thank you very much.

I shall simply continue to be a gamer and play what the fuck I like - ta.

Ken Bradford said...

I thought the article made it clear that we're categorizing games and not gamers.

A&A obviously spawned from...somewhere. It didn't just come into being. It took plastic pieces, chrome, and dice rolling to a whole new level. It's the first game I ever opened and saw (besides Risk) that felt like you had just been given a box of toys.

But it was accessible, even to my young mind. It sought out a "middle ground" of rules and comprehension of said rules.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. Save some of that for Part II!

pbwedz said...

The game is about destruction, dominance, building, and more destruction.

With it's pasted on theme and very fluid positions, we are just going to have to disagree on that one.

Besides, AH did get their hands in the AT pie with the aforementioned Wizards, Wizard's Quest, and I believe a handful of other war-ish fantasy titles.

Yea, but that's not AH is known for. Wargames with chips was it's bread and butter.

Looking at your AT list...

I consider Descent, Doom and the like 'wargames' (or darn close). Most of the iffy games in your list more Euro than not, IMHO.

I don't consider CCG games like Magic as AT at all. CCG is just CCG.

I guess my net of AT is smaller than yours...

Michael Barnes said...

Also I think I'm allowed to curse at you here. What's the ruling on that?

You can curse all you want here...whaddya think this is, church?

Ken Bradford said...

In my next article, we're going to hash that out. It's going to be about what, exactly, constitutes AT. I'm going to lay some stuff out there, and I'm going to be looking for a LOT of feedback.

Thanks for all the great feedback so far...some were saying this was a useless echo chamber, that's obviously not the case!

:))

Fellonmyhead said...

Ken:
I thought the article made it clear that we're categorizing games and not gamers.

I thought I made it clear I was categorising games and not gamers.

Ken Bradford said...

Sure, folk have been playing the games for years, but none of them ever felt they needed a separate identity from that of "gamer"; I for one still don't but I do accept your wanting this - the same way I respect those who want to call themselves Jedi, Trekkie, Goth, Emo, Grognard and Trainspotter - as long as I'm not labelled with any of them, thank you very much.


N'est-ce pas?

Fellonmyhead said...

Well alright; you made it clear Ken - I'll shut my mouth!

Ken Bradford said...

Hah!

SHUT YO MOUTH!


I'm not looking to tar GAMERS as Ameritrashers, that's all I'm saying. If I misunderstood you, my apologies. I thought that's where you were going with that.

Michael Barnes said...

In my next article, we're going to hash that out. It's going to be about what, exactly, constitutes AT.

I dunno man...you might ought to just post a link to the GRINDHOUSE trailer...

ubarose said...

I am looking forward to part II of this series. Personally, I believe that the most important contribution of the AT movement is not the classification of games, but the introduction, and legitimization of new rulers by which to measure games. A high measure on the luck ruler is no longer a reason to automatically dismiss a game, because we also now have the thrill of the calculated risk/gamble ruler.

The ongoing discussions of AT vs Euro has allowed me to more clearly identify and prioritize both my own rulers and those of the people with whom I game. I've discovered that personally my most important ruler is one that came to the forefront in an attempt to classify AT games: the narrative ruler. When I use this ruler, it becomes obvious to me why Talisman and Tales of the Arabian Nights are two of my most loved games. By identifying a certain frequent gaming partner's rulers, it also becomes obvious why these games would equal hours of seemingly endless misery for her.

Over the past several months, the AT/Euro discussions have allowed us to find games that measure up, more or less, to both our demands. I guess most of the games we play would be called hybrids, but we think of them as chocolate chip walnut oatmeal cookies. They have nuts for me, chocolate for her. They are crisp and dry on the outside, but chewy and moist on the inside.

brumeister said...

"but we think of them as chocolate chip walnut oatmeal cookies. They have nuts for me, chocolate for her. They are crisp and dry on the outside, but chewy and moist on the inside"

Are we still talking about boardgames? Cuz I feel kinda funny inside after reading that post - not to mention a lil dirty!!!

Ken Bradford said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our first banned F:AT user.

Post that sort of explicit content here again, Mr. Baumeister, and we will rap your knuckles with a War Sun.

ubarose said...

I'm sorry. That was my fault. I forgot that people who enjoy AT games are stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence. I will choose my words more carefully in the future so as to avoid other readers experiencing funny feelings. I was going to point out that both my friend and I are female, but I am afraid that might lead to even more funny feelings, so I have decided to not mention it.

Mr Skeletor said...

I'm with pbwedz, I don't see how E&T can in any way be seen as being influenced by wargames. It's clearly influenced by abstracts such as chess (also NOT a wargame!)

The "AT Movement" began in the 80s with Axis and Allies.

Could someone please take those drugs of Ken? Thank you.

Mr Skeletor said...

Does this blog serve any other purpose than for you guys to pat each other on the back? Just wondering.

Molloc thinks AT died 20 years ago. Ken thinks the AT movement is older than my forefathers. Michael thinks Donkeys having a shit makes for a lousy theme.
I don't think I agree with any of my fellow assholes on this site, but apparently we are all just patting each other on the back. Learn to read you tosser.

Mr Skeletor said...

I'm sorry. That was my fault. I forgot that people who enjoy AT games are stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence. I will choose my words more carefully in the future so as to avoid other readers experiencing funny feelings. I was going to point out that both my friend and I are female, but I am afraid that might lead to even more funny feelings, so I have decided to not mention it.

Matt, can you please work on getting pictures available for the talkback section?
Perpetual adolescence rocks.

Ken Bradford said...

Skeletor, man...you're cracking me up. That was hilarious.


George Washington--the first Ameritrasher?

Ken Bradford said...

In all seriousness Skeletor--can you categorize A&A as anything BUT an Ameritrash game? Plastic bits, middleweight rules, heavy on theme?

Mr Skeletor said...

A&A is clearly Ameritrash - though I don't know if it's the first (Risk is maybe?)

That being said I consider the "AT movement" (which I put in quotes because it's bit of a joke really) to be the efforts of some to give AT a bigger profile on Board Game Geek. I don't see how simply making games of that genre can be classified as a movement. I mean I didn't exactly see people taking to the streets demanding more skulls for Talisman 3rd edition in the 80s.

William Boykin said...

Something that I heard some Hooligans in Austin, TX (A NOTORIOUS den of radicalism!) were chanting outside of the Guvner's Mansion.
I Quote:

"Hey hey!
Ho HO!
Puerto Rico has got to GO!"

IF that is not an indicator of the HUGE DESIRE FOR CHANGE amongst the people out there, then you sir are living in denial.

2007 will be known as the "YEAR OF RAGE" as hooligans will storm the baricades in search of more plastic bits.

At least until April 5th.

Then all of them will go back to playin Halo.

William

Michael Barnes said...

There's no stoppin' the cretins from hoppin'

Anonymous said...

Maybe before you guys start an Ameritrash blog you should all come to an agreement on what Ameritrash is?

gregor said...

What, exactly, constitutes AT.

I'll save you some trouble, Ken-- Nothing constitutes AT -- there are neither a common historical ancestor, nor common themes, nor mechanics.

The only thing they have in common is they are very different from the so-called "standard" euro; which is a fiddly mathematical/accounting exercise using wooden blocks, where you don't think, "How how can I invade Prussia or capture Dracula, or send him to the Warp, the bastard", but instead, "31+2=33, hmmm, if I do that, there's a +4, but at a cost of 6, so -2, so forget it, hmmm."

Which is actually probably how generals invade prussia these days, but whatever.

AT is just a bunch of games that don't have much of what people who don't like euros don't like about euros.

robartin said...

What's all this about ducks? Am I on the wrong blog again?

Ken Bradford said...

Interesting--so we are finding patterns by exclusion?


I would say it's clear that there is a swath of games that share a common design pattern. It's not hard to see that Heroquest, Dark World, Siege of the Citadel, Space Hulk, Doom, and Descent are all related.

It's also not hard to see that Risk, Axis and Allies, all the Risk variants, Blood Feud in New York, Samurai Swords, Conquest of the Empire, Quest for the Dragonlords, Wizard's Quest, and countless others like them are all related.


It's more than just "pool of games that aren't Euros". There is commonality of mechanics and theme.


But again...SAVE SOME O' DAT FOR DA SEQUEL~!

Ken Bradford said...

Here's a more recent example of the "bias":


The context: It's the Elite 8 of Dane's Geek tournament. It's all heavy Euros at this point...


Someone quips:

"I think this is the earliest point in any of these tournament that all of the trash was finally taken out."


Referring, of course, to anything not fitting in the heavy Euro demographic.



But...it is a relatively limited number of guys....they just have really loud voices.


For me these ARE the fun games, not those horrible dice fests that seem to get voted in every year


But let's pick on someone else...what about the comment that AT games are all "piles of plastic guys on the board. These piles move around. Sometimes they get bigger, sometimes they get smaller. Sometimes they swap places."


Yeah, that sums it up, guy.


Again...a vocal minority.

Michael Barnes said...

What's all this about ducks? Am I on the wrong blog again?

Dude, didn't you get the memo? Today's sophisticated, discerning gamers prefer themes like ducks over, say, orcs.

Fellonmyhead said...

Ken:
I would say it's clear that there is a swath of games that share a common design pattern. It's not hard to see that Heroquest, Dark World, Siege of the Citadel, Space Hulk, Doom, and Descent are all related.

But then we could also extend this common pattern to include games outside of the AT fold (of which Space Hulk is one - you know we've been there); I mean you did it yourself with E&T. It's no great stretch to see Fearsome Floors, Formidable Foes, Goldland, Lost Valley and Age of Mythology are also related to Space Hulk, Dark World, Doom and Heroquest (I'm not familiar with Siege of the Citadel).

Ken Bradford said...

Age of Mythology is an AT game with Puerto Rico grafted on it Frankenstein-style.

Ken Bradford said...

Wait...Fearsome Floors and Goldland related to Doom? Man...that's a stretch and a half, wouldn't you say? Yeah, I supposed they're all games, and have bits...but then?

Clarissimus said...

Age of Mythology really just needs one major fix. I don't mind the action-selecting mechanics as its a good way to make the later ages more powerful. But a Risk-style board where the armies were located in actual places would've made it so much better.

Nevertheless, it's still an excellent 3-player game that has a lot less in common with Puerto Rico than everybody says it does.

TheRankO said...

Ubarose's first comment is one of the most perceptive and articulate things I've read on any gaming website.

Mr Skeletor said...

Maybe before you guys start an Ameritrash blog you should all come to an agreement on what Ameritrash is?

But then we would have nothing left to talk about.

Is Fearsome Floors a Euro? The more I think about it the more I'm thinking it actually isn't.

robartin said...

Fearsome Floors is a Euro. Otherwise the "hapless victims" would have swords and chain guns.

Mr Skeletor said...

I dunno. Change the cardboard monster and wooden pawns to plastic minis and I'm betting people wouldn't be calling it a Euro. The game is certainly more about the 'drama' then the mehanics or system which is a AT trait. It even has player elimination.

William Boykin said...

Ok, a somewhat serious post for the moment.

I don't think that there are a lot of "Real" AT games being made any more. When I think of "Real" AT games, I think...

Old School Axis and Allies, Shogun and the other GameMaster MB games.

Talisman, Rogue Trooper, DungeonQuest and the other cheesey GW Games.

Car Wars, Battle Cattle, Snits, and other cheap Steve Jackson games.

Warrior Knights (the FFG version), Twillight Imperium 3, Bootleggers, Conquest of the Empire II, Fire and Axe- all the "New" AT games are not really AT games at all. They are more properly "Hybrids"-Games with an AT theme but some Euro Mechanics more (Bootleggers) or Less (TI:3) tacked on.

That said, this entire tempest in a teapot is less about GAMES, than about mechanics and concepts- things we have been told by certain people on certain OTHER websites are just "A Priori" bad, bad BAD things.

These things include:
Lots of dice- too random, not enough skill. (Ignoring the statistical reality of the Bell Curve- the more you roll, the more deterministic the results become.)
Player Conflict- Why can't we just get along? (Ignoring that ALL games are competive. (My apologies to DW Tripp for stealing that!))
"MetaGaming"- If I'm a good player, others shouldn't be able to drag me down. (Yah, its better to make those who can't win suffer as you continue to pull further and further ahead.)
And most important-
THEME-
Version 1: Those "Other" games are just bad games (for reasons listed above). OUR Games are good games, so it doesn't matter that they aren't about anything.
Version 2: "OUR" games are about trading, building, and being nice to the world around us. "THEIR" games are violent, teach anti-social behavior, and are a bad influence.

The other reasons listed above, really, are just degrees of taste. (Diplomacy has no dice;, Republic of Rome is semi-cooperative). I think that this really, for trully, is about the theme. The 'soft' Euro fans, the ones who want us to 'just get along', are mostly V1 Euro fans. They go where the game is. And those, I don't have an issue with. Just cuz I don't LIKE Puerto Rico or Caylus means that those aren't good games.

V2 Euro fans are the ones, I think, are the most rabid. (But there are some other exceptions). These are the ones who feel that AT games are just WRONG- because of their content. They are about fighting. They are about struggle. They are not nice games you play with Granny (unless your Granny is like my Nana who survied WWII, the '48 war, the '56 Suez Crisis, and the '67 war in Haifa and who still played a MEAN Monopoly.)

So there you go. My $1.05 about the AT thing. God help me, I LOVE games with conflict. Nor do I feel about this. (But I still can't play Germans in WWII games, but thats MY cross to bear.)

William

Fellonmyhead said...

William, you've misinterpreted a few things.

Not many people say lots of dice = too random; it's about the way the dice are employed.

Metagaming has nothing to do with in-game competitiveness.

Theme; well I have to say I have argued for years that there is more theme to Euros than most agree to accept - just because a set of mechanisms have been used to model the theme does not equate to a lack of theme (if this was the case then all those CRT's, dice-rolls and area control elements that make up consims could just as easily be indicative of something themeless because consims are by definition very mechanical). Nor is a lack of theme something your average Eurogamer actively seeks out. And furthermore, for your information there are plenty of war-themed, murder-themed and adventure-themed Euros.

Additionally I don't get all this "V2 Euro fan" nonsense; what's that all about? Consider the origin of the Euro was to feed a family-based market; therefore the games were made to cater for all. Sure, we now have the luxury of heavy Euros, light Euros and somewhere inbetween Euros, but these evolved out of the German manufacturers' aim to increase sales by catering for the family gaming market.

Their drive over the past thirty or so years hasn't prevented MB, GW or even TSR and WotC from selling their product lines to German retailers and consumers; but not everyone wants a game about combat or killing and that choice has nothing to do with being a Eurogamer.

There are people who like Eurogames because they dislike wargames - but they don't dislike wargames because they like Euros. I sense you have cause and effect mixed up.

Fellonmyhead said...

Frank:
I dunno. Change the cardboard monster and wooden pawns to plastic minis and I'm betting people wouldn't be calling it a Euro. The game is certainly more about the 'drama' then the mehanics or system which is a AT trait. It even has player elimination.

*Blinks and rubs eyes*

I can't believe somebody here actually sees what I mean!

The drama, the random elements, the theme and/or the danger are present to an extent in a number of games generally classed as Euros.

Sure, the mechanisms might be a little more deterministic in some but the atmosphere is certainly there (actually I can't say that really for Formidable Foes, but the dungeon-bash theme appears to be there).

pbwedz said...

I don't think that there are a lot of "Real" AT games being made any more. When I think of "Real" AT games, I think...

Old School Axis and Allies, Shogun and the other GameMaster MB games.

Warrior Knights (the FFG version), Twillight Imperium 3, Bootleggers, Conquest of the Empire II, Fire and Axe- all the "New" AT games are not really AT games at all. They are more properly "Hybrids"-Games with an AT theme but some Euro Mechanics more (Bootleggers) or Less (TI:3) tacked on.


Darn, I was saving this very thought for Part 2. Only I would turn it on its head...

The more I thought about this, the more I think that 'Wargames' should be dropped from AT. These games are in a group, namely wargames. :) So all those 'GameMaster' games and their kin should be left grouped to wargames.

AT should focus on the 'Hybrids' games, these are the games that are not really part of any group.