Published on April 22nd, 2013 | by Colin1
Cardcore Gamer: Board in the USA
Modern board games can generally be lumped into one of two basic styles; German-style ‘Eurogames’ and their cousins from across the pond; commonly known as ‘Ameritrash’. Woah, wait! ‘Ameritrash‘? Really? What are those Europeans with their fine wines and fancy cheeses trying to say? Read on and I will show you.
American games tend to be big, bold bowls full of toys, smothered in rich, tasty theme; They can be dramatic, tense and incredibly stupid, but fun, like a cardboard Labrador. American games often depend on throwing dice, drawing cards and laughing in the face of the Gods Of Dice until They take Their Inevitable Due. ‘Ameritrash’ embraces the knockabout side of gaming, where alliances are forged and broken, while vast, plastic armies clash in glorious conflict. If a game box contains something like this:
It’s probably Ameritrash.
So that all sounds like great, right? Well sure, it can be, but as with blockbuster movie directors, Ameritrash games can get so excited by visually impressing you, that they forget to provide any actual depth. Dice and card draws are random factors and while many games are about mitigating the element of luck, sometimes American games just don’t have enough actual game in there; a bit like a Happy Meal, but one that costs £40. Ameritrash is often about the experience and the storytelling and the fun of throwing dice with friends, with all the table-talk, backstabbing, laughter and rueful shaking of fists that entails and that is where they shine, but without a solid, entertaining game under their sugary shell, they fall flatter than an incomplete metaphor.
It’s really a case of decisions; in Ameritrash, your best laid plans can be foiled by a bad die roll, or by another player slapping down a card to negate your scheme. Your decisions are frequently overridden by other players, or the game itself and this gives rise to tactical and reactionary play, rather than a satisfyingly strategic ‘long game’ where every choice counts. In fact, you may not even be there to see the end of the game, as eliminating players from the game is another Ameritrash favourite.
So that’s American-style games, then; not always the deepest, most elegant style of game design, but with a lot of heart, thematic gameplay and a real spirit of playfulness. What makes it for me are the stories you come away with – that time when I escaped the zombies and ran to the antique shop, wherein, after I had boarded the windows, I found a horse! or the time when, as an amateur sleuth, I went to talk with the locals at a bar and woke up hours later with a migraine and no wallet.
These stories, our stories, were created and played out with my friends over a bowl of snacks and a few beers and to me, that’s Ameritrash.
Want an example of an Ameritrash game? Take a look at my video review of Wiz-War 8th Edition.