Also Known as German-style board games, frequently referred to in gaming circles as Euro Games or Euro-style, are a broad class of tabletop games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction and abstract physical components. The games emphasize strategy, play down luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends. German-style games are sometimes contrasted with American-style games, which generally involve more luck, conflict, and drama.
A prominent characteristic of these games is the lack of player elimination. Eliminating players before the end of the game is seen as counterproductive. Most of these games are designed to keep all players in the game as long as possible, so it is rare to be certain of victory or defeat until relatively late in the game. Some of the mechanics, like hidden scoring or scoring at the end of the game, are also designed around this avoidance of player elimination.
Balancing mechanisms are often integrated into the rules, giving slight advantages to lagging players and slight hindrances to the leaders. This helps to keep the game competitive to the very end.
German-style games are usually less abstract than chess, but more abstract than war games and train games. Likewise, they generally require more thought and planning than party games, such as Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit, but less than classic strategy games, such as chess and Go. Their rulebooks are typically four to twelve pages long and playing times are on the order of 30 to 120 minutes. These games appeal to a wide range of ages, though generally not very young children. The audience includes casual gamers, who play with family and friends, as well as more serious hobby gamers.
Not all German-style board games are German, and not all German-style games are board games. As a result, various other names have been offered for the class. Eurogame is a common, though still imprecise, alternative label. Because most of these games feature the name of the designer prominently on the box they are sometimes known as designer games. Other names include family strategy game and hobby game. Shorter, lighter games in this class are known as gateway games, whereas longer, heavier games are known as gamers' games.
As far as generalities can be made about such a large and diverse group of games, German-style games are usually multiplayer and can be learned easily and played in a relatively short time, perhaps multiple times in a single session. A certain amount of socializing might typically be expected during game play, as opposed to the relative silence sometimes expected during some strategy games like chess and go or restrictions on allowable conversations or actions found in some highly competitive games such as contract bridge. German-style games are generally much simpler than the wargames which flourished in the 1970s and 1980s from publishers such as SPI and Avalon Hill, but nonetheless often have a considerable depth of play, especially in some "gamers' games" such as Tigris and Euphrates and Caylus.
German-style games tend to have a theme (role-play element or a background story)—more like Monopoly or Clue, rather than poker or Tic Tac Toe. Game mechanics are not restricted by the theme, however — unlike a simulation game, the theme of a German game is often merely mnemonic. It is somewhat common for a game to be designed with one theme and published with another, or for the same game to be given a significantly different theme for a later republication, or for two games on wildly different themes to have very similar mechanics. Combat themes are uncommon and player conflict is often indirect (for example, competing for a scarce resource).
Example themes are:
Carcassonne - build a medieval landscape with walled cities, monasteries, roads and fields.
Puerto Rico - develop a plantation on the island of Puerto Rico, set in the 18th century.
Imperial - as an international investor, influence the politics of pre-World War I European empires.
While many titles (especially the strategically heavier ones) are enthusiastically played by gamers as a hobby, German-style games are, for the most part, well suited to social play. In keeping with this social function, various characteristics of the games tend to support that aspect well, and these have become quite common across the genre. For example, generally German-style games do not have a fixed number of players like chess or bridge; though there is a sizable body of German-style games that are designed for exactly two players, most games can accommodate anywhere from two to six players (with varying degrees of suitability). Six-player games are somewhat rare, or require expansions, as with The Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne. Usually each player plays for himself, rather than in a partnership or team.
In keeping with their social orientation, numbers are usually low in magnitude, often under ten, and any arithmetic in the game is typically trivial.
Playing time varies from a half hour to a few hours, with one to two hours being typical. In contrast to games such as Risk or Monopoly, in which a close game can extend indefinitely, German-style games usually have a mechanism to stop the game within its stated playing time. Common mechanisms include a predetermined winning score, a set number of game turns, or depletion of limited game resources. For example, Ra and Carcassonne have limited tiles to exhaust.
These games are designed for international audiences, so they are not word games and usually do not contain much text outside of the rules. Game components often use symbols and icons instead of words, reducing the amount of text to be translated between localized editions. Gameplay also tends to de-emphasize or entirely exclude verbal communication as a game element, with many games being fully playable if all players know the rules, even if they don't speak a common language.
Some publishers design games that contain instructions and game elements in more than one language, e.g. the game Ursuppe comes with rules and cards in both German and English; Khronos features instructions in French, English and German, and a Swiss game, Enchanted Owls, provides French, German, Italian and Romansh rules. However, this is usually not the case if the rights to sell the game outside its country of origin are sold to another publisher.
English editions are often available, either published in the USA or co-published by a German company cooperating with a USA company, or the reverse (example: Dominion).
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Edited by Scott Hill on May 28, 2012 1:31 AM