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mygif

BSG is /hard/ to win and it takes a lot of time. I love it but man, you need to make sure you have some time on your hands. Still, it is a lot of fun to screw with other players, even if you’re not a Cylon.

I played Dominion this weekend and fell in love all over again. Man, I need to play that more often.

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mygif

Posts like this are why I come to this site.

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Cookie McCool said on April 26th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

The BSG game reminds me of this at-the-time badass Buck Rogers game we had when I was a kid. That was the 80s, and it was for kids, so most of the actual bits were just in our imagination, and we did an awful lot more of the Pew! Pew! Pew! than the rules required. So really, it was absolutely nothing like that game. But damn if it wasn’t awesome.

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mygif

BSG is hard for the HUMAN players to win.

If you pull a Cylon it’s a lot easier, especially if you’re the Admiral. In fact, it is thought by many that the game might be unbalanced; its designed around the assumption that the Cylon players will try and stay hidden as long as they can, rather than simply revealing themselves early, cramming a Super Crisis down your throat, and then using the Cylon locations against you all the rest of the game.

Oh, right. The substance of the post!

I’ve never liked ‘Ameritrash.’ It’s very loaded. Yeah, I know, its been reclaimed as a word. But still. I really hate using something with the suffix ‘trash’ to describe Arkham Horror, BSG, Twilight Imperium, etc.

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mygif

The “Ameritrash” term started with the board games that were television licenses bolted into an tweaked edition of Parchesi. There were really good American boardgames (thank you, Sid Sackson!) but they weren’t as popular as games that used licensed property, or were “a sure investment” like ‘Monopoly’ (which is actually a 3rd-generation knock-off of “The Landlord’s Game,” but I digress.)

Shooting out some facts here:
- ‘Risk’ is the archetypal Euro game, by origin and by composition. It was exported from France by a famous film director to Parker Brothers, and the game is pushing little cubes around a map as an abstraction of the Napoleonic wars.
- There are two Ameritrash boardgames called ‘Dune’. One is forgettable merchandise for the David Lynch movie, and the other is a masterwork of asymmetrical strategy and diplomacy. I don’t want to look up which had better sales because I might just cry. Both are out-of-print; there’s mutterings that Fantasy Flight Games has picked up the license for the good ‘Dune’ game, but not the blessing of the Herbert estate, so will be reprinting the game with a new theme.
- If you want a better money-and-land game than Monopoly, find the rules to Sid Sackson’s “Property.”

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mygif

Glad I stuck with this and read the whole thing. PowerGrid looks awesome, too.

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mygif

BSG is hard for the HUMAN players to win.

It largely depends on how many people are playing. I think five is the ideal number of players for BSG, because you have three humans and two Cylons, which balances the game nicely. Seven (doable with the expansions) is also pretty good. Four and six mean you have equal numbers of humans and Cylons, which definitely tilts things towards the Cylons.

PowerGrid looks awesome, too.

Power Grid is awesome, although I know some people who don’t like it because having a good head for arithmetic definitely increases your ability/opportunity to plan through and win the game.

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mygif

You only theoretically have an equal number of humans and Cylons with four and six players. I don’t know about you, but I’ve NEVER seen a game go so well that the Sympathizer card turned somebody into a Cylon. And that’s assuming it got dealt to someone who wasn’t one already.

Four player is, in my opinion, the best shot for humans. You’re guaranteed to be going three on one for at least half the game, which makes swamping out their skill cards and identifying who is tossing bad colors in a LOT easier. And its still pretty damned hard.

Seven layer games can be weird. You really have re-adjust from the mentality of burning through most of your hand on just two or three skill checks, because if you do that you’ll be gasping for cards and still have multiple turns to go before you draw again.

Really good Power Grid players often seem like they’re using some form of voodoo magic. They’ll be trailing the pack until Phase 3 and then suddenly BOOM, they’re lighting seventeen cities to your fourteen and you’re wondering ‘wait, just happened? Fucking… math, man!’

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mygif

The BSG event decks provide way too uneven an experience, which might be forgivable in a shorter game. This made BSG fun the first few times but ultimately too unsatisfying and long. Anybody got any good house rules to address this?

Power Grid is great but nobody wants to pull that game out too many times since it is a brain burner. However, auction games usually require several plays among a group to really get a handle on it, since the group’s valuation of the what gets auctioned off (power plant cards) matters so much.

Caylus is… just terrible. Just… why. So dry, so clumsy.

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mygif

I tend to like cooperative games like Arkham Horror more in general. It brings a big sense of camaraderie to the group playing, whereas for a group that’s relatively diverse as mine is (A baker/computer scientest, a few engineers/comp sci students, an arts student, and a music student), games like power grid that rely heavily on mental math or gathered knowledge (Like in what order to build the technologies in Twilight Imperium) feel to me like they don’t determine the winner, but the better person.

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quirkygeekgirl said on April 26th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I may relent and play a game of Power Grid yet.

Dune (the Avalon Hill version) is amazing and if you can get a game in I think is a more satisfying play over BSG, which I also love.

I think my favorite game right now is Small World which is a pretty straight forward area control game but with the mythical creatures and their shifting abilities adds a nice ameritrashy element that I love. Oh and let’s not forget Acquire another great Euro.

So many games for little time.

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mygif

Thanks for a nice guide between two different philosophies of gaming. My brother is an avid boardgamer so I have played some of both. I have to admit I tend to lean more toward the euro side. But then my brother will have me play something like cosmic encounters and I just fall in love with it.

Lazarus lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
art and review

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highlyverbal said on April 26th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Your understanding of the ritual surrounding chess is deeply flawed.

1) Hitting the timer with the hand you move the pieces is not a ritual, it is the rules. This is to ensure that a) you aren’t hitting timer a little before the move is completed and b) you aren’t obscuring the board with your arm while your opponent is on the clock.

2) Hitting the timer with the piece you captured is childish nonsense, and certainly not a well-observed ritual. I have played in some chess tournaments, and I only ever encounter this playing blitz against a youthful opponent.

3) In all my games of chess against serious, non-layperson opponents, no one has ever tipped over their king. People just announce that they resign, or offer to shake hands.

(sidebar: king-tipping is to signal resignation; a mated king has no choice in the matter, so isn’t tipped often)

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mygif

I think you’re spot on with your observations. I have a gaming group that plays a mix of board and RPG, and although the games are fu, the main point is getting together and having fun and rituals & in-jokes are a big part of that fun.

At one point while playing Settlers Of Catan, and chuckling for the Nth after one of the other players pretended he was throwing sheep off a cliff to get other resources, (Baaaaa, Sploosh!) I posited the idea that if you attended an international Catan convention you would be walking between tables and hearing table chatter in a dozen languages, all punctuated by the occasional “Baaaa, Sploosh!” followed by laughter.

If that’s not the case in fact, it should be.

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mygif

Gaah, insert the word “Time” after “Nth” in my post and substitute a synonym for “fun” for at least one of the times I repeated it.

Stupid lack of proofreading…

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mygif

Has BSG a random event card that reads “It was GOD! Game over.” with “God” in font size 72?

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mygif

I just bought Caylus but it remains unopened. Is it actually fun?

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Tim O'Neil said on April 27th, 2011 at 8:16 pm

There is another aspect of gaming that I don’t think is represented by this model. In my experience, among the people who play board games, role playing games and CCGs with any regularity, a large percentage of players are composed of fairly nasty people with no interest whatsoever in the social aspects of the game. (This is especially true for Magic, but I’ve seen it in all types of games.) Basically, they don’t want to interact, they don’t want to chat, no jokes, no trash talk, they just sit there scowling and staring at their cards or their board position trying to figure out how to win. And if you try to lighten the mood or have fun, they’ll give you a dirty look, and if you beat them they’ll either insist on another game or they’ll pick up their game and walk away silently, looking for another game. They live for these games but not for playing, for winning. And it’s not like one isolated player in a shop but sometimes even a preponderance of players.

I’m not a gamer, other than Magic, but I’ve spent enough time in gaming stores to know the type. Maybe the gaming communities where I’ve been are unusual, but I’ve always seen more of these borderline apsergers types than anyone really cares to admit. They make gaming – any gaming – very unpleasant.

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mygif

I just bought Caylus but it remains unopened. Is it actually fun?

I love Caylus quite a bit. But I know plenty of people who dislike it. It’s very much a love/hate game: either you will enjoy it greatly or you will dislike it greatly.

a large percentage of players are composed of fairly nasty people with no interest whatsoever in the social aspects of the game.

I don’t disagree that these players exist, but in my experience they’re really a distinct minority. That might just be the Toronto scene, but the socially not-aspergin’ types have always outnumbered the win-at-all-costs nerds here.

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Mark Temporis said on April 28th, 2011 at 1:30 am

Tim O’Neil: I’m the total opposite of that guy; I actually dislike competitive games (and competition in general) because while I hate losing, winning does nothing for me.

In fact, I find winning annoying in the sense of having to act happier than I really am out of a sense of respect to the other players.

I prefer RPGs and cooperative games because of this. Does this make any sense at all to anyone not me?

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mygif

@Tim

Really? A large percentage of people who play role-playing games are people with no interest whatsoever in the social aspects of the game?

I call shenanigans. Yeah, we’ve all met crazily obsessed Magic guy. Magic is in fact prone to the attracting the type of person you describe. But while competitive board games and CCGs can and do have people like that, the social aspect of the game is nearly the entire POINT when it comes to role-playing games. You can’t ‘win’ Exalted. You can’t ‘win’ at D&D or Dark Heresy or Call of Cthulhu. It’s literally not possible, because there’s no objective win condition.

And even for people who just see an RPG as just a progressively more difficult series of fights as their characters acquire progressively more loot and levels (and that’s rare; Knights of the Dinner Table is JUST a comic strip), they can only play that way IF they can find a GM and another group of players who will LET them play that way. In which case, why does anyone else care?

So, yeah. Shenanigans called.

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Tim O'Neil said on April 28th, 2011 at 11:27 am

Shenanigans? What, am I trying to scam you or something?

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mygif

I was trying to be somewhat jocular instead of simply flat-out saying ‘you are wrong on this point’ with a side order of ‘I don’t believe a large percentage of people you have met who play role-playing games have the attributes you ascribe to them, for the reasons I list.’

It’s possible, of course. Black Swan effect and all that. I just don’t really believe it.

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Mark Temporis said on April 28th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Eh. Nearly everyone I’ve met who plays Magic was like that, except for like my good friend of 20 years who’d play me as we shared a bowl of good weed.

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mygif

Murc said:

Perhaps this is because Cylon “infiltration” actually makes no sense in the literal context of the events we see on screen, and is only there because the writers wanted to hammer home a cheap 9/11 “the terrorists are among us and paranoia is the real enemy” analogy, when in fact in BSG, the real enemy is the giant fucking Cylon armada that has already wiped out 99% of the human race.

But I digress…

So I think I understand the Ameritrash/Euro dichotomy, but where would you put “party games” like Munchkin or Grave Robbers From Outer Space? They don’t seem complicated enough to be Ameritrash, and they don’t seem simple enough to be Euro.

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mygif

OK, screwed that up. Just imagine that what he said in his actual comment is in blockquotes, and what I said he said is actually what I said afterwards. :)

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mygif

This is why I actually don’t try and encode things when I post here, John. I personally have NEVER not fucked it up. And yeah, I’ve had the ‘weak plotting’ discussion about BSG (the show, not the boardgame) quite a lot. And I’ll have it again!

Right, boardgames. Couple things. I think Ameritrash and Euro can be seen as not only distinct categories, but as continuums. Much like with video games and movies, some examples will neatly fit their square pegs into square holes, and some will not.

That said? Most ‘party games’ are going to be a lot more Ameritrash than they are Euro, because they’re about thematic experiences rather than solving a complex multifaceted mechanical problem. Munchkin and Grave Robbers and Hacker (which is kid of a board game and kind of not) are all about the atmosphere that the gameplay creates. Yes, granted, they don’t have a ton of bits compared to BSG or Arkham Horror. But you don’t necessarily NEED them.

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mygif

I haven’t witnessed it personally, but I can easily imagine the focused, leveling-obsessed RPG player in a “play-with-random-strangers” setting. Just think of MMOs, the same mentality can be applied. It is of course even easier to imagine with board games (at random gatherings).

This kind of mentality can exist in a circle of friends or non-strangers, but I don’t think it can easily dominate the group in the long term, since if it did, that group would no longer get together to play games anymore.

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Tim O'Neil said on April 29th, 2011 at 6:40 pm

The best phrase I heard was “rules lawyer” – the type of person who can really make a game unpleasant if they’re not well policed. Or, conversely, you get a whole game group composed solely of rules lawyers, sit back and watch the fun.

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Stephen McNeil said on April 30th, 2011 at 3:47 am

Nice article, I agree across the board. (See what I did there.)

I own >130 games, running the gamut from hardcore Euros (e.g. Puerto Rico, Caylus, Power Grid) to Ameritrash monsters (e.g. Mansions of Madness, Twilight Imperium 3/e, BSG). I prefer Euros for their elegance of design and generally greater intellectual engagement, but ATs have SO MANY BITS!!! And while the mechanics of Euros lean toward far greater and clever player interaction, somehow the stakes always feel higher in a well-themed AT. Nobody cheers at the end of a game of Puerto Rico, but there’s a lot of shouting after the final die roll in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a the last bank shot in Catacombs.

But yes, of course there’s ritual aplenty in Euros. I like to move my VP stack around the compass rose in Puerto Rico to keep track of what turn we’re on. The exercises of updating the power plant auction at the end of each turn in Power Grid, tapping the tools in Stone Age, fiddling with and stacking and arranging you meeples in any worker placement game…. It’s all very tactile and ritualistic, and a big part of the experience.

What I’m finding interesting is how both styles of game seem to have done such a great recent job with coop games, whether all-vs-game or all-vs-one. Mansions of Madness and BSG are both really fun (and hard AT), but Pandemic is also really great (straight up Euro). They make for very different social interactions than usual games.

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Stephen McNeil said on April 30th, 2011 at 4:25 am

“‘Risk’ is the archetypal Euro game, by origin and by composition. It was exported from France by a famous film director to Parker Brothers, and the game is pushing little cubes around a map as an abstraction of the Napoleonic wars.”

Um. No. The term “Euro” in this context doesn’t just mean “comes from Europe”. Nor does it simply mean “abstract, because the objects used to represent armies do not necessarily look like armies”.

And I don’t know what books you’ve been reading, but Napoleon didn’t make it Kamchatka or Argentina.

Euros have certain hallmark aspects associated with their gameplay and mechanics that render them distinct from AT games (or anything ever published by Parker Brothers), attributes that Risk fails to meet in every regard. Instead, consider a true “archetypal Euro”, The Settlers of Catan.

Euros tend to have:
- no player elimination, unlike Risk
- no direct player conflict, unlike Risk
- imaginative, elegant, and cleverly-designed mechanics, unlike Risk
- a mechanically-enforced high degree of player interaction, where player “turns” are either intertwined in a series of phases, or where you get to do stuff on other players turns. Settlers: you collect resources on other players’ turns, and can always trade with the active player. Risk: if it’s not your turn, you sit and do nothing for twenty minutes unless someone attacks you, and then you have no decisions, you just roll dice.
- rich strategic options offering multiple possible paths to victory. Settlers: multiple ways to win, the best of which changes every game depending on the random board layout and your position thereon — lots of settlements and diversity in resource collection vs fewer cities and reliance on ports, points with settlements/cities vs points from cards/largest army/longest road. Risk: one way to win — build the biggest army, kill everything.
- generally very little reliance on luck generally and dice specifically, or, in a few cases like Settlers, a need to recognize and strategically prepare for long-term probabilities; unlike Risk, which is an absurdly massive dice-fest (to be matched perhaps only by Titan), and correspondingly luck-laden.
- a great emphasis on visual and tactile appeal, with attractive, often wooden, components and brightly coloured, elegantly-designed boards; unlike Risk — my copy had cheesy plastic bits and a garish map board.

Risk has none of the characteristics of a classic Euro. Risk is just a really crappy war game.

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CommenCzar said on May 1st, 2011 at 9:14 am

If it’s got dice, it’s AT. SOLVED

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Die Macher said on May 2nd, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Or:

If you MOVE pieces, it’s AT.
If you PLACE pieces, it’s Euro.

(I was originally planning to write a huge “Risk is not a Euro” rant, but Stephen beat me to it.)

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mygif

<>
Happened to me the first time I played. I think it was my extra card for playing Boomer. Four-player. I was so pissed, I pretty much tried to throw the game to the humans and failed.

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mygif

The above was in response to,
“You only theoretically have an equal number of humans and Cylons with four and six players. I don’t know about you, but I’ve NEVER seen a game go so well that the Sympathizer card turned somebody into a Cylon. And that’s assuming it got dealt to someone who wasn’t one already.”

I’ve played Caylus (meh), I love Puerto Rico, kind of hate Catan. The Euro-ish game I’d like to play again is one of the “Ken Follett’s Builders of the Earth” games.

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[...] was… kind of disappointing. There are a lot of gamers out there who admire the gameplay of Caylus but wish it tied more closely to its theme, and so they create their own takes on Caylus’ [...]

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