A Eurogame, also called German-style board game, German game, or Euro-style game, is any of a class of tabletop games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction and abstract physical components. Such games emphasize strategy, downplay luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends.
Eurogames are sometimes contrasted with American-style board games, which generally involve more luck, conflict, and drama. Aficionados (even American ones) sometimes use the term "Ameritrash" to disparage more luck-based games; this is an ironic play on Eurotrash.
Eurogames are usually less abstract than chess, but more abstract than wargames. 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.
Eurogame is a common, though still an imprecise, 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 German Style Boardgame,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.
Contemporary examples of modern board games referred to as eurogames, such as Acquire, appeared in the 1960s. The recent genre as a more concentrated design movement began in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Germany. Today, Germany publishes more board games than any other country per capita. The phenomenon has spread to other European countries such as France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. While many games are published and played in other markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom, they occupy a niche status there.
The Settlers of Catan, first published in 1995, paved the way for the genre in the United States and outside Europe. It was neither the first "German game" nor the first such game to find an audience outside Germany, but it became much more popular than any of its predecessors. It quickly sold millions of copies in Germany, and in the process brought money and attention to the genre as a whole. Other games in the genre to achieve widespread popularity include Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride, and Alhambra.
Eurogames 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. Eurogames are generally simpler than the wargames that 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.
One consequence of the increasing popularity of this genre has been an expansion upwards in complexity. Games such as Puerto Rico that were considered quite "crunchy" (complex) when the Euro style first became visible in the U.S. just after the turn of the millennium are now regarded as respectable middleweights, with newer high-end titles like Terra Mystica and Tzolkin being significantly more difficult to master.
Eurogames 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 Eurogame 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:
While many titles (especially the strategically heavier ones) are enthusiastically played by gamers as a hobby, Eurogames 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 Eurogames 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 him- or herself, 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, Eurogames usually have a mechanism to stop the game within its stated playing time. Common mechanisms include a pre-determined winning score, a set number of game turns, or depletion of limited game resources. For example, Ra and Carcassonne have limited tiles to exhaust.
Another prominent characteristic of these games is the lack of player elimination. Eliminating players before the end of the game is seen as contrary to the social aspect of such games. 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.
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 do not 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).
A wide variety of often innovative mechanisms or mechanics are used, and familiar mechanics like rolling dice and moving, capture, or trick taking are avoided. If a game has a board, the board is usually irregular rather than uniform or symmetric (like Risk rather than chess or Scrabble); the board is often random (like Settlers of Catan) or has random elements (like Tikal). Some boards are merely mnemonic or organizational and contribute only to ease of play, like a cribbage board; examples of this include Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence. Random elements are often present, but do not usually dominate the game. While rules are light to moderate, they allow depth of play, usually requiring thought, planning, and a shift of tactics through the game and often with a chess- or backgammon-like opening game, middle game, and end game.
Although not relevant to actual play, the name of the game's designer is often prominently mentioned on the box, or at least in the rule book. Top designers enjoy considerable following among enthusiasts of Eurogames. For this reason, the name "designer games" is often offered as a description of the genre. Recently, there has also been a wave of games designed as spin-offs of popular novels, such as the games taking their style from the German bestsellers Der Schwarm and Tintenherz.
Designers of Eurogames include:
There are many German companies producing board games, such as Hans im Glück and Goldsieber. Often German producers will try to establish a line of similar games, such as Kosmos's two-player card game series or Alea's big box line.
The rights to sell the game in English are often sold to separate companies. Some try to change the game as little as possible, such as Rio Grande Games. Others, including Mayfair Games, substantially change the visual design of the game, and sometimes the rules as well.
The most prestigious German board game award is the Spiel des Jahres ("game of the year"). The award is very family-oriented. Shorter, more approachable games such as Ticket to Ride and Elfenland are usually preferred by the committee that gives out the award. In contrast, the Deutscher Spiele Preis ("German game prize") is often awarded to games that are more complex and strategic, such as Puerto Rico. However, there are a few games with broad enough appeal to win both awards: The Settlers of Catan (1995), Carcassonne (2001), Dominion (2009).
Xbox Live Arcade has included popular games from the genre, with Catan being released to strong sales on May 13, 2007, Carcassonne being released on June 27, 2007. Lost Cities and Ticket to Ride soon followed. Alhambra was due to follow later in 2007 until being cancelled.
The iPhone has received versions of Settlers of Catan and Zooloretto in 2009. Carcassonne was added to the iPhone App Store in June 2010. Later, Ticket to Ride was developed for both the iPhone and the iPad (boosting sales of the board game tremendously).