To Euro or to gyro? That is the question. How about both?!
Sam “King of the Hilltop”
I have a friend, TherapyWolfy, who has been helping me explore the world of Euro board games and it has been a fantastic ride!
If you know me, I love conflict in gaming and it has been a hallmark of my game collection and shows in my love of competitive miniature games. But, trying to expand my horizons, I have been trying out other games and I have to say, it can be a lot of fun playing with friends and expanding my horizons.
I have been playing a large variety of games from Scythe and Great Western Trail, across Terraforming Mars, and into lighter weight Euros like Splendor and Century: Golem Edition (prefer Golems over Spice Road, sorry). Every time I play a new game and spend time digesting it, I keep asking myself why they made the design choices they did. It’s become a habit since I have started really dedicating myself to board game design and board game publishing. So, here are my thoughts on some of those design choices and I want to hear your feedback on this as well.
Quick note, I define Euro games as the following: a game that does not have conflict as the main means of winning a game, requires planning and forethought, and has game components that help to explain and navigate a theme.
Example, Scythe has direct conflict but unless under extremely extraordinary circumstances is not how you are going to win the game.
Trivial Pursuit and other types of trivia games may have indirect conflict but usually lack planning or even a true theme to the game other than the subject matter. Trivia games are fun but are not classified as a Euro board game in my book.
Variable # of Turns
A great Euro has a variable # of turns dependent on the strategies of the players. You see it a lot where people say the game is going to end in a turn or two and instead it ends up lasting longer than what was predicted. The reverse is true where people say I have plenty of time and then the game ends. Player strategies need to affect game length in order to better help or hinder said strategies.
To me, a game where it helps me feel awesome and rewarded for making a good move, gaining a certain combination of materials, or accomplishing tasks on the way to building something bigger is a good indicator I will enjoy it. Planning and executing small plays, and then being rewarded for succeeding keeps me coming back for more as I build an engine to crush my foes into dust!
Sorry, like I said, I can get competitive. We even had an absolute cutthroat game of Splendor on Sunday. It was almost violent in the way people were reserving other people’s needed cards and the retribution from those plays was palpable.
Theme Helps to Learn the Game
I think great Euro games teach you how to play, not only from well-crafted and logical rules, but the theme and the visuals help you to understand how to play the game and how to craft winning strategies. There are a lot of games with a trading/business theme and I agree that many of those games should be themed as business games. The theme and interactions feel like trade and manufacturing and should therefore be portrayed as such. Are there too many? Maybe but I think it’s great. With variety comes the ability to try different flavors and really find those things that truly bring a delicious joy to your gameplay experience.
It’s been a blast trying new games and seeking to try and understand what makes them enjoyable, or not so much in other cases. I would love to hear from you what your thoughts are. What makes a certain Euro board game great? What would you like to see more of in Euro games? Do you like to eat gyros while playing Euros?
Make It Good, Real Good
Ed “Duke of BAzlandia”
When discussing genres of game and what makes them good it is always good to define what defines the category or what that classification is. What makes a game a Euro? Basically a Euro is a game where there isn’t usually direct conflict, luck is usually not a core mechanic, and there are multiple viable paths to victory that may be pursued depending on the strategy.
From my experience the above gives a fairly broad but accurate description of what a “Euro” game is. So what makes a game in this genre good? I’ve seen multiple posts on this and have talked to many people about this. What makes a game in this genre good is really the choices. These choices can’t be just any choice and many people talk about meaningful choices. I think it goes beyond just meaningful choices. I think it goes to efficiencies and it goes to what is the best choice given the current strategy you are pursuing and what your current need is.
Many of these games make you take what you produce (production is often based on luck or engine building) and utilizing them to your best advantage which can be to increase your production or get points. There is often a point in these games where you have to switch your focus from building production to getting victory points. Rarely are these the same. What makes these games good is the choice of when to switch from production building to victory point gaining.
Another thing I have often found in good games in this category is that when everyone is experienced in the game it is rare for someone to just runaway with the game and destroy everyone. Often one of the problems in an ill designed game or in the genre of “Ameritrash” (personally I embrace the name but that is a discussion for another time) is that it is easy for a player to runaway and just destroy everyone by amassing so many victory points or production that no one can compete within a couple of turns. I personally find this not fun. A game that has a good balance almost never allows this to happen or if it does it’s always the last round or two and it’s because of the planning and strategy by a player and not due to chance.
A good game will leave you with the feeling of wanting more. When I play a good Euro I always feel like I am on the verge of something great. Every turn I just need one more thing and that magical “key” to unleash my production or create unending wealth and victory points is just one more turn away. With a good “Euro” I feel like this every turn. Even when I get the perceived “key” or next step there is still something more that I need and one more step. Even when the game ends there is still more.
I love and hate the above feeling. I love it because I enjoy it and it leaves me wanting to play again. I hate it because I want that engine to be complete and dominating and there is a part of me that doesn’t want the game to end until someone (preferably me) has complete domination.
Those are my thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line in an email here or tweet at me here. Feel free to discuss anything.