Meaning of Euro in games

I’ve been reading and watching game reviews lately (board games not video games) and I’ve heard several uses of Euro. I always thought Euro games was a broad category that basically meant a more advanced board game - something that depended more on strategy than luck. Many of these originate in Europe (often Germany) but I thought an American or Japanese game could also by a Euro-type game.

But I now thing I’ve misunderstood the meaning of the term. I’ve seen reviewers talking about a game being Euro and it’s often not a positive thing. So what does it mean when a game is Euro (or too Euro)?

“Euro” games typically:

[li]Have more indirect competition (everyone versus the system) instead of direct competition (people screwing each other).[/li]
[li]Are about placement of pieces and allocation of resources, rather than attacking other players and controlling territory.[/li]
[li]Are lightly themed. They don’t feel like simulations, but abstract systems with themes added afterwards.[/li][/ul]
Playing a bad Euro game feels like playing solitaire on a spreadsheet. On your turn you place some pieces on the board. Some things happen. Other people place their pieces. More things happen. Eventually you tally up victory points to see who did a better job of allocating resources. Whee.

There are good Euro games though. Settlers of Catan is a great Euro game. It’s about placement, the competition is mostly indirect (you can block people, but not attack directly), and its not a simulation of any sort of real-world situation. But it’s still incredibly fun.

Contrast Eurogamewith Ameritrash.

I’d add that Euro Games tend to be less luck based than Ameritrash. If dice are involved, the results can be mitigated to make the game less about luck (or take the frequency into calculation)

What The Hamster King said. Euro games are kind of like games designed by elementary school counselors. They’re not conflict and domination based; they’re more like some kind of parallel playing and resource allocation exercises where you play and compare scores at the end.

I tend to think of Euro games as those with giant boards, three different decks of cards, 19 kinds of wooden tokens, and probably some discs or beads as well. “Fiddly” is the word that comes to mind.

There is certainly a lot of appeal to games like that, when done well (Agricola, Race for the Galaxy, Puerto Rico) but when they’re bad, they’re AWFUL. I usually prefer games with more elegance to them.

THK hits the nail on the head of what makes a bad Eurogame, or (for some people) what makes Eurogames bad. The low conflict level of these games often leads to them being described as “gateway”, i.e. more family-friendly & a potential port of entry to getting people into conflict-oriented, more complicated games…thus some people sneer at their relative simplicity.

I’ve gone from being a huge fan of Eurogames to mostly disliking them, for (again) reasons THK highlights: they feel like “parallel play” to me, rather than interaction, in particular most train games. There are exceptions…jsexton actually lists three of them, but I’d argue that all three of those are interactive enough that they’re no longer parallel play.

So if somebody says a game is too Euro, he probably feels it doesn’t have enough player interaction and/or is too abstract?

Not enough interaction/competition, I’d say. Less on the abstract…there’s nothing particularly abstract about Ticket to Ride, and it’s (arguably) the most popular Eurogame in history*.

  • at the table Settlers of Catan is possibly the most popular, but apparently a ton of people play the Ticket to Ride app

Except the theme of Ticket to Ride does feel a bit pasted on. Compare it to a game like Empire Builder whose rules actually try to capture the challenge of running a real railroad.

It’s not that Eurogames aren’t themed. They’re often gloriously themed. But the theming often has little connection to the play mechanics.

Yeah, exactly. In Ticket to Ride, you have tickets, so you’re apparently a passenger. Except you also own a few dozen train cars. Are you building train tracks? No, those seem to already exist. So you’re investing in matching train paint jobs to outfit your fleet of trains in order to travel on lines to fulfill the tickets you bought and you don’t care about efficiency. In fact, you want the worst, least practical route possible.

A simulation this is not. You could repaint it a a power grid game, or a labyrinth theme, or a plumbing game, or a computer circuit board, or a mouse avoiding cats, or a hundred other themes without altering the mechanics at all, and it would work just as well.

I’ve also heard the term “German-Style” for this kind of game - it seems to be a synonym for Euro.

So a Euro game is more like a mass jerk-off session than an orgy?

When it’s all over, if you feel like an accountant in a competitive spreadsheeting contest, it’s a Euro.

More like buying shares in people to determine ownership of the biggest loads.

I actually feel that way about Empire Builder, to be honest. Yeah I get you have payloads to carry with different values, but that just feels like a random-draw, variable scoring scheme for what is still parallel play that doesn’t have much to do with railroads.

Power Grid on the other hand feels much closer to me like really running a power grid, except for the soccer trophy method for distributing resources; force players to bid on resources every turn and it’ll feel more realistic.

On the other hand, it’ll be less fun for everyone but one player.

Think of it more like a race. You’re competing against the other players but you can’t interfere with their performance.

Granted this is rarely absolute. Most Euro games do have some methods you can use to interfere with what the other players are doing just as many races do. But the idea is you’re supposed to win by focusing on your own performance not by knocking out the other players.