July 24, 2013

What makes a Euro a Euro?

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Every so often (like every other day it seems) a topic comes up discussing what it is that makes a eurogame a eurogame, and not something else, you know like an Ameritrash game. Or a wargame. The reality is that there will never be a perfectly accurate definition or checklist of traits that makes a game part of one particular group or genre and not another. All the terms are too subjective and mutable, and frankly the discourse continues to evolve at a rapid rate, making it a challenge to pin things down as generalizations.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, in large part as a response to an older article, The Essence of Euro-style Games by Lewis Pulsipher at the Games Journal. His article discussed 13 points, which he felt broadly defined the eurogame. Since the time the article was written, 2006, I feel the list remains only partially valid as the cauldron of eurogames has grown immensely since that time, and in particular the complexity of many euro designs has increased markedly since then.

Really, Pulsipher’s article is more successful at defining a particular slice of the broader euro-game spectrum: the “German family game.” German family games started the whole eurogame phenomena - and many of the underlying tenants of German family game design remain signature aspects of eurogames today. Yet the early German family games were designed to fit a particular social niche (note the word “family” in the label) and breaking out of that context we’ve seen designs evolve in all kinds of directions, particularly in regard to complexity and game length, yet they all share a common ancestry.

So, this post is an attempt to “update” the list of traits that typically make a euro a euro – and not something else. But first, a disclaimer:

July 12, 2013

Critically Effective

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Samo’s thread, The thrill of (game) bashing., has generated some interesting discussion about the nature of boardgame criticism, an endlessly fascinating topic (to some of us anyway). I wanted to follow up with a few related thoughts of my own, aimed at established and aspiring boardgame critics – but also more generally to everyone, even outside of the context of boardgames.

The subject at hand is two-fold; first how to be an effective (or “constructive”) critic, and second (to a lesser extent) how to “take criticism.”

Professionally, I’m in the architectural/landscape design profession, working both in private practice as well as teaching graduate-level design and planning courses. In my view, the entire field of design (related to but different than purely artistic fields like fine art) is predicated on criticism; or in the verbiage we use “critique.” Criticism provides the mechanism to advance a specific design project and make it successful – as well as advancing the entire design field. It works a little like this:

July 10, 2013

For the Love of the Decktet

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This past father’s day a little package arrived in the mail, which contained the official Decktet book. I’ve owned a copy of the Decktet cards for about two years – and was mostly relying on the Decktet wiki to look up rules for games I heard about and wanted to try. But having the book itself has made all the difference in the world – and has somehow magnified my appreciation and love for the Decktet.

This post will reflect a little on the Decktet and some of the games I’ve played (and enjoyed). In addition, I wanted to use this opportunity to highlight a Decktet game I’m creating – one that is attempting to create a 4X / Civ style game using the Decktet; a tall order for a little deck of 45 cards.