There are Games. And there are Players.
And in the middle, as a watershed, there are genres. The subgenres. The categories. Those who approach a table full of pieces for the first time, like those who set and clear titles every day, are aware that in the game, as in life, it is important to distinguish.
Leaving aside for now the thousand shades of gray in the middle, the black and white of our beloved table mates is represented by supporting columns: Eurogame and American.
Pure Eurogame is pure mechanics. Titles organized by us such as Terra Mystica, Clans of Caledonia, Agricola, Caverna, Lords of Waterdeep, are the result of the incredible work and efforts of game designers with only one purpose in mind: to create a game that gives very little space to randomness, and a lot. space for player decisions. In these games, everyone creates their own story, following a regulation that leaves nothing to chance. You win or lose with a winning strategy, predicting the moves of the other players, with tricks and tactics that suit only your own purposes, and those of the other players. The interaction can be limited or strong, making some classics organized by us, such as Pulsar 2849, Great Western Trail or A Feast for Odin, of the so-called “group solitaires”, for others, such as Heaven and Ale or Dune: Imperium, very close competitors. The real challenge in these games is to feel the setting: very often it happens that these pure mechanics games are completely disconnected from the world that the illustrator has drawn around, giving the impression of purely abstract games. On the other hand, the veteran Eurogamer, like the writer, is perfectly aware of this and usually judges a game based on its finesse rather than the fact that it is set in the Middle Ages, in the future or in a dystopian world. If Eurogames are for you, winning or losing in a game where nothing is left to chance will be a great satisfaction; the competitiveness is very strong in this type of titles and I have seen the harmony of more than a day of play crack for these games which, of course, do not forgive mistakes.
Pure American is pure immersion. Fantastic environments, characterized characters and challenges to the last planet, to the death or to the last piece of cloth are the bread of those who live the world in this category. Titles organized by us such as Zombicide, The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth or This War of Mine are game experiences that transcend the simple game between friends. Here the world and the setting come into play and transform a table in Middle-earth, in Westeros, into a spaceship full of aliens. The random element is usually strong in these games, but, if handled well, it turns into the unpredictability that any adventure in dangerous lands brings with it. The thrill of seeing an ogre emerge from a bush or an alien from an air vent is the salt and pepper of these games. The American audience is usually a close-knit team of heroes battling a common enemy, or fierce fighters competing in single combat. In short, a bunch of people who want to live an adventure, whatever it is.
The table of an Eurogame is usually recognized at a glance, as well as that of an American. In the first, men and women with hands in their hair, bowing in front of boards, cards and tokens, usually in religious silence, exude neural impulses. In the second, a cheerful gang exchanges jokes, insults, talks about strategies and plans, crossing their fingers waiting for the adventure to end, whatever it may be.
So far, we have talked about opposites, but everything between these two categories is absolutely, and perhaps more than absolutely, noteworthy.
There are games organized by us, such as Gloomhaven, Mage Knight, but also Nemesis, for example, with completely unexpected hidden sides. The American guise of these games must absolutely not be misleading: the planning must be maximum, and the chance is canceled, or almost, by the choices of the players. The setting really feels a lot, the dice weight is reduced, and there is a mix of Euro-American mechanics. Sometimes, like mayonnaise, mixing without knowledge could lead to disastrous results, but there are cases where opposites attract.
And you know, when they are attracted well, the results can only be splendid.
Because the categories are fundamental, but even more fundamental is to try, more and more, to use them to unify different genres. On the other hand, evolution teaches that the strongest, most adaptable creatures are born from the mixture of opposites and, in the end, that most satisfy the environment in which one lives. I am convinced that the perfect game, if it ever exists, will be the most transversal and best amalgamated hybrid of opposite genres. And of course, we will not fail to organize it in the best possible way!
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