Skip to content

Some definitions in the world of board gaming that confuse me

2010 July 19
by Michael Schroeder

I’ve been confused for sometime now, with some board gaming definitions. I’d like to discuss some that come to mind and I’m curious to see what you all think about these definitions.

Multiplayer – Many times, I’ve come across, in manuals on on-line, that “…so and so can be played 2 player, or multi player…” This is where I’m confused. Isn’t 2 player inherently considered “multiplayer?” I don’t understand the need for differentiation. If you go to google, and look up the definition of multiplayer…”Requiring or having multiple human players,” as well as other mentions of 2 or more players. And it seems in these manuals and on-line, people make a strong differentiation between the two. Can you see why I’m confused for the need of this differentiation in terms? Now that I’m thinking about it, I can see the use of the term, to be shorter and easier to say, than, “3 or more players…” But is it enough to warrant the difference in definitions? At least 2 players, to me, is multi player…more than 1!

Ameritrash – This one, I can somewhat see, but I find it to be a jab at us Americans as being unsophisticated and less intelligent. Ameritrash games are typically games which revolve around theme and luck, such as dice rolling. So, yes, I can see why such great games like Arkham Horror, heroScape, A Game of Thrones, etc. are thrown under this umbrella term. Yes, these games are made by American companies, I believe most by Americans and rely heavily on theme and dice rolling, but tacking the name “trash” on it? Come on, Europeans, that’s just harsh. You’re no better than anyone else, and while yes, Euro style games are wonderful, I think the Ameritrash term is a little condescending and rude, don’t you think? My apologies to Europeans, if a European didn’t come up with this word but it sounds likely – right?)

Yes, Europeans, we do have a lot of people here that lack the intelligence to warrant breeding, but so do other countries! Don’t let images of walmart give you an impression of what we’re all like as Americans.

Anyways, some of my favorite gaming experiences are coming more and more from Ameritrash games.

Wargaming – I asked my good friend, Tim – “Wouldn’t a game like heroScape, be considered a war game?” He adamantly said, no. And mentioned that war games often take hours and hours to play and involve deep strategy. Sure, that’s fine, and I know there’s entire families of games that are dedicated war games, such as Axis and Allies and Memoir 44. But wouldn’t you classify a lot of games as war games? For instance, heroScape, you have miniatures that are fighting each other – in my opinion, that’s one type of war game. Even when I was browsing the war game category on boardgamegeek, I happened to see that, A Game of Thrones board game, was listed under the war games. So I’m just curious what people’s thoughts are about that. And I’m wondering if I offended any hard-core “war gamers” out there, that feel like the definition of wargaming or war games, should just be reserved for games based on history.

Collectible – Games like, Magic the Gathering and Pokemon are considered, collectible, mostly due to the fact that when you buy booster packs and the like, that you don’t know what you’re getting, until you open the package. So your spending tons of your money, to get maybe 1 specific character, and that game system, is collectible. Give me a break, that doesn’t sound right! It sounds like a marketing ploy to me.

I’m a board game hobbyist, enthusiast and collector. Yes, I say collector, because in addition to playing these games, I consider myself a collector. Shouldn’t the term, collector, be implied here? Especially when we’re spending all these money on board games? I’d love to have all the expansion packs and characters for heroScape, so I consider myself a collector. And I know what’s in the package when I buy it. I think it’s somewhat silly buying an item that you don’t know what it is, don’t you agree? I’m sure you heard of the term, coin collector, or stamp collector, “come and take a look at my coin collection (pretty boring in my opinion).” You know exactly what coins you are after and what coins you are buying as a coin collector. So why are board/card games like Magic, considered, collectible and not every board game!

That’s my 2 cents. Leave your comments.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Joe Shea permalink
    July 19, 2010

    I tend to interpret multiplayer games as 3+, since table games inherently need two people at minimum (chess, go, backgammon, checkers, cribbage, rummy) I think that contextually it makes sense, and taking it out of that context confuses things.

    Ameritrash is something I heard of a few years ago, and in reality, it is harsh. With that being said, growing up, I cannot recall a board game that didn’t require a great deal of luck. Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and Hungry, Hungry Hippos all required luck. More adult themed games (Clue, Monopoly, Life) required luck as well. They are American games, but they are not trashy. They are just luck based games in which skill helps.

    I tend to disagree with your Collectible card game assessment. I believe they are called collectible because, unlike board games, you do not get the complete package at once. Buying Dominion or Race gives you everything you could need (ignoring expansions). In a CCG, there is an element of incompleteness involved. Not everyone has every card, and as a result, there is an element of skill to maximize your deck of cards with the ones you have (though when people take it more seriously and have access to all cards, they run over everyone who doesn’t have unlimited access. I don’t think that “board game collector” is incorrect, and you can call yourself that. I think that the collectible aspect is meant more along the lines of differentiating them from trading cards (like baseball cards) since they have another function beyond just collecting. There are card games (rummy, pinochle) that use a standard deck of cards, and they are differentiated from games with specific sets of cards (dominion, race). I think that semantically, collectible is meant to merge the fact that they have different values like baseball cards, yet are used for a game (like race).

    The problem I have is that you do not consider the fact that not everyone goes and buys booster packs. People go to card stores, ebay, or other people to buy specific cards to get exactly what they want.

  2. July 19, 2010

    “Multi-opponent” would be more apt than “multiplayer”. But the misnomer has pretty well stuck, and I don’t know that there’s any way to change it now.

    “Ameritrash” comes from the dark period of the Eurosnoot/Ameritrash wars on BGG from a few years ago. I don’t know exactly who first coined the term, but lovers of American-style games actually embraced it (and still do, to a large degree, hence Fortress Ameritrash) because it was in direct opposition to the perceived elietism of the eurogame-lovers and, as they often said, “these games of ours”.

    Wargaming – I don’t want to get into that one…

    Collectible – A marketing ploy it may be, but Magic: The Gathering started the self-proclaimed “collectible” market 16 or so years ago (so we’re not talking about anything new here). I get your point about all of us being collectors to some extent, but it’s a whole other thing when you talk about a “collectible game”.

  3. Bernard permalink
    July 19, 2010

    I can see the point of multiplayer meaning “for 3 or more players”. Some people have one primary game partner and very rarely play games in groups of 3 or more. Other people just don’t like 2-player games, so a game that only plays 2 isn’t going to hit the table for them. For people who fit either description, knowing whether a game is multiplayer will be important.

    Multi-player games can also have aspects that are absent in 2-player games, such as negotiation, meaningful voting, and more interesting auctions. If you want those kinds of things in a game, then the distinction of 2-player vs. multi-player will be important to you.

    Regarding games that are for one person: I would guess that (with the exception of wargames), the market for these games is rather limited. With very few exceptions, most people who buy boardgames to play them (not just collect them) expect to do so with other people.

  4. July 23, 2010

    If you’ve never played a wargame I can understand the confusion. Wargames tend more toward tactics and force in ways that Eurogames shy away from. e.g. While Age of Empires III has a war component, you can play the game without conducting war. Wargames also attempt to re-create battles and scenarios from the past and allow the players to play them out in their own way. They are generally 2-player and take a long time to play which is why I almost never play them. You’ve got a good blog going, keep up the good work.

    • July 23, 2010

      Hey Brendan,

      Thanks for the comment! Ya I don’t think I’d ever have the interest in playing a historically based wargame – I’m more interested in fantasy themes. I’d be tempted to check out that memoir 44 game though, as I hear its excellent and just from glancing at it, it seems it’s not the complexity of other historically based war games.

      Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

Visit Practical Technology Courses to Get WordPress Training