I talk about misrepresenting tabletop games with false monikers like "Euro game"/"German-style game" and "American-style game". We need to avoid throwing out these vague and inaccurate terms, and here's why.
So, where do these false monikers come from? Have you heard about the new 4K TVs? What the majority of the consumer market will likely not understand for some time is that this is a false moniker. It misrepresents the product for the purposes of marketing. Odds are your brand new 4K TV is not actually a 4K TV, it is more likely a UHD TV (Ultra High Definition TV). So, why isn't it pitched and sold as a UHD TV? It's because focus groups and marketing "experts" feel that the difference between a 4K TV and a UHD TV is negligible. They feel that the average consumer is confused about the advantages of a UHD TV compared to an HD TV or a Full HD TV. They believe that 4K is catchier, easier to remember and easier to say. The important thing to remember is that this moniker does not truthfully or accurately describe your TV.
This happens in the tabletop industry every time a gamer blurts out absurd terms like "Euro game", "German-style game" or "American-style game". Most gamers, especially those more familiar with the hobby, probably find these false monikers acceptable. They are trendy and easy to remember, but do not truthfully or accurately describe a game. With the success and popularity of Settlers of Catan, the industry decided that a German game designer has set the standard for what a game should be like. The industry said to the American market, "This German did awesome, make your games like the Germans and you will do awesome". There's a lot of factors at play, but the big picture view suggests this is what reignited the industry in the United States.
Well, I suppose I would find Settlers of Catan to be one of the least Euro of Euro games I have played. It sure relies an awful lot on luck. And do American designers only make games that rely on luck or elimination? Sid Sackson and the 1960s may have something to say about that, as well as quite a few modern designers. Also, German designers, and other European designers, make games with luck and/or elimination. Obviously, these false monikers are too broad to be useful in any way. Just like calling your new UHD TV a 4K TV, it's popular and trendy to refer to "good" games as Euro games; though, certainly vague and inaccurate. From a design standpoint, it has never in my life occurred to me to consider if my games are more American-style than German-style.
In fact, let's look at how most designers, hobbyists and consumers view games. At the top of the family tree we have "Games". Let's start here. Now do we want to make a "Video Game" or a "Tabletop Game". Obviously, we are going to branch off into Tabletop Game. Now, what kind of Tabletop Game do we want to make? Well, we could go with a "Board Game", "Card Game", "Dice Game", "Miniatures Game" or "Pencil and Paper Game". The first thing I want to point out is how a board game is a sub class of a tabletop game. A lot of people seem to overlook that. Then note, as we more accurately describe and define the kind of game we are making, there is no use of those catchy false monikers. They aren't relevant.
I wouldn't call this a definitive list of high order categories. However, I believe the scope of this list is far more accurate than many of the so-called definitive lists you will find on the web. Many of these lists mistakenly start including settings, themes or skills into this level of classification. This is a mistake because many of these extra game categories can be, and often are, lower order elements of what's listed.
For example, a couple of the most well known US board game sites on the web start listing categories like "political" and "nautical" along side "card", "dice" and "miniatures". Do I have to choose between a game about sailing over a game that uses dice? That doesn't make much sense to me. Am I not able to have both a card game and a board game about sailing? These are clearly sub-classes. What's interesting to me is that, even at this level of classification, there is no mention of our false monikers.
These terms also don't mean anything to the average consumer and to describe games in this way is a false representation. The terms carry very little (if any) weight. They also obfuscate what should be clearly defined and consistent classification. I think we serve the tabletop industry better by rejecting these terms as acceptable references to the types of games we play.
Article by yours truly, Noble Valerian. Feel free to leave your thoughts, quips and retorts in the comments!
Digital Arts Instructor