Last time, we pulled out the travel guide and got to know a little about the realm of Eurogames, or European-style board games. Now it's time to really begin exploring.
Two key things set Eurogames apart from the mass-market American games you see in your favorite big box store: how long the games take to play, and how the games engage the players.
Where classic American board games will steal away your whole evening, lots of family-friendly Eurogames finish in just 30 to 60 minutes, giving you time to play two or three rounds of games with your kids (or even your friends).
Eurogames also play differently than their American counterparts. American games often use direct competition, pitting players against each other like a tabletop reality TV show, complete with backstabbing and tears. It's not exactly the kind of experience that makes for happy family memories.
Instead of that, Eurogames use indirect competition that keeps all of the players engaged in the game until the very end. You get to laugh, interact and actually enjoy the time you spend with your family because you're not trying to drive them into the ground like tent stakes.
But that's just the beginning of what Eurogames bring to the family gaming table.
Where American games throw your fate into the hands of random die rolls, Eurogames put strategy and player decisions at the center of the action. Eurogames are famous for laying out a bunch of options and then letting you choose what you want to do.
That's a very different style of play than rolling a die and going wherever it sends you so you can do whatever the game tells you when you get there.
There's still luck involved in Eurogames, but it's not the main thing that drives the game.
Eurogames also engage you with the feel of the components inside the box (and the heft of the box itself, too). For European game companies, component quality is almost a feng shui-type of thing. Not only should the game play well, but the parts should feel good in your hands as you play.
Open a Eurogame, and you'll usually find extra-thick game boards, cards with soft linen finishes and nicely finished wood playing pieces (or at least solidly-made, high quality plastic pieces).
Why all of this focus on game parts? Because Eurogames are designed to last through hundreds of trips to the table. That's called “replayability,” but don't tell anyone I told you yet, because that's part of what we'll talk about next time when we look at some great games to start building your family game shelf.
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Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld is a best-selling author, speaker and dad. He enjoys playing games with his family and letting others know about them. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more of his work at www.johnkaufeld.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.