What is Ameritrash?
From the BoardgameGeek Glossary:
Ameritrash is "a catchphrase for 'American style boardgames.' In general, this means games that emphasize a highly developed theme, characters, heroes, or factions with individually defined abilities, player to player conflict, and usually feature a moderate to high level of luck."
There is a great deal of dispute over what Ameritrash means, even when it is accepted as a meaningful term. Many gamers would never call the "old" Avalon Hill a producer of Ameritrash. Ameritrash means something to most hobby gamers, but what it means still varies somewhat across communities.
In sum, the concrete definition of "Ameritrash" is considered by some to be hazy.
What is not Ameritrash?
Ameritrash games do not include the popular genre of Eurogames
. In fact, many gamers find that these two genres focus on very different aspects of gaming. Simply put, Eurogames tend to focus on streamlined, well-balanced play, with a mimimal theme and more abstracted game mechanics, while Ameritrash focuses more on theme and dramatic gameplay.
Examples of Eurogames
Ameritrash games also do not include traditional wargames. These tend to focus on history and detail to a level that would probably not appeal to the typical Ameritrash gamer.
What About Hybrids?
games are by definition part Eurogame and part Ameritrash. So in a sense they are both.
What About Waros?
games are by definition part Eurogame and part Wargame. These can be difficult to classify. In general, most Waros would not be considered Ameritrash, especially those with very Euro-like themes and mechanics.
What About Mass-Market American Games?
Some mass-market American games can be considered Ameritrash, but many are not. The distinction is typically in the theme. A fantasy RPG style game such as TSR's Dungeon! is clearly Ameritrash because it has a highly developed fantasy theme. On the other hand, an abstract game such as Scrabble would not be considered Ameritrash.
- Monopoly - a more traditional mass-market game; some luck and some player interaction (including player elimination, usually not found in Eurogames)
- Diplomacy - an older game with no luck and simple game mechanics, but high player conflict (including player elimination)
- Civilization - a game with minimal luck, lots of theme and some player conflict
The following publishers have published a significant number of Ameritrash titles:
Some people feel that the term "Ameritrash" is unnecessarily negative and prefer not to use it. Others feel that the reference to America is a problem because not all of these games are published in America. Suggested alternative terms include Amerigames, Amerigold, and Ameritreasure. To date none of these has gained traction. BoardGameGeek has recently created a category system for games, and named the category for these games "Thematic Games", argueably a more professional name for the category and less offensive to the game publishers themselves.
Although the etymology of the term "Ameritrash" hasn't been subjected to rigorous analysis, it was used on rec.games.board in January 2000 to mean games dominated by luck, or games where you move around a track "Parchesi" style as dictated by dice rolls. (Richard Hutnik talks about it here.) Another early use was by Greg Schloesser in a July 2000 article which may be viewed here: http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/FutureofAH.shtml
While probably originally intended to apply just to genuinely bad American games, in deference to the much higher professional standards of mass-market games in Germany, the scope has since been expanded. Players of "euro" games probably used it as an insult for poorly-developed American games (after Hasbro bought out Avalon Hill in 1997, the center of game design and development experience shifted to Germany), and then some fans of those American games adopted the term as a badge of honor.
The term is presumably a sly repurposing of the term "eurotrash" used by Americans to refer to some aspects of European music and culture ("euro" is a commonly - although not universally - accepted term for games designed and developed in Europe, even though those games are overwhelmingly German).
It came into its current use on BoardgameGeek after user crackedlcd81 was called an "Ameritrash apologist", which in turn inspired user robartin to create the geeklist A Tribute to Ameritrash.
Ameritrash, along with almost all the other terminology used to describe categories of games in this article, is gaming jargon. All are used by a small segment of online hobby gamers. Not only do they have no broadly accepted usage, their usage is frequently divisive even amongst people who do use the terms, as the meanings seem to confound simple explanation, and in addition evolve over time.
The nearly-complete globalization of games in recent years has made the terms such as Ameritrash and Eurogame confusing to some gamers. It should be noted that these names refer to a style of game's point of origin. Certainly it is not required for Ameritrash to be American, nor do all American game companies make Ameritrash, nor is it even easily identifiable which game companies are actually American. Fantasy Flight, a company frequently identified with Ameritash, is in large part a publisher of European game designs. Mayfair and Rio Grande, large publishers by the standards of American hobby game companies, produce European games almost exclusively.
GeekLists About Ameritrash