Notes on game taxonomy and the Ameritrash label
Recommend
93 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
The "Ameritrash" label was introduced* over a month ago by robartin in his geeklist A Tribute to Ameritrash (see: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16485). Since then, term keeps popping up every now and then in discussions an three microbadges were introduced to satisfy the fans. It is, however, far from clear what the term refers to and, especially, whether it refers to a single, more or less homogeneous set of games. The term "Ameritrash", therefore, is highly ambiguous. This geeklist is an attempt at some clarification in the form of a number of - more or less - random notes.

note (*)
shumyum and HisDivineShadow brought to my attention that the term "Ameritrash" is much older than I thought. See their comments at the bottom of this list.
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Slow_Games [+] euro [+] Ameritrash [+] Kickass [+] [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Car Wars [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:2608] [Average Rating:6.40 Unranked]
Board Game: Car Wars
Let’s start this list with a recap of the main point’s of robartin’s Tribute to Ameritrash.

THEME

It should be clear that Ameritrash oozes with theme, but there seem to be some themes that fit the genre better than others:

- Fantasy Themes
- Military Themes (Wargames)
- Horror Themes
- Science Fiction Themes
- Sports Themes
- Post Apocalyptic Themes

(from: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16485)

Themes that are very un-Ameritrash and more suitable to euros:

- everything related to flowers
- everything related to butterflies
- shrimp
- single road cities with provosts
- etc.

MORE THEME

According to robartin’s Tribute to Ameritrash, Ameritrash games have lots of ‘chrome’ and ‘excellent titles’. Games are based on ‘stories’ and provide plenty of ‘background materials’. According to crackedlcd81, important key words are ‘creativity, sense of adventure, and imagination’.

(from: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16485)

EVEN MORE THEME

Specifically, some Ameritrash fans plead for:

- Nukes
- Guns
- Guns and Automobiles
- Hot Babes

Everyone seems to agree that there should be:

- Conflict

Thusfar everything seems pretty clear.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Crossbows and Catapults [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:3793]
Board Game: Crossbows and Catapults: Grand Battleset
COMPONENTS

robartin’s Tribute to Ameritrash is far less clear on this issue than it is on theme. On the on hand games should have:

- Millions of Chits
- Garish Artwork
- Cardboard Chits
- Cheap Game Boards

and on the other hand, there should be:

- Plastic Minis
- Gadgets
- Toy Factor
- Collectible Components

but everyone seems to like:

- Slews of Cards

(from: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16485)

This suggests that Ameritrash is not a homogeneous category (if it is one). There seem to be at least two types of Ameritrash: the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type and the (collectible) plastic miniature (toy) type.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: Where Are They? [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Where Are They?
WHERE ARE THE AMERITRASH FANS?

In mkgray’s geeklist ‘The 10 Types of Gamers (Clustering Analysis)’ (see: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17062), DarrellKH was wondering where the Ameritrash fans he was hearing so much about (and – probably – from) were. None of mkgray’s 10 clusters (types of gamers) was labeled Ameritrash fans. Looking more closely at mkgray’s data is seems that the Ameritrash fans are split up in three categories:

- 'Dripping-with-theme-gamers': the (collectible) plastic miniature (toy) type
- 'Wargamers' : the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type
- 'Classics gamers': the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type

Gamers that are clustered as ‘wargamers’ or ‘classics gamers’ tend to like other types of games as well. Especially ‘classics gamers’ seem to have a broad interest.

Hence, this doesn’t help, the ‘Ameritrash’ label is getting more ambiguous rather than more clear. Let’s return to the original source: robartin’s Tribute to Ameritrash.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.59 Overall Rank:19958]
Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory
RANDOMNESS

Ameritrash games are supposed to have:

- Dice
- Randomness
- Event Cards
- Player Elimination
- Instant, soul-crushing defeat

(from: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16485)

Nevertheless there seem top be many Ameritrash games of the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type that have very limited and randomness, while there are plenty of light euros that are very random.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Let's Kill! [Average Rating:5.35 Overall Rank:20010]
Board Game: Let's Kill!
PLAYER ELIMINATION

Although not all Ameritrash games have player elimination, this is an interesting phenomenon. In a statistical analysis ‘published’ as Sky Knight X Questionnaire (SKXQ): Final Results (see: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/15636), I found that the only significant difference between European and American gamers was a different preference for player elimination. Europeans shun player elimination, while Americans do not really mind.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Europa Universalis [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:5005]
Board Game: Europa Universalis
LONG & HARD

It was suggested that Ameritrash games have

- Insane Rulebooks
- Long Playing Time
- Long Sequence of Events
- Completeness
- Book-keeping
- Intentional Imbalance
- Epic Proportions
- Tons of rules to make all the over abundance of chrome and theme work
- Huge Rule Gaps
- Errata

(from: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16485)

However, some games that are considered Ameritrash don’t have a very long playing time or extensive rule set at all. There seem to be relatively short and simple Ameritrash games and very long and complex ones. Compare, for example, Nexus Ops to Advanced Squad Leader. To a large extent, the boundary line between long complex and shorter, less complex seems to coincide with that between the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type and the (collectible) plastic miniature (toy) type.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. Board Game: On-sets [Average Rating:5.38 Unranked]
Board Game: On-sets
FUZZY SETS AND TAXONOMIES

Game categories are fuzzy sets. There are no crisp borders between categories and many games fall in-between categories. There is a whole category of games between the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type of Ameritrash games and heavy euros: the Euro-American Intermediates (EAIs – see: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/14691). Contrary to many Ameritrash games, EAIs have very limited randomness, but they are similar in many other respects. In the EAIs geeklist, wtrollkin2000 rightly asserted that Civilization ‘defines the niche’.

Complexity (weight) and chrome vs. randomness may be the two most basic dimensions of game categorization. The figure below presents such a categorization based on these two dimensions.

External image


Note that the arrow means an increase of a value in that direction, and that - based on the above - I have split up the Ameritrash fans in two categories.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
8. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1102]
Board Game: Titan
TRADITIONAL AMERITRASH

is the the millions of cardboard chits on cheap boards type. To find out what are typical traditional Ameritrash games, go to the BGG search box, select ‘publishers’ and type in ‘Avalon Hill’.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
9. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:473]
Board Game: Nexus Ops
NEW AMERITRASH

is the (collectible) plastic miniature (toy) type.
Interestingly, many of the ‘new Ameritrash’ games also have an ‘Avalon Hill’ logo. It isn’t the same logo, however, neither is it the same publisher. Besides Hasbro Hill, Fantasy Flight is a big publisher of new Ameritrash.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
10. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:328] [Average Rating:7.99 Unranked]
Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader
WARGAMES

Wargames are war-themed Ameritrash games. War-themed euros are just that: war-themed euros.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
11. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:28]
Board Game: Caylus
BUT WHAT DO THE FANS LIKE?

Currently there are 13 BGG members with an Ameritrash microbadge. Intriguingly, nearly all of them like many euros (especially the heavier and more strongly themed ones). Traditional Ameritrash games seem to be underrepresented, but so are new Ameritrash games. A quick and dirty analysis of the Ameritrash microbadge-holders game preferences by category suggests the following order:

1. heavy and medium euros
2. new Ameritrash games
3. EAIs and light euros
4. traditional Ameritrash games

Based on ratings alone, most Ameritrash fans seem to be euro fans more than Ameritrash fans. (Personally, I’m a EAI and traditional Ameritrash ‘fan’ mainly.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
12. Board Game: Trivial Pursuit: All American Edition [Average Rating:5.27 Overall Rank:18574]
Board Game: Trivial Pursuit: All American Edition
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AMERITRASH

#1
Ameritrash games are games by American designers and/or publishers.

Not true. Country of origin is irrelevant. Theme strenght is relevant and the level of complexity, but Ameritrash games can be designed and published in any country.
docreason's comment on robartin's list: "This is another side of "Ameritrash" design. Either go heavy on the theme, and forget the play mechanics, or go with straight play mechanics, and forget the theme." is, therefore, completely besides the point. There may be abstract American games, but an Ameritrash game can - by definition - not be abstract.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
13. Board Game: Wallace & Gromit Going Crackers [Average Rating:5.86 Unranked]
Board Game: Wallace & Gromit Going Crackers
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AMERITRASH

#2

crackedlcd81 (Michael Barnes) is the prime ambassador / spokesperson / reverend / etc. of Ameritrash.

He isn't. He may be one of the most outspoken advocates of the genre(s) (or part thereof), but he is not the prime ambassador / spokesperson / reverend / etc. of Ameritrash. On the other hand, he is omnipresent, he keeps trying to spread Ameritrash more vigorously than anyone else, and he may be just as annoying as a penguin with a machine gun. Maybe he should be the reverend, or the jester, or both (is there a difference?)...

Let's vote, who is in favour of electing crackedlcd81 the official reverend & jester of Ameritrash?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
14. Board Game: Battlechrome [Average Rating:4.46 Unranked]
Board Game: Battlechrome
AMERITRASH APHORISMS

#1


The chrome is the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
15. Board Game: Twilight Imperium: Third Edition [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:83]
Board Game: Twilight Imperium: Third Edition
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AMERITRASH

#3

Ameritrash games typically have lots of plastic miniatures.

No, not necessarily. The whole point I wanted - and still want - to make with this list is that there are at least two types of Ameritrash games. These two types have a number of things in common (creative themes, chrome, conflict, predominantly designed and published by Americans), but there are important differences as well. (See the graph above.)

Even within the 'Ameritrash movement' there seems to be a large group of gamers that believe in this misconception and that do not regard 'traditional Ameritrash' as real Ameritrash. Of all misconceptions about Ameritrash this may be very well be the most persistent. This list is infested with statements that sprung from this misconception.

robartin's original Ameritrash list started with Titan, not with TI3 or Nexus Ops, but with a classic AH dicefest. There is a reason he did, and that reason is that the classic AH games are the root and foundations of Ameritrash. Old AH is Ameritrash!

Back to misconception #3: old AH games don't have plastic miniatures, they have chits, hundreds, thousands, millions of chits. Miniatures are nothing but three-dimensional chits without any useful information on them. Ameritrash doesn't need plastic miniatures. The components can be of any type of material and any quality. Ameritrash is not about production quality, it is about theme, chrome, creativity, theme, chrome, theme, and fun.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
16. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:95]
Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates
Eric Jome
United States
Franklin
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Game Explainer
Here is a game that is classically defined as "euro"... but unlike many, it features direct conflict. Theme? Well, it's not very thematic. Bits? Tiles and cubes. Complexity? Well, the rules are simple. Randomness? You gets the tiles you gets and that's the whole game... pretty random.

Yet, I'm wondering what the average ameritrash fan would think of this. It has some hybrid features... where do games like this come in? Can ameritrash games have abstract themes? Where does something like Backgammon fall? Diamant?

I could have easily posted El Grande instead.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}