Getting started is never, ever easy.
No matter whether you’re a novice or an old hand, getting into a new genre of game can be difficult. And while we may assume that Eurogames are the perfect pick, the sheer range of choice, theme, and difficulty levels can be too much for most.
So, here is our introduction to the fantastic world of the Eurogame and some solid choices to introduce your friends, family, or playing group to something new in a way that sticks.
What is a Euro Game?
While there is a lot of nuance behind what rules and elements a Eurogame is made up from, they are primarily defined by a key characteristic.
No-one dies and no-one ‘sits out’.
The removal of player elimination was one of the first things that truly set Eurogames apart from their more punishing counterparts. This made them a perfect addition for family gatherings and ensuring that no-one was left bored fifteen minutes into a meetup.
The genre also focuses on communication over conflict and often does not include mechanics that allow for direct confrontation. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be phenomenally passive aggressive (“Oh, did you want that card? Sorry, I picked it up and didn’t know”) with other players and form alliances, partnerships, or make strategic choices that derail what your rivals are up to.
They also are designed to be easy to pick up and smooth to run; eliminating a lot of the friction and effort involved with bringing heavier games to the table. In fact, chances are that you started your board gaming hobby with one of these, and with good reason-
Why are they fun?
While Eurogames may be a world apart from intensive, decision heavy fare; the best among them are incredibly fun and offer a deceptive level of depth and engagement. Even if players are highly experienced with playing crunchier games, Euros can be a fantastic light-weight option to fit any evening or group.
This means they work as a quick palate cleanser, something that doesn’t require immense mental bandwidth to play, or are just (and whisper it now) perfectly streamlined and crystallised to the point where they offer an incredible decision space and a silky-smooth play experience.
Enjoying a wide range of accessible to ingenious themes, a well-chosen Euro is the perfect gateway for individuals who may balk at more intense ‘proper’ board games, genre experts looking for something a little special, or just people who want to come along for the ride.
While it is essential to take some time to confirm what your friends are into, picking out a game that’s right for the experience level of the least confident member of your group can be great.
Bearing this in mind, here are some solid choices to get you off on the right foot. Starting with-
Sometimes being incredibly simple is a phenomenal plus. Limiting player decisions to selecting a tile, playing that tile, and choosing to deploy one of your wooden meeples (Welcome to the world of board gaming); play is light but surprisingly deep. This degree of tactility combined with the joy of seeing an expanding map can encourage even the most reluctant player to give the game a go. And if you want to add a little extra complexity (though it’s in no way essential) you can pick up any number of expansions or grab a copy of the big box edition once you know it’s the game for you. But its stripped-down elegance makes it a welcome addition to any table.
Stepping things up a little, Ticket is one of the most popular games in existence, with creator Alan Moon helping to sell over three million copies worldwide and building an empire on the series. One of the game’s greatest strengths is granting players the ability to quickly grasp the board state and understand what you are trying to accomplish. Though the base game is solid, many prefer to pick up the European edition that includes a couple of extra options that broaden your tactical choices and help prevent the blocking and conflict that is rife in the vanilla original. Throw in any number of expansions that include maps from throughout the world and you have a quick and elegant hook to draw in players of all backgrounds.
Stepping things up a gear, we come to Fantasy Flight’s latest version of the Knizia classic. Featuring a gorgeous board and a heap of gorgeous semi-abstract tokens, Samurai marries resource collection with hidden movement – replicating the high-level planning of feudal lords as they spring their next move on their rivals. Simple and light, each turn involves players placing their tokens on the map to ‘ring’ these products – with the highest total score winning the prize. Clean, concise but always manageable – the game is perfect for players wanting to up the ante for your game night. Incredibly moreish with a tight, wafer thin ruleset – this is a perfect pick for experienced groups- but if you’re looking for something the next level up-
Ah, the good life… A legend in hobby for a reason, Agricola combines a colossal decision space with a streamlined (but comprehensive) ruleset that sees players competing to build the best damn farm they can. Like a child’s wooden playset sprung to life, this involves all the unenviable realities of running a farm and ensuring that you have enough to make ends meet and survive through winter. Time is constant worry, crops must be optimised, and even that cute wooden horse may be out the window if he doesn’t pull his weight – never mind finding the space for umpteen parts and components. Meditative, surprisingly competitive, and strangely soothing once your engine is up and running. Which is something we can’t say for-
Not had enough of politics, voting, and campaigning? You will after you’ve laid your hands on this. Half stress headache, half masterpiece – Die Macher puts you and your friends in charge of German political parties in the middle of an election cycle and sees you butt heads as you struggle to grab states and secure the votes you need to take up your place in government. And where this leads is rarely pretty. Backstabbing, coalitions of convenience, and manipulation. Before long, your party will shift and change to the wind of populism and all your opponents seem to be offering the same things to their audience. But players can easily manipulate public opinion to suit your needs through media control, your platform, and more – letting your group truly see the potential posed by Euros and how the driest theme becomes electric in the hands of the right designer.
What euro games are your favorite? Tell us in the comments!