Hi, my name’s Maximillian Von Deadlock – and I’m addicted to Ameritrash.
Heh. Actually, I’m not so much an addict, though I do love me some Ameritrash boardgames. They’re definitely a guilty pleasure and something I wish I had the time to play more often.
Hang on. “What’s Ameritrash”, you say?
This isn’t a Stateside sociodemographic group with a penchant for truckers caps. No, I am referring to a subset of boardgames which are lovingly (or derogatively) referred to by that name.
Basically, good modern boardgames break down into two primary segments:
1. The Eurogame – these are boardgames, mostly from Germany – where for some unknown reason they have discovered the art of great game making – and which feature simple and elegant rules, yet are usually fun, balanced and strategic. Honestly, if you’ve not tried them I highly recommend the likes of Settlers of Catan, or my personal favourite “gateway” boardgame: Ticket to Ride (Europe). They are usually safe for the family and your non-gamer friends, and feature quaint things like sheep and coloured wooden cubes.
2. The Ameritrash – boardgames for the gamer. There will probably be guns, zombies, magic swords, dragons, miniature-like pieces. The rules will be somewhat more complex and you’ll probably be using dice with more than six-sides. Often there’s a roleplaying game heritage in there somewhere.
Now I’m the sort of gamer who’ll enjoy playing most things – collectible card games, computer/console games, board, roleplaying, card, you name it I’ll probably enjoy playing it – and I do have a soft spot for the Eurogame.
However, I think the Ameritrash deserves some mention here on the blog as I don’t think they’re a million miles away from the miniatures wargame. As I said, they often feature miniatures and in some cases they may even have more complex rulesets.
So, what do you love about ’em, Max?
Well, I think it’s all about the style, theme and story.
Often times the Eurogames are built mechanic first, then a theme is overlaid to fit. With Ameritrash I get the feeling it’s the other way around. The game designer goes: “I want to create an awesome game with zombie nazis and occult scientists”, then draws up some background ideas, and finally comes to think about how the game will actually play. (ok, he just invented Tannhauser, or Incursion then)
So, you inevitably get a game which is dripping with theme.
All of the components will serve to immerse the player in it – a zombie should look like a brain-hungry shambling undead, not a green coloured wooden cube, for example.
Now, the usual downsides of the Ameritrash game are that you tend to lose the balance and elegance which are features of the Eurogame. Some players will hate that, but I for one am happy to overlook those shortfalls if cool narrative stuff happens in the game.
So, what about some examples of good Ameritrash then?
Well I’ve mentioned a couple above already but here’s a list of some such games I own, enjoy, and really don’t play anywhere as much as I’d like…
This is the game that inspired me to make this post. It’s new, French (Francotrash, along with Tannhauser and Hybrid?), and I think awesome. It has a slightly quirky post apocalyptic setting (for bonus marks) and features some wonderful plastic miniatures and a modular board set up.
Rules-wise it features quite a few unique mechanics, which sadly didn’t go down well with my opponent on its first outing. Hey ho.
However, the real potential of the game for me is that it is all about the story being told as you play. It features numerous scenario missions which are heavily objective-based. Big thumbs up there.
I’ll get some close-up pics of the minis on here soon. And hopefully feature the odd session review as I get to play it more, please!
It was revamped and re-released a year or so ago to much acclaim with beautiful sculpted plastic miniatures and lovely modular board pieces.
Same classic gameplay though and now with the fantastic production quality we come to expect from Games Workshop.
Why have I not played this more?
I must play it more!
Chaos in the Old World
Another one set in the Games Workshop universe, though this time it’s their fantasy setting. Fantasy Flight Games – prolific but discerning producers of Ameritrash – have taken the license and created a fantastic four player game about the forces of Chaos attempting to take over the known world (the clue was in the title I guess).
It’s a joy to play and each of the four chaos gods – bloodthirsty Khorne, pestilent Nurgle, sorcerous Tzeentch, and personal favourite the depraved Slaanesh – have different styles, yet the designers have managed to balance this asymmetrical game so very nicely.
Again, theme is key here. The Khorne player is rewarded for invoking battles and bloodshed, Slaanesh for spreading his/her cult and corrupting the nobles of the populous regions, etc.
It was a surprise hit last year.
Last Night on Earth
Well, not real zombies, thankfully. Don’t break out the shotguns just yet. But in entertainment media they’re up there vying with vampires to be the it-monster of the 21st century.
So, of course there are plenty of games which feature our shambling friends. And Last Night on Earth is, to my mind, the best of them by a decent margin.
Gameplay is focused on scenarios – such as filling the truck with gasoline and escaping the zombie infested town – and the components are just what you’d want from a B-movie zombie encounter. All the character stereotypes are there: the high school prom queen, the priest, the town sheriff, etc. And you’ll be tooled up with all classic zombie antidotes too – chainsaws, shotguns, fireaxes, etc.
Yet again though, it’s all about the story. You’re playing a scenario and it will often lead to dramatic last minute sacrifices as, for example, the brave quarterback charges into the midst of the zombie horde, armed with nothing but a baseball bat, in order to buy the survivors precious more seconds as they fumble to get the keys in the door of the truck.
Yep, another popular genre in games is that of Weird War 2. In which them uberbaddie Nazis have been mucking about with the occult and figured out how to make zombies (usually along with other freakish and scary demon stuff).
So unsurprisingly there’s Ameritrash covering it, as well as fully fledged miniature wargames (such as Secrets of the Third Reich, for example).
I mentioned Tannhauser and Incursion above but I’ll focus on Incursion here.
It’s a fairly new game by Grindhouse Games and is actually tied into West Wind Game’s Third Reich setting. The game itself comes with cardstock pieces but they also produce a line of awesome miniatures to go with it. I have a handful of them all ready and waiting for paint, so hopefully at some point in the not too distant future you’ll see them on here.
I can’t say much more about Incursion as I’ve sadly yet to play it. By all accounts it’s like a Nazi Zombie version of Space Hulk. (oh yes)
I love the visual design and the theme is very appealing, so it’s right up there on my want to play list.
And many more…
Over the years, I have played many such games, dating right right back to the classic Heroquest, and Talisman – which was probably the grandfather of the Ameritrash game.
Others I have enjoyed, but don’t have time to go into detail on right now, include: Age of Conan, Blood Bowl, Descent, and Grind. Though I’m sure there are plenty of other favourites which I have forgotten to mention.
So there you have it, a somewhat long-winded confession about my love of Ameritrash games. Thankyou for indulging me and I hope you’ve found it an interesting diversion.
Now I better get re-reading the rules for that game of Earth Reborn I have lined up tomorrow.