Non-Pejorative “Ameritrash”

The term “Ameritrash” has some pretty clear negative connotations, although I think of it as a technical term contrasting with Eurogames. Eurogames tend towards abstract play, minimal theming, low randomization, and indirect competition. Ameritrash games tend towards very strong theming, downplayed mechanics, significant randomization, and direct competition.

As someone focused on mechanics in my games, I tend to favor Eurogames and don’t mind the negative connotations of “Ameritrash,” especially having grown up with quite a few board games that were clearly being sold as tie-ins to more popular intellectual properties, with nice theming but the quality you expect from a movie tie-in video game. The Tick: Hip Deep in Evil comes to mind as my personal awakening to horrible, horrible products being sold under the auspices of something popular. (Not that The Tick was that popular, but I liked it.)

Villainous seems to be Ameritrash done well. I have seen some of a game but have yet to play it. A friend who owns it and is also into deep strategy gaming described it as the sort of game you could maybe play once or twice as each villain, but it lacks depth and you will understand everything after a playthrough or two. Not a lot of A Theory of Fun style learning: easy to learn, easy to master. On the other hand, it clearly embraces its theming and embodies it well, with exceedingly high production quality. It may not be mechanically deep, but it does what it sets out to do. It also seems like the sort of game that could have a long stream of expansions (every Disney villain) and be a commercial hit, but I could not tell you how well it is selling. I know it is in mainstream stores like Target, not just game shops.

Do you have games you enjoy that would clearly deserve the label “Ameritrash”?

: Zubon

7 thoughts on “Non-Pejorative “Ameritrash””

  1. Is Ameritrash (a term I never heard until today) a play on Eurotrash, a term with such very longstanding that it was used as the title of a 1990s tv show presented by Antoine de Caunes and Jean-Paul Gautier? I used to love that show, although it went downhill towards the end.

  2. In Europe we also sometimes call run-of-the-mill 90s eurodance/dancefloor music “eurotrash” :)

    To be more on-topic, I’m not sure I know any of these games, certainly not the ones I play regularly. Does Monopoly count? :P I think I own one Star Wars dice game where I don’t even remember the name, got it discounted for like 3 bucks. It has a huge IP tie-in (Star Wars, check) is not very elaborate (dice + a few bits of sturdy paper, check) and is purely luck bases (check). I bet there are tons more with Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, whatever branding, but if it’s really Ameri* I don’t know. Guess we can shell out enough of those in Europe as well… ;)

    1. Yes, those definitely sound like Ameritrash. Monopoly in particular was original created as The Landlord Game and intended to be an unpleasant experience.

  3. Where would Risk fall? Basic Risk is very, very heavily luck-based, but some variations of Risk, like Risk 2210, add enough decisions to somewhat reduce the impact of luck (still heavy on the dice rolls of course). Very strong theme, with player elimination, both Ameritrash qualities.

    1. Basic Risk has pretty weak mechanics, mostly luck. You would never play it without its theme. Seems like Ameritrash. I don’t know 2210, sorry.

  4. I’ve really been hooked on Terraforming Mars recently, and I’m always down for a game of Belfort, but I don’t know if either of those actually meet the stated qualifiers for ‘Ameritrash’. Both are very highly thematic, but not necessary a lot of randomness. Both also skirt the line between direct and indirect competition (Terraforming Mars without the advanced cards has everyone growing on the same board as the only interaction, aside from burning a few plants.).

    Like SynCaine said, Risk 2210 is a fun one, I love to fight for the moon, and the moon alone. I used to enjoy Arkham Horror, until I knew enough of the cards that it wasn’t worth the hour long set up, and another hour explaining the rules every time.

    1. I would be surprised to see Terraforming Mars described as “Ameritrash.” Terraforming Mars has strong mechanics, not just a theme trying to carry roll-and-move.

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