RPGs And Eurostyle Games: When Opposites Attract
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  1. #1
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    RPGs And Eurostyle Games: When Opposites Attract

    A large subset of board games is Eurostyle games. These games are almost exactly the opposite of RPGs in many ways. Keep in mind, board (including some card) games are a vastly larger segment of tabletop gaming than RPGs in monetary terms, and Eurostyle games are a large part of that segment. So even if you have no interest in non-RPGs, a comparison may help you understand what you do (and could do) with your own campaign or RPG design.


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    The original general description of Euros was "family games on steroids". But people often disagree at the most fundamental level, about what a Eurogame is - I've even heard my game Britannia described as a Euro (NO!) - so you'll certainly see exceptions to the following generalizations.

    Player to Player Interaction
    Most RPGs are highly interactive player to player games. During adventures, you cannot afford to ignore what the opposition (or your own comrades) are doing, you've got to react well or fail. Euros are usually low interaction games, where you can do your thing (frequently, solving what amounts to a puzzle) with little or no concern for what other players are doing. RPGs are directly competitive (in the sense of competing with the bad guys) while Euros are parallel competitions, sometimes called "multiplayer solitaire", where the object is to outdo the other players while rarely affecting them directly.

    Avatar Basis - or Not
    You have three types of avatar in games: the "do-er" (as in one doing actions) versus the King/general (the one giving the commands) versus the mysterious, omnipotent controller. RPGs popularized the single entity (usually humanoid, almost always alive) from which all the player's actions emanate, and which is at risk - if it dies, the player fails. This is the do-er avatar.

    In Euros, typically the player is the mysterious, omnipotent controller, occasionally the one giving commands, rarely the do-er avatar.

    Closed vs Open
    RPGs usually have no goal that ends the game as a whole; if they do, it's often after a long series of adventures. Adventures may have a goal, or not. Euros rarely have an organic goal (one that derives from the situation), typically there's an arbitrary end (as "play 5 rounds"). They have clear objectives, often expressed in victory points

    Euros rarely last as long as one session of an RPG (let alone many sessions in succession). When the game is done, there's no more, no continuing assets. Campaign RPGs continue from session to session with a continuing narrative.



    Abstraction
    Euros are often abstract games with a "theme" tacked on. RPGs usually model some situation, whether historical or fictional. The mechanisms that work for Eurogamers often don't work for an actual model of something.

    Corporate Management vs Command
    RPGs are usually "Command" style games, Dynamic games, where players look for direct, bold solutions to their in-game problems. Euros are often mid-level corporate management games, Incremental, about small improvements rather than big changes. (This is a future game styles topic.)

    Dice
    Dice tend to be avoided in Euros (though chance may be involved, often through cards). Most RPGs use lots of dice.

    Co-operation
    RPGs are usually co-operative endeavors against opposition controlled by a human GM. While there are co-operative Euros (Pandemic etc.), most are parallel competitions with the winner being the person who executes their task most efficiently. When RPGs are competitions, they may be parallel (whoever completes the adventure best among competing groups) or direct (one player group fighting another).

    Simple Rules
    Euros tend to have short rulesets; people often try to read the rules the first time while playing the game! RPGs mostly have long rulesets. The core book of a top-line RPG has more words than a hundred Eurogames!

    Positivity
    Euros generally use positive scoring mechanisms (you cannot lose points, e.g.). They're about building up, not tearing down or taking away. RPGs usually involve gain and loss, of hit points or character life, certainly the opposition lose their possessions and their lives, even as characters improve.

    The Players
    Many Euro fans don't get RPGs. Many RPGers don't play Euros. I think this is significantly generational, as avatar games (and co-op games) are the preference of Millennials, while Euros attract older players (though Baby Boomers are often wargamers).

    If you want additional analysis of Eurogames, a dozen years ago I wrote a detailed description of the "Essence of Eurostyle Games." Things have changed, but most of it still applies.

    contributed by Lewis Pulsipher

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    I've, personally, found a lot of crossover between the two groups of players you talk about. There is only one player in our RPG group that isn't also keen on Eurogames, for example, and pretty much all the RPG groups I've played with over the years have also been just as happy breaking open a board or card game - either for a change or if some one can't make the regular games night but the rest of us still fancy a game of some sort.

    I do know RPGers who don't boardgame - and even more boardgamers who don't roleplay. Part of that is certainly down to preference, but some of it is also down to opportunity. I know a lot of old RPGers (for example) who these days predominantly play boardgames because they are less time consuming (no prep; can be shorter games) and easier to find players (bigger pool of interest) and less commitment than a regular RPG night. Plus with a host of games - such as Gloomhaven - which are almost 'roleplaying games with a board' many find is easier to attract other non-RPGers to play those than they would an actual RPG, so still kind of get their fix in.

    It's fantastic to see the way the 'hobby' has grown in popularity and really been booming.

    (And no, I'd certainly not call Britannia a Eurogame either!)

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    I haven't seen much evidence that RPGing and Eurogaming are preferences that push against one another.

    And the emphasis in a lot of contemporary RPGing on careful measures of mechanical effectiveness (this is really evident in 5e compared to (say) AD&D, and can be seen in many indie RPGs) is consistent with cross-pollination from Eurogame ideas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    I haven't seen much evidence that RPGing and Eurogaming are preferences that push against one another.

    And the emphasis in a lot of contemporary RPGing on careful measures of mechanical effectiveness (this is really evident in 5e compared to (say) AD&D, and can be seen in many indie RPGs) is consistent with cross-pollination from Eurogame ideas.
    Yea, I look at a game like Fiasco and it seems like the "Eurogame" version of an RPG. Simple rules, fairly abstract, little randomness except for setup, play has more parallel turns, focus on build up (of story and drama, rather than points).
    XP Riley37, Ratskinner gave XP for this post

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    Gamers in my neck of the woods happily play board games as well as rpgs, and a fair percentage of the board games are Euros. As far as I can tell, there is no differing attitudes which splits the groups into "camps."

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    I also enjoy Euro games _and_ RPGs. However, I still care about theme, so I prefer Euro games where the mechanics have at least some resemblance to what they're supposed to represent in the game. Still, if the game mechanics are great, I'll play it. E.g. 'Glen More' is superficially about Scottish clans, but it's obviously a theme that is just pasted on. The theme could be anything and you wouldn't have to change the rules at all. But the game design is brilliant: simple but deep, and very elegant.

    There's a few thematic board games that borrow a lot from Euro games, e.g. 'Legends of Andor', 'Robinson Crusoe' or 'Mage Knight'. For me these 'hybrid' games are the best of both worlds. Clean and elegant mechanics to drive a developing story with just the right pinch of randomness to make the game infinitely replayable.

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    Need more crossover Euro-RPGs.

    "You all meet at a tavern to trade wood for sheep..."
    Laugh TwoSix, Tony Vargas, bitjunkie laughed with this post

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    I got back into D&D c2000 because a group of college friends started getting together to play Settlers of Catan. I feel like there's a fair crossover between RPGers and boardgamers, in the sense of lots of RPGers play boardgames, obviously not the other way 'round or our tables'd be really crowded. I'm not sure I see the contrasts as 'opposites,' either, just as differences, some of them a little technical.

    Cooperative boardgames, like Pandemic or Betrayal at House on the Hill, seem like they have some things in common with RPGs.

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    Next we'll have "PowerGrid: The RPG" where everyone plays a power generation tycoon out to make deals, build infrastructure, and deliver electricity. The highlight of each game is usually roleplaying the board meeting when you decide how to set prices and where to invest next.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olgar Shiverstone View Post
    Next we'll have "PowerGrid: The RPG" where everyone plays a power generation tycoon out to make deals, build infrastructure, and deliver electricity. The highlight of each game is usually roleplaying the board meeting when you decide how to set prices and where to invest next.
    Please tell me you have a link to the Kickstarter.

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