Geek Trivia

The Slang Term “Ameritrash” Is Commonly Used In Which Of These Hobbies?

Railroad Building
Board Gaming
Snow Boarding
Geocaching
The Oldest Known Shipwreck Is Only Identifiable By What Cargo Type?

Answer: Board Gaming

Board gaming, like all hobbies, has a whole slew of lingo you pick up as you immerse yourself in the hobby. The little cardboard pieces you punch out of the pre-cut sheets when you purchase a game are called “chits”. If you’re looking for a game to get your friends into board gaming, you might look for lists of “gateway games”—a play on the term gateway drug. “Meeples” was originally a term used to describe the little wooden figures that came with the tile-laying game Carcassonne, but is now used to describe practically any game figures.

In addition to learning all these little terms, if you immerse yourself in board game culture long enough, you’re bound to come across the phrase “ameritrash”. While the term doesn’t have a set-in-stone meaning, it is generally used to refer to highly thematic games (usually produced by American companies) that typically have a strong element of luck involved in game play. In such games, the theme is usually inseparable from game play (the game and the actions only make sense within the context of it being a game about space monsters, vampires, World War II, etc.). Key elements of the ameritrash genre are: big flashy themes (sci-fi and military themes are common), direct player conflict (often oriented around war themes), player elimination (players can lose and are out of the game for the rest of the session), complex rules, and, typically, flashy design including detailed artwork and plastic miniatures.

It should be noted that despite the “trash” part of the name, there are many games in the genre that are critically acclaimed. Twilight Imperium, seen here and produced by Fantasy Flight Games, for instance, is a very highly regarded game that many people consider the absolute epitome of the ameritrash genre because of its over the top sci-fi theme, numerous pieces, 200 miniatures, complex rules, and other elements that park it firmly in the camp of (beloved) ameritrash.

Broadly speaking, the contrast to “ameritrash” games are “eurogames”. Eurogames often have very simple themes that are non-essential to the enjoyment of the game (and could be easily swapped out with another theme with no change in the game’s mechanics). Many eurogames focus on medieval themes like farming, control of land in a kingdom, or merchant trading and rarely feature player elimination (you might lose badly, but you’ll be at the table for the whole experience). In contrast to the complex rules and miniatures you find in many ameritrash games, many eurogames have simple pieces and less complex rules.

While the term “ameritrash” sounds fundamentally derogatory (and was certainly flung around in such a manner by fans of early eurogames who looked down on American board games), today the term is largely embraced by the gaming community with American and international gamers alike posting questions online in the vein of “What must-have ameritrash games do I need to add to my collection?” and similar requests.

Image courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games.