Mixed Media: The game of games

Apples to Apples was made in Wisconsin
Mixed Media: The game of games
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Euro vs. Ameritrash
There are two basic classifications of games: Euro and Ameritrash. According to Keith Matejka of Thunderworks Games, a Euro game is less about luck and more about strategy. The most famous Euro games (popularized in Europe, especially Germany) are Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne.

On the other end of the spectrum are Ameritrash games. “Even though it sounds like it, Ameritrash isn’t really considered a negative term in gaming [circles],” says Matejka. “Ameritrash games focus on theme first and foremost. They often have quite a bit of luck involved in them. The poster child of a classic Ameritrash game is Risk.”

Tabletop games are described by their complexity or “weight,” explains Matejka. A light game has few opportunities for decision-making, but it’s easy to learn and play and doesn’t have a long play length – five to 20 minutes, he says. These are best for families, new gamers or gamers who want to play something simpler, as a sort of mental palette cleanser. “Heavy games are usually three-plus hours long and are rules dense,” he says. “They offer complex decision-making and are played by experienced gamers.”

Keep the Piece
Kirk Dennison and his wife, Emily, founded PieceKeeper Games in 2015 and have since published four of their own tabletop games: Flag Dash, a capture-the-flag game; Door Number 3, in which game show hosts give away the worst possible prizes; Gearworks, a Sudoku-like card game, in which players fix broken machines; and Rurik: Dawn of Kiev, a strategy and medieval realm-building game.

“We focus on creating board games with engaging themes, lots of player engagement, and limited luck,” Dennison says. “As a personal preference, we would rather play games that are decided more by the decisions you make and less by the luck of the dice.”

Sword & Soiree Play
Let’s play a game – about games. Give yourself two points if you’ve ever played the popular card game Apples to Apples. For five points, name the national game company that bought the Apples to Apples license in 2007 from its original publisher, Madison-based Out of the Box Games.* Get another five points for naming the city, about 90 minutes southeast of Madison, that is the birthplace of both Gen Con, North America’s largest tabletop game convention, and Dungeons & Dragons, the hugely popular role-playing game.**

*The Mattel Corp. **Lake Geneva

One ‘Hot’ Game
Through Tasty Minstrel Games, Ed Marriott of Madison published Scoville, a game based on the hotness scale for peppers. The game revolves around growing and crossbreeding peppers to create hotter peppers, which are then sold at a farmers’ market or used to compete in a chili cook-off.

“While I only have one published game, I’ve probably designed about 50 games that are stuck somewhere in the concept to play-test phase of game design,” Marriott says.

*Editor’s Note: Mixed Media is a monthly series featuring a variety of arts and culture happenings in the Madison area.