To quote Boardgamegeek:
Ameritrash is "a catchphrase for 'American style boardgames.' In general, this means games that emphasize a highly developed theme, characters, heroes, or factions with individually defined abilities, player to player conflict, and usually feature a moderate to high level of luck."
There is a great deal of dispute over what Ameritrash means, even when it is accepted as a meaningful term. Many gamers would never call the "old" Avalon Hill a producer of Ameritrash. Ameritrash means something to most hobby gamers, but what it means still varies somewhat across communities.In sum, the concrete definition of "Ameritrash" is considered by some to be hazy.
What Makes a Game "Ameritrash"
Ameritrash, as you can probably guess, is a derogatory term. Games are called Ameritrash based primarily on their common flaws, and thus the term can be thought of as both an accusatory insult and a working genre title. That being said, there are good games that are frequently classed as "Ameritrash"; for example, Talisman is usually held in high regard. The '-trash' part of the moniker comes from the fact that the vast majority of Ameritrash games are either shit, lack any real depth, or both.
The 'Ameri-' part of the term comes from directly from the huge number of these games made or popularized by companies like Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers during the course of the 20th Century. See below for a non-comprehensive list of Ameritrash games, and take note of how many were popularized by American toymakers between 1918 and 1999.
For those looking for a more specific guideline, the more mechanical problems a game shares with how Monopoly as usually played, and the more style is emphasized over substance, the more likely a game is to be called "Ameritrash". These common problems include heavily luck-based mechanics, overly-long total play-time, nothing (or very little) to do or think about when it's not your turn, very little direct player interaction, and significant problems with Kingmaker scenarios. (In particular, Roll and Move is a very common mechanic used to destroy any ability to destroy any semblance of skill-based play.)
"Ameritrash" is only a name, derived from the general tendencies of the two continents. It does not actually mean "a game from America". European games have been classed as "Ameritrash", and American-designed games have been classed as "Eurogames" (and the oldest known example of Ameritrash comes from India). Talisman, for example, is usually classed as Ameritrash, despite originating in England. It doesn't necessarily refer to all games created in America, rather of a certain style that these games seem to share that make them easy to classify.
List of Ameritrash Games
- Snakes and Ladders (The oldest known Ameritrash, dates back to at least the 16th century)
- The Game Of Life
- Cluedo or Clue
- Hi Ho! Cherry Ho!
- Trivial Pursuit
Positive "Ameritrash" Definition
Given the polarized reaction to Eurogames, and the lack of a fourth class of widely agreed upon board game archetypes (the third being Wargames), the word "Ameritrash" gets used in a more positive manner by some board game aficionados. This is the more abstract, less negative definition of Ameritrash. For the purposes of this wiki, we stick to the negative definition of "Ameritrash", mainly because the positive definition is so vague.
Some games that get called "Ameritrash" in the positive definition but not the negative one include Twilight Imperium and, for that matter, just about everything made by Fantasy Flight Games that isn't a card or miniatures game.
|Classics:||Backgammon - Chess - Go - Tafl - Tic-Tac-Toe|
|Ameritrash:|| Arkham Horror - Axis & Allies - Battleship - Betrayal at House on the Hill - Car Wars |
Clue/Cluedo - Cosmic Encounter - Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Dungeon!
Firefly: The Game - HeroQuest - Monopoly - Snakes and Ladders - Risk - Talisman - Trivial Pursuit
|Eurogames:||Agricola - Carcassonne - Settlers of Catan - Small World - Stratego - Ticket to Ride|
|Pure Evil:||Diplomacy - Dune (aka Rex: Final Days of an Empire) - Monopoly|
|Others:||Icehouse - Shadow Hunters - Twilight Imperium|