Even though the games come from Germany, France, Italy and other European countries, we decided to call them "Eurogames" because that describes not only where the games usually come from, but also the ways that the games work.
Eurogames play differently than their American counterparts in several specific ways. We talked about how mass-market American games usually work like a race, with the players merely trying to be the first to accomplish a goal.
We also touched on the painful and challenging topic of player elimination as a popular theme in mass-market American games, and how Eurogames keep all of the players engaged for the whole time you play.
And speaking of time, Eurogames also play much more quickly than their mass-market American counterparts. Thanks to their speed and player engagement abilities, you can usually play two or more rounds of your favorite Eurogame during a single evening of family time, and accomplish the whole experience with no tears - not even from you.
But in addition to playing time and constant player engagement, Eurogames bring other benefits to the table.
Rather than putting your fate in the hands of, well, fate through a bunch of die rolls, Eurogames put strategy and player decisions at the center of the action. Eurogames are famous for laying out a bunch of options and then letting you choose what you want to do.
That's a very different style of play than rolling a die and going whatever it sends you so you can do whatever the game tells you to do when you get there.
Because Eurogames rely so much on decision-making, what your opponents choose to do ultimately affects what you can do because their choices knock out some of your options.
However, the games almost always accomplish this task without making you feel like you're being railroaded through a pre-programmed experience. No matter what happens in the game, you always have choices.
In addition to the slick design of how Eurogame work to engage their audience, you also get to enjoy the physical quality of the game's components.
Unlike their mass-market American counterparts (which I suspect are manufactured from recycled cereal boxes mixed with a few-odd newspapers and a 1972 Nebraska phone book), Eurogames pride themselves on the quality of the components inside the box.
Open a Eurogame and you'll usually find extra-thick game boards, cards with soft linen finishes and nicely finished wood playing pieces.
For the European game companies, component quality is almost a feng shui-type of thing. Not only should the game play well, but the parts should feel good in your hands as you play. Most importantly, the game itself should last through hundreds of trips to the table.
Unfortunately, there is downside to the companies' dedication to quality: the price of the finished product.
There's no denying that Eurogames cost more than mass-market American games. With that said, there's also no denying the old saying, "you get what you pay for."
During the holidays, stores often sell classic American games for less than $10, but a family-friendly Eurogame will start around $20 and go up to $40, $50 or even $60.
But will those inexpensive American games ever get played? And after they're played once, will anyone play them again?
Eurogames, on the other hand, are designed from the ground up to keep you coming back for more plays.
In game design lingo, that's called "replayability," and most Eurogames really nail that feature.
Yes, Eurogames cost more than their sad, mass-market American counterparts, but it's also more expensive to visit the amazingness of a giant Florida theme park than to swing by your local county fair.
With a Eurogame, you're paying for the experience of playing, and if you chose your game well, you'll play it over and over for years to come.
Next time, we'll look at some specific Eurogames that deserve a spot on your family game shelf because of their player engagement, their replayability and the fact that they're just downright fun to enjoy with your family.