Euro games focus on indirect player interaction, abstract strategy, and competition over conflict. If you want a family-friendly game that has a reasonable playing time but doesn’t rely on luck, a Euro game might be the best pick for your table.
If you’ve been around tabletop gaming for any length of time, you’ve either seen or heard of a Euro game. You might be wondering, “What exactly is a Euro game?” What makes Euro games different from other types of table games?
The term “Euro game” is somewhat tricky because it’s a pretty broad classification. Furthermore, not all Euro games are European or even board games. Some are card games, for instance. On top of it all, you won’t find a separate “Euro” section of the game store.
So what’s the deal?
Despite the murkiness, there are a group of similarities that define this game genre. In this article, you’ll find a brief history of Euro games, the characteristics that these games share, some of the common game mechanics within Euro games, as well as some examples beloved by gamers all over the world.
Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn more.
- 1 What is a Euro Board Game?
- 2 History of Euro Games
- 3 Characteristics of Euro Games
- 4 Common Euro Game Mechanics
- 5 What Are Some Examples of Euro Games?
- 6 Euro Games: Final Thoughts
What is a Euro Board Game?
Euro games, also called German-style board games, Designer board games, or Euro-style games, are a genre of tabletop games that include indirect player interaction and multiple paths to victory. Many are abstract, and luck plays little to no role in the outcome.
Euro games emphasize competition over player conflict. In many Euros, you’re working to achieve your own goals and objectives alongside other players. There might be competition for a fixed number of resources or actions, but players aren’t invading or conquering their neighbors.
In contrast, American-style games have an emphasis on attacks, direct assault, and player elimination. War games like Risk or Axis & Allies are good examples of this gaming style. Other notable examples of this style are Monopoly, Life, and Snakes & Ladders. These games are also referred to as Amerigames.
History of Euro Games
The history of Euro games goes back to the 1960s, when 3M Corporation published the 3M Bookshelf Game Series, a set of strategy and economic games that steered away from direct conflict. Games like Acquire, for instance.
These board games became popular in European countries, especially post-World War II Germany. Game designers turned away from war games and toward games that focused on building, producing, and economic engine-building. Europeans had little desire to recreate war in game format. So, the Euro-style board game emerged. This type of board game would largely stay in Europe for the next 20 years or so.
That is, until Klaus Teuber published Settlers of Catan (Die Siedler von Catan) in 1995. Settlers of Catan is now known as simply Catan, but the game skyrocketed to global popularity, selling over 40 million copies as of 2022. This board game single-handedly paved the way for the Euro game genre outside of Europe.
Suddenly, gamers across the world in the U.S., who had grown up with games from Hasbro and Milton Bradley, were introduced to a completely different game experience.
These board games sparked the creation of an entire genre of board gaming. Game designers across the world began making similarly styled games. Today, Euro games are still widely popular and are published in many countries. The term “Euro games” refers to the style of play that these board games share.
Characteristics of Euro Games
When someone labels a board game as “Euro,” what exactly does that mean? After all, you won’t find that label on a board game box or online databases. To get a good idea of what a Euro game is, read about the characteristics that define this popular board game genre.
Many hobby gamers enjoy Eurogames, but this genre is well-suited for social play. You don’t have to be part of a serious gamer group to enjoy this type of board game.
One way Euro-style board games keep it social is to limit playing time to anywhere from a half-hour to 2 hours. Once you go beyond that, people start dropping like flies. Euro games usually have a mechanism to stop the game within a reasonable playing time: a set number of game turns, a pre-determined winning score, or a depletion of limited resources.
Euro games also provide a nice balance between challenging gameplay and accessibility. There’s usually a small learning curve, which players can get a handle on after one game or so. Strategy is central, but the gameplay is simple enough that even some younger players can participate. Many Euro games have a minimum recommended age between 10-14 years, depending on the game.
Eurogames have different player counts, unlike games like Chess or Go. There are several board games that accommodate anywhere from two to six players. Games like Caverna or Power Grid. Other games, like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne, require expansions in addition to the base game in order to support six players.
Read my in-depth guide to the best Catan Expansions.
Even though traditional Euro-style games emphasize player interaction, there are an increasing number of games that support solo play. Games like Wingspan, Terraforming Mars, or Spirit Island are good examples.
No Player Elimination
In American-style games like Monopoly or Risk, a player can be eliminated from the game by going bankrupt or being conquered. These games feature a “last man standing” approach, where the game continues until one player comes out on top.
Such high-stakes competition can be fun if you’re winning, but it can be excruciatingly boring if you’re eliminated early in the game. Not to mention, such games can turn family game night into family fight night in 0-60 seconds!
Euro board games, by contrast, minimize direct conflict by not having player elimination. They’re designed to be more social and keep everyone engaged until the very end of the game. Euro game scoring systems often feature end-of-game bonuses or hidden scoring that can change the outcome.
There are also usually multiple paths to victory, and it may not be obvious which path each player is choosing. For all these reasons, it’s rare to be certain of victory or defeat until late in the game.
Eurogames tend to end upon meeting a predetermined condition instead of lagging until one player emerges victorious. For instance, Catan is played until a person reaches 10 victory points. Other games end once you’ve played a certain number of rounds, when a player runs out of trains, or when someone has accumulated so much money.
You get the idea.
The reason for this style of play is the fact that playing board games is one of the most popular pastimes in Germany, the cradle of Euro games. While board gaming is rapidly growing elsewhere, it’s still a nice hobby in English-speaking countries. Eliminating players would take away from the social component.
As I mentioned previously, Euro-style games try to keep everyone engaged during the entire game. It’s not always clear who is winning until the very end of the game. This prevents the tortuous scenario of having to play an hour-long game knowing you have little to no chance of winning.
Instead, Euro games oftentimes require collecting the most victory points. Players score points through economic success or some other type of progress. Sometimes players track their points during gameplay, but many times the points are not calculated until the end of the game. Most games designate the winner as the player with the most points.
Some Euro games like Ticket to Ride use a mixture of the two scoring systems. Players track points, but the end-of-game points from Destination Tickets are not tallied until the end.
Acquiring victory points is a great way to keep players engrossed in the game, and it also keeps the game fresh by making the outcome unpredictable.
Little Luck, No Dice
Euro games emphasize precise strategy and careful planning over random elements. There’s a limited amount of luck involved, and dice rolls are few and far between. This is in contrast to American-style games, where rolling dice is routinely used to determine outcomes.
In general, the only random elements of a Euro game will affect everyone equally, like a random initial setup or random event cards. For instance, the dice in Catan determine what resources everyone has for that turn. It doesn’t give a big advantage to any one player.
Does that mean the most skilled player will always win a Euro game? Not necessarily. To win most Euro games, players must read, negotiate with, and react to their opponents, which can be way more frustrating than rolling dice!
Many Euros sit firmly in the medium-weight category, although they can range in heaviness. That means there are more complex games out there, but the average Euro game will have a small learning curve and plenty of meaningful choices for players to make.
On each turn, players have a whole range of actions to choose from, and it might not be obvious which path the player should take. Take Settlers of Catan, for instance. On each turn, a player may spend resources to build roads or settlements, upgrade settlements to cities, or buy development cards. A player can also trade resource cards with other players or trade off-island.
Each decision a player makes will affect their progress. Since there are multiple paths to victory, players have to choose which path to pursue to earn points.
A good example is Power Grid. The objective is to supply the most cities with power. To be successful, players must purchase raw materials for fuel and power plants. A player must choose whether to purchase a large amount of fuel or go with other resources like wind/solar. The player must also decide whether to purchase more power plants but risk not being able to fuel them.
It’s a balancing act that requires strategy and careful planning. Each approach could change between game plays, based on the board setup or the actions of your opponents.
Many American-style games are more linear with a clear singular path to victory. Children’s games with a roll-and-move mechanic are obvious examples. Games like Candyland and Snakes & Ladders. But this also includes other popular games like Monopoly and Backgammon.
Mechanics > Theme
Thematic games feature a strong theme that drives the overall experience. Role-playing games like War of the Rings, Twilight Imperium, Gloomhaven, and Star Wars: Rebellion are all notable examples. They’re immersive, with players feeling like they’re in the game.
Those theme-heavy board games can be highly entertaining, but they’re not Euro games. Most Eurogames emphasize mechanics over theme. They’re more abstract, with little connection between the theme and the game mechanics. The gameplay would be the same, even if you changed the artwork or the premise.
While theme-based games leave me saying, “That was so cool!” Euro games leave me saying, “That was so clever!” Both types leave me saying, “That was so fun!”
Euro games do have a theme, but it typically centers on trading, managing resources, or building an economic “engine.” The game components tend to be abstract, as well. If you’re picturing colored wooden cubes or meeples, you get the picture.
On the other hand, thematic games frequently include detailed miniatures that look like exact replicas of the people or objects they’re supposed to represent. Some board game hobbyists enjoy painting their own miniatures. It’s a whole thing.
Big Name Game Designer
The game’s designer is more important in Euro games. Their name is usually on the box, sometimes expressly displayed. Other times, the name is listed in the rule book or instruction manual. While designers of American-style games are generally not as important to buyers, some Euro game designers have a substantial following. These designers are located in various countries across the globe.
Of course, Klaus Teuber is a highly-recognized name, but other well-known Euro game designers include Martin Wallace, Stefan Feld, Uwe Rosenberg, Wolfgang Kramer, Vital Lacerda, Antoine Bauza, and many more. Designers create the game experience using a combination of game mechanisms, a scoring system, and thematic elements.
Common Euro Game Mechanics
A board game’s mechanics are the rules and elements of play that guide player actions. The interaction of various mechanics in a game determines the complexity and level of player interaction. These work together to influence a player’s experience.
Game designers use a variety of mechanics within a single board game to make gameplay fresh and exciting. Some elements combine easily, whereas others are more difficult to combine.
In general, Euro games are defined as much by what they don’t include as much as what they do. Familiar mechanics like rolling dice and moving, capturing, or trick-taking are limited or avoided altogether.
When it comes to the physical game board, it’s usually irregular or asymmetrical. It might have random elements, as well. Some boards are only organizational, much like a cribbage board. Games like Puerto Rico feature this element.
While you might find occasional random elements, they do not have a large influence over the outcome. Instead, they more often have to do with the board setup or the availability of other resources. The rules are easy to grasp but allow for depth of strategy and require thoughtful planning to succeed.
See below to learn more about some of the common mechanics you’ll find in Euro games.
Tile Placement games require players to place tiles in order to score points or trigger actions. The classic tile-placement game is Carcassonne, a Euro game where the goal is to develop the landscape surrounding a medieval fortress city, one tile at a time.
Many times, points are awarded based on adjacent pieces to a tile, or pieces in the same grouping. This “feature completion” is present in Carcassonne, where players work to complete roads, cities, and monasteries. Terraforming Mars is another example of a Euro game that includes tile placement.
This mechanic requires players to place a bid on goods, actions, or resources in order to improve their position in the game. Most often, the bid is money, but not always. The resources acquired allow players future actions or award another type of advantage.
Players go in turn order placing bids on an item until a winner is established. If no players are interested in the item at the current price, there is typically a game rule that lowers the price to increase interest.
For instance, in Power Grid, players must win bids to produce power via power plants. Winning a bid allows a player to add it to their inventory and allows that player to produce more power with each turn.
Other Euro games that feature bidding include Executive Decision, El Grande, Ra, and Five Tribes.
Trading & Negotiation
Games with trading and negotiation encourage players to make deals and/or alliances with other players to reach an objective or set markets. Negotiation games are not cooperative, but players work together at points to pursue their individual goals. This type of game dials down the intensity of competition while encouraging strategy.
In the game of Istanbul, the first player to accumulate five rubies is the winner. Players can earn money and buy the rubies, but they can also trade resources to acquire them. Negotiation is one of the paths to victory, in this case.
Other Euro board games like Traders of Genoa and Catan also feature trading and negotiation mechanisms.
Find more games with resourceful trading mechanisms.
Set collection is where players try to gather a set number of resources or items in a group that is cashed in for points, money, or other currency, according to the game’s theme. The strategy comes in when players decide which type of set to collect.
For instance, sets might have different point values based on the rarity of the item. Do you go after the high-value objects or try to amass several collections of lower-point items? Which items are the other players going after? These are questions players must answer when playing this type of game.
Collecting sets is more common in card-based games, but it’s also a part of many board games.
One of the most popular Euro games with set collection is Bohnanza by Rio Grande Games. This bean-collecting game has an incredibly boring-sounding premise, but it will hook you in. It’s one of my personal favorites when it comes to deck-based Euros.
Ra and Ticket to Ride are two other popular Euro games that include set collecting.
Area control is also known as area majority or area influence. This mechanic involved controlling a game element or space through the allocation of resources. The player with the most units of influence in an area is awarded control of that area.
One of the most successful games to incorporate area control is Carcassonne, in which players lay tiles to create new areas on an evolving board. Players then play tokens to assert control over a specific area of the board.
El Grande is another Euro-style board game that incorporates area control, as well as Barony, Tikal, and Spirit Island.
Worker Placement is really a subset of the Action Drafting mechanic, where players have a pool of actions to select from. There are a limited amount of Actions, and a player may not select a previously-chosen action.
In a Worker Placement game, players place tokens (or meeples) to trigger an action from the pool of available actions. This happens in turn order, most often one at a time.
Most of the time, there is a limit on the number of times a single action can be performed. Once the limit is reached, that action cannot be taken or becomes more expensive. The actions might reset after the end of each round if the game is played in rounds.
The game pieces players use to draft actions represent “workers.” These pieces could be meeples, colored cubes, or some other form of token. Essentially, players place “workers” to show which actions the player has chosen to draft.
A good example of this is the well-known Euro game Agricola. In this game, each player starts with two pieces representing family members. These family members can be placed on action spaces to collect resources, build fences, or take other actions. When someone places a piece on a space, that action is no longer available until the next round, when the action pool resets.
In addition to Agricola, other games that have a strong worker placement mechanic include Stone Age, Caylus, Keydom, and more.
What Are Some Examples of Euro Games?
This list is by no means exhaustive! The board games listed below are simply a few popular titles across various formats. If these don’t suit your fancy, not to worry. There are no shortage of Euro titles on the market. In fact, many of the top-rated games on Board Game Geek fit into the Euro category.
Catan (Settlers of Catan)
Catan, formerly Settlers of Catan, has been played by millions of players all over the world. Designed by Klaus Teuber in the 1990s, this award-winning game still has a faithful fanbase. It’s also the perfect gateway game to other Euro games.
In this game, players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. Dice are rolled each turn to determine what resources the island produces. Players then build by spending resources, such as sheep, wheat, wood, brick, and ore.
Players score points by building settlements and cities, having the logest road and the largest army, and gathering certain development cards that award victory points. When a player has earned 10 points, that player wins the game.
Catan is unique in its wide appeal. It’s a fun game to play if you’re new to the board gaming hobby, but it’s played among hobbyist gamers, as well.
The base game was so popular that there have been several expansions published. These expansions slightly alter the game play or tweak the theme, although most keep the core gameplay close to the base game.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a family-friendly game that’s lighter weight than other Euro games but still has plenty of decision-making and strategy involved. Designed by Alan Moon, this game won the prestigious German board game award, Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) in 2004.
Ticket to Ride has elegantly simple gameplay, with a short learning curve and a playing time of 30-60 minutes. Players collect train cards that they use to claim railway routes across North America. The longer the route, the more points it’s worth.
Players draw Destination Tickets with cities to connect. If they fulfill the tickets, they earn additional points. Also, the player with the longest continuous route gets bonus points at the end of the game.
The rules are simple enough to be taught in a few minutes, with enough action to keep everyone engaged for the duration of the game.
This is another gateway game that introduces people to the Euro-style of play without being too complex or heavy. It’s also perfect for families.
If you enjoy Ticket to Ride, visit my list of similar games. (Some of the games listed share a theme but are not classified as Euro games.)
Power Grid Recharged
Power Grid Recharged is the updated second edition of the original Power Grid game. The objective is to supply the most cities with power by purchasing power plants to produce fuel. As plants are purchased, more efficient plants become available, so it’s a balance between moving quickly and using savvy.
This game is rich in meaningful decisions. Players must decide how many plants to purchase and which raw materials to pursue. They could choose coal, oil, garbage, and uranium. There are also options for renewable wind farm and solar plants which require no fuel, but these plants make it a constant struggle to upgrade plants and aren’t as efficient.
When a player builds a network of the predetermined number of cities (it varies by player count), the game ends. The player that can actually fuel the most plants wins.
Power Grid Recharged, also referred to as simply Power Grid, is a great example of a Euro game in terms of abstract strategy, parallel competition, and economic engine-building.
Terraforming Mars has players taking on the role of corporations competing to make Mars hospitable. To do this, players must raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage.
Score points by contributing to the terraforming and for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system. Acquire unique project cards and complete them to get bonuses and increase your production of different resources.
Terraforming Mars is a perfect example of the competition over conflict model. Players work together in many ways, but they are competing to get the most points. This game also has a lot of common Euro game mechanisms.
Carcassonne is the classic tile-placement game in which players draw and place a tile with a piece of landscape on it. The objective is to build up the landscape around the French medieval city by completing features.
The tiles might feature a city, road, cloister, grassland, or some combination. It must be placed adjacent to tiles that match up. After laying tiles, players can place a meeple on one of the area. When the area is complete, the meeples score points for the player.
Carcassonne is easy to learn and has a relatively short playing time of just 30-45 minutes. However, players still have to be strategic and make decisions about where to place meeples, how to expand, and how to contain their opponents.
In Alhambra, players amass buildings to be placed within their Alhambra complex in 13th centry Spain. Your goal is to assemble the best team of builders and make sure that you have enough of their native currency to pay them for their work.
There are four different currencies available in Alhambra. Buildings become available four at a time, one in each currency. A player may take money, purchase a building, or engage in construction with buildings they’ve already claimed.
The game ends when the building market can no longer be replenished from the building tile supply. At that point, player total their points and the player with the most wins. Efficiency is the name of the game in Alhambra, a common objective within Euro games.
Like Ticket to Ride, El Grande also won the Spiel des Jahres award, but in 1996. In this game based on medieval Spain, players take on the roles of grandes, powerful lords vying for control of various regions. Draft caballeros (knights) into your court and move them on the board to seize control of the regions.
El Grande is played over the course of nine rounds. In each round, players select one of 13 power cards to determine the order of turns and the number of caballeros each player can move from the provinces into their court.
Each turn, a player selects an action card that allows variations to the rules or additional scoring opportunities. The goal is to have a majority of caballeros in as many regions as possible during a scoring round. Bonuses are awarded for having sole majority in the region containing your El Grande and the region with the king.
El Grande combines area control and bidding with action drafting, ticking a lot of boxes in the Eurogame category.
In Puerto Rico, players take on the role of colonial governors on the island of Puerto Rico. The goal is to earn points by shipping goods to Europe or through construction of buildings.
Players use an individual board with spaces for buildings, plantations, and resources. Players share three ships, a trading house, and a supply of resources and coins. Crops can be exchanged for points or doubloons (a type of coin). Doubloons can be used to buy buildings that allow players to produce more crops. Buildings and plantations require colonists to manage them.
Puerto Rico uses a variable phase order mechanism in which a governor token is passed clockwise to the next player at the end of a turn. The governor gets to choose a role and take the first action. The other players select a role card each round in a role selection mechanic.
Puerto Rico includes many of the hallmarks of Eurogames. The scoring system, the role selection, and the resource management. Strategy and efficiency are rewarded, and luck in minimized.
Brass: Birmingham is a relatively new game, but it’s wildly popular among hobbyist gamers. In fact, this board game currently holds the #1 spot in the Board Game Geek rankings. Not an easy feat to accomplish.
This is a sequel to Brass, another economic strategy game. It’s set during the industrial revolution of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The objective is to develop, build, and establish industries and network in an effort to exploit market demands.
Brass: Birmingham is played in rounds, with each player receiving two actions to perform. They can build, network, develop, sell, take out a loan, or scout. The game is played over two halves, the canal era and the rail era. VPs are tallied after each half. The player with the most VPs wins.
There are bonus scoring opportunities in each half, as well. This adds to the excitement and will create interesting strategy decisions.
With new industry types and an additional barrier to selling products, it has plenty of interest and challenge. The emphasis on efficiency and economic development is also indicative of the Euro-style games.
Ra takes players back to the ancient world in this auction and set-collection game. Expand your power and fame in Egypt by influencing Pharaohs, building monuments, farming on the Nile, paying homage to the gods, or by advancing the technology and culture of the people.
This game is played over three epochs (rounds). On each turn, you may purchase lots of tiles with your bidding tiles (suns). The tiles give immediate point values, prevent point deductions at the end of each round (epoch), or give additional point totals after the final round.
Ra is relatively simple to learn, with an average playing time of just 45-60 minutes. The play moves pretty quickly, but it’s full of meaningful decisions and has a solid bidding mechanic.
Developed by Uwe Rosenberg and published by Rio Grande Games, Bohnanza is a family-friendly game that includes set collection as the primary mechanism. In this card game, you plant and then harvest bean cards in order to earn coins. Players begin with a hand of random bean cards, with each card displaying a number equal to how many cards of that bean are in the deck.
Unlike a typical card game, you must use the cards in the order that you drew them from the deck… that is, unless you can trade them to other players. And that’s where the game shines.
On your turn, you must plant the first card or two in your hand into the “fields” (spots) in front of you. Each field only holds one type of bean. If you wish to plant a type of bean that’s not in one of your fields, you must harvest a field to make room.
Next, you reveal two cards from the deck, which you can trade for cards from other players. After trading, you draw cards from the deck and put them at the back of your hand. Earn coins for the number of beans you harvest, according to the value assigned by the bean cards. At the end of the game, everyone harvests their fields. The player with the most money wins the game!
Euro Games: Final Thoughts
Now that you have a good grasp on what Euro games are, as well as some solid examples, you’ll be ready to break out one to play at your next game night! Learn more about the different types of board games and find titles in each of the categories and sub-genres.