Fantasy Flight's previews for Descent: The Road to Legend repeatedly mention that the game can be played in "bite sized portions." Preview 6 spotlights the special boxes that players can use to store their stuff in between sessions, thus allowing for sessions as "short as one hour." I'm clearly not the only one who needs bite-sized Ameritrash games. For whatever reasons - work, family, kids, other interests and priorities, schedule conflicts with our gamer friends - many of us only have an hour or two at a time to play games.
Awhile back I received an e-mail from my brother, the second best Caylus player in the world, asking for Ameritrash game recommendations for his game club's family night. It seems that the rug rats are not so much into impressing the king, and wanted something with a little ultra-violence. His criteria included easy rules that can be quickly taught and a short game play length. Yikes. Two of the hallmarks of AT are complex rules and epic length. Two things that Euros excel at is that they are easy to teach and play quickly, which makes them exceptionally well suited to open game nights. Trying to set up and teach Descent in a crowded, noisy coffee house, is not so easy, especially when all the players have "bedtimes."
I often have the same criteria of short and easy when picking games to play, even when playing at home and with adults. I hit the ground running at 7 am and don't stop until 9 p.m. at night, when my own rug rat is finally tucked into bed. I have about 90 minutes, two hours tops, until it's time to head up to the bedroom myself. By this point in the day, my feet hurt, my brain is fried, and I really would like to escape into a head butting, ass kicking, slaughter fest, but I just don't have the time or energy to haul out a big ass Ameritrash game.
One evening, at 9 p.m., about 18 months ago, the Man and I were staring into a cupboard full of games and realized that we simply didn't play most of them anymore. They were all too long, or too complicated (Him: Do you remember the rules to that one? Me: Are you kidding? I don't remember what I had for lunch. Shit, I think I forgot to eat lunch.), or required more than two players (We don't live in a frat house anymore, where at 9 p.m. you could find 5 players simply by hollering down the hallway). The only games that were getting played with any kind of frequency were games that I didn't particularly love, but which met one of the following criteria:
A. 30-90 minute family games that we could play with our own sweet spawn in the tiny slice of time after dinner and before her bedtime. (The Narnia Game - whatever)
B. 30-90 minute games that the two of us could play in the tiny slice of time between our sweet spawn's bedtime and our own. (Awful Green Things and Catan Card Game - played to death)
C. 30-90 minute multi-player family games that we could play with other families on the weekends or on snow days. (Ticket to Ride - shoot me)
D. 30 minute games that we could play with the Band Boys. (TransAmerica & Cartagena)
The Man, therefore, declared that I could no longer purchase any games that did not meet at least one of the above criteria. He didn't care how cool a game was or even if it was on sale or that it was going out of print. Well, okay, that's not entirely true. He did relent and let me choose Struggle of Empires as an anniversary gift. And Mare Nostrum, but that was a trade and didn't really count, plus it turned out that the neighbor likes it so it almost meets criteria C, even though the kids can't play. But other than those two, and Warrior Knights and the expansion, he laid down the law. There would be no more dust collectors allowed into the house. Thus began my quest for Bite-Sized Ameritrash, and Ameritrash Jr. games.
I needed games that scaled well for 2-players. Games that adults could play with children. Games that experienced gamers could play with casual gamers. The games needed to be engaging without being too complex. The rules needed to be intuitive enough to remember without a lengthy, time consuming review. They needed to set up and clean up quickly. They had to have a maximum play time of 90 minutes (also known as the typical length of a Disney Video). Most importantly, they still needed to have the fun and flavor of Ameritrash.
Over the past year I've found several good Bite-Sized Ameritrash and Ameritrash Jr. games. I've also found a lot of crap. The only quest I was unable to complete was games to play with the Band Boys. It is really difficult to find games that are so easy even a drummer can play. I have reviewed some of the games I discovered, and will be reviewing more. I tell you all this, because I feel it is important to know where someone is coming from when they give an opinion about a game. These games can't compare to games like TI3, the black tar heroin of Ameritrash. However, the best of them can still "scratch that itch." Most importantly, these games are actually getting played in my house, rather than just taking up storage space. If you only have 90 minutes or less to play, look for future Bite-Sized Ameritrash reviews. If you play with children, look for future Ameritrash Jr reviews. You are not alone, and you are not full of crap. Now I just have to find the time to write the reviews.