A “euro-game”, also known as a “German-style board game” are
are a broad class of tabletop games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction, and physical components, which are frequently wooden player tokens or markers. The games emphasize strategy, downplay luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends.
The most well-known example of this would be Klaus Teuber’s Settlers of Catan.
Where western / American-style board games tend to focus more on direct competition, zero-sum arrangements, and frequently combat themes, German-style games instead focus on empire-building, strategizing, and often economic themes. If American-style games are “during the war”, German-style are “before and after”. There is player interaction, of course, but it’s frequently circumstantial or coincidental. The publishers “Rio Grande Games” and “Mayfair Games” are both terrific sources (as are many games that win the annual Spiel de Jahres award)
In any case – they are a variety of games that have become quite popular here in America over the past decade. My friendly gaming group frequents many of these.
Over the past year, I have discovered several computer-based editions of these games that can either be played online (against other people) or locally (against computer AI) — the best part is that they have Linux-based versions! The games I’ll cover here, along with how to set them up and where to find more information on playing them, are:
- Settlers of Catan
- Race for the Galaxy
- San Juan
- Dominion / Puerto Rico / Carcasonne / others
Settlers of Catan
There are many different ways to play this game on the computer. Numerous publishers have released digital versions of it (including one in the XBox Live Arcade, if you’re a console gamer with an XBox 360). Playing online has generally been problematic in the past, though – online versions either required paid subscriptions or were lo-fi on the graphics / interface.
The website Catan Online World (http://www.playcatan.com/) is the nice sweet spot between clean gameplay and affordability. You can set up an account on their website for free. Playing requires you download the client software, but there is a linux-native version, so no need to emulate in Wine for this one!
CatanOnline uses the Java Runtime Environment (you probably already have it, but if you are unsure, you can try loading the package). The download is a tarball (.tar.gz), which you should be able to open simply by double-clicking it in the downloads folder. Extract the files to a folder where you can find it easily (I suggest ~/Games/CatanOnline/), then follow the directions on their download page. The download includes a shell script that will create a Desktop shortcut for you — if you feel compelled to add one to your Applications menu, more power to you.
When you first load the program, it will likely run some update patches, which will take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on both your Internet connection and how far behind they are on patching their release downloads. The game will allow you to choose your screen resolution and whether or not you want it to be full-screen. If you are running at anything greater than 1024 x 768, I would suggest turning off FullScreen mode – it does not scale well, for some reason. When the program connects to the main server, it will bring up a main lobby screen.
The lobby interface is intimidating at first – there is a lot going on. You can chat with other people, send messages, etc. What you need to do to get playing is simply make sure the “Open Games” box is checked with a green checkbox, then click on any of the green-shaded boxes (as in the picture here) and select “Join”. That’s it!
If this is your first time online (but not your first time with the game), I’d recommend just doing a “Basic Game” so that you can get a feel for the interface.
If this is your first time playing the game at all, click on the “?” icon at the top toolbar and select “Help, I’m a Beginner”. You can also check the “In Progress” checkbox and click on a amber-shaded game, then click “Watch” to see some other people play. This will give you a feel for the game flow.
For more information about the game, the rules, and gameplay, see:
Race for the Galaxy
This is a game published by Rio Grande Games. It uses a “pitch” mechanic for game play — you play cards by discarding a number of cards equal to the card’s cost. (A card costing “2″ requires you to discard 2 other cards when you play it). It also uses another mechanic called “phase drafting”, where each player secretly selects one of five phases from among “Explore”, “Develop”, “Settle”, “Consume” and “Produce”. Phase drafting occurs every turn, and all players get to participate in whatever phases are drafted — the twist is that when you pick a specific phase, you get a little bonus for choosing it: Choosing “Develop”, for example, reduces the cost of your cards by 1 (so you pitch one fewer card); choosing “Settle” lets you draw a card after settling your new planet.
The game takes a lot of practice, and perhaps even some explaining to play – every card has an intimidating amount of symbols which seem very cryptic the first few times; after several games, you’ll develop a familiarity for them and probably find it to be a rather convenient feature of the card templating.
What’s really cool about this particular game is that the computer version has very elaborate Artificial Intelligence written for it — the computer is a very formidable opponent, even if you are skilled at the game. I believe you can change the difficulty of the opponents, but for the first few games, just expect the computer to absolutely romp you.
The downloadable game can be found here: http://www.keldon.net/rftg/ – at the time of this posting, the current version is 0.7.3, downloadable as a BZ2 file. (Archive manager can decompress it)
I’ll be up front about this — getting it working is going to take a small amount of effort. You’ll have to go to the command line, do a couple commands, and actually compile it from source. Fortunately, I can help!
First thing you need is the libGTK2 development package. You can either click on that link or type:
sudo apt-get install libgtk2.0-dev
It may require additional packages — if you aren’t able to compile because certain packages are missing, paste your error messages in a comment and I’ll try to help you; I only needed to install that one package when I compiled.
With that installed, extract the downloaded BZ2 file to your desktop to a temporary folder (~/Desktop/RFTG/ or whatever), then open up a terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and cd to the location where you extracted RFTG; we’ll assume you used a folder on your desktop:
Once there, you can use the configure script to handle the preparation:
A lot of text should whiz by — this is ok. You should see lots of “Yes” and “OK” and no “No” or “Fails”. It is at this point that you will be alerted to any missing packages. Assuming that completes successfully, type:
make && make install
That will both compile the source code (which should go fine, assuming configure worked correctly) and then copy the relevant binaries to your appropriate locations.
You can now run the game by typing:
from the terminal window. The game should load up in a second or two. If that works, you’re good to go. You can create an applications menu item by right clicking on the Applications menu, clicking “Edit Menus” then clicking on the “Games” menu in the left pane. Click “New Item” then type “rftg” (without quotes) in the “Command” field, and “Race for the Galaxy” in the “Name” field.
You can click on the icon (the box on the left in that dialog box) to choose a new icon — the image to the immediate left here on this blog post is the icon I made for it — feel free to download and use it.
If you are absolutely not able to get it to work by compiling from source, you might be able to get away with downloading the Windows version (also available at the same page) and running it under Wine — I have not tried that though.
The game supports Network play, so you can play versus other people by directly connecting to them; they can be using any operating system; it will still work.
Further reading about the game:
San Juan, also published by Rio Grande games, is a game that is nearly identical (mechanically) to Race for the Galaxy. In fact, it is basically the same game with different cards and different flavor — I consider it to be easier to learn, so you may actually want to play this one first.
This game is actually a simplified variant of the game “Puerto Rico”, also published by Rio Grande Games. The lore goes that the two developers that created Puerto Rico had some different ideas about the game, and one of them made a spin off game about the same time (and also, I think, made Race for the Galaxy as well?). Puerto Rico is an excellent, albeit somewhat more complicated, game, and if you’ve got a few friends to play with, I highly recommend checking it out.
The computer version, which also features some formidable AI, was written in Java, so multi-platform compatibility is basically implicit. Go to the JSanJuan website and download the JAR file. Save it to wherever you want it to permanently live — I suggest ~/Games/
You can run the game by right-clicking on it in Nautilus and selecting “Open with -> Java Runtime Environment” or “Open with -> Open JDK” etc. The game should work immediately, without any problems. If you want some 1337 geek points, add an icon to your applications menu:
- Right click on Applications, choose “Edit Menus…”
- Click on “Games” in the left pane
- Click on “New Item”
- For “Name” enter “San Juan”
- For “Command” enter “java -jar /home/YOURUSERNAME/Games/JSanJuan_v11.jar” (if you chose to put it somewhere else, be sure you correct the path there)
- Download that icon to the right there, save it to somewhere permanent and then set the icon for your launcher to that file.
Double-check that it works, and you’re set!
If you do not currently have Java installed, you can install it via the Ubuntu Software Center — it’s easiest to install it via the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package. (Other packages include sun-java6-bin, sun-java6-jre, and the open-jdk packages.)
The game will prompt you through gameplay, but it wouldn’t hurt to read up on the game a bit:
The game does not currently support network play.
Dominion / Puerto Rico / Carcasonne / others
The website BrettSpielWelt.de is a free online service that allows you to play against other people around the world — it has a veritable bevy of games available for play, including many popular Rio Grande titles (Dominion, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, etc.) as well as Settlers of Catan and others.
While you don’t need to create an account to play, it’s free and only takes a moment, so go to their account registration page.
You’ll also definitely want to download their linux client from their download page; I’ve played it in the browser and it’s kind of buggy and takes forever to load. The client works terrific, rarely ever crashes, and runs much faster.
Once you’ve downloaded the tarball, extract it to a permanent home (no compiling necessary!), such as ~/Games/BSW/ — create an Applications Menu shortcut that points to the start.sh script in that folder, eg: /home/YOURUSERNAME/Games/BSW/start.sh
There is an icon within that folder (mg32x32.gif) that you can use for the launcher.
The games that are listed by default are all available games that have not yet been started. The list will change quite rapidly as games are filled up. Locate a game you want to play and double click on it to bring up the panel for it — click “Join”. The first time you play a game, there may be a slight delay while it loads up the resources.
Dominion has the best interface, by far, but definitely read up on the rules before playing — the humans you play against don’t all speak English (in my experience, it’s about 30/70 non-english/english speaking people, although most people understand very basic English phrases). There are constantly new games being created and there are always people playing — I have never waited longer than 30 seconds for a Dominion game to open up. You can click on the “More >>>” button in the left pane to see all the games available: clicking on one of the games will take you to the lobby for that specific game, where you can click on an open table to start a new game. Someone else will join you almost immediately.
Puerto Rico is decently implemented, but the interface takes some getting used to; it’s not as intuitive as Dominion. Settlers of Catan is workable, but mediocre. Carcasonne is decent, but also takes some getting used to. I have not played the other games yet.
You can crank through a two player game of Dominion in 8-15 minutes — in the past 45 days, I have literally played hundreds of matches. Many people on there are quite friendly and I’ve had some great critiques of my gameplay, advice on strategy, and just some generally good conversation with quite a few people. The non-English speaking people are most often German, although as I said before they usually know a few choice english phrases. When someone writes “GL” they mean “Good Luck.”; “HF” is “Have Fun”, “GG” is “Good Game” (at the end). It is considered polite to open with either of the former, and to close with the latter.
If you are new to the game, let the other person know at the beginning; some people are patient and will help you out; others are impatient and will probably reset / leave the table. If that happens just find someone else to play with; there is an abundance of players 24/7. For the benefit of yourself and your opponents, at least familiarize yourself with the rules and basic gameplay before playing.
- The BrettSpielWelt game rules section
- The BSW game rules for Dominion specifically
- BSW game rules for Carcasonne
- BSW game rules for Puerto Rico
- BSW game rules for San Juan
- BSW game rules for Settlers of Catan
- Dominion at Rio Grande Games
- Dominion at Board Game Geek
- Dominino at Wikipedia
My username on BSW is armahillo , if you ever see me on there let me know you’ve read my blog! There are many other games than the ones listed there, I just listed the ones I play