Sure, Settlers of Catan is really fun, except when no one will trade you any freaking sheep. Really. It was raining sheep five turns ago, and suddenly there's a sheep famine. Was there some sort of heavenly Sheepture (sheep rapture)? Does anyone have any sheep?
German games are in right now, and Settlers of Catan was just the tip of the iceberg. Next time you head to a get-together, you don't want to feel sheepish; here are 3 of the most fun Euro-games you'll play in America.
1. Ticket to Ride: Part Railroad Tycoon, part Snake, part Risk and all sweetness. It's simpler than Catan in that all you do is claim routes to cities and gain points for getting to those cities. There's more to it than that, but that's your goal.
Perks: The more people (five maximum) playing, the better! It gets really fun when you have to improvise to get where you need to go.
Quirks: The Destination Tickets are what win or lose for you. These give you extra points if you have a track laid from one city on one end of the board to another, and you want to get as many of these tickets as you can.
Jerks: The box says it takes five minutes to learn and 30-60 minutes to play. Europeans must be really fast. It took me twice as long to do both of these things. And I'm half-Polish.
2. Alhambra: Age of Empires lovers will allow you to pull them away from their Windows 95s for this game. You build your (Muslim-Spain-themed) city with four different types of currency, and leave your opponents in the dust of their inferior and often oddly shaped cities.
Perks: Watching your city form, the building of which isn't an easy task, is really rewarding, unless you get a bunch of weird pieces that just don't work. Like the one with walls on three sides. That's just silly.
Quirks: There are three scoring rounds, and the end of the last one signifies the end of the game. When you buy new buildings for your city they don't immediately get built--they go into your bank. But each building is like part of a puzzle that only Fate designs; you don't want to place your buildings badly, but you don't want to hold back and miss a scoring round.
Jerks: Yeah, it's complicated. And Fate makes some really mean puzzles. (Like those Where's Waldo puzzles? Those things were hard!)
3. Carcassonne: For those political science majors who want to see how Robin Hood did it. Carcassonne is a game about a power struggle, but it's completely bloodless; you build the map and as it forms, and cities, farms, churches, and roads begin to take their places, you capture as much as you can before the other players take control.
Perks: This game has a more equal balance of luck and strategy than the other two; there are no cards dealt, just land tiles.
Quirks: Who said farms could never turn the tide of battle? Well, I don't think anyone has ever said that farms couldn't turn the tide of battle, but I bet nobody's ever said that they could, and in this game, they can.
Jerks: Some games, I just never get the land tiles I want. Stupid geography! Always giving me the short end of the peninsula.
In summary: I'll give you five lumber for one freaking sheep.