At Billabong Boardgamers many of the games we play are commonly referred to as "German Games". What exactly does this mean? Why are they called "German Games"? What is so special about them? If you are interested in finding out a little more, here is Doug Adams' account of his encounters with "German Games".
How did you hear about "German Games"?
I've had a passion for games for the past 20 odd years. I've played a lot of games from the different genres, such as role playing, miniatures, family games, party games and conflict simulation games, or wargames. My passion for wargaming was fuelled by sharing a common interest with a friend, and we played many wargames together.
My friend moved to the United Kingdom five years ago, and wargaming for me became essentially a solitaire exercise. At about the same time I was granted access to the internet, and it was not long before I was perusing the gaming websites. I began to read about interesting titles from Germany, France, and Italy, as well as about railroad games from Mayfair in the United States.
The only games I was reading about available here in Australia were the Mayfair crayon rail games. These were purchased in early 1995, and were thoroughly enjoyed by my wife and I. A few other games crept into my collection; Targui, Sindbad amongst others. Little did I know I was starting to collect "German Games".
One day in late 1995 I saw a game called "Linie 1" in my game store. I recognised the title and instantly bought the game for a ridiculous import price. I was hooked.
What do you mean by "German Games"?
"German Games" are just that, games published in Germany! Other European based publishers, such as Jumbo and Eurogames are not located in Germany but seem to be generalised into the "German Games" definition. "European Games" would be a more accurate description.
Features common to these games are usually stunning production values with quality components, visually pleasing and durable. Most of the games contain wooden playing pieces, instead of plastic, which impart a wonderful tactile sensation. These games are literally a pleasure to play! Other features include an emphasis on multi-player games, typically in the area of 3-6 players. Perhaps this has something to do with the family unit, and the value placed on such, in Europe? In any case, I have introduced these games to many friends who I would not consider 'gamers' with great success.
Finally, these games are good games! By 'good' games, I mean games where luck does not play a dominating role. These are games were you can exercise the mind, think about your strategies, and still have a fun evening of social gaming. However, this isn't chess! These games tend to have rather amusing themes. For example, at a typical Billabong evening we may race the bulls through Pamplona, grow beans on a farm, struggle to keep amoeba alive and then cap it off with a group of bears racing honey back to their caves! If you enjoy social games and can get past the silly themes, you will enjoy yourself!
So in short, "German Games" are produced in Europe, generally featuring quick playing times (30-90 minutes), stunning components, with simple rules yet interesting play.
Hang on, how can I play "German Games" if I can't read German?
That would be a problem for all of us if it weren't for Mike Siggins and the growing number of gamers who translate new releases and put them in the "Rules Bank". Check out either The Game Cabinet, or The Games Dumpster websites and you will probably find the translation you are after. Most stores now provide you with a translation when you purchase a game, so the language barrier is usually hurdled with ease. Furthermore, German publishers are recognising the fact that their games are gaining popularity outside Europe and are providing accurate translations faster now. It can only get better!
In addition, an inspired gentleman named Jay Tummelson has begun publishing German Games in English editions through his company Rio Grande Games. These games possess identical components to the German counterparts but totally in English. With around ten titles already in print, the future looks rosey!
Who makes the best "German Games"?
There are two ways you can tackle this question. One way is to approach it from the game publisher perspective. There are many companies that publish these games, with Ravensburger, Frankh-Kosmos, Hans im Glück, Amigo, and Jumbo being some of the big players. The other approach is to go by the game designers, who are akin to celebrities in the gaming community! Reiner Knizia, Wolfgang Kramer, Steffan Dorra and Klaus Teuber are designers of note.
Where can I find out more about "German Games"?
Here are some good places to start:
Where can I buy these "German Games"?
Military Simulations of Melbourne, Australia
Mind Games of Melbourne, Australia
There are also some fine online game stores that are beginning to stock these gems. First and foremost are Funagain Games, based in the USA. They are very helpful, friendly and offer fast service. The are also German Game specialists with a large selection of new and used games. Other online stores in the USA are Fine Games, and Boulder Games. These are both essentially wargame shops, but are branching out into the German Game market. Both are recommended.