German Language Blog

Essen’s SPIEL Fair 2009 Posted by on Nov 24, 2009 in Culture, Traditions

Germans take board gaming ernst.  In German culture, it’s considered a family-oriented hobby, popular to the point that a whole genre of board games exists known as “German-style games,”  “Euro-games,” or “designer board games.”  These Spiele aren’t your Grandma’s Monopoly (though Germans play that, too).  The genre is known for high production value, favoring wooden pieces over plastic ones, and die Spielzeit is often about an hour, the sort of time a busy Familie has on a weeknight to come together for some face time.  These games tend to rely less on luck and more on Strategie, and aim to keep all Spieler participating – even when it isn’t their turn.  Regeln that are “quick to learn and a lifetime to master” are the staple of German-style games.


The popularity is especially evident each year between October 22nd and 25th in the small German town of Essen, home to the Messe convention center.  When it’s not hosting automobile shows, this is where SPIEL, the worlds’ largest open-to-the-public games convention is held.  This year, over 150,000 people from all over the Welt (Origins and GenCon see about a 1/10th of that attendance) attended convention.  And unlike the Besucher of the big game conventions in the United States, the primary reason people attend is to play Brettspiele, and see the latest new ones.  Dieses Jahr alone, 600 neue board games debuted at SPIEL.  The designers of these games, many of whom are also present, have a certain degree of rock star status, and spend a good deal of time autographing copies of their work for eager fans.  Besonders the designer a given year’s Spiel des Jahres (“Game of the Year”) award winner!  That Typ gets NO rest, and probably carpal tunnel to boot… this year that was Donald X. Vaccarino, American designer of Dominion.


Every Halle is light and bright, and the Essen is amazing. Check out high-quality armor and staves in one hall, then snag some comic books, Kuscheltiere, Holzschnitzereien, or Sesame Street-grade hand puppets in the next.  As you’re carried along in the wave of milling humanity, you might come across a booth of bunte game-inspired dishware, and then move on to entdecken a copy of that rare game you’ve been looking for.  Or, just plop down at a Tisch (or on the Boden) at your favorite publisher’s booth to play a game or get a demo of the latest cardboard hotness.


The mid-nineties arrival of The Settlers of Catan, a quintessential designer game from German designer Klaus Teuber, to the United States through publisher Mayfair Games began the mainstream discovery of German board gaming here.  Seitdem, more and more people every year are discovering this refreshingly non-electronic and social hobby. 


Essen Youtube:



ernst = seriously

Spiele = games

die Spielzeit = game time

Familie = family

Strategie = strategy

Spieler = players

Regeln = rules

Welt = world

Brettspiele = board games

dieses Jahr = this year

neue = new

besonders = especially

Typ = guy

Halle = hall

Essen = food n (as a verb, it means “to eat”)

Kuscheltiere = stuffed animals

Holzschnitzereien = wooden carvings

bunte = colorful

entdecken = discover

Tisch = table

Boden = floor

seitdem = since then

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  1. Ryan:

    Cool post guys.

  2. Jamie:

    thanks for the new post. I enjoyed it. Keep ’em coming.


  3. Sadegh:

    You have a good weblog…………

  4. Fabian:

    Small German town? Essen has 580.000 residents!

  5. Gerald:

    Welcom Jan! Looking forward to your post.