Traditional Games in Germany

Instructor: Erin Carroll

Erin has taught English and History. She has a bachelor's degree in History, and a master's degree in International Relations

In this lesson, you will learn about traditional games in Germany. First, we will look at some popular card and board games that have been popular for a couple hundred years. Then we will look at some more athletic games and some children's games that are still beloved today.

When you hear Germany and games in the same sentence, you might think of their much beloved sport, football. But Germans love to play other games too, and many of them go back hundreds of years. Let's take a look at some popular card, board, active and children's games.

Card Games


Skat originated back in the early 19th century and is the most popular card game in Germany. It all began in a small town called Altenburg around 1810. The game is a combination of the three-player game Tarock (also known as Tarot) and the four-player game Schafkopf. Skat was so popular that German immigrants brought the game over to the U.S., and established the U.S. Skat Association in 1898 a full year before the German Skat Association was created.

Skat Cards
Skat Cards


Doppelkopf means 'two head', and also evolved from Shafkopf in a similar way to Skat. It's pretty similar to Skat because it involves a deck of cards and a lot of trick-taking. Doppelkopf is more popular in Northern Germany, while Skat is more popular in Southern Germany. Doppelkopf evolved a little later, and its association wasn't formed until 1982.

Board Games


The first official description of the board game Dame was written in 1700, in a 155 page book. In the 1800s the game caught on as many additional books were published about rules and playing strategies. A magazine called 'Das Damespiel' was even published in the 1930s for all the eager Dame players.

Nowadays, every German kid learns to play Dame. Think of it as German checkers.

Mensch ärgere dich nicht or 'Don't Get Upset, Man'

This game was developed in 1907 but got really popular during WWI. Created by Josef Friedrich Schmidt, he began to send the game out to hospitals that were treating wounded soldiers. Those wounded soldiers loved playing the game, and soon it was being sent out to the trenches. There was a lot of time to kill in the trenches, so German soldiers played it for hours.

In this game, players have to move little marbles around the board trying to get them safely back to home, but at any moment someone can get a good roll of the dice, land their marble on another player's, and send them packing to square one saying 'Mensch ärgere dich nicht!'.

Athletic Games

Athletic games are games that require a bit of physicality, so they're more like sports.



Eisstockschiessen has been played for centuries in Germany and the Netherlands. Painter Pieter Brueghel even painted about it in 1565. The sport was even demonstrated at the Winter Olympics in both 1936 and 1964 but has never become an official Olympic sport.

Eisstockschiessen is a lot like curling or shuffleboard. An 'ice stock' is slid down the ice toward a rubber ring. Players try and land their ice stock as close as possible to the ring.


Fingerhakeln finger wrestling

Fingerhakeln is finger wrestling. Some claim it was a way to settle arguments long ago in Southern Germany and Austria. Nowadays it's an organized competition and German men from the south wear their traditional lederhosen to finger wrestling tournaments.

The two competitors choose a finger, put it in a strap and try to pull each other across the table using only finger strength. Most competitors use their middle finger, and strength train it by trying to crush tennis balls with their hands or lifting heavy weights with just a finger.

Brueghel Painting of Eisstockshiessen

Children's Games

Not much of the history is known about the origins of these children's games, but we do know they are oldies and goodies. They are staples of German children's birthday parties.

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