Be a Team Player! Learn German as a Team with These 10 Authentic German Games
When you’re learning a new language, playing authentic foreign games can help supplement language skills, from vocabulary and slang to cultural cues and history.
Here are a few authentic German games that might help you better understand the language and culture.
- 1. Topfschlagen (Hit the Pot)
- 2. Schokoladenessen
- 3. Ein, Zwei, Drei . . . Halt! (One, Two, Three . . . Stop!)
- 4. Leos Groβer Tag (Leo’s Big Day)
- 6. Erfindergeist (Inventive Genius)
- 9. Feuer, Wasser, Sturm, Blitz (Fire, Water, Storm, Lightning)
- 10. German Charades
1. Topfschlagen (Hit the Pot)
This children’s game features a small pot filled with chocolates that’s hidden somewhere inside a room. One child is blindfolded and given a stick.
After being placed in the middle of the room, the child must crawl around, looking for the chocolate pot by using the stick. Once he finds the pot, he can eat the chocolates inside.
Schokoladenessen literally means “chocolate-eating” and is another favorite pastime of the German people—because who doesn’t enjoy a little sweetness in life? This game, also played with chocolate, usually includes a table full of children.
A hat, scarf, mittens, fork and knife are placed in the middle, next to a chocolate bar wrapped in newspaper and tied with a ribbon. One child is chosen to roll a die first and tries to roll a six.
When a child rolls a six, they must put on the clothing and then unwrap the chocolate bar. Using the knife and fork, they begin to eat the chocolate.
At the same time, the rest of the children attempt to roll a six, and when another does, they take over eating the chocolate bar. This game can get rather fast-paced, as most children jump at the chance to eat sweets.
3. Ein, Zwei, Drei . . . Halt! (One, Two, Three . . . Stop!)
This game is a bit similar to the game Mother May I? and is played with a large group of children. One child is chosen to stand at a distance from the rest, with his back to his peers. He marks the finish line.
The rest of the kids begin at a starting line, and move forward—usually by running—as he counts, “Ein, zwei, drei.” When he calls, “Halt!” and turns around, they must freeze and hold their positions.
If he finds any of them moving, they’re disqualified. The game continues, with the child turning back around and counting once more until there are no players left or someone crosses the finish line.
4. Leos Groβer Tag (Leo’s Big Day)
This is an online German game featuring Leo, who wakes up one Monday morning and finds himself buried by a landslide in his house.
This game is a point-and-click adventure, an interactive way for children of all ages to not only read German in an adventurous game setting but to interact with the language as well.
Because it requires Adobe Flash, it won’t work on any mobile device, but check it out anyway to find out what happens to Leo!
5. Katz’ und Maus (Cat and Mouse)
This game features a Katz’ (short for Katze) and a Maus. One child is chosen to represent each character, and the rest of the kids form a circle. Much like Duck-Duck-Goose, the cat’s goal is to catch the mouse, and the mouse must attempt to stay away from the cat.
The cat can only run outside the circle and the mouse is free to move within the circle—but only if the kids in the circle will let him. When the cat catches the mouse, the game begins anew.
6. Erfindergeist (Inventive Genius)
Developed by the Goethe Institute, this interactive online game features German inventors. Players must help the inventors make decisions via text messages sent between the two parties.
Users can keep track of unfamiliar words to look them up later or add them to a vocabulary session.
Doppelkopf doesn’t directly translate into English; doppel means double, as in two of something, while Kopf is the word for “head” in German. Much like “Go Fish,” this name represents more of a colloquial term than a true translatable title.
This mature game is popular in Germany and requires a bit more skill than energy. Played with a double pack of cards, with the cards below nine removed, this game is typically played with four players.
The objective of this game is to capture valuable cards in tricks. There are many variants to this game, but here are some basics.
The cards are ranked from high to low; trumps are ranked highest, followed by clubs, spades and hearts in descending order. Face cards are also valued. Aces are 11, Kings (Könige) are worth four points, Queens (Damen) are three points, Jacks (Buben) are two points.
The dealer hands out the cards in threes, with the person to the left of the dealer assuming their role in the next round.
Bidding begins in a single round, with players either saying “Gesund” (healthy) or “Vorbehalt” (reservation). Gesund means the player is content with their hand, while Vorbehalt means they want to play another type of game.
The games vary from there; players can choose either Hochzeit (wedding), Armut (poverty) or Solo.
If all players say Gesund, then the player to the left of the dealer begins the first trick. The highest trump card wins. During card play, the two players with the queens of clubs—called the alten Damen—are actually on a team.
The trick of this game is that the teams aren’t recognized aloud; players can announce, any time during game play, which team they’re on.
The only requirement is that they have to have 11 or more cards in their hand at the time they say an announcement. Players either say “Re,” (which is a word exclusive to this game or Skat) or “Kontra” (against).
Those who belong to the “Re” team have the queens of clubs; the other two players are the “Kontra” team. The “Re” team’s aim is to get 121 points from the cards they win, while the “Kontra” team must get 120 points.
As you can see, this game is very complex and similar to Skat. For those looking to learn more about how to play this game, including strategies and explanations, you can find more information here.
9. Feuer, Wasser, Sturm, Blitz (Fire, Water, Storm, Lightning)
This German game works best with a large group of people, young and/or old. One person is chosen to call out either Feuer (fire), Wasser (water), Sturm (storm) or Blitz (lightning). Depending on the shouted word, the players must react quickly to enact a certain behavior:
Feuer: Players must lay flat on the ground—to escape the smoke, of course.
Wasser: Players must find the tallest object in the room—to climb to safety from the water.
Sturm: Players must hold onto something solid—to endure the strong winds of the storm.
Blitz: Players must make themselves as small as possible—to avoid being struck by lightning.
As you can see, the trend of weather conditions can be extended and new rules can be implemented. Players might decide to use Regen (rain), Schnee (snow) or any other kind of event.
The slowest player to react to what’s shouted is either out, or they’re the next person to call out the conditions.
10. German Charades
Most people are familiar with this game, where players must get their teammates to guess a certain word, phrase, person, idea, etc. before the time runs out. Similar in some ways to Pictionary, this game allows players to talk, and that’s where they can apply their German to a real-life, stressful situation.
This is a great game to play in classrooms, as it employs the skill of circumlocution. Let’s say you can’t think of a word—it’s slipping your mind and you can’t, for the life of you, recall what the word is.
Frustration forces you to describe the word you’ve forgotten using phrases and key words that trigger associations. Finally—hopefully—someone bails you out by saying the word you’ve forgotten. That’s circumlocution.
In a language setting, you haven’t forgotten the word, you just simply can’t say it. Players must use their German language skills to describe the word on the card and get someone in the group to guess what the word is.
Whoever guesses the word picks the next card and does the same thing. Teams can be used in this setting, but sometimes playing individually allows for more interaction on everyone’s part.
Games are a great way to learn a new language, especially if you’re trying to add to your vocabulary in a memorable way. They also create an environment that challenges you to practice your language skills in an interactive way.
But remember that it does require some preparation to be able to meaningfully participate in the conversations that take place when playing games, which will require some additional language practice. Luckily, this can be just as engaging as one of the games we talked about.
For instance, you could head over to Twitch or watch some German Let’s Plays to absorb the type of language you typically hear while playing games of all kinds. Or, you can browse an immersion program like FluentU, which exposes you to a library of authentic German videos where you can hear the language as it’s used by native speakers.
You could even make a flashcard deck of gaming or useful casual expressions and terms that would be useful in any gaming situation—from an online shooter, to a gather-around-the-kitchen-table card game.
Consider these games the next time you’re in a playful mood!
Rebecca Henderson holds a degree in German and Creative Writing. She is the editor behind The Kreativ Space and hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.