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Traditional German Games Kids and their Omas like to Play!

Traditional German Games Kids and their Omas like to Play!


Growing up, my family played a LOT of traditional German Games. Games like Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht, Mühle, Schwarzer Peter and Quartet. My Oma was part of a Doppelkopf group, and Dad loved Skat. In the car we would play Stadt Land Fluß to pass the time. Today Board Games are undergoing a Renaissance of sorts… newer, better, more complex and more exciting games are being developed all the time, with many of the best coming from Germany, where the prestigious Spiel des Jahres prize is announced yearly. But still, the traditional German Games we kids played with our parents or our Omas and Opas are timeless fun… and a great way to pull kids off of the electronics. Pull Halma out of the closet, dust off your old Memory set, or set up a game of Fang den Hut, and reboot the family tradition of playing German games.

Traditional German Games

I thought it might be easier to break the games down into groups; Traditional German games with and  without boards (especially German Games Kids played with each other, or with Oma and Opa), German card games, and games with just paper and pencil.

Traditional German Games with boards

Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht

Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht is the FINAL WORD in traditional German Board Games. You will find this in every German Game cabinet, and EVERYONE has a story about playing this game for hours with their friends, Oma, Opa, mother, father, brother, sister, or classmates. Similar to Aggravation or Trouble… this is a simple-ish game of rolling dice and moving your colored pieces around the board to get them safely home. HOWEVER! Should you land on an opponent’s piece before they make it around the board, they get sent back to the beginning. Causing much ÄRGER!! This fun game has a lot of replay value. It’s simple enough for young kids to understand, and engaging enough for more mature players. I love it because the WHOLE family can play.

With the Full Size version (on the left) you can even flip the board over to play with up to 6 people. The Metal Tin version is a mini Travel Size.

Mensch ärgere Dich nicht St. [German Version]Mensch ärgere Dich nicht St. [German Version]Schmidt Spiele 51204 Mensch ärgere Dich nicht in Metalldose (Mitbringspiel)Schmidt Spiele 51204 Mensch ärgere Dich nicht in Metalldose (Mitbringspiel)

Mühle  (Nine Man Morris)

Mühle in German is Mill, but that really doesn’t have anything to do with this game that’s known as 9 Man Morris in English. The game is simple to learn, but there can be some serious strategy. The board is laid out with 3 squares (one inside the other) and connecting lines. Each player starts by placing 9 of their stones on the board at intersections. Movement slides along the line to the next corner or intersection. The object is to get three of your stones in a row. Every time you do, the opposing player loses one of their stones. Play goes until one color is down to 2 stones.

We played this one using an actual board with the squares inside each other, but during recess we would make a “board” on a piece of paper, and use rocks or other markers to make it work. This edition comes with Dame on the back… don’t get too excited… Dame is German for Checkers.

Deluxe: Muhle & Dame Board GameDeluxe: Muhle & Dame Board Game

Watch it played-
(note, 9 Man Morris is the English name for the game, rules are the same

Halma (Chinese Checkers)

Halma is just the German name for Chinese Checkers… I like the Playing Piece version because it doesn’t have a bunch of marbles that roll all over the floor whenever you bump the board. (Yes, you can also get a marble version) It’s a simple game… basically, you try to get all of the pieces with YOUR color across the board to the opposite triangle before your opponents do. And you can speed up by jumping over other pieces (and if you are very clever, you can set up a chain with multiple jumps!). Since it’s playable with 2 to 6 people, everyone in the family can play at once.

Interestingly, I found another game called Halma, with the same premise, but in a different shape.(Square board, and you move from the corners to the opposite side). This version claims to be from the American Revolution… so is it Chinese? German? America? I don’t know, but it’s fun for all ages.

Halma - Deluxe Set Board GameHalma – Deluxe Set Board GameSchmidt - 49217 - Jeu de Plateau - Classic Line - Dames ChinoisesSchmidt – 49217 – Jeu de Plateau – Classic Line – Dames Chinoises

Fang den Hut (Trap the Cap)

Fang den Hut was first produced by Otto Maier Verlag in 1927... and since then has spun off versions around the world. It’s a gotcha game that we LOVED to play when we were kids (and we also loved putting the little caps on our fingers to pretend we were witches…. so, TWICE the fun!). Everyone is assigned a color, and 4 pointy little hats (they look like cones). You roll the dice, and move a hat of yours, trying to land on another person’s hat. If you do, it is captured. Get the hat back to home base before they capture it back! Winner is the last person with hats still traveling around the board. (Alternatively, the winner is the one who captures the most hats).

Play with 2 to 6 people (it’s best with 3 or more). Anyone who can roll a die and count can play Fang den Hut.

The game with the yellow Amazon button can be ordered from the US. The one with the blue button can be ordered from Germany.

Fang den Hut!®Fang den Hut!®Fang den Hut!®Ravensburger 26736 Fang den Hut FamilienspielRavensburger 26736 Fang den Hut FamilienspielRavensburger 26736 Fang den Hut Familienspiel


Spitz Pass Auf!

Spitz Pass Auf can get LOUD (probably best not to play while Opa is having his nap). Each player is assigned a little piece that’s attached to a string. One player is given a cup… and another a die (you need at least 3 to play). When a 1 or 6 is rolled, the player with the cup tries to catch the little pieces before they are yanked away by their string. Points are awarded, and roles are rotated. You need great hand-eye coordination to be successful. It’s a fun and active game!

Schmidt Watch DoggieSchmidt Watch DoggieSchmidt Watch DoggieSchmidt Spiele 40531 Spitz Pass auf, Kinderspiel, buntSchmidt Spiele 40531 Spitz Pass auf, Kinderspiel, buntSchmidt Spiele 40531 Spitz Pass auf, Kinderspiel, bunt

The game with the yellow Amazon button can be ordered from the US. The one with the blue button can be ordered from Germany.

Watch it played here…

Spielesammlung! Get all the Games at Once

We had a box like this when I was growing up. Loads of games in one big box. My mother kept it tucked away, and we would only use it when traveling. This way we could take a lot of games along in one condensed space. (She kept it safe, so we didn’t arrive somewhere miles from home and realize that my sister or I had “played” with the pieces and left some behind). Mikado, Mühle, Dame and Mensch Ärgere dich Nicht ALL IN ONE BOX with MORE!

Spiele-Sammlung mit 100 Spielen für einen oder mehr Spieler ab 6 JahrenSpiele-Sammlung mit 100 Spielen für einen oder mehr Spieler ab 6 Jahren

Traditional German Games without Boards

These aren’t traditional BOARD Games, but they are popular games non-the-less. They use dice, sticks and/or cardboard pieces. They may be familiar and simple, but they are still very fun.


Mikado is a fancy name for Pick-up Sticks. Believe it or not, there are actual RULES and a point system (more than just picking up the stick, some have value, and some can only be picked up a certain way). Those colorful painted parts on the stick are more than just decoration. And, I’ll let you in on a family secret…. My Uncle Rainer is the reigning world champion of Mikado. (Kidding, he’s just really good, and really strict about it). It may be a “simple” game, but it’s tough for someone (like me) who lacks in coordination. Again, this is a game for anyone in the family… (although one person may have to be appointed to insure that people don’t get into fist-fights about whether or not a stick was touched or wiggled that shouldn’t be).

Mikado Pick Up Sticks - WoodenMikado Pick Up Sticks – Wooden


Some of my earliest game memories are of playing Memory with my mother. She would start us kids off with just a few pairs, and as we got older and better at the game, she would add more pairs. I’m sure you’ve seen this one (or played it as Concentration) with a deck of cards. An array of cardboard card pairs are mixed and laid out in a grid face down. On your turn you flip over two cards. If they match, you keep the pair and go again. If not… the turn goes to the next person. In the end, the person who found the most pairs is the winner.

The best Memory games have great pictures on them, and my absolute favorite come from the Remember company in Germany. I’ve linked them below.

Still, any set with distinct pictures will do fine (avoid the ones made for children that have the same cartoon character doing different things on them… it’s confusing and irritating).

The game with the yellow Amazon button can be ordered from the US. The one with the blue button can be ordered from Germany.


Travel Memory GameTravel Memory GameTravel Memory GameMemory Game Birds of North AmericaMemory Game Birds of North AmericaMemory Game Birds of North AmericaeeBoo Life on Earth Memory Matching Game for KidseeBoo Life on Earth Memory Matching Game for KidseeBoo Life on Earth Memory Matching Game for Kids

Remember®44 Gedächtnisspiel DogsRemember®44 Gedächtnisspiel DogsRemember®44 Gedächtnisspiel DogsRemember Signale 44 Kartenpaare und AnleitungRemember Signale 44 Kartenpaare und AnleitungRemember Signale 44 Kartenpaare und Anleitung



Kniffel (aka. Yahtzee)

My mother loves this game… but in our house we just played the American Yahtzee version (maybe because we played often, and it was easier to get replacement blocks in English?) Roll the dice, and try to get certain combinations; All 2’s, Full House, Straight, 3 of a Kind, or all of one number! Keep track, build your score and win.

Find the German version of Kniffel here, both in full size (with the ORIGINAL Kniffel Becher!) or a smaller travel version (perfect for killing time in restaurants and airports)

Schmidt Spiele 51203 - Kniffel, MetalldoseSchmidt Spiele 51203 – Kniffel, MetalldoseKniffel (gr. Würfeln & Block) [German Version]Kniffel (gr. Würfeln & Block) [German Version]

New Classics Destined to become Traditional German Games

These Games have been on the Market for 25 years or more… and show up in lots of German Households. Why? Because they are GREAT FAMILY GAMES! Why not give them a try today? Who knows, you might find a new Favorite!

6 Nimmt (6 Takes it)

6 Nimmt is a newer classic, and one my mom likes to play with my kids. It’s simple, easy to teach, and brings on a lot of laughing around the table. I like that you can expand to play with up to 10 people (so it’s perfect when ALL the kids are visiting). You have a deck of cards numbered 1- 104… each also has some Bull Heads at the top. Shuffle the cards… lay down a vertical row of 4 cards… deal 10 cards to each player (put the rest of the cards aside for now).

Each player now compares the numbers on the row of cards, and plays (face down) a number that would be next in the sequence. It doesn’t have to be the next number up, just a number greater than one of the numbers in the sequence. Everyone flips up their face down card then at once, and the cards are sorted into place. If your card was the sixth card in the row, you get all the cards, and all the points (points are counted by Bull Heads). The fun is trying to force someone else into taking the cards, because winner has fewest points.

6 Nimmt! - 25 Jahre6 Nimmt! – 25 Jahre6 Nimmt! - 25 Jahre4910 - 6 NIMMT - KARTENSPIEL -4910 – 6 NIMMT – KARTENSPIEL –4910 - 6 NIMMT - KARTENSPIEL -

Watch to see how it’s Played

Die Siedler von Catan / Settlers of Catan or Catan

Released in 1995 by Klaus Teuber, Catan has become a worldwide phenomenon! There are competitions all over the globe, and enough expansion sets to fill your shelves. But all you need to know is that while it is a bit more complex than most Traditional Games, but the basics can be taught fairly easily. Players build settlements, roads and cities with resources they gain from dice rolls. And they are worth points. Resources come from building settlements on new territory. Other players can block you. If you can learn chess, you can play Catan.

I was delighted to discover Catan Jr recently. It’s a simplified version that even young players can enjoy, but it’s not soooo  simplified that it’s boring for adults. If you are concerned about jumping in to a complicated game, why not start with Jr?

Catan The Board Game, MulticolorCatan The Board Game, MulticolorCatan The Board Game, MulticolorCatan JuniorCatan JuniorCatan Junior

Watch it played

and the Jr version


German Card Games

Schwarzer Peter

Schwarzer Peter might be familiar to Americans as Old Maid. The name came from the original way of playing… one card would be marked with blackened cork, and designated the Black Peter. Today, the decks have sets of pairs, and one odd card, sometimes a black cat or a chimney sweep. Cards are dealt out evenly, then players take turns drawing from each other. Pairs are matched and kept in a pile. The player with the black peter card in the end loses.

This game is a great starting place for young children…and a good game to keep your hands occupied while you are chatting.

Original Schwarzer Peter [German Version] by ASS SpielkartenfabrikOriginal Schwarzer Peter [German Version] by ASS SpielkartenfabrikSchwarzer Peter - Kaminkehrer by UnknownSchwarzer Peter – Kaminkehrer by Unknown


We played a lot of Quartett in the car, because it traveled well. Consider Quartett a version of Go-Fish, but you collect 4 in a group instead of just a pair. You need at least 3 people to play, or it just becomes a back and forth thing. Our set was of famous people… but you can get sets with just about anything on them these days, from Ponies to Footballers.

Newer versions include different rules and variations…

A very good game for a wide age range.

Pferde, Quartett (Kartenspiel)Pferde, Quartett (Kartenspiel)22573007 - ASS Altenburger Spielkarten - TOP ASS Giga Quartett Fussball22573007 – ASS Altenburger Spielkarten – TOP ASS Giga Quartett Fussball

Mau Mau

Mau Mau is almost exactly like Uno… but it’s played with a regular deck of cards. Each player starts with 5 cards, the rest are stacked into a draw pile between them. The top card is revealed. To play a card, you must match either the number or suit of the top card. First player to get rid of all their cards wins.

Now… if you are down to only one card, you must say MAU… or you get to pick up more cards! Unless it’s a jack… then it’s Mau Mau.

You only need a regular deck of cards for this simple game… so why not choose a nice one?

Germany - Germany Wants to See You - (artist: Engelhardt c. 1927) - Vintage Advertisement (Playing Card Deck - 52 Card Poker Size with Jokers)Germany – Germany Wants to See You – (artist: Engelhardt c. 1927) – Vintage Advertisement (Playing Card Deck – 52 Card Poker Size with Jokers)Germany - (1700) - Panoramic Map (Playing Card Deck - 52 Card Poker Size with Jokers)Germany – (1700) – Panoramic Map (Playing Card Deck – 52 Card Poker Size with Jokers)

Doppelkopf and Schaffkopf

Doppelkopf was my Oma’s game. She and her friends met every Wednesday for Doppelkopf, and we kids (my cousins and I) WERE NOT ALLOWED TO JOIN THEM. Devastating. In fact, the closest I came was the one time I was allowed to bake a cake for the ladies. My cousin and I were allowed to go in the dining room, greet the women, then LEAVE (and don’t let the door smack us on the way out). So, I’ve honestly never played. This “trick taking” card game uses a special deck,and is very popular in North-Rhine Westfalen.

Similar to Doppelkopf is Schaffkopf, the Bavarian interpretation of the same game. I saw this played at Germanfest in Milwaukee, where it is apparently still quite popular.

Some day, I will sit down and learn to play.

Doppelkopf französisches BildDoppelkopf französisches BildRavensburger 27042 2 Schafkopf/Tarock Card Game with Clear Case by RavensburgerRavensburger 27042 2 Schafkopf/Tarock Card Game with Clear Case by Ravensburger


Doppelkopf may have been my Oma’s game, but Skat belonged to my dad and his friends. This three player game seems to be similar to Doppelkopf and Schaffkopf. A trick-taking card game with a special deck. I’m going to have to make my father teach me, and I will share more insight with you then. Meanwhile, here is a video to give you an idea.

Find the instructions HERE–>

ASS Skat Clubqualitt Franz. Blatt 32 KartenASS Skat Clubqualitt Franz. Blatt 32 KartenSkat Romm? Bridge Canasta - Die sch?nsten Kartenspiele der Welt, KassetteSkat Romm? Bridge Canasta – Die sch?nsten Kartenspiele der Welt, Kassette

German Games Played on Paper

Stadt Land Fluß

Stadt Land Fluß is a wonderful game for working on your geography knowledge. Every player gets a piece of paper with the categories of Stadt (City) Land (Country) and Fluß (River) on it. You can also add other categories (like Animal, Job, Food..etc). Then a letter is chosen, and timer set.

There are a few ways to play.
One… you only get to write one answer per category, and only get points if no one else has it.
Two… you write as many answers per category as you can, and get a point for each original answer.

Read more about Stadt Land Fluß HERE–> How to play Stadt Land Fluß

Stadt, Land, Fluss - Der KlassikerStadt, Land, Fluss – Der Klassiker

New Classics to Keep Your Eye On!

What Other Games did YOU Like to Play?

traditional german games


  1. The Mühle rules are a little different. Your aim is to get three stones in a row. Whenever you achieve this, you remove one stone from your opponent. The first player with only two stones left loses.

  2. Where can I find the board game “Biene Maja”, it’s like ” Mensch ärgere dich nicht “. My children and parents love to play it together. Would be a nice xmas present.

  3. My Oma used to play a draw- on-paper game with me but I rem. very little of it except it had something to do with a tailor. I think a picture of scissors was the body and then buttons maybe for eyes, and I think there was a rhyme that went with it. If anyone knows about it, please enlighten me!

  4. My German parents taught my children a game called Pinkel Topfen. We cannot remember the rules nor can I find it online? Have you ever heard of it?

  5. Hello. I am searching for an old german game that i played as a boy while my Father was stationed there around 1984-1989. It was a board game but you built it, there were silos, grain, and hens, and i can’t seem to remember the rest. I believe there were also dice involved. I’ve tried searching everywhere but i wish i could find this game as i have tons of memories playing it while we lived in germany. Oh, we were in Heilbronn if i remember correctly. Thank you!


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