Early examples of German-style board games, such as Acquire, appeared in the 1960s. However, the genre as a more concentrated design movement began in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Germany. Germany publishes more board games than any other country per capita, hence the name. Today the phenomenon has spread to other European countries such as France and The Netherlands. While many games are published and played in other markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom, they occupy a niche status there.
Settlers of Catan, first published in and winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (German for "Game of the Year") award in 1995, paved the way for the genre in the United States and outside Europe. It was neither the first "German game" nor the first such game to find an audience outside Germany, but it became much more popular than any of its predecessors. It quickly sold millions of copies in Germany, and in the process brought money and attention to the genre as a whole. One of its most famous and successful follow-ups in the genre was Carcassonne.
As far as generalities can be made about such a large and diverse group of games, German games are usually multiplayer and can be learned easily and played in a relatively short time, perhaps multiple times in a single session. A certain amount of socializing and "table talk" might typically be expected during game play, as opposed to the relative silence sometimes expected during some strategy games like chess and go, or restrictions on allowable conversations or actions found in some highly competitive games such as contract bridge. German-style games are generally much simpler than the wargames which flourished in the 1970s and 1980s from publishers such as SPI and Avalon Hill, but nonetheless often have a considerable depth of play, especially in some "gamers' games" such as Tigris and Euphrates.
German games have themes (i.e., are not abstract, but are about something)?more like Monopoly or Clue, rather than go or backgammon. Themes are often very loose ? unlike a simulation game, the theme of a German game is often merely suggestive, and it is not unknown for a game to be designed with one theme and published with another, or for the same game to be given a significantly different theme for a later republication, or for two games on wildly different themes to have very similar mechanics. However, combat themes are uncommon and player conflict is often indirect (for example, competing for a scarce resource). While they often have a simulation-like theme, they are not simulation games per se, as many wargames are.
Example themes are:
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