Bad pun about a board game cafe? Never. It’s a… translation.
“Spiel” is the German word for game. “Wiese” is the German word for meadow. And “Spielwiese” is my word for inexhaustible fun. Spielwiese is also the name of a board game cafe in Friedrichshain.
This place has been a favourite of mine since 2012 – that’s commitment by Berlin’s standards. Spielwiese has kept me and many others under its spell with a promise of good times that is kept every time. I like it for the cosy and slightly nostalgic atmosphere, but after a quick google I found out it’s the second biggest board game cafe in the world with ca. 1,400 games (we have to concede victory to France).
How it works: you turn up, say hi to the bearded owner (I think), who looks like a Professor of Board Games. He’ll give you a card. The first half hour is free, and then after that it’s 1 euro per hour, and you pay when you’re ready to leave. There are bottled beers, cider, caffeinated drinks and snacks (the waffles call to me every time). These are to keep you fed and watered while you lay siege to your frenemies. If you want to completely fiend out on board games you can also rent them overnight.
This tiny little cafe is jammed floor to ceiling with literally hundreds of games, even in English. In fact, just running my eye down their catalogue, there seem to be quite a few English titles, so no excuses about not being able to read the rulebook. There are guaranteed to be long lost foreign twins of your homeland classics, e.g. Ludo is Mensch ärgere Dich nicht (“Man don’t get upset”). Yet if you’re looking to tone those flabby German muscles, there really is no better better way than German Taboo, or just about any other kind of game – that’s the excuse you can tell your grammar book, anyway.
Bam, essentially the old German version of Cards Against Humanity.
But Spielwiese has the original English CAH, too.
The only problem I have with coming here is not taking advantage of the choice enough. I can count the number of times I’ve played Settlers of Catan there on 5 hands. But I clearly remember the first time I was asked, “Would you like the normal or the 3D version?” – and out came the wooden chest full of beautiful mountains, cities and hexagons.
To help you (and me) avoid this temptation to play one awesome game into oblivion, I’ve compiled a short list of pre-filtered quality choices that you should look out for. By that I mean my sum total of board game knowledge, acquired second-hand thanks to the endless patience of my friends, friends’ friends, and total strangers, who painstakingly explained all the rules at least three times to this little poo-brain. I now bequeath this knowledge unto you.
[List is only one scroll long, promise.]
Ligretto: Dutch Blitz, my latest addiction, is a simple, mad, colours and numbers-based, free-for-all-style card game that is basically Ligretto in Germany and other parts of the world. Best with 3 or 4 players but possible with 2.
Othello: This is a two-player childhood classic, and a great one when you’re waiting for that friend who’s always late. Their slogan “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master” sounds melodramatic but is pretty accurate. It’s a simple counter game where you place black or white counters to trap your opponent’s counters and change their colour to yours.
Galaxy Trucker: I would not call myself a sci-fi freak, but some of the sci-fi games out there are universal gold. This one is pretty simple: you have to cobble together a ship from a random selection of parts, and then test this Frankenstein against the perils of the universe to see if it’ll survive. Hilarity ensues.
Tokaido: A nice come-down after intense strategy games or brutal battles. The premise is to be a tourist through Japan, seeing and experiencing as much as possible to gain points. It’s simple but surprisingly tricky.
Eclipse: This is the mothership of strategy games. It is very complex and maybe best played with someone who has rule book aptitude or has played before. Even if you haven’t it’s worth a stab, as it is hands-down my favourite intense board game. You can build ships, research technologies, explore a map of galaxies, get rich, obliterate or get completely obliterated and have a lot fun doing so. The original can occupy 6 players, the Rise of the Ancients expansion apparently can have up to 9.
Arkham Horror: It’s not about winning – it’s about dying trying. This is a very taxing game that somehow makes losing fun. It’s a co-op game, which means instead of fighting amongst yourselves, you will all have to face the “Ancients” (mega-boss monsters that eat planets for breakfast) in a combined effort. Its steampunk aesthetic inspired by Lovecraft has birthed some beautiful artwork. This juggernaut of a game can take on up to 8 players.
Love Letter: A card game of wit and whipping. A bit of bluffing and absolutely no hanky-panky, easy to learn and fast-paced. 2-4 players try to expose each other and become the sole suitor of the Princess.
Munchkin: An international classic with multiple mutations. It’s a card game that boils down to you equipping yourself and defeating enough monsters to level up the fastest. Screwing over your friends is highly encouraged. 3-6 player capacity makes it a fun and easy group game.
Tsuro: Place tiles to form paths (apparently symbolising paths to “enlightenment”). Stay on the board, send your opponents off the board. Simple and so, so satisfying. 2-8 players.
Carcassonne: A French game and a German favourite for 2-5 players. This tile-placing game is a mix of luck and strategy, and involves putting together settlements that work for you but not for anybody else (hopefully). Also your counters are called “meeples”, just so you know.
And those are pretty much all of the games I’ve ever played, apart from Monopoly. Viel Spaß!
“Wir sind das Volk” is next on my to-try list, for nerdy German history reasons. Who wouldn’t want to pit capitalism and communism against each other in a board game?
Kopernikusstrasse 24, Friedrichshain
Definitely recommend booking since the space is pretty small. Even reserving a table on the day of will make a difference. Be bold and phone or shy and send an email:
+49 30 28 03 40 88
Monday 5pm – midnight
Thursday 7pm – midnight
Friday 5pm – midnight
Saturday 3pm – midnight
Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday – closed
Always check the website before going: opening times change depending on the season.