Packing for Germany

Time for an update on my move to Germany. First off, the schedule is more or less solidified: on July 3, my new book comes out (a new supernatural thriller called THE HOLLOW CITY, about a man with schizophrenia who realizes that some of the monsters he sees are real). I’ll be touring for three weeks, including a week in the middle for another Dark Days tour for PARTIALS, and then I’ll return home on (approximately) the July 23 and fly to Germany on July 25 or 26. We’ll be living in Stuttgart, or technically just north of Stuttgart in a town called Weilimdorf. I will be flying there with my wife and five kids, all of whom will go absolutely insane trapped on a plane for 14 hours, so if you’re planning to fly from the US to Germany I recommend you don’t do it on July 25 or 26.

Literally everything that we’re taking needs to fit in a carefully calculated set of luggage: 7 backpacks and 7 suitcases. Most of this space will be taken by clothes, but we’re throwing a few extras in there where we can fit them. Of special concern to me is my Boardgame collection–most of it is staying home, because it could more than fill seven suitcases all by itself, but I want to take at least a few things. I have some criteria to meet, and I’m open to suggestions:

1) It has to be something I can play with my kids. I’m leaving my game groups behind, obviously, and while it’s entirely possible that I’ll find a new one in Stuttgart (Germany has a much stronger boardgaming culture than the US), I figure anything they want to play they’ll already have. My family is who I’ll be playing most of these games with, so I need to take something they like.

2) It has to be small, or at least have a very high game-to-volume ratio. Something like Fireball Island would be awesome, because my kids love it, but it’s enormous (and kind of crushable) so it wouldn’t work. Something like Battles of Westeros, on the other hand, is pretty hefty but packs a ton of replayability into the space, so it might be worth it.

3) I don’t want to step on any cultural landmines. I’m not talking here about the difference between Eurogames and American games, but of more large scale cultural issues. Maybe this isn’t a concern at all, and I’m overthinking this, but please enlighten me: are World War II games, for example, totally tasteless in Germany? My son loves Memoir 44, which is another good “lots of game in one box” option, but it has Nazis in it. I can see how that might be a big cultural taboo, but I can also see how it might be no big deal, like playing a Civil War game in America. Please let me know in the comments.

So, in light of those requirements, and my current Boardgame collection, what do I take? My two top-rated games are Battlestar Galactica, which wouldn’t work with my kids at all, and Last Night on Earth, which would. LNoE also has that great replayability factor, making it a good match for requirement #2, so I think it makes the cut.

Of my ‘9-rated’ games, two are expansions, one is a minis game I don’t currently own minis for, and one is a big wargame I don’t think I could find the room for. 7 Wonders, on the other hand, could be a great choice: my kids like, it, my wife loves it, and it’s not enormous. That might make the cut as well. We’ll put it on the shortlist.

My 8-rated games are more problematic. My son is campaigning heavily for HeroClix, which I would LOVE to take, but it’s completely out of the question. Big Boggle‘s a great option, and not necessarily “big” so we might be okay. Agricola‘s a good choice, as is Vegas Showdown, though I’d want to repack it to reduce the size (it doesn’t come anywhere near filling the box it’s in). Battles of Westeros is one of my favorites, but fails the “my kids like it” test; I’d be better off with BattleLore, but now our list is getting pretty big, and I don’t know if I can feasibly fit this much in my luggage. It’s time to take a look at games I know my kids like, and work from there.

Let’s see, here. Going through the collection and pulling out the best candidates, I get Castle Ravenloft and it’s two twin sisters, Fill or Bust, Set, Small World, Ticket to Ride, UNO, Zombie Dice, and Zooloretto. Castle Ravenloft I should strike off the list right now, because it’s huge, but if I found a way to consolidate all three games into one box it might be worth it. Fill or Bust and Set are tiny card games, and a no-brainer; I should throw in a few other card games as well, like Guillotine and maybe Zombie Fluxx. Zombie Dice is a similarly easy inclusion, as is UNO (which is also a card game, but a biggish one). Ticket to Ride is on the iPad, so I don’t think I need a physical version; besides, it could be fun to pick up a Marklin edition in German while I’m over there. Small World could be good, as it would be the only wargame-ish thing I’d have, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the at this point extremely limited room. Zooloretto is one of my daughters’ favorites, and another one I could consolidate into a smaller box, so that might have to go as well.

My list at this point is too big:
Last Night on Earth
7 Wonders
Big Boggle
Vegas Showdown (repackaged)
BattleLore (size issue)
D&D Adventure Games (repackaged, and still probably a size issue)
Small World (size issue)
Zooloretto (repackaged)
Fill or Bust
Zombie Dice

Those last five are about as big, put together, as the smallest other item on the list. I’m going to strike the D&D games and Big Boggle, the former for size and the latter for language inconsistency–if we play any word games, they should be something that helps the kids learn German. Small World might still be too big, so I’ll put that in a maybe pile. The others are totally doable.

Of course, we haven’t even discussed my Warmachine models. Painting models is not only a great solo hobby that I’d love to keep up with, it’s a very popular one in Germany that I could easily maintain at local shops. It’s huge, though. I don’t know. Maybe I could ship it to myself?

27 Responses to “Packing for Germany”

  1. Larry van Lent says:

    Have you tried Killer Bunnies? I’m guessing you have but it’s one my family enjoyed quite a bit. Have fun in Germany, you guys are going to have a blast. Enjoyed Partials, btw.

  2. You know, I really appreciate someone who really puts this much thought into the games you pack for a trip (or rather, a move!). As a member of a gaming family, I know the difficulties in trying to figure out what games to bring! Be sure to tuck a couple decks of cards into one of your bags! There are so many great games to play (and invent) with a plain old deck of cards!

    Good Luck deciding!

  3. minnmass says:

    Several other of those games have i-Device options (Zombie Dice and Uno for sure, and almost certainly Boggle). Even if it means re-buying a game or two (or buying additional copies), it’s probably cheaper than shipping games or bringing them on the plane. (Of course, watch out for international calling/data/… with those i-Devices…)

    That said…

    When my mother was leading youth group trips, she had one rule about food: don’t eat at a restaurant at which you could eat back home. The internationalization of board games notwithstanding (a good thing, incidentally), there are bound to be games that the nearest FLGS’s regulars will want to introduce to you. My two cents would be to bring just what you’ll need on the plane plus the top three that you absolutely can’t live without (you’ve got a couple of “no-brainer” games listed), and expand the collection while you’re there.

  4. admin says:

    That is also my restaurant rule (my second restaurant rule is ‘never eat in an empty restaurant’).

  5. Laura Journey says:

    This is the same problem my husband and I would have while moving.

    As for games with Nazis, I don’t know. The selling of video games with Nazis is banned in Germany, but that’s not the same thing as moving pieces around a board. I would probably leave the WWII games behind because WWII feels much more recent than the Civil War, for example. It will probably take longer for any events after the invention of cinema to feel like history.

  6. Bryce Moore says:

    When I was in Germany, there were actually laws against owning Nazi memorabilia–or at least that’s what I recall. That said, I can’t really think that it would get you in bad graces to bring them.

    I would totally invest in more board games for your iPad. Blokus, Yahtzee, Catan, Small World, NS Hex, Tikal, Puerto Rico, That’s My Fish, Pictureka, Uno, Carcassonne, Boggle, Zombie Dice, Forbidden Island, Ascension, Dominion, Tichu, Bang!, Time Line, Set–all on my iPad already, and that’s just some of them. I have a slew of others on my “to buy” list for when I get bored.

    My next step would be to choose by theme/style of play.

    I’d also plan on picking up new games while you’re over there.

    I like your BGG list–I need to do one of those myself. Just have to find the time.

  7. D.B. Baldwin says:

    I don’t see Imperial on your list. It’s one of the most balanced, well designed games I’ve ever played. You are a World War I era tycoon that can buy stock in the major nations of Europe. The object of the game is to have the most valuable stock at the end, not to actually control a specific country. It’s entirely possible to win the game by have large stakes in the two countries that end the game as the most powerful, but to never actually run either country–it’s much like Acquire in this way.

    There is no randomness to the combat. No one will get lucky rolling dice, but no one will go cold either. Combat is simply a like for like loss between the two types of units (land and sea). If your three infantry enter a zone with two enemy infantry, you both lose two and your remaining infantry controls the zone.

    The downside for travel is that it’s an average sized game. It has a board that folds in half, an average sized collection of little wooden units and a stack of money. It’s absolutely worth picking up sometime, though.

    The mechanics are simple enough to that a middle school aged child could handle, but deep enough that my gaming group keeps coming back to it time and again.


    You might also consider Dominion with an expansion or two. It’s card based and compact. If you stay with some of the more basic cards, it’s fairly kid friendly, too.

  8. Mike says:

    There’s *usually* a ton of empty space in game boxes. Have you tried the following:
    1) Take all of the pieces from the games in your current list out of their boxes, put each game’s pieces into a ziplock bag, and put those bags into one larger bag.
    2) With the empty game boxes, try to place each box inside another, Matryoshka style.
    3) See how much room the matryoshkaed boxes and the bag from Step 1 will take up in your luggage.

    Also, even though the game boxes are beautiful, they are the least useful part of the game. You could consider dumping the boxes and just bringing the game pieces! (i.e., only do Step 1 above)

  9. admin says:

    Bryce, I own most of those on iPad already, though there are some I wasn’t aware of.

    My wife read this post and said, “Let’s just ship ourselves a bunch of them.” So, um, I guess that solves that problem. I still can’t take everything, obviously, but I could fit a few that I had to cut.

    As for game recommendations: I’ve played Killer Bunnies a few times and hated it; that doesn’t make it bad, it’s just not one that appeals to me. Imperial sounds kind of like a blend of Acquire and Diplomacy, which only half interests me, but I’ll have to try it sometime to be sure. Also, last night a BGG user offered to trade my copy of Rex for Le Havre, which is one I’ve wanted to try for a while. I might be adding that to the shipping box just to try it out.

  10. Christoph says:

    You know, for me there is a vast difference between “Nazi Memorabilia” and a game that features Nazis. The Indiana Jones Films also feature Nazis but are not banned in Germany. Should you really be worried about this issue, you could try looking up whether the game in question is banned (often they are only banned for kids). This information should be found by contacting the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons ( ).
    I would also say that you should not have to worry about bringing the game, at least not for cultural reasons.
    On which game to pack I honestly have no idea. However, you are right, there is a great gaming culture here in Germany.

  11. Dave Butler says:

    Buy new ones while you’re there. Mail them back at the end of the year.

  12. DL Thurston says:

    I was recommending games to a coworker the other day when they asked “how many games do you have? 10? 20?” Which forced me to admit to over 50. I’ve done one week trips where I’m trying to decide how many Arkham Horror expansions I need, so I can understand the dilemma of paring down before moving for an extended to Germany (though that’s always struck me as where games come FROM not go TO).

    I think the only point I really want to make is that Fireball Island was my favorite Christmas gift that year, and the only time my Christmas gift made me the envy of the street. Currently it’s waiting in the closet for my first child (due in a few months) to be old enough to play it. I’m always glad to come across someone else who loves it.

    Only game I can think of not on your list that I love is Dominion, which should be waiting for you when you get there, as it’s another brilliant German game.

  13. Gjanden Mitchell says:

    As far as Nazi games go, from my experience there (about 8 years ago now), the German’s don’t like to talk about WWII. Especially the older generation. So as long as you aren’t playing those kinds of games with folks from that era I think you’ll be OK.

  14. And think of all those passports you had to get for everyone. What a pain. What a wonder experience for your family. Living over seas for a time really broadens your view of the world.

  15. Speckk says:

    Larry, My friends hate killer bunnies. It’s long, vindictive, many cards are ambiguous and the results are arbitrary. I know it’s supposed to be fun and it is funny, but it was a bad purchase since my friends yell whenever I suggest playing it.

    Good list. I’ll have to acquire some of the easier to explain, under 1 hour games

  16. that one kid says:

    zombie dice!!

  17. Mom says:

    Three things to says:
    1 – Fill or Bust is the game we have played across the country – slips in the pocket and can be taken out in planes or on picnic tables on mountain tops.
    2 – Remember that your dad can ship things for you, big or small. Really, huge or small.
    3 – Agricola is the name of your brother’s psychiatrist.

  18. Crazy Coincidence says:

    I just stumbled upon your site after glancing at PARTIALS and wondering when the sequel was due to come out. Low and behold, I noticed this post. Funny enough, I’m leaving for Germany myself for 3 months, in less than 24 hrs in fact! Just had to leave a comment 😀

  19. Petra says:

    I’m german and WWII-games and talking about WWII is no problem in Germany as long as you don’t glorify the Nazis. Only games are banned that either glorify Nazis or deny the Holocaust. So you should be ok.

  20. Janele says:

    I am sure its part of your collection and too big, but i just got into Arkham horror. I know its been out for awhile, but better to discover it late than never. I also wanted to thank you for autographing my daughters book. My friend Alaina had you sign it for her. She is the girl who almost bled to death after the tonsilectomy, if that rings a bell. Both my daughter and I love Partials and hope there is a sequel.

  21. Nojh says:

    One thing I will point out is that you’re going to Germany, land of the board games. Since most German board games are written in English anyway, one way to save on luggage space is to squirrel away some money buy a board game or two there, and mail ’em back when you’re going to leave.

    There is also Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, which has a travel box that makes is a very small and easy to pack game. Deckbuilder with a quick setup. I’m betting your kids can handle it.

    Another smaller card game with a lot of in depth fun is Bonhanza (which you can almost certainly buy in Germany), the game of bean farming. Rules are a little hard to explain but it’s mostly a card trading and set forming game.

    There have been some smaller card-ish games from Fantasty Flight lately: Elder Sign and Blood Bowl. Not sure how kid friendly you might consider those, although Blood Bowl is really just fantasy football.

    Final games I’d suggest are any Fluxx variant.

  22. Andrea says:

    I as a (rather young) German agree that nobody should feel offended by a game featuring Nazis, though many of us would probably not want to have to “be” the Nazis in such a game. WWII is a serious topic, but most people think it is important that that part of our history still comes alive in books and movies, so that we don’t forget what happened. So why shouldn’t it be in games as well? But glorifying the Nazis definitely is a cultural taboo. Making fun of it might be one for many people, though there are German comedians who do this pretty well…
    Apart from that, I can confirm that you can buy Bohnanza, the game Nojh suggested, (and all its sequels and extensions) here in Germany. Just like so many other great games!

  23. Raphael says:

    Let me reiterate that *featuring* Nazis is not an offense in Germany. Glorifying them is, however; not only culturally but also legally. As for games, given that Company of Heroes is freely sold here, there should not be any problems as long as you don’t get to be Nazi in the Ghetto in the style of Postal or GTA (I am not aware that there are such games).

    Post-war generations have, in my experience, no problems talking about WW2 and Nazis. There is a whole spektrum of opinions, obviously, and it is a touchy subject (for several reasons that differ across generations).

    For me (and others), portraying The Nazi(TM) as The Evil(TM) as done in a not insignificant number of American (and other) works of fiction, is as upsetting as glorification. What matters is a fair account: yes, there were evil deeds, but they were comitted by humans, not devils, and they had their reasons, however twisted. I don’t think boardgames usually go that deep, so that is more a tangential remark.

  24. Paul says:

    Hi Dan,
    I just moved to Vienna Austria in January. A bit of a huge change for me since I had never really lived outside of the US (Except for a few months at University in Scotland) Lots of little different things make life wonderful here. Started German classes in March so it’s been adventure communicating. But most people speak a decent amount of English here and the same in Baden Württemberg. I go to Heidelberg fairly often (my fiance’s family is from there) and that whole area is quite stunning. Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to send me an email.

  25. Kevin says:

    Push Fight! Its game-to-volume ratio is IMMENSE, like chess-level. It’s unfortunately sold out at the moment since it was featured on Penny Arcade, here’s a review:

  26. Melissa says:

    Am an Amcit living in Vienna Austria, and yes, WWII is a culturally sensitive topic. From the comments I’m reading here, go ahead and bring your game, but don’t bring WWII up in polite conversation, or even with some of your close friends (once you have them). It makes for awkward conversations. (Which IMO isn’t very kind.)

    Also, you probably already know this, but I recently discovered that Google Chrome has a translate feature built into it. It’s come in handy quite a bit when planning day trips, and weekend trips here in Austria. If there’s one thing you want to remember, remember to use google chrome when searching for things when you arrive in Germany.

    Good luck w/the move.

  27. IvanTheCow says:

    I have to ask, what was your experience playing RoboRally with your family? By far one of my all-time favorite games.

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