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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The original "Lebensraum" game

There's something wonderfully direct about the German language. I mean, what other language has a word like "Schadenfreude"? And why call a board game "LUDO" when your aim is to piss off your opponent and create some "Lebensraum" for yourself? Who, in fact, knows that "LUDO" is Latin for "I play"? Who cares? How much better to call it "Mensch ärgere Dich nicht" (Man, don't get mad) and practise all that "Schadenfreude"?

In Germany, everybody knows the game that started it all at the beginning of the last century, to be more exact in 1914. Developed by Josef Friedrich Schmidt as early as in the winter of 1907/08 and going into production in 1914, it turned into “the nation’s most popular board game” (Der Spiegel, 1987). As early as 1920 more that one million copies of the game could be found in German households. Up till today more than 70 million copies have been sold.

"A wise game, an educational game where you learn to lose", said Heinz Rühmann (who, incidentally, was my Godfather but that was at a time in Germany when we were all still starving together) in the film classic "Wonderful Times" (1950) (Herrliche Zeiten) and he is definitely right. As kids in Germany, we always played "Mensch ärgere Dich nicht" and must've worn out several boards without ever getting bored. And having learned how to lose, I certainly know how to enjoy my occasional victories!