The "Kramer Leiste"?

by Moritz Eggert

Transcript of our podcast from 20 May 2006

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The next three episodes I’m going to talk about three gamer specific terms that are unique to Germany (methinks). So if you listen closely and don’t fall asleep lik Joe last time you might learn a term or two that you can then use to great effect during your next gaming session to impress the hell out of everybody.

But first of all I would like to correct some slight mistake in my last essay, which is my failure to mention the first “Spiel des Jahres” with German authors, which is of course “Scotland Yard”. The thing is that when the game was published Ravensburger didn’t yet follow the practice of actually mentioning it’s game authors on the box, so some people, including me, thought that “Scotland Yard” is a British game because of the theme.

In fact it’s authors are, and this was only reccently completely revealed, Werner Schlegel, Dorothy Garrels, Fritz Ifland, Manfred Burggraf, Werner Scheerer und Wolf Hoermann. And yes, there is one English sounding name among them, so I am still right, folks :-)

But now to my first gamer term:

“The Kramerleiste”!

The Kramerleiste is, simply put, the victory point track that goes around the board of a game and which creates a kind of meta-race game within the game. Victory points have not been as exciting before the Kramerleiste. The victory point track in this form is for example used in Wolfgang Kramer’s game “El Grande”, and to honour this great author’s achievement it is commonly called the “Kramerleiste”, which translates roughly to “The Kramer Track”.

But “El Grande” was not the first game where the Kramerleiste appeared – this honour goes to Kramer’s game “Heimlich & Co”, which first used the board based victory point track in a German game. Since then the Kramerleiste appears in nearly 75% of all German games.

“Kramerleiste” has now become a term so common with German gamers that everybody immediately knows what is meant when a player says “please push me forward on the Kramerleiste” or, in German, “Bitte schieb mich auf der Kramerleiste weiter”. Some younger gamers might even think it has something to do with the word “Kraemer”, which means storekeeper in German, and of course a shopkeeper also has to keep track of his or her store... or score.

Since “Heimlich und Co” the circling Victory Point track has become a staple of all German board games, in fact one might even go so far as to say that Kramer actually made a VP mechanic in general popular in German games, as VP’s were formerly extremely rarely encountered.

I wonder, and Joe might agree, if Kramer hasn’t taken this mechanic from American wargames, where VP’s and also VP tracks have been a common thing since the days of SPI and AH. Another American influence can be pinpointed more clearly in the design of the game “Settlers of Catan”, which uses a modular board of large hexes. Klaus Teuber has once mentioned he was influenced by games like “Kings and Things” when he decided to use modular hexes, but long before that game was of course the fantastic “Magic Realm” or even “Cosmic Encounter”,, and the hex-form itself is something that clearly comes from wargames. So will it make Joe happy if he knows that the basis for the Euro-gaming revolution comes from wargames in fact?

So next time you push a little meeple along a victory point track, think of Wolfgang Kramer, one of the great German designers, and pay reverance to his “Kramerleiste”.

Next episode I will explain the predecessor of the Meeple, the “Poeppel”!

Please never hesitate to write me if you have anything you want to ask about the German gaming scene. You can find me under “Eggo” at boardgamegeek.com.

Moritz Eggert


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2006, Westpark Gamers