Mon, Dec 24, 2018 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: German board game guru happy to lose

AFP, HAAR, Germany

Tom Werneck poses behind a board game at the Bayerisches Spielearchiv for board games in Munich, Germany, on Dec. 12.

Photo: AFP

With a treasure trove of more than 20,000 board games, including a discontinued Trump property game, Germany’s Tom Werneck has turned a life-long passion for rolling the dice and passing go into one of the world’s biggest collections.

If the 79-year-old has learned anything along the way, it is that winning comes second — and sometimes it is okay to bend the rules.

Walking past endless rows of games stacked up to the ceiling in a Bavarian basement, Werneck chuckled as he pulled out “Trump: The Game” and pointed to the gold-lettered tagline on the box, picked up in Trump Tower in the late 1980s.

“It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!” it reads, above a picture of the future US president.

To Werneck, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Playing is about connecting with people. I want to play with you, look you in the eyes. You’re the real aim of the game. I couldn’t care less whether I win or lose,” he said.

It is a sentiment that increasingly resonates in today’s digital world, where a desire to turn off screens and have real-life interactions has fueled a global board games boom.

The market for table-top games, which includes puzzles and card games, last year grew 6 percent globally, according to the NPD research group, and the trend shows no sign of abating.

The German industry alone generates about 500 million euros (US$568 million) in annual revenues, the DVSI toy federation said, accounting for a sizeable chunk of the country’s 3 billion euro toy market.

Wanting to preserve his vast collection for future generations, former Siemens employee Werneck turned his trove into a non-profit association almost two decades ago, called the Bavarian Games Archive Haar.

Among the oldest treasures in his Aladdin’s cave is a green-and-white card game from the 1870s featuring famous composers.

More controversially, he also has a Nazi-era board game based on Adolf Hitler’s troops conquering England, which Werneck described as pure propaganda.

“It’s terrible, it was designed to make children excited about war,” he said.

The archive is housed in a building provided by the local municipality in Haar, on the outskirts of Munich, where Werneck and his team of about 15 volunteers carefully catalog and store each title — with new additions arriving almost daily.

To tap into growing demand for table-top games among young adults and children, toymakers are scrambling to marry the new with the analogue.

Among adults, Tutt said so-called “kidult” games that are intentionally childish or irreverent are having a moment, often played at parties or retro game nights.

The popularity of these games came as no surprise to Werneck, who said that board games “mirror what is happening in society.”

While Werneck enjoys trying out the latest offerings with his grandchildren, the affable septuagenarian never played board games himself growing up, recalling an outdoorsy childhood in the Bavarian Alps.

He was an adult when he bought his first board game from a catalog, only to be disappointed.

Ever the optimist, Werneck tweaked the rules until it worked better and promptly developed an insatiable appetite for board games — until his wife told him his hobby was getting too expensive.

He then started to frequent the Nuremberg toy fair, posing as a critic to snag free board games.

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