History of Gaming in Cologne’s City Museum

The Cologne City Museum’s recent history is not really what one would call “lucky”. After a water damage in later 2017, they had to close down their exhibitions. During the restauration, asbestos has been found in the walls, so that additional works are necessary and the museum will be closed until 2019 definitely. Only a major part of the building can currently be used and hosts temporary exhibitions. The current one is called “Bretter die die Welt bedeuten”, which literally means “Boards, which meant the world”. In this interpretation, it is aiming towards board games, as the current exhibition is on the history of games. If you rather translate “Bretter” as “Planks”, it is however a saying that is referring to the planks of a stage, which is a very common saying in German for theatring.

As I generally would love to increase my focus also on regional reporting with, this was my first try to introduce you to some attraction in my home town Cologne.

Gaming History Exhibition – Location and Admission

The museum is very central, close to the regional WDR radio and TV station and the main Cologne shopping area. There is a Subway station, Apellhofplatz, more or less next to the place as well (if you hit the right exit), which is just one stop from Cologne Central Station – so it will be hard to to miss it.


Typically the pricing for the museum is 5 Euro for either the ordinary or a temporary exhbition and 7 Euro combined. Due to the current situation, there are only temporary exhibitions with a 5 Euro adult entrance. The toy exhibition lasts until end of August 2018.

Gaming History Exhibition – Overview on the Exhibition

Despite you enter the area on the ground floor, you will likely start with the Cologne City Museum Gaming Exhibition on the first floor quite quickly, which hosts the key exhibition space. Just some very historic items like gaming coins or cubes are passed before you go upstairs. The most interesting exhibit in that area to me was a very old Nine Man Morris game, which showed how old this game in fact already is.


The exhibition is split into different sections. It starts with gaming as a luxury good (which is showing gaming boxes and a gaming table, for example) and then moves on, how gaming more and more became affordable to less rich people (for example due to the possibility of colored printing, which did not require any kind of hand-coloring any more. There are some quite nice exhibits – my favourite is maybe a Around the World in Eighty Days board game and some other dealing with my home city Cologne. It is also interesting to see, how gaming is combined with educational aspects like travel knowledge or traffic rules or with propaganda in war times. It is also interesting to see that culture influenced gaming: the ability to travel easier and cheaper lead to more travel games, the Baby Boomers introduced more economic and strategic games. The exhibition concludes with digital gaming and shows a flipper and a VC 4000 video game, for example.












Gaming History Exhibition – Play it Yourself!

After being educated, the lower floor is the “fun part”, where you may try out some of the board games of the exhibition on your own. There are also some interesting rarities like playing Nokia’s famous Snake in a four player, food pedal controlled version. You may also try the VC 4000. In the far end corner, you may try the Painstation, which requires an age of 18. It is a pong match, in which you get punished with pain on your hand (hitting, electric shock, heat) if the ball passes designated areas of your defensive zone. You do not loose by score, but if you remove your hand from the pain pad first (of course, intensity is increasing). A long match is really a tough experience – better choose a “sensitive” friend as an opponent.




Gaming History Exhibition – My Review

I stayed in the upper floor exhibition some 40 minutes – you might have stayed there one hour easily if you want to learn more in detail about some of the topics presented. I would personally recommend to arrive in the museum relatively early with some friends and make more use of the interactive part to test out some board games or to battle on the Painstation. The exhibition itself is at most average in my point of view, due to three key reasons:

  • First of all, it is comparably small. Gaming is such a wide field, there are so many different aspects. The space limitation is given by the current building situation, but nevertheless you feel like there is something missing. To me, it was for example the era between the 2dn World War and today. I also felt that the Gamescom got quite a lot of (advertising?) space in there.
  • Secondly, it is not special enough. I feel you may have a great exhibition in that limited space, but you need to tell a certain story. The story they tried to choose are board games, which is somehow a nice idea, but I feel that board games still tell you too many stories. And if you are about board games, you should not bring the Painstation or a Mario flipper – this makes you compete to general Toy Museums, which might have thousands of exhibits and multiple times the exhibition space – no chance.
  • Finally, I feel that it has been too expansive. If you go out there to play some games, it may be cool, but a group of four is still paying 20 EUR for the visit – which is the price of a simple board game already. I felt that three Euro would have been a fair price.

This may sound harsh, but of course some of the exhibits are really cool to see – and being able to play replicas of former century’s games may be worth the for quite a lot of you. Please note that all descriptions are German – you should thus at least have one German-speaking person in your party when you visit. My top visit in Cologne is nevertheless the original Eau de Cologne producer Farina.


Postings of the Greater Cologne Region

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