Oktoberfest games are not as much of a thing in Munich as the movie Beerfest would have you believe. There’s only one real game played at actual Oktoberfest – but my lawyer says I shouldn’t encourage you to play with crossbows so… this list of loosely-relevant Oktoberfest games will have to suffice.
While it would be nice to promise your guests the endless entertainment of a Teufelsrad (AKA Devil’s Wheel, AKA Human Roulette) at that awesome Oktoberfest party you’re throwing at home, it appears there’s a giant Devil’s Wheel shortage in 2021. So, whatareyougonnado?
Instead, check out this collection of kinda sorta German Oktoberfest games I’ve experienced at beer festivals big and small to see what kind of Oktoberfest shenanigans everyone else is getting up to!
Many of the activities described in this post involve dangerous materials and actions. By continuing past this point you assume all risks associated with your participation in these activities such as injury, pain, suffering, illness, disfigurement, disability, or death that may arise from your own or others’ actions and understand I am not encouraging your participation in these activities. In other words, your participation in these Oktoberfest games is at your own risk.
1. Masskrugstemmen – the stein holding contest
I’ll go ahead and start with the most famous of all Oktoberfest games: Masskrugstemmen. Commonly known as the stein holding contest, this challenge of wills is exactly as it sounds (and messy as hell).
Liter mugs (masskrugs) are filled with either beer or water (to avoid wasting the liquid gold).
Each person holds their mug out in front of them, parallel to the floor, using just one hand. They stand there holding out their mugs for as long as they can.
Sounds easy, right? EERRRR it’s not! (that’s a buzzer) A full mass weighs 5.5 pounds, and even though that seems about as light and fluffy as bread dumplings, it quickly becomes clear that both that maß and bread dumplings are heavier than they appear.
For a successful game of Masskrugstemmen the following supplies are needed:
- Liter beer mugs – which any and every Oktoberfest celebration should already have on hand anyway, duh
- Plenty of beer (or water, if that’s the chosen route) – What kind of beer do you serve at an Oktoberfest party? Click that link for everything you need to know.
- The mass must be full to the liter mark (not the very top)
- Participants must hold the stein out in front of them – not to the side
- Using either the right or left arm is fine, but the one not holding the mug must be down at their side (and they can’t switch arms halfway through)
- They have to hold the mug by the handle, keeping their thumb off the top of the handle
- No spilling!
After holding a mug for a bit, that last one is the toughest. Spilling beer means that person loses at both masskrugstemmen and life. Ok maybe that was a bit extreme – but no one wants to see their amazing Oktoberfest beer puddled on the ground.
2. Hammerschlagen – the hammer striking game
Hammerschlagen is a lot of fun and, again, nowhere near as easy as it looks. Especially after a few liters of lager. Actually it’s utterly and completely frustrating. Thank God there’s beer.
Each player gets a nail which is hammered just slightly into the stump. On his/her turn, each gets one swing at hammering the nail into the wood. Then it moves on to the next person. The first person to get their nail all the way in is the winner.
- Each turn starts with the hammer resting on the stump beside the nail
- Each player gets one chance to lift the hammer and strike the nail in one continuous motion
- Players must use the wedge end of the hammer to strike the nail
- Players can only hold the hammer with one hand (some rules allow for women to use two hands but, my GOD, it’s a standard household hammer! Not a 25 lb. Viking battle axe, for crying out loud. Give us a little credit.)
If the nail gets bent because it was hit crookedly, that player can take one turn to try and hit it back straight. Check out Hammerschlagen in action here.
3. Log sawing – the lumberjack competition of Oktoberfest games
Wow, so many of these Oktoberfest games involve serious blades and the potential for danger – as you’d expect from a German drinking game, right? [Again, so not advising you to try this at home – reminder to view the disclaimer at the top, just saying]
Log sawing is easy. Well, the concept is easy, I mean. I think we can all agree that sawing a tree in half is much harder than Wile E. Coyote makes it look.
Log sawing as one of the Oktoberfest games makes sense when you learn that cutting a log this way is actually an old German wedding tradition. Cutting a log with this kind of two-man saw symbolizes the first obstacle the couple must tackle together. If brides can do this in a gown, it can certainly be done in a dirndl!
And since Oktoberfest in Munich began as a wedding celebration back in 1810, it only makes sense to include it in a list of Oktoberfest games!
Two or more teams compete to see who can saw through a log the fastest. (It does not have to be, and is usually not, couples.)
Log sawing rules:
- Two-person teams take turns sawing a slice off a log using the two-man crosscut saw
- A judge uses the stopwatch to time from the start until the log slice falls to the ground
- The team who does this in the shortest amount of time is the winner
This is a particularly fantastic Oktoberfest game if the host hasn’t stocked up on firewood for the winter yet. Why not have a party where the guests do all the household labor?
Plus, the logs that remain from the playing of this game can now be used for hammerschlagen (#2 on this list)! Check out a log sawing contest video here.
Also check out this post on how to decorate for an Oktoberfest party. It includes all the most authentic and as-close-to-Munich ways as you can get at home!
4. The slap game – Happy Slaptoberfest!
The slap game is definitely one the most ridiculous and hilarious Oktoberfest games I’ve ever seen. And if you think I’m talking about the adorable leg-slapping dance, you’re mistaken. I’m talking man-on-man face slapping here.
Two participants sit facing each other on a bench and take turns slapping each other until one falls off. The one who stays up is the winner. (I told you it was ridiculous.)
- Bench long enough for two people (if the host already has a legit biergarten bench, they’re in good shape!)
- Cheeks of steel
The slap game rules:
- Both players must sit cross-legged on the bench, facing each other
- One player holds his/her palms together and places their hands vertically against one side of his/her face
- The other player slaps that person’s hands with the intention of making their opponent fall off the bench
- All rings must be removed! – I don’t think I need to explain why
- Opponents must be physically matched in a reasonably fair manner, c’mon
Honestly, the German roots of this “sport” are highly questionable but you can’t deny its hilarity or entertainment factor. I learned of this game from a friend who experienced it at the biggest Oktoberfest celebration in Massachusetts. We can thank the Irish Vikings for this one, I believe.
5. Keg rolling
Keg rolling (and especially keg bowling) are popular Oktoberfest games at local brewery-hosted Oktoberfest celebrations for the most part. Or if you happen to live in a home brewing, beer-loving household like I do.
Participants roll a partially-filled keg down a designated length of grass and the first one to the finish line wins.
- Two or more partially-filled kegs (can be filled with water too because no beer left behind!)
- The longest length of space available – something like 50 feet works best
- Something to mark a starting and finish line – spray paint is a good one
- A whistle – to give these ridiculous Oktoberfest games an air of legitimacy, duh
Keg rolling rules:
- Each contestant must roll a partially-filled keg from one end of the lane to the other
- The race can be that simple – or – the keg must be rolled to one end, stood up on end, then pushed over and rolled back to the starting line
- Each participant must fully cross the designated lines
Keg rolling is great for Oktoberfest games because it can be made into an individual race or turned into a fun relay to get everyone involved. Participants can be made to wear blindfolds, use just one hand to roll it, or try to carry a beer in the other hand without spilling it. Or whatever other sadistic guidelines can be conceived!
If the hosts don’t have access to kegs for such Oktoberfest games, wooden barrels or other 15-gallon drums are also often used. Check out keg rolling here.
6. Keg throwing – the Strong Man of Oktoberfest games
As the name suggests, keg throwing is, simply, tossing a keg. (That’ll be an empty keg for this one!) Kegs, even when empty, are pretty heavy. And though 30 pounds may not sound like much, tossing one is not easy!
Two or more competitors see how far they can throw a keg. The one who throws it the farthest is the winner.
- At least one [pretty much] empty keg
- Something to mark the starting point
- Tape measure
Keg throwing rules:
- Contestants must stand behind the designated line
- The keg can be thrown using both hands and by whichever method he or she prefers (i.e., overhead, underhanded, etc. However, they do steer clear of the “discus” toss because WOW what potential for disaster.)
- Distance is calculated from the starting line to the point at which the keg lands and hits the ground (It helps to have a judge at this end to mark the landing point.)
- The player who throws the keg the farthest wins!
This is always played away from all cars, houses, people, pets, children, and buffet tables. To give you an idea of how much space they require, typical keg tossing championship distances range from about 15-35 feet (men) and 12-22 feet (women).
Those are first place, championship results–the average Joe/Jane probably can’t make it that far. (But if I was playing I would surely sh*t talk like I could.) See a video of keg tossing here.
Don’t miss this perfect Oktoberfest playlist for all the music your backyard bierfest needs to feel like the real thing!
7. Stein racing – the simplest of Oktoberfest games
Stein racing is one of the easier Oktoberfest games to execute and definitely brings an elementary school field day vibe to any bierfest or Oktoberfest party.
Participants have to run a designated length and back while carrying a liter stein full of beer without spilling. The person or team who ends the race with the most beer in their mug wins!
Beer stein racing rules:
- Player must fully cross the designated lines before returning to the start
- Any beer lost from the steins is out of play
- Only beer remaining in the mugs is counted
- The player or team with the most beer in their mugs at the end of the race wins
Beer stein racing can be done with a single stein per person, can be turned into a relay, or even done with multiple mugs at once. (My personal stein-carrying goals: Matthias Volkl and his stein-carrying world record!) These guys even added obstacles!
8. Pretzel-eating contest – the tastiest of Oktoberfest games
You know what, you’ll see so many local Oktoberfests advertising “sausage-eating contests” but, honestly, who wants to see that? 😅 So, I’ve switched it up and added a pretzel-eating contest to this list instead.
Each participant is given a large Bavarian soft pretzel. The winner is determined by who finishes their pretzel first. (More than one pretzel can be used if they aren’t very big.)
- Big Bavarian pretzels (like the ones I make with my highly-rated Bavarian pretzel recipe) which every at-home Oktoberfest party should have anyway!
- Or a frozen version from the supermarket (as long as they are cooked first obviously)
- Stopwatch to keep time
- A whistle, because competition is always more fun with whistles
Pretzel eating contest rules:
- No dunking the pretzel in water – dry pretzels are so much more challenging to consume (plus that’s just gross)
- Pretzel eating begins when the whistle is blown
- Contest ends when participant has finished the designated number of soft pretzels
- Whoever finishes their pretzel(s) first, wins! (This is easier than determining who ate the most pretzel in the allotted time)
Take a look at these German world record holder pretzel eaters so see how it’s done. To make it fair, I’ll withdraw from this one.
9. Oktoberfest trivia contest – the geekiest of Oktoberfest games
On the list of Oktoberfest games to play before everyone’s gotten three liters deep, an Oktoberfest trivia contest is a perfect addition to the mix. #knowledgeispower
A chosen emcee asks Oktoberfest trivia questions to those participating. The person who answers each correctly first wins that round – everyone else drinks. See? There are no losers here!
Oktoberfest trivia contest rules:
- Contestants must wait until after the question has been asked before he/she can answer
- To answer, they simply shout out the correct answer before anyone else
- If multiple people shout the answer at the same time, who won is at the discretion of the emcee
As a huge knowledge nerd, I love trivia games – especially when I can drink great German beer while learning fun Oktoberfest facts.
10. German spelling bee
If you know anything about the German language, you know it’s bananas. Or, more accurately, übergeschnappt. Many hosts add a German spelling bee to their Oktoberfest parties for real schnitz and giggles.
Players try to spell some of the most baffling German words. The person who gets the closest wins! This Oktoberfest game surely tightens the party-goers’ Freundschaftsbeziehungen.
- A list of the craziest, most convoluted German terms (something like these impossible words)
- Google translate app
- Index cards
German spelling bee rules:
- The emcee chooses one of the German words and enters it into Google Translate
- He/she clicks on the speaker symbol for the computer or phone to read the word aloud (they may repeat once)
- Each participant has 30 seconds to write down on an index card how they think the world is spelled
- The emcee judges who he/she/they thinks spelled the word the closest to the correct way
- Losers drink!
For the clincher, the best word to end the game is the longest word in the German language: Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (literally means “motor vehicle liability insurance” – a great addition to any Oktoberfest trivia contest as well!).
11. Oktoberfest, the board game
Perhaps your at-home Oktoberfest is a low-key affair and that is fine; this is a judgment-free zone! In that case, you may be interested to learn about Oktoberfest the board game.
In what sounds like a heart-pumping, high-stakes strategy game, you are the brewmaster. Over three rounds (morning, afternoon, and evening at the world’s largest beer festival), you have to keep your Oktoberfest beer tent open, operating, and successfully supplying beer to the thirsty masses.
I’m not gonna lie to you, this game actually sounds like a lot of fun whether you add it to your at-home Oktoberfest party or just play it on a random Tuesday night. Pick up the Oktoberfest board game here.
12. More Oktoberfest games
And if you are throwing an at-home Oktoberfest, there’s always room for standard yard games. Just because they don’t have Oktoberfest or Bavarian roots, these games are still worthy:
Cornhole – the classic yard game you’ll find at just about every outdoor party, regardless of when or where it takes place. Easy to acquire, set up, and super fun to play. Amazon even has this Oktoberfest cornhole set – perfect!
Ladderball – one of my personal favorites. Can be painted Bavarian blue and white for an Oktoberfest twist.
Flunkyball – Classic German yard game that’s great for teams. Check out how to play Flunkyball here.
What are some Oktoberfest games you have played?
Let me know below!
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