The article uses a thick synthetic analytical framework, derived from the established coalition literature to examine the process of coalition formation in the context of the German party system at the time of the 2009 federal election. It argues that increasing party system fragmentation and fluidity are long-term effects of the critical changes that took place between 1983 and the mid-1990s. These changes have shifted coalition power away from the smaller parties, and in particular the FDP, and towards the two Volksparteien. In terms of the coalition game, the article argues that outcomes cannot be explained by pure office-seeking but that these motives do become important once the desire to avoid unnecessary co-ordination costs, achieve ideological adjacency and reduce ideological range to a minimum has been satisfied. The article concludes by asserting that, rather than being a re-constitution of the default coalition model in Germany, the logic of the 2009 Black-Yellow coalition is consistent with more recent coalition games and therefore is a reflection of change rather than continuity.