TheMetagrobologist is excited to interview the master Metagrobologist, Jürgen Reiche, who as you may or may not be aware is an incredibly prolific games inventor and puzzle manufacturer from Germany whose wide range of wooden games and puzzles are manufactured by Siebenstein-Spiele.
Many of Jürgen’s innovative mechanical puzzles are coveted by collectors and you will undoubtedly have come across one of his many puzzles in online or in retail puzzle stores. Jürgen kindly agreed to chat with us and we hope you enjoy the article….
My name is Jürgen Reiche, I’m 56 years, and I have been producing and selling brain teasers and puzzles for 20 years. It all started when my daughter Anna was born and I had just finished my studies. I played with my daughter and her toy blocks. There was also lying a chessboard, so I playfully put the coloured blocks on the chessboard. I thought about some rules. And suddenly there was an interesting board game that even worked well. Since every player had 7 gaming pieces (counters, tiles, tokens) I called this game ‘Seven Pieces’. Thus this was the beginning of my small games company that is still named ‘Siebenstein Spiele’, that is ‘Seven Pieces Games’ today.
At that time I went to markets with my company and sold my games there. I soon invented new strategy games and we started to sell these games on Christmas markets, and to our surprise, we were successful. At that time I got to know Jean-Claude Constantin and so I became interested in brain teasers. It is true that we had already sold some logic puzzles, but the variety, the aesthetics and the singularity of Constantin’s puzzles fascinated me right away.
MTG: We know you have a huge list of puzzles that you have designed, but where exactly is your workshop where you work?
JR: We have been producing our own puzzles in a small workshop in Münster for 4 years now. Basically, we use two CO2- laser machines for our production.
A good puzzle has a simple form, a clear design and solid workmanship and still remains inscrutable and mysterious.. Jürgen Reiche
MTG: What is it about puzzles that you find so fascinating?
JR: What I find so fascinating about puzzles is their “magic attraction or enchantment“. A good puzzle has a simple form, a clear design and solid workmanship and still remains inscrutable and mysterious.
MTG: What do you consider is a good puzzle?
JR: Let’s take as an example a put-together puzzle with 50 complicated pieces, here everybody can tell at once that this puzzle is complicated. Its solution is often a laborious and very time-consuming task, however not extremely difficult if you take your time.
On the contrary, a puzzle that consists of only 3 pieces, has a very different fascination. Firstly, everybody thinks, putting together 3 pieces, every child can solve that. But then the puzzling pleasure is just starting. Anyhow, you do not often manage to design such a good puzzle.
MTG: What inspires your designs?
JR: You cannot become a good puzzle designer without letting yourself be inspired by other puzzles and other puzzle designers. Looking at puzzles of other designers, their ideas, their designs, the materials used, their aesthetics, workmanship and so on and absorbing these impressions is essential for designing good puzzles yourself (for your own creative process). So the combination of something known as something newly created is the most frequent starting point for a new puzzle design.
The best and most extraordinary puzzles originate from these spontaneous ideas!
MTG: Can you talk us through the technical design process of one of your more recent puzzles from the start of a new design to finish?
JR: There is no determined procedure how a new puzzle is designed. There are puzzles for which it takes some days from the first idea to the prototype (finished puzzle). However, there are puzzles that you develop from the idea to the prototype and at the end, you realise that the puzzle is not really balanced (or “rund“ as we say in German), it does not work properly, its design is not harmonious or it is too simple to solve.
Then you put the puzzle aside, and maybe it can take some months or even years until you take the puzzle into your hand again and all of a sudden you have an idea how you can solve the original problems with that puzzle.
But there are also puzzles, that are designed for one tiny moment. Maybe you are having a shower and thinking about various puzzles and suddenly the idea is born.The complete idea of a new puzzle. You know how it is going to work, you know how it looks and you know that it will be good. These sudden ideas are rare, but not as rare as you might think.
Anyhow, in my view, the best and most extraordinary puzzles originate from these spontaneous ideas. Of course, with a certain experience in designing puzzles, you can sit down and try to design a new puzzle, but this will only result in a further development or follow-up version of already existing puzzles, but not in a really new puzzle. Designing a new puzzle actually, cannot be planned.
Certainly designing new puzzles involves a lot of problems. The first question is always that of technical feasibility. What is the use of a good idea if it is not feasible if it is not possible to produce. The second question is how complicated and time-consuming is its production. Several times I had an idea of a trick that was so difficult to realise that the puzzles would have been too expensive.
And last but not least the problem may occur that the prototype does not work as you have thought since then.
MTG: In 2015 you entered the Eurofallen 04 into the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. How did you find this? Why has it taken so long to enter a puzzle?
JR: Allan Stein of Puzzle Master entered (or delivered) the Eurofalle 04 into the NOB Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. I very much appreciate that he made a start for us. So now the first step is done and I think that in future I will take part in design competitions more frequently.
MTG: Do you enjoy collecting puzzles as much as designing them?
JR: I am actually no puzzle collector myself. As a person who makes his living by designing and selling puzzles, I probably look differently on puzzles than a pure collector. For me when I’m confronted with a new puzzle, the main focus is not so much on wishing to solve it than on finding out about its fascination., that means if it really has any, as well as on admiring the workmanship and creativity of its designer. For me, a good puzzle always has to be aesthetically or nice to look at.
For me, a good puzzle always has to be aesthetically or nice to look at. Jürgen Reiche
MTG: We’re terribly interested to know if there is a puzzle you have struggled with, or just could not complete?
JR: Of course, there are puzzles for which I have not managed to find the solution yet. But in my opinion, you have to differentiate. There are puzzles, that don’t appeal to me. This means that I try sometimes try to solve them and if I don’t find the solution I give up rather quickly.
However, sometimes there are those puzzles that you haven’t solved directly, but after some time you take them in your hands again, those puzzles that you cannot get out of your mind until you finally solve them after many days or even weeks. This occurred to me especially with some puzzles of Wil Strijbos.
Nevertheless, I should say, as a person dealing with puzzles professionally every day, it does not happen so often that I don’t have any clue of approaching the solution or that I couldn’t at least guess how the path towards solution could be.
MTG: Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on? Do you see your range of puzzles developing further over the coming years?
JR: Actually, I do not make any plans for the future. Which kind of puzzles will be my focus in the next years (or: I will focus on in the next year), I do not know yet. I’m really very curious myself about my own future developments. Take a look at my new Spring 2017 collection of puzzles.