Bernhard Weber reveals why – as an inventor – he puts himself under no pressure to deliver!
Bernhard, thanks for joining us. As a game designer, you have a number of titles to your name… For context, what would some of those be?
Lovely to be here, thank you! My family game, Aqueduct, is one of my favourites. I recently picked that up again and played enthusiastically! I think it was a little underrated when it was released. Together with Jens-Peter Schliemann, I’m also known for what some people call a “modern classic”, Chateau Roquefort. That relaunched this year…
Ah yes! You have find the cheese, and mind the holes!
Right! Again with Jens-Peter Schliemann, there’s also the 2022 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner, Zauberberg – or Magic Mountain. And last but not least, my smallest and most successful game so far in terms of sales: Punto!
Which is a beautifully simple and simply beautiful game! How would you describe it?
In Punto, you try to create a line of four or five of your cards – but you can’t always put them where you want because you’re all building a grid as you go. All the cards have the numbers one to nine on them in dots if you see what I mean…
I do! Cards like the faces of dice, but with up to nine spots.
Right! So on your turn, you put your top card somewhere in a 6×6 grid… You can put it in any empty space next to cards already played, or you can put it on top of another card – as long as your card has more dots on it than the one you’re covering.
And as soon as you create a row of four or five cards in your colour, you win?
Yes. And Punto represents my games philosophy very well: no-frills design and minimal rules. It’s very to the point.
Good answer, thank you Bernhard. Tell me… What’s your background? How did you become a game designer?
I was dissatisfied with my geography studies and rediscovered my need to play… So I took up a topic from my studies – urban planning – in a playful way and developed a game out of it. With that idea, I then took part in the game- designer competition of the Hippodice Game Club. At the time, that was unique in the German-speaking world – and it took first place!
Oh, that’s fascinating! What was that game called?
I first called it Boomtown but it was released as Downtown. In any case, that award – and the game’s publication – gave me the motivation to continue pursuing my passion… With all the ups and downs of being a freelance game designer!
Ha! I can only imagine! And your latest release is called Beethupferl. It has a delightful theme! Tell us about it…
The plants in the garden are thirsty for water! As players you must water the garden with the help of watering cans. Transparent balls symbolize drops of water. You pour these out over the plant bed. When a drop hits the ground, a piece of grass magically turns into a plant. But watch out! Sometimes it can also turn into a voracious snail. Due to that amazing effect, the game is much fun to play… Not only for children.
No; and if anybody looks it up, they’ll be able to see what makes it so cute… The transparent ball lands on a disc in a domed recess; that flips the disc over to reveal the other side! How did this idea come about?
From another game with a different theme which I developed earlier actually! There was still one element missing from that in order to create sufficient play appeal. Then I had the idea of the rotation effect… At first I experimented with making things visible by bringing them to the top – but due to the objects’ own weight, it quite quickly turned out that it makes more sense to ‘sink’ the objects.
And this is before you had the garden theme?
Right. But it was always important that the player’s hand shouldn’t directly touch and rotate the tiles… It’s much better if players drop the little balls out of the air in a variable way. Out of that effect, the topic of watering plants to make them grow came up immediately.
The game’s won critical acclaim… And an award! How important is that approbation to you?
The game is particularly popular with children, and… Yes, it’s also praised by adult critics! It feels very good, and from time to time it is lovely to receive confirmation and appreciation from an independent jury with such an award. Even if I’m critical, I am – as a game designer – always convinced and in love with my games… So I’m not unbiassed! Ha!
But it’s important to remember that a game is a team effort; it’s community work with many people involved and just when everybody does their best there’s a chance to create a successful game in every respect.
How do you say creative, Bernhard?
I stay creative by seeing things in a special way – or perhaps just my own way – and connecting them to create something new and exciting. Luckily, I have a lot of ideas – like many people! The challenge is to develop something unique out of it.
And what’s the biggest challenge to your creativity? What’s your creative Kryptonite?
My Kryptonite? I suppose that is to give up control in a creative process. And sometimes something dramatic happens… To see a great idea poorly implemented, and a game destroyed as a result is very frustrating for me as a designer!
Do you have an example of one of those?
Krasserfall is such an example…
The boat race in which you want to finish last?
Yes; precisely. With that game, material defects made it partially unplayable. But I still find the principle so attractive that I “have to” keep working on it and looking for a publisher who is as convinced of the potential as I am.
Well, some of them could read that here! I’ll cross my fingers for you. Beyond that, what’s next for you?
Luckily, I still have a lot of ideas and interesting prototypes waiting to be finished. But as I said, the challenge is to develop something unique and exciting out of it. That takes time, of course – sometimes a lot of time!
I love what I do and – in order to create quality – I don’t put myself under any pressure to publish before I’m 100% convinced of an idea. That said, the next release is coming up in September 2023… It’ll be a new standalone game to the Magic Mountain world; Zauberzwerg.
Fantastic stuff! Thanks Bernhard. And – finally – what’s the most interesting object in your office?
It’s a kinetic art object: Square Wave by the British artist Ivan Black. It’s a little hard to describe, actually, but I’ll send you a link to the promotional video. I’m sure you’ll love it!
Done! Thanks Bernhard. Lovely to chat with you; thank you for making time… And the best of luck with your current and upcoming releases.
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