Another article, another contender for the coveted title. This time I return to the theme of wooden puzzles by the hand of one of German's leading manufacturers, Siebenstein-Spiele. The company started out as a board game developer and manufacturer over 20 years ago, and in the recent years branched out to the design and crafting of quality wooden mechanical puzzles that are both interesting items of exquisite craftsmanship as well as beautiful decorating objects.
The company founder, Jürgen Reiche, is a jack of all trades, designing, manufacturing and distributing his work all around the world, at the same time competing in an ever-growing market full of great choices. To do that, he needs a constant stream of new ideas and fresh concepts in order to attract new customers, puzzlers that are always hungry for unique and fascinating new challenges.
Siebenstein-Spiele's puzzles are easily recognizable by their laser-cut wooden pieces and natural colors. Their designs often combine various types of wood with acrylic and metal parts, giving different contrasts and textures to an otherwise bland and banal puzzle. Reiche cares a lot about presentation and that is clearly witnessed in all his creations, no matter how simple or complex a design is.
I usually say that Jürgen's designs have some resemblance with Jean Claude Constantin's, but I don't mean it in a derogatory or mean way. Quite the contrary. Jean Claude Constantin is my favorite puzzle designer, and despite the similarities between the two craftsmen's work, I always welcome Constantin-like puzzles. The two designers are German and have been working with puzzles for many years, so it's quite possibly they've known each other for a long time and took inspiration from each other's work. Whatever the reason, puzzle fans all over the world are the ones who benefit from both craftsmen's creativity and ingenuity.
Even though Siebenstein's puzzles have this high quality, their price is anything but expensive. Yes, you may find some of their puzzles with a high price tag, but the majority of them have rather reasonable prices, considering what they offer in terms of challenge, appearance, and of course, a rewarding and satisfying experience. That's quite an impressive feat when you compare their puzzles with other, more expensive brands.
Like any good puzzle manufacturer, Siebenstein-Spiele has a wide variety of designs and puzzle types that are certain to fascinate any puzzle enthusiast. If you're a true puzzle fan, chances are you're going to find something to like from Siebenstein-Spiele, whether it's sliding puzzles, packing puzzles, entanglement puzzles, or even the most uncommon and unique designs you can think of.
Packing puzzles are my favorite type of puzzles, and Siebenstein-Spiele has some very nice examples with superb designs. Take the Bermuda puzzle, or the Mephisto puzzle, for example. So different from one another, and yet both are equally remarkable, each with its own unique characteristics that make them fascinating:
- The Bermuda puzzle takes a simple concept (pack the extra piece), but is complemented with a gorgeous and functional design, made in the shape of seven sea creatures. Your task is to take advantage of its curves and recesses so that extra space is freed for the seventh piece.
- The Mephisto puzzle, on the other hand, cleverly combining the use of wood and acrylic parts, gives you a totally different challenge by combining the 10 acrylic stripes in such a way that you should see four identical shapes within each of the 25 squares in the frame.
As you can see, even within the same puzzle type, the designer managed to create two completely distinct puzzles made with different materials.
Other than packing puzzles, sliding puzzles are among my favorites, and here Jürgen Reiche almost reinvented the genre by creating very unique and unorthodox designs unlike anything you've seen before. Below are two examples of this unique approach to the sliding puzzle category, such as the Colour Match and the Up & Down:
- The Colour Match mechanism works by sliding two handles horizontally. Eight discs in four different colors comprise this intriguing puzzle, although the goal is pretty simple. All you have to do is get each disc on the top row to match the same color of its counterpart in the bottom row. Also, each disc has one of two symbols, a star or a circle. For a tougher challenge, you need to get all discs with the stars on the bottom row. You can try and create your own challenges as well, by combining different colors and symbols.
- Up & Down is yet another completely different concept, a twist on the classic sliding piece puzzle. With numbers from 1 through 8, the goal is to rearrange them in order from the left column down and to the right. The movement is quite unusual, since the frame moves up and down. As you push it to one of its two positions, you can move one tile at a time to the available free slot at the edges of the frame. You can also attempt other number arrangements.
Fortunately for any puzzle lover, though, Siebenstein-Spiele is not just packing or sliding puzzles. The designer creates a wide variety of puzzles, many of which are sometimes hard to even put in a single category. He also ventured into other popular puzzle categories such as n-ary puzzles (sequential movement), like the Auf dem Holzweg, seen below.
If Jean Claude Constantin is my favorite puzzle designer, Jürgen Reiche is probably a close second, for sharing the same philosophies of puzzle design and craftsmanship. His new creations always amaze me, for his unending ability to come up with something new and bold. As a puzzle enthusiast and collector, I can only look forward with high expectations for Siebenstein-Spiele's upcoming ideas.