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Interviews by an Optimist # 24 - Friedemann Friese

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  • Tom Vasel
    Interviews by an Optimist # 24 - Friedemann Friese Friedemann gave this bulleted account of his life... Born 5th of June 1970 in Germany 13 years of school
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2005
      Interviews by an Optimist # 24 - Friedemann Friese

      Friedemann gave this bulleted account of his life...
      Born 5th of June 1970 in Germany
      13 years of school
      Studied mathematics in Bremen
      1992 found my company (old name Spie-Bau-Stelle, Bremen)
      1992 first Spiel with Wucherer, Dimension and Raus aus dem Schneckenhaus
      1993 Wucherer Exp.
      1994 New name of company 2f-spiele: Falsche FuFfziger
      1995 Foppen
      1996 No game, because I was working for the government. The work you do if
      you do not want to go into the army, social work
      1997 FrischFisch
      1998 Friesematenten
      1999 Frischfleisch
      2000 Flickwerk
      2001 Funkenschlag
      2002 Fische Fluppen Frikadellen, Fundstücke
      2003 Finstere Flure
      2004 Funkenschlag 2nd edition, Power Grid

      Since 2002 I have been making a living from games. My hobbies are working as
      a DJ and selling games in a game shop.

      I worked together with Wolfgang Panning on Paparazzo at Abacus, with Andrea
      Meyer on Schwarzarbeit at Bewitched and Thorsten Gimmler, Martina Hellmich,
      Hartmut Kommerell and Anrea Meyer on Ludoviel al Drübberholz.

      In 2005 there will be Fiese Freunde Fette Feten working together with
      Marcel-André Casasola Merkle and the new Taxi (aka Flickwerk) at

      With Wolfgang Panning and Andrea Meyer we organize game designer workshops
      in Drübberholz to teach people to be game authors.

      Tom: You've made a name for yourself in gaming circles with your unique
      personality and style. What's with the color green?

      Friedemann: It's my favorite color. I began dying my hair green in 1989. In
      1991 I tried pink for about 2 weeks, it was not a good hair color, so I got
      back to green. I always choose green as my playing color. Wucherer wasn't in
      a green box, but dimension was. It began with Falsche FuFFziger. We had a
      lot of people that were very fanatic about their playing color and bringing
      e.g. green(of yellow, blue) dice with to play with them and so on. So it
      began, and now it is much more of a corporate identity, so I will not change

      Tom: What were some of the factors that caused you to start producing your
      own games?

      Friedemann: The main factor was my visiting the Essen Fair in 1991. There
      were a lot of really small companies only selling one game there; and I
      thought, "Okay, this should be not too difficult for me to do the same." I
      asked at the fair for a booth, and they said that if I answered within 7
      days it would still be possible to get one. So I decided to do so. No
      mistake, I think ;-)

      Tom: Where do you get the ideas for your games? Do they start with the
      mechanics, or the themes?

      Friedemann: This is not so easy to answer; it is different. Some games start
      with the mechanics and others with the theme, but the most powerful thing is
      the moment when there is a mechanism fitting a theme or a theme fitting a
      mechanism. This is normally the beginning of a lot of work and ends in
      building up a prototype for testing.

      Tom: Well then, let's discuss a particular game - Finstere Flure. It has a
      strong theme (in my opinion). Can you give us the background on this "escape
      from the monster" game?

      Friedemann: Finstere Flure began as a gift for a friend of mine for his
      birthday. He was the monster (or better drunken on the dance floor), and the
      players wanted to escape from him. This was in about 1995. The game was
      changed, and for a long time I was not very happy with it. I always knew
      that this game could be changed into something good, but not how. In 2003 I
      worked again on this game, and then I had the idea with these letters on the
      walls; this changed the game, so it was possible to publish it.

      The theme is indeed very strong, and it was one of the games where I had a
      mechanic and a theme at the same time. It was about a monster walking
      automatically and the players escaping from it. The elements on the floor
      came later, but they are so logical that they fit right into the game

      Tom: Some players tend to sit and overanalyze Finster Flure - kind of like a
      "light" Robo Rally. Is that the way you intended the game to be played?

      Friedemann: This overanalyzation is not the way I intended to play Finstere
      Flure, but I have to say if you play this game as a 2-player game, you have
      to analyze it. I do think that with more than 4 people you can play it as a
      light game, because, you can't imagine what will happen. Surely the last
      person moving a piece is always in a strong position. I do think that most
      people playing it now are not overanalyzing this game, because now there are
      so many games sold, that the majority of the owners of this game are no
      longer the "power-gamers."

      Tom: Speaking of "power", it seems that Power Grid (Funkenschlag) is
      probably your most liked game. It currently ranks at #6 on Boardgamegeek,
      which is quite impressive. There are a lot of changes from Funkenschlag to
      Power Grid, however. Can you discuss the changes, and why you did them?

      Friedemann: I decided to make a new version of Funkenschlag, and the old
      version was sold out; but I had a new quality in the production value, so I
      had to change it. But first of all, there was another company interested
      (not Rio Grande) that disliked the crayon thing, and the game was to long;
      so I worked on it. Then they thought about making the game later; so I
      decided to make it by myself, and Rio Grande wanted to have the English
      version. So there it is, and I am very happy making it by myself :-)

      Tom: Is Power Grid an improvement, or do you see them as separate games?

      Friedemann: Difficult to say. First of all, there are two games named
      Funkenschlag, but they have the same source. It was okay doing Funkenschlag
      in 2001; but now Funkenschlag is the other one, and the old one doesn't
      exist any more, as a view from a publisher. I think I will never play this
      old version again and probably the new version will not be played by me
      again; because I have a special view on this, and I have to look what I am
      doing now, and what is now happening in the scene, and what kind of new
      games I will play.

      Tom: How many games do you work on at one time? Are you working on several
      designs simultaneously, or do you work solely on one project from beginning

      Friedemann: I always have different projects in mind. But if I am sure what
      the next game will be, I solely work on that game.

      Tom: Can you tell us anything about the project you are currently working

      Friedemann: This is very easy to tell. I'm still working on Fiese Freunde
      Fette Feten, which I invented together with Marcel André Casasola Merkle,
      and this will be on the market in about 7 weeks.

      Tom: But can you tell us any details about the game itself?

      Friedemann: Sorry, but you can read it on Boardgamegeek or the new edition

      Tom: How often do you play your own games after they've been published? Do
      you prefer playing your own games or the games of others?

      Friedemann: The first time after publishing I play a game a lot, with a lot
      of different people, just to promote it. But 2 months later I normally don't
      play my game. I prefer playing my games and then years later looking at them
      again. Normally, I like to play them again. There are, of course, games from
      other authors I like to play.

      Tom: What game designers' games do you enjoy playing the most?

      Friedemann: I like the work of Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, Andrea Meyer,
      Karl-Heinz Schmiel, Tom Wham, Tom Jolly, Bruno Faidutti, Alan R. Moon.

      Tom: What games are your particular favorites?

      Friedemann: I like Linie 1, Outpost, Symbioz, Cosmic Encounter, Tyranno Ex,
      Ursuppe but also Geschenkt, 6 nimmt, Diamant, 5 alive

      Tom: Are there any particular mechanics that you like to see in a board

      Friedemann: I really like mechanics that fit the theme: where you can play
      the game intuitively, where you can sit and think that that matches the
      theme 100%, when a mechanic lets you view a special theme in another way. I
      like games where the mechanics and the game are one.

      Tom: What game (of another designer) do you think best merges theme with
      mechanics, and why?

      Friedemann: I don't have a special game in mind, which is doing it best. I
      played Niagara this week and found out that the mechanics work very well
      with the theme. Then I played Amazonas, and there were well-working
      mathematics; but you don't have a feeling of adventure in this game. I often
      dislike games, when there are different victory points in
      different categories, because these points are often used to make the game
      as a working mathematical system, but mostly not fitting the theme.

      Tom: What are your opinions on the growing American interest in the German
      world of board games?

      Friedemann: It is very interesting, because in the 80s there were a lot of
      people very interested in American style games like Cosim and so on. The
      Germans built more and more games with complex game systems; the Americans
      only worked on simulations and for these simulations a lot of randomness was
      used. The Americans had more interest in the theme than in the game
      mechanic. There are a lot of American card games where the main point of the
      game is to draw up to n cards and then play as many as you like. With this
      structure you can invent a game for every theme. The Germans had more
      interest in game mechanics and mathematics. I do think this is the main
      problem for German gaming now; the theme is unimportant and simulation has a
      bad touch because of using die throwing charts in the past. I understand the
      interest in the German board game market, because in Germany we made more
      innovating games in the past year; and our games are well produced with high
      material quality. In the future I do think we will have a lot of interesting
      games from France, because the French people have indeed more humor in
      inventing games.

      Tom: Are there any American games that are popular in Germany (besides
      Monopoly and its ilk)?

      Friedemann: There are the big boxed games like Axis & Allies, Civilization
      the Board game (Eagle), A Game of Thrones, Doom, War of the Ring and also
      Steve Jackson's games like Chez Geek, Munchkin and Cranium.

      Tom: How have your games changed over the last thirteen years? What have you
      learned to do and not do when designing?

      Friedemann: I do think the most important thing about my work is not that I
      changed it; it is more, that I know now why I am doing special things. With
      my first games I just invented it and found out that they were working, now
      I just know more about it and why they work and what I'm able to do just to
      let the games work. So now it is more a process of thinking; in the past it
      was more testing.

      Tom: A few of your games have been produced in the American market, such as
      Fresh Fish and Power Grid. What is it like to license a game out to a
      foreign company? And what are the difficulties of such a thing?

      Friedemann: With Fresh Fish it was very easy, because I made the game. The
      game was sold out, so another company had interest; they can do it, no
      problem. It will be the same with Taxi at Queen Games, because my old
      Flickwerk is sold out, and I haven't planned a new edition. With the Power
      Grid and now Fearsome Floors it is a bit different because it is licensed as
      a company for a special market, and I have the same product for the German
      market; but it is okay to do so, and it is good working with Rio Grande. The
      main difficulty for me is realizing that I'm no longer the only person to
      judge the game before it is published. I have to get used to the fact that I
      no longer have all the strings in my hands.

      Tom: Friedemann, thanks so much for your time! Do you have any final words
      for our readers?

      Friedemann: Have good time gaming and buy all 2F-spiele games. ;-)

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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