Dialogue with a Designer, Michael Kiesling - Azul
Michael Kiesling is an award winning designer who has designed many titles including multiple Spiel des Jahres winning titles. He's well known for being half of the design team Kramer and Kiesling. Plan B Games is very honored to have been able to work with the acclaimed designer on our Essen release - Azul!
Mike : First, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. All of us at Plan B Games are a big fan of your games.
Azul is a nice departure from your other designs. Where did your inspiration come from to design this game?
Mr. Kiesling : My inspiration was to develop a simple game, but isn’t that simple at all.
Mike : I think you succedded, it is very easy to learn, but deceptively deep. Can you explain your design process for Azul?
Mr. Kiesling : Sure, my first idea was dividing Azul into two phases. In the first phase, the players acquire beautiful wall tiles. In the second phase, the tiles would then be processed and placed. After the original idea, I asked myself – How will the tiles be distributed to the players in the first phase?
This turned out to be an easy problem to solve – At the very beginning of a turn, the tiles will be placed in a bag and then randomly distributed to the factory displays (the round discs). On each player’s turn, they will be allowed to take all of the tiles of one color from a display. However, this led to another question – What about the remaining tiles that the player didn’t take from the display? This was another quick solution, the tiles would be moved to the next display over. I thought this was clever at the time, but I ended up changing to what it is now.
In the second phase, the tiles are brought to the wall – unfortunately, you may not be able to prevent some of the tiles from “breaking” and losing some points. Lastly, the creation of a point system was very intuitive overall.
Mike : What was your most memorable or best experience while designing Azul?
Mr. Kiesling : A few players unexpectedly criticized my idea of how leftover tiles would be managed. Naturally, we had to look into it again. After an hour of simply staring at the game – a decisive brainstorm came to me, as if Heaven sent it from the North German sky! All the tiles that a player doesn’t take should be pushed into the center. In other words, it creates a new decision for the players – to take from one of the displays or from the new display in the center that constantly changes as the round goes on.
However, my truly memorable experience happened right after I was satisfied with the design. I went to a small game convention in beautiful Sauerland, Germany with my prototype of Azul in hand. After only a single play, the contract to publish Azul was sealed with a simple handshake – something like this has never happened to me before – apparently, it’s still a normal ritual among North Germans.
Mike : I can't say that I'm suprised! I was hooked after my first play as well! That being said, I feel the design and components are equally amazing. Are you happy with the end result?
Mr. Kiesling : Yes, the game looks fantastic! The Plan B Games team in Canada and in Europe has done an excellent job!
Mike : Some US reviewers are predicting Azul will be nominated for Spiel des Jahres, does this surprise you?
Mr. Kiesling : I’m very pleased that the US reviewers have appreciated Azul. If the US reviewers think like the German jury that makes up the Spiel des Jahres, then the old game designer proverb is still valid. However, the jury is and remains unpredictable – and that’s a good thing! There are many good games each year. The jury is very spoiled for all the good choices they have. That being said, I would be delighted to receive a nomination for Azul!
Mike : Thank you so much for your time and we look forward to seeing you at Essen.
Mr. Kiesling : Thank you!
Azul releases at Essen 2017! You can find Plan B Games at Hall 3, Booth O117. The first 1,000 fans to purchase Azul at the show will receive a free copy of the promotional Joker Tiles. Fans excited to meet Michael Kiesling can visit our booth on Sunday, October 29th from 12:30p – 2:00p.