Interview with Klaus-Jürgen Wrede

After doing the review of Carcassonne Winter, we reached out to Klaus-Jürgen Wrede to ask him a few questions regarding the design of his best-selling game: Carcassonne. We wanted to learn more about the components and his process for developing the game.

Klaus was kind enough to also send us signed components and postcards that we will be hosting a giveaway for really soon. We’re really happy to be able to share this interview with you and are looking forward to sending out the lovely tiles, meeples and postcards to the happy winners!

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It all started in Carcassonne

Klaus started playing board games in his early 20’s. He discovered his big passion for playing board games and played anything he could get ahold of, with a will to play everything. Like many other gamers he came to the realization that there simply is not enough time to play all games and some priorities had to be put in place.

The love for board games could not be satisfied with the chase after new games to play, so Klaus started designing his own games. Being a creative person with a talent in many areas, this came natural to him.

I am very creative, made a lot of music and studied musics, worked as a composer… Also the last years I wrote a novel to be creative in another way.. It was published in 2015. But game designing and playing always is my big big passion!!

German readers can find more information about Klaus’ book here: https://www.kjwrede.de/roman/

The idea of Carcassonne was born in Carcassonne. Klaus made a journey to the area of the cathars, with the intention of doing some observations for a novel he wanted to write.

I was so impressed by the whole landscape and area surrounding Carcassonne. I wanted to build it in a game. And so the first ideas already worked well. I developed the game further and made it more simple… It took about half a year, it was so that I was satisfied with the game. I wrote a rule, made pictures and sent it to three publishers… Hans Im Glück was very fast and soon I had the confirmation that they wanted to publish it on the toy spiel in Essen 2000.

There have been several changes from the initial prototype of Carcassonne to the game we all know and love today. The meeples that are very highly associated with Carcassonne were initially little wooden cubes. Thanks to Bernd Brunnhofer, we are placing beautiful meeples on the tiles today.

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The graphics has also changed since Carcassonne was released 17 years ago. Klaus is happy with the changes in graphics, but understands those who miss the old graphic.

The new design is very detailed and I like it! Also the cover I really like very much. It is more modern and dynamic. Like a computer game.. Carcassonne is now 17 years old and the graphics are not on the standard of the new time…

But the old graphics are also fantastic I think! And we are all used to have this as our most played graphic and this is always a process everywhere in life. The same with new technics.. You have to get used to it! That’s the same with the new graphic.

Klaus mentions that he had personal input over the new edition of Carcassonne. However, there are many people involved in the decisions related to Carcassonne and it often comes down to compromising between alternatives. Time constraints are usually part of design processes and are not always good for development.

Components and game mechanics

Carcassonne is a game with many expansions and new ones are coming out regularly. Everyone who is in to board games is likely to find one, or several, that fits their preferences. In regards to whether any ideas had to be rejected due to the inability to implement it in the game, Klaus had the following to say.

Everything worked… But sometimes I think of production cost in development and try to have not too much material.. Otherwise an expansion would cost too much.

While Carcassonne is the city in which this beautiful story started, the game itself is played all over the world. Several versions of Carcassonne have been released since then and many of these don’t take place in Carcassonne. We asked Klaus if he considered changing the name of the game when he changed the location.

The basic system always is Carcassonne and then it is a variant and different play. So the players know, they can handle the game with the basic rules they already know and have a new game additionally.

Many games differentiate players from one each other by giving them role cards with unique abilities. Carcassonne’s meeples are a bit anonymous and we wanted to know if the assigning of unique roles had been considered. Klaus provides us with a good explanation as to why it has not been implemented already, and probably won’t be in the future.

It would be very complex for many people. I think they would be a little bit overwhelmed with different roles… Maybe some people like it. But for sometime-player it is better to have very flexible chances to bring into play. Imagine, you have just 2 monks, 2 knights, 2 robbers and 2 farmers… It would be very restricted. I like more decisions and flexible gamplay.

Carcassonne is a game in which continous scoring is used throughout the game. To increase the importance of the cities, Klaus made the cities worth twice as many points as the roads. He found this to present unbalance to the game and has implemented amendments to stabilize the gameplay.

Today I think, the streets in the basic game is a little bit weaker, so I made them more interesting with the first expansion. Or also in other cc games like south sea or goldrush the streets are more equal to the cities.

Apart from the difference in scoring between roads and cities in the basic game, Klaus is not fully satisfied with adjacent cloistures. He also mentions one of his own house rules.

 

I don’t like building cloistures buildings adjacent. Sometimes it happens, because it is stronger then. We didn’t want more rules which make expections etc, but I would play it at home with this rule. Like the rule in the “über stock und stein” – there it is changed.

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Klaus likes all tiles and has no favorite, but when it comes to wooden component used in Carcassonne he consideres the Dragon to be the best.

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Lately, Carcassonne has included tiles that aren’t shaped as traditional squares (such as Halflings and German Castles). Klaus gives us his thoughts on the new components.

I like this. It is an interesting next component. But it is also very unusual for the people. And it sometimes looks not so nice… For me also the optic is very important. But from gameplay I like these elements.

 

What the future might hold…

Whenever a new Carcassonne game is released, fans are lined up to get the latest addition to their collection. I, myself, am not very creative and for every new expansion I am certain that there is not anything else they can possibly come up with and add. But time and time again, I get proven wrong and get to enjoy new elements, designs and games that extend the basic gameplay into something even more enjoyable. Therefore, we wanted to ask Klaus what we can expect from Carcassonne and him going forward…

Maybe everything. The new expansion is just in progress to be published (manege frei – the 10th expansion) but there will be more.. Also in the “carcassonne around the world” – series. And new games there be some.. Just published “die baumeister des COLLOSSEUM” und MISTKÄFER, there will be more since now my novel is finished.. an new novel maybe also some day.. but it last much longer than a boardgame…

We couldn’t help ourselves but asking Klaus to tell us more about his new game. Here’s what he wrote.

“Die Baumeister des COLOSSEUM” started with the idea of building something great, which looks very nice in the end of the game.
I very much like building something together. You create together and each player adds something in his turn.
This is the same in “Carcassonne”. You build together a landscape and every game it looks other in the end.
So the first idea was to build the COLOSSEUM in the box of the game. I experimented how to manage it and found a good and simple way that looks nice and works well, if you put the parts in the deep drawing of the box. From this central element I developed the game. I wanted it to be not too complex – more simple collecting and spending with excitement. So step by step grew up the game up to the final version published by Schmidt Spiele.

We are extremely happy that Klaus took the time to answer our questions. He is an incredibly kind person and knowing that makes game nights with Carcassonne a lot more enjoyable!

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