|Front of Euro Falle 3 & 4|
|Back of Euro Falle 3 & 4 (4 is on the left here)|
Like EF 02, EF 03 and 04 were designed by Jürgen Reiche and manufactured by his shop, Siebenstein-Spiele. EF 03 was Alan Stein’s exchange puzzle at IPP 35 in Ottawa this year and EF 04 was entered in the puzzle design competition. Reiche is listed as the designer, but Alan Stein’s name is on the back of the puzzle. Perhaps someone can explain that? Anyhow, although I’m sure it was a formidable competitor, it did not garner any prizes. Check here to see what EF 04 was up against. Alan Stein, if you did not know, is the man behind Puzzle Master. So if you buy a Euro Falle from his store, you can claim to have exchanged for it. Some interesting info on Alan/Puzzle Master roots is over here.
|Compared to Euro Falle 02|
The EF 04 has a slightly more complex two-tone inlay on its front side compared with the EF 03. Both puzzles sport an acrylic (well, plastic of some kind anyway) ‘cover’ on the front. This lets you see, but not touch, your Euro. Normally these acrylics make me a little nervous, as I’ve found that they can scuff up pretty easily with casual handling and play. For this reason alone, I do not intend to pass these two around as carelessly as I would the EF 02. One saving grace regarding the cover is that the pins holding the puzzles together stand out slightly from the front and back. This provides a measure of protection in case your prized Euro Falle is slid back across the table to you like a hockey puck by, say, your offspring who have no interest in puzzles.
Aside from my acrylic quibble, these puzzles are true to Euro Falle form. They are very solid and have nice heft. Minor scuffing is to be expected, but they are not going to break any time soon. As Jerry has demonstrated, they are travel-worthy. Level of craftsmanship is high, as you would expect. EF 04 does show some over-bleed of glue around the inlays. Less is more when it comes to glue. But you can only see this on close inspection under direct light. A minor blemish which I only mention for the sake of the discerning collector.
That’s about enough on construction and appearances, what about the puzzle? Here’s where things get interesting. EF 03 and EF 04 have completely different mechanisms. Both are interesting, but I must tell you right away that the EF 03 is a relatively simple variation on the EF 02. If you are mostly interested in puzzling experience, I don’t see the need to get both puzzles. They are simply too similar. I don’t think telling you this is a spoiler. If you’ve solved EF 02 and then you move to EF 03, are you not going to try the thing that worked before, just to check it off the list? Of course you are. It won’t work. But with moderate effort, you will find how it does. If you are a purist, you will find the variation to be inelegant. I should also say that even though EF 03 is a slightly more complex mechanism, requiring an additional step, I am not certain that this makes it more difficult. You really have to do them both to understand why; it’s in the subtleties of the construction. Suffice it to say that there is reason to believe EF 02 could be an equal or superior challenge to EF 03, despite (or thanks to) its simpler form. Along this same line of thought, if you solve EF 03 first, there will be no point in doing EF 02 from a puzzling perspective. You must solve them in proper order if you intend to do both. Having done them both, my personal preference is for EF 02. In defense of EF 03, however, it was intended as an IPP exchange puzzle and I imagine it suited that purpose admirably.
EF 04 presents a completely different mechanism altogether. And that fact brings us to what I believe is the higher-order utility of the overall EF 03/04 design. This puzzle design is quite simply an excellent generic platform for mechanism implementations (Ed: that sentence is quite a mouthful!), and I suspect it might have been developed with this in mind. This new larger Euro Falle is attractive, durable, and also has a generous internal space. One can only imagine the kinds of mechanisms that could be stuffed in there. One could imagine a line of guest designers using the basic platform and spinning off more in the series. Would that not be fun?
Back to the EF 04.... There is actually not much I can divulge about it, to be honest. You will simply have to try it. As mentioned in the EF 02 post, these are basic coin release puzzles and you will likely solve them with only moderate effort. I found the EF 04 to be worthwhile. It probably took me around 15 minutes which, for a (non-blind maze) coin release, is about what a moderately experienced puzzler should expect on average. That’s fair for the type, I think. Anything more is exceptional and anything less is a little disappointing. But there is much variation. I am speaking in generalities and subjectivities of course. Jeff took a bit longer to solve it, and he is no slouch, so there is a reasonable chance you will get extended play time with EF 04.
Before I get to the concluding section on value and ultimate recommendations, I feel obligated to mention one construction issue with my particular EF 04. I hope this is just an idiosyncratic problem. If there were a bad one in the batch, I am very sure it would find its way to me. When I was picking up EF 04 to bring it to my office, where I do my writing, one of the pins/screws fell completely off the puzzle. I was shocked, as I had been handling it for quite a while with not even the hint of an issue. With my other puzzles held by such pins (in the Reiche/Constantin style), I keep any eye on them and expect to occasionally tweak them. But these pins are not part of a movement and thus are very snug, or so I thought. Checking both EF 03 and EF 04, all the others seem tight. But the problem is not really that the screw was loose and unscrewed itself, it’s that I can’t screw it back in! The screw does not reach the pin when inserted in its hole. This leads me to believe that the screw was just barely holding on by its last thread. It seems clear that either the screw or the pin should be longer. Maybe there was enough compression of the wood when it was assembled for it to screw in, but not now. It occurred to me that maybe the wood had swelled a little - I am in the sub-tropics after all - but this would be minimal, and in any case, to use a pin/screw with such little leeway is just a mistake. So I’ll be going to the hardware store to get the right part in the near future. Once again, I hope this is a fluke. And I really hope that it is just the one bad pin. I’ve never had such a problem with any other Siebenstein-Spiele puzzle, so I don’t want this to be taken as an indictment of the shop’s work quality. It is known to be excellent.
|Cannot be rescrewed - is this a general fault or just Mike's?|
Thank you Mike - another beautifully written and illustrated blog post for me! I really appreciate your efforts - I had to work yesterday in the emergency operating theatres all day and so missed both the MPP and a day at home doing all the normal weekend chores. Having your post ready to go has really helped me keep the present (first) wife happy by having time to do stuff for her as well as post my customary Sunday afternoon blog post. If any others would like to write a review then contact me and if it is suitable and well written enough then I am happy to post it on my little piece of the net.