10 Fragen an Phil Walker-Harding
Hello Mr. Walker-Harding,
with "Imhotep" you have developed a very succesfull board game. Can you give us a comprehensive insight into the development phase?
The design of Imhotep began back in 2010. To begin with, I wanted to make a game about building the pyramids. I have always been fascinated by ancient Egypt and particularly the Pyramids of Giza. There is so much mystery around how they were constructed that I thought this would make for an intriguing game. Right away I had the idea of using large wooden blocks to represent the pyramid, with the players scoring points as each stone is built. I thought it was important to give the players the feel of physically building something large on the board so I used big blocks in my prototype. Quite soon, the pyramid mechanism suggested other shapes and scoring configurations for building the blocks, and so I expanded the game to be about building multiple monuments. I was also inspired by a favourite game of mine, "Coloretto", when developing the way the ships work in the game. The shipping mechanism turned out to be very important to the game, as it is where most of the social interaction happens. I also learnt a lot from Reiner Knizia and all the wonderful scoring systems he has used in his games over the years.
When the game was ready, I submitted it to the "Premio Archimede" design competition in Venice and was very happy to win 2nd place! The game was picked up by a publisher from there, but after a long wait they decided not to produce it. Eventually the design found a home at "Kosmos". I had a great experience working with them on developing the game and getting the final elements of the play experience polished and working well. "Kosmos" also did an excellent job on the physical production and I was so happy they kept the large wooden blocks!
This question certainly interest fans of "Imhotep". Are you planning an expansion?
A mini-expansion has actually already been released. It’s a promotional postcard-sized expansion called "The Stonemason’s Wager" which brings a small gambling element to the game. There are a couple of other promotional items like this which should see the light of day soon. In terms of a bigger expansion, I am certainly working on ideas! However, it remains to be seen if we will release a proper expansion yet.
Are you disappointed that you did not win the prize "Spiel des Jahres 2016" with "Imhotep"?
Actually, I was not that upset! I really enjoy "Codenames" and I think it was a very worthy winner of the award. Part of me was a bit worried that if I did win, I would be known as that guy who robbed Codenames!
What is typically for German board games in your opinion? ;)
For me, the "German" design style means:
- Relatively few rules so the game is easy to learn and works well with young and old playing together.
- Reasonably short playing time, usually not much more than an hour so it can be played in an evening.
- Constructive rather than destructive gameplay, so that the players mainly build something up rather than attacking each other's positions.
- And most importantly, the game gives the players many meaningful decisions that have an important effect on the game world. Rather than experiencing something happening (which is how I would describe much gameplay in older mainstream games), the players are directly causing what happens through their decision making and interactions.
I would also note that this style is quite different from games that often get called "euro games" today - longer, more complex optimisation games.
What is your favorite German board game and why?
Three games that got me into modern board gaming were "Lost Cities", "Carcassonne" and "The Settlers of Catan". They are all famous German designs that I will always greatly respect. Another game that I continue to find fascinating as a personal favourite is "Tigris and Euphrates".
A new board game called "Archaeology: The New Expedition" was published. What can you tell us about this product?
Archaeology: The New Expedition" was actually released earlier in the year. It is quite a simple set-collection card game about discovering ancient treasures. This version is an update of my first published game, "Archaeology: The Card Game". It was a great experience to go back to an old design, polish it up and add some new content. "Z-Man Games" also did an excellent job with the production and the new artwork is fantastic.
Do you will travel to "Spiel 16"? And what do you like most on this event?
Unfortunately I cannot make it to Essen this year. However, I have been once before and really enjoyed it! It was quite amazing to see such a huge convention just for board games, as the hobby in Australia is still quite small. I got to meet with a few publishers there, and was very appreciative of their openness to seeing prototypes and giving feedback. The German industry really seems very friendly to me!
Can you tell us secret information about products which are developed now and will be published in 2017?
Unfortunately there is nothing that I can reveal at this moment, but if all goes well I will have 1 or 2 new games coming out next year. I am still enjoying designing family-style games along the lines of "Cacao" or "Imhotep", so expect more from me in this area.
Is your activity as a board game designer "only" your hobby or your real fulltime job?
I have been designing games for almost 10 years now, and for most of that time it was very much only a hobby that I had to fit in around many other things. However, in the last year or so I have begun to see more sales of my games which has been great. So this year I have been able to focus on design for 2 days a week, which I am very thankful for!
Do you have wishes or dreams that concern board games?
I am motivated to create accessible games that bring people of different ages and backgrounds together for a great social experience. So I hope I can keep developing my craft and getting better at this. An even loftier goal is to create a game that plays a big role in getting new players into modern board gaming around the world. That would be a really fulfilling thing to be a part of!