Een tijdje terug kwam Cloud City uit in Nederland en niet veel later volgde Lamaland, Neoville en Explorers. Dit spel is bedacht door Phil Walker-Harding. Hem ken je ongetwijfeld van grote titels als Berenpark, Sushi GO!, Cacao en Imhotep.
Ik wilde wel wat meer weten over deze succesvolle bordspel designer. Ik nam contact met ‘m op en hij was zo vriendelijk om 15 vragen van mij te beantwoorden.
Scroll dus snel verder voor mijn interview met Phil Walker-Harding!
Even vooraf: Mijn blog is Nederlandstalig, maar ik kies er meestal voor om interviews in het Engels ook in die taal te laten. Zo weet ik zeker dat het antwoord van de persoon in kwestie, zo dicht mogelijk bij zijn intentie blijft.
Zou je het interview toch graag in het Nederlands willen lezen? Stuur me dan gerust eens een berichtje. Bij veel animo kan ik altijd eens kijken naar een vertaling :).
1 – Can you tell me something about yourself?
“I live in Sydney, Australia with my wife Meredith and cat Remington. We also foster kittens from our local shelter so we often have other cats in the house too.
I also work for my church where I help pastor a non-traditional congregation. Combined with game design, this makes for a very varied and interesting life!”
2 – When did you find out about your passion to design board games?
“Well, even when I was very young I used to make my own board games. Of course these were very simplistic versions of other games I had played, but I think I was always interested in how games work.
In the mid-00s I discovered the modern designs coming out of Germany like Catan, Carcassonne, and Lost Cities. I took to them right away and it seemed very natural to start designing games again as a hobby.”
3 – What do you think is the hardest part of designing board games?
“For me it is probably the middle of the process. Discovering a new idea and that it might work is exciting. Finishing off the design and tying up the loose ends has a feeling of accomplishment.
But often most of the time is spent in the middle phase, churning through small variations to make the game play well. This is the part that feels most like work, and it can be easy to lose motivation if things don’t progress for a while.”
4 – What would be your advice for new board game designers?
“I’d suggest starting out with relatively simple designs, like a one or two deck card game. You can learn so much from taking a design all the way to completion, and starting with a smaller scope can help you achieve this.
You will also learn a lot from just getting your game out there in front of players. So even if that means offering the game as a print and play, or on GameCrafter, or some virtual platform, the experience of getting real world feedback will be really valuable.
Finally, don’t see it is a failure to put a design aside. You learn a lot, and often even more, from games that don’t work.”
5 – Did you ever consider stop designing board games?
“Not really! It is something I really enjoy, and often find myself doing even in my free time. I am sure the balance of my life will change in the years to come, but I am pretty sure I will keep being fascinated by game design!”
6 – Cloud City was just recently released in the Netherlands. How did you come up with the idea of this game?
“A couple of years ago I was thinking a lot about 3D elements in games, and Cloud City was a design that came out of exploring different levels of height in a game.
In a lot of tile-laying games you are trying to connect different features together, and I thought it would be interesting to be trying to do this simultaneously on three different levels.”
7 – Most of the time, which one do you come up with first: the theme or the mechanics?
“Because many of my games are relatively simple, it is often one core mechanism that gets me excited about a design.
So for example, with Sushi Go! I wanted to make a simple card game entirely focused on pass-drafting. But this changes from game to game, and especially from genre to genre.
I recently finished a couple of party game designs, and there I was mainly thinking about the social experience I wanted to generate around the table, and the mechanisms and theme had to serve this idea.”
8 – Can you share some pictures of concepts or first drafts for some of your games, like Bärenpark, Sushi GO and Cloud City?
“Sure, below is the prototype of Bärenpark:”
“The prototype of Imhotep:”
“The prototype of Gingerbread House:”
“And the prototype of Cacao:”
9 – What are you favorite board games and what do you like about them?
“I like Race for the Galaxy because it does so many cool and involving things with just a deck of cards. The different ways to play and use cards lead to all sorts of strategies to explore.
I think Acquire is an all-time classic that had a huge influence on modern design. I think the emergent way the board grows and changes each game is really fascinating.
Blokus is a favourite abstract game and it taught me all about the characteristics of the different polyomino shapes.
Some other favourites are Carcassonne, One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Kingdomino.”
10 – Which of the games you created yourself, do you like the most and why?
“That is a tough question to answer! My favourite two to play are Gizmos and Bärenpark because I am not that good at them, so I find there are still things for me to explore in the gameplay.
Sushi Go Party was a real challenge to design with all those different card types, and I am really glad it ended up doing well, so that is another one I am happy with.”
11 – Who is your favorite board game designer and why?
“It would probably have to be Reiner Knizia. I have played more games by him than any other designer, and I feel I have learnt the most from him.
The way he draws depth out of relatively low complexity is something I will always look up to, and he is the master of using varied and creative scoring rules.”
12 – How many times a week do you play board games?
“Well, like most people my usual routine went out the door in 2020. But for the last couple of years I have played less than I used to because I have been so busy with design work. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but sometimes it is a sad reality of doing design as a job!
I would say I average one game night a week, with extra playtesting sessions thrown in.”
13 – Do you have many games? Or even better, do you have a picture of your collection?
“I have around 300ish. Below is a picture of the main section of my collection.”
14 – What does your workday look like?
“It changes a lot from day to day, and it can be pretty hard to get a strong routine going when you are a freelancer with multiple jobs.
Sunday and Monday are mostly doing church related things. But on a usual game design day, I will do some combination of business-related emailing, working on rules documents, making prototypes, solo testing, zoom meetings with publishers, and setting up playtests.
I try to vary where I work when possible, so I often pop into a local cafe for a different setting.”
15 – Are there any new games or expansions you’re working on?
“The Adventure Games series at Kosmos is doing well, so we are always working on the next title for that. They are lots of fun to produce but also lots of work!
A party game called Platypus will be coming out soon from Matagot, which is exciting. It is sort of my take on the Codenames/Just One genre of word games.
Nothing else has been announced yet, but I do have some expansions and spin-offs in the works which you should hear about pretty soon!”
Nu ben jij aan de beurt!
Uiteraard wil ik dit moment aangrijpen om Phil te bedanken voor zijn bereidbaarheid, tijd en moeite om mijn vragen te beantwoorden. Thanks Phil! Appreciate it :)!
Wil jij nog iets weten over Phil Walker-Harding? Stel je vraag gerust in een reactie, dan zal ik kijken of hij ‘m voor je kan beantwoorden!