Shem Philips has designed quite a few games, but probably he’s most famous for his design of the “North Sea” saga games. Three games that are tied thematically together. His last game in the trilogy of games includes an extra expansion that can give you complete experience by playing all the games in sequence. Here’s your chance to get to know a little more about the man:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I live on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand with my wife and two daughters. Aside from designing and publishing games, I also work full-time as the operations manager at a garment printing factory.
What’s your favourite game?
The one I haven’t played yet! Haha. But seriously – some of my favourites are Citadels, Asara and Pandemic: On The Brink.
What game would you use to introduce new people to the hobby?
Forbidden Island, Ticket to Ride and Lanterns.
What’s your best game experience?
Myself and three guys were at Wellycon a few years back, playing some Manila. One of my friends got so badly into debt that we were all laughing so hard, we actually cried. To top it off, when trying to take the lid of the marker to write down on the table what we’d played, my other friend took about 10 seconds to realize there was no lid. Instead, he’d be slowly colouring the inside of his hand black. There were more tears of laughter. The funiest part was the fact that we were four grown men crying, while surrounded by about 100 war gamers. Good times!
What is the most important aspect of playing games for you?
I like a good balance of fun and mental stimulation. But ultimately it’s about the people you’re sitting down at a table with.
Why do you design games?
It’s just another creative outlet for me. I’ve been writing and recording music for years too. I enjoy designing games because it’s a nice blend of art and mathematics.
What are you most proud of?
I think Raiders of the North Sea would be my proudest achievement so far. Just because of the unique mechanics and overall design of the game.
What is the most important part of making a game for you?
Making something original and fresh. I don’t want to be know as a copycat.
Do you usually like to start from the theme or mechanics?
Usually mechanics, quickly followed by theme. But lately that’s started to switch. Raiders was my first design that started with theme.
Where do you find your inspiration for new game themes and mechanics?
Playing other games is key. Not to steal bits, but just to look at things in a different light. Different ways to use cards or dice – that sort of thing. Apart from that, I just do a lot of thinking – trying to dream up new concepts.
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