Small Business: Board games - Shem Phillips

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Games designer and publisher Shem Phillips. Photo / Supplied
Games designer and publisher Shem Phillips. Photo / Supplied

Shem Phillips has his own game publishing label, Garphill Games. His most recent, game Plethora, was funded through PledgeMe. Another of his designs, Saqqara got picked up by a European publisher and was released at SPIEL in Essen this year, the largest board gaming convention in the world. Shem's day job is running a digital garment printing factory on the Kapiti Coast called Print Mighty. He talks to Gill South

Garphill Games

In 2008 I started designing my own games. A year later I ventured out into the unknown by self-publishing my first title, Linwood, naming my publishing label Garphill Games, in tribute to my father, Gary Phillips. Since then I have released two more games, and had another, Saqqara, published by White Goblin Games.

It's hard to pin-point exactly how or why I became a designer. I suppose it's just another creative outlet. The great thing about game design is that it requires a good balance of creativity and number crunching.

I think this is what appeals to me about the hobby. I say hobby, because I am yet to make any decent money from my games. However, in time I think the market will begin to shift to favour the one-guy type publishing companies like myself. At this stage I am just aiming to release one or two games each year, and hopefully build a bit of a reputation and following from gamers.

Financing your games

One exciting development lately is in the area of financing self-published games. Crowdfunding is something which has been around for a number of years, but till recently has been just out of reach for us Kiwis. Luckily though, PledgeMe have stepped up and created a great platform to use.

In August I used their site to help fund my latest release, Plethora. Interestingly, of the 100 copies of Plethora pre-ordered, 16 were from outside NZ, and around 60 per cent of the pledgers were people I didn't know personally. Using PledgeMe's site, I was able to raise the money needed to produce a small run of games, without needing any other capital up front. I have plans to release at least two more games the same way next year.

The rewards
Saqqara is a resource collection/tech tree game themed around Egypt in the 8th dynasty. This was the third game I had ever designed, so I was extremely excited to have it picked up by an established publisher. It was released this year at Spiel in Essen. This is the world's largest game fair, drawing in around 150,000 people each year. So it is great exposure for young designers like myself.


Next week: the Christmas rush - for many SMEs this is the busiest time of the year. How have you prepared yourself for the silly season? What did you learn from last year? Email me, Gill South at the link below with your stories:

- NZ Herald

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