Game Review: Interview with Designer Phil Walker-Harding

In our last blog, we wrote about the fun we had playing Imhotep: Builder of Egypt, an Egypt-themed game where players work together to build miniatures of Egyptian monuments like pyramids, temples, and obelisks. The creator of the game is Phil Walker-Harding, an Australian game designer who designed other popular games such as Sushi Go and Archaeology: The New Expedition. We met up with him by electronic owl mail and asked him about his inspiration for designing Imhotep.

Imhotep: Builder of Egypt

Nile Scribes: What was your inspiration for designing Imhotep?

Phil Walker-Harding: I have always had a interest in archaeology and particularly in ancient Egypt. I am sure it stems from a childhood love for Indiana Jones, The Mysterious Cities of Gold animated series and watching documentaries about the pyramids on TV. As an adult I’ve looked into these topics a little more seriously and done a bit of reading around them, although I’m sure my understanding is still very glamourised and simplistic!

I’ve been particularly fascinated by the question of how the pyramids at Giza were constructed. So when I started designing board games, this seemed like an excellent theme to investigate, and that was the starting point. I knew that I wanted the game to use large wooden blocks with which you actually built structures on the board. Once I started playing around with these game components, the structure and mechanisms of the design gradually came together.

NS: Are you planning any future Egypt-themed games?

PWH: It is definitely one of my favourite settings for games! Quite a few of my prototypes actually start out with an Egyptian theme in the very beginning. It has mystery, treasures, puzzles, risk and reward – all great elements to have in a design in its early stages. I have been working more seriously on a couple of other games with archaeological themes, but I’m not sure they will ever get to a point where they will see the light of day. Although, I did get to revisit Imhotep with an expansion for the game called “A New Dynasty”. It will be out in English later this year.

A prototype of Imhotep in the works by Phil Walker-Harding
An early prototype of Imhotep by Phil Walker-Harding

NS: Did you consult a specialist on ancient Egypt when you designed Imhotep?

PWH: The design didn’t delve into enough historical detail to require much proper research beyond my basic knowledge about the period. However, it was the publisher Kosmos, who came up with the title for the game, and when they suggested it I did read up on the fascinating figure of Imhotep. I agreed that it was a great fit for the game. 


Photo of the prototype courtesy of Phil Walker-Harding.