The story of Z-Man Games could be titled, “How a Hobby Got Out of Hand and Turned Into a Successful Business.” Zev Shlasinger started the company just to rescue his favorite CCG, Shadowfist. And now, 11 years later, Zev is publishing some of the hottest games in the hobby market. Agricola contends with Puerto Rico for the top spot among Eurogamers. Pandemic gets a lot of attention for addressing a unique modern theme with challenging cooperative play. I asked Mr. Shlasinger to what he attributes his success?

I’m just doing what I like and I guess being a gamer, maybe I understand when a game has merit enough to be published (or to join/license an internationally produced game).

What, then, does he enjoys the most about being a publisher, and what does he enjoys the least?

The aspect of business I like the most is all the people I have met and the places I have gone. Plus, if I do my job right, I make a lot of people happy. The least is running the day-to-day operations required to keep a business running.

But keeping it going is something Zev seems to be doing well. According to the company’s latest newsletter, Z-Man has 31 games planned for release in 2010. Zev, how do you do manage all those projects?

Sometimes I wonder that myself! I’ve just been doing it for so long it just seems natural to me. Sure, some things slip through my fingers but I’ve been juggling things pretty coolly.

Z-Man Games’ products cover a wide range of styles. There’s the B-Movie Card Games, the Euro-style games such as Reef Encounter, abstract strategy games like Arimaa, adventure games like Tales of the Arabian Nights, games for kids, games about politics, games for two players, games for large groups, even a couple of war games. What differentiates Z-Man Games?

Well, the differentiation is in the variety of games in the catalog. I don’t do one-type of game. I like many different styles or genres of games and that is reflected in my publishing.

Another thing that differentiates Z-Man from other hobby publishers at this level is that the company continues to accept public submissions.

Yes I still do: I don’t have an in-house staff so in order for me to get new material I need to see designs by others. I get a lot – I think I average 20 submissions a week (if not more). I never did the math on how many I publish – it’s not an exercise I wish to spend time on: I concentrate on whether I like a game or not. For the foreseeable future I see myself still accepting submissions.

Don’t think that Zev is chained to his desk, though. I’ve noticed that he attends quite a few conventions, both big and small. Does he ever tire of it?

I love going to cons. I have met so many different people, been to so many different places. I have cut down in the last couple of years to spend more time at home with the family. But I probably average 8 cons a year.  I love both sizes of cons actually and the comparisons is usually are usually in the scope of people and business that attend. As for events, I’ve been to smaller cons that had many events, seemingly more than some larger cons. Overall I think I like smaller cons: it feels less stressful being an exhibitor, and I get as much if not more gaming time in. Though if I attended a con strictly as a gamer, as myself and not representing Z-Man (at least not as an exhibitor, chained to a booth, it would be a tough call as to which type of con I’d like: there are some regional ones I’d do over a larger one and some larger ones over some regional ones.

So Zev, the next time I see you (probably at Gen Con or Euro Quest), after badgering you for news on your latest releases, I’d love to play a game.