Z-Man, Stronghold Games founders lead star-studded launch of new board game publisher Play to Z

Z-Man Games founder Zev Shlasinger has teamed with fellow board game industry veterans including Stronghold Games founder Stephen Buonocore to launch a new publishing house called Play to Z.

Shlasinger, who left WizKids in June after seven years with the business, will be president and COO of the company, with Buonocore acting as chairman. Buonocore launched Stronghold in 2009, and served as its president for many years before stepping down in 2020.

Play to Z’s board of directors includes Space Cadets designer and TableTop Games Designers Association co-founder Geoff Engelstein, GAMA treasurer Nicole Brady, games media content creator Ruel Gaviola and BGG.con event organiser Jeff Anderson, among others.

The company’s debut game will be a new edition of 2011 Z-Man release Ascending Empires, a dexterity-based strategy game which sees players flicking their ships into space to expand their empires and exploit planetary resources.

Ascending Empires: Zenith Edition is slated to launch on Kickstarter in Q1 2024, promising modular gameplay, more than 100 plastic miniatures, two neoprene play surfaces and many minor updates to the original game.

Shlasinger said, “Play to Z carries the same philosophy I have had in my two decades in the industry: to publish the most fun, engaging, and especially unique games.

“Bringing together this group of game industry veterans as investors and advisors, Play to Z is positioned to become a major force in hobby gaming.”

Play to Z’s full roster of board game veterans comprises:

Zev Shlasinger: founder of Z-Man Games, former Director of Board Games at WizKids
Stephen Buonocore: founder of Stronghold Games, game media personality, entrepreneur
Geoff Engelstein: game designer, author of several books on game design
Timm Metivier: owner of Meepleville Game Café and Dice Tower West game convention
Marcus Ross: game designer
Nicole Brady: GAMA Board of Directors/Treasurer, toy & game media
Scott Brady: game designer, game industry marketing
Ruel Gaviola: game media content creator
Jeff Anderson: BGG.con and BGG@Sea event organizer
Isaac Shalev: game designer, author of books on game design
David Gordon: game designer
Ryan Neumeyer: game media content creator


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