Keeping it simple.
My objective was to keep the game simple but to ramp up the game mechanics so it was engaging, challenging but still easy to understand. The book I was illustrating was about a puffin who went on a boat journey discovering new islands, so with those assets in mind it was an easy leap to develop it into a delivery game. I didn’t want to stop there, it had to be more engaging that deliver cargo A to point B. If I know one thing about children, it’s that you need to keep their attention and that you need to engage them on more than one basic level. It also had to be a relatively quick game, as a parent I’d much prefer to play a couple of short, 20-30-minute games than a monopoly type game with grumpy, overtired children after three hours of gameplay. It had to be a game that starts with the quote “Shall we get that great game out and have a quick play?”.
I developed the mechanics of the game further, the player controls a character in a boat, so the boat will need looking after. As you make a delivery the boat get’s lighter and faster. If you damage your boat, you take on water and the boat becomes slower. The next mechanic where simple event spaces, landing on one of these spaces meant picking an event card. I developed a dozen cards which either help or hinder the player, these range from whirlpools and coral reefs that block areas of the map, to friendly airmail pelicans who will deliver one of your parcels for a price.
Finally, to cap it off I needed a currency (fish of course) and shops. This enabled the players to buy items that could counteract certain events, these range from a compass to help you in the right direction, should you come across a whirlpool to a dolphin whistle which allows you to call a dolphin to guide you across the coral reef.
OK, so I had my basic idea, I had some graphics from my book, it was time to start creating the game. I’ve always been an all or nothing designer. I rarely create roughs, roughs are ideas in my head and I generally know where they’re going. So, I started created what would be the final art from the off-set. I don’t necessarily recommend this approach, it’s just the way I work when I’m my own boss on a project, I much prefer some finished art by the end of a day that 100 rough sketches and I was confident in the direction it was all heading.