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Designer Diary: Easter Quest

by Marcus Elghag

I finally got a game published!

I have designed a lot of games over the last 7-8 years, everything from very simple games for three- and four-year-olds to advanced games for, primarily, adults with game lengths of several hours. My games usually start out in the same way: an idea with notes. If I keep coming back to the idea, I start writing a draft for the rules, which helps me to identify problems that need to be solved. If the idea seems to hold, I start to create materials for the prototype.

Easter Quest did not go through that process.

Easter Quest was born when I played an old favorite from my youth, Labyrinth, with my daughter, who at the time was about six or seven. Since she was not old enough to play the game as intended, I created a kind of sandbox-style rules.

I created a labyrinth, and we took turns drawing a card and moving towards the treasure. Quite soon I started to challenge her to find the closest path, then since she found that quite easily, I challenged her to find the closest path before I did and voilà! The basic idea for Easter Quest was born!

Inspiration…

After some time, I created a prototype and a new theme. I thought of the game as a simple family/party game, so I created a theme that would hopefully appeal to that specific target group: You are all children of members of the mafia and need to run errands.

That would change when I got in touch with Arnaud. More on that later…

Warping

At the point where I began playtesting, I had six square board game parts that I used to create a random board game layout for every game. Paths needed to leave the game board in all directions so that I could connect the board game parts no matter how I placed them. That is how I came up with the idea that you can “warp” by leaving the game board at one end and entering it on the opposite side.

As is my habit, I started playing the game on my own to spare other people from the most obvious problems, then playtests began — but it was actually a quite solid game from the start so that went quickly.

Contacting Publishers

When I felt the game was ready, I started to contact publishers, a process I had done many times before. In December 2020, I heard back from Matagot, which had found my game interesting and wanted to try it out. I hurried to the post office and sent them my prototype.

During my years as a designer, I have gotten quite a few publishers interested in my games and sent them prototypes, but the process always stopped there. A couple of months later, however, a man named Arnaud reached out and wanted to book an e-meeting that could possibly result in a contract! My heart skipped a beat!

During the meeting, he said that he really liked the game but asked whether I could make it a children’s game, saying that he would like the theme to be about an Easter egg hunt. The theme was so brilliant that I almost felt stupid for not having thought of it before! Of course I wanted to change the theme to an Easter egg hunt. Making it a children’s game, however, proved to be more difficult…

Transforming a Family Game into a Children’s Game

I knew from previous experience that most kids who are five years old, which we had decided should be the target group, can move a meeple a specific number of steps. After a few playtests with kids of that age, however, I realized that they have a hard time counting steps on the fly, so the basic mechanisms needed to be changed.

Keeping the idea of being the quickest to locate the correct egg was a key element of the game and needed to be kept. After having tested a few ideas, I discovered that the variant the kids enjoyed the most was using a die to move, with the kids racing toward the eggs, one egg at a time. The player who first located the egg would be allowed to start rolling the die.

The idea of having a dual-sided game board — one for the basic/children’s game and one for the advanced/family variant — came naturally, mostly because we didn’t want to give up the original idea. The game board for the family variant needed to differ from the game board for the children’s variant because roads were needed to leave the game board at a few locations for the advanced variant.

We also decided to skip the modular game board for one bigger, static game board, partly to make set-up faster but mostly to be able to create a nicer-looking game board.

Game board for the family variant

Game board for the children’s variant

Now the hardest part was left: making the eggs not too hard to distinguish from one another, while at the same time not making them too easy to distinguish.

The illustrator had created eggs, so to handle this efficiently I created a couple of variations/sets. I then printed, for each set of eggs, both a sheet with small eggs and bigger eggs to function as egg cards. I then recorded the time that kids took to identify each egg, one at a time, from a specific set of eggs, noting the range from easiest to distinguish to hardest. From those results, I started major playtests with the eggs I thought would be best, and they held up really well.

Of course there were more decisions to be made before the game was ready, for example:

• Fixing the egg card’s layout and deciding which names should be used. In fact, three of the cards are named after my three kids: Liam (who still hasn’t played the game since he is only two), Eliah, and Liv (who had played Labyrinth with me).

• Determining the range of numbers on the die and how the die faces should look. Kids can more easily understand a number of objects than a numeral, so we ended up using footprints on the die.

• Choosing candy tokens and deciding whether they should be placed directly on the game board or in a “candy bag”.

• Testing a LOT of different labyrinths, that is, game board layouts.

• Adjusting the game board to make it easier to see which squares are connected.

• Proofreading the rules after my original rules had been used to create the nicer-looking rules booklet.

• Last but not least, settling on which meeples we should use, which led us to custom-shaped wooden meeples of the characters who are illustrated on the box.

Marcus Elghag

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