Creature Quest: A “Negative” Review

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If you’ve been around here a while, you probably already know that we’re a huge board gaming family. (I’ve been sharing board games all month on Facebook Live!). One of my most popular posts is this huge list of board games and the skills they review.

A reader who saw that post comment to let me know that she had a game I could add to the list – a game she created herself! Now, I’ve created a few game, but they’re the kind you print on your home printer. This game is the real deal! I was excited to get a copy of Creature Quest so that I could try it out and give you a peek at it!

A Truly “Negative” Game

I wasn’t kidding when I said that this is a “negative” review. But that’s not because Creature Quest is a bad game. It’s because Creature Quest is the first game I’ve ever seen that actually has players interacting with both negative and positive numbers in a visual-spatial way.

Game play is simple. You start out on the player board at -7. You move in a positive direction (towards zero and beyond) hoping to be the first player to reach or exceed 21 and win the game! But be careful that you don’t fall back as far as -21 or you will encounter Medusa and be turned to stone!

Creature Quest is the first board game I've played that engages with negative numbers. It's also the first chance I've had to interview a game designer!

The game has a mythological theme with illustrations of creatures like medusa, trolls, the gray sisters, and a cyclopes. A deck of playing cards provides in-game story and also instructions for moving. During his turn, a player draws a card, follows the instructions on the card – perhaps answering a math question, perhaps making a choice – and moves accordingly.

I first played this game with my seven year old. Though she hadn’t had any direct instruction about negative numbers, she was familiar with them from discussions we’ve had about temperature. Through the game play and pawn movement, she easily became familiar with the concept of positive and negative number and movement in a positive and negative direction.

Behind the Creature Quest Scenes

I’ve played lots of games with my kids. And I’ve seen a lot of games that foster learning in a natural and organic way. THIS is the first time I’ve ever had a chance to interact directly with the designer of a game! Once I had a chance to try out the game, Suzanne Player, the creator, was interested in my feedback. And I was interested in her story about how it all came about.

Suzanne was kind enough to share with me a bit about what it’s like to design a game!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background working with children and learning. (i.e. parenting, teaching, homeschooling?)
While I haven’t taught in a classroom setting, I did teach piano lessons for seven years through college (European History major) and law school.  I have a 5th grader and I love spending time with her after school reviewing her math and working on math skills or whatever else she is doing.  She goes to a great school, but recently she volunteered that she would love it if I homeschooled her.  I have not done homeschooling myself but I feel like I get my “fix” teaching after school!
2. How did you come up with the idea for Creature Quest?
I zeroed in on negative numbers because I remember vividly how bizarre they seemed when I first learned them in school.  It was a real mental stretch to subtract a negative from a negative, or use them in multiplication!  How much easier would it have been if I had a manipulative or diagram to make it more relatable and concrete.  By simplifying negative numbers into visual form on a game board, I hope to make them fun and easy for kids.  I’d like to help lay the foundation for the more complex ideas surrounding them later in their studies.
3. Was this a solo endeavor or did you work with family/co-workers?
I came up with the concept and design for Creature Quest on my own, and it has been a solo project, except for some input on the graphics by the artists involved.
4. Did you play-test with your family or friends?
I have done game testing, with great results.  The kids get it right away.  My favorite testing session was at my child’s grade school the day before a recent break for vacation.  I am always interested in hearing about ways we can improve the game.
5. Tell us a little about the game development process. How long did it take to design? How did you go about getting it printed/published, etc.?
The game development process has been long and without searching my records, I am not sure exactly how long, and it has evolved in lots of ways.  Every step involves massive research – which you would think takes only a few clicks with the internet but it is actually quite time consuming. 
For example, the search for artists was an extensive one, because there are so very many good ones on the internet.  You really have to take the time to look at each of their work individually by going on their pages to see if it will fit the style you want.  Then, you can contact many you like only to find out they are unavailable or only do children’s book illustrations or just don’t want to work with a small company or new game designer.  Some illustrators, like David Wiesner, really just do their own projects.

More Information

You can find out more about Creature Quest and Amazing Whiz Kids on the web as well as on social media …

Suzanne loves feedback on her game and is always interested to hear from those who have tried it. You can get in touch with her via the Contact page on her site.

Also, Suzanne has been kind enough to offer our readers a $10 discount on the purchase of Creature Quest using code ‘WOWHEELS’!