Diving into the Great Barrier Reef with Keith Piggott

Diving into the Great Barrier Reef with Keith Piggott

April 7, 2020 0 By Ryan Sanders

Interview with designer, Keith Piggott, on his new game, The Great Barrier Reef Card Game.

Thanks for joining us Keith to talk about your game The Great Barrier Reef Card Game. Could you tell about a little about the gameplay and goal? 

Keith: Thank you Ryan, and I would be happy to!  The Great Barrier Reef Card Game is a tableau builder where players compete to build the best reef by arranging fish in different ways to score points!  Each card is divided into quadrants with one of five different fish in each quadrant. Each fish scores in different ways such as arranging 3 in a row or 4 in a square.  When you play a card to your tableau, it must be played on top of one or more fish. A number in the corner of the card you just played determines which card you take into your hand to be played on a future turn.  There are also features on some cards that you can cover and then allow you to adjust the scoring up or down for the types of fish. So, four clownfish in a square may be worth 6 points at the beginning of the game but could end up worth much less or more depending on how scoring is adjusted by the players.

What is the story behind the creation of the game?  

Keith: The game was originally called Aquascape and was about building an aquarium.  It’s a theme that I enjoy – I’ve had many aquariums with all kinds of fish, and I thought it would have a really clean look on the table.  I really enjoy puzzly tableau-building games, but I also wanted to design something with a good amount of player interaction. The way scoring works in the game means each player has to pay attention to how other players are building their reef to do well.

Speaking of interaction, how will players interact in The Great Barrier Reef Card Game?

Keith: On some of the cards there are sponges and tiger sharks that score 1 and 2 points respectively if left uncovered at the end of the game.  If you cover a sponge you get to adjust the scoring up in value for one type of fish. If you cover an tiger shark you get to adjust the scoring up for one fish and down for a different fish.  So you need to pay attention to which types of fish your opponents are concentrating on to either adjust scoring down or try to piggyback off of what they are doing – let them do the work of adjusting the value up for you.


Travel Buddy Games, who is new board game publishing company, is putting it out. How did you get hooked up?

Keith: I met Josh, the founder of Travel Buddy Games at Origins last year, and he told me about some of his time spent in other countries.  When I heard that he was starting a company based on his love of travel, I was really excited to possibly be a part of it. Luckily I had a game that fit really well with what he was looking for.  

What has been your favorite part of working with them so far?

Keith: Working with Travel Buddy Games has been a great experience.  Josh brought in a really talented artist Rodd Lopes, and it’s been very exciting to get to see his artwork bring the game to life!

Design-wise, what was the biggest hurdle you faced in designing the game to what it is today, and how did you overcome it?

Keith: The game is meant to be a tricky puzzle, but I also didn’t want it to be too brain-burning where it caused the game to slow to a crawl.  I tried lots of different methods for players to get cards into their hands, and the mechanic of the card you play determining which card you draw into your hand ended giving the right balance.  Some turns you are playing a card to complete scoring patterns, and some turns you are playing a card to get the card you need into your hand – when you can do both in the same turn it feels great!


What was the best piece of advice a playtester gave you?

Keith: I think the best advice was to keep it simple.  I originally had some ways that you could move fish around after they had already been placed in the reef, and the method for getting cards into your hand was a lot more complex as well.  The game is meant to have some level of brain burn, but some of the ideas I originally tried took it from a thinky puzzle to overwhelming. I’m lucky to be a part of a good design group in Nashville that helped me chop the parts that just distracted from the fun.

What 3 adjectives would you choose to describe the gameplay of The Great Barrier Reef Card Game?

Keith: My goal for the game was to create something puzzly, elegant and fun.  Hopefully, people who play it will agree!

As we wrap this up, anything else you would like to add? 

Keith: I think that about covers it – thank you so much for letting me tell you about The Great Barrier Reef Card Game!  I’d encourage anyone who is interested in learning more to check out Travel Buddy Games at www.travelbuddygames.com.  It’s a great new company that’s combining the passion for board games and traveling the world in interesting ways.  Anyone who wants to follow along on my journey of designing games can follow me @kpiggottgames. But be prepared for bad dad jokes.

Thanks for taking time out, Keith, and doing this interview.

The Great Barrier Reef Card Game is on Kickstarter now: click here to be taken to it’s Kickstarter page

Ryan Sanders is the founder, owner, and editor-at-large of Adventures in Gameschooling. He’s also the guy behind its social media accounts. God has blessed Ryan and his wife Mary, with five children, which he homeschools. As a Christian, he believes that he should not only look out for your own interests but other peoples too (Philippians 2:4) and this is one of his guiding principles for Adventures in Gameschooling. Ryan’s expertise is informed by almost two decades of experience as a stay-at-home father and from the running The Inquisitive Meeple where he performed over 300 written and podcast interviews within the board game industry.