Olivia Wasilewski and Brynna Siewers are two eleven-year-old girls who hold a distinct claim to fame: they are the inventors of a fun board game called “Ship of Treasures” which was awarded first place in the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG) “Young Inventor Challenge.” After winning the contest in 2016, their game was officially released by Pressman in 2017. Now sold at Target, the game will soon make its debut at ChiTAG on November 18 and 19, 2017.

Olivia Wasilewski and Brynna Siewers recently granted exclusive interviews where they discussed their experiences crafting this game.

Games, pirates, and contests

Meagan Meehan (MM): What first inspired you to enter the ChiTAG contest?

Brynna Siewers (BS): Our Advanced Learning teacher, Mrs. Julie McNamara assigned it as our fall quarter project.

MM: Did you make “Ship of Treasures” for the contest or had you designed it prior to the call for inventors?

Olivia Wasilewski (OW): We designed it as a project for school which included the optional entry into the Young Inventor Challenge, but everyone in the class enters the challenge. It is an annual project for the 4th graders in our school. Our school actually won three out of the four prizes we were eligible for the year we won.

MM: Why did you select a pirate themed game and who figured out all the moves and rules?

BS: We wanted a game that appealed to both boys and girls, and everyone likes pirates. We also wanted to do a scavenger hunt type game and pirates are always looking for buried treasure. Most of the moves came with the original game, but the added under the boat moves came after we worked with Pressman. We worked on writing the rules with the people at Pressman, Jeff Pinsker, and Kelly Adams, but most of them were original rules from our school project game.

MM: What do you consider to be the most fun aspects of “Ship of Treasures?”

BS: We love the cards. We worked really hard on the partner cards and the sayings on the cards. We did a lot of pirate research so they could be authentic, yet unexpected.

Characters, awards, and the future

MM: This game contains interesting characters and lots of little playing pieces, so who designed those?

OW: The original game had what we called bombs and treasures. Our original pieces were just colored game board pieces, and while we worked with Pressman, we changed them to pirates and renamed the bombs cannonballs, so it was more pirate like. The two girl pirates look like us, so we had a lot of say on what they would wear and what sidekicks they would have. The other two characters were our mentors from Pressman and Target, Jeff Pinsker is the yellow peg-leg pirate, and Mark Thoma is the blue character.

MM: What was creating the prototype like and how different was it from the finalized version of the game?

OW: The prototype was a huge cardboard box with flaps and paint markers, but it looked like a ship.

The game now is much smaller and is made of plastic, but all the rest is the same right down to the location of the colored Xs.

MM: What was it like to win the award and did you help Target change the game’s design at all?

BS: We hoped we would win, but we were shocked. We were speechless for a moment. We did add some things to the game, but it was Pressman Games that helped in the game development, Target has the marketing side for “Ship of Treasures.” We added the treasure maps and some under boat moves and refined the cards with Pressman Games.

MM: What sorts of things have people said about this game and what’s it like to see it on store shelves?

OW: Most people say it is so much fun and that they love to play it with their family and friends.

It is awesome and surreal to see our little school project game on Target shelves.

MM: Do you plan to keep on inventing in the future?

OW: Yes, we hope to keep inventing!

MM: Is there anything else--game related or otherwise--you wish to mention?

BS: “The Ship of Treasures” journey had been an amazing experience. I learned so much from each person that helped us with the game. I hope everyone who plays the game loves it as that is the best reward for all the hard work. We also decided to donate 10% of our proceeds to Lurie Children's Hospital in memory of our friend, Sofie Shields, who passed away in February.