Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday 31 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Tranquility

Game: Tranquility

Publisher: Board Game Hub

Designer: James Emmerson

Year: 2020

Tranquility is a cooperative card game for 1-5 players, in which players set sail on a journey through paradise. The game embodies its title in two ways – first the beautiful artwork, from artist Tristam Rossin, really sets the peaceful tone, but, more importantly, the game is played in silence.

Each card features a scene of an island, depicted at both day and night. By placing these cards in a route of ascending order, you’ll create the pathway for a beautiful voyage, hopefully before time runs out. Tranquility is a first publication from James Emmerson, and it launches on Kickstarter on 2nd November 2019.


At the start of the game, every player will be given an equal share of the deck, along with one 'start' card to be shuffled into their deck. Players will then draw a hand of 5 cards and take turns playing one card at a time into the central 6x6 grid without communicating their plans to each other. You can place a card anywhere you like into the grid but the cards must go in ascending rows from start (bottom left) to finish (top right). If a card has an immediate neighbor (or two) then you must additionally discard a number of cards equal to the numeric difference between it and its closest neighbor. After playing you draw back to 5 cards and the next player will play. Alternatively if you cannot play then you can discard 2 cards to pass your turn.

In order to win the game you must fill the 6x6 grid and additionally have played a start card and a finish card. The start card must be played if you have one, and when played the group must discard a total of 8 other cards between them causing your decks to run out faster and you to potentially lose useful cards. A finish card can only be played as the last card in the game in order to win the game, but otherwise has no special rules, they make good discard fodder early on, just don't discard them all! If any player is unable to play or discard on their turn as they've run out of cards then all players will lose the game.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

I feel compelled to start this review by talking about the wonderful art in Tranquility. The numeric cards are all given a double-sided picture of an island during the day and during the night. While these pictures are not unique there are enough of them that you'll only be playing 3-4 of each island during the game. Since they are clustered by numbers this gives a sense of your progression across the sea, spending a long night on a snowy island before setting off to a lush forested island etc. The included mini expansions also contain wonderful art, with the dripping tentacles reflecting in the moonlit sea being a spectacularly threatening sight.

The core gameplay in Tranquility is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. There is certainly a different feel to the game as it progresses. Early on you start plotting out the building blocks of your travels. Sure, I'd like to visit the desert island so I'll plop a 45 around here, then a 21 a row and a half earlier, ooh a 3 I'll put that in the second slot. It's all very pleasant. But sooner or later your gird starts filling up, which means you start needing certain numbers. That 3 you placed now demands a 1 or a 2 be placed before it, and if you draw one of those at the same time a start card is played do you dare discard it and hope that the other one turns up at some time? Since you can't communicate freely you can't plan your placements, placing the 43 behind that 45 seemed like a great plan but suddenly your partner is groaning because they had the 44! Now they can't play on their turn. So they have to discard, but their deck is running suspiciously low!

Still, the way Tranquility is tuned you should have a relatively easy time completing it so long as you don't make any disastrous moves. As a pro tip, it's far better to build in an alternating pattern: card, gap, card etc and then fill those gaps in later. If you fill the board card by card you'll be discarding far more cards along the way. That's where the mini expansions come in. While these do various things to make your life harder, perhaps my favourite was the shipwreck. With this you must, every turn, place the wreck somewhere which will stop the next player from placing in that slot. This allows for a little bit of unspoken communication. Did she put the wreck there because she has the perfect card for that spot? Or was it simply because she had to place it somewhere and she's now frustrated my turn randomly? Overall, Tranquility is a lovely cooperative puzzle/card game that gets a tiny bit more stressful than the name might imply! It's well worth checking out when the Kickstarter launches soon!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Tranquility is a really elegant cooperative game. It's quite easy to compare it to the mind, because the goal of the game is to play the cards (1-80 or 1-100) in ascending numerical order without communicating, but unlike The Mind, there's a lot more rules to frame your experience. Additionally, there's a lot of lovely artwork in the game, and whilst the game is still themeless, you do create a really beautiful, rolling panorama as you play your cards out on the table.

Tranquility is a challenging cooperative game. Of our four plays, we've only won it once and that was on the easiest difficulty (technically not the recommended difficulty for experienced gamers). It's easy enough to modify the difficulty by removing cards from the deck, but additionally there's a significant number of mini expansions in the box that add lots of different restrictions. Some make it kind of easier - allowing you to block a row, which could mean you've got a perfect card for a slot in that row. Others definitely make the game harder and do add some complexity.

I think the only drawback with Tranquility is that the 6x6 grid does become a bit of a table hog. If it weren't for that, then I'd definitely be packing it as a perfect travel game. It's rules light, and the kind of cooperative game that I think has a broader audience than games like Pandemic that have the 'quarterback' or 'alpha-gamer' problem. After the easy rules, there's still a lot of strategy in the way you lay out cards and the cards you choose to discard, as well as a bit of memory in trying to recall what you've thrown away and whether you need to compensate as part of what you're laying out on the table.

You Might Like...
  • The artwork of Tranquility really makes it stand out from the crowd.
  • You really need to learn to group think and work out a logical way to work together.
  • The variety of expansions in the box add lots of different options and levels of difficulty.
You Might Not Like...
  • The need to not communicate could make it more challenging with a younger audience.
  • It can be a bit of a table hog,

The Verdict
If you're looking for a unique cooperative game to play with friends or family, that doesn't suffer from any alpha player problems, then Tranquility is a really nice alternative, especially for those who didn't feel like there was enough game in The Mind. The artwork is beautiful, the gameplay is simple and yet there's a really good logic and memory puzzle in there. It's a really great small box game to add to your collection. 

Tranquility was a prototype kindly provided to us by Board Game Hub. It launches of Kickstarter on November 2nd 2019.

1 comment:

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