The Talent behind Targi

by @favouritefoe

Interview with Andreas Steiger

With the world marking the first anniversary of Lockdown, board game designer, Andreas Steiger, has noted the occasion in his own way by releasing a free print and play addition to his two-player worker placement game, Targi (2012, published by Kosmos Games UK).

Hi Andy! Thanks for chatting with me today.

Having done a little research, our board gaming backstories have something rather unusual in common – childbirth! I used a board game to help me with anxiety during pregnancy, and you jumped into board gaming proper when your wife was finding your usual hobbies too exhausting when carrying your first child (which I understand completely!). Had it not been for your wife, do you think you would have discovered your passion for playing and designing board games?

If it was not for my wife’s pregnancy, I don’t think I would have discovered board games in the same way. Even though I played as a child with my mother on Sunday afternoons, and later as a teenager playing Uno and Settlers of Catan with friends, these experiences did not turn me into a hobby gamer. I even worked in a shop which also sold some board games but still I didn’t jump in! The main driving force was the desire to spend quality time with my wife, and it has stuck.

Great to hear that you are still enjoying board games together. So, for those who aren’t familiar with Targi, how would you describe it?

On Boardgamegeek, a member once wrote that Targi is a game that feels like dancing tango.... in a phone booth! 😊 To me, that describes the feel of the gameplay perfectly. It is a very tight worker placement game for two players, where every move has a huge impact on the round.

Haha! That is exactly how it feels to me when I play with my husband – exquisitely, sand-in-your-pants uncomfortable haha!

I will say right here that I am a huge Targi fan. It is practically everything I want in a tense, tight, two player game, and the worker placement model is very unique. Even now, nothing seems to come close in terms of the way in which players’ pieces intersect. Did you come up with the placement formula first and then design a game around it, or was the way in which the workers intersect a means of making the other elements work together?

I am very happy that you like Targi! The worker placement formula came first. I like board games which offer players a lot of decisions within a simple rule set. Also, as a big fan of worker placement (WP) games generally, I definitely wanted to use that mechanism in my own design.

In a classic WP game, the placement of one worker normally gives the players one action or resource. The decision/action is therefore resolved the moment you choose and take that one spot. My design goal was to add another layer of decision making, so that one choice would not only effect that action but two or more at the same time.

My first idea in Targi was to work with just rows of cards, so that if you placed a worker somewhere on a given row, you could claim those cards for yourself. Going further with this idea, I decided it would be even better if you could claim a row and a column to the exclusion of your opponent. But the moment I saw how the grid could actually work using my intersection mechanism, the game really started to shine. Suddenly, you could potentially claim cards within a row or column for yourself. But then only one or two cards at most, and only if able to place your second and third workers in the precise spots you needed. Not knowing whether you have secured the cards you want until all 6 workers are down is intense!

Added to that desire to pick spots in order to secure the best goods and tribe cards in the middle, players must also work out which bonuses/actions they actually want or need through their choice of border cards, adding another tense, sometimes contradictory, decision!

Ooft - tangoing in a phone booth indeed! 😊 Targi could be considered quite a “mean” game by some gamers, though, in terms of the restrictions placed upon each player by not only their opponent but also the game itself via raids and the Robber. Where did the desire for that double layered challenge come from?