Tranquility Card Game Review
WBG Score: 7
Player Count: 1-5
You’ll like this if you like: The Mind, Hanabi, Magic Maze
Published by: Board Game Hub
Designed by: James Emmerson
Close your eyes, relax. You're on a boat drifting calmly through the tranquil seas with nothing but the sound of the ocean gently lapping at the side of your boat to disturb your peace.
Aaaahhh bliss. Then, out of nowhere a sea monster attacks and you’re startled from your chair rushing to the controls of the boat just as a storm starts tossing the boat from side to side and soaking the deck making the trip to the helm all the more treacherous. The sea monster submerges back into the depths and you breathe a sigh of relief. But what’s that? with the rain still lashing down on the window you can barely make out the shape of JAGGED ROCKS!!!
You swerve to narrowly avoid them, the storm suddenly eases off and the seas calm and you're left to go back to your calming trip, if you can.
Some nice calming rules
To set up tranquility lay out the border cards so they make a six by six grid inside them (so essentially an eight by eight border). Shuffle the five finish cards into the main deck. Then deal the cards out as evenly as you can to all the players. They then shuffle one start card each into their draw pile. Each player then draws a starting hand of five cards.
On your turn you can either play a card into the grid or discard two. The aim of tranquility is to complete the grid and have the start and finish cards out as well. Each card has a number on them from 1 to 80 and the numbers will be placed into the grid in ascending order from the start card to the finish. They will need to be placed from left to right on the bottom line then right to left on the second etc etc.
When you play a card it can be placed anywhere in the grid. If you place a card next to another one then you have to discard as many cards as the difference between them. So, if you put a three next to a five you’d discard two cards. If you place between two cards then you discard based on the number closest to the card you just placed. You can’t however put cards next to each other that would make you empty your hand.
When the first start card is drawn then It must be played on the bottom left of the grid. Players then collectively discard a total of eight cards. When the grid is complete then if someone has a finish card in their hand they can play it to the end of the grid to win the game.
Players lose the game if one player can not legally play any cards on their turn. There is of course a little twist here in the fact that players cannot communicate what cards they have in their hand other than when they are discarding cards from the result of a start card being drawn.
A game of tranquility?
Games of Tranquility tend to start off exactly as the games name suggests, Tranquil. You place cards down in the grid with some degree of thought but knowing that the whole deck is out there in either yours or your teammates hands means you haven’t got that many worries.
Sooner or later one of two things will happen that will start to ramp things up. First, someone will draw a start card causing all players to discard eight cards between them. It’s here and only here that you can communicate with your team. Even then you now know that eight potentially useful cards have definitely been discarded and now the game takes its first terrifying step into the unknown. The second thing will come as the grid starts to fill up and you need to start playing cards next to others and discarding others. It’s here that the tension starts to mount and the decisions over which cards to discard becomes increasingly tougher. Its also where the games inbuilt timer starts to tick down at a much faster pace. It’s all well and good discarding those one or two cards that don’t quite fit yet, but you’re also relying on your teammates not to have done exactly the same thing!
The most difficult card to discard though is those finish cards! There are only five in the deck and as these get shuffled into the main deck and dealt out, you have no idea where they’re distributed amongst the players. Sure discarding one seems fine at the time, but if you’ve had that thought, then chances are so has everyone else. You wont find out if that’s the case thought until the time comes to play a Finish card at the end of the game.
Limited or no communication games are becoming more popular and you either love them or you don’t. If you don’t then I don’t think Tranquility will change you mind but the non-communication rules is what makes this game. First off it stops any alpha gaming and puts the decisions solely in each player's hand, for better or for worse. If you’re someone who likes an alpha gamer because you have someone to blame if you lose then be prepared to take responsibility for your own actions. It’s this simple rule though that brings the tension. Any sort of discussion and this game would just be a simple puzzle of laying cards in a grid and, let’s face it, probably wouldn’t be much of a puzzle.
Similar to playing a game like The Mind, whenever you lay a card down you can’t help but look around at the other players with a grimace on your face hoping that you’re not scuppering another player's plan of placing a better card in that gap. You tend to run the gamut of emotions into this game from “argh why did you play that card there, you’re never coming to another game night” all the way to “thank you for playing that card there, I take back everything I said about you” A good placement for another player could be all you need to give you more options of which cards to discard from your hand.
As mentioned before, the game is on a timer and the more cards that are played down and the more that are discarded the quicker the timer runs down. There’s nothing more tense in this game than seeing the cards quickly run down only to look up and see a load of empty spaces that still need filling.
The power of the sun, in the palm of my hand.
The first thing you’re obviously going to notice about the game is the small box. This is literally just a box of square cards and the rules. With more and more discussions about the amount of unnecessary “air” in games boxes, it’s nice to see this perfect sized box being used. I think this is something that everyone involved in this decision should be applauded for.
Don’t let the small box fool you though because this can be a bit of a table hog. You’ll essentially be making an eight by eight grid of cards and it tends to take up way more space than you expect. The other thing I will say is that, if you’re playing on a regular table the border does have a tendency to slip and that can throw things off. Even a miscount of the border cards during setup can throw the game off and you may have to reset. Trust me, I know this from experience!
It’s strange because as much as I love the portability of this game and I wouldn’t change a thing about this production, I think all of that would be improved with the play mat……which would then defeat the object of having such a portable game. Maybe I’ll pick it up just for home use. (Play mat available here when stock comes in)
This is a great puzzle and whether you play it solo or co-op, each brings something different to how it plays out. In solo mode the game is a battle with yourself and the entire deck of cards. It may sound like it’s going to be a bit easier since you're in charge of all of the cards and surely you know which cards you’ve discarded right? Well yes, to a point but that doesn’t mean you won’t discard something early on thinking it won’t matter, only to realise a few turns later that you really could have used that card.
More variants than the multiverse.
So, you’ve played the game a few times, you’ve got some good strategies and you’ve probably won the game a few times. That’s it, you’re done with it, put it up for sale or trade right? Nope, because Tranquility comes with eight variants that include different board set ups, a competitive game and variable difficulties. That of course is not including the Stormy seas expansion cards which have Jagged rocks, sea monsters and the storm and compass. I don’t know about you but that’s a heck of a lot of game stuffed into one tiny box.