We had the chance to speak with Peter Hazlewood from Board game Hub ahead of the release of James Emmerson’s first game Tranquility. Board Game Hub will be launching Tranquility on Kickstarter on November 2.
1) What is your first gaming memory?
My first proper gaming memory has got to be playing Beetle Drive with my parents and older sister. This seems to be a party game-style roll and write game these days but we had a proper 3D version of threading legs, arms etc onto our beetles' bodies. I know we played Snakes & Ladders and Ludo when we were very young but recollections are vague on that score!
Wow! I have similar memories and I know my wife was a big fan of Beetle Drive.
2) A lot of people recently have been discussing their shelf of shame/pile of potential. Have you any games on your shelves that you haven't played yet, that you're excited to open?
Ha. The good old pile of shame is my preferred term because what’s the point in buying games and not playing them? But of course they also offer potential, so I guess that’s okay too! Unfortunately, I do have a few unplayed games in my personal collection. There are good reasons for some of those, like they’re fairly recent purchases or a bit in-depth for regular game nights.
The one I really want to get played is Legends Untold. I demoed it at Dragonmeet in 2016 and have been excited the whole way through the long Kickstarter project to get the game printed. My only issue is the volume of rules which, from a design point I understand; they’ve basically crammed nearly a whole RPG into a card game. But I’m struggling with long rulebooks at the moment so the boxes are sitting there unloved at this time.
I can relate! I have a few unplayed games as reviewing so many new titles takes its toll on my normal gaming. Although this is a nice problem to have!
3) Your new game Tranquility is due to launch on Kickstarter. Tell us a little about Tranquility, what’s it like and how does it play?
Tranquility is the first design by James Emmerson and is a really engaging co-operative card game that, when put simply, is about filling a grid with ascending numbers. However, when you're placing a card next to one already in the grid you have to pay the difference between the two numbers in cards. You also can't communicate with your fellow players so it's an interactive, and rather intense, puzzle that also requires clever hand management. The fact that no-one else can see what you're discarding adds a delicious tension; any player at any point could have just lost everyone the game and may not even be aware of it!
The game is clearly fairly simple to understand and play, but it offers increasing difficulty and depth so is suitable for everyone from non-gamers and young families to seasoned gamers. Non-gamers would play the standard game first off and might win, but could easily lose. Seasoned gamers are encouraged to use some of the variants or expansions that come in the base game and I tell you...it can get very hard!
4) I love the artwork for Tranquility. It got me thinking: What comes first with a game like this, the concept and imagery or the mechanics?
Thanks for the kind words about the artwork. I was recommended Tristam Rossin by a mutual acquaintance and gave him some rough parameters to work with and out of it came this amazing artwork. I wanted the game to look great upside down as well as the “normal” way round and that’s where this reflection style came from.
In the case of Tranquility, the game mechanics came first. I somehow wangled an invite to the UKGE Publisher-Designer speed dating event from Richard Denning, a great supporter of my involvement in board gaming thus far, and this is where I saw the game for the first time. It was called Hush! at that point and the prototype was basically a themeless deck of numbered cards (plus the other special cards required to make the game work). The name Tranquility, and a whole theme based on islands and ships, came organically from the artwork. James sent me a message saying that he absolutely loved the artwork but that he wasn’t sure that Hush! fit it any more and that we should re-theme the game to fit the scenes on the cards. He was absolutely right and that’s where the theme came from.
5) What are you most looking forward to when people start to play Tranquility?
I think you can tell a lot about a game that gets better the more you play it and that’s exactly what’s happened for me with Tranquility. I thought it was solid and quite fun the first few plays but it really does just get better and better. There is an incredibly large number of different strategies and tactics that you discover as you play and encounter different situations. I’m still learning intricacies and new ways of playing it even after 20-odd plays and I’m not even including the variants that change the gameplay quite dramatically.
So, what I love seeing is people sitting down to play it for the first time and witnessing them experience the same process. In most demos people immediately want to play again afterwards, whether they won or lost, because it’s very moreish. I can’t wait to hear from people who’ve played it a few times and discovered some of those hidden layers.
6) How long does it take you to get from the first idea to now, when your game is almost live on Kickstarter?
I can't tell you how long it's been to go from first idea to this point. You'd have to ask James how long he'd been experimenting with the game before I saw his prototype at UKGE 2019. However, we signed a contract near the end of July for Board Game Hub to publish Tranquility. That means it'll have been four and a bit months to develop from prototype to starting the Kickstarter campaign. Then likely another 3-4 months until people have it in their hands.
7) The artwork is amazing and matches the theme perfectly, what and or where do you find tranquility?
Well, honestly the stress of starting a business has meant tranquility is harder to find at the moment! I’m at my most contented and tranquil when out walking in the countryside with my wife. I don’t tend to get out there much when the weather’s bad, and with a young daughter, but the most peaceful place for me is Dartmoor. Ruggedly beautiful but often deserted.
Thank you Peter for taking time out at what is clearly a busy time. We're looking forward to playing Tranquility some more. We wish you all the best for the Kickstarter campaign. Tranquility will be launched at midnight on November 2. Make sure you go and check it out!