It's been a while since I wrote a blog so this is long overdue. First, let's address the elephant in the room: Tranquility is still undelivered to backers thanks to coronavirus largely shutting down our green and pleasant land since March. Dice Sports, our manufacturer, have done their best to continue some work at home, such as putting together the boxes, but even when they return there will be a lot of work remaining. It's no small job printing 4,700 card games. Then there's just the small matter of shipping these games all over the world!
So, lockdown has been interesting from a publisher's point of view. Obviously, physical playtesting is largely out (except for within our own small households) but we, along with many others, have been making use of technology such as Tabletop Simulator to experiment and test. James, a maths teacher by trade, has been making use of a little more free time to develop new games.
This is Lilypads, a litle solo/co-op puzzle game designed with social distancing in mind. Playtesting is nearly complete so once the rules are finalised, we'll be getting some artwork done and aim to launch a pure print-and-play campaign on Kickstarter as soon as possible. We'll share more details on this when we can.
For ease of explanation, I'll describe the solo game. The co-op version is, however, very similar. The player is trying to complete objectives relating to differently-coloured lilypad cards. The lilypads are randomised and laid out in a 3x3 grid. They are double-sided with different colours and abilities. On your turn, you move your pawn onto a card to take the action e.g. flip a card. Then the player reviews the current objective to see if they've completed it. (If yes then move the objective to the side and draw the next card; if no, leave it in place). Then advance the frog one space. He starts in the bottom left and moves up the grid (from left to right and bottom to top) before reversing this journey once he reaches the top right. The game ends when the frog arrives back on the bottom-left card.
The frog blocks you from using a card ability, as does the player marker. (The player must take a different action than last turn). And that's basically it! It's extremely simple, mechanically, but provides an enjoyable challenge. Because the lilypad and objective cards are randomised, each game will prove very different. Objectives are given between 1 and 3 VPs, depending on the perceived difficulty in achieving them, and the player will need to score a certain number of points to "win". After that, it's just a case of scoring as many points as possible.
Our next game for full publication is Fabricate (working title), a rather brilliant dominos-style game for 2-4 players. James and I have been developing this since January when the idea arrived, nearly fully-formed, in James' brilliant mind during a short break from demoing at Meeple Summit in Scarborough. Thanks to expert assistance from a growing cast of supporters the base game looks rock solid so now we're just working on some extra bits and pieces in the vain of the mini-expansions in Tranquility. We hope to have this on Kickstarter in Q3 2020.
Players have a hand of rectangular cards with 1 or 2 colours/patterns. On your turn you must place a card anywhere into the grid, including partially or completely overlapping other existing cards. If you manage to match one or both colours on the card you placed with coloured tiles already in the grid then you may either score points or increase your multiplier(s) to increase your scoring potential for later in the game. If I choose to score points then I count the number of tiles of the colour (or colours) in that conjoined area and multiply by my score multiplier for that colour. If I choose to increase my multiplier then I just move my multiplier for that colour (or colours) up one level, no matter how many tiles are in the conjoined area.
Again, this is not a tremendously complicated game but it has a really enjoyable trade-off in the gameplay where you're trying to create large areas of colour to score points yourself whilst trying to stop your opponents from doing the same. We've seen that different strategies can win the game and it scales up brilliantly from 2-4. (With 2 players you use a 4x4 grid and 6 colours whilst the 3 and 4 player games use a 6x6 grid and 7 colours). At the moment, our focus is on finalising some small extra modules and a variant to give loads of replayability in the box.
Last but not least is Void Zone, the first design by Robert Elliott. We've actually been working on this together since October 2019; it's a highly tactical game with a lot more moving parts and balancing required so development is, consequently, taking longer than for our other projects. We've playtested it at multiple conventions (pre-coronavirus) and continue to test it using Tabletopia/Tabletop Simulator.
For 2-4 players- we're working on an automa for solo play but it isn't guaranteed to be included at this point- Void Zone is a robot sport where the players attempt to be the last robot(s) standing in this battle royale-style arena knockout game. On their turn, players may use three different actions, or the same action twice. These range from simple movement across the arena to placing shields, draining energy and pushing your opponents around. And at the heart of the game is the arena itself which crumbles around the robots. It provides energy for the robots during the game but eventually that energy is lost and the board will be covered in void zones (areas of no energy) where robots will be removed from the game.
Again, the base game is absolutely rock solid now. It's been tested so extensively that we're very happy with it. The main emphasis of our development is now on unique player powers that not only add incredibly cool abilities, but also aid the replayability a great deal. We'll be including quite a few of these powers in the box- Kickstarter backers will get to provide input on several KS-exclusive powers- and they all need lots of testing and balancing. We'll be looking for players interested in blind playtesting Void Zone (and Fabricate as well) in the coming weeks and months to aid in this endeavour. We're also working on a 'house robot' who adds a new tactical dimension to the game as well as increasing interaction in this already highly-interactive game. I tentatively put this as launching on Kickstarter in Q4 2020 but that is definitely subject to change.
So there you have it. You can see we've been busy even without Tranquility and I can't wait to share these games with you. Wishing you all the best in this challenging time, Peter