This Tranquility review was made after playing the game six times (4 two-player games and 2 three-player games).
What is Tranquility?
Tranquility is a limited communication card game in which you’re attempting to work together to put cards in ascending order. Thematically, you’re attempting to chart a path so you can get your ship back home safely.
Tranquility is all about cooperatively filling up a 6×6 grid with cards, but the catch is that you can’t discuss strategy with your teammates or talk about the cards you have in your hand. The cards are numbered from 1 to 80 and by the end of the game you need to fill in the 36 spots with cards going in ascending order from the bottom-left of the grid to the top-right. The cards are evenly distributed so each player has their own deck and you’ll have a hand of five cards throughout the game.
You have two options each turn: play a card or discard two cards.
When you play a card, you can place it anywhere in the grid as long as it is higher than the card closest to it on its left and lower than the card closest to it on its right. If there are any cards directly adjacent to the card you place, you need to discard the difference between your card and the card numerically closest to it. For example, if you place the 54 next to a 52, you have to discard two cards.
When you discard cards, you put them face down in your own discard pile. That way no one knows what you’ve discarded and you have to try to remember the cards that are no longer available.
Each player’s deck has a Start card and there are also five Finish cards mixed into the deck at the beginning of the game. Whoever draws their Start card first has to place it next to the grid and the group has to collectively discard eight cards; this is the only time you’re allowed to talk to your teammates since you have to decide how many cards each player is going to discard. The only way for someone to play a Finish card is if the entire grid is filled at the start of their turn.
You’ll win if you place the Finish card. You’ll lose if any player can’t perform a legal action on their turn.
The game comes with three mini expansions that make Tranquility more challenging. There are also some other variants on BGG.
For more info on how the game plays, check out the Tranquility rulebook at BGG.
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- I played Tranquility with two other people and we all agreed that the art is the highlight of the game. The images pop off of those cards and they look great once you’ve filled up the grid. Plus, being able to place the cards on their morning/day sides or their dusk/night sides allows you to tell a slightly different story each game.
- My favorite part of Tranquility, gameplay-wise, is the mini memory game that’s going on throughout. Trying to remember which cards you’ve discarded is pretty tough and it puts some pressure on you because you could potentially leave room for a card that you’ve already discarded.
- I think the mini expansions are solid. They don’t add in too much extra complexity, but they do change things up and they make the game more challenging. I especially like the Storm & Compass variant, which adds cards that lower your hand limit and tweak the placement rules.
- You’re not going to run into any alpha player/quarterbacking issues here. You can’t talk to each other, so you can’t tell each other what to do.
- To me, there’s barely any tension in the first three-quarters of the game. I wasn’t expecting a game called Tranquility to be too stressful, but for the most part I’ve found the early-game decisions to be pretty obvious and then there’s a bit more pressure later when the grid is filled up and there are fewer placement options. Those mini expansions help, but even with those included you pretty much know what you have to do during the early game after taking a quick look at your hand.
- Limited communication games generally have less player interaction than other types of board games, but this game has pretty much zero player interaction. You’re really just playing cards where you can and hoping that your plays don’t mess up your teammates’ plans. This is another reason why the tension level stays pretty low.
- Those little square cards are tough to shuffle.
Tranquility is a very relaxing and pretty challenging cooperative game, which is obviously what the designer was going for, but it’s just not my type of game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good time playing it and I think the art is excellent, but I like my co-ops with a bit more oomph and player interaction. Still, I might keep this on my shelf for a while because I know plenty of gamers and non-gamers who definitely prefer this type of chill game.
If you’re looking for a relaxing co-op (or solo game), there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy playing Tranquility and you’ll get plenty of plays out of it. If you want a limited communication game with more tension, I’d recommend The Mind and/or Hanabi.
Update: Tranquility was added to our Best Cheap Board Games page!
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Be sure to also take a look at our Best Cooperative Board Games list and other rankings.