Back in March, Fanderson reported on the staggering success of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a Thunderbirds 50th anniversary co-operative boardgame. The campaign has since raised more than ten times the original goal of £20,000 and has expanded to include a number of amazing special extras that have got fans of the original Thunderbirds very excited!
We caught up with world-famous game designer Matt Leacock and owner of Modiphius Entertainment, Chris Birch, to find out more about the game…
It is described as a ‘co-operative boardgame’ where the players get the chance to test their skills as members of International Rescue. Can you tell us more about how the game works? Will we get to play as our favourite Tracy brother or International Rescue craft?
Matt: In Thunderbirds, you and your friends take on the role of International Rescue – a secret organization formed to render aid when all other means have failed. Meanwhile, your arch nemesis, The Hood, is threatening to trigger terrible disasters around the world in an effort to learn your secrets. If you can foil his scheme while completing your missions, then you and your fellow players win the game!
Each person plays a different character in the game. For example, you might be Scott Tracy or Lady Penelope. All the different characters can operate any of the different vehicles. You might load up the Mole, fly Thunderbird 2 to Tracy Island, then hop into Thunderbird 3 with Alan and dock with Thunderbird 5 in Geo-stationary orbit. You’ll use all of the vehicles to complete different missions around the world and in outer space. And you’ll be continually weighing the threat of any of these individual missions against the overall danger of The Hood’s scheme.
Were you aware of Thunderbirds before you started working on the game? Did you have any memories of the original series?
Chris: I remember drawing Thunderbird 2 and Thunderbird 1 in kindergarten – I got very good at it and used to avidly read the old Annuals so I loved the fantastic cutaways showing the secrets of the Thunderbirds and Tracy Island, and it fuelled a lot of my imagination. I had the early vinyl records (I was born in ’67) and I remember lying on the landing where the record player was under a table listening to the sounds of take off on the headphones again and again – just writing that has made me remember the massive bulky headphones we had! I had the Dinky toys too but missed out on the plastic Tracy Island (though have often looked wistfully at it when I spot it on Ebay!)
How long will it typically take to play the game? Who is your target market?
Chris: Anything from 30 – 60 mins, It’s really aimed at geek mom and dads who love Thunderbirds, and you can play it with the kids or just your friends. It’s really aimed at crossing over and exciting another generation of younger fans, whilst keeping us older Thunderbirds fans satisfied with a really fantastic game.
Matt, how did you get involved in designing games. Is it as much fun as it sounds?!
Matt: I’ve been designing games since I was a kid, but was only able to pursue it as a career recently after several of my games took off. Yes, I’m enjoying it tremendously. It is a fair amount of work, but the people in the tabletop industry are great and I’ve really been enjoying the products that I’ve been working on so far.
(Also for Matt) You have designed a number of other hit games, including Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Island. Could you briefly tell us the premise behind these games?
Matt: My first published game, Pandemic, is a cooperative game where you and your fellow players work together to save humanity from the threat of four deadly diseases. Players take on different roles that have different powers in the game. For example, you might be more effective at treating disease, finding cures, or dispatching your fellow team members around the globe. Players must work together and make the best use of their powers to have any hope of winning. Pandemic, while easy to learn, offers a challenging, heart-pounding experience and plays in about 45 minutes.
I followed up Pandemic with two other cooperative games, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. In Forbidden Island, you and your team must find 4 treasures – before you drown – as the island you are searching is continuously sinking beneath your feet. In Forbidden Desert, you and your team have crash landed in the desert and must excavate a legendary airship, assemble it, and escape before you die of thirst or are buried beneath the sand. The “Forbidden” games make excellent gateway games – they’re simple enough for kids to learn, but can be set up to be quite challenging for adults.
How does it feel to have been given the license to produce a Thunderbirds game in this, the show’s 50th anniversary year? How closely have you been working with ITV during the design process?
Chris: Well it feels amazing, frankly. From lying there listening to Thunderbirds records and drawing it as a kid, to seeing the 3D sculpts come to life and working with the team to bring such a fantastic visualisation of International Rescue to life as a board game, it been an incredible experience. ITV have been ever so supportive and we’re really excited to have them working alongside us. They could see we had a real passion for the show and so trusted us to get on with it. We played a game with them recently to show them how it had come along and they loved it!
Did you go through many design and game concepts before hitting on the right one? If so, how did these earlier ideas differ from the final product?
Chris: Well, the rules went through so many versions, and I suspect we’ve generated as many sketches and plans as Brains did in his lab! Matt has a great eye for game design though and we’re not that far off the very first prototype I saw in Birmingham about a year ago. Playtesting has fine tuned it to be a really engaging experience that ‘feels’ like watching several Thundebirds shows.
Is there a realistic chance of further Gerry Anderson games in the future? How would you feel about making a Captain Scarlet 50th anniversary game soon?!
Chris: Well, Captain Scarlet was my other favourite, if I had the chance to make a fleet of SPVs now that would be something. I guess we better watch that space. SIG!
You can keep up to date on all the latest news as the the game nears release on the Campaign’s Kickstarter page.