Home Interview Interview with Thunderbirds: Danger Zone creator Andrew Harman (part 2)

Interview with Thunderbirds: Danger Zone creator Andrew Harman (part 2)

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Based on the classic British sci-fi television series, Thunderbirds: Danger Zone is a fast-paced cooperative family card game! Using characters and missions from the original TV series, players work as a team to avert disasters worldwide and beyond. Players take turns as Jeff, deciding what resource needs to be deployed and where. Players might use their cards to help get the right amount of fuel Scott needs for a rescue or to deliver the tools and gadgets needed by Lady Penelope to chase The Hood. Only Jeff can make the changes needed to ensure success. Every moment counts and if the numbers don’t add up vital time will be lost. Can you work as a member of the International Rescue Team, save those in peril and bring everyone home safely?

This new co-operative card game is now available to pre-order from the Official Gerry Anderson Store (for release in late August), and Jamie Anderson recently caught up with designer Andrew Harman to discuss the game & its creation. (Part 1 of this interview is available here!)

So the episodes that you’ve chosen then for the game, why those seven? What was the driving force behind that decision?

 Well, one of them, I felt like we just had to have – Trapped in the Sky! That’s because as a five-year-old, I think when I started watching, the landing of the Fireflash sequence with Virgil driving the elevator cars is just stunning – and just so exciting! So from an emotional connection point of view, I just had to get Trapped in the Sky in there. But other episodes were chosen because I wanted a range of difficulties or lengths in the game. So what we’ve ended up with now is working nicely. The simpler episodes can be completed in about 20 minutes and the longer episodes that have got more complexity take about 50 minutes. So there are some quite straightforward episodes in a way you can boil Fireflash down into, how do we land this thing? We don’t need to look at in this game, how we got to that stage.

So for a simpler mission like Trapped in the Sky, we kind of jump straight in at the end of the episode: It’s the climax! But once I started looking into other episodes… I realised how brilliant the writing was and how complex some of the storylines are. When you look at an episode like the Imposters or Terror in New York City, there’s an awful lot going on in those. And they lent themselves more to being longer, more detailed missions for the game. So for the final selection in Thunderbirds: Danger Zone, it goes from the simplest one, which is End of The Road, which picks up right at the moment where Eddie Houseman is trapped in the truck and it’s saving him from falling off the cliff. And we end up with the most difficult mission being The Imposters, which is quite a big, chunky episode with lots going on, lots of subplots and lots of moving parts!

Fantastic. So it feeds into the natural connection to the original show and to the accessibility and the increasing difficulty. So what is in the game itself? When you open the box, what can people expect to find inside?

You will find 110 cards, which are made up of a little core area, which is Tracy Island. You will get a whole bunch of resource cards, so these are the driver in the game, and these are the ones with all sorts of different amounts of fuel, tech, team spirit and knowledge. And that’s the currency of the game, the cards that you’re playing. So to play the game you arrange the cards in a little deck for the episode – the mission cards. So starting with the simplest, you’ve got End of The Road. There are only about three mission cards all the way up to 15 cards for the Impostors. 

And then there are little cardboard tokens to represent some characters including Jeff and to represent success. So when you’ve actually done part of the mission, you put one of those tokens to say “we’ve done that! We’ve got Scott fueled up over the Sahara Desert” or whatever. It’s entirely card and card tokens.

And it all looks great! Gorgeous package art by Marcus Stamps, and cards designed by Mike Jones. Let’s go from the good to the bad and the ugly! What was the greatest challenge that you faced in this whole process?

The greatest challenge was keeping it simple, I think! I do get carried away but I’m just always trying to keep in mind the fact that this will hopefully be played across generations. So it needs to be understandable by an eight-year-old and an 88-year-old. It just needs to work like that and to be understandable and playable by people who are not massive experienced in gaming. So keeping it simple is the constant mantra for me actually.

Keep it simple, stupid, as they say. From the frustration or the toughest stuff to the most enjoyable thing or the most surprisingly pleasant thing, you found out about Thunderbirds during this experience?

The most enjoyable thing was just geeking out on all the stories! It was just rewatching it all and going “wow, that’s just amazing!”. And just because I’ve had to analyse in detail the seven stories that I chose, just recognising how complicated and in-depth the writing was. Some of these episodes, like the Imposters, are six or seven-act movies in the space of one episode, it’s delightfully complex. It’s lovely. And looking at the transcripts of the script, you realise how characterful the words are, just laid out on paper, but also how much information is given across so quickly. It’s really nice, precise screenwriting. It’s brilliant. And it’s appreciating that from a slightly more adult and more analytical way of looking at it and humour as well. Yes, I’m geeking out on Thunderbirds.

Very few people get to have a job which means they have to watch Thunderbird episodes! But since this is a Thunderbirds game, I’d like to round things off with a ‘quick fire five’ so I’m going to give you five things about Thunderbirds and I want you to choose your favourite one of those things. 

Uh oh.

Number 5: So give me your favourite Thunderbirds location… it could be a regular fixture or an unusual one from one of the episodes.

Favourite location. I think it has to be the South American jungle, the San Martino Valley! That image of the Crablogger just ploughing its way through is seared in my memory! 

Number 4: Who is your favourite villain, be they recurring or one-off?

Oh, well, I mean there can be only one. I mean it’s the Hood, of course.

I thought you might go there.

Well, some of the other ones are really nice, like the Erdman gang and then just doing bad things. But no, it has to be the Hood. Those eyes.

You’re only allowed one! 3: Okay, your favourite story from all of the episodes! It can be one from the game or one from outside the game, but you can only pick one of all the 32 episodes.

I think the Impostors because it’s a complete mess up of the normal format. It’s not just a straightforward  “we’ve got to get out and save somebody in peril”. It’s the exact opposite. It’s the fact that you’ve got the criminals breaking in to steal the plans, which then locks down the whole of International Rescue. And I think it’s the only time you see Jeff getting really grumpy! And there are lovely personal interactions. And then add to that the sort of espionage side that Lady Penelope brings to actually find the gang. And it also hints at all of the wider world, too. If there’s agent 47, who are the other 46? Where are they? It’s just such a broad episode. It’s just lovely.

2: Your favourite character, you can only pick one.

I think Virgil.

Ah, good man. Man, after my own heart there.

Because if there was a way of transporting my consciousness into being one of the characters, he seems like the one who has the most fun. He’s got the best gadgets.

Yes, he does all the work, he’s got the vehicles, and the gadgets, he paints, he plays the piano, he drinks cocktails. I mean… what a life!

Absolutely.

That was the correct answer, Andrew.

Yay!

And finally, and prepare to make some enemies here when you decide this… 1: your favourite vehicle from all of Thunderbirds and there may only be one.

It’s the SPV from Captain Scarlet. No, no, it’s got to be the Mole. I mean, that’s just…

Really?!

Yeah. I think that was one that fascinated me the most because it’s all from my childhood. Reading science fiction, doing all this stuff about the land that time forgot and underground stuff. And you could use the Mole to explore and find underground dinosaurs because that’s what was going on in my head.

No, that’s cool. It’s like the Thunderbird 4 of the ground, isn’t it really?

Yes.

Okay. Nice. Excellent selection. Not the usual, but I think that’s a good sign that you’ve delved properly into the world of Thunderbirds. Then just a final thing: are there any parting words you would like to offer to people reading these words or to people who might be thinking about playing the game or maybe even bought it and awaiting it or are on the fence?

I just hope it is the most enjoyable it can be. I’m really proud of what I’ve done here. And I think it’s one of the best games that I’ve done. It’s taken me as a designer in a very, very different way of playing games or designing games and I’m just really happy with it. It just works in so many ways. And I think that’s partly because of the way it’s true to the original episodes. When we were play testing and when we’ve been showing it off in previews, one of the things that people have said compared to the Matt Leacock one as well is, just that this is true to the original and they got so excited. And the fun had playing it is remarkable. It’s a really good laugh. We’ve had people going, “oh God, we’ve killed Eddie Houseman again!”

Well, that’s always going to bring joy to people’s lives, isn’t it?

And it wasn’t a jealousy thing about Tin-Tin! Actually… One of the things that we haven’t really touched on is that you can fail this and it’s designed to be really, really tight. But if you do fail, then there’s no reason why you can’t come back again. That was one of the challenges – making it so that it didn’t feel wrong to not succeed, but it’s always nice and perilous and you always end up feeling that you could or should have done something different. And it’s the pressure of being really close to the wire right towards the end where you’re going, “well, what do we do? Do we bring in Tin-Tin or fuel Fireflash?!”? 

So I think if you want a game that is really simple to play with lots of interesting crunchy choices, this is it. I’m really, really proud of that. And there are people like this who don’t know anything about Thunderbirds, you don’t need to know anything about Thunderbirds to play it, which is lovely.

Brilliant, but that must be a testament of a good game if you can know and love the show behind it and enjoy it or not know about it and enjoy it, so that’s kind of cool. Yeah, that’s a feather in your cap, I guess.

It’s a lot of hard work, but I think it’s good. I just hope more people… I just hope as many people as possible enjoy it.

I’m sure they will. Andrew, you’ve done a FAB job!

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