Taking a short break from the disaster movies (truth be told, a huge glut of non-disaster movies I enjoy have come out on DVD recently, and I've been spending some time with them). I wanted to share a quick review of a disaster boardgame. The Downfall of Pompeii is a game, originally released in Germany in 2004, that allows players the chance to populate the city of Pompeii...and then try to escape the city when Mt. Vesuvius blows it's top.
Opening the box, you get a smallish, but well illustrated board. The volcano is a really nice plastic cone that rolls up, and fits into a space in the corner of the board. The cards are nothing special, but functional. The tiles of lava are very sturdy, and thick and will last quite a long time. My only quibble with the components are the villagers. They are abstractly represented by little barrels. I realize some folks may have issues with actually sacrificing mini-people (known in the boardgaming world as meeples) to a volcano, but I honestly feel like small people would enhance this game quite a bit.
The game is broken into two main sections. The first part of the game, the players have cards, and they are trying to get as many of their people into the city as they can. At first, it's a slow process, but after a couple rounds, it is possible to bring several people into play at a time. The volcano warns those in the city that trouble is coming, but they ignore the warning signs. Even when, on occasion, one of their loved ones is taken away because of an "Omen" card. So, the first part of the game is pretty easy, play cards and populate the city. In the deck are two volcano cards, once the second card hits...then the fun truly begins.
Once the second volcano card comes up, the volcano erupts. The rest of the game is a race for survival. On your turn, you first place a tile of lava onto the board...hopefully right on top of one (or more) of your opponents hapless souls. Then you get to move two of your own villagers, and try to escape from the city. The rules for this section are slightly more involved than the card section of the game, but for most people they should not be too hard to grasp. If, more properly...when, your villagers "encounter" lava, they are tossed into the volcano. There is something very satisfying about tossing an opponent's villager into the volcano...just don't be surprised the next time around when you see one of yours go in. Once either all the villagers are out of the city, or all the exits are blocked by lava; the game ends and whoever gets the most people out is declared the winner.
There is a little more in depth than that, but not a whole lot. I find this a great game to introduce non-boardgamers to one of my other hobbies. On average, the game takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to play, and the rules are easily grasped I feel by anyone 10 and up, so it is actually a good family game...if your family is the kind that finds glee in throwing people into a volcano. The biggest flaw I can find with the game is that it only plays up to 4 people. Maybe it is a sweet spot for the game, but I think a larger board, and up to 6 people could absolutely be a riot.
The Downfall of Pompeii is probably one of my top 5 favorite boardgames I have played in the past couple years. It has fast gameplay, a lot of "take that" (which is rather rare in most of the European-style games I enjoy), and is just a lot of fun to play. This game gets a very solid A from me this time. If you'd like more information, please check this link to BoardGameGeek.
Next time, I don't have a plan yet. I think I'm going to bring a list of disaster movies I own to my co-workers, and let popular vote decide what movie I'm going to review. I am crazy like that.