Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar from Restoration Games – Review

"Welcome to the fabulous Fireball Island, home of the mighty Vul-Kar. Days without incident: 11,007."

Theme and What is it?

*Note* Copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Welcome to the fabulous Fireball Island, home of the mighty Vul-Kar. Days without incident: 11,007. Venture into the wonderful terrain, beautiful vistas, and magnificent caves. As you explore, you’ll find some of the islands many treasures; collect all you can carry. Check out our fantasticl souvenirs; helpful in a pinch. Take snapshots from our designated photo areas; for the best memories. What’s that rumbling? Nothing, nothing at all.

What’s the giant statue on the hill, you ask? Why, that’s Vul-Kar, local legend. I assure you, it’s perfectly safe. If you get close enough you might even find Vul-Kar’s heart, a rare and mysterious gem. They say it’s cursed, but we all know that’s silly. Where’s all that smoke coming from? I’m sure it’s fine.

Once you’ve finished exploring head over to the landing pad for the Hello-copter. You’ll want to run out across the island to be the first one to see these amazing sights. It’s going to be quite a lot of fun. Fireballs, you say. No, I haven’t seen any fireballs.

Fireball Island: the Curse of Vul-Kar is a game of exploration and panic. You’ll cross the mighty island searching for treasures, snapshots, and souvenirs while trying to stay one step ahead of the rest of the players. Occasionally, (read all the time) you’ll find yourself launching, getting knocked over by, and dodging fireballs hurled from the islands various points. There’s also the mighty Vul-Kar, monolith at the top of the mountain, he hurls an ever increasing number of fireballs down the mountain towards you. Can you collect your snapshots, avoid danger, and return to the Hello-copter before the island rains destruction down upon you? Probably not.

Gameplay Mechanics

Fireball Island: the Curse of Vul-Kar is a quick game that revolves around card play and planning. You have a hand of two action cards and on your turn you play one card for its two parts. The first part is movement. Each card gives you a number of spaces you can travel across the island. You have to use the full move on the card, can start in any direction but can’t reverse course mid move, and follow any special instructions of the move. Usually, this allows you to gather treasure tokes, collect the necessary snapshots, and move to a safe(ish) location.

After you’ve finished moving you use the second part of the card; the effect portion. You don’t have to use the second part of the card, or even every part of the effect. These will usually result in rotating something on the board, Vul-Kar or a tree to try and give you some protection from the eventual cataclysm. You may also be allowed to flick one of the ember marbles placed around the board in an attempt to knock over one of the other players. You may also get to launch fireballs from the scar through Vul-Kar.

Some of the cards are labeled as Cataclysm’s. These cards are added to a special discard track after being played. When the track is filled with three cards a marble is added to the scar. The scar starts with one marble and will hold up to four. The more marbles added the more chaotic using Vul-Kar becomes.

If your piece is ever knocked over by a marble you can lose treasures, end up in a new location, or be pushed far from your goal. Getting knocked down also lets you draw a souvenir, powerful items that grant abilities to aid your visit. If you’re already knocked down and hit by a fireball or ember you don’t suffer any further penalty.

Once the scar is filled, or someone collects three snapshots the end game begins. From here it’s a race back to the Hello-copter and safety. Once everyone reaches the Hello-copter or two turns have passed you calculate victory points for everyone who escaped the island. Most points wins.

Initial Impressions

I was very excited about this game when I saw it announced on the Dice Tower at Gencon. I’m a huge fan of the original Fireball Island. I still have my copy. Restoration Games does an amazing job of updating older games to a more modern style and it gave me a lot of hope for this production. With nostalgia glasses firmly in place I have been waiting for this.

Game Build Quality

The production here is amazing. The board is fantastic. The engineering involved to give the island the sense that you’re never safe but you might be is great. The three pieces that make up the board fit together well. The trees are well built and sturdy. Everything fits together and comes apart with little effort so it can be stored easily. Card quality is very nice, you don’t need to sleeve them, but they will take to it well. The treasure tokens are all of good quality cardboard. Over all this is a top notch job. 

Artistic Direction

The art here is very well put together. Everything looks good. It has an intentional theme park feel to it that really adds to the play experience. The snapshot cards deserve a special mention. Each of the cards depicts a view of Vul-Kar from where the space is set on the board. This is a small touch that really fills out the game world.

Fun Factor

Fireball Island: the Curse of Vul-Kar is a frantic race for the end. You’ll be playing cards and moving around the board while trying to position yourself in the safest spot possible. There is an element of take that to the game but it’s easily mitigated by how the rules for getting knocked over are written. It’s also hard to get mad when your piece is knocked down because it’s just as likely that you’ll be missed as hit. I’ve seen someone launch four fireballs from Vul-Kar and miss everyone on the board but themselves. This may or may not have been me. 

Age Range & Weight

The box says 7+ and I’d say this is a pretty good range. I’ve played with my niece who’s 11 and a friends’ son who is 3. In both instances the game went pretty well. The 3 year old had a little trouble focusing and we had to count out his movement but he did love dropping the marbles and watching things get knocked over. While I would play with him again, I realize that it’s going to be more of an exercise in dropping marbles than in playing the game. My niece handled the game well and strategized a good game. Adults playing the game had a good time and found the effect of spilling the marbles pretty fun. 

Conclusions

I’ve been waiting for this game since its announcement. That said, I was ready for this to be a difficult game to translate. The original kind of sucks as a game and is really more of an experience. Curse of Vul-Kar is a fun game.

As I said under age, you can enjoy this game with people of multiple age groups. Adults can have just as much fun playing this as kids. The groans and cheers that issue from the table as marbles shoot down the various tracks makes the evening memorable.

They did a lot to update the game that really works. Vul-Kar went from having one opening to three meaning you’ll never know exactly what path fireballs will take down the mountain. Even the paths themselves are varied with multiple routes making it unclear of where you’ll end up when everything’s done. If you get knocked over by a marble you don’t stand up until you turn. This means you won’t have to pay any of the penalties for getting knocked over more than once a round.

They’ve replaced the original roll and move mechanic with card play that gives you some control over how you move about the island but since you only have two cards it keeps luck a factor.

Overall the game is a ton of fun and I’m looking forward to getting it back on the table again. I always recommend you try a game before you grab it and this is no different. That said, it’s worth putting forth a real effort to try this one. It’s that much fun.

Until next time. I’ll be waiting at the hello-copter pad for the next group of tourists.

Days without incident: 0