Try to survive one of history’s greatest natural disasters and help your family escape the city before Pompeii is buried by the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
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|The Downfall of Pompeii||Mayfair Games||Board Game|
In The Box
Yes, there is a volcano in the box. It’s a nice piece of what feels like celluloid, decorated to look like the overflowing sides of Mount Vesuvius when wrapped into a cone shape. Tabs in this piece make it easy to deconstruct, which you’ll need to do for storing the game between play sessions.
Aside from this cool model volcano, the contents of Downfall of Pompeii are quite eclectic. Small wood pieces represent families moving into Pompeii during the first phase of the game. There is a set of smallish cards marked somewhat mysteriously with numbers, colors, and symbols. Square cardboard tokens drawn from a cloth bag show the flow of lava after Vesuvius blows its top, and everything happens on a beautiful game board depicting the doomed town of Pompeii.
How It Plays
Setting up to play is an interesting process. The Downfall of Pompeii has distinct phases triggered by special cards showing the eruption and the date of the disaster: A.D. 79. Instead of shuffling the entire deck you’ll separate the cards into distinct groups that are shuffled and then neatly stacked. Players choose a color and receive wooden pieces they’ll try to move into the city before the eruption. This happens in a very intuitive way as you play cards matched to the color of buildings throughout town. Each time you play a card you can place a family member in a matching building that still has room.
After the first A.D. 79 card shows up you’ll know that the eruption of Vesuvius is imminent. At this point family members can move in their relatives, making it easier to populate the city. You’ll also occasionally draw an Omen card that lets you cast an opponent’s family member into the volcano. Historical context: Things are getting crowded and dangerous in Pompeii. Once the second A.D. 79 card is drawn, the volcano erupts and begins spewing lava, symbolized by players drawing and placing one lava tile each turn.
The endgame is a combination of strategically placing lava tiles and moving family members out one of the many city gates as quick as possible. Blocking other players or swallowing their wooden pieces with lava is good strategy, and kids will love that game pieces are thrown into the volcano as they’re removed. Movement rules are smart and encourage you to keep family members together in groups, or to move with other families. A “dual vent” variant makes it easier to place lava tiles, once you’re up to speed on the basic game. Blurring the line a bit between abstract and thematic gameplay, The Downfall of Pompeii is great fun for families or game groups that like a mix of strategy and tactics.
A really high quality production that works well for younger players, who will love the mad scramble at the end of the game. There’s a bit of luck in drawing the cards, but this mostly just adds variety in what is otherwise a deep title that plays well with two, but gets much more interesting with three or four.
A game that will be unique each time you play, with all the card piles in the beginning coming together to create a unique but consistent experience. The third phase is cool, with the lava flowing and people getting throne into the volcano left and right.