THE DOWNFALL of POMPEII
2013 versionMayfair Games. 2007 version Amigo Spiel
What a difference 6 years make. Maybe I have mellowed a little or maybe my friends and I are looking at games
differently nowadays, but I seem to remember not being that keen on The Downfall of Pompeii when I first came
across it back in 2007. I can only think that there were a lot of more strategic games in my review box at the time
and this being quite light failed to shine amidst the heavier more involved games.
Okay when the latest edition arrived I was sure that I had seen the box before but remembered it being a larger box,
though the picture looked familiar. Then I remembered the previous version and realised that Mayfair had cleverly
used the original box art and wrapped it round the smaller box, losing just one side's worth in the process.
The game pieces are a deck of cards - 3 different types - a plastic volcano - a bag - and 120 wooden blocks in 4 set of 30.
There are also 45 Lava tiles, each showing the glowing lava flow and a symbol that is representative of an area on the map
of the city - the game board. In the latest version there are three additional tiles which are double-sided giving the player a
choice of which side to play - these tiles are for the variant of the game, otherwise the game plays as it did previously.
The variant is unlike many other variants in games in as much as all it does is add the 3 tiles and offer the choice for play.
Therefore there is no reason why players should not include these tiles immediately from the first time they begin to play.
These tiles are marked with a tiny black dot (barely visible) next to the map symbol; the quickest and easiest way to see
if you have drawn a new tile is to check if it is double-sided.
The game board is a map of the City of Pompeii. The main buildings are both numbered and coloured - the colours and the
numbers are represented on the cards in the main deck and player's hands. There are other buildings, beige coloured, that are
not shown on any of the cards; every building has a varying number of circles - spaces for player pieces - the number limit
of pieces that can occupy the buildings.
The Citizens on the bottom of the cards denote how many of this card type there are
The game begins with players placing pieces on the board via the playing and drawing of cards. Once the first AD79 card
is drawn the gameplay changes slightly as because of the way the deck has been set up it is now possible for OMEN cards
to be drawn (there are 7 of these only). OMEN cards allow players to remove a piece of another player and drop it into the
volcano - only having 7 of these cards works well because even if you never get to play one the disadvantage isn't likely to
cause any major upset or imbalance.
The next thing that occurs with the drawing of the first AD79 card is the Relatives rule. This means that when you place a piece
in a building where there is already at least on other piece - yours or an opponents - then you get to place a relative in any other
building of either the same colour or a beige building - the relatives rule doesn't continue with these additional placings.
When the second AD79 card arrives on the scene the final phase of the game begins. This is the part where your pieces become
(in your mind) people and they have to run for their lives, escaping the wrath of the volcano through one of the many City gates.
Citizens cannot start running out until Vesuvius erupts - once the first few (6) lava tiles have landed in the city then the panic begins.
The players can usually move 2 separate citizens in a move. The distance moved depends on the number of all pieces (including their
own) in the starting square of the building. If there are 4 pieces in a 2 square building (2 in each square) then the first piece to move
out of each square can move 2 spaces. However once one piece is left alone in a square it can be moved twice instead of moving 2
pieces moving one space to begin with and then moving as many spaces as there are citizens in the space it moved in to.
Note: When using the relative rule earlier in the game all the pieces in the building would have been counted if it was possible to place
another piece legally in the building - thus 4 extra pieces could have been placed.
Players no longer get to play cards now. Instead they have to draw a lava tile from the bag and place it on the board. If it is the first
of its kind (by symbol) it has to be placed on the main square with the corresponding symbol, subsequent cards with the same symbol
have to be placed orthoganally adjacent (not diagonally) to another tile with the same symbol. This is how the lava spreads around the
City, covering the buildings and killing all citizens trapped beneath it - drop them in the volcano.
Rather than have the lava flowing out of Vesuvius and down its sides thus reaching the buildings closest to its base first, it instead blows
lava high into the air so it lands on the buildings and citizens below. Citizens that can reach the other side of the gates are deemed to
have made it to safety, and of course the player who saves the most of their own citizens is the winner - a tie being decided by the number
(lowest) of people in the volcano.
At first it doesn't seem as if there are any strategies except to land lava tiles on as many of the opposing players citizens as possible whilst
getting as many of your own citizens to safety. But once you realise the way the placing and moving kind of reverses as the phases of the
gameplay change then it is a whole different ballgame and I would almost guarantee that the next time you play you will be very much more
careful about your placing and about which pieces you are move.
Played by people who enjoy games where it is a distinct advantage to help the opposition lose as many of their pieces as possible (ie not playing
nice & friendly), this is a good 45-60 minutes of healthy social entertainment.