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It seemed like kinetic and chaotic board games had a bit of a heyday when I was growing up. Commercials for Mouse Trap, Tornado Rex, and countless others lit my television and found their way to my Christmas and Birthday lists, furiously scrawled in hopes of seeing them on the big day. One game that I never had the chance to play as a kid was Fireball Island. Now, thanks to the team at Restoration Games, I’ll finally get the chance to fulfill a childhood dream. We’re going back to the island!
The premise of the original Fireball Island was pretty simple. You and your competitors would crawl all over the island in an attempt to find, snatch, and escape with a treasure. A few branching paths wound their way around a large 3D board. These paths also served as tracks for the titular fireballs. At various – and numerous – points throughout play you and your opponents would have the opportunity to send bright red marbles careening down these paths, knocking opponents to the ground and impeding their progress. There was some card play used to interject a light amount of strategy but the fun of the original was firing marbles down a mountain and seeing who went airborne.
This new imagining promises to carry forward the raw kinetic joy of the original while updating some of the strategy for the modern hobby market. Designer Rob Daviau has an extensive pedigree. He’s perhaps most well known for Pandemic: Legacy and Risk: Legacy but his design skills have graced a number of popular games. Additionally, he was the lead designer on Restoration Games’ first three titles, all of which have found a home on my bookshelf. We’ve covered Downforce before, but if you can’t wait for the Fireball Island Kickstarter to complete to get your hands on some retro fun, I recommend any of their games.
When I spoke to Rob and Restoration Games Tinker-in-Chief JR Honeycutt last year they said that one of their goals was to increase the “kinetic violence” while elevating the strategy. A quick look at the Kickstarter page shows that they seem to have accomplished this goal. Vul-Kar can still turn to face your desired path, but there is some uncertainty regarding where the fireball will actually go. Rob alluded to a desire to include a pachinko-like system and it seems like he got his wish.
It isn’t all chaos, however. While there are certainly plenty of marbles and explodey-bits flying around in the video, they’ve also added some souvenir cards and other gameplay tweaks to add a strategic touch. Souvenirs are collected by players who have suffered Vul-Kar’s wrath – that is, been nailed by a flying marble – and offer the opportunity to play extra cards with boosts. The overall goal is also less linear. There are a number of ways to collect points, from exploring the island to stealing the heart of Vul-Kar himself (warning: he won’t like that), which means that getting knocked to the ground or pushed back doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the game.
If that isn’t enough, Restoration Games has already planned a series of expansions available as part of the campaign. The Last Adventurer features a familiar looking character and new island hazard. The Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass adds an additional board with cannon balls and more opportunities to send little glass bombs flying around the table. Finally, in what is perhaps the greatest named expansion in the industry, there’s the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees expansion. Exactly how it works is unclear, but the description references sending a cup full of yellow marbles flying down the island. I’m in.
Fireball Island was the number one most requested game when Restoration Games put out a survey asking what people wanted to see restored. This campaign is exciting for a couple reasons. The first is that it just looks fun. A massive sprawling island filled with kinetic elements is something that can only really be done through this tabletop hobby, and it looks to have the “toyetic quality” that Daviau hoped to inject. It’s also exciting that a lot of people are going to get their wish fulfilled. Fireball Island is available on Kickstarter and is currently burning through stretch goals. We’re looking forward to our return to the island!
Did you play the original Fireball Island? What games would you want to see restored? Tell us in the comments! And be sure to join host Becca Scott on Game the Game every Thursday here on Geek & Sundry to watch the best boardgames played with fantastic guests!
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Image Credits: Restoration Games
In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.