A Fireball on the Horizon

In Posts by Justin Jacobson27 Comments

2017 was an amazing year for Restoration Games. When Rob and I started this wild venture a little over a year ago, we said our goal for Restoration was:

Be a year-two company in year one and a year-five company in year two.

I think we lived up to the first half of that, and we’re working hard to live up to the second half. 2017 saw us release our first three games all at once at Gen Con. It also saw us announce our next big game—the kind of a game you’d expect from a year-five company: Fireball Island. Almost from the moment we started the company, Fireball Island was on our radar. We knew it would be a fan favorite, and the fans confirmed that in short order. We are thrilled to be bringing this game to you in 2018. So, if you’ll excuse the lengthy prose, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about the project, where we are, how we got there, and provide as much information as I can at this time. Spoiler alert: Probably not as much as you’d like.

(If you can’t wait for Fireball Island to come out, now’s a good time to head on over and vote for it on the Most Anticipated Games list over at Board Game Geek.)

It took almost a full year to finalize the deal to make this game. We want to give a special thanks to Bruce Lund, one of the original inventors of the game, and Longshore, our manufacturing partner, for helping make this happen. They have been great to work with and have been very open to where we want to take the game. I want to give a special shout-out to Jon, part of the Longshore team, who stays into the night (his time) for our weekly morning (our time) calls.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about our approach to this restoration. If you’ve enjoyed any of our first three games, you know that we don’t do reprints. Our guiding principle on the restoration process is:

Find the “soul” of the game, turn that up to 11, and build a great game around it.

This approach is particularly true for a game like Fireball Island. In the original, the “toy factor” is off the charts and the main source of people’s fond memories. Nobody recalls the time they rolled that “5” just when they needed it. Let’s be honest: It’s all about the fireballs. We knew our version had to be bigger, faster, and cooler. This turned out to be a major design challenge. For starters, even though we wanted to make our island larger than life, we had to figure out a way to make it fit in a smaller box. The original box just isn’t commercially viable in today’s market, where shelf space is at a premium. Fortunately, our Restoration Guru, Mike Gray, had a brilliant idea that kicked off the island design process.

Better. Stronger. Fireballier.

One of the first things Rob noted when he got his hands on it was that players had little control over their own actions and complete control over the marbles. You rolled the die and moved your pawn with little in the way of choice. On the other hand, if you got to unleash a fireball, you aimed Vul-kar exactly where you wanted the fireball to go and let it rip, and the fireball would dutifully follow that precise path to its target. Rob’s very first design idea was that we need to flip those two around: Give the players more choice, and, at the same time, make Vul-kar and the island less … compliant. You still have some control over the fireballs, but now there is an element of chance and, by extension, risk. When you let a fireball go, there’s that “slot machine” moment, where you’re waiting to see if you hit the jackpot or go bust. We’re also working on providing just a bit more meat to the gameplay, with more than one path to victory. At its core, the adverse incentives are the same: You’re not going to be doing very well if you keep getting blasted by fireballs. But now, you have a few different objectives you can strive for rather than the singular race mechanic from the original. As the game draws to a close, you might have a good idea of who’s winning, but you won’t be sure until that boat finally leaves the island.

I want to take a moment to talk about how the island itself is an incredible and unique design challenge (and also hopefully stir up a bit of sympathy for us). It needs to work mechanically as a game board but also look great. It’s three-dimensional and made of plastic; it’s not just a matter of getting an artist to do a nice illustration and then printing it on some cardboard. It needs to be designed three dimensionally, and then we need to render art on the 3D image. This is particularly challenging because the art needs to be printed on the plastic when it’s flat and then stretched into the 3D shape. It needs to fit all the various accessories that will sit on it, such as trees, bridges, treasures, and the like. The chutes need to be designed so the marbles come out fast – but not too fast. We want the miniatures to get knocked back when they get hit but not always end up in the same spot or fly off the board altogether – well, maybe every once in a while. It needs to be lightweight but sturdy. The marbles need to veer off on branching paths, but they can’t always take the same path. The fact is, we’ve been working on the island for six months, and it’s still not finished. Now we’re working on stuff like “Hey, it’s going down this one chute too often; how about we twist the edge of that fork a couple of millimeters to the left.” Phew.

So how is all this getting done? Of course, we’ve got a great team at Restoration, with Rob and JR heading up the game design and Jason and Lindsay working on the graphics. We’ve also assembled this amazing team of artists, designers, and mad scientists:

George Doutsiopoulos is our lead artist. He’s done an amazing cover piece that we’ll be showing off soon. (You can get a glimpse of it at the top of this article.) It really captures the energy, adventure, and humor we’re striving for. You might recognize his work from the forthcoming STEM: Epic Heroes.

Noah Adelman of GameTrayz developed the initial look and layout of the 3D island trays, working closely with Rob to figure out a design that would work for the game. You’ve seen his plastic artistry in some amazing inserts for Mechs vs. Minions, Wasteland Express Delivery Service, and The Grimm Forest.

Chad Hoverter is sculpting our player miniatures, all the little happy trees and bridges that live on the island, and old Vul-kar himself. You can see some of his past masterpieces in Mice & Mystics, Fate of the Elder Gods, and the recent Heroes of Land, Sea & Air.

Design Innovation is a product design agency that develops everything from toolboxes to coffeemakers to some of the most amazing toy playsets you’ll ever see. They are helping us get the island into a workable production file and also designing some of the “chrome” we’re adding on top that we can’t really talk about yet.

Saving the world, one classic game at a time.

Overall, Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-kar will offer an experience that has: an amazing table presence, moments that will cause players to scream in delight and agony, enough strategy to keep gamers engaged but not so much that kids and casual players can’t partake in the fun, variety to reward repeat plays, a playtime under an hour. In short, we will make a game that honors its legendary predecessor and the fond memories of its fans, while at the same time offering a great time for people who never played the original.

So where do we go from here? We’re very excited to show you more of our hard work over the coming weeks and months. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do so.

Okay, okay. I know what you all really came here for. You want to know when you can buy it, right? Here’s what I can say about that: We are planning on doing a Kickstarter and have a tentative date, which we’ll announce as soon as we firm up enough of the assets for the campaign page. We expect to announce both the Kickstarter launch and street date next month. In the meantime, we’re planning on showing off some more of the amazing work the team is doing, so make sure you’re following us on social media and have signed up for our mailing list.

 

Comments

  1. Pics or it didn’t happen!!

    j/k – Good luck with all the hard work ahead, I can’t wait to see the final results!

  2. Thanks guys! This game has a special place in my heart. Even though I never played it, it was the first game my (now) wife brought up to me when I confessed my love of board games to her. I had never heard of it and quickly looked it up on The Geek. I proudly showed her I found the game she talked about and she decided to love me even though I’m a huge nerd lol

    I’m looking forward to backing this game and owning the reimagined version to play with the wife!

    1. That’s a moving story Rick. I say there’s nothing wrong with being a geek. As a life-long gamer, I’m so happy that ‘geek-culture’ is now a “thing,” although it’s very easy to separate the ‘real’ ones (the geeks, I mean) from the trendy wanna-be’s, lol.

  3. Always looking for this game. Had it as a kid but never threw it out. Must have been those damn parents! My hope at every garage sale is that I will find this game, I can not bring myself to spend $400 on ebay for a beat up copy. Excited to see how you solved the shelf space problem.

    1. Author

      I assume you’re talking about the other play modes. Co-op is actually done, but we’ve had some bugs pop up as we try to implement it. I think we’ll get those sorted out in the next few days. Then, we’ll give that some time “in the wild” before we implement the other modes, since they are basically just alternate versions of co-op.

  4. I really can’t wait for this! Playing Fireball Island with my dad and siblings is one of my favorite childhood memories

  5. I do have a question! In the write up, you act like the game board is “smaller” than the original game “for shelf space”–is this true? Or is just the way the board collapses for storage. I really liked the heft and size of the original, so getting a smaller island kind of psyches me out. What are the proposed dimensions for the restoration and how do they differ from the original? Thx.

    1. Author

      I really don’t want to spoil the magic, Robert, but you’ll note in the article that I said we had to make it “bigger, faster, cooler”. I think you’ll be plenty satisfied with the finished product.

      1. I trust you bro. Thanks. Your past work speaks for itself. Bigger, Faster, Cooler is certainly a nice catchphrase…and..deadlier…? 😀

  6. I can not tell you how much my husband and in laws are waiting in anticipation for this game. We still have the original he bought long ago and the kids love when he gets it out. Will definitely contribute to the kick starter!

  7. Great write up and great work on things thus far!! I appreciate the precision/obsession with getting the topography just right. I could geek out on that alone. I’m keeping both eyes out for the Kickstarter and launch date. You can count on it. Thanks again for bringing this gaming experience back to life 👍🏼

  8. I’m extremely excited for this game! It was my childhood favorite and now play the same beat up set with my wife and kids. I can’t wait to see how the restoration comes to fruition.
    As far as shelf space for the original, mine has it’s own shelf on top of my game storage unit. You know, ’cause that’s the only place it fits . . .

  9. Pingback: 2018 is coming (2/2) – Plateau Solo

  10. I never got to play this when I was young, so very excited to play this in my old age. I hope this game has a solo variant. That would be amazing !

  11. Pingback: Stick to baseball, 1/13/18.

  12. Can’t remember what year it was (late 80’s-early 90’s) but Fireball Island was a Christmas gift from my Grandma Janet. She found it at an outlet store called “Smarts” in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. for $10!
    What a game it was! There was nothing like it at all and with my love of Indiana Jones, that game made me feel like I was in the Indy movies.
    Sadly, I grew up, sold it at a yard sale and never saw that game again.
    One rainy day in the early 2000’s with a desperate need to find and play FBI I went to a Toys R Us hoping Milton Bradly still made the game. Of course they didn’t.
    Found it on eBay and paid $60! Which seemed like a lot but hey, we’re talking about my youth here! And hell, $60 would be a bargain today so I have no regrets now. I was in my early 20’s then so of course my roommates and I turned it into a drinking game… haha
    Now as a husband and father of 4 FBI always makes an appearance on rainy days or family gatherings. My family and I love introducing it to friends that have never heard of it before and thanks to you guys they’ll be able to start their own memories without having to pay $300-$400👍🏻🍻

    1. Author

      That was a proof of concept another development team made a few years ago that never panned out. There are some neat ideas in there. However, we were worried about the table footprint that approach would take and, more importantly, wanted to really tune up the game play. It was very clever, but not what we’re working on.

  13. YES!! I’ve periodically searched for “Fireball Island remake” a few times in the past, but randomly searched again tonight after my kids were asking about that “fireball game” I told them I used to play as a kid. Can’t wait for the Kickstarter.

Leave a Comment