Too Much Awesome for One Box – Fireball Island Design Diary 4

March 22, 2018

When we started working on Fireball Island, the first thing we did was brainstorm ideas for features, themes, and mechanisms we could add to the original. These ranged from the cool-but-impractical (using actual water on the board) to the likely-to-elicit-lawsuit (actual blowdart guns players can shoot at the pawns). We had dozens of them. A lot of them got discarded for one reason or another, but a lot of them sounded really cool. Like a freakin’ pirate ship.

However, we knew we could not include all of these neat ideas in the base game. Between the island trays and the super-sized Vul-Kar (and all the cards and marbles and whatnot for the actual game), we didn’t have enough room in the box or the budget. It was important to us to be able to offer a full, complete, fun game at a price that most families could manage. Naturally, we thought of expansions. As a practical matter, since we are producing the game under license, we don’t have complete control over how long we’ll get to play in the Fireball Island sandbox. We also wanted to give people variety to tweak the style of play to what they preferred. So we decided to release three expansions at launch with the base game. We’ve introduced a couple of them already, and we’ll get to that freakin’ pirate ship in a moment. But first, I want to talk about our general design approach that let us home in on the initial expansions.

We wanted expansions to serve a variety of different functions, contributing to both the mechanics and the theme of the game. Adding a fifth player offered good value for folks who need that higher player count while allowing us to introduce the concept of the adventurer trapped on the island. We wanted to explore the different types of “ballistics” we could use — smaller, larger, and oddly shaped. These add uncertainty to that aspect of the game, while enhancing the theme and aesthetics by adding color and different types of threats. Variable player powers offered new ways for more advanced players to interact mechanically with the game while rounding out the characters. The springy tiger added a “skill shot” and a menacing predator for the players to face off against. But one of the things we wanted to add was an entirely new place for the players to explore.

Enter the freakin’ pirate ship:

Ahoy there, mateys!

This new location let us explore entirely different sorts of “machinery” while infusing a fun, distinct pirate theme. So, how does it work? For starters, you can get to the wreck through any cave on the main board. Once you’re on the ship, you can move around to collect new treasures, gold nuggets. These nuggets count as regular treasure toward your score at the end of the game, but they can also be traded in on your turn to play two cards instead of one. The cannons on the deck can be rotated like the trees on the island to divert marbles away from you or toward your opponent. Speaking of marbles, there are two new threats. A marble sits in the mouth of the jolly roger on the bow of the ship. When you flick down on the bowsprit, it launches the marble aft. If you catch the captain’s wheel just right, you can send a pawn standing in front of it up into the air. Then, there’s the mast. As you can see, the ship suffered a bit of damage when it ran ashore. Cataclysm cards and new action cards will let you add marbles to the crow’s nest, which is precariously balanced. When a few of them are placed in there, the whole mast will tip, dumping the marbles onto the deck at whoever happens to be there. The expansion also adds more “cutthroat” cards to the action deck, which let you steal treasures from other players, and a new place to grab a snapshot.

Cover pencils by George Doutsiopoulis

The Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass includes the plastic ship tray with all its adornments (captain’s wheel, mast and crow’s nest, cannons, bowsprit, ladders), 10 golden nuggets, 8 cannonball marbles, and 14 cards and retails for $40. The Last Adventurer retails for $25, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees retails for $15. At retail, the base game and all three expansions will sell for $150. However, during the Kickstarter, you can get all four of them plus all of the free, unlocked stretch goals with a pledge of $130.

We hope you like what these expansions add to the experience. And, depending on how well the game is received, we’ve got lots more ideas for new expansions. Just no blowguns.