Say Goodbye to the Hello-Copter – Fireball Island Design Diary 3

March 8, 2018

The original Fireball Island was a path game. It had a start and it had a finish. There were a few choices along the way but it was essentially one long race. Players rolled a die to move, chasing each other, with the winner being the first person to make it to the end, holding Vul-Kar’s jewel. In restoring the game, we wanted you to have more control over your movement and offer more choices, which meant we needed to give you more places to go. We updated the island from one long path to a network of paths with lots of choices. Now, we needed to give you reasons to take all these different paths around the island, which led to the most important design shift: how to win. The player who collects the most points worth of treasures wins the game.

Absolutely 100% final design — Isn’t it stunning!

We were inspired by other press-your-luck games such as Incan Gold, Clank!, and Escape: the Curse of the Temple. Like these games, Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar offers choices about where to go and what to do, while forcing you to keep an eye on the other players to see if you’ll need to rush back to the helipad before you’re blown away by a fireball. And it’s not just one jewel anymore. There are a host of valuable treasures all over the island. Different treasures score in different ways, adding an element of set collection. For fans of the original, there’s still a big, shiny red jewel up near the summit. That’s the Heart of Vul-Kar, and it’s worth a lot of points. There’s just one catch….

To make the game a bit more dynamic, you’re not allowed to leave until you’ve got those three pretty pictures of the island. (That damn paragraph 2(b) we mentioned last week.) Each section of the island has two spaces where you can grab a snapshot of a beautiful scenic view. You’ll need one picture from each section before you’re allowed to call for the Hello-Copter to pick you up. Do you try to get the pictures early but forego treasures? Do you try to get one more treasure and hope you can make it back in time? Somewhere in between? We wanted to encourage players to fan out, try different routes, explore different paths. Once a player calls for the Hello-Copter to return, everybody else has two turns to get back to the helipad before it takes off. If you don’t make it back, you still score some points for treasures — and it might be enough — but you miss out on that nice bonus for getting back to the helipad.

What you do on a turn is simple: You play one of your two action cards. Each card gives you movement and has an action. Play a card, move your figure, do the action. These actions might let you launch a fireball from Vul-Kar, rotate a few trees to shield you (or direct marbles toward your opponents), or knock different marbles down the island paths. Rarely will you be able to do exactly what you want on your turn. It is, after all, Fireball Island. Often, you’re deciding between whether the movement count on one card is more important than the cool action on the other one.

Artist Credit: Rob Daviau and, I believe, Impact font.

If your action knocks over any players, they have to give you one of their treasures. However, they also get to draw a souvenir card. Souvenir cards are based on the cards in the original game, giving you surprise abilities. You might get to launch a marble unexpectedly or be allowed to run over a bridge without stopping or move someone else a few spaces. You can play as many Souvenir cards as you like on a turn. So, while getting knocked over isn’t fun (well, it’s a little fun), a handful of souvenir cards allows many options for revenge.

These prototype marbles are made of solid emerald.

Oh. One last thing. Shuffled into the deck of action cards are Cataclysms, cards that immediately trigger Vul-Kar’s wrath. If you draw a Catalysm at the end of your turn, that’s when Vul-Kar gets to have a turn. Cataclysms can add marbles to the scar and send them all hurtling from Vul-Kar’s rictus towards anybody brave foolhardy enough to traipse around in front of him. The longer the game goes, the more fireballs Vul-Kar spits out. So, uh, you might want to hurry.

The Kickstarter for Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar launches on April 3rd. Please follow us on Kickstarter and sign up for our mailing list on the front page of our site. Next week we’ll start looking at … oh, you’ll just have to wait and see.