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

In Posts by Justin Jacobson37 Comments

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.


  1. Remember in that first Dev Diary where you accepted that the design challenge with this game is that you “…can’t just make Fireball Island better than it was. We need to make it better than people remember it”?


    This looks rad. It all looks better than anyone could have hoped. Gameplay looks like it is full of fun dilemmas. Board looks incredible and full of plinko-style randomness. Bridges looks precarious. Fireballs look fiery.

    Do want.

  2. Is the game still 4 players? Would LOVE a stretch goal or add-on in the Kickstarter for a 5th player.

  3. Any chance to have the game translated into Spanish? I’m sure there’s a lot of us looking forward to this game!

    1. Author

      Our license only permits us to publish the game in English. However, Longshore intends to use our design to release alternate-language versions of the game. So, Spanish version will almost assuredly happen, we just don’t know when or with whom.

  4. So after reading all three dev diaries a) I’m super excited for the Kickstarter! but b) I’m super nervous on how much all of this awesomeness in a box is going to cost. I’m not sure how much you can say about price at this point, but do you have even a ball park of what this game is going to run for on KS?

      1. Not sure what MSRP means, but, dude, anything under 100bucks for a fan is a steal. Like I said, now that the silly original game (which, let’s face it, has aged) runs 400bucks as a “collector’s item, I’m totally psyched for an affordable version of this game.

  5. Having to take photos of the island before balances with collecting treasure sounds interesting.. making it a Push your luck game means I’ll lose every game!! Can’t wait to play this!

  6. The game looks fantastic! The revealed art and modeling are so impressive. The addition of the diary entries adds such an amazing touch, and I eagerly look forward to reading the next entry. I’ve purchased every game Restoration has done so far, and I can’t wait to add this one. Restoration Games has quickly become my favorite game company. Thank you for putting in the time and caring about the details.

  7. I can’t believe how much work has gone into remaking this game. When I was a kid, I was so disappointed with the dull “snakes ‘n’ ladders” gameplay of the original Fireball Island. This game you’re making sounds like the game I actually wanted all those years ago.

    Thank you!

    1. Author

      No exclusives in the strict sense of the word. We do have special stuff planned for backers, not the least of which is $10 off MSRP.

  8. Justin,

    Your team has outdone itself. I must admit, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled that you guys removed the “linear” aspect of the original game (as revealed in Diary 2) mostly because I really liked the big red jewel being the “major motivation” so to speak, but I’m glad I held my tongue as what you’ve revealed here is totally acceptable and great. The added depth doesn’t feel like clutter, but, again, adds more choice, randomness, and–yes–excitement. I love the added treasures too. You know, you guys are going to make the game the way you want to, but if you’re open to suggestions, then a) I recommend little plastic golden treasures for players to collect (as opposed to mere cards) for that “tactile” feel; and b) having fireball marbles that are swirly colours of red/orange/yellow. For some reason just having solid red marbles in the original game always bugged me given that we have the marble ‘technology’ (lol) for more “flame” oriented glass. But of course, I’m just eternally grateful this project is being developed. AND–again–including a big red jewel near Vul-Kar really is the icing on an already gorgeous cake, so thanks for that.

    1. I agree with the above suggestion about multi-colored marbles. Will the island have more paint/colors on it? Will the trees be painted? Because it seems a little drab right now to me.

      1. Author

        These are just prototype components. (I was trying to poke fun at that with my photo captions.) The island is actually printed before it goes in the vacuform machine. It definitely won’t be “drab”.

        1. I have to chuckle at how many people think the unpainted prototype is the actual game, lol. :/
          Anyway, I’m in Canada–how much do you thinking shipping will run outside the US? I’ll buy the darn thing anyway, lol, but I’m curious how much I’ll have to add onto the 60bucks. Do you know have any inside info in distribution? I’m assuming I’ll have to order online from you guys as I don’t think too many shops in my city will stock this, but I could be wrong….

    1. Author

      We are working on that as we speak. It’s a unique challenge because we can’t do major component upgrades given the form factor. But if you have any suggestions, fire away!

  9. Fantastic job! I can’t wait to be a backer.

    I’ve been thinking about stretch goals. The obvious ones are the player minis and the various types of treasure. But has anyone given any thought to flickering LEDs added to Vul-Kar? Or volcanic eruption sound effects? A single 9 volt battery could really add some nice immersion aspects.

    Keep up the amazing work!

    1. Stretch Goal: A Tom Vasel mini.

      Who wouldn’t want to see Tom running around the island being chased by fireballs? And maybe a marble with Zee’s face on it?

  10. Other Kickstarter stretch goal ideas…

    – A downloadable soundtrack to use while playing.
    – denser marbles that pack more punch (travel further)
    – a NPC character players can move around the board to make opponent movement difficult or to take a marble “for the team”
    – themed player screens or boxes to hide loot/photos
    – themed apparel for players to wear during play (sunglasses, bandanas, etc).. actually I would wear fireball island sunglasses or Hawaiian shirt pretty much anywhere (add on??)
    – app assistant (plays music, time limit for turns, randomly makes Vul Kar spit out marbles)
    – character sheets with cheesy backstories and one-shot special abilities
    – bonus characters who might look similar to famous adventurers (maybe older, retiree versions?)
    – alternative bumpers to swap in for trees (tiki torches, Easter island statues, etc)
    – pre painted vul kar
    – rules and material for “throwback” variant (original game play)
    – rules for characters to have asymmetric win conditions (win by fireball kills, win by selfies, etc)
    – rules/labeling to choose the composition of the deck (game type options for easier/harder/more chaotic games)
    – rules for “hardcore” or “last man standing” variants

    I also 2nd flicker eyes and sound effects (very retro)

  11. Stretch goal thoughts.

    When you are hit with a marble, is it that you die/respawn? If so then there could be mini-tombstones that you place in the spot where you fell. These could have enough weight that they themselves can steer the marbles a bit.

    The hello copter could be a physical component with a magnet in the skids, player minis could have magnet hands and feet; add a mini dexterity element to the copter pick up (maybe even making a chain of people dangling off the copter)

    Timed version of the game with soundtrack CD; events occur when Vul Kar sound, camera sound, chopper sound are heard.

    Vul Kar auto-loader and motorized rotating base — who knows where or when he’s going to go off? That one sounds expensive…

  12. I really, really, really love it when games involve gems. Y’all did such a great job with the quality of the ring that was packaged with Indulgence, so I’m really excited to see what kind of beautiful components make up the treasure here.

    Can’t wait to see more!

  13. Stretch goal idea: little holes around the Island where I can insert candles and have real fires lit while playing. I’m sure it’s totally safe for kids …

  14. Maybe a stretch goal for character specific decks (just a handful of cards, 3-5 per character) to make each character a bit asymmetrical. You could draw one instead of drawing from the common pile?

  15. I’m disappointed with the idea of having to take pictures on different parts of the island. I would just vary the treasures that you can collect instead.

  16. Although it is way too late. But it would be cool if the board had a microprocessor in it with some near field technology. This way, random things could happen to explorers when they travel around the board.

  17. There are many great Kickstarters to choose from this first quarter, but I keep reminding myself that I’m saving my pledge finger for Firball Island. Bring it on!

    Stretch goal:
    What about marbles that are purposely unbalanced so that there is a chance that it goes one way instead of another.

  18. I imagine that there should be postcards like the ones on the Fireball Island front page to represent the pictures taken. That would be an awesome and thematic way to represent pictures taken by a player!

  19. Stretch Goal: More players! The original format of 4 players on a limited space, with a limited objective, made perfect sense. However, you have made these incredible revisions to the game, allowing for more paths, increased gameplay objectives, and multiple ways of winning. This seems to easily open the game to more players, and a great stretch goal of adding any additional pieces or game cards that would allow for this.

    **Not sure if I would want a stretch goal for this, but, if you have any extras of those cool postcards lying around, they would be a great add-in for KS supporters. 😉 Either way, I’ll be buying multiple copies!

  20. So the title says goodbye to the hello-copter, but I see no mention of you guys finding a way to get rid of it? Also I didn’t know a knocked down player also gets a souvenir, I didn’t see that in the rule book, would make the game more fun!

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