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We all know about the historical downfall of Pompeii, right? How in the year A.D. 79 Mt. Vesuvius blew its top and took virtually everyone in the city of Pompeii along for the ride, sorta.
It is that “fun” time that Klaus Jurgen-Wrede turned into a board game in 2006. Let’s take a look at this fairly simple, yet interesting, game so you can see if it’s one you think you’d like to play.
How Do You Play The Downfall of Pompeii?
Setting up Pompeii, especially the deck of cards, is a little more difficult than playing the game itself.
Each player (2 to 4) takes one color of barrels that represent the people of Pompeii. If there are 4 players, each takes 25 tokens. Otherwise, everyone gets 30.
If the square lava tiles aren’t already in the bag (provided), put them all inside.
Curl the stiff volcano cone around and insert its tabs into the slots provided. Then set it in the open circle on the board.
The of cards contains regular Pompeii cards that players with play, Omen cards, and two AD 79 cards that act as timers.
You deal 7 piles of Pompeii cards, putting 4 in each pile. You take the remaining 25 Pompeii cards and the 7 Omen cards and shuffle them together. You then add one of the AD 79 cards into the bottom of this deck, put the other AD 79 card on top of the deck, and then top that with any 2 of the original 7 piles of Pompeii cards.
Whew! We always have to carefully read through the directions to get this part of the setup right.
Each player gets one of the remaining piles of 4 cards. Extra piles are not used.
In Phase 1, you play a card from your hand and put one of your pieces (people) on the matching numbered space on the board. Often you will have more than one option as to where you place your token. The choice is yours.
Then you pick a card from the deck to bring your hand back to 4 cards.
As soon as someone draws the first AD 79 card (discards it and takes the next card into his hand), there are a couple of new things to watch for.
It is now possible to draw an Omen card. If you do, you get to take an opponent’s token (person) from the board and throw it into the volcano! It is out of the game but may be used to break a tie later on.
Also, each time you now place a person onto the board, if there are already pieces in the building, you get to add more “relatives” to the board from your own supply.
You add as many relatives as there were people already in the (section of the) building. You can add them to another building of the same color, another section of the same building (if it has more than one section), or to any of the unnumbered, beige (neutral) buildings.
Phase 1 ends (sorta) when someone draws the second AD 79 card. (Cards are no longer used, and people are no longer added to the board from this point on.)
There is one more thing to do before Phase 2 officially begins. In turn, players draw a tile from the bag and place it on the board, starting at the square with the matching symbol. Subsequent tiles with the same symbol must be placed orthogonally adjacent to those with that symbol already on the board. When 6 tiles have thus been placed, Phase 2 begins in earnest.
On your turn, you now draw a tile, place in on the board, and then move 2 of your own pieces.
If the placement of a tile would cover tokens occupying a square, those people are thrown into the volcano! (Hint: This is a good thing to do to your opponents.)
Your job is to get your pieces off the board via any of the city gates before the volcano does them in.
When you move one of your pieces (orthogonally), you can move it as many spaces as there were people in your starting square (including your own person in the count).
It can happen that a section of the board still containing people is blocked from all city exits by the lava tiles. If so, all people in that section are immediately tossed into the volcano.
The game ends when either all the pieces have been removed from the board – either being taken home or thrown into the volcano – or when the last lava tile has been drawn from the bag.
The player with the most living people wins. If there’s a tie, the player with the fewest pieces in the volcano wins.
Is Pompeii Any Fun?
Pompeii is lots of fun, especially if you have a bit of a mean streak in you – not much of one, just a little.
Throwing bits into the volcano doesn’t feel all that nasty. And since everyone knows going in that that’s what is going to happen, everyone is pretty much okay with it. You just hope it doesn’t happen too much to your dudes.
There is enough randomness that every game feels different. Yet there is not so much that it feels like chaos.
If you plan well, odds are that enough of your people will survive the hot lava that you will have a chance at winning.