The Downfall of Pompeii is a game of two halves. In the first, you will be repopulating the city of Pompeii following an earthquake. In the second, you will be depopulating the city of Pompeii as Mount Vesuvius erupts, showering everyone in lava. Your goal is to have the most survivors!
The game progresses through card-play. Each player starts with a hand of four cards, a bunch of wooden pieces – your family – and the empty board in front of them representing Pompeii. On your turn you’ll play a card showing one of a series of numbered buildings. You then add one of your family members to that building, or if it’s already full, a building of the same colour (or one of several small ‘neutral’ buildings). Hidden in the primed deck is an early sign of Vesuvius’ ill temperament – a card telling you that Vesuvius trembles – and at this point you can start adding even more family to the board. Throughout this populating phase Omen cards will periodically appear, which allow you to hurl any one of your opponent’s family members into the volcano!
As the deck nears it’s end another card will announce that Vesuvius erupts – and at this point the pendulum swings and you must start emptying the city again! Now players must place lava tiles on the board, potentially wiping out family members as they do so – ideally not your own. Having done so they move their family towards the exits – how far depends on how populated the part of the board they start on.
Though ideally you need to be playing with thick-skinned players, Pompeii is a great stepping stone game – a little more complicated than High Street regulars like Carcassonne, yet not complex enough to really trouble anybody. In fact the most fiddly part of the game is setting up the card deck! It can be played relatively quickly – especially once you know the rules – and still scratches a gaming itch for people who have gotten into the hobby a bit. Any game where you can throw people into a volcano is fine by me.
The actual 3D volcano on the board is great – tossing your opponent’s pompeians into it is very satisfying even if they’re just wooden cubes. The scores are always very close, and the contents of the volcano can be inspected at the end to brake ties. Pompeii is a lovely game, and very satisfying to play.
Yep, there is some confrontational play. You may be thrown into a volcano or drowned in lava. Not one for the overly-sensitive.
Low. Your cards only ever give you four options at most, and the lava tile placement is about avoiding yourself and targeting others.
It's not a complicated game. The cards and lava tiles (which have some simple distribution rules) come out randomly.