Type: Push Your Luck
Time to play: 45-75 minutes (Teaching: 5 minutes)
Best played with: 4 Players (2-4 Players)
So apparently this is harking back to an old marble game from the 80’s and so Restoration games have put their clever little updates to this game, and brought out “Fireball Island: Curse of Vul-Kar”. The question is though – is it any good? Also, is it just mousetrap in disguise?
Now, usually I am not one for a marble run – sure the new online ones that look super complicated and travel across a house are impressive, but a simple game using marbles to knock over pieces gave me a lot of concerns. However, I got on the hype train with all the excitement on this one and I am glad I didn’t miss out (despite some box issues!).
The marble run is this game’s core mechanic. Have your piece run around the Island and pick up tourist treasures but avoid multiple destructive items that the island will unleash at you. It doesn’t matter if it’s the base game or the small expansions (unconvinced these add a lot, but will keep the game fresh), this is a game about rushing for your objective and hoping that you don’t get hit.
As you run, you will pass spots that give you tokens or indeed spots that give you cards. These actions will drive the end game and the return of the helicopter. Stay out on the island as long as you dare to get the collectables, but get back to the island before someone calls the helicopter and you are left stuck on the island!
The big challenge with a push the luck game is that you need some sort of agency over your movement. I worry about games with a simple dice roll. Fireball Island tries to solve this by giving you two cards to pick between in your hand. The cards give you movement and they give you a power – normally linked to those destructive marbles. Two is just about enough (although I am house ruling three to see if it works for me). The choice after all is not just a big movement or a small movement, but whether the special power should trigger now – for example if the power allows you to drop a marble then you want to see who you can hit with it, and accept therefore lower movement.
This choice of action and movement on the cards gives you agency. Oh and the fact that you can catch other players with your piece to steal from them can give you further agency in the game. Chase the player with the heart of Vul-Kar to give a huge points swing before the end of the game!
It’s not all in the player’s control though. You can be sat exposed to a marble for a couple of turns and watch player after player drop marbles through the tower at the top, but the three runways mean that they may not hit you! Does it matter, yes. For me, the fact that the real choices advance the game but the luck effects the set back is much more acceptable than when it is luck that drives you forward and your skill that minimises the losses.
The marbles are also all over the board – you don’t just roll them through the top, but there’s smaller more targeted marbles that some cards offer up! This variation is great, and opens up the tactical decisions within the game.
However, you will probably have heard that there are some component issues. For an expensive game and one from kickstarter, the quality isn’t what I expected. Beyond that though, there is also an awful box. Sorry guys – this is a really bad box that bends and puts the pieces at risk. Okay, if you keep it safe and have decent storage, then it will do, but it’s only a shade above a plastic bag.
Right, rant over. This is a good game and if there’s ever a collectors edition with a new box, it could go far.
- If you want a great story, this game can bring it to the table
- If you hate luck, then random card draws and marble rolls will hurt
- If you win, try again and good luck!