Caecilius et Metella in horto sedet
One of the new and interesting (to us) games that we saw at UK Games Expo was called The Downfall of Pompeii, discovered when Miss B was offered a place in a demonstration game in one of the trade halls.
I sat alongside Miss B while she played cards to make her people move into the city of Pompeii and then, in the second half of the game, placed lava tiles onto the city while the terrified inhabitants ran around trying to reach the exits. Victims of the volcano, by the way, get thrown into a 3D volcano which sits in the corner of the board and is a lovely little gimmick. Never underestimate the value of a simple gimmick like this in attracting a 7-year-old — or her father — to a game.
One thing that made me chuckle about the game, incidentally, is that the designer felt the need to add a historical note at the end of the rulebook to point out that the inhabitants of Pompeii were killed by pyroclastic flows and not the lava, which works better for the game. I just love that the inaccuracy is acknowledged like that.
Miss B wasn’t really sure what she was doing during the demo game at the Expo, but when we sat down to play at home, she quickly got to grips with things and was happy and intent figuring out the best place to place her people so they would have the best chance to escape when the eruption came. In the later part of the game, when the lava starts flowing, the meanness of guiding the molten rock to cut off each other’s the escape routes of was all taken in the spirit of fun, with plenty of aggression going both ways. All in all, this was a hoot to play.
It’s an interesting game, this. Setting up the game involves seeding a deck of cards with special events in a prescribed way which isn’t too onerous, but seems a bit of a chore. The first part of the game seems maybe a bit dry as you place little wooden markers on the board, but it is diverting enough. All this doesn’t go on for too long, though, and it is all made worthwhile by the carnage that happens once the volcano erupts which, as I have said before, is just great fun. The box says it takes about 45 minutes to play and I think we took comfortably under an hour, so that seems a reasonable estimate.
I’m hoping we’ll get to play more of this.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7½): “I really like the volcano because it’s 3D and I like the decoration on it. I give it a 9 out of 10. I think it’s better with 2 players than 4 because it’s more of a panic and you have more people to save.”
The game: The Downfall of Pompeii (Mayfair Games), 2 to 4 players aged 10+.