With tomorrow being a Saturday, and no public gaming planned for Times Square this evening, we decided to play a few rounds of games in our office. Have just taken delivery of a new gateway game - Der Untergang von Pompeji (or more commonly known as "Pompeji"), a tile laying game by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede, the designer for the popular Carcassonne games.
The game is set in the city of Pompeii just before the infamous volcano eruptions that buried the entire city and all its inhabitants! Game-wise, we find this is a very sweet and delightful game that comes with a high level of "take-this" on your opponents. If you like games where you can get to do simple nasty things to your opponents, you have to play this game! How much more nasty can you get than toasting your opponents' people with volcano lava (wicked grin).
We find that Pompeji is a very good gateway game to introduce newcomers to gaming (just make sure they are of those type who love to do-worse to their opponents. For the more "peaceful" type, use Ticket to Ride instead).
You play the game in two phases 1) populating the city of Pompeii with your people and its relatives, and 2) getting them out of Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius does the Big Bang! It goes without saying the more people of yours you can get into the city of Pompeii, the more of them you can *potentially* rescue, "potentially" being the operative word here. The winner is the one who can rescued the most of his people from Pompeii before it is covered with volcano dust.
However in the event of a tie, the tie-breaker is determined by the player who has the least number of his people thrown/toasted into the volcano! This obviously means if you have more people in the town of Pompeii, you will likely have more of your people toasted by your "friendly kind cheerful" neighbours. We've played this game with many different groups of people and guess what made them happier? Being able to rescue their people or being able to toast some of their neighbours? hehehe.....
A quick walk through the gameplay. In the 1st Phase, players play cards that determine where they can place one of their people. The early stage of this phase is pretty peaceful - play card, place one person, next player. Until the "AD79 Volcano Erupts" card is drawn for the 1st time which signals the start of the "Invite Relatives" stage of the 1st Phase.
The AD79 Volcano card is reshuffled into the bottom 5 cards of the deck. The original rule asks to reshuffle into the bottom 15 cards (ie. bottom half) but we felt that delaying the volcano eruptions allow us to get more playing pieces onto the board.. all the better for us to toast when lava starts pouring from the volcano!
In the "Invite Relatives" stage, beside placing one of your people when you play a card, you can now "invite" up to 4 of your relatives (basically additional men of your playing color) into the city of Pompeii. Hey.. when you are gonna become volcano-toast, it may be good to have some of your uncles and aunties tagging along, ya?
In this stage, Vesuvius rocks frequently (i.e. drawing the Omen card) - to be precise, it may rock up to 7 times. When Vesuvius rocks, people pay attention coz dust, ashes, cinders and rocks would be spilled into the city of Pompeii. The whole city then has to do something to appease the Volcano God and usually that means choosing one friendly neighbour of yours (ain't gonna be you right?) to be sacrificed to the Volcano God! The player drawing the Omen card gets to throw one men (obviously not going to be his own people) into the volcano - accompanied by the appropriate screaming sound effect AAIIYYYKSS!
The Omen event can occur for up to 7 times. So beside trying to spot good locations to place your people so as to be able to invite more relatives over, you are also hoping to be able to draw the Omen card which allows you to send one of your opponent's piece to spend quantity time with Mount Vesuvius.
When Vesuvius finally erupts (ie the AD79 Volcano card drawn for the 2nd time)... hot boiling lava pours into and totally covers the city itself. In real life, it takes only 4 minutes for the lava flow to cover a distance of 7 km! This is the 2nd stage of the game, where each player gets to draw a lava tile, place it on the board (and toast some people in the process) and then attempts to get two of his men out of Pompeii. Lava flow can also be directed to block off exit points from Pompeii, creating more panic in the situation.
The winner is the one who can rescue the highest number of people from Pompeii. If there's a tie, we count the number of citizens in the volcano. The victory goes to the player with tied scores who have the least number of his citizen in the volcano.
We were enjoying our 2nd game (3-player) when Alan and Jamie arrived. They observed the game and very quickly saw that this is a very good and fun game! After we finished our game, we briefly walked them through the rules and quickly got started on a 4-player round. The game plays even better with 4-player as there'll be more people in Pompeii when the volcano erupts!
Everyone seems to agree the enjoyable parts of the game are i) drawing the Omen card where you get to "kill off" one of your opponents' citizen, and ii) placing lava tiles to "toast" even more of your opponents' citizen! Everyone seems to take utter delight in toasting each other's people with hot volcano lava! What a deliciously evil game kekeke......
Click here for the full gaming report with photos
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