I’ve played some board games for more than a year before I got the rules right. I’m thinking of somewhat complex Euro games, like Archipelago and Castles of Burgundy.
But some games are just simple and brutal, like Fireball Island.
With awesome pulpy art that evokes Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, and Joe vs. the Volcano – the theme is nostalgically rooted in 80s adventure films.
Fireball Island isn’t a complex game. It’s Mousetrap-ish.
You’re trying to grab a jewel and get to the end of the board. But every time you roll a 1, you push a fireball down a chute at someone, which pushes them back and knocks their character down in a satisfying way, that gives everyone a quick taste of blood, well before it’s necessary.
With a 1/6 chance of getting a 1 AND cards that do the same thing, Fireball Island is a ‘fuck you’ kids game that makes everyone angry.
Ashley (who ended up winning the game), had her character pushed off the board and back to the beginning of the game. Did that mean that her character went back to the 1st crater – yes. Was that unusually cruel – yes.
Soon we discovered that if the fireballs didn’t knock you over then you were still in the game. This felt like an evocation of ‘kids’ rules. It’s not exactly in the rule book, but it ‘feels’ right.
That didn’t change the fact that we were constantly getting run over by fireballs. And yelling. And feeling like we were all the backstabbing lowlife character that would have been best played by Danny Devito.
Normally, you try to play games that are so complex that you’re made to feel intellectually rewarded for outsmarting our friends, but sometimes you’re on Fireball Island.
It's $200+ on eBay, I'll never buy it. But if you were born in the 80s, you should enjoy it when you come across it.