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|Setup time||< 5 minutes|
|Playing time||1 hour|
|Skill(s) required||Dice rolling, hand management, strategizing|
Fireball Island is a board game first published by Milton Bradley in 1986. The tagline is "The dimensional adventure game of pitfalls and perils!" It is set on an unexploited (by treasure hunters) tropical island, the home of the ancient idol Vul-Kar. Players progress along winding paths around the island, avoiding fireballs and trying to steal Vul-Kar's jewel and carry it to the escape boat. The game concept was originally developed by artist / toy designers Bruce Lund and Chuck Kennedy. The game was licensed to Milton Bradley by Anjar Co., an international toy licensing company and co-licensor of the game.
The game mechanics in Fireball Island are moderately complex, requiring both skill and luck to win. The object of the game is to escape the island with the jewel, which must first be stolen from the top of the mountain on which Vul-Kar sits. There is only one jewel, so once a player grabs it he/she becomes the target of the others. The jewel may change hands many times during the course of a game.
Players roll the dice to choose who goes first.
Five fireballs are seated at various locations on the 3-D game board. One is inside Vul-Kar's mouth; the entire idol can be rotated to spit the fireball in the desired direction. The player who is rolling a fireball picks one and tips it off its perch, so the fireball will roll down the path until it comes to rest. Any player-token that is touched by the fireball, or by another player-token already hit or being pushed along, is considered hit as well and moves to the nearest smolder-pit. Affected players must use their next turn to 'stand up' in the smolder pit, effectively losing that turn. In the event that the player struck by the fireball has the jewel when struck, they lose possession of the jewel and it must be placed next to the smolder pit.
A player must try to hit someone if he can, even if the only available target is himself. Some spaces are only hit occasionally by a particular fireball while some places, which include the steps before Cave One, the peak between the bridges, or the gully steps up to Cave Five and the steps to the first bridge, are unreachable by fireballs.
A player who has been fireballed is immediately placed in a smolder pit. Although for most of the map players simply go to the nearest pit, there are definite rules for which smolder pit a player on a particular space heads to. The divisions between the zones of trail that are covered by each smolder pit are usually divided by ridges or steps in the trail. Note that it is the location a player starts on, not where he ends up, during fireballing that determines where his body goes. Any number of players may occupy a smolder pit. The only exception to the firepit rule is when a player is knocked off a bridge by a fireball. Then the player proceeds to the Water Penalty Area. Any fireballed player in a smolder pit must lose a turn to "stand up."
Each player is dealt one card at the beginning of the game, face down. Players may look at their own hands but not at opponents'. Throughout the game, whenever a player lands on a dark space, he draws a card. Any card can be played both on the active player's turn or another's (with the exception of the Fake Jewel card, which must be played against someone stealing the gem from you). There is a maximum hand size of four; a player with a full hand may not draw any new cards.
There are 4 of each type of card, except that there are only 2 FAKE JEWEL cards, and only 3 for EACH X value in the MOVE AHEAD X ... and MOVE ANY OPPONENT BACK X.. cards, thus a total of 48 playing cards.
The complete list of cards:
- FIREBALL! Immediately roll a fireball
- FAKE JEWEL! Play this card when a player attempts to steal the jewel from you. You keep the jewel and the opponent must continue his move past you.
- CANCEL ANY CARD EXCEPT FIREBALL CARD! Cancels any card, including another CANCEL or a MAGIC TALISMAN.
- MAGIC TALISMAN STOPS A FIREBALL! Prevents any player from rolling a fireball.
- REROLL THE DIE! The player that just rolled the die must reroll; the original roll is ignored.
- TAKE ANOTHER TURN AFTER YOUR TURN! You take an extra turn after your turn. The rulebook is ambiguous about whether you can play this card to force an opponent to take another turn, or if you can take a turn between two opponents' turns.
- TAKE 1 CARD FROM ANY OPPONENT! Take one card at random from any opponent's hand. This card can be blocked, however, should the player hold both a token and the jewel.
- MOVE AHEAD X SPACES INSTEAD OF ROLLING DIE! (X is 4, 5, or 6). May only be played before the active player moves; the active player moves the appropriate number of spaces instead of rolling the die. The rules are ambiguous about what happens if you use this card on a player who is in a cave, though since the rulebook suggests playing it on opponents to force the number, that it would be legal in caves.
- MOVE ANY OPPONENT BACK X SPACES! (X is 1, 2, or 3). From the rulebook:
Play one of these cards on any opponent's turn, to move the opponent back on the trail the number of spaces indicated on the card. If you play the card before the opponent rolls the die, the opponent must move back before rolling. If you play the card after the opponent has rolled the die, the opponent must finish the move, then move back.
NOTE: These cards do not move players out of caves, smolder pits, or the water penalty area at the bottom of Great Sway Bluff. If one of these cards moves an opponent back onto an unoccupied bridge, the opponent must end his or her move on the bridge.
This card is a prime candidate for house rules, since it is sometimes unclear which direction is 'back' and it often would make more sense to move a player during your own turn rather than on their turn. "Back" after moving would imply the direction opposite that moved, while "back" prior to rolling would be subject to the whim of the one who played the card.
- DOUBLE THE NEXT DIE ROLL! The next die roll is doubled. Importantly, a '1' becomes a '2' so no fireball is rolled. It is unclear what happens if a player in the caves must double his die roll and rolls above 3.
There are six caves placed at various locations around the island. A player may opt to step into a cave that is adjacent to the space he is on instead of continuing with his move (assuming he has at least one move left). The player then rolls the die and moves to the cave with that number (if it is empty). If that cave is occupied, then the active player stays where he is and does not reroll. If a player moving in the caves rolls a one, he rolls a fireball and goes to cave one if possible.
A player who starts his turn in a cave declares whether they are going back into the cave or exiting. If exiting, the player rolls the die and moves as normal; if going back into the cave, the player rolls the die and moves to a different cave.
Cave number four is special in that it has no adjacent path, and so there is nowhere to step out to. A player coming out at this cave has no choice but to go back into the caves, again.
On the route to the escape boat, there are two bridges over rushing gorges. A player who steps onto an unoccupied bridge must end his turn there. An occupied bridge can be stepped over like any other space.
A bridge is a perilous perch, since there are fireballs which can roll down the gorges and knock players into the river, leaving them stranded on a beach back along the path. This special smolder pit does not require a fireballed player to stand up, although the steps up from the water take a few turns.
There is an altar near the start of the map where each player can pick up a token. Tokens may be traded in at the Ruin for a full hand of cards, but if you have a token and the jewel, then other players cannot play 'take one card from any opponent' on you.
Jewel is the most important game piece, since it is required to win. The first player to reach the top of Vul-Kar Point gets the jewel, fills up his hand to four cards, rolls a free fireball, and take three straight turns.
If another player passes the jewel carrier, the passing player steals the jewel. If the jewel carrier is fireballed, the jewel is placed on the trail outside the smolder pit, to be picked up by anyone. If the jewel carrier is fireballed on a bridge, the jewel stays on the bridge.
A player who lands on the dock (a "special space") with the jewel wins. It is not necessary to roll the exact number of moves.
An updated version of the game has been produced by Restoration Games, a company that has previously produced restored versions of other games including Stop Thief, Downforce, and Indulgence. The game reboot was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which was fully funded in its first hour and raised over $2.5 million in backing. There are significant changes to gameplay, with somewhat less luck and more player agency, a redesigned and expanded board, and optional expansion content.
- "Beloved Eighties Board Game Fireball Island Is Coming Back with New Tricks. Durham Got to Try It Out". IndyWeek. May 3, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
- "Fireball Island Is Back Bigger, Badder and Fireballsier Than Ever Thanks to Restoration Games". The Dallas Observer. May 2, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
- "Fireball Island review: A classic 1986 board game returns in style". ars technica. January 26, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
- "Fireball Island - 80's Board Game, Reignited and Restored". Kickstarter. April 3, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.