Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 19

Another Saturday morning session of gaming with my Mum (Grandma to our kids). Maddie, my elder daughter, aged 5, didn't play today as she was playing with a friend.

Mum and I only played the one game today. I was eager to get The Downfall of Pompeii onto the table and Mum was happy to learn a new game. I'd only just received Pompeii two days ago and in that time I'd bagged all the various components into plastic zip-lock bags. I usually do this with my games to save on set-up time and also to reduce the chance of pieces getting lost. Unfortunately, I found that I was missing 1 yellow wooden playing piece. This effectively means I'm unable to play 3-player games (without substituting something else for the playing piece). I sent an email to Mayfair Games customer service so hopefully they'll be able to send me the missing part.

Mount Vesuvius overlooking the city of Pompeii

The Downfall of Pompeii is a game for 2-4 players by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede who is the designer of the well-known and popular tile-laying game Carcassonne. Pompeii is played in two parts. In the first part of the game you play cards to determine into which buildings you may place your people. In the second part of the game you place lava tiles and move your people out of the city. The person who has the most people escaped from the city wins the game.

The map board showing an overhead view of Pompeii is beautiful and really evokes life in a bustling Roman city in AD 79. The cards are sturdy and have a nice feel to them and the artwork is beautiful. The rules are easy to understand and have plenty of examples of play with helpful illustrations. The coloured hexagonal-shaped wooden playing pieces are also very nice. The volcano representing Mount Vesuvius is made of plastic and fits together easily. Overall, the quality of the components is top notch.

In the first part of the game Mum and I placed our people. Where you place your people depends on the cards in your hand. You always have four cards in your hand in this part of the game. As you discard a card and place a person you may draw another card from the draw pile. A card will tell you into which building you may place your people. Naturally, we both tried to place people close to the seven exits of the city.

The board at the point when the first AD 79 card is drawn

The deck is cleverly 'seeded' with event cards which have certain effects when revealed. When the first of two AD 79 cards are revealed the Omen cards and the Relative rule comes into effect. If you now draw an Omen card you may pick up an opponent's person from any building and throw it into the volcano. This is one of the fun parts of the game. The Relative rule allows you to place additional 'relatives' depending on how many people are on the square you initially place a person on your turn. For example, if I place a person into a building where there are already two people, I get to place an additional two people in other buildings of the same colour or into 'neutral' beige buildings.

Mum about to drop one of my people into the volcano

When the second AD 79 card is drawn the second part of the game begins. At this point in the game Mum had 25 people in the city and I had 17. Now you draw lava tiles from the lovely red cloth drawstring bag that came with the game and place those tiles onto the board in such a way as to help yourself and hinder your opponent. Unfortunately, I was so engrossed in the game at this stage that I forgot to take pictures of us laying the lava tiles.

Each lava tile has a symbol on it. The first tile you draw of a specific symbol goes onto the matching 'starting space' for that symbol. After that, if you draw a symbol that matches a lava tile already on the board you may place the new tile adjacent to it (orthagonally, not diagonally). If you place a lava tile on a space containing people they all die and are thrown into the volcano. If you surround people with lava in such a way that they can't get to a gate then they also die and are thrown into the volcano.

So, on your turn you first lay a lava tile then you move two of your people. You normally will move two different people. How far a person can move is determined by how many people are in the space when they begin their movement. For example, if I move one of my people from a space containing three people (including my own) then I can move my person three spaces. You cannot move the same person twice in one turn with the following exceptions, 1) it's the only piece of your own left on the board, or 2) If it is alone in a space at the beginning of your turn you can move the person to one space and then move again. It can now move a number of spaces depending on how many people are now in the new space (including the moving piece).

Even though Mum had 25 people in the city to my 17 I was able to go on to win the game. I ended up getting 14 people out of the city to Mum's 13. If our scores had been tied we would have counted the number of people in the volcano and the person with the least number of people in the volcano would have won.

We both really enjoyed this game and I'm sure it will be played again soon. Now, just to remember to check the camera doesn't display the date-stamp next time I take photos of games in progress.

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