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Found 6 results

  1. When we think gaming, thoughts often go to RPGs, complex sims, real-time strategy, etc. However, those all exist in a virtual world on a screen. These complicated genres grew out of more classic forms as tabletop games, bringing people together and causing table-flipping arguments and memories since the dawn of time. In recognition of the vast world of tabletop gaming, Extra Life hosts Tabletop Appreciation Weekend annually. 2018 marks the fourth year celebrating, but board gaming has been a part of Extra Life since the beginning. On Game Day and during other fundraisers throughout the year, many Extra Lifers raise money by playing games not just on their screens but on the tabletop as well. As a newbie to the world of board gaming, or a long time fan looking to branch out, it might be hard to determine where to start. The list below looks at helping you solve that problem with some of the best games with which you can start. This list just scratches the surface of the vast world of tabletop gaming, so if you have any suggestions, we would love to hear about them in the comments below or on social media. If you post about the festivities, use the hashtag #EXTRALIFETabletop to connect and maybe even find a new passion. Dungeons & Dragons It would be downright irresponsible to create this list and not include Dungeons & Dragons. This game set the foundation for tons of games to follow, tabletop and otherwise. For those unfamiliar with the format, or maybe to clear up some misconceptions, Dungeons & Dragons features role-playing gameplay with many different play styles. Generally, though, players will run through a campaign as laid out by their Dungeon Master (DM). Each player creates their own Player Character (PC) based on either the lore officially created by Wizards of the Coast or the homebrewed variant supplied by the DM. Character creation includes the fantastical race of said character, their skills and combat style, as well as their origin story. Basically, you get to let your imagination go wild making a rad persona and then use the rules to make them a reality within the game. Dungeons & Dragons tends to intimidate first-timers, but if you have any interest in storytelling, and can find a good DM (or become a good DM yourself), Dungeons and Dragons reached classic status for a reason. Magic: The Gathering Another titan in the tabletop world is Magic: the Gathering. Rather than relying solely on your imagination, Magic uses cards that represent many elements within the mystical Planes of that setting (which has recently been announced to be coming to Dungeons & Dragons). The cards include the planeswalkers, beasts, troops, spells, totems and more that fight epic battles against other players. Playstyles can vary greatly due to the different colors of magic represented on each card. These five colors offer players the ability to specialize their tactics or even combine colors to test out their favorite way to play. Magic requires time and dedication, much like any game, but MTG has a great community and you can typically find a player willing to explain more complicated cards. Classic Board Games Yes, this portion of the list includes those classics like Monopoly, Risk and even Candyland if that strikes your fancy. Even the mainstream classics are a great way to game with friends or introduce new people to this style of gaming. These games made it to the wider culture due to one simple fact: People enjoy them. Many Extra Lifers choose to play these games for Game Day to raise funds and have an absolute blast. We salute those of you who stick with the classics. Like the wider format that these board games fall under, this genre spans many playstyles. Some great games to play include card games like Cards Against Humanity or Exploding Kittens. The 2011 release King of Tokyo has seemingly simple gameplay but adds in cards that offer each player different dynamics that keep the game interesting. Settlers of Catan allows for multiple players and has them all struggle to build up their empires from nothing. The classics and more recent popular tabletop games became widely played because people have fun with them, consider adding one to your Game Day line-up to spice things up if you're mostly a digital gamer. The Pokémon Trading Card Game Some people might be taken aback by the Pokémon Trading Card Game appearing in a list of games to get into in 2018, but this serves as a stand-in for all fandoms that have developed collectible card games. In this realm lie games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and the aptly named Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. Basically, if there’s a franchise, it probably has a collectible card game (to name a few that float around out there: American Idol, Dr. Who Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so many more). This makes this genre super inviting for members of many fandoms. The rules all vary, but basically, the goal includes collecting the best cards you can get your hands on so you can battle opponents. The communities for these versus Magic: The Gathering tend to be smaller and harder to find. The fun from collectible card games depends on the player. Some enjoy the hunt for rare cards and collecting rather than playing, while others gather at local games shops to battle. Hey, even Geralt of Rivia plays. Warhammer Warhammer is an incredibly malleable franchise for those who love tabletop gaming. On the one hand, the core Warhammer series function very much like an almost comically dark version of Dungeons & Dragons. On the other, Warhammer 40K takes place roughly 40,000 years after the core fiction in a far-flung future full of lasers, magic, and war. Players of 40K often go all in with miniatures and tactics, as the game combines war strategy with armies of real-life miniatures making it the perfect game for model hobbyists. Different genres exist in the Warhammer universe from the classic fantasy to sci-fi as introduced in Warhammer 40k. Be forewarned, Warhammer and its iterations require a lot of time not only to play, (some games can last longer than a day), but time to create your armies. Miniatures come unpainted, so you’ll literally create your armies, and it’ll take time to strategically compose as well. After creating armies, players set up their miniatures in formations for visual battles on large tabletops. Of all the games on this list, Warhammer 40K might take the longest to get into, but those who find themselves availed of an army of miniature space marines often find the effort to be worth it. How to get started If you’ve got a game picked out, great! You may be wondering “what now?” In addition to stocking the games themselves, local game stores, and occasionally comic shops, have tons of great resources to get started. Maybe you still want to try out a game before fully committing, these shops often times will host community nights where dedicated players come together with complete newbies to run games. Staff at these shops also often have a wealth of information for new players, too. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  2. Naomi N. Lugo

    The Best Tabletop Games for Beginners

    When we think gaming, thoughts often go to RPGs, complex sims, real-time strategy, etc. However, those all exist in a virtual world on a screen. These complicated genres grew out of more classic forms as tabletop games, bringing people together and causing table-flipping arguments and memories since the dawn of time. In recognition of the vast world of tabletop gaming, Extra Life hosts Tabletop Appreciation Weekend annually. 2018 marks the fourth year celebrating, but board gaming has been a part of Extra Life since the beginning. On Game Day and during other fundraisers throughout the year, many Extra Lifers raise money by playing games not just on their screens but on the tabletop as well. As a newbie to the world of board gaming, or a long time fan looking to branch out, it might be hard to determine where to start. The list below looks at helping you solve that problem with some of the best games with which you can start. This list just scratches the surface of the vast world of tabletop gaming, so if you have any suggestions, we would love to hear about them in the comments below or on social media. If you post about the festivities, use the hashtag #EXTRALIFETabletop to connect and maybe even find a new passion. Dungeons & Dragons It would be downright irresponsible to create this list and not include Dungeons & Dragons. This game set the foundation for tons of games to follow, tabletop and otherwise. For those unfamiliar with the format, or maybe to clear up some misconceptions, Dungeons & Dragons features role-playing gameplay with many different play styles. Generally, though, players will run through a campaign as laid out by their Dungeon Master (DM). Each player creates their own Player Character (PC) based on either the lore officially created by Wizards of the Coast or the homebrewed variant supplied by the DM. Character creation includes the fantastical race of said character, their skills and combat style, as well as their origin story. Basically, you get to let your imagination go wild making a rad persona and then use the rules to make them a reality within the game. Dungeons & Dragons tends to intimidate first-timers, but if you have any interest in storytelling, and can find a good DM (or become a good DM yourself), Dungeons and Dragons reached classic status for a reason. Magic: The Gathering Another titan in the tabletop world is Magic: the Gathering. Rather than relying solely on your imagination, Magic uses cards that represent many elements within the mystical Planes of that setting (which has recently been announced to be coming to Dungeons & Dragons). The cards include the planeswalkers, beasts, troops, spells, totems and more that fight epic battles against other players. Playstyles can vary greatly due to the different colors of magic represented on each card. These five colors offer players the ability to specialize their tactics or even combine colors to test out their favorite way to play. Magic requires time and dedication, much like any game, but MTG has a great community and you can typically find a player willing to explain more complicated cards. Classic Board Games Yes, this portion of the list includes those classics like Monopoly, Risk and even Candyland if that strikes your fancy. Even the mainstream classics are a great way to game with friends or introduce new people to this style of gaming. These games made it to the wider culture due to one simple fact: People enjoy them. Many Extra Lifers choose to play these games for Game Day to raise funds and have an absolute blast. We salute those of you who stick with the classics. Like the wider format that these board games fall under, this genre spans many playstyles. Some great games to play include card games like Cards Against Humanity or Exploding Kittens. The 2011 release King of Tokyo has seemingly simple gameplay but adds in cards that offer each player different dynamics that keep the game interesting. Settlers of Catan allows for multiple players and has them all struggle to build up their empires from nothing. The classics and more recent popular tabletop games became widely played because people have fun with them, consider adding one to your Game Day line-up to spice things up if you're mostly a digital gamer. The Pokémon Trading Card Game Some people might be taken aback by the Pokémon Trading Card Game appearing in a list of games to get into in 2018, but this serves as a stand-in for all fandoms that have developed collectible card games. In this realm lie games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and the aptly named Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. Basically, if there’s a franchise, it probably has a collectible card game (to name a few that float around out there: American Idol, Dr. Who Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so many more). This makes this genre super inviting for members of many fandoms. The rules all vary, but basically, the goal includes collecting the best cards you can get your hands on so you can battle opponents. The communities for these versus Magic: The Gathering tend to be smaller and harder to find. The fun from collectible card games depends on the player. Some enjoy the hunt for rare cards and collecting rather than playing, while others gather at local games shops to battle. Hey, even Geralt of Rivia plays. Warhammer Warhammer is an incredibly malleable franchise for those who love tabletop gaming. On the one hand, the core Warhammer series function very much like an almost comically dark version of Dungeons & Dragons. On the other, Warhammer 40K takes place roughly 40,000 years after the core fiction in a far-flung future full of lasers, magic, and war. Players of 40K often go all in with miniatures and tactics, as the game combines war strategy with armies of real-life miniatures making it the perfect game for model hobbyists. Different genres exist in the Warhammer universe from the classic fantasy to sci-fi as introduced in Warhammer 40k. Be forewarned, Warhammer and its iterations require a lot of time not only to play, (some games can last longer than a day), but time to create your armies. Miniatures come unpainted, so you’ll literally create your armies, and it’ll take time to strategically compose as well. After creating armies, players set up their miniatures in formations for visual battles on large tabletops. Of all the games on this list, Warhammer 40K might take the longest to get into, but those who find themselves availed of an army of miniature space marines often find the effort to be worth it. How to get started If you’ve got a game picked out, great! You may be wondering “what now?” In addition to stocking the games themselves, local game stores, and occasionally comic shops, have tons of great resources to get started. Maybe you still want to try out a game before fully committing, these shops often times will host community nights where dedicated players come together with complete newbies to run games. Staff at these shops also often have a wealth of information for new players, too. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  3. Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast launched the most ambitious addition to Dungeons and Dragons in years. The prolific game company introduced D&D Beyond back in March as a beta for hardcore players of the traditional tabletop role-playing game. The beta period came to an end at the beginning of September, launching to a positive reception. I've had a chance to play around with the materials and systems the past few weeks, and Beyond might just be the most useful, mainstream tool a modern D&D role-playing group could use. D&D Beyond takes on all of the tasks previously reserved for bulky books and easily misplaced character sheets. The streamlined approach means that any player can access a roster of their created characters online while also having access to the basic rules and systems needed to run a game of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons for free. Players who want any of the content contained within adventure modules, expansions, and supplements can purchase those on the digital marketplace for use online in D&D Beyond. That might seem a bit standard, however D&D Beyond offers a really intriguing idea: A two tiered subscription model. Anyone can use Beyond for free, but they will be limited to six characters on their account, the occasional ad will appear, and homebrew content from others cannot be added to a given campaign. The Hero tier for $2.99 per month allows for unlimited characters, no ads, and allows for all homebrew content. Most interestingly, the Master tier for $5.99 per month brings in all of the access of lower tiers, but also allows Dungeon Masters to share all of the purchased content they have with everyone in up to three campaigns. You can feasibly join a D&D Beyond campaign, create a character, and immediately have access to everything your DM will be using in the upcoming adventure - for free. That means, in theory, that a group could pitch in to collectively buy a book apiece and have collective access to the entire 5th edition library. This feature has been one that fans of the staple pen and paper RPG have been awaiting for a long, long time. There are numerous online tools that players have used to help in character creation, organize player-created expansions, and keep track of campaigns. D&D Beyond puts all of those tools into one place and offers that aforementioned game sharing ability. Nathan Stewart, the senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, stated in the announcement for D&D Beyond's beta phase that, "D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends. These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players." The ideal experience of D&D Beyond resides on PC. Going to the website with a full keyboard makes finding what you need and adjusting numbers on a character sheet a cinch. Currently Wizards of the Coast plans to bring the service to a dedicated app for tablets and smart phones. In the meantime, players can use the mobile version of the D&D Beyond website, which offers most of the same functionality as the desktop website. Accessibility stands as the main downside of the mobile version. Often it can take a few clunky finger taps to navigate to the page you need. Weighed against the previous state of the game, where it could take someone several minutes of page turning through rule books and modules, the mobile site offers a vast improvement. The mobile app represents an opportunity for Wizards of the Coast and their development partners at Curse to refine the Beyond experience into a finely tuned collection of role-playing tools. As it stands, one of the main strengths of the Beyond platform is how easy and readily understandable it makes creating a character for even the most uninitiated. It automatically handles the heavy lifting of putting values and adding bonuses derived from the player's choice of creature and class for their character. The only hitch in the character creation process might be when it comes to figuring out starting equipment. That process seems to be complicated for beginners and possibly frustrating the first few times through for those more accustomed to pen and paper. However, there are options to create randomized characters or characters at level 1 that's properly geared for their class. Players who want to create new content in D&D Beyond are free to do so. Want to create a new spell, item, or monster? There are ways to do that and share them with your fellow adventurers. Those creations do have to adhere to some guidelines that prohibit the use of licensed content in homebrew additions. You can't make an item that gives out someone's personal information, contains hate speech in the description, or is very obviously from another IP like directly inserting The One Ring from Lord of the Rings. Wizards of the Coast also prohibits players from adding content that builds off of other races or creatures mentioned in the already established lore of their worlds. Overall, D&D Beyond might have a couple flaws or kinks in the system, but it's an incredibly solid foundation that Wizards of the Coast will most definitely be refining over the coming years. It's a great way to ensure players keep coming back to get hooked on new modules and expansions. Sure, you might have played through a whole campaign as a skilled human swordsman, but what would your adventures be like if you had created a Tortle barbarian? Beyond makes it easy to experiment with new characters and discover new adventures. Oh, and that Tortle race that can be used in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition? It was created as a supplement to the Tomb of Annihilation adventure to raise money for Extra Life! All proceeds from the sale of The Tortle Package go to Extra Life - so, if you're looking for a D&D one-shot to run on Game Day, think about grabbing a few friends, hopping on D&D Beyond, and crafting your own adventure in the isolated Snout of Omgar.
  4. Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast launched the most ambitious addition to Dungeons and Dragons in years. The prolific game company introduced D&D Beyond back in March as a beta for hardcore players of the traditional tabletop role-playing game. The beta period came to an end at the beginning of September, launching to a positive reception. I've had a chance to play around with the materials and systems the past few weeks, and Beyond might just be the most useful, mainstream tool a modern D&D role-playing group could use. D&D Beyond takes on all of the tasks previously reserved for bulky books and easily misplaced character sheets. The streamlined approach means that any player can access a roster of their created characters online while also having access to the basic rules and systems needed to run a game of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons for free. Players who want any of the content contained within adventure modules, expansions, and supplements can purchase those on the digital marketplace for use online in D&D Beyond. That might seem a bit standard, however D&D Beyond offers a really intriguing idea: A two tiered subscription model. Anyone can use Beyond for free, but they will be limited to six characters on their account, the occasional ad will appear, and homebrew content from others cannot be added to a given campaign. The Hero tier for $2.99 per month allows for unlimited characters, no ads, and allows for all homebrew content. Most interestingly, the Master tier for $5.99 per month brings in all of the access of lower tiers, but also allows Dungeon Masters to share all of the purchased content they have with everyone in up to three campaigns. You can feasibly join a D&D Beyond campaign, create a character, and immediately have access to everything your DM will be using in the upcoming adventure - for free. That means, in theory, that a group could pitch in to collectively buy a book apiece and have collective access to the entire 5th edition library. This feature has been one that fans of the staple pen and paper RPG have been awaiting for a long, long time. There are numerous online tools that players have used to help in character creation, organize player-created expansions, and keep track of campaigns. D&D Beyond puts all of those tools into one place and offers that aforementioned game sharing ability. Nathan Stewart, the senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, stated in the announcement for D&D Beyond's beta phase that, "D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends. These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players." The ideal experience of D&D Beyond resides on PC. Going to the website with a full keyboard makes finding what you need and adjusting numbers on a character sheet a cinch. Currently Wizards of the Coast plans to bring the service to a dedicated app for tablets and smart phones. In the meantime, players can use the mobile version of the D&D Beyond website, which offers most of the same functionality as the desktop website. Accessibility stands as the main downside of the mobile version. Often it can take a few clunky finger taps to navigate to the page you need. Weighed against the previous state of the game, where it could take someone several minutes of page turning through rule books and modules, the mobile site offers a vast improvement. The mobile app represents an opportunity for Wizards of the Coast and their development partners at Curse to refine the Beyond experience into a finely tuned collection of role-playing tools. As it stands, one of the main strengths of the Beyond platform is how easy and readily understandable it makes creating a character for even the most uninitiated. It automatically handles the heavy lifting of putting values and adding bonuses derived from the player's choice of creature and class for their character. The only hitch in the character creation process might be when it comes to figuring out starting equipment. That process seems to be complicated for beginners and possibly frustrating the first few times through for those more accustomed to pen and paper. However, there are options to create randomized characters or characters at level 1 that's properly geared for their class. Players who want to create new content in D&D Beyond are free to do so. Want to create a new spell, item, or monster? There are ways to do that and share them with your fellow adventurers. Those creations do have to adhere to some guidelines that prohibit the use of licensed content in homebrew additions. You can't make an item that gives out someone's personal information, contains hate speech in the description, or is very obviously from another IP like directly inserting The One Ring from Lord of the Rings. Wizards of the Coast also prohibits players from adding content that builds off of other races or creatures mentioned in the already established lore of their worlds. Overall, D&D Beyond might have a couple flaws or kinks in the system, but it's an incredibly solid foundation that Wizards of the Coast will most definitely be refining over the coming years. It's a great way to ensure players keep coming back to get hooked on new modules and expansions. Sure, you might have played through a whole campaign as a skilled human swordsman, but what would your adventures be like if you had created a Tortle barbarian? Beyond makes it easy to experiment with new characters and discover new adventures. Oh, and that Tortle race that can be used in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition? It was created as a supplement to the Tomb of Annihilation adventure to raise money for Extra Life! All proceeds from the sale of The Tortle Package go to Extra Life - so, if you're looking for a D&D one-shot to run on Game Day, think about grabbing a few friends, hopping on D&D Beyond, and crafting your own adventure in the isolated Snout of Omgar. View full article
  5. An isle shrouded in mystery and fire, a fearsome idol guarding a famous jewel, and a team of bumbling, backstabbing treasure hunters all converge upon a 3D game board. Fireball Island released to the world in the mid 1980s and has become something of a cult tabletop game. In 1986 Milton Bradley published a game designed around the idea of dimensionality. The prolific game publisher had been releasing a large number of different game concepts over the several previous years. They were attempting to enter the video game market through the acquisition of Good Consumer Electronic following the success of their electronic game, Simon. However, board games remained their major calling as they attempted to innovate the established gaming medium. To that end, designers Bruce Lund and Chuck Kennedy created a three dimensional map, one that modeled the rough topography of an island in the middle of an ocean. This was the beginning of Fireball Island. The simple addition of verticality captured the public's attention. Over 30 years later, people still remember the rage of Vul-Kar and the backstabbery of their companions. Fireball Island presents a very stylish aesthetic. Rolling hills and roaring river canyons, all lorded over by bubbling flows of magma that constantly present a threat of fireballs to the players. Atop the island's central peak stands a massive idol known as Vul-Kar. The idol houses a spirit that players can harness to set back their competitors with a well-placed stream of fire. Vul-Kar also guards an incredible jewel coveted by the rogue adventurers who have journeyed to the isle. As far as board games go, Fireball Island doesn't make any huge leaps in terms of gameplay. Players roll a six-sided die to move around the trails of the island and are able to move both forwards and backwards to suit their purpose. Each player can also play cards earned by landing on darkened parts of the trail. These cards possess powerful abilities that can tip the tide of the game at any given moment - and they can be played at any point on anyone else's turn. This leads to a real back and forth of players clawing their way to dominance over one another with dastardly maneuvers. Players jostle back and forth to be the first player to reach the docks on the other side of the island - with Vul-Kar's jewel in hand. Each time a player passes someone holding the jewel, they can steal the gem for their own. This can be prevented by a handful of cards or the clever use of fireballs. Every time a player rolls a one on the die or plays a fireball card, a fireball can be aimed toward someone on the island. These red marbles are placed at strategic points across the island's map and follow determined routes with the exception of Vul-Kar's fireball, which can be aimed along multiple paths. Being hit by a fireball brings a player back to the nearest smoldering pit down the path and also removes the jewel from their possession. The movement of the fireballs down the track represents the real reason for the 3D map - allowing gravity to operate on the fireballs to set them rolling down the various paths of the island. One of the things that surprised me when I revisited the treacherous Fireball Island was how simple it seemed. I remembered it as this larger than life game; a complex ecosystem of betrayal and fire. Of course, as soon as I opened the box, I realized the nostalgia I had for the game had altered my memory of it. The set up was far easier than I remembered or what the uninitiated might assume from the bulky box. A handful of tokens, two plastic bridges, the idol, a few marbles, a deck of cards, and a pair of dice make for a set up that only takes a couple minutes. Fireball Island itself remains fun, but it's one of those games that relies on the other players around the table. A good group of people can lead to a riotous time of backstabbing fun with the simple rules and unique setting. Now, it might seem strange that I've been talking about a game I enjoyed in my childhood that many might not even remember. However, I discovered that a small, but interested community has grown around the shared nostalgia of Fireball Island. After it's retail run, Fireball Island fell out of print, which has led to it becoming a sought after title. Obtaining a copy on eBay can cost several hundred dollars. However, the enthusiasm of the community seems to have begun a resurrection of sorts for Fireball Island. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a recently rolled fireball, there are several efforts to revive the spirit of Vul-Kar. Justin Jacobson and Rob Daviau (known for his work on Pandemic Legacy: Season One) founded Restoration Games with the express mission of restoring old games to give them a second chance at success. To date, they've revived Stop Thief!, Down Force, and Indulgence. Now they are in the process of bringing Fireball Island to a new generation. However, Restoration Games doesn't simply repackage and release the original games completely intact; part of their founding mission is to modernize those forgotten gems while also addressing some of the deep flaws that might have prevented them from catching on with a wide audience. To that end, their vision of Fireball Island, fully titled Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar, imagines itself as a sequel taking place thirty years after the events of the first game. Players must contend with a dark curse while attempting to accomplish a number of different adventurous tasks. New dangers await even the most experienced Fireball Island players. The restored board game will be funded by an upcoming Kickstarter campaign that has yet to be announced. Interested parties can sign up for Restoration Games' mailing list to keep an eye on when the crowdfunding campaign launches. However, Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar isn't the only spiritual successor to the original Fireball Island in the works. A second project titled Yeti Mountain made its debut on Kickstarter back in March of this year. Yeti Mountain takes the same concept of Fireball Island and places the game world in the icy Himalayas with one angry cryptid. The crowdfunding attempt fell short of its target goal of $28,500, but the creators, Elementary Industries, are gearing up to relaunch the Kickstarter in the near future with new art and possibly a more refined prototype board. It feels a bit surreal to see so much enthusiasm for a game that I had always felt alone in enjoying. I've never met anyone else in person who remembers Fireball Island. That being said - if you find an old copy of this game sitting around at a garage sale or a thrift store or hiding in an attic somewhere, grab a few friends and get ready to shout at one another as you pass around a coveted plastic gem. I promise it will be a good time. I hope to see some revamped versions of Fireball Island or a spiritual successor coming to a game store close to me in the near future. To close out - look at this adorable snake painted on the mountainside of Fireball Island.
  6. An isle shrouded in mystery and fire, a fearsome idol guarding a famous jewel, and a team of bumbling, backstabbing treasure hunters all converge upon a 3D game board. Fireball Island released to the world in the mid 1980s and has become something of a cult tabletop game. In 1986 Milton Bradley published a game designed around the idea of dimensionality. The prolific game publisher had been releasing a large number of different game concepts over the several previous years. They were attempting to enter the video game market through the acquisition of Good Consumer Electronic following the success of their electronic game, Simon. However, board games remained their major calling as they attempted to innovate the established gaming medium. To that end, designers Bruce Lund and Chuck Kennedy created a three dimensional map, one that modeled the rough topography of an island in the middle of an ocean. This was the beginning of Fireball Island. The simple addition of verticality captured the public's attention. Over 30 years later, people still remember the rage of Vul-Kar and the backstabbery of their companions. Fireball Island presents a very stylish aesthetic. Rolling hills and roaring river canyons, all lorded over by bubbling flows of magma that constantly present a threat of fireballs to the players. Atop the island's central peak stands a massive idol known as Vul-Kar. The idol houses a spirit that players can harness to set back their competitors with a well-placed stream of fire. Vul-Kar also guards an incredible jewel coveted by the rogue adventurers who have journeyed to the isle. As far as board games go, Fireball Island doesn't make any huge leaps in terms of gameplay. Players roll a six-sided die to move around the trails of the island and are able to move both forwards and backwards to suit their purpose. Each player can also play cards earned by landing on darkened parts of the trail. These cards possess powerful abilities that can tip the tide of the game at any given moment - and they can be played at any point on anyone else's turn. This leads to a real back and forth of players clawing their way to dominance over one another with dastardly maneuvers. Players jostle back and forth to be the first player to reach the docks on the other side of the island - with Vul-Kar's jewel in hand. Each time a player passes someone holding the jewel, they can steal the gem for their own. This can be prevented by a handful of cards or the clever use of fireballs. Every time a player rolls a one on the die or plays a fireball card, a fireball can be aimed toward someone on the island. These red marbles are placed at strategic points across the island's map and follow determined routes with the exception of Vul-Kar's fireball, which can be aimed along multiple paths. Being hit by a fireball brings a player back to the nearest smoldering pit down the path and also removes the jewel from their possession. The movement of the fireballs down the track represents the real reason for the 3D map - allowing gravity to operate on the fireballs to set them rolling down the various paths of the island. One of the things that surprised me when I revisited the treacherous Fireball Island was how simple it seemed. I remembered it as this larger than life game; a complex ecosystem of betrayal and fire. Of course, as soon as I opened the box, I realized the nostalgia I had for the game had altered my memory of it. The set up was far easier than I remembered or what the uninitiated might assume from the bulky box. A handful of tokens, two plastic bridges, the idol, a few marbles, a deck of cards, and a pair of dice make for a set up that only takes a couple minutes. Fireball Island itself remains fun, but it's one of those games that relies on the other players around the table. A good group of people can lead to a riotous time of backstabbing fun with the simple rules and unique setting. Now, it might seem strange that I've been talking about a game I enjoyed in my childhood that many might not even remember. However, I discovered that a small, but interested community has grown around the shared nostalgia of Fireball Island. After it's retail run, Fireball Island fell out of print, which has led to it becoming a sought after title. Obtaining a copy on eBay can cost several hundred dollars. However, the enthusiasm of the community seems to have begun a resurrection of sorts for Fireball Island. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a recently rolled fireball, there are several efforts to revive the spirit of Vul-Kar. Justin Jacobson and Rob Daviau (known for his work on Pandemic Legacy: Season One) founded Restoration Games with the express mission of restoring old games to give them a second chance at success. To date, they've revived Stop Thief!, Down Force, and Indulgence. Now they are in the process of bringing Fireball Island to a new generation. However, Restoration Games doesn't simply repackage and release the original games completely intact; part of their founding mission is to modernize those forgotten gems while also addressing some of the deep flaws that might have prevented them from catching on with a wide audience. To that end, their vision of Fireball Island, fully titled Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar, imagines itself as a sequel taking place thirty years after the events of the first game. Players must contend with a dark curse while attempting to accomplish a number of different adventurous tasks. New dangers await even the most experienced Fireball Island players. The restored board game will be funded by an upcoming Kickstarter campaign that has yet to be announced. Interested parties can sign up for Restoration Games' mailing list to keep an eye on when the crowdfunding campaign launches. However, Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar isn't the only spiritual successor to the original Fireball Island in the works. A second project titled Yeti Mountain made its debut on Kickstarter back in March of this year. Yeti Mountain takes the same concept of Fireball Island and places the game world in the icy Himalayas with one angry cryptid. The crowdfunding attempt fell short of its target goal of $28,500, but the creators, Elementary Industries, are gearing up to relaunch the Kickstarter in the near future with new art and possibly a more refined prototype board. It feels a bit surreal to see so much enthusiasm for a game that I had always felt alone in enjoying. I've never met anyone else in person who remembers Fireball Island. That being said - if you find an old copy of this game sitting around at a garage sale or a thrift store or hiding in an attic somewhere, grab a few friends and get ready to shout at one another as you pass around a coveted plastic gem. I promise it will be a good time. I hope to see some revamped versions of Fireball Island or a spiritual successor coming to a game store close to me in the near future. To close out - look at this adorable snake painted on the mountainside of Fireball Island. View full article
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