Fireball Island is coming back in a “reignited and restored” form after destroying its Kickstarter target. It’s the latest project from a company that updates classic board games for a modern age.
Restoration Games takes out-of-print board games that are fondly remembered but have simplistic or outdated rules that mean they wouldn’t appeal to hobby gamers once the nostalgia had worn off. Rather than simply reprint the games, the company tweaks the rules to improve the depth of gameplay without losing the original spirit and character.
Previous projects included Downforce (a remake of a card-based racing game with several previous names) and Stop Thief! (with an app replacing the popular electronic sound effects.)
When Restoration Games asked for suggestions for reboots, one of the more popular choices was Fireball Island, the 1980s Milton Bradley classic. For those who’ve never had the pleasure, players had to climb a mountain, grab a jewel and escape the island, all the while avoiding erupting fireballs. These are represented in the game by a rolling marble, bringing an element of luck.
The remake takes advantage of the willingness of modern gamers to pay for spectacular components, with an even more elaborate 3D board, though smarter packing means the box itself is much more manageable than the original. The core of the game itself remains the same, but with a greater deal of control and strategy from players.
In particular, it’s no longer a case of getting the single jewel and trying to escape. Instead players can’t leave until they’ve collected a “snapshot” from each of three areas of the island, at which point they can call for a helicopter to collect the party (in other words, triggering the end game.)
The scoring is based on collecting treasures (including set collection bonuses), but only players who make it back to the helipad in time to be collected will get the full points for their haul, with others suffering a penalty. A big part of the game is finding the right balance between going after treasure, keeping within range of the helipad, and being the one who collects the three snapshots and thus can control the end game’s timing.
Another mechanic change is that players must now choose one of two action cards on their turn. Each card containing both a maximum movement allowance and a special action (including launching a fireball.) Taking more powerful actions usually means having less available movement on the turn.
There’s also a balancing mechanism by which players hit by the fireball lose a treasure to the person who initiated the launch, but are compensated with a “souvenir” card that gives players surprise actions, similar to the original game’s cards.
The Kickstarter had a goal of $250,000 and while the health of the hobbing gaming industry and Restoration’s reputation meant its funding was almost inevitable, it hit the target in under an hour and has already tripled that target.