27 June 2019
A comfortably nostalgic, reassuringly modern remake of the '80s family favourite
The Curse of Vul-Kar is a remake of 1986 family board game Fireball Island. It’s not surprising, then, that it feels like a nostalgic celebration of the types of games you likely enjoyed as a kid.
The board is a brightly painted lump of plastic moulding dotted with 3D palm trees that spin in place, like a misremembered Tracy Island. There are red lava marbles to drop into a multi-directional head – Vul-Kar – that sits proudly atop the mound, which then come careening down the many paths to bowl over players’ small plastic explorers. The biggest treasure, the heart of Vul-Kar, is a translucent red jewel that feels good to pick up – or to pinch from another player.
What is surprising is that despite the clear reverence of Fireball Island’s childhood-defining look, the gameplay feels reassuringly modern. Gone is the original’s reliance on roll-and-move, replaced with simple but strategic card-driven movement and actions. Where '80s fans bickered over a single piece of loot, the 21st-century version introduces sets of snapshots and treasures to collect, providing multiple routes to victory. It’s a smart redesign that makes it a game you might want to play for reasons other than occasionally getting to throw marbles at your friends and family.
There’s still plenty of chaos, of course – particularly during the increasingly dangerous cataclysms. With only two action cards to choose from, unlucky draws can leave you frustratingly slow and caught in the path of endless boulders or lava, though the silver lining of gaining helpful abilities via souvenirs when you’re squished helps.
Whether you remember the original or not, The Curse of Vul-Kar will leave those of the right age with fond memories of their gaming youth. It may not have the depth to be something you’ll play for decades to come, but it’s more than good enough to leave a whole new generation of players with their own fond memories.
PLAY IT? – MAYBE
Designer: Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Justin D. Jacobson, Chuck Kennedy, Bruce Lund
Time: 45-60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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