The Downfall of Pompeii is like no other game I’ve played before. It takes place over two rounds. In the first round, players are playing cards from their hand to place people into buildings within the city of Pompeii. Each card has a color and a number on it that corresponds to a specific building and each building takes up 1 or more square on the board, which means you can place the people in any of those squares. (There’s a set number of spaces for people within each square, so if they’re full up, you have to place them in a different square in that building).
After a player plays their card and places their people, they draw another card. If they draw an Omen card, they get to choose 1 person in the city and drop them in the volcano, removing them from the game. This can be really cruel, because a player can draw multiple Omen cards in one turn. When the first of 2 “A.D. 79” cards is drawn, players continue playing cards, but now they get “neighbors” benefits. What this means is, when you place a person into a building square that already has other people in it, you then get to place more people into buildings of the same color equal to the number of other people in the building where you placed your first person. (So if you place your person into a blue building with 2 other people, you then get to place 2 more people into other blue buildings), or you can place them into one of the colorless buildings around the board.
When the second “A.D. 79” card is drawn, the first phase of the game ends, and the second phase begins. In this phase, players take turns drawing volcano tiles from a bag and placing them on the board. The volcano tiles have 6 different symbols on them, which match a starting point on the board. Once a tile is already on a starting point, if that symbol is drawn again, you can place it adjacent to any other tile with that symbol. If a tile is placed on a space with people in it, every person that was in that square dies and is placed in the volcano. After you place a tile, you get to move 2 of your people, with the goal of leading them out of one of the 7 exits to the city. Any people you get out of the city score you points at the end of the game.
The game ends when either all of the exists are blocked off by volcano tiles, or there are no more people left in the city. Whoever saved the most people wins the game.
I found The Downfall of Pompeii to be a very interesting game. I don’t like how some aspects are very random, and I don’t like how that 2nd “A.D. 79” card can pop up at any time, because you might have a plan with the cards in your hand and it just doesn’t work out because you can’t play cards anymore.
I do really like the second phase, though. Placing the volcano tiles is really fun, especially if you can knock off 3-4 of your opponents people at once, or block off their best exit route. I like that this game has conflict, but it’s not overwhelming. I’d definitely play again if I had the chance.