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In the antique era, Pompeii was a flourishing harbor town in Southern Italy. There was always construction work going on, and the town spread itself quickly at the foot of Vesuvius. When the volcano erupted in 79 AD, the town was buried under the ashes and completely destroyed.
The players are to create the town and build one building next to the other. Points are given to players who construct the same buildings or colors on one street.
In this game, players alternately play one of three cards from their hand, trying to maximize their score. Each card has a colour, a building type, and a value. Orthogonally adjacent cards cannot be of the same colour or building type. After placement, the player checks along each direction (up, down, and diagonally) to see if there are buildings of the same type as, or colour of, the card just played. If there are buildings of the same type, the player scores the sum of their values. If there are buildings of the same colour, the player scores the highest valued building of that colour. In the 'bells and whistles' department, players have a 'joker' card, that can take any colour and type, and an 'extra move' card that can be used once to interrupt the game and have an extra turn.
Thus, the game is one of tile-laying, and, to me, has the feel of solitaire. I found it enjoyable, especially if you like puzzle solving. Good value at the price.
Pompeji--as easy to learn as falling off, um, Mount Vesuvius? Forty-nine cards each show a color, a building, and a number (1-7). Each attribute occurs seven times, and no two cards share any pair of attributes. Deal players three cards each. Place one card faceup to begin. On your turn, place a card orthogonally adjacent to one previously placed, then replenish your hand. You can't place a card next to another that displays the same color or building. Also, the card layout mustn't exceed a 7 x 7 grid. Score all rows that your card is in, including diagonal ones. For matching colors, score the highest number in that color in that row. If buildings match, score all cards showing that type of building. Highest score after the deck is depleted wins. Geometry fans will enjoy the opportunities to spot high-scoring plays.
After hearing some positive reaction to this new Adlung Spiele card game from folks whose opinions tend to mirror my own, I purchased a copy and gave it an inaugural playing with two fellow gaming buddies. We enjoyed it so much, we eagerly taught the game to our wives later that evening. The game was popular in both environments. I've since played it several more times and it continues to be popular.
The designer of the game is Frank Brandt, a newcomer to the game design field as far as I can tell. Adlung Spiele has been doing a good job in providing a venue for new game designers.
The rules of the game are quite simple, but can be a tad bit confusing at first. Players are constructing the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, prior to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that would eventually spell its doom. Each card depicts a section of the town, with a central square and three roads bisecting the square (horizontally, vertically and diagonally). The square itself has a particular background color and there is a monument located in the center. There are a variety of background colors and monuments on the cards and players must carefully discern the difference on the cards. Finally, each card bears a value from 1 to 7. When cards are laid adjacent, the streets line up so as to form longer streets. This is important in terms of placement and scoring.
Each player begins the game with three cards and, on his turn, plays a card to the table and refills his hand to three cards. Simple so far. However, in spite of their simplicity, the placement rules do require a bit of care to be exercised.
As the city develops, a card placement may ultimately be adjacent to up to four cards. Thus, players must make sure these adjacent cards do not have matching monuments or colors. It is amazing how often a player attempts to play a card, only to discover that this rule has been violated.
When a card is played, it will usually generate an immediate scoring for that player. The player must examine each of the three streets that emanate from the played card, searching for matching monuments and colors. Since these streets run horizontally, vertically and diagonally, players must examine both sides of these streets, meaning there are up to eight possible lanes to study. Scoring is as follows:
Again, the rules are simple, but they can, in practicality, be somewhat confusing. Extreme care must be taken to make sure scores are tallied properly and no points are overlooked. It is best to have more than one player tallying the points to minimize possible errors. Further, one must exercise extreme care in recording these scores, which are kept with pencil and paper as opposed to a score track.
To add a bit more spice to the game, each player possesses a statue card, which serves as a wild card. In lieu of playing a regular card, a player may opt to place his statue card into the city, announcing either the type of monument it represents or the color of the square. Scores are tallied for this placement as normal, after which the statue card reverts to a generic card, no longer possessing a specific monument or color.
The other special card each player possesses is a '2x' card, which allows the player to take a second turn. Interestingly, this card can be used to take a second turn immediately after completing a turn, or to interrupt the turn order and take a turn after an opponent completes his turn. This card presents a host of opportunities and forces players to carefully observe each player's actions and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Quite clever.
The game has a timing mechanism to determine the end of the game. Two volcano cards are shuffled into the bottom of the deck, one each into a lot of eight cards. These 18 cards are placed on the bottom of the deck. When the first one appears, it signals the impending end of the game. After its appearance, each player must then decide on whether they wish to replenish their hand to 3 cards after playing a card to the city. Once the game ultimately ends with the appearance of the second volcano card, any cards remaining in the players hands are deducted from their overall score before determining the victor. This forces the players to make a tough choice after each play and does provide for some clever tactics as the game draws to a close. Do you draw cards and hope to rush an end to the game, yet be forced to suffer the penalties incurred if you fail to draw the volcano? Or, do you not draw cards, hoping to minimize your deductions, yet be forced to play with a decreasing hand size, thereby limiting your placement options and scoring opportunities? Again, quite clever.
The game has an overall puzzle-solving feel to it, with players attempting to discover the optimum placement option on each turn. Yes, this can cause the game to bog down a bit as players study their options, but for the most part the game flows relatively quickly and plays to completion in 30 to 45 minutes. Some have complained that the cards are a bit too busy and the various colors are difficult to discern, but neither me nor my fellow players didn't seem to have this difficulty.
I find the game quite challenging and engaging. No, it really doesn't evoke the feel of building Pompeii and it could have just as easily been issued as an abstract. However, the theme does lure folks in, which is what proper marketing is all about!