Baby, you can Drive my Vul-Kar: Fireball Island First Impressions and Interview with Restoration Games' JR Honeycutt
Article by: Jillian Schmett
This week my regular Thursday post was so long that I decided to make an extra, brief, bonus post regarding Fireball Island. I was lucky enough to play the demo at PAX East and as a backer, thought I would also share some of my experience so far with the campaign.
When I first heard about the Fireball Island campaign, my interest level was at about a zero. I admittedly have just recently caught the KS bug, and up until a couple months ago I had avoided backing any projects completely over the years. My reasoning behind this was not any interesting, deep-seated opinion on KS or publisher practices, simply that I am kind of an “instant-gratification” person and prefer to get what I want right now.
(I’ve since gotten over this and now find myself wanting to back all of the Kickstarters). I also had never played Fireball Island, so there was no nostalgia factor for me. When the campaign launched, my husband asked me if I’d watched the video yet, to which I replied, “not interested.” So of course, as usual, my words went in one ear and out the other for him and he pulled up the video for me to watch. All I could think while watching was, “oh man, Joey will love this!” (for those of you that don’t know, Joey is our son).
Related anecdote: A couple years ago, we found a copy of Loopin’ Chewy at Toys R Us on clearance for $10. This is another game that is a version of an older game that some people played in their childhood, but not being one of them, I had no nostalgia factor for this one either. However, for $10 there really was no reason not to buy it. Even if we got one enjoyable play out of it, it would be worth the price. The game quickly, vastly exceeded my expectations for the number of plays we got from it. We would have friends over and take it out and even with only adults playing, everyone was having fun. It was quick, silly, and even if we hadn’t actually played the old Loopin Louie version as kids, it reminded us of the days playing those types of games with our friends while drinking our Sunny D and eating our Dunkaroos.
Thinking about Loopin’ Chewy and how well it settled itself into our collection even though it didn’t have an obvious place next to Hansa Teutonica and Food Chain Magnate, I knew I did actually want Fireball Island. So, all-in we went.
As I mentioned, I am relatively new to Kickstarter, but I feel confident in saying this campaign is being run extremely well. Updates are detailed and exciting and provided regularly. The page is well laid-out with lots of images and videos of gameplay. Questions posted in the comments section have been addressed adequately and promptly, as far as I’ve seen. At this point they are funded at over $1.5 million, which is incredible. There are a variety of stretch goals reached and they are all interesting and I’ve been happy with seeing them unlocked.
So, a few days after deciding to back the game, we were happy to get a chance to demo the prototype. JR from Restoration Games was at PAX with the prototype. He was extremely friendly and professional, and even though he had been running games all day long for 2 days straight at this point, and must have been exhausted, he squeezed us in to play at the end of the day.
We played a 5 player game and it was a blast! There were all adults playing, and we were laughing and cheering through the entire game. One of the best things about the game was that, although a lot of it is random, there are ways to slightly mitigate and hopefully defend yourself from negative events. However, by mitigating, in this instance, I really mean “do what you can to get out of the way of hazards, and far away from those treasure-stealing other players, and hope for the best.” That really just adds to the experience in my opinion. I didn’t go into this game expecting it to be highly strategic, so I thought it was cool to try to spin the trees in a way that would block a possible future boulder or marbles that could be rolled my way in between turns and hope that someone else didn’t spin them back the other way. After playing I was even more excited about leaving my pledge at the all-in level and I’m confident that it will be a positive addition to our collection.
JR was also kind enough to answer a few questions for me that I’ve noticed people asking on different Fireball Island posts in board game groups/forums. Speaking with him both in person and over e-mail, I can really tell that he is passionate about this project and Restoration Games in general, and genuinely cares about gamers’ experience with the product. He seems to sincerely enjoy watching people have fun playing the game and had a notebook with him in which I noticed he was hand writing notes on players’ comments, questions, etc. It’s very assuring to me to see as a customer.
Here are his responses to my questions:
Can we give readers a little summary of how Restoration decided to choose Fireball Island as their next project?
We have a form on our website where fans can tell us which games they'd like to see us restore next. Fireball Island was by far our most requested project, so that's what we did!
How long did it take to get the project from concept to ready-for-KS launch?
We've been working on it for as long as I've been in the company, so almost a year now.
Restoration games is known for not only bringing back old favorites, but modernizing and improving them to make them more enjoyable for new gamers. Can you tell us what changes have been made from the original 1986 version?
For starters, the island has been completely redesigned from the ground up (ha!). We've made everything bigger, given Vul-Kar three mouths, and changed the rules of the game to make it much more strategic, for a modern gaming audience.
Obviously this game holds nostalgic value for many consumers so I'm sure you were confident that the Kickstarter would be a success, do you feel it is reaching the expectations you had going into it pre-launch?
We're thrilled with the response to the game, and deeply honored at all the support we're getting. Our predictions pre-launch were that we would fund pretty quickly and get to unlock some fun stretch goals, and have a fun campaign - so far that's been the case!
Which of the new expansions is your personal favorite?
I LOVE the boulder. I can't get enough of crushing hapless adventurers with falling rocks.
When is the estimated delivery date for KS backers?
We haven't announced a date, but we're aiming to deliver in November 2018.
Will the game be available retail after the KS is completed?
Absolutely yes. We're printing plenty of them and we're looking forward to partnering with retailers to offer Fireball Island to fans for the foreseeable future. We also have a pledge level specifically for retailers. More details on that in the KS campaign.
You're currently on a road trip, showcasing the Fireball Island prototype, where can readers hope to catch you demoing the game?
I've posted a list of all the dates in a BGG thread here - take a look!
So, this post actually ran a little longer than I expected to but I hope it is helpful to those of you who are on the fence about backing. What do you think? Are you excited for this one? Still unsure? Definitely not interested? Leave me a comment and let me know!
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