Game Review: Blowing The Lid Off Of Eruption

Eruption is a game where players take turns controlling the flow of lava from an erupting volcano. They'll want to steer it towards opponent's villages while building walls to protect their own. Be the player with the least amount of damage to your village at game's end and you'll walk away the victor.

While the game draws some comparisons to the popular Carcassonne because of its tile-laying mechanic, there's much more substance in a game like Eruption, which I'll explain in the gameplay section below. I'll be honest though, Eruption holds a special appeal for me simply because I have an unfulfilled 80's-child desire to play Fireball Island again. Let's see what happens when theme nostalgia collides with a love for modern game mechanics.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-6

Playing Time: 45 minutes

Age: 10 to adult

Publisher: Stratus Games

MSRP: $44.95

Release: October 2011

The Gameplay:

At the game's start, a stack of 40 lava tiles are placed in the center of the island. On their turn, each player flips the top one over and connects it to the existing lava flow. It has to fit exactly, so they'll have to analyze the board for the best possible spot.

A four-player game of Eruption about to begin

After placing their tile, players can also play action cards from their hand, or build walls using resources they've accumulated. Action cards do some standard rules-bending: allowing players to draw a second tile, build a free wall, replace an existing lava tile, etc.

Walls protect against impending lava flows. They can be placed on a village's edge to build up defense, or placed out in the middle of the island to cap a lava flow end. Players can collect straw, wood, and stone on their turns, and spend one block to create a wall of that same type. When lava meets a wall, the material used will play a big part in determining if the wall survives. Two D6s are rolled: one for the lava and one for the wall. The higher score wins (with lava winning ties) but while straw walls get no die roll bonus, wood walls add +1 and stone walls add +2.

The red player built a few walls early, but good tile placement allowed the lava to flow right around them

When lava burns through a wall, the village's temperature rises by 10 degrees. An unblocked lava flow does double that damage though, and village's temperature increases are calculated at the beginning of its owning player's turn. Play continues until either one player's village burns up completely (passing 280 degrees) or all 40 lava tiles have been played.

There are some special abilities that can be earned on the scoring track as well, so it's not always such a bad thing to take on a little heat. The first players to land on or pass 50, 120, and 200 degrees each get to play an eruption tile, which creates a new lava source anywhere on the map. This sort of thing can really shake up a game if played effectively.

An eruption tile shows up to threaten the blue and green villages

Eruption also prevents any one player from running away with the game by giving advantages to those with high-temperature villages. As players progress along the track, they'll get to build extra walls, draw action cards, and even place extra lava tiles on their turns.

The Components:

  • 1 Game Board
  • 43 Tiles
  • 48 Wooden Walls
  • 36 Action cards
  • 6 Wooden Scoring Markers
  • 2 Dice
  • Instructions

It's not often I say this, but there is literally nothing to complain about here. Eruption has a mix of wooden pieces, paper cards, and cardboard tiles, yet I can't manage to find an area where corners were cut to save on production cost. The board is flush-mounted, the rules are explained clearly, and the book's pages are lined with illustrations to speed up game learning.

The game's look is appealing as well. This is one of those board games that you could set up at a convention and attract players like bees to honey, simply because it catches the eye and casts an impression that it will be fun to play. Aside from high print quality, the design choice that led to this is to use only the brightest and boldest colors. This is a tropical setting mixed with hot burning lava, so muted colors would be unacceptable. Instead, Stratus Games took the wise route and made the graphics pop.

Final Thoughts:

There's actually a considerable amount of luck in this game when you consider the random lava tile draws, action card draws, and lava vs. wall dice rolls. Still, there are enough elements of strategy to keep any breed of gamer engaged. Just don't let the game's wooden blocks, scoring track, and other euro stylings cause a jump to conclusions: this is not El Grande, but who says it has to be? Eruption is just plain fun.

I see this as a game that bridges gap between different styles of gamers and even different age ranges. Eruption may never wind up as a frequent "favorite game," but it's still one that will be enjoyed by many. That alone makes it worth owning to help round out any gamer's collection.

Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game