They say that you enjoy things more when you had to work for them. I wonder if that is true if I watched someone else working for them, too, because the guy at the copy shop sure did work for the print-and-play preview of Eruption Now, let me make this absolutely clear: the amount of work is not Eruption‘s fault at all, the PDF was perfectly formatted – but the copy shop had a broken printer driver that changed the orientation between portrait and landscape completely at random and insisted to scale some pages to fit the paper even after three people saw that option was disabled. I have to admit, though: I had fun watching the poor guy struggle with his printers, at least that was one computer problem I didn’t have to solve! But after 40 very enjoyable minutes we left the shop with a new shiny new print version of Eruption.
Watching others struggle is – completely coincidentally – not only the main theme of my little print shop drama but also of the game. Chris James’ Eruption is set on a small tropical island with six coastal villages. People are happy on the little island, spending their days fishing, and eating coconuts and their nights dancing and drinking. Until, one day, a low rumbling shakes the island, the ocean recedes from the shores, the animals go crazy: the old volcano in the centre of the island is erupting, and no amount of sacrificed coconut beer is going to stop it. You’ll want to save your village, of course, but that is only part of the game: you also want to burn the other guys.
To achieve that, everyone is placing lava tiles on the island map and trying to direct the lava flows to the opponents’ villages. To defend yourself, you place walls in the lava’s way which has a dice roll chance to withstand the lava. For every lava flow that reaches your village, your villagers slowly start boiling: the temperature rises on the Burn Meter, basically a negative victory point track. In the end, the coolest player wins, so it’s a lot like high school. Eruption is a tile-laying game with a strong potential for making enemies, but from the few games I played so far, it goes beyond that and adds some depth: the biggest part of that depth comes from the fact that having your village boiled brings you a ton of advantages – apart from a painful death, that is. Three “Danger Zones” on the burn meter allow the first player to reach them to place an eruption tile on the board, an additional spring for lava flows. Even more importantly, each danger zone grants players additional privileges: place more walls, draw more action cards and finally place an additional lava tile on your turn. At least in three and four players, these additional privileges can become very significant and pushing a player into the next danger zone without the means to finish him soon grants him a big advantage on his next turn.
This doesn’t hide the fact that some luck is involved in playing Eruption, but it does add a level of strategy that makes the game very enjoyable without slowing it down: Eruption plays quickly and speeds up a bit more as more people enter the final danger zone. I haven’t had a chance to play in five or six players yet; I expect it will be more chaotic but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be fun.
Stratus Games, who kindly supplied us with this preview version, is currently offering Eruption preorders for the release in October either on its own or as a package with other Stratus Games games.