The Downfall of Pompeii

The Downfall of Pompeii: A Guide to Rules, Strategy and Gameplay


The Downfall of Pompeii is a game that takes players back to the year 79 AD, right before the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I find it to be a really interesting period of Roman history, so it’s pretty cool to find a game that dives into it. This tile-based game, designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, is known for its unique blend of strategy and luck. It was first published in 2004 and has since become a favorite among board game enthusiasts.

The game is for 2 to 4 players and typically lasts around 45 minutes. The goal is to place as many of your family members in the city of Pompeii and then get them out before the volcano erupts, burying the city in lava. The game is split into two phases: before and after the eruption. During the first phase, players draw cards and place their family members in buildings. In the second phase, players move their family members towards the exits while avoiding the lava tiles that are now spreading across the board. The player who successfully escapes with the most family members wins.

Quick Tip for The Downfall of Pompeii

Always keep an eye on the exits and plan your escape routes early. It’s not just about getting your people in; it’s about getting them out!

Rules for playing The Downfall of Pompeii

The Downfall of Pompeii rules are straightforward once you get the hang of them. The game starts with players drawing cards to place their family members into the city. Each card corresponds to a building where you can place one of your pieces. Some cards allow for special actions, like placing additional family members or even throwing opponents’ pieces into the volcano! Once the AD 79 card is drawn, the volcano erupts, and the second phase begins. Now, players draw from a different deck that determines where the lava tiles go. These tiles block paths and can trap or eliminate family members. Players take turns moving their pieces towards the exits, with the number of moves determined by how many family members are in a building. The game ends when all lava tiles are placed or all surviving family members have escaped. The player with the most family members out of Pompeii wins.

Equipment and Setup for The Downfall of Pompeii

To play The Downfall of Pompeii, you need the game board, which depicts the city with various buildings and escape routes. You also need cards that represent different buildings, lava tiles, and small plastic figures for the family members. If you don’t have the official game, you could potentially DIY these components with some creativity. The types of tiles in the game include building tiles, which are used in the first phase, and lava tiles, which come into play after the eruption.

Setting up the game involves placing the board in the center of the table, shuffling the building cards, and giving each player a set number of family member pieces. The lava tiles are set aside for use in the second phase.

How to Play The Downfall of Pompeii and Game Mechanics

The Downfall of Pompeii game mechanics are simple yet engaging. Here’s a breakdown of the gameplay:

  1. Setup: Place the board, shuffle cards, and distribute family members.
  2. Gameplay: Draw cards, place family members, and eventually move them towards the exits.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when all lava tiles are placed or all survivors have escaped.

During the gameplay phases, players can take actions such as drawing cards, placing or moving pieces, and placing lava tiles. Strategic thinking is required to decide where to place family members for an easier escape and how to best navigate around the lava.

How to Win at The Downfall of Pompeii

To win at The Downfall of Pompeii, you need to balance placing your family members strategically in the city and planning their escape routes. In the beginning, focus on spreading your family members across different buildings to avoid having them trapped together. Pay attention to the other players’ moves and anticipate where lava might spread. As the game progresses, prioritize moving your pieces towards the exits, using the most efficient paths possible. Sometimes, sacrificing a few family members to save the majority is a necessary strategy.

Best Strategies for playing The Downfall of Pompeii game

First, during the early game, it’s crucial to populate Pompeii with as many of your citizens as possible by playing cards and placing pieces strategically, ensuring they are spread out to maximize escape routes. It’s also advantageous to place your citizens in buildings with multiple exits and close to the gates for a quicker evacuation later on. When the volcano erupts, prioritizing the movement of your citizens becomes essential. Players should aim to leverage Omen cards to hinder opponents’ citizens while saving their own.

Additionally, planning the order of evacuations to optimize the use of the limited escape routes and anticipating choke points can prevent your citizens from being trapped. A key to success is staying adaptable and reacting swiftly to the changing board state as the lava flows. Monitoring opponents’ actions and adjusting your strategy accordingly can also give you an edge. Lastly, forming temporary alliances to block other players’ paths might be beneficial, but always be ready to break them when the time is right to ensure your victory in the downfall of Pompeii.

Winning at The Downfall of Pompeii often comes down to a few key strategies:

  • Place your family members in buildings close to exits early on.
  • Keep track of which lava tiles have been played to predict the flow of lava.
  • Use the Omen cards to your advantage by removing opponents’ pieces when possible.
  • Don’t clump all your pieces together; spread them out to avoid mass casualties.
  • Be flexible with your escape plans as the situation on the board changes.

Remember, sometimes sneaky tactics like blocking an opponent’s path or leading lava towards their family members can be effective, but they can also make you a target.


Common scenarios in The Downfall of Pompeii include being blocked by lava or other players, having a clear path to an exit, or needing to choose which family members to save. To turn these scenarios to your advantage, always have a backup plan, be willing to change your strategy, and keep an eye on your opponents’ moves.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing The Downfall of Pompeii game

Q: Can I move through other players’ family members? A: Yes, you can move through them but not end your move on the same space.

Q: What happens if a lava tile is placed where my family member is? A: That family member is removed from the game.

Q: Can I move out of Pompeii on the same turn I enter an exit space? A: No, you must wait until your next turn to move out.

Q: How many family members can I move in one turn? A: You can move as many as are in one building, up to a maximum of three.

Q: Is there any way to stop the lava? A: No, once a lava tile is placed, it cannot be moved or removed.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Here are some extra tips to help you master The Downfall of Pompeii:

  • Early in the game, focus on getting your family members into buildings rather than worrying about other players.
  • Watch for patterns in the lava flow and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Remember that sometimes the best defense is a good offense; use your turns to hinder your opponents’ escape plans when it makes sense.

For more information on The Downfall of Pompeii, check out these links:

BoardGameGeek – The Downfall of Pompeii
Official Mayfair Games – The Downfall of Pompeii