In Volcanic Isle, players take the role of the settlers of the lost continent of Mu. Players take turns constructing new settlements and erecting the Moai statues in an attempt to calm the gods to stop the volcanoes on the board. The statues, however, cause problems by creating fissures on the land where they are placed. Whenever a fissure completely wraps around an area of the board, that board piece is removed and reduces the play space.
As play continues, fault lines are created that cause different portions of the board to be removed. The game concludes when a certain number of players remain or a certain portion of the island is removed. The remaining settler with the best settlement, represented by the most land and culture, is the winner.