Forbidden Island

One of our favorite co-operative games. Together everyone succeeds or dies. There is no middle ground, just sinking ground.

Players: 2 – 4                          Best with: 3 -4

Age: 10+                                  GN Age: Child

Game Type: Board                 Time: 30 – 40 minutes

Publisher/Year: Gamewright – 2010

Game Play: Card Collection, Cooperation

Score:  out of 12

There are three things in this world I love, Games, Indiana Jones style adventure, and apple pie. Forbidden Island manages to combine 2 out of 3, and as Meatloaf says: “Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad”. Ooh, meatloaf, I love meatloaf too. Okay, four things.

Forbidden Island. A land of beauty and mystery. Home to tranquil gardens, soaring palaces, and your own watery grave.

In Forbidden Island, you and your plucky band of thrill-seeking fortune hunters have discovered a Lost island. However, there are no magnetic bunkers, or smoke monsters, or winning lottery ticket codes on it. But it does have four artifacts that give the wielder unlimited power to control the four elements: Earth, Wind, and Fire. Oh, and water, don’t forget water. Sorry Aquaman.

I was really tempted here to just put in a picture of the band Earth, Wind, & Fire with zero context.

There is one little catch. The ancient civilization that created these artifacts of global destruction didn’t want them to be discovered, you know, because of the whole global destruction thing being apparently bad. So, they designed the island to sink into the ocean if anyone ever set foot on it. There you see, having control over water can be useful. And everyone thinks Aquaman is lame.

But you and the other players have said “Screw the risks and the dangers. I want the treasure!” You’ve descended upon the island and must now find all four treasures and escape with your lives before the island becomes another Atlantis.

You play as one of six possible adventurers, and each has a unique, special action that they can do on their turn. Since the game is designed for a maximum of four players, at least two job roles will go unfilled. This changing combination of jobs and roles makes each game different from the last and requires that players alter their strategies to win. To keep us for playing the same roles, we like to randomly draw our characters.

Let’s call these guys Henry, Brody, Sallah, Marion, Jock, and Short Round.

The island is another unique and random element to the game. The island consists of 24 landmark areas that are arranged randomly in a sort of cross shape. This randomness does create a unique board but it ultimately doesn’t affect gameplay. Although the artwork is stunning and each new island looks beautiful. And deadly, mostly deadly.

Eight of the island areas are special. They consist of sacred groves and consecrated temples, et cetera. The treasures may be found at either of the two areas dedicated to that treasure. This is very convenient, in case one of the areas sinks, you can still find the treasure at the other one. How exactly does a unique artifact know which temple to be found in? Let’s just say it uses the same magic that causes an island to sink by exactly one square at a time.

The game hasn’t even started yet, and you’re already losing.

This brings us to the best part of the game: the sinking island. Once the board is laid out, six cards are immediately drawn from the Flood Deck representing each of the 24 areas. Those areas are now flooded, which is represented by flipping the island tile over. You can still travel through a flooded area, but if you ever draw that area card again while it is flooded, and trust me, you will, then that area sinks beneath the waves, forever.

It is this sinking island that will cause you to lose the game. If you can’t get to a treasure before both areas dedicated to that treasure sink, then you lose. There is one area that you must use to evacuate the island called Fool’s Landing. If that sinks, you lose. If you are on an area that sinks and you cannot swim to land, you lose. Ans since this is a co-operative game, if one player loses, you all lose.

Oh, and if the Water Level gets to the skull, you lose!

So, how can you win? On each turn, you can perform three actions (five is right out). You can move to a new tile, shore up a flooded tile with sandbags and levees, give a treasure card to someone with on the same island tile, or capture a treasure. To capture a treasure, you must be on a treasure tile with four cards matching that treasure. Your moves per turn will change constantly based upon the board. This is where the co-operative play is vital. On one turn, you might move to a tile with another player to give him a treasure card to complete a set. On that player’s turn, he can move to that treasure tile and claim the treasure. But on your next turn, you need to run back to Fool’s Landing and shore it up before it sinks.

All is not lost. On Indy’s next turn, he can travel to the Cave of Shadows and claim the Fire Treasure. One down, three to go.

However, after each turn you must draw new cards from the Flood Deck. As the water level rises, you have to draw more and more cards. The island sinks faster and faster. Will you get to that last treasure in time? Can you save all your partners before it’s too late?

We love to play this game. It is in our Top 20.. The game is a ton of fun and the increasing tension as the game progresses is surprising effective. But it is definitely more of a kid’s favorite than the adults. The strategy required to win is truthfully not very complex (for adults), and the only real way to lose is to have really bad luck when drawing from the Flood Deck.

Is it just me, or is the island getting smaller?

This is a great game for the kids. We tend to let them do all the strategy and dictate where we should mobilize our forces. Group communication and discussion is strongly recommended. We will usually only interrupt to show them an alternative solution. The only downside to this is having to reel in the older child who tends to overshadow and force his plan on the younger one.

We’ve played this game since both boys were 8. The rules are simple enough and with its co-operative nature, the younger child can be taught how to play strategically and still have him participate. The only downside, is that they will probably grow out of it by the later teen years.

Forbidden Island is gorgeous, quick, easy and fun; a perfect family game night game. Just keep an eye on that Water Level, cause as Led Zeppelin says: “When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay.” Ooh, Led Zeppelin, I love them too. Okay, five things.

We did it! We got all the treasures! Quick, everybody…

As always, Get to da Chopper, and Game On!

 Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory – Dr. Henry Jones Jr.

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