Friday, February 18, 2011

Forbidden Island Review

Published: 2010

:Matt Leacock

: GameWright

Rules Complexity: Easy

Players: 2 -4

Type: Cooperative

Artwork: A

Bits: B

Playing Time: 30-45 minutes

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players that is very similar to Pandemic. The reason for this is the two games are designed by the same individual. Calling Forbidden Island a Pandemic light is a really excellent way to describe this game. While such a comparison might be considered a slight to the title, I think it's a compliment. Pandemic is an excellent cooperative game and Forbidden Island replicates many of that games mechanics and it plays in half the time.

The setting is simple. You're a group of treasure hunters and your goal is to acquire 4 Idols off this island and then leave before it sinks via the helipad because we all know a mysterious island comes with an equipped helipad. As a group you can lose the game in a number of ways. If a character dies you lose. If the water level gets too high you lose. If both treasure chambers for an unclaimed idol sink you lose. Finally if the helipad tile sinks you lose.

Each player is randomly given a character who has a special ability. For example the pilot can fly himself for an action to any other tile, the diver can swim under flooded or sunken tiles for an action allow him to move large distances.

On your turn you get to take 3 actions, then you draw 2 treasure cards and then you draw flood tiles based on the water level. All of which is covered on the back of your player card which makes the player card very useful and also makes the game much easier to explain.

The actions you can take are moving, shoring up flooded tiles, giving a treasure card to another player on your tile or claiming a treasure if you have 4 matching cards in your hand.

The trick to the game, and possibly it's flaw, is the treasure deck contains 3 water rises cards. When one of these is drawn you increase the water level. This level determines how many cards you draw in the flood stage. You then reshuffle the discards in the flood deck and put them on top of the flood deck draw pile. Pretty much identical to the way this mechanic works in Pandemic. The treasure deck itself isn't very large and each player has a hand size of 5 so the cards cycle at just the right speed.

Finally you draw flood cards based on the water level so you will be drawing between 2 and 4 cards depending on how bad things have gotten. When you draw a card it matches a tile. If that tile is dry you flip it to it's flooded side. If that tile is flooded you remove the tile and the card from the game. Removing the card is an important rule not to forget as it reduces the size of the flood deck.

The game itself usually plays very fast and is also typically very tense. Players coordinate there actions between shoring up tiles and trading cards. There are also special cards that can be played at any time. These are the sandbags card which allows you to shore up a tile. Also the helicopter lift card which allows you to move all pawns on a tile to another. The Lift card is also required to be played to get everyone off the island once on the helipad.

Forbidden island is a decent game. It plays very fast and for some reason is easier to explain then Pandemic. In fact I would consider Forbidden island a good game to get some9ne feet wet for Pandemic.

The only problem I have seen with the game and it has happened twice is if the water rises cards get grouped up in the shuffle and come out early you can usually outlast them and then it is a pretty easy victory. When that doesn't happen the game is usually very tense and is a good 30 to 40 minute ride.

Forbidden Island is a good game. It plays fast, it's exciting and easy to teach. If you own Pandemic you might not need this game unless you're looking for a new setting and a game that plays quicker. If you don't own Pandemic I would still recommend it over Forbidden Island as it is a slightly deeper experience.


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