When I introduce families or children to modern board games, one of the first to appear is Forbidden Island. It is a great game to be introduced to modern games for families for a number of reasons, one in particular is that it is a cooperative game, where all the players are on the same side and you either all win or all lose. It has many other great features which we shall look at.
The game is very affordable, especially when it comes in a nice size tin box with full colour artwork. Inside is a nice storage system to hold all the various pieces perfectly. The overall impressions of the game with box is really very good. Inside are three sets of cards, a water rise level indicator, a number of land tiles, some player pawns, plus the 4 treasures you need to complete the mission. All components are nicely made, quality pieces. Once you open the box expect the girls to be immediately drawn to the Fire treasure.
Aim of the Game
The game requires the players as a team to between them discover clues to the location of each treasure and recover them, them move to Fools Landing and play a Helicopter Lift card to evacuate the island before it sinks. While they are looking for the treasures they are busy trying to keep the island from sinking.
Simple, yet this requires real teamwork to achieve, and if you ratchet up the difficulty setting you require more teamwork.
The game is setup as in the picture below using the land tiles. Each tile is a named location. The coloured side is up to show a normal state, the reverse shows that it is flooding and sinking. Players either randomly select a role or choose one of the six available, each has a special ability which they can use during the game. Some roles do seem cooler than others, yet from experience they are all useful. Each player gets a card with corresponding coloured pawn. The card has the starting location and special skill printed on it, the Turn Sequence and movement/action choices printed on the reverse, a handy reminder when starting out.
Next each player gets 2 clue cards randomly from the deck, and the remainder are shuffled and placed face down near the island. The difficulty level is set on the Water Level Indicator and also placed close at hand. Next the Flood Card Deck is shuffled and placed close at hand. Now choose a starting player and the game begins.
Once you have done setup a couple of times it is all complete in a minute or so.
The game plays at a good pace, although sometimes the team needs to discuss situations as the many possible choices can present a myriad of decisions which can make or beak the game. It is a case of trying to get the best decisions where possible with the limited information you have. Experienced gamers need to allow novices the opportunity to discuss ideas and bounce them around.
Each player in their turn performs 3 actions, collects 2 clue cards, and reveals Flood Cards equal to the number indicated on the Water Level Indicator. It is a very easy sequence that children and adults alike quickly grasp.
Actions include moving 1 space/tile, passing a card to another player on the same square, collecting the treasure from the hidden location, shoring up (un-flooding) a tile that is flooded. In addition special cards such as Sandbags and Helicopter lift may be played at any time by any player.
As a team you sometimes need to really coordinate your actions, discuss options and consider the overall team strategy which will continually change as the situation with flooding changes. It may seem boring when you are always fixing the flooding while other get the treasure, yet without you slowing down the sinking of the island their would be no treasure to collect. I find that this is a great concept of team play to pass to children.
The Treasure cards include 3 Water Rise cards. When these are revealed the player raises the water level on the Water Level Indicator. If this reaches the top the players lose and the island immediately sinks. Most of the time it increases the rate of flooding by how many cards you reveal from the Flood Deck.
After raising the water level the revealed flood cards are shuffled and placed on top of the Flood Deck. This has 2 effects of note; you know what the likely areas to flood are going to be; and it has the effect of increasing the rate of flooding. This increase happens as recently flooded areas may not have be shored up and might be revealed again before they can be shored up.
The Flood Deck has the indicated number of cards revealed, the indicated tiles are turned over to show flooding has occurred. When a flooded area is flooded again that section of the island sinks and the tile with its associated Flood Deck card are removed from the current game.
This a great family game which can also challenge experienced gamers. It is not a long game, something is always happening and the tension and drama just builds. It makes you think and interact with the other players.
We have played this game many times now and if I have one problem is that the island shape gets boring to look at. That can be solved in two way. At Board Game Geek there is a free extra with some new island layouts which will challenge you. The second is an expansion designed by a fan which is a set of cards with many new island layouts, plus many new role cards for players, plus it introduces a traitor option, click here to get it. I have both and use them now as part of my regular gaming.
This is a fun game that I like to teach, then sort of sit back and enjoy in a second game as new players start to take charge and help make decisions.
Game type: Euro family cooperative strategy
Mechanism / Skill: Action selection with set collection
Number of Players: 2-4 (can be played solo), best with 3-4
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Ages: 8+ (younger can be coached through this game
Ease of Play: 5 / 5
Ease of Setup: 5 / 5
Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Fun Factor: 4 / 5
Replay-ability: 4 / 5