This award-winning board game comes with a cute winged lion figure and a game tile that looks like a wrinkly, writhing Penis Castle. What more could you possibly need?
Forbidden Island features cooperative gameplay, which means everyone is on the same team playing versus the game board itself: either everyone wins (yay!), or everyone loses together. Now, I know that sounds like a game genre for helicopter parents trying to shield their precious spawn from life’s disappointments. However, if you seek out and play the good co-ops, you will soon be no stranger to complete and utter soul-crushing failure. You will experience devastating defeat when your team only needed one more turn to win. And you will love it, because the good games are challenging, and it will make your next victory feel so much more rewarding.
Within the increasingly popular cooperative games genre, Forbidden Island is one of the several that truly reigns supreme. Designed by Matt Leacock (who also created the renowned co-op board game Pandemic), I’ve found that Forbidden Island tends to be fairly universally enjoyed. This is very much a “gateway game” in my opinion – I frequently pull this one out for introducing people to modern board games, especially if I’m secretly hoping to hook them into my gaming hobby1. It is easy to learn and play, with aesthetically appealing components. Although the rules are simple, there is enough depth and excitement to keep everyone engaged.
In Forbidden Island, your team is working together to capture four treasures and escape before the island completely sinks. The game board is comprised of 24 double-sided tiles representing different island locations. Each player has a special ability unique to them, and gameplay involves collecting and trading sets of cards, and using the cards to capture treasures. Throughout the game, the island gradually floods and sinks into the water – everyone must work together to slow the flooding process. If your team can acquire all four treasures, obtain a helicopter card, and rendezvous at a specific tile before the island completely sinks, you all win!
The adventure theme is immersive and fits perfectly with the gameplay. As the game progresses, the feeling of imminent doom rapidly intensifies as the board physically disappears – island tiles that sink are removed from the playing area during the game. It’s impossible not to feel the pressure when the island has only a few tiles left, everyone is staring at you with fear in their eyes, and your hand is quivering over the draw pile as you silently pray the dreaded Waters Rise! card won’t come up next.
As the Waters Rise! cards (which are randomly shuffled into the deck) are drawn during play, a series of actions to takes place which increases the game difficulty. There are also four starting difficulty levels you can choose during setup: Novice, Normal, Elite, and Legendary (in case your team is masochistic). Forbidden Island’s replayability is also pretty great, as the game board always changes (island tiles are arranged at random during game setup), making the experience different each time you play.
For a game this fantastic with such high-quality materials, the price is amazing. All cards have a smooth linen finish (like good poker cards), and the island tiles are crafted from sturdy, thick cardboard. Player pawns are painted wood, and the treasures are beautifully-detailed small plastic sculptures. Even the box is nice – the embossed tin container comes with a well-designed insert to hold game components. The rulebook has easy-to-read instructions, clear images, and gameplay examples.
Forbidden Island is the perfect game for
luring your unsuspecting friends and loved ones into becoming fellow board game fanatics introducing newbies to the world of modern board gaming, for a fun and inexpensive segue into the cooperative genre, or for a quick-yet-challenging filler between heavier strategy games. This is a pretty much a staple for any board game collection.
- Number of players: 2 – 4
- Best with: 3 or 4 players
- Playing time: 30 minutes
- Category: Cooperative, Adventure
- Expansions: N/A
- Designer: Matt Leacock
- Publisher: Gamewright
- Which is always. [↩]