By November 28, 2012 0 Comments

Forbidden Island Game Review

I’ve written in the past about how some of the games at our house are more intense than others. We may choose different games depending on the mood, endurance and experience of the folks in a gaming session. Seasoned game players may be fine for several sessions of longer, more intense narrative games such as Betrayal at the House on the Hill or Elder Sign (review coming). However, if someone’s last board game experience was fifteen years ago with Monopoly (complete with sibling-induced scars) we might start out with something more straightforward like Catch Phrase or Tsuro.

Sometimes a group of veterans start out with big games and then their minds get numb after a few longer, more intense games. That’s when we’ll need a “cool down” game like Zombie Dice. This lets everyone’s brains reset, or fade out to the point where we’re drooling on ourselves.

Forbidden Island by GameWright is the kind of game that does well with new gamers and is also a great cool-down game for when your sessions get intense.

Forbidden Island is a collaborative game for two to four players. The object of the game is to rescue / pillage four relics from an island and escape before it sinks.

The game board is made up of cards that are dealt randomly into a specific pattern. Every game has the same tiles, but the order of those tiles is different in every game. When certain events occur, tiles “sink.” The first time a tile sinks you flip it over, and the art work has a bluish tint. If the same tile sinks again, you remove it from the game.


These island tiles have flooded once. One more time and they’re gone!


These tiles have sunken completely, and are out of the game.

The game ends when ALL of the players escape with ALL of the relics, or when enough of the island floods to make success impossible.

Each player will draw a role at random. Roles have different abilities, and every ability can help the team in some way. The Diver, for example, can swim through one sunken space, the helicopter Pilot can fly a character around, and the Messenger makes trading relic cards easier.

Every player’s turn has the following phases:

  • Actions – take up to four actions. An action is: move one space, trade in four relic cards for a relic, trade a relic card to another player, or “shore up” a sunken tile. Shoring up a tile flips it from it’s half-sunken blue state to its original dry land state. You cannot return completely sunken tiles to the game.
  • Draw two treasure cards. Treasure cards are mostly a picture of a relic. You need four of the same relic treasure card to capture the relic — as well as be on one of two relic tiles. Don’t worry, it’s more simple in play than it is in my explanation. There is a Sandbag card, which allows you to instantly shore up a half-sunken tile. There’s also a helicopter card, which allows you to fly any number of players from one tile to another, or to escape the island from the helicopter pad. But not every treasure card is welcome — some trigger a flood event, followed by an increase of the number of tiles flooded each turn.
  • Flood tiles – speaking of, the last phase involves sinking the island. The beginner difficulty starts out by flooding two tiles every player turn. Players flip over the appropriate number of flood cards, and then flip over or remove the appropriate tiles.

The production value of the game is really good, especially given that it costs less than $15. The relics are all fun and different. The cards are well-made and have held up to lots of game play. The tiles are well-crafted and show no signs of warping common to other tile games such as Betrayal at the House on the Hill or Ascending Empires.

Forbidden Island is a great game, and its biggest drawback is that it’s limited to only four players. We often have five players around the table, and we move on to other games like Tsuro or Guillotine. However, that’s not the fault of Forbidden Island, just something that keeps it from being played as often as we’d like.

As of this writing, Forbidden Island is a great deal at $15. It’s fun for a wide range of game players and can serve as an introduction to more advanced table top gaming or as a breather. I was given Forbidden Island by my buddy Bond, and it’s been one of our most successful games. I liked it so much I’ve given it as a gift to a few people, and I hope that you’ll enjoy it, too.

Strongly Recommended.

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