Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Forbidden Desert

Welcome back to Tabletop Tuesday, my weekly post about all things tabletop! This week's post will be a review of the board game Forbidden Desert, a sequel of sorts to last week's game, Forbidden Island.

Like Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game by Gamewright. It uses some of the same mechanics as its predecessor, but is not merely Forbidden Island 2.0: This Time It's Harder and In a Desert. Rather than a rehash of the original game, Forbidden Desert offers a very different game experience.

Follow the jump to read more about the mysterious Forbidden Desert!

The Game
The setting of Forbidden Desert is (obviously) a desert. The group of player characters has crash landed in the desert while searching for a mysterious lost city. Because archaeologists just can't leave well enough alone and have to go searching for the dangerous, cursed artifacts. The players must find and build an ancient flying device to escape before a mysterious magical sandstorm buries them all. The team has to work together to move across the board, excavate squares covered by sand, and collect the four pieces of the flying machine before they can escape... or perish trying!

Like Forbidden Island, there are many ways to lose, but only one way to win. To win, the four components of the Flying Machine must be collected and all the players must make it safely out of the desert. Because of the sandstorm, it is difficult to gather the machine components - the storm mechanic moves and blocks tiles randomly. If all of the Sand is placed on the board, the game is over and the players lose. The game also ends if the sandstorm becomes too strong (designated by a skull on the Storm Meter) or if a player dies of thirst.

Forbidden Desert can be played by 2-5 players. Each player takes on a role (eg. Archaeologist, Climber, Water Carrier), which provides a special talent or skill that the player may use to help the team reach its goal. These talents can be seen on the cards below, and all relate to a game mechanic, such as gathering water or moving through blocked tiles. In the two games we played last night, we played as the Archaeologists and Water Carrier, and as the Navigator and Climber. These mechanics paired really well, especially the Navigator and Climber, since we could move together through blocked tiles.

The game board is randomly generated each game by placing the game tiles in a 5x5 formation and adding 8 Sand pieces to the board, as shown below. The center space is left open - this represents the center of the Sandstorm, and moves around the board. The game begins with all of the tiles desert-side up, and it is necessary for the players to move around and excavate the tiles (flip them over) to uncover tools, clues to the locations of the Flying Machine Parts, and life-saving Water. All players start on the helicopter crash tile.

Game tiles laid out, and with starting Sand formation

Forbidden Desert is played in turns, with each player turn being composed of two parts - the action phase and the storm phase. Players move around the board using a combination of 4 actions each turn. These actions can be any combination of:

Movement - The base movement for each character is 1 tile up, down, left, or right, but special character abilities can modify this, allowing for diagonal movement or moving a character more than one tile per action.

Clearing 1 Sand - Sand pieces are placed on the board as the Sandstorm moves, and any tile with 2 or more Sand pieces becomes impassable to most player characters. To excavate, or collect a Flying Machine Part from any tile, it must be free of Sand. Clearing 1 Sand is equal to 1 action.

Excavating a tile - to excavate a tile players flip them over, revealing a portion of the lost city. excavating a tile yields Equipment, Water, and Flying Machine Part clues. Tiles cannot be excavated if there is Sand present. Excavating 1 tile is equal to 1 action.

Collecting a Flying Machine Part - once both XY clue tiles have been excavated, the Flying Machine Part is placed on the indicated tile. It does not matter if that tile has been excavated or covered in Sand, but both of those obstacles must be removed before it can be collected.

X and Y grid clues and Flying Machine Part location

Types of Board Tiles: Water Well, Mirage, Equipment/City Tile, Launch Pad, Tunnel, Y-axis Clue, X-axis Clue.
Opposite sides are desert, only Water Wells and the Mirage have icons indicated on their desert sides.

There are seven types of city tiles present on the board, revealed by excavating board tiles. These include Water wells (players can refill their canteens when it is excavated), a Mirage (ha, no water for you!), Equipment tiles (gives players Equipment Cards to use), Tunnels (used to move around the board and protect from the sun), Flying Machine clues on an XY axis, and the Launch Pad. All players must meet at the Launch Pad after the Flying Machine has been assembled in order to win the game.

Completed Flying Machine and Launch Pad

Once a player has completed up to 4 actions, they draw Storm Cards equal to the marker on the Storm Meter. The number of Storm Cards drawn each turn changes throughout the game as the Storm intensifies. This happens when a Storm Picks Up card is drawn from the Storm Card deck, and if the Storm intensifies too much, placing the marker on the skull, then the game is lost.

There are three kinds of Storm Cards in this deck. The most common card moves the Sandstorm around the board. The Storm moves based on the number of tiles and compass direction indicated on the Storm Cards, and Sand is placed on the tiles left in its wake. This means the tiles of the board are constantly shifting, changing the locations of Tunnels, Water, and Flying Machine Parts, and Sand is constantly being added to the board. In the example below, the Storm Card indicates that the Sandstorm is moving south 2 tiles. The two tiles in its way are moved northward and Sand is adding to each.

The Sand pieces have two sides, one showing that there is Sand present and the other showing that there is so much Sand on a tile that it is impassable. There is no limit to the amount of Sand that can be placed on a single tile. Though there are a lot of Sand pieces included in the game, if all of them are added to the board, the game ends and the players lose.

In the Storm Card deck there are also Sun Beats Down cards, which forces each player character to consume Water from their Canteen. Thirst is an element of the game, and each Adventurer Card has a Canteen with 3-5 drinks of Water available. If a Sun Beats Down card is drawn, the player must decrease the amount of Water in their Canteen if they are exposed. Players can find protection from the sun in the Tunnels or by using a sunshield Equipment card, and water can be traded between players on the same tile for a free action, but everyone needs to monitor their character's Canteen since only the Water Carrier can collect water from a Well tile after its initial reveal. If a player character runs out of Water, they die and the game is lost.

The sun beats down and everyone loses one water due to thirst

Only the Water Carrier can collect water from a well after its initial reveal

In addition to the Storm Cards, there are two more card types used to play Forbidden Desert. These are Equipment Cards and the Adventurer Cards detailing the player characters and their special abilities. Adventurer Cards are pretty straightforward, and explained above.  The Equipment Cards are collected as tiles are excavated and provide each player with useful tools that help clear sand, refill canteens, and move around the board. Once a tool has been used, it is out of play, so these tools should be used wisely.

Examples of Equipment

I really enjoyed playing this game. Learning to play was not hard, but with the Thirst game mechanic and the constant addition of Sand to the board, I felt like there was a very real threat of losing the game.

I also felt like cooperation is more important to winning this game. While the tasks of shoring up tiles and collecting artifacts in Forbidden Island could be divided among players, Forbidden Desert relies on players planning their moves so everyone benefits from excavating the Water tiles or using tools like the sun shields and emergency water ration. If a player is greedy with their water or tools, they might lose the game for everyone.

Though the random board generation and movement mechanics of Forbidden Desert are similar to its predecessor, Forbidden Island, the games are significantly different. I do not feel like owning and enjoying Forbidden Desert renders my copy of Forbidden Island useless, and we will continue to play both games. Forbidden Desert retails for about $25 and can be purchased at hobby shops and on Amazon.

I recommend this game to anyone, regardless of their familiarity with cooperative board games. Forbidden Desert offers more of a challenge than Forbidden Island, but is still easy enough to learn that it is accessible to cooperative board game noobs.

Forbidden Island is very similar to Forbidden Desert, and is often considered to be an easier game, making it a great introduction to the cooperative board game genre. This game was the focus of my last Tabletop Tuesday post

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

Thank you for reading! Until next time, GAME ON!

1 comment:

  1. Oh this looks like fun and possibly complicated for me haha... thanks for these posts! I love finding new board games.