Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Forbidden Island

Welcome back to Tabletop Tuesday, my weekly post about all things tabletop! Except this week's post is on a Wednesday because I forgot to upload my pics and hit "post"... it was a busy, busy weekend, full of highland games and D&D.

This week's post is a review of the board game Forbidden Island, a cooperative game by Gamewright. It retails for about $15 and can be purchased at hobby shops, on Amazon, and I'm pretty sure I've even seen it at Target.

Follow the jump to read more about the Forbidden Island!

The Game
The premise of the game is that the group of players is visiting a long lost island in search of treasure. The island was inhabited by a lost civilization that used the elemental artifacts to control the waters - and the presence of the party on the island triggers the island's security system. As soon as the party arrives on the island, it starts to sink into the ocean! The players must work together to gather the four magical artifacts and return to Fool's Landing where they can catch a flight off the island.

There are many ways to lose the game, but only one way to win it. To win, all four artifacts must be collected and all the players must make it safely off the island. Because of the flooding, it is possible to lose the artifacts to the waters - artifacts can only be collected from specific game tiles, but if both tiles associated with a single artifact are lost to the flood before the piece can be collected, the game ends. The game also ends if the waters rise too high (designated by the skull icon on the Water Meter), if Fool's Landing is lost (making escape impossible), or if a player can't get to Fool's Landing (due to movement restrictions and lost tiles). No man left behind!

Forbidden Island has a shallow learning curve (no pun intended!) - it is very easy to learn to play and to teach others. This makes it a great introduction to cooperative games because there are also fewer game components to keep track of (flooding, movement, etc) than in other cooperative games.

Each player takes on the role of an adventurer, with one special ability that impacts their movement or strategic value to the group.

The Diver can swim across lost squares, the Pilot can fly characters across the board, the Archaeologist can acquire Treasure pieces easier than the other adventurers, and the Engineer can shore up flooded squares at a fast pace.

These are only a few of the adventurers available, but you can see how each has unique value to the game. Adventurers are supposed to be selected randomly (lost of things about this game are done randomly!) - we like to blindly select our game pieces by drawing from the Player Card deck.

Each adventurer starts on a specific board tile. The game board is generated from 24 tiles that are randomly placed at the start of each game. The directions recommend a layout like the one pictured below. At the start of the game, 6 tiles are flooded using the Flood Cards - a deck of cards representing each tile and its location on the island. Players need to monitor which tiles are flooded and how that will affect their movement and ability to retrieve the treasures.

Player turns consist of three actions. The actions can be any combination of: movement, giving Treasure Cards to nearby players, retrieving a treasure, or shoring up an adjacent tile. The adventurer special abilities can modify what actions are available to a player, but these are the basic actions available to any player. Shoring up or moving to one tile counts as one action, so a player turn might consist of shoring up two tiles, then moving to a third. To retrieve a treasure, the player must have four identical Treasure Cards and be on a treasure tile, designated by an icon on the tile.

The Fire Stone is mine! Mwa-hahaha!

After a player has completed these three actions, they draw two Treasure Cards. If a Waters Rise! card is drawn, the marker on the Water Meter is raised one level. Once a player has drawn their Treasure Cards and done their hand maintenance (hand limit of 5 cards!), the island begins to flood again!

How many tiles get flooded at the end of each round is marked on the Water Meter. This changes as the game progresses - mixed in with the Treasure Cards are Waters Rise! cards, and each time one is drawn, the marker on the Water Meter moves up once.

Luckily, mixed in with the Treasure Cards are Sandbags and Helicopter Lifts! These cards can be used to shore up additional tiles and to transport characters around the board without using a player action. They can also be played on any player's turn. This makes them pretty valuable, but each player hand is limited to five cards, so players must be careful - do they keep the Helicopter Lift or try to retrieve a treasure? Fortunately, Helicopter Lifts can be used on any player, so perhaps one of your teammates can help!

Treasure Cards

As tiles are flooded, they are flipped over from their brightly colored sides to the blue colored side, representing the rising waters. If a tile is flooded twice without being shored up (using Sandbags or a player action), the tile is lost. The tile and its corresponding Flood Card are removed from the game, players cannot cross that space anymore unless they have a special action to do so. If both treasure tiles are lost for a single treasure before it is retrieved, the game ends. If Fool's Landing sinks, the game ends. If players are stranded across the board, without an ability or path to get to Fool's Landing, the game ends.

If we lose the Silver Gate, then we might lose the game, because Fool's Landing will be inaccessible! Oh no!

You can see in the pic above how tiles are lost, restricting movement and the ability to acquire treasures. Eventually enough tiles are lost and removed from the board that flooding the few remaining spaces is inevitable, and the shoring up action becomes very important to make sure players can return to Fool's Landing. This is where the cooperative element of the game becomes extremely important, as players work together to beat the island.

My Recommendation...
I love Forbidden Island, and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy game to play or is in search of an intro to cooperative board games. However, anyone who is already familiar with cooperative games might get bored with this one after a few rounds.

Easy to learn and teach
Affordably priced, especially for the quality of the game pieces
2-4 players, gameplay is designed for small player numbers (great for a couple!)
Artwork is gorgeous
Difficulty can be changed using the Water Meter and flooding more tiles from the start

Gameplay is almost... too easy, experienced players may become bored

Gamewright also makes Forbidden Desert, a similar game that takes place, you guessed it, in a desert! This game will be the focus of my next Tabletop Tuesday post and offers a more difficult challenge to the cooperative gamer. Check back next Tuesday for this post!

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

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

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