Game Review: Forbidden Island

To win you have to balance the need to collect sets of relic cards with the requirement of keeping the island from disappearing beneath you. As the island tiles sink, the matching cards are removed from the flood deck. That means the more tiles you lose, the faster you cycle through the deck. The more Waters Rise cards that you play the higher the flood meter goes, which also accelerates the churn rate on the flood deck.

To help you out, each player has one of six roles, each with a special ability.

  • Pilot: May move to any tile once per turn for one action (simulates flying the helicopter around)
  • Explorer: May move diagonally as well as orthogonality (allows them to cover more ground than almost anyone other than the pilot)
  • Navigator: May move other player pawns (with permission) instead of their own up to two tiles
  • Diver: May move through any number of flooded and/or missing tiles for a single action (becomes really powerful as the game progresses and the island sinks)
  • Engineer: May shore up two tiles as one action
  • Messenger: May give (but not take) treasure cards without having to be on the same tile

There are creative folks on Board Game Geek that have added more specialized roles. There was even one person who introduced carnivorous apes or something like that. As if the island wasn’t deadly enough!

I really like this game. I think it captures the feeling of being on an island that is sinking all around you. The howls of dismay as you realize you have no way to save that last Temple of Air tile from going under are real! The game is easy to explain, and as I mentioned above, it’s a great way to introduce the concept of cooperative gaming to folks who have never experienced that.

I’ve seen plenty of folks on Board Game Geek say that the game is too easy to beat, too boring, too repetitive. I personally have not reached that point yet. As mentioned previously I have downloaded and printed out an additional deck of cards that provides alternate island layouts. Don’t like the standard diamond? Pick a card…any card…and just hope you don’t pull the Atoll of Decisions.

Forbidden Island: Atoll of Decisions
Forbidden Island: Atoll of Decisions

Overall Score
On the Board Game Geek scale, I find it really hard to pin this one down. A rating of 7 implies that the game is good and that I’m usually willing to play. A rating of 8 implies that I will suggest the game and consider it very good. Hmm. Since I can’t use a half star, I’m going with a 7 for now, but it’s a strong, very solid 7. 🙂 I will always play it if suggested, and it’s a regular participant in our Game Day Lunch sessions. I think I’m talking myself into an 8…but I’ll leave it for now.

The weight from BGG members comes in at 1.74 on a scale of 1-5. Over half of the people rating it have given it a 2. I feel that’s appropriate.

I like the game. It looks great on the table, is easy to explain, does a great job of introducing cooperative games to new players, and really captures the drama of an island sinking under your feet as you attempt to gather the forbidden relics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.