Monday, March 21, 2011

Forbidden Island

Published in 2010

Forbidden Island could be described as Pandemic with an adventure theme and a slightly simplified mechanics. But is this a bad thing? Of course not. Pandemic is a great game and so is the Forbidden Island.

Story goes: An ancient empire known as the Archeans used to possess the ability to control the Earth's core elements; fire, wind, water and earth. This was due to four sacred treasures that they had in their possession. These treasures were hidden on the Forbidden Island, so that no outsider could get their hands on them. As an added protection, the island was designed to sink if intruders ever attempted to claim the items.
Ages have passed since those days, and now the Forbidden Island has been found. The player controls a team of adventurers to land on the island, find the treasures and escape before the whole island in sunken beneath the depths of the Ocean.

Forbidden Island - like Pandemic - is a fully cooperative game, which scales its difficulty automatically according to the number of adventurers used. The game has no traditional game board, instead the island is created with 24 island tiles, each picturing a location on the island.
In the picture below, the four items above the island are the treasures: The Statue of the Wind, the Earth Stone, The Ocean's Chalice and the Crystal of Fire.

Each adventurer has their own special ability, and two of these only work with more than one adventurer, so at least two guys should always be used.
I have a Messenger and a Diver chosen for this game. The Messenger can share information to the Diver over distance, while the Diver can quickly move through flooded and sunken areas.

Some of the locations are important, and can not be allowed to sink. The "Fools' Landing" is the most important; if it sinks, the game is over. This is where the adventurers' helicopter is located and it must eventually be used to escape the island. Also, the island has temples, caves, gardens and palaces - two of each - which need to be kept above surface long enough to discover the treasures.

All adventurers may perform "shore up" - an action that saves the flooded locations. However, if an already flooded location floods again, it is lost forever.

This track is used to monitor the water level.
If the track reaches the skull and crossbones, it's game over. The difficulty is also set with this track - I play with normal difficulty.


It would be best for the adventurers to distribute their attention all over the island. A plan is made: the Diver - who will be able to move very fast once the water rushes in - will patrol around the island, while the Messenger will stay close to the landing zone, keeping it safe.

Dunes of Deception and the Observatory are shored up by the Messenger.

The Diver heads east, shoring up some gates. The flood engulfs the Fools' Landing, endangering the whole mission right from the start.

The Messenger sends some info about the location of the Chalice to the Diver.

Waters rise for the first time! This speeds up the sinking process.

The Diver fights against the rising waters by diving further north and shoring up the Crimson Forest and the Twilight Hollow.
He also has some sandbags deployed at the Tidal Palace, which is located far south.

Three important locations are flooded: The Temple of the Sun, The Fools' Landing and the Tidal Palace. Diver's sandbags saves the Palace - without them it would now be gone.

Waters rise again, quickly after the first time.

This time the Tidal Palace sinks into the depths and is lost for good. Now the other palace - the Coral Palace - must be kept safe, at least until the Chalice is found.
But the adventurers are on to it! The Messenger sends some more clues about the treasure to the Diver.

The Diver uses his abilities to rush back west and save the landing zone, which was sinking again. The Silver Gate and the Lost Lagoon sinks away. These locations are not important, but now the island has some "holes" in the middle of it, making the movement more difficult... for ordinary people, that is - the Diver actually moves faster in the water.

The diver quickly dives back east. His speed will be of great help once the waters rise some more.

Almost half of the island is now flooded or sunken.

The blue locations are flooded.

The Diver finds the Ocean's Chalice from the flooded Coral Palace!

Waters rise again, sinking the Observatory.
Three locations are lost: The Crimson Forest, the Gold Gate and the Coral Palace sinks... luckily none of these were crucial for the mission.

The Messenger sends a lot of info about The Crystal of Fire to the Diver. Diver already had some info of his own, so the Crystal might be found soon.

The Messenger fights to keep the Fools' Landing operational. He also discovers the location of the Earth Stone... If only he'd have enough time to go pick it up.

The Messenger finds the Earth Stone from the Temple of the Sun. That's two treasures down, two more to go.

The Howling Garden sinks, and the other garden - the Whispering Garden is flooded as well. Somebody must act fast to save it, as the Statue of the Wind can only be found from a garden.

The Diver discovers the Crystal of Fire from the Cave of Shadows. Now there is only one treasure to be found - the Statue of the Wind. But information about this item is scarce, and the last garden is in danger to be lost forever...

Waters rise and three more locations are lost! Time is running out, as the island is sinking faster and faster.
Messenger's task is now to keep the Fools' Landing usable, while Diver is searching for the last treasure.

This is all that is left of the island! The Diver is on the small patch of land at east. That's where the Whispering Garden and the last treasure is. The Messenger is on the other island, keeping the Landing zone above the sea level.

Locations keep on sinking. More than half of the island is now gone.

The Diver finds the Statue! Now he must quickly get back to the Landing Zone, where the Messenger is waiting for him. Luckily this shouldn't be any kind of a problem for an adventurer who moves so fast through water.

And lift off! The two adventurers leave the rapidly sinking island behind, carrying all the four precious treasures with them. This mission is a success.


Well that went smoothly. Forbidden Island (with normal difficulty) is an average game when it comes to difficulty, I win maybe about 60% of the games. This time I got a very nice pair of adventures. I'm not sure if I have ever before played with these two together, and it seems that Messenger and Diver work very well together: Messenger can guard the Fools' Landing and send cards to the diver, who is free to swim around the island and shore locations up - a powerful combo.
Also, the first three "waters rise"- cards were drawn rather early on, which is not necessarily a bad thing. When these cards are drawn in quick succession, some of the key locations may sink, without me having any chance to save them... but if nothing crucial sinks, then I'm going to have a long time until the waters start to rise again, giving me easier times.

Forbidden Island is a simple game. Simplest of all the games I have reviewed in this blog. But, thanks to its mechanics, it is a nice experience, with moderate amount of strategy involved. Once again, the similarities to Pandemic are more than few (actually these games have the same designer), but if you like Pandemic, you probably will like this one too.

The game components are nice to look at; nothing amazing, but above average, I would say. The large treasure figures may be a bit much, when considering that all the other components are tiles and cards, and even the adventurers are represented by basic wooden pawns. But then, why not... The price of the game is actually quite low, so the overdone treasures don't matter.

RATING: 8 /10


Forbidden Island is an easy to learn, quick game with a very good soloing capabilities.
The ratings I give are one point lower than what I gave to Pandemic - this is because I feel that the simpler rules take something away from the strategic depth of the game.
Still, a very nice game to play every now and then.

No comments:

Post a Comment