Customer Reviews: Forbidden Island
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on August 31, 2010
Forbidden Island is a fantastic family board game for a number of reasons:

* 1 - it's a cooperative game. We love cooperative games in our family because we aren't competing against each other, but rather working together as a team to beat the game. And we love that more designers and publishers are creating more cooperative games to play.

* 2 - it's easy to learn and simple to play. Take it from Caleb's video review. You simply set out the island tiles, draw your character card and follow the steps on the back of the card as to what to do on your turn. Pretty soon you won't need to look at the cards during the game, but it's great that the help is there if you need it.

* 3 - the re-playability. Since the game isn't played on a set board, but rather by area tiles, every time you set up the island it gets set up differently. And with 6 characters that each have their unique special abilities, you only get to play with a team of 4. So each time you play, you'll also have to deal with the characters you get (and you'll long for the special abilities of one you're missing). And on top of all that, you're dealing with the luck of the draw in the card deck, so you don't know which tiles will start flooding, then sinking away.

* 4 - it doesn't take a long time. The turns play really quickly and everyone is engaged the whole time and the island is always changing with tiles flooding, so there's a lot of discussion going on the whole game - which also makes it seem like it goes by fast.

* 5 - it's fun! The first time we played it, we played over and over. Granted we kept losing so we had to keep trying again. But that's what made it so fun. We would get so close and then just miss the win. So we'd quickly set it all up again for more.

Oh - and did I mention that Forbidden Island has fantastic artwork and great game components? We love the artwork and everything in the tin is high quality. The tiles are nice, thick and sturdy - which is a must because they will get flipped over a lot. And the treasure pieces are definitely treasures that you want to search out and get. The game components all help make it a fun game experience.

If you typically just read these board game reviews rather than watch the video, we'd suggest you take a look at the video to see the quality you're going to get with Forbidden Island.

You can read more about this and other great family board games on TheBoardGameFamily.
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on July 20, 2011
Plenty of people have done an admirable job of explaining the games in their reviews, so this is instead an attempt at a comparison between a number of games, the pros and cons of each and which may suit different people best. The games in question are: Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Castle Panic, Smallworld, and Forbidden Island.

We have had Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne (with a number of expansion packs) for quite a few years now, and only recently added the other games above. We usually either play just as two adults, or with our two older children (age 9 and 8), and so our conclusions are based on how these games work in those settings. So here's what we've found:

Settlers of Catan
We got this around the same time as Carcassonne and initially just didn't latch onto it. Partly it's that it's supposed to be 3 players or more, and we often play as just two of us. Once we found online some instructions for playing as 2 players it came out more often, and as time's gone by it's become fairly 50-50 whether we play Settlers or Carcassonne on a quiet night in. The choice will usually depend on how much we want to think. With Settlers, you're always planning and calculating; with Carcassonne, you're taking it a card at a time.

Who should get it: Settlers is well-known as one of the great modern games. I'm not as sold on it as some people, and it takes quite a while to learn and feel comfortable with, but once you get the hang of it, it is an entertaining and enjoyable addition to a games collection. There are several 2-player rule variations out there if you need them and they work well (we found one that worked for us and we've stuck to it). But this isn't a game for kids; I would suspect not until they're 16 or so. Amongst other things, I think they'll find it too dull.

This has been a favorite for years now, and everyone we've played it with has gone off to get it themselves. We usually play without farms because it then becomes less directly competitive and more sociable. Kids can play it, adults can play it, it's relaxed, it's fun and it's simple to learn. Here's one nice thing about it: you don't have to be constantly thinking and planning ahead. You don't know what card you're going to draw next time, so you just play one card at a time. You're encouraged to discuss where to put a card, and since you don't know what piece you're getting next, your comments to another player are usually pretty unbiased.

Who should get it: In my experience, pretty much anyone, except those who want ultra-competitive games. The first few expansion packs are also well worth getting, but don't bother with anything from Mayor onward.

Castle Panic
The kids love this one, again it's simple to learn and it has the added bonus of allowing them to get out their aggressive instincts and go postal on monsters! They don't like the `master slayer' option, but prefer just straight cooperative play. After the first few plays, I've found the basic game is too easy, and so we're experimenting with making it more challenging, such as starting with no walls, or drawing 3 monster cards at a time instead of 2. I think Castle Panic will become a game that we get out pretty regularly to play.

Who should get it: People with kids, who want to play cooperative games. Could be fun as a party game too!

While the kids have enjoyed playing this, I think their interest is starting to wane already. I suspect it will work better as a game with a group of adults, or when the kids are older. It has a lot going for it, especially the creative cards and board, but as others have noted - what's with the box for the tokens? Very poorly designed and adds unnecessary annoyance. Most of the time when playing we've found it's not too directly competitive, it's easier to attack lost tribes or declining races, so generally it doesn't get too personal!

Who should get it: I think this would make a fun addition to a games collection, but I don't think it would be a go-to game, especially with kids. The rules are more complicated to learn and explain than the other games, and this makes it hard to just sit down with new players and get on with a game. Having said that, we've enjoyed playing it , and I think it'll get pulled out every now and then over the years.

Forbidden Island
Although the kids would prefer Castle Panic, when we've played Forbidden Island (at my insistence!) they've thoroughly enjoyed it. As the island starts to collapse in a heap toward the end of the game, the tension levels rise and people are on the edge of their seats! The game always ends with voices rising in pitch and tension as cards get turned over - it's fun! It's a pure cooperative game, and that works well for us as a family - no one feels bad, we're all in it together. We're still using the `Normal' level of play, maybe we'll notch up a level soon!

Who should get it: If you like cooperative games, I think this is excellent to have. I love how easy it is to set different difficulty levels, and it's definitely the game that's had the most excited tension - Castle Panic has this at times, but not sustained (at least as the basic game). It doesn't have the whole monster thing going for it that Castle Panic does, and I think that's why the kids haven't latched onto it so quickly (kill trolls or wander round an island getting treasure - which is your average kid going to choose?) but I suspect that long-term it'll have more staying power.
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on April 6, 2011
The following review for Forbidden Island was written by Kaelie, one of my 4th grade students. This is a Mensa Select Game and with good reason! We use it in our classroom all the time and it is easily one of their favorites! On to Kaelie's Review:

Forbidden Island is a wonderful game to play. I think a lot of people of many different ages would like it.

In this game 2-4 people may play at the same time. There are four trophies that the players are trying to capture (My favorite trophies the Statue of The Wind, but there is also the Crystal of Fire, the Ocean Chalice, the Earth Stone.

Each player has a specific role to play in the game.

The Messenger may trade trophy cards with anyone in the game.
The Explorer can move diagonally (other adventurers can just move up/down/left/right).
The Diver can go in the water once a turn.
The Navigator can move another person two tiles up.
The Engineer two tiles up for one action.

One of the really cool things about the game is that the board is made out of 28 tiles. You shuffle the tiles before each game and lay them out randomly (but in a specific shape). So, each time you play, the game board changes!

The minute the game begins, the island starts flooding! Every turn, a player does up to 3 actions, takes a couple of treasure cards, and draws a couple of flood cards. Every flood card matches a tile on the game board. If the tile is in it's normal state, you flip it to flood it. If it is already flooded, you remove the tile from play and it is gone to the depths of the ocean floor.

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about Forbidden Island is that you work as a team, trying to beat the island! It doesn't matter who collects the treasures because you are all trying to beat the island before it all sinks. Forbidden Island is a fun challenging game. Thank you for reading my review!
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on May 19, 2010
Easy to learn, fast paced, and beautifully illustrated. A good balance of luck and strategy.

I'm new to cooperative gaming so its a breath of fresh air to play a game where you're all working together instead of trying to beat each other. Definitely a great game for families.

The 24 tiles that make up the "board" ensure that no two games will be alike, so there is a lot of re-playability. Also when you loose, which happens a fair amount (its challenging!), it definitely leaves you with a "lets play again!" attitude.

Gameplay was about 30 min. The box and components were excellent quality and with a $14.99 price tag how can you go wrong? I highly recommend it!
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on June 30, 2010
*designer: Matt Leacock
*publisher: Gamewright
*date: 2010
*BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2090/8.04
*age: 10+
*# of players: 2-4
*print status: in print

Maybe it's because I started writing this review during the final few weeks of the TV series, LOST... but the whole "island full of crumbling ruins & ancient secrets" vibe resonates pretty strongly with me right now.

But don't take my (admittedly gamer-oriented) word for it: listen to my (gamer-in-training) 8 year old son... or his non-gamer 8 year old friends... or my long-suffering wife (who games because she loves me!)... or even other actual gamers who've played the game. It's been a hit with everyone who has had the opportunity to play!

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for 2-4 players, though since the game is played with open hands, it works just fine as a solitaire game as well, with the player controlling two (or more) pawns. (Another odd Lost reference: this is definitely a "live together or die alone" kind of game.) Regardless of the number of players, it seems to clock in at right about a half hour of playing time.

The color text of the game has the players on a search for elemental treasures (The Crystal of Fire, the Statue of the Wind, The Ocean's Chalice & the Earth Stone) created by an ancient civilization. Of course, it's not a simple archaeological expedition - the island is booby-trapped to begin sinking when anyone attempts to steal the treasures... and that's exactly what you're here to do.

I could go into a detailed rules explanation... but that seems pretty pointless when a PDF of the rulebook is available online, thanks to the good folks at Gamewright. Simply put, you're using 3 actions per turn to move your piece across an island made of tiles, attempting to collect the treasures, shore up the sinking parts of the island, and generally survive long enough for all of you to grab the last helicopter off the island (is Frank Lapidus the pilot?). At the end of each turn, you draw cards to increase your hand (and potentially increase the rate of flooding) as well to sink more parts of the island.

There are lots of ways to lose:

*if the helicopter landing pad sinks, you lose
*if one of your team doesn't survive, you lose
*if you fail to recover all four treasures, you lose
*if the island floods completely, you lose

But it wouldn't be much of a cooperative game if you won all the time, right? So far, we're doing very well playing at the Novice setting, while we're about 50/50 at the Normal setting. I have yet to convince my son to try it at the more difficult settings. (BTW, a clever game feature - you only have to change the starting level of the water - indicated on a sliding scale - to change the difficulty of the game. No re-mixing the deck, no convoluted alternative set-up.)

The components are high quality - nice cards, great chunky tiles with evocative "forbidden island" artwork that reminds me a bit of the computer game Myst, and nifty plastic "treasures" - all packaged in a cool-looking tin with a well-designed box insert. (For those of you non-gamers, the "well-designed insert" may not sound like a big deal, but I can tell you from experience that it makes it easier to transport & keep the game in top-notch condition... and that not all companies think this part through.)

A side note: since the designer, Matt Leacock, is best known for his OTHER cooperative game, Pandemic, it's helpful to note that while the games share some mechanics (most notably the Infection/Waters Rise restacking of the decks & the various player roles that allow each person to "break" the rules in a particular way) but that the board play (due to the sinking tiles) and kid-friendly theme make for a very different game experience.

Finally, the recommended age of 10 is correct - but only if the kids are going to be playing without any adults helping run the game. With a friendly adult, the game can easily be played by kids as young as 5. The cheap price point (the MSRP is only $15.99) means that Forbidden Island will be likely be one of the best kid gaming investments you're likely to make this year.
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on May 20, 2010
I really enjoyed this game and have played with my children (11, 9, and 7) as well as an adult gaming group. This game scales well between the two groups and everyone had a good time.

The game has excellent components. The game is very good looking and the designers have done a great job with the look and feel of the game. The cards are durable, the four treasures look good and you can tell that a lot of time and thought went into the design. The game comes in a small tin which looks nice but doesn't fit well into my game collection.

After a couple of plays you can finish a game in about 30 minutes. This makes the game a good choice if you have limited time or want to play a couple of different games on a game night. You and your friends play against the game and if you don't work together you will lose. Every time I've played, there has been a good sense of urgency that makes the game exciting.

Quality of Components
Price - it's only [...]!!
Light enough for new players, but still fun for experienced gamers

Strategy Light - I'm not convinced the replay value is high. Increasing the difficulty level may fix this but I've only played on Novice level.
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on September 6, 2011
Bought this game due to high reviews and for its short duration. High quality pieces, low replay value for adults. I was in the market for Pandemic! or another adult level collaborative game, but wanted to teach the kids I babysit how to play collaborative games. I thought shorter would be better. It was fun a few times with adult friends & family, but we have pretty much nailed it. Will probably give the game to those kids- hopefully they will get more replay out of it!

Would recommend it for use with children. I could see this game being a hit in a junior high classroom during lunch or recess.
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on July 25, 2010
You and your fellow explorers race around an island to collect treasure. They're not racing each other, though: the island itself is sinking!

By the same creator as Pandemic, this less complex variant uses the same "your team versus the game" concept. Each turn you have a small number of actions you can do and a much larger number of problems that the game is throwing at you. Therefore only way to succeed is to cooperate with the team and think ahead. Plan your moves with your fellow explorers, shoring up sinking land tiles, collecting cards in order to unlock treasures, and keeping the routes open across the island. The Forbidden Island is tricky, however, and will start to sink faster and faster as you plunder its ancient riches.

Great game to play with older kids (9 and up, IMHO), but this is not just a kids game. It teaches cooperation, planning, and accomplishing tasks in a logical order. The other plus is that, like its older brother Pandemic, you can increase the difficulty of the game as your group/family become more adept.
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on January 2, 2011
You work collectively towards 1 goal, against the game, not each other. Goal: Collect 4 pieces before the island sinks.

The rules are easy to follow and you can play this game repeatedly without it getting old or predictable because of the random selection and layout involved.

Each player is assigned a role (IE, Diver, Navigator, Pilot, etc.) randomly, and you get up to 3 actions to do something per turn. Hint: Stay true to your role/position and be committed to using the special ability you get.

Ultimately, you'll find yourself talking with the other players about what you plan to do on your turn with your actions, and as a group you will adjust your strategy as the gaming situation changes, which is every turn. We found ourselves saying, "Well, so much for the original plan" because we had to constantly adapt to changes. You will also find yourself holding your breath when cards are turned over that dictate the next change. You can also increase the difficulty level once you become familiar with the gaming concept. Most games are played in about 25 minutes (with mature players, not kids).

I suggest playing this with casual gamers. Do not play this game with people who are stubborn or overly controlling because they will want to influence every play that every player makes, which will become really annoying & time consuming - unless you are equally head strong.

Lastly, the art work is really nice, and it seems like the makers of the game are trying to capitalize off the hit TV series LOST (however, it is nothing like the LOST boardgame, which we also own).

Knowing what I know now, would I buy it again? Definintely. The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars is because it's not mind blowing, and it is hard to get 5 stars out of me for anything =)
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on July 2, 2010
I've been keeping an eye on this one since I found out a little more about it. The name was intriguing, but I didn't know much else so had ignored it for a while. However, seeing it pop up on some of the sites I monitor for family-friendly games, I delved a little deeper.

First, as others have stated, the components and artwork are great. Very eye-catching and it gave my 7-year-old something to play with during the slower parts of the game. :)

The gameplay was a pretty simple concept after the first couple of turns. Take up to 3 actions, draw two treasure cards, handle Waters Rise if need be, draw Flood cards and flip/remove tiles. There are also two special cards - helicopter to move pawns from one tile to any other and sandbag to shore up one tile anywhere on the board. Those can be played at any time, even during another player's turn.

I should also mention the price in case you haven't kept an eye on that - full retail is currently $16. With the quality of the components, that's pretty hard to believe, but very welcome on the wallet. Others have noted it as well, but we're used to paying more for games with good components, gameplay, and theme.

That being said, the game is designed around the theme of an island holding four powerful artifacts that will sink if anyone tries to claim them. The object of the game is to collect all four artifacts, return to the helicopter pad, and have all players escape the island at the same time before it sinks. That doesn't sound too hard by itself, but several times during the game, the waters will rise, at times removing tiles that form a critical route or worse, are crucial to winning the game. As the waters rise, the cards representing tiles that have already been flooded are put back on the top of the deck, making it more likely that they will sink and be removed soon.

Players can collect treasures by being on the correct tile and possessing 4 (of 5) treasure cards for that item. Cards can be given to other players during their turn if they're on the same tile. Players can also "shore up" the island during their turn. This is essential to keep routes open to escape the island and take treasures.

We purchased our copy at a local comic shop today, unboxed it, and played one hand. It took a couple of turns to get used to the gameplay, but it was nice being able to discuss our moves and try to have a strategy on what to do. We managed to escape due to two helicopter cards being ready to pull everyone to the landing site and then escape the island very close to when we would have had the waters rise again. I could definitely feel some tension on wondering whether we'd all make it or not. The game was easy enough for our 7-year-old to play and I'd say it was a lot of fun.

I can't speak for how much this game is or is not like Pandemic. I can say that:
The cooperative aspect is fun.
The theme fits the game very well.
The game's mechanics are straightforward and easy to grasp.
The price is excellent!

I think that this game was a great choice. It may not replace some of my top games as far as frequency of play, but I think this will be high up on my list of games played this year. If you want a co-op game for the family, I'd highly recommend this. For the price, it's hard to find a game of this quality anywhere.
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