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.
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.
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.
on June 30, 2010
*designer: Matt Leacock
*BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2090/8.04
*# 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.
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.
on February 1, 2015
Quick take: Good introduction to cooperative games. Light on strategy but makes a good first impression. Theme and art are superb.
Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game I played, and it was a welcome introduction to the genre at the time. It's admittedly quite simple, but that makes for quick, fast games. It's a great way to introduce the cooperative genre to a group of gamers unfamiliar with the concept. The theme is intriguing as long as the players use a bit of imagination, and the different roles available are well designed and complementary. Coordinating four players' movements while the island is sinking all around them is a fantastic concept and it's a lot of fun. A plan to capture a treasure can change immediately at the end of a turn when Waters Rise! and put an important tile in jeopardy.
It's mastered very quickly. After playing a game or two right out of the box, we felt like experts. In 10+ games played at varying difficulty levels, we've lost twice. It's fun to play with different groups and introduce people to the game, but playing with the same group of people starts to get stale.
Losing due to the water level getting too high (i.e. drawing too many "Waters Rise!" cards) is anticlimactic. In one particular game, we couldn't help it and lost simply because we had to draw through the deck too many times to find the final set we needed. Making this initial water level higher is also the game's method of making the game more difficult. Several in our gaming group mentioned that it's more fun to deal with the flooded tiles and lose that way rather than the "time limit" imposed by the water level.
Forbidden Island makes a good first impression, especially as an introduction to cooperative games. Four player games are fun with all players engaged the whole time. However, the staying power struggles since it's relatively simple in strategy. Some of the game mechanics will frustrate; for example, some turns, especially the beginning of the game, give little to do but wait until cards are drawn. Good game for kids.
Still, it's a good filler game that's fun to play. It works great for an intro to a game night. The game has beautiful, colorful artwork on the tiles and cards and has a great theme that adds to the experience. It's relatively inexpensive as well, which is always excellent.
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.
on October 16, 2016
I've been searching for 2 player games that I could play with my fiancé. All our games require more than 2 people, such as settlers of catan, cards against humanity, etc. This game was a nice change since you need to work together instead of fighting each other (we are very competitive so this game keeps us friendly!). Decent gameplay, but I wouldn't say it's the most exciting game ever. Gets kind of repetitive flipping cards waiting to see what happens, especially when you go through the deck and put the cards back, you pretty much know what to expect. I'd give it a 3.5.
on June 6, 2016
This game is completely cooperative; either everyone wins or everyone loses. You are given a number of actions and you can spend those actions to move, gather artifacts, or save the island.
This game is great and bought it because Pandemic is one of my favorite games. This is a much smaller game than Pandemic, uses similar game mechanisms, and was designed by the same person. Unfortunately for me, I played Forbidden Desert (the sequel to this game) and it was better than this one. This game is still quite good and could easily be used to get players into this style of game before introducing them to Pandemic.
on October 11, 2010
I have played Pandemic, Castle Panic, and now Forbidden Island. Each one fills their own little niche for cooperative play.
Forbidden Island plays very similar to Pandemic in some respects, because it was designed by the creator of Pandemic (surprise surprise) Matt Leacock. It plays a little lighter than Pandemic, but it's still challenging! It's less fiddly than Pandemic, so it's a quick setup and go kind of game. The theme is a little more light-hearted, but just as tense. The board design is modular which makes for greater replay value, and I've seen variant setups that are available in the German edition. This makes for a better cooperative game with younger kids, and I think they'll like the them better.
The component quality and artwork is absolutely top-notch! The price is incredible!
If you're looking for something meatier, get Pandemic (and the expansion "On the Brink").
If you're looking for something more action-packed with hacking and slashing, get Castle Panic.
If you're looking for a good quality cooperative game on the cheap, get Forbidden Island.
on November 30, 2016
We do a lot of gaming and actually started by playing Forbidden Desert. We liked it enough we wanted to buy the original, which is this one: Forbidden Island. I have heard people say Desert is better, but I don't agree. Desert has a fun location mechanic (similar to what is used in Targi) but overall I think Forbidden Island is a better game. The tension associated with the game pieces disappearing as the island sinks makes this more fun than Forbidden Desert in my opinion. It's also cheap and slightly simpler.
I actually like both cooperative "Forbidden" games, but in my opinion, this one is a bit better.
on June 15, 2016
This game was one of my introductions into board gaming as well as the "Forbidden" series.
Of all the gaming groups that I've played this game with, the feedback was entirely positive. (except for moments where we'd lose and get salty towards each other). But regardless, the game offers a fantastic cooperative mechanic, so you all either win as a group by working together or you all loose.
This game is easy to learn, easy to pick up and easy to get into, this game is also very easy to get so addicted to. My niece loves this game the instant she first got into it. She seems to wanna keep playing this game over and over again. I feel that this game adds onto an individual's social skills as well as enhance problem solving skills and working as a team. I'm glad that this game has beneficial aspects as well as an awesome fun factor.
Every time my friends and I play this game we work together on how to solve the problems laid out before us. After playing for about 5 or 6 times, we manage to win once. Having that one win with this game is a good feeling. Because after so many close calls, and near attempts to winning, that one win was well earned.
One of the minor nuisances that I have with this game is that it's only meant for up to four players (which I recommend is the best way to play), the game comes with 6 character cards and 6 pieces. I don't understand why we can't go and play with 6 people for a bigger and more immersive experience. My friends and I manage to "House Rule" it up to try and accommodate the bystanders interested in this game. So if you can do so with your group, I recommend that you do. It sucks when people get left out of a game, when there are clearly two more available pieces to play with.
Tense flooding moments and being able to work together as a team to fetch of the four treasures and ensuring no man gets left behind raises the fun level of this game.
Get this game!