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Forbidden Island
Price:$14.89+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


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.

Carcassonne
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!

Smallworld
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 December 27, 2017
Wow, what a clever game! I'm so impressed to have a cooperative game that is complicated enough to engage adults and still playable with the kids. Marketed for ages 10 & up, but my 7- and 9-year old play. Since it's cooperative, it's pretty easy to explain a strategy that the 7-year old doesn't get right away. And sometimes the 7-year old explains to us!

Here's a hint to get the kids interested....figure it out yourself first. They don't want to sit and listen to the instructions which are a bit lengthy. I set the game up for multiple players, played each player's part myself to figure out the strategy and get all my questions answered. THEN I had the kids join me. Much easier to explain and work with them since I didn't have to constantly reference the instructions. Super fun.
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on October 21, 2016
As others have said this is a great family game. Everyone works together on the same team, so it's easy to get started and figure out what's going on. That being said, don't think that this game is too easy! You can really crank up the difficulty for some very exciting and challenging finishes. Changing (or randomizing) roles and shuffling the game board each play makes for some nice variation, but each game will inevitably play out the same way. Despite that, it's still great fun and is definitely what I would consider a "gateway game". It's great for getting people interested into more advanced board games besides Monopoly or Clue, as the cooperative gameplay makes it fun and easy to learn. I have played this game with people in large age ranges and everyone has enjoyed it.
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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.
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on April 27, 2015
My daughters, ages 8 and 10, love this game, and so does everyone else we've played it with. At first, the game might seem a little complex, but once you get rolling, you'll have no troubles with the rules or order of play. The designers also included a little "cheat sheet" of action options and play order on each player's card.

The object is simple--capture four artifacts and helicopter off the island from the landing site before the rising waters flood the island enough to either drown a character, swallow the areas housing an artifact, or wipe out the landing site, which will prevent your escape. You have a choice from up to six characters, such as a diver, an explorer, an engineer, a messenger, or a pilot. Each character has unique and useful abilities they add to the team. For instance, the pilot can fly to anywhere on the island in one turn. The diver can swim underwater through sunken areas of the island. The engineer can shore up (stave off the rising waters) twice as much area as the others. Very well-developed skill set. Each character is useful and you'll regret not having any of their abilities with you. And, because the game is for 2-4 players, you can't have them all with you. This is a nice touch, too, because you can never tell which skillset might be more useful, and this changes every game due to the changing layout of the island and due to the random nature of the cards you'll draw as you play.

Once you get started, you might think it'll be a simple game and you'll breeze through it. We thought so, and then were swiftly overwhelmed by the flooding island, frantically trying to shore up game tiles to preserve the precious artifacts and landing site before we were lost. A really unfortunate session of flood cards (which represent where the water levels are rising) and the dreaded WATER RISES cards (which mean that each turn, even MORE areas are impacted by the waters AND that areas can start to sink into the abyss and be gone forever), we couldn't even rescue one artifact before being soundly defeated.

The second time we played, we took it seriously. We shored up every part of the land we could, using sandbags and helicopter lifts from the treasure cards to combat the eager water levels. Our pilot and engineer raced across the area while the messenger and diver gathered and exchanged treasure cards. Despite our best efforts, the water levels rose and the island started to sink. We lost entire areas, leaving great holes in our island, and the diver and pilot were frantically trying to get the last two artifacts while the messenger and engineer continued to stave off the inevitable. We felt elated--like we had really accomplished something--when, thanks to a few lucky helicopter lift cards, the four of us made it to the landing spot and

The game gets intense--it is designed to do so. Unless you're phenomenally lucky, your team WILL start to lose ground and you won't be able to preserve the entire island. And that is part of the frantic fun.

Finally, the tiles are well made, with imaginative and evocative names. The artifacts look cool, too. And the game play moves pretty swiftly, so you won't get bored.

In my opinion, this is a can't-miss game. It's rapidly become our favorite, and if your family loves quick-paced adventure games, it may become yours, as well.
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on April 27, 2018
I picked this up during the recent tabletop games sale and have played it with my kids (preschool, kindergartner) daily since it arrived. It is a lot of fun and has been a huge hit with both of them; in fact, my son wanted me to play as soon as I got home from work the day after our first game. The cooperative gameplay is really great, because my kids get to celebrate victory (or lament defeat) together. The rhythm of flooding tiles, passing cards, and moving around the island is fun and engaging. I enjoy helping my kids think strategically about the right move -- something my preschooler can't do yet, but my advanced kindergartner can. They get super-excited about shoring up each other's tiles and burst into cheers when we lift off the island.

I think we'll get a lot of replay out of it in the immediate future. Even if it only comes out of the game pile every once in a while, I feel like I've already gotten my money out of it. Well done, Gamewright Games!

Edit: I forgot to talk about what's in the box. The tiles are high-quality and thick; they remind me of the Carcassonne tiles, just bigger. The playing cards aren't as thick as playing cards, but they're sufficient durable (so long as children don't bend them mindlessly). The water meter, treasure tokens, and pawns are all high-quality. The tin (instead of a cardboard box) is a nice touch. In sum, I'm very happy with the production quality.
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on December 27, 2016
This game is awesome! Forbidden Island is a wonderful cooperative-play game, where 2-4 players work together to collect treasures and escape before the island sinks beneath them. Game-play is easy to learn but has enough complexity to require some strategic thinking if you hope to win. Our nine-year-old enjoys it, and the cooperative nature of the game allows older siblings to inject counsel whenever necessary (honestly, the discussion is constant since you must work together in order to succeed). In the two days we've had it, we have played the game three times, and each time has been a close-call, leaving us wondering if we were going to be victorious or wallow in utter defeat. The tension-level is perfect, with the setup leaving you feeling like your one step away from disaster from the beginning and keeping it interesting throughout. I will definitely be buying more of this game to give out as gifts--we love it!
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on November 4, 2016
This is a great game! So far I've played it witha total of 2 people and 4 people and both games were equally enjoyable.

Contents:
The game comes in a nice metal container that holds everything nicely. The cards, "island" pieces, treasures and player pawns are all kept separate by an inserted piece of pressed plastic. The components themselves are high quality, and you will feel like you definitely got your money's worth.

Gameplay:
Directions are easy to read, allowing for even a beginner to pick up the game quickly. We set up and learned how to play the game within 15 minutes. The game is equally based on luck (based on where the shuffled tiles are placed and when you draw certain cards) as it is skill (how you use your individual characteristic to the teams advantage, how everyone works together). The games go quickly, they're usually over in 30 minutes. It's a great family game because it's COOPERATIVE which means no one is fighting one another! No more anger-flipping the game board when someone loses... Also, you can completely scale the game based on if you're an expert or novice, which would make this fun with little kids!

Overall:
Buy this game. It's a great quick game for the whole family! Highly recommended.
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on January 26, 2018
Played as a 2 player game with my husband. I haven't historically been a fan of board games, but we're trying to get into a few games that can be adapted for family game nights as our kids get older. Cooperative play means we don't get competitive, and no one goes to bed grumpy because they lost. That's important because he usually beats me at everything and I am a sore loser. It's got a decent amount of suspense and gets more exciting as the game goes on. It's probably more fun with more players. The instructions could be written a little bit more clearly, as a few of them are a little vague. Overall pretty fun, and it doesn't drag on for eternity like some board games. It's over in about 10-15 minutes (at least it was for us).
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on May 11, 2017
This is by far one of my favorite games. I love how everyone works together against the game. You really have to work together as a team and plan out your turns. People who don't enjoy strategizing or participating can end up just doing what everyone tells them to do on their turn. This is really a game for people who want to work together to come up with the best possible course of action because this game is difficult! We've lost a lot!
You can set the difficulty level, however, since the board and characters change each game, even the easiest difficulty can be impossible in some playthroughs. Every game is different though since the "board" is never the same and there are so many different roles you can play! All these variations make it so this game never gets old! I definitely recommend this game!
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