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Forbidden Island
Price:$10.89+ 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 July 24, 2014
I bought this for my husband for Father's Day & got it on sale. It is listed for kids 10 and up, but my 6 year old son and 9 year old daughter love to play it too. Because it is a co-op game they can join in and work together with my husband. Our 6 year old can't read yet and he is still able to play. Sometimes the kids focus too much on wanting to be the one to collect the treasure, rather than what is best for the team. And neither of them like to be the Messenger, whose special skill is to give away cards. But the more we play, the better they get about that. My husband also enjoys the game very much and will play it over and over again.

The first time we played, we didn't quite understand all the rules. Then we watched the Wil Wheaton youtube video of the game play and that helped a lot. We had been playing it wrong.

I plan to buy more games by this designer.
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on August 27, 2012
I bought this game for my 9YO's birthday this year, and it has been a hit both with his friends and with our family (kids and adults) to play together.

Briefly, you have arrived on an island on which powerful artifacts were hidden by an ancient civilization, and these people also powerfully protected these treasures to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. Your attempts to recover the objects is causing the island to sink, ever more rapidly, into the sea forever. You arrive with a team of specialists, each with a particular ability, and you must work together to gather the clues, recover the artifacts, and reassemble your team before the island sinks forever into the abyss. With each turn, you must discern how best to use your limited time-- shore up the island to keep it from sinking, move toward a goal, meet up with team members . . . decisions must be made, and there are no individual heroes. Either you all win, or you all fail. Work together, or surely, you are doomed to the abyss rather than destined for fortune and glory.

Thanks to the flexible design of sturdy cardboard playing cards and shuffle-able playing decks, the "game board" is never the same twice; your team is probably not the same twice, the order of events is never the same twice, and so your strategy is never quite the same twice . . .

I think we will be playing this game for a while. It's a good game for a 9YO who doesn't need to play something cutthroat all the time, but still enjoys some cooperation now and then. My 11YO and our 10YO neighbor have enjoyed it equally well.
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on July 29, 2014
Pandemic was my first co-op game, and I fell in love with the whole concept. I saw Forbidden Island played out on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop, and it looked kind of middling to me. Less deep than Pandemic, more for kids. It had an interesting theme but looked...just less than Pandemic, overall.

We got it for my sister's boyfriend for Christmas, since it comes in a great package and has interesting pieces. I figured it would be a good intro to co-op games that the two of them could easily play together. Well, come a month or two later, and we're snowed in at a cabin with Forbidden Island. So this guy and I broke out Forbidden Island.

Great game! Everything is really high quality, and the powers feel really important. It's not so easy that it's a snap to play, but it's not so hard that it frustrates you too much. I'd say we could probably squeeze out a win half the time or so. Still, it was intense and cerebral. We sat there and strategized and had a lot of fun doing so!

Then, we convinced my dad, who is more of an old-school classic wargames-type player (into RISK, Axis and Allies). He's not overly enthused about trying to learn new games, but we got him to try, and the three player game was also very fun! He found the strategy to be appealing and picked up on the concepts easily.

So overall, this is a great addition to your collection. It plays quickly and is light enough to teach. But it's challenging enough that you're not going to use it just as a gateway. I'd play it again without hesitation.
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on June 28, 2012
I bought this to play with my five and seven year old who both love board and card games. This feels like a mixture between the two, but with no "board". It has a tile system that acts like a board, but is randomly put down so you get a different "board" every time. Forbidden Island requires a bit of reading, and some strategic thinking, enough so that the five year old has to be helped out quite a bit but she enjoys the game as well. As the water level rises, so does the tension and she starts exclaiming "We are all going to DROWN!!" which is hilarious. We've had so much fun with this one... it is a great co-op adventure title. It's also nice that you can play as different characters, each that has his own special ability. The favorites are the Pilot and Diver, and playing with different parties certainly changes the game's difficulty. Those worried about it being too easy still can also start out with a higher water level.

The quality of the game itself is definitely worth mentioning too... the four treasures you need to capture are beautiful! The crystal fire is enchanting and the winged lion is different and imaginative. Great textures and details on these miniatures. The tiles have haunting artwork (the Howling Gardens are my favorite!) and are made of a thick, very sturdy material. The tiles are turned often so the durability is appreciated!

We have many Gamewright games, and even more card/board games in general, "Forbidden Island" remains one of our favorites and is still played frequently... even despite the despairing howls of "We are all going to DROWN!!"
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on July 29, 2013
We have two kids, 7 and 10, who are competitive to the point where we can rarely get through a board game without someone becoming upset. Forbidden Island has become a favorite for them, and the cooperative nature of it has really helped.

We tried it out without the kids once, and gave it mixed reviews. I thought it was perfectly fine for a casual game, but the SO, who actually still likes playing Sorry, thought it was too basic and boring. There are harder difficulty levels that you can use to increase the challenge, but she was unwilling to sit through a whole new round.

The kids, however, loved it. The drama of the sinking island, the physical figurines, and the individuality of the characters they played all made it a great time. By giving each player distinct abilities, the kids focused less on who was better and more on working together. We still made it off the island without much danger, but they squealed every time the waters claimed another tile.

It's still not a very deep game at the easy levels, but it does require some effort for kids under 12. It's a good transition from the truly luck-based games that kids start on into what adults consider real board games.
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on February 24, 2017
Bought this as a gift for my sister's family. Her oldest kid is only 9, but he was more than competent enough to figure out this game. I like the cooperative aspect of it, and it was a good game to have at Christmastime when a lot of people were around. I really liked how each game is a bit different depending on how the cards get set/drawn, and how the strategy has to change each time. It was really fun for us.

I had previously played Forbidden Desert before this game, but saw some reviews that said this was maybe a bit "easier." With the younger kids in mind, I chose this game and I'm glad I did. Would recommend to families that like games!
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on May 9, 2014
Not long ago I spent a few days binging on the web series Table Top (in which Wil Wheaton plays a boardgame or other table top game with various guests), and I purchased this specifically because of the Forbidden Island episode of the series. (There is a link to the episode in the questions and answers section above -- spend the time to watch this and it will give you a pretty good idea of how the game works and should give you a pretty good idea of whether or not you'll enjoy it.)

The box is metal, and comparable in size to an especially thick hardcover novel; the tray inside organizes the pieces/tiles/cards quite well. The tiles are sturdy. The cards are a bit thinner than standard playing cards; my husband was afraid to shuffle them the way you'd shuffle a poker or pinochle deck. A standard card table is fair estimate of the area needed for layout (and should allow room for drinks or snack plates). I suspect the tile layout would fit on the table of a camper or RV, but might be cramped.

The description here says ages 10-12, and the box says 10+ -- my husband and I certainly enjoyed it as adults. The cooperative nature makes it work well as a family game, even young children can likely join in and still have fun (depending a bit on the individual child). Our 5yo felt involved and had a blast. He didn't fully grasp the details or strategy, but he followed the general plot of the game and was quite happy to flip tiles, draw cards, move pawns, and listen to his parents and 13yo brother handle strategy, and was excited when his pawn got to do important things.

The game seems to have a good mix of chance and strategy, and allows for starting at varied difficulty ratings.

The artwork is beautiful; the names of individual tiles (parts of the island) are evocative. The premise of trying to collect treasure and escape before the island sinks appeals to a sense of adventure (especially for those of us whose own childhoods included Indiana Jones movies).

Because it's cooperative, it fosters a sense of teamwork and shared accomplishment/responsibility, and encourages collaboration; players take turns, but the rules explicitly encourage everyone to discuss the best options regardless of whose actual turn it is. It might be a great way to get a break if your usual group of board game friends can get competitive. It's definitely a great game for people who'd rather not be competitive.
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on March 5, 2017
A friend brought this to a small get-together, and it made an impression on me as a fun cooperative game. As a result, I bought this for the family as an xmas gift. Since it is fully cooperative, my 6-year old was able to play with me and my wife without getting frustrated (although her attention span may have given out a bit).
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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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