Top positive review
242 people found this helpful
on August 11, 2013
Forbidden Island is the game that really got me into cooperative games and modern board games in general. Pandemic is my favorite game. Both of these are by Matt Leacock, so when his new title Forbidden Desert was announced, I could not wait to get my hands on it! I was a little worried it might be an unnecessary purchase for someone who already owns Forbidden Island, but I couldn't pass it up. Luckily, my fears were unfounded - although it scratches the same itch as Forbidden Island, it has quite different mechanics.
If you haven't played a co-op game before, the basic thing you need to know is that the players play together against the game instead of against each other - everyone wins, or everyone loses. This is my personal favorite type of game, as it allows overly competitive siblings or spouses to have a more relaxed game night together. :)
The premise of this game is that your team's helicopter has crashed in the desert, and you need to excavate the ruins of an ancient city to find the parts to rebuild their legendary solar-powered flying machine. You do so by exploring on your turn, specifically by flipping over tiles - they make up the game board, so it is different each time - from "desert" side to "city" side and finding what is underneath them. The artwork on the city tiles is beautiful, as it was in Forbidden Island. There are lots of helpful things to find, including wells for your dwindling water supplies (each well can only be used once, and watch out for the mirage!), special equipment, and clues to the locations of the flying machine parts. Once you have two clues for a part, you have located where it is and just need to go grab it. If you can find all four and make it back to the launch pad with everyone, you win the game.
The actions you can take on your turn include clearing pesky piles of sand, moving around the board, excavating the city (aka flipping over tiles), and picking up the parts for the ship (I should mention here that the toy factor on the ship and its parts is GREAT!) Unfortunately, at the end of each turn you have to draw from the storm deck (this would be similar to the flood deck in Forbidden Island) and the "eye" of the sand storm moves, shifting tiles around and adding sand, often to places you just managed to dig out. If there is too much sand, a tile becomes "blocked" and it's harder to move around the board, plus the things you need can become buried. Two other unpleasant types of cards include "Storm picks up" (making you draw more cards each turn) and "Sun beats down" (you have to drink water from your canteen - if you have none left when one of these happens, you die and everyone loses the game!)
Luckily there are a few special item cards to help you along the way, and each player has a unique role with a special power that you will need to get through the game, such as being able to climb over blocked tiles, navigate other players, or carry extra water.
DESERT VS ISLAND
If you are familiar with Forbidden Island, the main differences are there is no set collection of cards; you only have one deck of cards to draw from every turn; and you have your own personal water supply to juggle. Also, tiles can not be permanently lost (like to flooding in Forbidden Island), only more difficult to access. Another aspect I like is that virtually ALL of the tiles are important in this game, since you need to actually explore and locations move. (In Island you mostly just needed to worry about the treasure tiles, Fool's Landing, and whatever pathway you needed.)
I think this game is probably more difficult than Forbidden Island if you're playing with the full range of players, but with only 2 people, this one seems easier to me. Next time we will have to up the difficulty level. The rules are also slightly more complex, but I think that kids who get one will get the other.
If you have and like Forbidden Island, this one is definitely worth a look too. If you don't have either, I slightly prefer this one, but it is also shiny and new, so it's hard to recommend one over the other! Both are great games from a great designer. This is a good game for families, couples, or game groups looking for something light and fun (no heavy-duty strategy, but there are still interesting decisions and challenges and a lot of fun).