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on August 11, 2013
OVERVIEW
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.

GAMEPLAY
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.

TAKEAWAY
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).
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on September 11, 2013
If you're already familiar with Matt Leacock's games (Forbidden Island, Pandemic), feel free to read on the next paragraph. For the uninitiated, Forbidden Desert is a co-operative board game from Matt Leacock, who created similar games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island. All of the games share basic traits;, the main theme being that you are all working together toward a common goal, and things get exponentially worse and more panicked as the game goes on. There's always a lot of ways to lose and the end-game becomes juggling all the different ways you can potentially lose the game, while still making progress toward victory. All of those themes are still there in Desert, but the way in which things escalate and the path to victory are considerably different this time around.

I've played Forbidden Desert several times with varying sizes of people, and it was always a lot of fun. If you really like Forbidden Island but wish it had a little more of the complexity and difficulty of Pandemic (which is exactly the boat I fell into), Desert fits the bill very nicely. It plays similar to Island but there is a lot of added difficulty, and some core mechanics are slightly different. You no longer get "good" cards from the regular draw deck, those cards are pretty much all bad. Islands can't sink but they can get buried in an unlimited amount of sand, and you don't know where the treasures are when you start the game (you have to flip tiles to reveal clues). On top of all of that, each player has a water count and certain cards (Sun Beats Down) leave you with less water. Certain water tiles on the board help you replenish your water.

It is *considerably* harder than Forbidden Island, roughly at the level of Pandemic, maybe even a little harder. There is tremendous replay value in both this game, similar to Island, due to the random nature of how tiles are laid out, the different character roles, and where treasure is going to reside. Role interaction is very important in this game; in general the roles feel a little more balanced than they have in previous iterations, although there are still a couple roles which will make victory much more difficult if they are not present.

Overall, I would highly recommend this game to folks who really enjoyed Island and just wanted a bit more Pandemic. If you haven't played any of these games before and are new to co-op games in general, I would suggest starting with Forbidden Island and them moving to either this or Pandemic. Island is the perfect introductory game, and Pandemic and Desert are great follow-ups in different ways.
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on March 1, 2017
Great game! I love when game mechanics work to create a running game that makes you feel the pressure while working with a team.
The way the sand blows by direction tiles and the sun beating down and storm levels rising is great at moving the game to its conclusion. The team really has to work well together and coordinate.
You really do feel the pressure to hurry up and yet you have to dig nearly everywhere it seems. I can't stress enough that if you want to beat this game, you must coordinate and discuss with your team on what each of you will do. I don't think I have ever seen team work in a board game like this one.
I am not the biggest fan of the characters that each person takes on because they don't seem necessarily powerful or in the case of the meteorologist , very powerful but his sole action becomes doing nothing because you need his power so badly (you'll see when you play the game). But, I understand you can't make them too powerful and within the confines of the game, they really are useful (not always the waterboy) and absolutely necessary.

Anyway, I always give some negative but this is still a great game. I highly recommend for a group wanting some coop fun.
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on April 17, 2017
We've played this about 10 times now. My favorite is playing with kids. I've played with adults and we always have fun, but playing with kids is way better because it seems so exciting to them. Each turn is a mini-drama and we pretend that our very lives are at stake. On your turn you perform an action, usually by moving from tile to tile and flipping over (excavating tiles), looking for 2 tiles that align to show you where each object for that game can be found. At the end of your turn you flip over storm cards and the storm can move sand onto tiles that you must then excavate or the storm will pick up causing more storm cards to be drawn at the end of each turn. The more storm cards turned after each player, the more likely you will die in the desert. Our kids love it and it gives us quality time with our kids while teaching critical thinking and basic strategy. Lots of fun.
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on May 2, 2017
This is a cooperative board game. I had never played one before, but I love it. The players work together to achieve the objective instead of competing against one another. Trust me, in my house competitive games (like Monopoly) usually ended in shouting, tears and/or hurt feelings. It's an easy game to learn and quick to set up and play. The mechanic for moving tiles when the storm picks up is a bit confusing, but we just move the tile in a way that makes sense to us. The different role cards allow for unique game play each time. We play this one at least once a a week. Enjoy!
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on December 16, 2013
The premise is simple. You saved the relics from forbidden island and escaped on your helicopter, but on the way home your helicopter crashed in the desert. You now have to search for the parts of the helicopter to rebuild it and escape the desert.

In the first version you would just have islands sinking and the water rising cards and the equipment cards were useful but it wasnt vital to choose carefully when you would use them.

In this game, every turn you have sand covering the tiles which leads to them being blocked (similar to tiles being covered with water), you have tiles shifting due to the sandstorm which moves them away from where you would like them, storm getting worse which results to more cards being drawn every turn (similar to water rising cards) and a sun beat down which forces you to drink water every turn or you die (and everyone loses if that happens). There are tunnels to travel through and stay protected from the sun beat down cards, tiles get excavated to find where the engine parts have fallen and you can share water (as well as cards like before).

In this game you have to decide carefully when you will use your cards because if you use them too early you will realise that you should have waited for the right time.

This is an advanced version of forbidden island. More things going on each turn and more things to discuss with your teammaes to survive. After a game of forbidden island we had mastered it so it didnt really provide a challenge. 3 Games of this so far and we still havent won. Forbidden island had a great replay value but this has even more.

A must buy if you enjoyed the first.

If you arent a fan of coop games because you prefer to have a clear winner (preferably yourself :P) than you will not enjoy this game as you really need to work with the other players.

Great game.
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on March 2, 2014
When I first saw the format of the game I was unsure how difficult a game it would be since at first it seemed rather easy. After playing it though we quickly figured out that it was a rather difficult game! It's really fun and challenging to play. It's fun to play with any number of players, I've played it with 2, 3, and 5 players and it does get more difficult to beat as you get more players, but the challenge makes it all the more fun.

It is a cooperative game so either everyone wins or losses - and losing can sometimes be just as fun as winning, most of the time it results in playing another game! The game was fairly easy to learn to play, out first play through it took us about 1-2hr to go through the instructions and play the game and once you get used to the game play a 2 player game can be as short as 30min or less depending on what happens. Each game has a unique setup of the game pieces so depending on which tiles end up as what locations a game can be completed in just a few turns or could end up requiring flipping all tiles before winning. The variability from game to game is what keeps the game exciting as well. Each game character has a unique special ability as well so it can be fun to mix and match what characters you play with. The game comes with 6 different characters so even in a 5 player game you can have variation for which character is left out.

Overall it's an awesome game, is a great time killer, and is fun for both adults and children. The gameplay is very basic so kids can learn how to play fairly easily, the difficulty in the game comes with the strategy so depending on the age of the kids the adults playing might have to help them along.
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on April 29, 2017
This is an EXCELLENT cooperative game.

The theme is great. You're all together trying to survive in a desert and a storm is constantly wrecking your plans. You've all got special powers that can be used to help each other out. There's no elimination so no one has to sit the game out doing nothing. The components are great, the images are whimsical. It come in a tin box that won't get crushed and battered as it ages. This really is a great game. You can adjust the difficulty as well. When it's hard, it's REALLY hard and you'll cheer yourselves if you make it out of the desert alive. The price is even right. Seriously. Go get this now.

People say that this game is more complex and more difficult than Forbidden Island. I have never played Island, but I believe them. Wish I had a more regular game group so I could play it more often!
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on August 10, 2017
Another hit from game creator Matt Leacock. If you liked Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert is very similar. While I like it better because of all the more complex ways you can lose, my family prefers Forbidden Island due to the possibility of tiles being removed from the game.

The only complaint I have about this game is the copy I received was pretty dented up. It comes in a tine instead of a box and the tin was in less than great shape. Other than that, this is one of my favorite co-op games!
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on January 19, 2017
I only recently made the decision to pick up board gaming as a hobby, and was looking for something to get me started that had more going for it gameplay-wise than your usual Clue or Monopoly-type games that rely on the same ol' mechanics we all grew up with - roll dice/move pawn/pick up card/etc.

Forbidden Desert scratched that itch beautifully. It's really refreshing compared to the games we all grew up playing, and perfectly fits within that middle ground where it's complex enough to introduce you to new mechanics without being such a departure from what you're used to that you're completely lost. The adventure/survival concept and artwork are fantastic, too. I've only played a few times but I'm sure it's got lots of replayability, with plenty of room in its design for house rules or player-created variants on the method of play.

The only reason it gets 4 stars instead of 5 is that it's actually very difficult to win, and due to the co-op format, it can be very anticlimactic to suddenly lose as a group and have the game end abruptly. But as mentioned, the rules and gameplay seem flexible enough that they can easily be modified as the players see fit (cutting down the number of Storm cards drawn per turn by 1, for example).
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