Tag Archives: Mind Games

Race for the Prize – Forbidden Island review

Co-operative games, ones where you and your colleagues team up and attempt to defeat the game, have become quite fashionable of late. As a genre they’ve been around for ages, and for quite some time Arkham Horror was king of the castle. While it’s a good game, my thoughts always turn to Pandemic (previously reviewed here) when someone says they want to break out something co-op. Alternatively, if someone is still determined to have a traitor element, there’s the truly great Battlestar Galactica – but for that real You And Me Versus The World feeling I always find myself reaching for Matt Leacock’s game of disease and ickyness. I was lucky enough to speak with him a few days ago for an upcoming Little Metal Dog Show, and talk turned to his latest game – another co-operative effort called Forbidden Island

The adventure begins. But it won't stay this pretty.

Published by Gamewright (and not yet out in the UK, but it will be soon), Forbidden Island is more family friendly than Pandemic, but no less of a challenge. Between two and four intrepid adventurers find themselves on a rapidly sinking island. Each one has an individual role and special ability that will hopefully assist them in their effort to grab four treasures that are dotted around the island. To do this, players must collect four matching cards and race to a location that holds the corresponding treasure. The map, made up of  randomly positioned tiles so each game is different, has two separate places that each treasure can be grabbed from… but why does there need to be two? Well, as the game progresses tiles will flood and eventually sink, never to be seen again – and they will disappear very quickly, I promise. 

Forbidden Island, being a co-op game, is against you. In fact, it actively hates you – after performing your actions you must draw some Treasure Cards – these are the ones you need to collect four of to claim the elusive treasures. However, within that pile lurk Waters Rise cards – and these are the ones you will come to hate. Every time you draw one, the pile of discarded Flood Cards is reshuffled and placed back  onto the deck, so you will see them all again soon. These Flood Cards are actually drawn at the end of every single turn – on a location’s first appearance, you flip the corresponding island tile revealing the blue, washed out flooded version of the image. If you draw that card again, the tile is removed from the game forever. As more and more Waters Rise cards appear, the rate of Flood Cards drawn after each turn increases until the game turns to mayhem and eventually beats you. Which it will. Many times. 

Thankfully though, players can spend an action to shore up a tile, flipping it back to its safe and full-coloured glory. There are also Sandbag cards that allow you to do save a location for free, but they’re rare – and with a hand limit of only five cards per player it’s a delicate balancing act. Do you aim to collect a specific set of cards at the expense of another, or just try and get what you can to help out your colleagues? 

As you can probably tell, Forbidden Island shares a fair few traits with Pandemic, but it definitely stands as it’s own game. The theme is solid and it’s a lot of fun – working together as a group, trying to get the treasures before you’re trapped or lose your one route off the island is very entertaining indeed, and it’s a way more accessible concept than curing rampaging diseases – kids will love it. It involves a fair bit of thought though, so you may have to assist younger players – but also be ready to be bossed around by small people who think they know better than you! 

Just about managed to escape. Just about.

A special mention must be made of the production quality – Forbidden Island is utterly beautiful. The artwork is by C.B Canga and as far as I can tell, this is his first effort at a board game – he really deserves to get more work. You can also check out some excellent original sketches from the game on his blog; they’re ace. It’s fantastically presented, coming in a tin instead of the normal box, but the best things in the whole package have got to be the treasures themselves. Also designed by C.B, they’re chunky and look amazing – really satisfying to grab and hold high above your head when you claim them (not that I did that, no). 


Games are quick – normally around 20-30 minutes. The rules are easily explained and once they’ve been run through, the only things you really need to keep check on are the different abilities bestowed by the roles. I’ve played this with grown ups as well as a group of children and both groups managed to forget these powers at least a few times in their excitement – however, with a few plays I’m sure they’ll naturally recall them. Forbidden Island doesn’t seem to punish as much as Pandemic does, though – I imagine as it’s more aimed at family play, Matt has toned down the game’s evil quotient. That isn’t to say that the game lacks challenge – it’s definitely a tricky beast to beat and will reward teamwork with an entertaining experience that everyone will enjoy. Gamewright have come up trumps with this release – now here’s hoping they release it here in Europe as soon as possible.

Forbidden Island is a Matt Leacock game and is published by Gamewright. It’s already an award winning game having picked up one of this year’s Mensa Mind Games trophies, and is available for pre-order in the US at the ridiculously low price of $15 at Amazon (and should be available in Europe soon through your Friendly Local Game Store).



Filed under Reviews

News and stuff – 23rd April 2010

Another week, another bunch of news stories from the world of games that caught my eye – so on with the show! Or the words, anyway.

This week saw a lot of new announcements from Fantasy Flight games. A lot of their upcoming releases come to us in the form of expansions; their massive Tide of Iron has the action moving from the western front to the east as the Germans now face Soviet troops in the new Fury Of The Bear box-set, while fans of Runebound get to check out the new Mists of Zanaga adventure – there’s also a second edition rulebook for the ace Tannhauser. The most exciting news though? A brand new version of the classic DungeonQuest, with an aim for it to be ready by August. I’d better get rid of my original edition (complete with Heroes for Dungeonquest) before the bottom drops out of the market… anyone fancy a trade?

Continuing the war theme, Days of Wonder have announced yet another addition to their Memoir ’44 line – this time a new board on which you can wage campaigns. Something a bit different about their Breakthrough set though: it’s bloody massive. Seriously, forget this map set representing an area of land – in reality it looks like the size of a small nation. Check out the pictures from the DoW blog. Just try not to put your back out when you pick it up off the shelf on release. 

Finally, San Diego was the home of this year’s Mensa Mind Games, a weekender of games playing and all-out geekery. Every year, American members of Mensa gather to play and decide on what games they deem worthy of sporting the Select Seal – an award for games that people of all ages can enjoy. They generally choose a good range of titles, and this year these five were given the accolade:

Anomia – Anomia Press

Dizios – Mindware

Forbidden Island – Gamewright

Word on the Street – Out of the Box

Yikerz! – Wiggles 3D Inc.

The Mensa Select Seal has been running for twenty years and their selections are generally pretty good – in the past few years they’ve chosen Wits and Wagers, Hive and Dominion amongst many other good games, so this year’s selections are pretty much guaranteed to be good. Out of the five, Forbidden Island holds the most appeal to me, so I’ll see about grabbing a copy and post up a review soon.

Finally, news a bit closer to home – the first episode of The Little Metal Dog Show will be available next weekend. I’m really hoping you guys enjoy it.

Any comments or news of your own? Drop me an email on littlemetaldog@googlemail.com – and cheers for reading!

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