Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Forbidden Island

"Adventure...If You Dare"

Forbidden Island is a 2-4 player coop game created by Matt Leacock (who else!) published in 2010 by Gamewright. It was a nominee for the 2011 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year). Want to know why? Lets find out!

The goal is to find the 4 treasures and then escape the island. Sounds simple, but for some reason this island hates you and anyone associated with you. It is determined not to let you leave with its wares and will do everything it can to stop you.

You must work together as one of the 6 adventurers to accomplish your mission. Once you've selected your character it's time to set up the board. It isn't a board in the traditional sense, more tiles that are randomly arranged in a pattern that looks a bit like a + sign. Now it's time to flood the place (not literally!). 6 flood cards are drawn and the corresponding tiles flipped over.

Time to draw some flood cards.
If you've played Pandemic (or read my earlier Pandemic review) the turn sequence will be familiar. Firstly, you use your actions to move around the map, shore up waterlogged tiles, or collect treasures. As in Pandemic, player turns will require a bit of planning so it's worth surveying the map before making any hasty decisions. The next phase is to collect treasure cards, 4 of which are needed for each item. Then the flooding stage. Flood cards are drawn (watch out for the Waters Rise card) and the reflecting tiles either get waterlogged or sunk. The key tiles to look out for are the treasure tiles (2 of each) and the helipad. If you lose 2 of the same treasure tiles before you can retrieve it, you lose. If the helipad sinks, you lose. If the way to these gets permanently cut off, you lose. The waters rise marker reaches the top... you get the point! As you can see there are a lot of ways to lose!

The first few goes seem easy enough but it's just the calm before a massive tidal wave (pun intended!) hits. Plans are waylaid and everyone scrambles to shore up tiles before its too late. If you get lucky and manage to escape the island relatively unscathed, there are various starting points which can increase the difficulty. The game time is roughly 30-45 minutes so you can easily have another go on the next level immediately.

Victory is ours!
The components are very good quality. Each of the 4 treasures are well crafted and feature high levels of detail. The tiles also have a premium feel to them and are thick enough to easily flip over. It also comes in a gorgeous little tin with every piece fitting into it perfectly, making it great for travel. The only piece which is disappointing is the waters rise meter. It's not the most imaginative of designs and looks like an afterthought, but it does its job well enough.

Perfect for travel!
On the surface, Forbidden Island is probably one of the simplest games you can buy, but the sense of panic/triumph/dejection it can induce is testament to Matt Leacock's creative powers. Each time the tiles are dealt, the board is completely different which creates a lot of replay value. Every game will be different. It also plays well with 2, 3, or 4 players and the player roles all compliment each other. The artwork on the tiles is beautiful and adds a pleasing aesthetic. Similar to Pandemic, the game encourages conversation between players which is really helpful for novice players, enabling them to buddy with more experienced gamers.

There aren't any negative points really. At a stretch, the waters rise meter I mentioned earlier could be one, but that's being very harsh.

As you might be able to tell by now, I love this game! It has become one of my favourites amongst my collection. Although similar to Pandemic, I feel it is different enough so that it doesn't feel like a rehash of the same game. I really like that the board is different every time which adds a lot of variance. This is one of the best games for board game newcomers due to its easy to pick up nature, but also caters to seasoned players because of the challenge at the higher difficulty levels.

Only one thing left to do now...

Dive in!!

Rating 9/10