Game Title: Forbidden Desert
Designer: Matt Leacock
Forbidden Desert was a recent upgrade to Forbidden Island. We haven’t got rid of Forbidden Island yet, and in fact in got some play just this week, but, as the world of reviewers had made clear to me, Forbidden Desert is more of a game for gamers – something which I now consider myself to be. So when the opportunity came up to pick up a second hand copy of the game for around £10, who was I to say no?
In Forbidden Desert you are the crew of a steam punk air-ship which has crashed in the desert. The 4 key components; the Power Crystal, the Propeller, the Compass and the Engine have fallen to the ground and been buried by a terrible and unpredictable sand storm. Your goal is to locate these elements, attach them back to your ship’s hull and fly out of the Forbidden Desert before anyone in the team dehydrates, before you are overcome by sand or before the fierce storm consumes you all!
|The reward for a group of successful explorers - a complete ship for your escape!|
Each player takes on a role which gives them a unique special ability, for example modifying how a player moves and also a different capacity for carrying water. Players take turns, and in each turn may take 4 actions. The actions are either to move horizontally or vertically, remove one sand, excavate (turn over) one of the 24 tiles of the board or pick up a component which has been located. When excavated a tile will either give the player Equipment or a clue to the location of one of the ship’s components. Three of the tiles are Wells, which when excavated give all the players on that tile 2 water (unless the tile is the Mirage) and three of the tiles are tunnels which provide shelter from the scorching sun and also provide ‘wormholes’ to transport you quickly around the board.
|You have successfully located the ship's propeller! By finding both of the clues, you have found the propeller located at the intersection. Now an explorer must clear can excavate this tile and claim the 'treasure'.|
At the end of a players turn, cards are drawn from the Storm Deck. The number of cards drawn is tracked on the Sand Storm Meter and this number increases every time the Storm Picks Up cards are drawn. Other cards in the Storm Deck either move tiles on the board and add another sand to these tiles, or the Sun Beats Down which depletes unprotected players of their water reserves.
|The early stages of a two-player game. The piles of sand are low at this stage and a number of clues have already been located.|
I really enjoy this co-operative game because of how much team work is required to beat the game on its harder modes or on easy mode when the cards in the Storm deck just fall in an unlucky manner. This element of luck can be frustrating, because it feels like no matter how well you play you can still lose due to unlucky draws, but without it, it would be too easy to ‘solve’ the game. Our first two plays were won with great ease and we worried that we might just find the game too simple, but since then we’ve never won the game and we’ve lost to both running out of sand and also dehydration. As with all co-operatives, there is a large risk of it being dominated by the ‘alpha gamer’, but so long as you start out with the ground rules that a player’s move is their own decision, this should be overcome in most cases.
This is a firm favourite 2-player game in our house right now, as well as current flavour of the month at one of our game groups, where we can play with more players. In the long term, I think we might over-play the game and it may lose its appeal, but for not I give Forbidden Desert an 8/10.