Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

I've got a sinking feeling:- Forbidden Island

Game: Forbidden Island

Publisher: Gamewright

Designer: Matt Leacock

There are tales, about an Island full to the brim with treasures, powerful relics that give you power over the elements themselves. The ancients created these, but then saw them as too powerful, they sealed them away on this island and then cursed the very land. Should a human tread upon this cursed land, the sea will roar with ungodly fury and bring destruction upon the land until no hearts beat upon its surface. Of course we don’t believe in any of that, come along! There’s archaeology to be done!

Forbidden Island is a 2-4 player cooperative game in which you play as a group of adventurers trying to obtain some relics from a cursed island. It turns out that the curse is real and the second you step foot on the island it starts flooding and sinking into the sea. You have to desperately try and keep the land from flooding while trying to find the artifacts and escape alive.

The game board consists of 24 reversible tiles which form an island on the table, when these start to flood you flip them over, and then when they fully flood they get removed from the board. Over time the Island falls apart and some tiles can become hard to get to, or even be entirely cut off. You’ll have to make sure you keep passages open to the 8 shrines which are the only way to get the treasures. There are 4 treasures to collect, each has 2 shrines that you can collect them from and as you need to collect all 4 before you leave so priorities for which land to protect change as the game goes on.

A game nearing it's end, much of the island has vanished and over half of what remains is flooding, the players don't have long to get the last treasure and escape.
The island flooding is determined by a deck of cards which you draw from at the end of each turn, over time you’ll be reshuffling cards you drew back on top of the deck, so when land starts to sink it becomes increasingly likely to sink again, the flooding will also speed up over time so you can’t afford to waste any time. Relics are found by collecting cards that you draw at the end of each turn, once you have 4 of the same you heads to one of the shrines and cash them in as an action.

The 4 treasures representing water, earth, fire and wind respectively.
Forbidden Island has the usual collection of character classes that you randomly assign each game. Each class has an ability to help you out, though some are notably more useful than others. There are also special abilities in the treasure deck, these are handy, but notably you need to have a helicopter lift card to escape the island and win the game. Replayability is introduced by having 4 different difficulty settings, Legendary is next to impossible while novice is very easy, you essentially get an extra rotation of the deck in Novice compared to Legendary. I find Elite to be a good balance between difficulty and actually having a good chance to win.

It’s only natural to compare Forbidden Island to Matt Leacock’s other co-ops Forbidden Desert and Pandemic. I find it to be the worst of the 3, but still good in it’s own right, Pandemic feels like a much grander game, the stakes are higher, the way the game attacks you seems more aggressive and it feels like you have more choice. Forbidden Desert feels more like a direct sequel of Forbidden Island, with notable improvements in gameplay, a lot of the themes are similar but the game is less predictable. I wouldn’t recommend buying Forbidden Island now, Forbidden Desert almost entirely replaces it, not that it’s a bad game, it’s just not aged as well as it’s cousins. 


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