Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cute cooperative game -- Forbidden Island

Tried out a recent cooperative game called Forbidden Island at the local game shop and liked it enough that I brought it home, where it proved to be a hit with the kids as well.

The basic idea is a party of advaneturers searching for clues on a slowly sinking island that will lead them to four treasures -- which they have to find and take off the island.

The components in the Gamewright edition are nice. Everything comes in a tin with a well-designed plastic insert, There's a small, full-color rule book, a cardboard water level tarck with a plastic slider, six wooden pawns to represent the adventurers, four failry large palstic miniatures representing the four treasures, 24 double-sided cardboard tiles to represent the island and a deck of 58 cards. 24 of those are "flood cards" one for each isand tile adn six are character cards, one for each pawn. the remaining 28 cards make up the treasure deck.

The game starts by randomly laying out the island tiles in 6 rows of 2, 4, 6, 6, 4 and 2 tiles each, forming a rough diamond shape. Players randomly pick a character from the six available, each of which has a special ability and a specific starting tile.

Six cards from the flood deck are selected, flipping the named tiles to their flooded tile. If a flooded tile gets flooded again, it "sinks into the abyss" and is removed from the game, along with it's card.

On a player's turn he can take three actions with his pawn. The available options are to move to an adjacent tile, but not diagonally, to "shore up" and adjacent tile by flipping a flooded tile back to its dry side, give a treasure card to anotehr player on the same tile or "capture a Treasure" by turning in four cards that match the treasure on one of two tiles that bear the image of that treasure. Players can repeat the same action, so a player could move three tiles, flip three tiles or trade three cards or any combination of those.

After a player has completed all actions he draws two cards from the treasure deck. Most of these are simple treasure cards, five for each treasure figurine. They have no game effect aside from needing to discard four of them while on an appropriate tile to claim the treasure. There are two helpful treasure cards -- sandbags, which allow the flipping of a flooded tile anywhere on the board without costing an action and Helicopter Lift, which allows moving any or all pawns from one tile to any other tile. You also need a Helicopter Lift at the end of the game to win. After gathering all four figurines, the explorers much gather at the helicopter landing zone called tile (Fool's Landing) and leave via the play of a Helicopter Lift card. There are also three Water Rises cards, which move the water mater up one tick on the meter.

Complicating this is the last part of a player's turn, where he draws Flood Cards to see which tiles get flipped or sink into the abyss. The number of cards drawn depends on the current state of the water meter, but ranges from 2 to 5 per player turn. As a tile that gets flipped twice disappears the island can rapidly turn into a tough place to move around. No dawdling!

The difficulty level of the game is adjusted by changing the starting level of the water meter. At Novice or Normal levels the Flood Card draw starts at 2, while at the Elite and Legendary levels it starts at 3.

The two plays today were at Novice Level and the players won each time, but they caught some lucky breaks in the set up and I can see how it would get tougher at the more difficult levels.

Playing time is rated at about 30 minutes and that seems about right, which probably puts it in the category of a supplementary game for a night's entertainment, rather than the main course. It also works a s a kid's game.

It's a good value for the money as well. I paid just $20 for my copy at the game store and I've seen it online for less.

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